Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Light of General Conference: "Unorthodox" Mormons and a Discussion of One of the Most Basic Tenants of My Faith

Disclaimer: I am an active, practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I am not the Prophet (obviously! Haha.) or an official representative of the church. This blog post is not official doctrine, only my own opinion and observations.

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So, next Saturday and Sunday are kind of a big deal to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Semi-annually, our church holds a televised event we call General Conference. During conference, we get to hear our Prophet (and other inspired leaders) speak to us with revelation (messages we believe come directly from God) for every individual, family and the whole world!

One of the key differences between our faith, and most mainstream Christian churches, is that we still believe in the structure that Jesus Christ set up while he was on the Earth, with apostles, as being a vital and fundamental structure in Christ's church.

We believe that except for one dark period of time that we call the Apostasy, that God has always spoken to His people through Prophets for the world. (i.e. Adam, Moses, Abraham, Enoch, Noah and so on and so forth.) We believe God restored that inspired framework of a Prophet and apostles back on the earth with Joseph Smith.

At church today, one of the lessons focused on a discussion around this awesome speech (or talk as we like to call them in the Mormon community) on Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet. I felt impressed to share it with you here, today because discussing it today reaffirmed to me many things that I know I believe but haven't been able to articulate.

There are some pretty loud voices for "Unorthodox" Mormonism that have been making regular appearances in the media lately. These voices call for structural or policy change within the church, they call for apologies from church leaders for past decisions of church leaders they feel were wrong, and most disturbingly (to me anyways) they openly and angrily denounce and defy official direction and doctrine of the church - all while continuing to represent themselves as members and believers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have no qualms with people struggling to understand or to study pieces of doctrine or revelation that they don't feel comfortable with. In fact, every member should do their part to know the doctrine of the church, past and present and to pray to understand it themselves. My qualm with this so-called unorthodox Mormonism and their application of it, is that I have observed from some individuals and groups, that in their struggle to connect their own understanding with prophetic revelation, that they consistently come to end conclusions that are not consistent with one of the most basic tenants of Mormonism - the belief that we have a modern-day prophet, who receives revelation for the whole church and world directly from God. No, he doesn't act on social pressure, or rallies, or blog posts - he simply talks to the big guy upstairs and does what he's told to do. If you don't believe that, I find it difficult to see how one can still honestly profess to believe in Mormonism.

I feel the need to distance myself and my faith from these groups - not for their soul-searching, or their questioning, for their unique application of gospel principles, or their seeking to understand - but for their conclusions which show evidence of blatant disregard for this most basic tenant of my faith; belief in a modern-day prophet who speaks to God. This, my friends is a fundamental tenant of my faith, in which I fully believe.

That talk I linked to above, includes these fourteen fundamentals of Following the Prophet - you can read the whole talk to see how Ezra Taft Benson (a former prophet of our church) elaborates on each of these points, which I have listed below. These are all the things I believe about Thomas S. Monson. And I am proud to stand by him and the words he will speak this Saturday and Sunday, because as a Mormon, I believe what President Benson said, that:

"First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.
Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or diplomas to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
Eighth: The Prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter—temporal or spiritual.
Tenth: The prophet may well advise on civic matters.
Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—The highest quorum in the Church.
Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer."

This Saturday and Sunday, we all (just click this link) have the opportunity to hear from a living Prophet and apostles of God who have specific counsel for this day and age. Just like Noah had important messages for people to hear in his day, so too, do I believe that President Monson has important messages just for us - and that those messages, if headed, will keep us safe, happy, and bring us closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

And, like Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a current apostle of our church said about the experience of General Conference,If we teach by the Spirit and you listen by the Spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you.” I can't wait to hear mine.

2 comments:

  1. I have been having wonderful discussions with my husband lately about the use of the word "doctrines" and what exactly ARE the doctrines of our church.

    I mention this because, while I truly believe in the counsel we receive at General Conference and try hard to abide by their teachings, I think it's always always important to remember WHY we are commanded in such things, because much of what is discussed at GC is not all doctrine, though most likely doctrine-based. I was recently in an argument with a person via Facebook thread over this matter, because she said everything spoken at GC was inspired or based upon revelation and thereby doctrine, but that is not really true. It just bothered me to have the misuse of that very important word. The doctrines of the church are truths that essential to our exaltation - the very core doctrine being that of Jesus Christ (and his atonement), faith, repentance, and baptism. All other essential doctrines really revolve around the Plan of Salvation.

    I state those things because I too get frustrated that non-orthodox Mormons often get caught up in petty disagreements with the church about things that aren't really about doctrine at all. The doctrine of the church is true, and if you ask most of those non-orthodox people if they disagree with the basic doctrine, they will say no.

    What the prophets and leaders of the church do is reveal further insight into the doctrine - they help us know the proper way of performing baptisms, administering the sacrament and to the sick and afflicted, and much much more. Sometimes the way ordinances (like endowments for example) are done change through the years, but the doctrine behind such changes remain unchanged, because it is based upon eternal truths and laws.

    So while I agree that people can have their opinions of how they would like things to be run in the church, our prophets and leaders ARE inspired and do receive revelation as pertaining to all changes made. Yes, some will change again, but only as they are inspired to change them.

    Sorry for the rant. Just been on my mind ALL weekend.

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  2. Jamie, I think this is a very true and timely discussion. (I was in the class Jamie talks about this in post). I am excited to give perhaps more heed than I sometimes do to the words spoken at conference, especially those from the prophet.

    I think Katelyn is correct that doctrine in the basic truths that do not change. Not everything said in conference is doctrine. There is often application of doctrine, helping us understand how to apply the eternal truths in our own lives. It is up to every person to receive personal revelation about how to apply the talks in conference to their own lives. However, I think a lot of people are quick to rationalize why some talk or counsel does not apply to them specifically, when really it should. That can be a big danger.

    Also, while the application of doctrine changes at time, as you pointed out, it is for the Prophet to reveal those changes, not us to decide. If we do not follow the application of doctrine as directed by the prophet for the present time, we are not following the Savior, even if later it will change. Those who were commanded to live the Law of Moses were sinning if they did not follow it, even if they lived exactly as they would be commanded to do after the Law of Moses was fulfilled and done away with by the Savior.

    I think I am reiterating a lot of what Jamie and Katelyn said, but these are my thoughts and beliefs on the subject. Sorry this got so long.

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