The “Mormon Matters” Theology

Back on October 29, 2011, I wrote a post attempting to summarize the “Theological Liberal” narrative “as it saw itself” and therefore tried to write about it in a wholly positive way as best I could.

But that post really only touched on the points of Liberal Theology that are considered the most positive aspects and are typically trotted out for public consumption.

As I did this post on John Dehlin, the thought occurred to me that my understanding of Liberal Theology came substantially from my time at Mormon Matters. The three biggest influences were Clay Whipkey and John Hamer – the two “open” theological liberals that didn’t mind talking about their beliefs – and John Dehlin himself, who is not as open, but not exactly closed either. John, in particular, pointed me to Karen Armstrong’s book, which taught me quite a bit. (See also my comprehensive response to her book.)

These three weren’t the only sources. I could mention DougG, Joe Geisner, Matt Thurston, Todd Compton (from his book and website), Kaimi Wegner, TT and several others who, while shy about their beliefs still at least offer a lot of information about what they don’t believe that helped to shape my understanding of Liberal Theology as actually practiced by real life liberals.

But honestly, I’m hesitant here to even use the term Liberal Theology. For one thing, every time I use that term I get people at BCC mad at me even though I didn’t have them in mind at all. For one thing, “liberal” is sometimes a synonym for “non-believing” and sometimes means something more like “a bit unorthodox.” In fact, sometimes it means nothing more than “not a fundamentalist.” In a later post I mentioned that “liberal” is sometimes more defined as “concentrating on how religion affects human beings positively” though somewhat ironically, the attempt to do this often ends up removing the positives out of the religion. I bemoaned that this definition casts a net too wide and the result is a word that has no value. Nevertheless, there seems to be two overlapping kinds of “religious liberals”:

  1. Believing Liberal Mormons – those that are liberal in many aspects (perhaps agreeing with gay marriage) but still accept the defining truth claims of the Church
  2. Other Liberal Mormons – those that reject some or all the defining the truth claims of the LDS Church.

But what does that second group believe? Well, honestly, they probably don’t all believe the same things at all. They are united by what they reject, not what they believe.

But there does seem to be a common thread even among them. What I’ve done below is I imagined an interview between someone in group 2, but they are relatively open about their beliefs (like Clay Whipkey and John Hamer were most of the time). If I were to ask them the hard questions about their beliefs, how might they answer it?

I do my honest best to ‘defend’ this view-point and cast it in a positive light. Nevertheless, I am ultimately putting words in the mouth of a viewpoint I don’t myself hold. Rather than get mad at me over this, if you disagree with what I’ve written, at least give me credit for the attempt to understand another viewpoint and make comments on what you think I’ve got wrong and where it could be improved.

My goal here isn’t to criticize this point of view in this post – though I reserve the right to criticize it later in future posts. My goal is merely to understand where a John Dehlin, Clay Whipkey, John Hamer, or DougG might be coming from — as best I can.

 

An Imagined Interview with a Type 2 Liberal Mormon

Bruce: Is the LDS Church “True?”

Mormon Matters Martin: I consider this question problematic. I certainly do feel the LDS Church is accepted of God and inspired. I don’t hold that it is God’s intention that everyone join the LDS Church, but even conservative believers often believe that. Conservative believers often believe that God wouldn’t intend for everyone in every circumstance to be ready right off the bat for the LDS church. I believe something like that. The LDS church is a great fit for many people and might even be “the truest church” for them. But maybe not for others.

Bruce: Is there a literal God?

Martin: I would not come at this question the way a conservative believer would. A conservative believer likely sees the question of God’s existence as being the most important question of all, and then having determined for themselves if they believe there is a God, they then try to ascertain what God’s will is (depending on the religion, perhaps using meditation, Bible study, Pentecostal experiences, personal revelation, etc.) I come at this question from the stand point of shared morality. Everyone in the world can sense or feel that there is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in the universe. This is a sort of spiritual or divine experience. A when we really get down to it – when all the facts are in – we find that people tend to share very similar moral ideals. Treat people well, do not cause harm, make the world a better place, be compassionate, do not lie or cheat, be honest, etc. Conservative believer call this “Light of Christ” and I do not reject that as a legitimate label. Our shared morality is God’s voice to us. So our moral feelings are the real starting point for hearing God’s voice. And certainly morality is literal and real. So therefore God is literal and real. And this is why I believe God can be found in all religions. When it comes down to it, all religions teach the same moral values. And isn’t this the true purpose of religion?

Bruce: Okay, but is God a person?

Martin: I see this as a less important question. Sure, God might well be a person. I would have little problem with accepting that about God and I’m even open to the possibility that God has a body. On the other hand, perhaps God is more like a moral force in the world. After all, it is our morality through which we experience God. Maybe the universe itself has a moral force (or God) wired into it at all levels. I could accept this view of God also.

Bruce: Okay, but if God isn’t a person, doesn’t that affect things like if there is an afterlife?

Martin: Sure. I certainly hope that there is an afterlife. Isn’t that what conservative Mormons believe too? Aren’t we to hope for such things? That would be fantastic if there was a personal God that build a wonderful heaven for everyone and we got to see all our loved ones together. But maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about that. Isn’t doing God’s will and following his voice the more important thing? What type of heaven would it be if we only were charitable and compassionate for the sake of going there? So why not start with charity and compassion instead and concentrate on that for its own sake and then we’ll see what happens in the afterlife?

Bruce: Isn’t the above really just a backhanded way of talking about Atheism but with theistic labels?

Martin: Well, atheists do believe in morality as much as people who believe in God, for sure. It’s never been true that you have to believe in God to be a good person. So, I suppose in a sense atheists also believe in a sort of moral force. And I suppose atheists – while they don’t usually believe in an afterlife – they would hardly be upset if there was one and they got to see lost loved one’s again. But there are definite differences between an atheist and my views. For starters, I am quite open to a very literal personal God and atheists are not.

Bruce: Okay, but then isn’t the only real difference between your beliefs and “Non-Literal Theism” that you are “open” to it being literal?

Martin: Well, what’s wrong with Non-Literal Theism? If there is a literal personal God, don’t you think he’d be pretty happy with someone who sees the good in the world as being “God” and then tries to live their lives by it? And isn’t it true that Non-Literal Theism is distinct from Atheism in how it views the world, in how it values religious practice, and in how it treats the sacred? In these and other ways, Non-Literal Theism has more in common with more Traditional Theism than with Atheism. So we could do worse. But I still don’t view myself as a Non-Literal Theist for much the same reason I don’t view myself as an Atheist. Namely, because I am open to the existence of a very literal personal God. But ultimately, as I said above, the existence of God is a lesser question. I believe that even God wouldn’t want that question to be the primary focus of religion. The primary focus is “Love thy Neighbor.”

Bruce: Do you want the LDS Church to be successful?

Martin: Yes, of course I do. In fact, that’s really what people like me are all about. The Church has given such a whitewashed view of its history that it created a sort of cartoony view of what Joseph Smith and other LDS Leaders were really like. When members of the church innocently believe in this Sunday School version of history and then smack into reality as contained in books like Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History they lose their testimony an d feel betrayed and angry. It is an unnecessarily painful experience that the Church could have avoided. By making the fact available, people can then choose for themselves what and how to believe. Many will learn to accept the true history of the Church and stay in the Church. Some will believe more like me, but many will stay as fairly traditional believers.

People don’t really leave the Church because of “sin” (such as not keeping the Word of Wisdom) as the LDS church leaders have taught, but they do leave the Church because they see factual or moral issues in the Church’s history. So by putting the facts out there and helping people learn about them, I hope to stop this painful erosion from the LDS Church that is going on.

Further, the LDS Church too often drives people away that don’t ‘fit the mold.’ Whether we’re talking about Intellectuals that value studying the Church’s true history, scholar’s that maybe can’t accept the historicity of the Book of Mormon, single women or men that don’t fit the ‘family  model’ that the Church primarily preaches to, homosexuals that aren’t able to choose a life of celibacy, transgender individuals that aren’t happy with their birth gender, women that don’t feel it’s right that they don’t hold the priesthood, or for that matter someone who feels uncomfortable because they smoke. There are a myriad of individuals that for various reasons don’t feel accepted in the LDS Church. I would love to see the LDS church be more inclusive of these individuals and more accepting of everyone. Imagine how successful the Church would be if they didn’t drive these potentially valuable members away from the Church and instead brought them into the fold?

Bruce: But if the LDS Church starts accepting people who don’t believe in It, isn’t that a bit weird?

Martin: Why? People can attach themselves to the LDS Church for a variety of reasons. For some, it might be beliefs to be sure. But for others, they may value the culture. For others they might value the rich history. What’s wrong with accepting more people into the Church and not worry about why they want to be part of it? These more “liberal” members have their own value they bring to the table and we’re richer for having them in the Church.

Bruce: Do you believe in priesthood authority?

Martin: Well, yes.

Bruce: Wait, you’re saying you believe angels ordained Joseph Smith with a unique priesthood?

Martin: Well, however it happened, yes, I think the LDS church has a unique priesthood, yes.

Bruce: Wait, you’re saying you believe the LDS Church has authority over Catholics?

Martin: Well, no. Catholicism and other religions are other religions they have their own beliefs and practices. Of course the LDS Church has no “authority” over them. Don’t you think that would be sort of offensive to you if other churches claimed they have authority over LDS People?

Bruce: But if you believe that, then do you really believe the LDS Church leaders are prophets?

Martin: Anyone that teaches the word of God through inspiration is a prophet. And without a doubt the LDS church leaders teach the word of God through inspiration. So they are prophets. If you pay attention to what our Prophets say in General Conference, they overwhelmingly teach good positive ways to live your life. There really isn’t much emphasis on things like Book of Mormon historicity or even on angels coming to deliver the priesthood. It is what the LDS church leaders emphasize that I emphasize.

Bruce: You say you believe the LDS Church is inspired. But do you really believe that God gave revelations to the LDS Church?

Martin: Isn’t that what inspiration is?

Bruce: No, I mean more like visions, visitation of angels, miracles, etc.

Martin: I’m open to that possibility, yes.

Bruce: Honestly, you come across more like a Humanist than a Theist

Martin: Well, I am a humanist! And so what? Isn’t that a good thing? Should we love our neighbor as ourselves and do what is right? How is this different from Humanism at its core? All Mormons are Humanists.

Bruce: But you believe Mormons should not believe things if they just don’t want to

Martin: Yes, I believe in “Menu Mormonism.” The term is meant to conjure up an image of picking what works for you and leaving alone what doesn’t. If you don’t believe the priesthood ban came from God, then don’t believe that. That’s your choice. If you can’t accept that polygamy really came from God, then don’t believe it came from God. I think at heart, we are all Menu Mormon if we are honest with ourselves.

Bruce: But if we down play things like Book of Mormon historicity or visitation of angels, what do we really have left?

Martin: How about a life full of joy? How about our wonderful culture? How about sacred rituals that are spiritually meaningful to us?

Bruce: So you really believe these are the things that make religion work and not the beliefs?

Martin: Well, I think it depends on the person. For some, maybe they need to believe literally. For others, maybe they don’t.

Bruce: Do you believe in keeping the commandments?

Martin: Oh, absolutely! I think that’s part of what makes the LDS Church so wonderful. It’s our clean living, our choice to not smoke or drink alcohol, and the law of chastity that make us special. To say nothing of things like doing your home teaching, reading your scriptures, saying prayers. Sure, I believe and practice all these. I have no desire for the LDS church to give those up. But I do wish we’d be less judgmental of those that aren’t yet able to follow such commandments. They need to feel accepted in Church too. Right now we drive these people away. Can’t we help them feel more accepted so that they aren’t driven away?

Bruce: Give me an example of how we drive them away?

Martin: Well, how about people not being allowed to go to the temple if they smoke. Smoking is an addiction. It’s tough to give up. And is it really a moral issue? Does it really violate “Love they neighbor” in some way if they smoke?

Bruce: So you’re saying the Word of Wisdom shouldn’t be in the Temple Recommend Interview?

Martin: What I’m saying is that we should include all we can to go to the temple. It can benefit anyone.


Bruce: Okay, what about the law of chastity?

Martin: I support the law of chastity.

Bruce: Wait, I once heard John Dehlin do a story about a gay man who was married to a woman. So both decided to stay married and find other sexual partners. John taught this was an ‘exception’ to the law of chastity. What do you think of that?

Martin: I agree with John! The law of chastity is great, but we need to be matured and realistic about human sexuality. People aren’t going to choose to live a celibate life just for the LDS church, and when we demand they do, they leave the church and the church is hurt by that. We should view the law of chastity as an ideal that we know holds exceptions for unique cases. The emphasis, as always, should be on including as many people as possible and “loving they neighbor.” In the case John cites, who is being hurt by the law of chastity being broken here? They are consensual adults are treating each other fairly.

Bruce: Do you support women receiving the priesthood?

Martin: Absolutely! Imagine the incredible female role models we might have if women were prophets and apostles. And how might the Church be improved if women had more say, more input, more visibility. We’d also lose fewer women from the church that way through being more inclusive.

Bruce: But God hasn’t sent a revelation to ordain women to the priesthood

Martin: I believe in the LDS concept of continuing revelation. Look around you. Everywhere our society has progressed since the days of slavery or segregation. Without new revelation, we don’t progress. It is unfortunately that sometimes the LDS Church’s belief in continuing revelation end up causing them to be behind God’s will instead. We believe in continuing revelation, why don’t we use it more often to make the sort of changes that would really benefit everyone?

Bruce: Such As?

Martin: Women receiving the priesthood is what you just asked me about. Gay marriage for another.

Bruce: Do you consider yourself to be a “believing Mormon”?

Martin: Yes, though I may emphasize Mormon doctrines like compassion, charity, and loving thy neighbor over lesser concerns like Book of Mormon historicity or if Jesus was actually resurrected.

Bruce: You mean you don’t believe Jesus was resurrected?

Martin: I’m open to that possibility.

Bruce: But you’re also open to the possibility that Jesus wasn’t resurrected?

Martin: I think this is something people need to study the facts out on and decide for themselves. But personally, I don’t think it is as important as loving your neighbor.

Bruce: But than Jesus isn’t really our savior?

Martin: Well, it depends on what you mean by “savior.” Jesus teachings taught me to value love, compassion, and charity. Does this not “save me” from being selfish or unkind?

Bruce: Looking over your answers, it really looks like to you religion is primarily about ethics and morality

Martin: Isn’t that the case? Isn’t religion really about living a good life, treating other people well, learning to love your neighbor? As I already said, this is the true common thread that runs between all religions. Religion is all about packing ethics and morality and making it more appealing and accessible.

Bruce: But if none of it is literally true, what use is it?

Martin: Well, I’ve already answered that in several ways. Religion teaches you how to live a good life, for example. It also provides you a rich community that is tightly woven. But I think religion doesn’t have to be literal to be useful, no. Parables aren’t literal and they are useful, aren’t they? When I read about the stories of Jesus, or Peter, or Paul, or Nephi, does it matter if these stories are literally true? Can’t I learn from them without them being true? Does it really make a difference if they are true or not? And isn’t that what religion is really about: wrapping up good morals and ethics and delivering them to us through beliefs, teachings, and rituals so that they impact on us spiritually and they become powerful in our lives?

Bruce: Yes, but isn’t it a lie if it’s not true?

Martin: Not at all. There are underlying truths in religious beliefs? Take, for example, the resurrection. Whether or not it literally happened, it is representative of rebirth, of starting over, of not giving up, of the dawn of a new day to start your life. It is Truth even if it’s non-literal. I think all religious teachings are like that. So religion is “true” in that sense.

 

 

81 thoughts on “The “Mormon Matters” Theology

  1. From 30,000 ft. I can begin to relate to your concept here, up close not so much but then I don’t know the people you are trying to model here. Okay on some specific issues you may have captured the characteristic essence like a cartoon but across the board? No, I don’t know anyone this amorphous on that many issues.

    However liberals are much more comfortable with ambiguity and symbolism than conservatives or fundamentalists seem to be. Both ambiguity and symbolism are used as a way of allowing belief in rather than shutting it out because the literal hurtle when eyeballed rationally is pretty darn laughable!

    Orthodox LDS appear to buy into the us vs. “the world” tibial good vs. evil black and white indoctrination. But the spirit is poured out on all of humankind not just worthy LDS members and that has evolved and enlightened humankind (with a few exceptions) from a eye for an eye world to a much more caring place. I like to call this “secular enlightenment”. And it seems secular enlightenment led the way for blacks to priesthood and temple blessings, so I don’t think secular enlightenment can be ruled out as a force for good.

  2. I think there is (and should be) room at Church for all who seek God. However I don’t think that those who fundamentally don’t ascribe to the core doctrines of the Church should be put in positions where they can dilute the doctrine of the Church.

    For example, Amasa Lyman came to the belief that Christ hadn’t really atoned for our sins, that perhaps it was just his inspiring example that helped us live good lives. Fine for him to remain a member, at least initially, but he was removed from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1867. When he continued to militantly teach that Christ had not literally atoned for our sins, using the influence and audience his time as apostle had given him, he was excommunicated in 1870.

    But the thing about us Mormons is that we really, honestly, do believe that everyone can have the chance to think it over and come to a different conclusion once in an afterlife and surrounded by the billions of faithful on the other side. So Amasa Lyman’s saving ordinances were performed for him in 1909, long after his death, in the hope that he would re-embrace the gospel he had discarded during life.

    I like the standard for good mentioned in the Book of Mormon. If a thing leads you towards God, it is good (for you). If it leads you away from God, it is evil (for you). As we are all in different stages of standing relative to God, there are things (e.g., blog sites) that may lead some to God and Christ while tearing down the faith of others. Inasmuch as a blog site is composed of individual posts and comments, we can consider whether an individual poster or commentator is more responsible for leading folks towards God and Christ or away from God and Christ.

    In this we are not judging, per se. But we are managing our own involvement, for the good of our own souls, to determine whether we wish to frequent certain sites or engage in dialogue with certain commentators.

    The situation with the September Six, I propose, caused all involved to opine that something like that–a mass of excommunications that appeared to be a housecleaning–is not particularly useful in the long term. I may be wrong, but it appears a more typical approach since then is to work with individuals who are dissatisfied, and then allow them to see the space between their worldview and where the Church stands. I seem to perceive more people detaching themselves from the Church when they realize on their own that their worldview has become inconsistent with the Church – effectively excommunicating themselves.

    As for me, I have had experiences that prevent me from being able to honestly deny the power of an actual God, who actually wants me to remain in the Church. He allowed me to figure out that He wasn’t merely asking me to stay because it was *a* good, but *the* true, or aligned, way to achieve salvation for all mankind.

    For those who haven’t had revelations or experiences that form them to align with the teachings of the Church, I am happy to share a pew with them and eat with them and serve with them. I’m not as happy if I find out they’re using their Church membership to propone their own worldview if it is in conflict with the salvation of mankind. Luckily for me, I don’t have to worry about correcting any but my own family members, when it comes to that.

  3. It would have been harder, but a stronger argument if you had quoted actual liberals as examples. With this they have more of plausable deniability. Also, they might have come over here and defended or expanded the quotes making for an interesting discussion.

  4. Howard, you would actually probably be more like a type 1, than a type 2. John Dehlin is probably more like a type 2. So its not clear how much I’d expect you to relate to this since you do buy into the concept of a restoration, for example, and take a literal God and literal revelation seriously, which “Martin” isn’t so sure he does.

    Its hard to know how accurate I am being. That’s the point of trying to understand. Could a John Dehlin in any way relate to what I have written? I am not sure.

  5. I will add, though that several of these are based on real conversations, but remember I’m pulling together views from several people and creating a single hypothetical person. Other items I’m ‘extrapolating.’

  6. I really am upset by how narrowly and exclusively you define Other Liberal Mormons here, Bruce. If me and Torquemada identify as non-BCC liberal Mormons, who are you to exclude us just because our way of being progressive idiots is different from some supposed “standard” way of being a progressive idiot.

  7. Bruce, in the many years I’ve discussed the gospel with people on the internet, I’ve found there are differences in liberal theology. There may be more than just the two types you note, but they are useful types to begin with. I agree that Dehlin fits into #2. I also agree that while not exactly or perfectly accurate for every individual, this is a useful tool to consider many of the key beliefs and ideas that such people seek to push onto every one else.
    When we are open to all things, but believe nothing, there really is no sense in having a religion, is there?

  8. “When we are open to all things, but believe nothing, there really is no sense in having a religion, is there?”

    The purpose of religion is to explain why things happen, while science explains how things happen. So I would counter that one who is open to many possibilities for why without adhering faithfully to any one is a bit like an individual who is still playing the field.

    In the case of someone still open to playing the field, even if living in what appears to be an exclusive partnership, will experience stress related to that uncertainty.

    Committing to an explanation for why things happen will reduce that stress.

    But even if one is still a menu religionist, there is some benefit for having a set of possible reasons for why things happen.

    Just curious – why the multiple posts about Dehlin and those on a continuum like him? I’m reminded of Ionesco’s Rhinosceros, where those who opposed the rhinos ended up becoming rhinos themselves because their whole world-view ended up being dominated by reacting to the rhinos. Though in that play the hero, Berenger, momentarily laments the fact that he’s now completely alone, neither oppressive rhino nor reactionary rhino. But he snaps out of it.

  9. It’s my Rejectionist nature coming out.

    Besides, I’m on a roll and I want to get it off my chest before I move on to my new set of ideas.

  10. I think there’s something in between the #2 amorphous belief you describe in this post and the fundamentalist literal belief in a talking snake, if we drill down there is even something in between #1 and literal belief in the church’s truth claims.

    People who are grounded in the material world, (iron-rodders?) seem to need a chain leading form something tangible to something more spiritual to help them believe in the spiritual. Those who tried Moroni’s challenge and received a single spiritual conformation tend to take it as a global conformation of all things LDS (it isn’t). Those who go back and back to the spirit asking and parsing (liahonas?) move beyond those simple binaries and come to the understanding that like a parable the literal is offered for those who need it but the literal is largely unimportant it merely represents icons pointing at the spiritual.

  11. *Adam, I think Bruce will discuss non-standard progressive idiots in his next post…. Maybe he can interview you for it?*

    I’m not saying yes, but I’m open to it.

  12. Well maybe not 75%, maybe 50%, because I reject progressivism in the church, and view it rather as a monastic, “strait and narrow way,” to which one is called by the Holy Ghost.

  13. Nate,

    I would have been suprised if this actually represented you by 75%. But I’ll buy 50%. And thank you for at least confirming that I’m not entirely off base in my attempts to understand another point of view.

  14. Bruce, what is interesting about this post (and I am not sure how many readers will catch onto this) is how often “Martin” describes himself by what he is not, i.e., a orthodox Mormon (“boo! hiss!”). And right on cue Howard in the comments falls into the same pattern. Bruce has rightly pointed out in several posts now that rejectionism is a religion in itself. So, when we ask ourselves, “why don’t the liberal/non-believing/questioning Mormons just leave the Church if they don’t like it,” we are really ignoring the point that their religion is not about what they believe but about what they do NOT believe. They cannot leave the Church because then they would literally have nothing left. We see this in the OW movement, the Dehlinites, Joanna Brooks and many other strains of type 2 Mormons mentioned by Bruce above. But even with all that, Bruce has done a pretty good job in describing some of their beliefs, to the extent that they are willing to express them. As Bruce well knows, trying to get John Dehlin to actually tell you what he believes is a bit like trying to nail jello to a wall.

  15. You know what’s funny, Geoff, is that I had NOT noticed that. I guess I was trying to hard to write it positively I missed that myself.

  16. Nate, I’d be interested in hearing more about your thinking on this comment you made:

    “because I reject progressivism in the church, and view it rather as a monastic, “strait and narrow way,” to which one is called by the Holy Ghost.”

  17. …their religion is not about what they believe but about what they do NOT believe.

    Well this isn’t true for me. I have a spiritual witness of the restoration it just doesn’t depend on physical metal plates. If plates ARE you religion how do gold plates differ from a golden calf? Is it the shape? If not the difference must be what’s written on plates but not on the calf. So I think we’re down to content. As long as the content is from God it works for me but apparently not for you? Why not?

    Is it because your religion is about what you don’t believe?

  18. Howard, this is the problem I always bump into when I try to talk about the “Mormon Matters Liberals.” People like you, which isn’t who I really mean, get offended. :-)

  19. I’m not offended Bruce. I’m just demonstrating the argument can be easily reversed by switching view points.

  20. Bruce, If there’s one critique, I guess I would say that a lot of non traditional believers aren’t necessarily as consistently – well – non traditional as Martin. For example, some may take a hard line with chastity and celibacy outside of marriage, but think the way the Church teaches modesty is deeply harmful and counter productive. I know some who have marched in gay pride parades and at the same time take a hard line when it comes to most other teachings.

    I find that Mormons challenging traditional beliefs and practices (in their mind or otherwise) are very often landing in sporadic places. For me, that’s a good sign, because it means that people are really thinking deeply and relatively independently – not subscribing to a set of “liberal Mormon” guidelines. Of course, that’s because there aren’t any.

  21. Bruce,
    Joseph opposed creeds:

    I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.

    How do core truth claims differ from a creed? Aren’t you and/or others here “calling up for erring in doctrine” and implying ” man must believe or be asked out of their church” and trammeling by othering? Are you offering others “the liberty of thinking and believing as they please” even to err in doctrine in the presence of others?

  22. Good stuff, Bruce.

    I think the really key point on which to hang liberals of this stripe is to agree with them (as I do) that religion is largely about group solidarity. That said, we can then move on to ask whose solidarity they are reinforcing in their words and deeds? While we certainly see them as undermining Mormon solidarity by diluting, redefining and rejecting various doctrines, we can be sure that they will describe themselves as trying to enlarge the tent under which Mormon solidarity can be said to exist. By contrast, they are very clearly reinforcing Liberal solidarity by shoring up faith in the applicability of Liberal principles and compromising and redefining those which disagree.

    In other words, a sociological interpretation of this group and its actions is (unsurprisingly) that regardless of what it says it is trying to accomplish or who it says it is trying to help, what it is really doing is helping itself regardless of the degree to which it helps or harms those in the church.

  23. To continue… I do not accept that they are rejectionist. Their religion is not based in rejection but in an unflinching acceptance and application of the tenets of humanistic intellectualism…. Which of course rejects anything which conflict with it, but what religion does not do that?

  24. Still thinking out loud….

    I deny that there is any such thing as rejectionism as such. In the same way that in order to push against something, one must have traction somewhere else so too one cannot reject anything in a principled manner without that rejection being based in the acceptance of some other beliefs.

    Thus, I think your labeling them “rejectionist” actually plays into their games by disguising the principled from which they attack the church. This is the same problem with Cartesian doubt: Descartes was able to successfully doubt pretty much everything so long the principles which motivated his doubting were not themselves doubted.

  25. You make a lot of good points, Jeff.

    I doubt there is such a thing as a “Rejectionist” per se. People aren’t that simple. And as I noted not long ago, I have a pretty bad “rejectionist” streak myself.

    Further, I have never made the claim that “rejectionism” somehow equals bad. It has it’s place in many realms of discussion.

    However, as I point out in my part 4 of “why I resigned” the side that wants to criticize Mormon beliefs has nothing that really unites them. As a “side” they are rejectionist even if the individuals may not be.

    Further, there is a huge difference between someone that believes so strongly in liberal humanism that they devote their lifes to it vs. someone that devotes their lives to attacking Mormonism (from without or within) but falls back on liberal humanism as a sort of backup postion to (as you say) push from or towards. Was there really not enough within liberal humanism that they couldn’t just make it their religion, find meaning in it, and move on? Apparently not. At least not for them.

    And of course “rejectionism” is really about how one makes an argument. Are they merely trying to point out the problems of another position or are they boldly believing a positoin and pushing it forward as an alternative. At no point do the John Dehlin’s of the world really ever get bold enough with their own supposed beliefs to honestly say “yeah, the Church isn’t true and there is probably no God and who cares? Because liberal humanism is where its at baby!” Because frankly, liberal humanism just doesn’t do it for far too many human beings for far too many good reasons.

    Howard, ironically Jeff G just gave you an awesome answer to your question.

  26. I think you painted with an overly broad brush, but you might have identified three spots on a multiple dimensional continuum/space. I would put myself somewhere in the dimensional neighborhood of your #1 type but since there are an infinite type of things a person may have differing viewpoints on I don’t think the linearity of your model makes much sense.

    For instance I believe in a literal and physical God the Father (and God the Mother) – that we are the same species. I believe in Christ as the resurrected Lord and Savoir of this world, and all other of God the Father’s worlds. I believe in the Literal nature of the Restoration of Priesthood keys. I believe in the authority of all of the Presidents of the Church from Joseph Smith Jr. to Thomas S. Monson. But I think each of those Presidents (and the associated Quorums of the Twelve) made mistakes, some significant. I think (most of) the Scriptures are (somewhat) inspired by God, but I don’t think they are *factually accurate* records in the generally accepted use of that term. I think the ordinances performed under the authority of priesthood keys are recognized by God, but I don’t completely accept President Benson’s 14 points talk/ideas. I think the Church’s practice of denying Blacks the priesthood from Brigham Young’s time to 1978, the culture and practices which the Church built up around the idea of polygamy, the mountain meadows massacre, various statements about human history timelines, evolution, and politics all represent potentially serious/significant mistakes.

    I really liked Howard’s response about creeds:
    “Bruce,
    Joseph opposed creeds:
    I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.

    How do core truth claims differ from a creed? Aren’t you and/or others here “calling up for erring in doctrine” and implying ” man must believe or be asked out of their church” and trammeling by othering? Are you offering others “the liberty of thinking and believing as they please” even to err in doctrine in the presence of others?”

    I think it is a fair question not just for you but for the Church. If one looks at the Church’s practice we find they insist we adhere to “creeds” (the temple recommend interview) to participate at the highest levels, but also see they will allow almost anyone to stay a member regardless of their beliefs. It is only when a person becomes a predator that the Church tends to take action to remove them. Is that a “workable” approach? Demand relative conformity the “farther” one goes, but allow a pretty diverse membership to think whatever it wants? Probably from a pragmatic perspective that’s about as good of work-around as one can devise.

    I think people have an innate tendency to view the world as them versus us, and creeds are a way to do that. I think it is naturally very difficult for lay members to personally “accept” a lot of variety in what it means to be an “active” or “believing” member of the LDS Church because they naturally feel they have it figured out correctly, and they are not thrilled with having others with substantially different viewpoints being identified as being members of *their group*. I think an exercise aimed at understanding others is potentially useful, but that it can also easily devolve into separating and denigrating others quite quickly.

  27. Jeff G, regarding your thinking out loud on rejectionism, I would like to push back a bit.

    Here is a phenomenon I see a lot: Mormon raised in Mormon home is an intellectual, goes away to school, discovers the wonders of liberal humanism, begins to question various things about the Church, stops going to church regularly, may or may not go through a crisis of faith, decides to become an academic or to get a masters in this or that subject, maybe go to law school. Fine, up to that point our subject is clearly a humanistic intellectual as you describe. The question then becomes: why does he/she spend so much of his/her energy *after that point* commenting on blogs, trying to change the Church, lamenting the sexist/homophobic/racist trappings of the Church, etc.? It is clearly the case that our subject could go join the unitarians or the Community of Christ or spend his time with other humanistic intellectuals and just read lesbian poetry. But our subject (repeatedly) does not do this. He/she literally has left the Church and joined the church of secular humanism (in his/her heart) but continues to spend a huge amount of time hanging around the Church (at least virtually). “They leave the Church but cannot leave the Church alone.” This is the phenomenon that I see as rejectionist. I simply cannot come up with a logical answer for such behavior. The only common theme is that there is something in this person’s makeup that literally compels them to unite in what they are NOT, which is the typical orthodox Mormon.

    I would like to point out that I have known literally hundreds of lapsed Catholics, Baptists, evangelicals, etc, and not a one of them spends all of his/her energy trying to change his/her former church. They just stop going, which to me is a much more logical course of action than continuing to hang around the Church you supposedly hate.

    (I am not claiming that all people follow this path or are exactly the same or all read lesbian poetry. There are obviously nuances to all worldly experiences. But the phenomenon I mention above is common enough that it bears noticing imho).

  28. Bruce,
    Ironically Jeff G does the same thing with his truth claims! He uses them in an apparent attempt to exclude and discredit others!

    Here’s an example we’ve touched on before:
    JS taught All spirit is matter, but is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. It is still unclear if witnesses saw the plates with their eyes or as a vision. If they were viewed as a vision were the plates “real”? It depends of the definition of real but according to JS they would have been made of (spirit) matter making them as “real” as the Father and Son were when they appeared to Joseph! When someone comes along and declares only plates of (mortal) matter are an acceptable belief for faithful LDS they are rapidly descending into a very dangerous arena:

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock [revelation], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

    I really think you step way out of bounds when you make a list of “truth claims” for the church and apply them to others as if they were a creed.

  29. Geoff B,
    Couldn’t they same about someone who is raised an atheist, learns the Gospel, accepts it whole-heartedly, lives it, and spends every spare moment trying to convert their friends by carrying a BoM with them wherever they go?

    Maybe they’re just humanist proselytizers, just like the OW crowd.

  30. h_nu,

    I suppose someone could think of any two mutually exclusive belief systems as “anti” the other. From this view point General Relatively is the “Anti-Newtonian Physics theory”

    But somehow, this seems like a less than useful point. After all, General Relatively and Netwonia physics are each their own fully developed theory or explanation.

    A much better example of rejectionism would be young earth creationists doing battle with evolutionists. Evolution through natural selection is a well developed theory. Young Earth Creation isn’t. So such creationists spend all their time pointing out problems with evolution rather than explaining how adoption of a young earth creationist view is in any way useful.

    For Mormons to be more like Rejectionists, they’d have to stop teaching their gospel, commandments, and scriptures and spend all their time discussing how bad atheism is and all the problems with it, yet never really offering an alterntive.

  31. JSH,

    Take a look at my link to the ‘defining truth claims’ (not really ‘core’ unless by ‘core’ you mean ‘defining’) of the LDS Church I talk about in this post:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/what-is-religion-beliefs-as-memes/

    I am not clear which, if any, you reject. It looks to me like you accept them all pretty much entirely.

    If I (or someone else) were to try to take issue with your views, I suspect they’d be about the cohrenency of your ‘additions’ rather than a real argument over the defining truth claims.

  32. Howard,

    I am saving up a lot of responses to things you say for a future post. I should probably point out, though that every scripture you use you use with an interpretation at odds with how it is taught by the leaders of the church today.

  33. I’m not sure what that means Bruce, are you saying my opinion disagrees with theirs? Has the been revelation on that scripture or is there a consensus amoung the brethren? They don’t always agree with each other. Please explain.

  34. “I would like to point out that I have known literally hundreds of lapsed Catholics, Baptists, evangelicals, etc, and not a one of them spends all of his/her energy trying to change his/her former church. They just stop going, which to me is a much more logical course of action than continuing to hang around the Church you supposedly hate.”

    Mormon culture/teachings/doctrine is set up to influence nearly all aspects of our lives – then we wonder why the disaffected can’t let it go?

    More specifically, if the LDS Church did not have a relatively history of highly dramatic changes in fundamental practice and doctrine, there would be much less optimism for progressives to hold on to. It doesn’t matter how often they hear the traditional line in GC, Mormon history and article 9 have their own loud voices.

  35. The principal truth claim of Christianity is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Handle me and see” he said.

    The New Testament says that upwards of 500 saw him. If I can accept that, which I do, I don’t think the miraculous claims of Joseph Smith are of any particular concern.

  36. I agree with Howard’s take on my position. Religions and ideologies are definitely meant to unify as well as exclude people from some group and mine are no different.

  37. Are you sure you know what you’re doing when you exclude? Are you authorized to exclude? Who did Jesus our exemplar exclude?

    But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men…Woe unto you, ye blind guides

    What is the church?

    Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

  38. There is a terminology problem here. The LDS church and presumably most religions do not truly ‘exclude’ anyone. What they do is set various standards (i.e. commandments for the Mormon community) that does create a sort of self selection process. This self selection process is known to be what makes conservative churches stonger than liberal ones. It is this self selection process that John Dehlin labels as ‘exclusion.’

  39. “The New Testament says that upwards of 500 saw him. If I can accept that, which I do, I don’t think the miraculous claims of Joseph Smith are of any particular concern.”

    They pale beside the claim that the God of the universe actually sent “His Only Begotten Son” to planet earth to take the form of a miracle-working Jewish carpenter in a Roman Empire backwater vassal state, and who then not only atoned for humanity’s crimes, but literally rose from the dead three days after being tortured and executed.

    Yeah, Joseph Smith is pretty humdrum in comparison.

  40. Is someone self selecting when the church or Bruce or Jeff G declares them to be apostate? Or declares the church to be something more or less than than repenting and coming unto Christ?

  41. Of course I understand. We can’t let wolves among the sheep, no matter how much the wolves think themselves to be sheep.

    Less flippantly, the aim of my posts and comments is not to kick anybody out of the church, but to get people to drop the thoughts, behaviors and life strategies that will get them excluded from church. Repent and come into the fold, is the message.

  42. So now you’re calling them to repentance instead of excluding them? Self appointed messiah?

  43. Regarding “exclusion”.

    Christ has three standards for the church. Judgment, mercy and faith. When I go to church I expect to see people who are living obediently based on revealed standards. They judge me, thank you very much. And their judgment is merciful because it lets me know that, yes, God’s standards are livable, and, yes, mercifully, I can escape punishment by living them. They are obedient because if faith.

    Going to church and not expecting judgment is wasting time. Go to the beach or go skiing.

  44. Jeff G,
    I strongly doubt you’ve been called by the church for the purpose of judging progressive bloggers and calling them to repentance. It’s arrogant of you to assume that calling and to assume that you posses the knowledge and spiritual discernment to make such a judgement. What gives you the authority to such a broad stewardship? What gives you the authority to go around the LDS priesthood authority that has been assigned to these people?

  45. If God runs the church through prophets, and God through revelation sets commandments and standards, and Jeff G (or myself) support these standards, then when these standards cause some people to opt out, it is possible to to look at this in two ways.

    One is the way Howard is choosing to view it. He has now accused Jeff of calling them to repentance and becoming a self proclaimed Messiah and accuses him of excluding them through his judgments. He can even make the dubious claim that this is equivalent to calling them an apostate (even though that word was never used.)

    The other way, of course, is to view Jeff as supporting God’s teachings.

    Obviously its possible to view it either way and people will view it either way. But one of these ways must of necessity turn out to be more correct than the other.

  46. He has now accused Jeff of calling them to repentance… Well, Jeff flatly stated he intends to exclude but when confronted with scripture in opposition he softened his position to “Repent and come into the fold, is the message.” The problem is Jeff pretends to know that others beliefs are wrong and he judges them accordingly. This goes too far. As I demonstrated earlier a literal belief in physical mortal golden plates OR a belief in spiritual plates as seen in a vision or a belief in both are possible. It’s beyond Jeff’s stewardship to call people to repentance (or to exclude them) for believing in spirit plates.

    However, I have no problem with contrasting and comparing beliefs or discussing beliefs or asking people what they believe. But let’s not move those conversations in the direction of McCarthyism!

  47. No, Jeff actually just made the rather obvious observation that religions, pretty much by defition, define a group of people in some way, which then must of necessity define who is not a part of that people.

    This isn’t anything like unto how you then interpreted it. I knew you’d try to misinterpret it and that was why I made my clarifying statement that it’s not really exclusion by the religion but self exclusion by those that don’t want to take part.

  48. That view sidesteps in practice on the ground it is Jeff who is deciding who is not faithfully LDS. But it’s not up to him, it would be up to a disciplinary council led by the spirit.

  49. Howard,

    I can honestly say I have no idea what you’re talking abourt. Jeff never says he is the one to decide who is not faithfully LDS. He mentions only the overall message of the Church — accurately — as come unto me and he mentions the obvious fact that religions are a defined group with boundaries. The rest you’ve made up in your mind.

  50. Up thread Howard wrote:

    Ironically Jeff G does the same thing with his truth claims! He uses them in an apparent attempt to exclude and discredit others!

    Following that Jeff G wrote: I agree with Howard’s take on my position.

  51. Also, Howard, you are operating on the completely mistaken assupmtion that your own views aren’t exclusionary. A church with a fictional Book or Mormon would exclude me, for example. In fact, your views are far more exclusionary than Jeff’s. In fact they are so exclusionary that you are the only person they don’t exclude when we come right down to it.

    You make your arguments about why you feel they aren’t and then try to turn our views into a sort of exclusion when we disagree. But you’re missing the point. We’re explaining to you why your truth claims exclude us and therefore we naturally have no interest in them. (Just to clarify: We *are* interested in discussing them with you here, we aren’t interested in practicing them in church.)

  52. Well as a part of his clarification Jeff also wrote:

    Of course I understand. We can’t let wolves among the sheep, no matter how much the wolves think themselves to be sheep.

    So what is implied by this Bruce? Isn’t Jeff making a judgement here about others that they wouldn’t agree with?

    If the wolves don’t know who they are (Jeff’s judgement) and think themselves to be sheep, who knows their actual identity? Doesn’t it imply Jeff the all knowing (and perhaps others like him) know their real identity and by implication his job is to exclude and discredit them (as he admitted earlier) to keep them away from the real sheep, later softened to admonish them to repent (Jeff’s judgement) and come into the fold or keep them away from the sheep even as they believe themselves to be sheep?

    Jeff isn’t judging others here?

  53. Howard :-) :-)

    I enjoy having you here.

    If you look at the context — as I’ve pointed out multiple times now — Jeff was talking about the nature of religion as defining a group of people and therefore by nature including some and excluding some (this is actually true of all groups, not just religions.)

    Beyond the fact that he states this is a joke — he is in fact refering to the Church itself (i.e. as lead by the leaders) making such judgments. There is no indication nor criteria he lists or suggests his own judgment here.

    And it should be obvious that the Church leaders DO watch out for so-called wovles in sheeps clothing that pretty much always claim they aren’t. So just not reading this the way you are trying to. It sounds pretty factually correct to me.

  54. Okay, well the joke’s on me then! Having blogged with Jeff on many threads I took him seriously because it seemed to fit my perception of his style. I suppose I should repent.

    And it should be obvious that the Church leaders DO watch out for so-called wovles in sheeps clothing that pretty much always claim they aren’t. Sure I just didn’t know Jeff had been called to be the Bloggernacle Wolf Czar!

  55. Well, the church asked us not to tell people that the actual name is “Bloggernacle Wolverine Czar”, nor to let anyone know about his specific mutant powers… ;-)

  56. Howard,

    You call me and/or my position arrogant. How is that not a call to repentance? How is that not just as exclusionary as Bruce is about you and your views of the BoM?

  57. Jeff G,
    Well, I called assuming the broad stewardship calling of judging progressive bloggers and calling them to repentance, assuming that you posses the knowledge and spiritual discernment to make such judgements and assuming the authority to go around the LDS priesthood authority that has been assigned to these people arrogant.

    Is this you and/or your position?

  58. Howard,

    I can’t speak to what Jeff has done elsewhere. But frankly there doesn’t seem to be a good example of this behavior you keep insisting he’s doing (here on this particularly thread) except by a creative re-interpretation of his words. I just don’t see where he’s done anything but state the obvous — the church has commmandments and standards and he supports them.

  59. Okay Bruce, I’m simply responding to his direct question. I no desire to belabor the issue.

  60. Why halt ye between two opinions?
    Bruce, this characterization of the “Mormon Matters” experience paints such a bleak picture.

    Why is carefully nuanced equvocation better than an expression of faith? In my judgement, truth is effectively obscured by the “fifty shades of gray” posture. It serves nothing to be so dogmatically committed to being noncommittal and ever circumspect.

    …Revelations from the prophets of God are not like offerings at the cafeteria, some to be selected and others disregarded. (Elder N. Eldon Tanner)

    …I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)

  61. The gospel has always been exclusionary, in the sense that there is a criteria that must be met in order to be a member.

    For example: Ten Commandments. Circumcision. Baptism. Don’t eat Pork. Only Levites get priesthood. Worship only at the Temple.

    Even Jesus established parameters that the apostles taught. John taught that if one did not teach that Christ came in the flesh, that person is anti-Christ. Laodiceans were commanded to be hot or cold, and not lukewarm. Paul and others made lists of those sinners who would not enter into heaven.

    It is just tooooo easy to cherry pick one or two verses and take them out of context, as Howard did, in regards to judging and exclusion.

  62. rameumptom ,
    Please put them in context:

    Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

  63. I am pretty sure that this is the context for D&C 10:

    “Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, likely around April 1829, though portions may have been received as early as the summer of 1828. Herein the Lord informs Joseph of alterations made by wicked men in the 116 manuscript pages from the translation of the book of Lehi, in the Book of Mormon.”

    Sounds like this is in reference to those that would change the words of God to try to trip up the prophet. But, that is just my guess at the context. It looks to me like he gave a whole lot more earlier in the revelation as well that should not be discounted, that very well could be considered part of the statement “Behold, this is my doctrine” like all of the other stuff on the plates “which do throw greater views upon my gospel.” Then he adds that we also should repent and come unto him as well as accept his doctrine and then can be part of his church. Context is important, you are right.

  64. Howard,

    “Well, I called assuming the broad stewardship calling of judging progressive bloggers and calling them to repentance, assuming that you posses the knowledge and spiritual discernment to make such judgements and assuming the authority to go around the LDS priesthood authority that has been assigned to these people arrogant.”

    Whether that description fits me or not seems somewhat peripheral at this point. The question which I think is more interesting is whether you would describe yourself in this same way. After all, in your comments you are judging a conservative blogger and calling him to repentance, assuming that you posses the knowledge and spiritual discernment to make such judgments, etc. The reasons why you do so, I would assume, are that you don’t like how my position on repentance leads some people (liberals) out of the church. I hope this sounds familiar, since it is exactly the complaint that you are trying to make.

    Thus, I am left wondering what the important difference is between your position and mine such that you get to legitimately tell people in the church how they are supposed to interact with others, but I am not? Whatever your excuse is, why cannot I use it?

    Of course the real response to this conundrum is that the church must exclude some things. The only question is which? Most here at M* are excluding beliefs and behaviors (since neither side is excluding people, per se) in a way that prophets and priesthood leaders have set a precedence for. Liberal Mormons (as Bruce defines them) are doing so such thing. Indeed, they are saying and doing things which undermine the precedence set by the prophets and priesthood leaders.

    This is why I judge and exclude certain thoughts and behaviors. I’m not judging these things based on my own authority or understanding, but that of the prophets and priesthood leaders. I’m trying to use arguments and persuasion (rather than any appeal to some authority that I never claimed to have) to show how many beliefs and behavior are excluded by those who do not have to argue or persuade because they do have authority over us.

  65. Jeff G,
    Jesus was a progressive with a strong bias toward inclusion. He never spoke about gays he embraced women with his time and his respect. He pushed back against Pharisees while delivering a message to love one another and the beatitudes.

    The church is led by Jesus Christ but it has become consertive, exclusive, Mosiac and pharasical.

    Moses a great Prophet was accessible and willingly performed revelatory services for Zelophad’s daughters at their request and encouraged his people to become prophets themselves and
    share their prophecy. TSM is inaccessible – see body guards, private jets and under ground tunnels. How do you explain this incongruity?

    The trend toward pharsical creeds and bright line rules is an indication of a decrease in revelation and an increase in man’s legalizing of God’s principals into man’s rules. Principals include a lot of gray scale, they are neauanced. Bright line rules are black and white. Something is lost in the translation. The conversation of neauance to black and white truncates and polorizes the neauance.

    Jesus said and again I command you to love one another. He didn’t exclude gays, women, blacks or progressives. The church wasn’t always consertive, today it offers one of just a few remaining consertive bastions aside from your local country club but it reached it’s right zenith with ETB, commies and the John Birtch Society (do you really believe this lunicy was God’s direction?) and now the pendulum is beginning to swing toward the left.

    The prophet can’t lead the church astray? How do you explain the ban on blacks fiasco? So please help me align today’s church with the Jesus who walked the earth, that is my only goal.

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