At Sixes and Sevens

February 13, 2006 | 26 comments
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The high point in my Church career so far came at age two, when I stood and recited the first four Articles of Faith from memory in Sacrament Meeting . Alas, early precocity did not usher in mature perspicacity, and I confess that these days, while I can still recite most of the Articles as stand-alones with some accuracy, I’m hard pressed to string them together in any recognizable series. (I can, however, rattle off all the books of the Old Testament in order to the tune of “Praise to the Man,” thanks to the heroic efforts of my Sunday School 14 teacher.) Aside from a naturally dull wit, my difficulty comes from not knowing what to make of the Articles as a set of rhetorical objects: they’re neither systematic nor comprehensive nor, it seems to me, precisely reflective of Mormon particularity, either historically or currently, and I’ve yet to detect any unifying internal logic in the sequence.

Until the other day, when, for some reason, I was considering Articles Six and Seven:

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

It occurred to me that these two articles, at least, do form a coherent dyad with an internal logic: both articles itemize the forms of divine power in the earthly church—-the Kingdom of Heaven in the Kingdom of God—-and taken together the articles neatly parse the two dominant (and antithetical) modes in which that power is exercised, the institutional and the charismatic. The Sixth gestures toward the structural governance, with its layers of office and complex organizational relationships, with which we identify Priesthood authority—-the sine qua non of our present-day Restoration narrative—in most contexts. The Seventh, in contrast, refers to those charismatic displays of visionary religion—the signs that follow those who believe—through which the power of God flows free of institutional channels of authority, ungoverned, unpredictable, and ineffable.

Two things struck me about Seven. First, charismatic power can be exercised by any worthy believer, regardless of gender, age or office, and in this way it works as a centrifugal, democratizing force : we have accounts of early Mormon women and children, as well as priesthood-holding men, speaking in tongues, interpreting, healing, receiving visions. Second, however, these charismatic displays have disappeared almost entirely from present-day first-world LDS experience: healing and prophecy have been absorbed into the priesthood structure of Six, the gifts of tongues have been rationalized into MTC language learning, and visions seem to have simply vanished from our shared religious experience. There are a number of plausible explanations for the curtaining of charismatic religion, mostly variations on the descent of the iron cage of a disenchanted modernity with its rationality and technology—and many of which I find convincing (although I, for one, am quite partial to many aspects of modernity, rationality and technology).

The present relationship of women to the power of God in its various forms is a contested issue, one might removedly observe. It’s tempting to put sexism—sinister or benign, personal or cultural, structural or discursive—in the driver’s seat of historical causality when considering the withdrawal of women from some exercises of divine power in the Church. But perhaps it is an encroaching modernity, not a persistent sexism, that has driven this particular stretch of history. This possibility raises nearly as many questions as it answers, of course, many more disquieting to me than the prospect of an inherited cultural gender bias: why, for instance, do women seem to be so receptive to visionary and charismatic manifestations? I think it’s useful, in any case, to situate questions of women’s history in as many contexts as possible—six or seven, at least.

Which leaves, of course, the biggest question of all: which article is it, again, that begins with “We claim”?

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26 Responses to At Sixes and Sevens

  1. Starfoxy on February 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    “and I’ve yet to detect any unifying internal logic in the sequence.”

    Maybe this is overly simplistic, but I’ve always seen a very logical sequence in the AofF (with the exception of nos. 1 and 10). The relation being that each one shows how the one previous to it is made possible. For example, Accountability for just *our own* sins, and repentace is made possible by the Atonement of Christ and obedience to His laws, obedience to the laws is made possible by faith, baptism etc, which is made possible by people who have authority to administer the ordinances, which is made possible by the organization of the church, which is revealed by the gifts of the spirit, as they are laid out in the scriptures, which were revealed by God, who we claim the priviledge of worshiping, which is made possible by religious freedom guranteed by the laws of the land, which we uphold by being good citizens, in the house that Jack built…

    I’m curious to see the discussion of your more serious point, about which I have nothing to say other than I find it very interesting.

  2. BrianJ on February 13, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    What a wonderful observation! When I taught Gospel Essentials I always pointed out the connection between #5 and #6, but I entirely missed the #6-#7 connection as you show it.

    Rosalynde said: “Second, however, these charismatic displays have disappeared almost entirely from present-day first-world LDS experience: healing and prophecy have been absorbed into the priesthood structure of Six, the gifts of tongues have been rationalized into MTC language learning, and visions seem to have simply vanished from our shared religious experience.”

    I would agree. But why have they disappeared? What does the Moroni say about why miracles cease? I have to admit that I would be skeptical if I heard someone in sacrament meeting telling about how they raised their brother from the dead or had a vision of the Lord on his throne. Do I lack faith?

    A close friend of mine related that he had been reading Lehi’s dream and then pondering how Nephi received the same/similar vision. My friend wondered and then prayed to know why he could not have the same experience. He was chastened by the Spirit for not keeping a journal, which essentially asked him, “Why should you have these experiences if you won’t record them?”

    I think of the many, many miracle stories I have heard from people researching geneology. Why do they have visions and other miracles? Why don’t I? Do I have them and I just don’t recognize it?

  3. Wilfried Decoo on February 13, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Very interesting post, Rosalynde. Raises many questions. I’ll limit to one aspect: the presence among us of the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues.

    You say: “These charismatic displays have disappeared almost entirely from present-day first-world LDS experience”. I understand what you want to convey here. But the words need clarification. What is meant by “displays”? Spectacular visible exteriorization or occurrence altogether? You also mention “almost entirely”: does that appy to the visible “displays” or to any more hidden manifestation? If “almost”, what is it left? What do you mean by “first world” LDS experience?

  4. Rosalynde Welch on February 13, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Starfoxy: I’m entirely open to the possibility that I’ve missed an obvious internal sequence in the AoF—like I said, I’m more than a little slow-witted about some things! I have recognized the pattern you suggest in the first four articles, but beyond that I hadn’t noted it… You’ve given me something to think about! (And maybe something to go on when I try to get the order straight…)

    Brian J: I wish I had some good answers to your questions. To put things in a crude and optimistic fashion: perhaps rational habits of mind make charismatic manifestations a less effective language for the Spirit. I’ll try to elaborate when I get back from gymnastics with my daughter…

    Wilfried: By “display” I’m referring to the public currency of such charistmatic manifestations: some Saints refer circumspectly to personal visions or revelations or healings, but our public meetings rarely if ever witness these miraculous occurrences in the same way that many early gatherings of Saints seem to. (The qualifier “almost” is just meant to hedge my claim against potential readers who have, in fact, experienced such a meeting: it’s my impression that such events are rare, but I can’t say with certainty that they’re extinct.) By “first world,” I mean the experience of Saints in regions that are fully modernized: I’ve heard many anecdotal accounts of charismatic healings and tongues, for example, in Brazil and Africa, and I don’t want to erase those experiences, so I’ve simply bracketed them for this discussion. (Although commenters are welcome to ruminate on them, if they wish.)

  5. Julie M. Smith on February 13, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    Great post, Rosalynde.

    Can someone who knows more 19C church history than I answer this question: When the gifts of the spirit were manifest, was it in regular church meetings? Because I’m thinking in the few accounts that I have read, it was more along the lines of small groups of saints meeting together. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same thing happened today. And I would suspect that anyone who really had raised her brother from the dead wouldn’t discuss it in sacrament meeting–but would write it in a journal, so that 100 years from now her descendents could wonder why the 22nd century church didn’t exercise the gifts of the spirit like they used to in the good old days . . .

  6. Sideshow on February 13, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Rosalynde & BrianJ:

    Although you feel that spiritual gifts have receded to the extent they are not part of the church organization, I think that is not actually the case. One reason is because I heard reassurance from President Faust in a regional conference in St. George in the Fall of 1997 where he asserted that spiritual gifts are not gone, although people may keep them more to themselves than they used to. In that same meeting the Lord let me know in no uncertain terms that He is with President Faust.

    Another reason is that I have experienced (and continue to experience) some of those gifts, typically not within the structure of the church.

    One interesting parallel to your comment, BrianJ, is that I too have been instructed to record those gifts. Not in so many words, but I eventually noticed that I do not get another manifestatation of a spiritual gift until I have recorded the previous one. I keep a “journal of spiritual manifestations” just for this purpose.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have great advice for getting them, other than that the Lord does advise us to (actively) seek them. Sometimes we do get some and just need to recognize them. It was hard for me to learn to identify the Spirit because, like a fish in the water, it had been around me all my life.

    Rosalynde, I realize another aspect of your question is why these gifts don’t manifest publicly (e.g. in church meetings) like they used to; I wouldn’t be surprised if they have been pushed (somewhat intentionally) to the realm of the personal. Very few large and mature organizations are comfortable with things outside themselves. However, as a child I had a (female) Sunday School teacher prophesy to our class during a lesson. Does that count? I think the American culture in Joseph Smith’s day may have been more comfortable with supernatural phenomena and thus been more accepting of public displays of spiritual gifts, and the change in culture may well contribute to a “muting” of those kinds of things today. Maybe Julie’s got it exactly right. At certain early temple dedications, numbers of people saw angels present and singing, among other wonders, but I don’t know if they all revealed it or talked about it at the time.

    One more thing that may be relevant; in our lesson in priesthood yesterday the teacher made the comment that he couldn’t understand how, when President Woodruff said all blessings from God come through the priesthood, that was managed through the structure and organization of the church. I responded that I think “priesthood” refers to two things: the power of god, and the structure of church leadership. I feel like Wilford Woodruff’s comment was referring to the first, and that the second is a “mortal interface” to the first — in other words, just something that’s there to provide an undeniable mortal presence of the power of God. Therefore, those who don’t feel and recognize the Spirit’s instructions all the time can rely on the prophet and be assured that they hear God’s message. Not that I claim to always feel and understand the Spirit; my point is that all of us could use a mortal, physical way of making sure we understand what God tells us.

    I think your perceived difference between the two Articles of Faith fits quite well with my difference between two things both referred to as the priesthood, although if someone has a good idea why my reasoning is wrong or “off”, I’d certainly like to hear it.

  7. Mark IV on February 13, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Rewarding as always, Rosalynde.

    If I understand what Julie is saying, I agree with her. People still claim to have dreams and visions, but, perhaps with the exception of a really hair-raising testimony meeting, it isn’t part of our public worship. I can think of several people in my ward, right offhand, who have had experiences they characterize as visions. But they describe them in terms of “sudden strokes of intelligence” rather than being visited by an angel. So I think charismatic religion is still with us to some extent, but we talk about it privately, and in different language.

    What do you think of the story Elder Nelson told in conference a year or so ago about the picture he saw in his mind as he was attempting heart surgery? This is the sort of experience I am talking about.

  8. A Nonny Mouse on February 13, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    Julie M. Smith Can someone who knows more 19C church history than I answer this question: When the gifts of the spirit were manifest, was it in regular church meetings?

    Well… I’ma venture out on a limb here and say yes and no, being no bona fide expert in 19c church history… A couple of reasons why it’s both: 1. If I recall correctly, I’ve read accounts of “the gifts of the spirit,” particularly the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof, happening in regular ol’ church meetings in the post-exodus Utah period. Folks, in Sunday or other meetings, having these manifestations. If I were a bona-fide expert, I’d have a reference for you, but I don’t… Sorry.
    2. I also recall reading accounts of “small groups of saints” meeting and having such manifestations, but given the groups of saints and the circumstances (for example, a late night party in the Nauvoo temple, attended by most of the leadership of the church) it’s hard to say that it wasn’t an “official” meeting… I think the reason it’s hard for me to make that distinction is that clearly “official church meetings” seem to have been a very nebulous thing during the first couple of decades of the church… I believe…

  9. Katie on February 13, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    I think it is possible that some of the “spiritual gifts” mentioned are not happening in public church meetings, but are occurring privately. Healings seem a likely candidate for this. But speaking in tongues? Are people really speaking in tongues within the confines of their own home? I am doubtful. Speaking in tongues (the charismatic variety which the article of faith is surely referencing, not the MTC variety) is really made to be a public act, and has been faded and rationalized away.

  10. Matt Bowman on February 13, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    Brigham Young addressed the Saints in conference in tongues at the Kirtland temple dedication. In RSR, Bushman discusses a formal conference of the priesthood in late 1830 that, as John Corrill recorded, was marked by prophesying and ecstatic speaking in tongues. And according to Mary Lightner, Oliver Cowdery and Thomas Marsh “often” spoke in tongues when addressing the Saints on the Sabbath.

    Scott Kenney’s site http://www.saintswithouthalos.com is a good repository of primary sources for themes like this.

    Switching to a different gift of the spirit, at the first Conference in June 1830, there was a mass effort to raise a girl from the dead.

  11. D. Fletcher on February 13, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    I set Articles 6 and 7 together, in counterpoint to each other. Perhaps it was for this very reason? :)

    “We claim…” begins Article 11.

  12. Starfoxy on February 13, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    In Response to the Speaking in Tongues thing my institute teacher told us of his born again neighbors who would have monthly meetings in their home where they would pray, worship, and speak in tongues. He was certain that they really were speaking in tongues and that it probably was the real thing rather than the influence of Satan. I don’t remember why he was sharing this with us, but I got the distinct impression that doing it just for the sake of doing it is wrong, there has to be some purpose to it other than “it’s really cool!” I also seem to get the feeling that the charismatic displays are much more common in less developed countries.
    Basically it seems like we don’t have such displays in a modern developed society because they aren’t needed, but where they are needed they still happen. So my question becomes, what defines a need for charismatic displays, and why don’t developed nations have that need while undeveloped nations do?

  13. manaen on February 13, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    #12 Re: “…I got the distinct impression that doing it [speaking in tongues] just for the sake of doing it is wrong, there has to be some purpose to it other than “it’s really cool!â€?

    Maybe Paul’s words will help:
    1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
    2 For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
    3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
    4 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.
    5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
    6 Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
    7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?
    8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
    9 So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.
    10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.
    11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
    12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
    13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.
    14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
    15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
    16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?
    17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.
    18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:
    19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

    ( 1 Cor 14:1-19)

  14. Ben H on February 14, 2006 at 12:39 am

    Compared with today’s meetings, the meetings of the early saints were much more private, I think it’s fair to say, so the dramatic display of spiritual gifts in early meetings may still leave room for the points about privacy to be valid. People just knew their neighbors better in those days, and they certainly weren’t broadcasting their meetings by satellite television! Plus, the church never really accommodated to those around it (hence they were driven out again and again) until Utah became a state, and the process of accommodation continued by degrees through much of the 20th century. This accommodation is an adjustment to the progressive encroachment of “public” space, as Mormons have less and less their own spaces, and know each other less and less well (also partly due to the size of the church, and more moving around within it).

  15. lorie on February 14, 2006 at 1:51 am

    It seems to me that institutional power will always be at odds with charismatic power. It is in the nature of institutions to control and contain individual expressions of charisma. As a church, I think we Mormons have increasingly narrowed the boundaries of acceptable charismatic expression at the same time we have emphasized positional power. Since positional power is granted primarily to those who hold the priesthood, the only expressions of power available to women, particularly as institutional power for women evaporates beyond the ward, or possibly the stake, level, are personal and/or charismatic in nature. It may be that women are not necessarily more naturally drawn to charismatic expressions of power but that these traditionally have been, and in the modern LDS church remain, the only expressions of power available to them.

  16. BrianJ on February 14, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Sideshow said: “Although you feel that spiritual gifts have receded to the extent they are not part of the church organization….” I will not venture to speak for Rosalynde, but I would like to clarify what I said (and on what point I agreed with Rosalynde). I do not say that spiritual gifts have receded, instead I say that the display of those gifts seems to have receded. In other words, I read of public displays of spiritual gifts in the scriptures and in Church history, but I have not witnessed similar (not even remotely) events in the church meetings I have attended. Nor have I heard my fellow ward members recount such experiences, except, as Rosalynde points out, within the organized structure of the priesthood. The exception to this, again from my experience, is what I mentioned before: family history research. And as you relate, Pres. Faust has noticed the same thing: “people may keep them more to themselves.” And that is part of my question: Why don’t we share them like we used to?

    Regarding your concept of the priesthood, I have no insight, only more questions. The priesthood is spoken of (in scripture, conference, manuals, etc) as both a power and as a system of government. Elder Oaks’ most recent conference talk makes it clear that this is the eternal family will also operate under a priesthood government (of course, he is not the only source for this). But the powers in AofF 7 are not spoken of as priesthood powers, they are called gifts of the Spirit. Does that mean they are different? I always imagined these as being made possible/manifest through the Holy Ghost. Does the Holy Ghost operate under a different power than the priesthood?

    Rosalynde, lorie, Starfoxy:

    You’ve given me a good bit to chew. Do I not experience glorious manifestations because I do not deserve them, do not seek them, or do not need them? (Or do not recognize them?) On the other hand, there are gifts/blessings that I receive in my work that I find quite glorious, but if I told you about them, I doubt if you would appreciate them at all, simply because you would not recognize the size of the hurdle that the gift helped me over. And the same could certainly be said about me not understanding the triumphs of someone in a profession quite different from my own. So do I relate these experiences? No, never, but I “cherish these things in [my] heart.” Perhaps, Rosalynde, you could clarify what you meant when you said, “…rational habits of mind make charismatic manifestations a less effective language for the Spirit.” Do you mean: the Spirit uses a different language when speaking to a rational mind, or the Spirit tries to speak to the rational mind but the rational mind is deaf?

  17. Kathy S. on February 14, 2006 at 11:12 am

    “does the Holy Ghost operate under a different power than the priesthood?”

    As I understand it, there is only one good power, with different names/manifestations/channels. I understand priesthood as the authority to direct that good power for certain purposes within organizations (church and family). But the power itself isn’t different from the power any righteous person can access–the power of God. As a woman there are far more things I CAN do with the power of god for myself, and within the church and family, (if I follow the required path), than things I can’t do.

  18. Rosalynde Welch on February 14, 2006 at 11:40 am

    Wow, great comments, everyone–thank you!

    Sideshow: Thanks for your reflections. I think you convey the two conflicting responses we have to charismatic phenomena: first, we must reassure ourselves that they still exist, because the scriptures assure us that they will always follow faithful believers; second, though, we’re frankly uncomfortable with public displays or even very open talk about really unusual manifestations—in today’s culture, that feels weird and fringy, and we’re doing our best to make ourselves attractive to potential converts from the mainstreams of society. (That;s not meant to sound derogatory—on the contrary, it seems to me a very reasonable strategy for growth.) The “retreat to privacy” accommodates both responses.

    Mark IV: In many ways, I think Elder Nelson’s experience exemplifies the rationalization of charismatic healing: today, apostles can be medical doctors who study evidence-based medicine—or, like Elder Maxwell, they’re the patients of such doctors—and we locate the miracle in the advance of medical knowledge, rather than in an unexplained event. (Although Elder Nelson’s case was rather different: the charismatic event migrated from healing to vision, in a sense.) This “rationalization” of the miraculous—in which “miracle” no longer describes wonder at the unexplained and mysterious, but rather wonder at the complex and beautiful—is one way in which truly charismatic religion has retreated, I think. I, for one, am comfortable with that: I like the explainable, especially when it’s complex and beautiful!

    D.: I was going to link to your setting of the Articles, but then I got lazy and didn’t embed any links at all. But I’ll repent now: here is your super-fabulous setting, for all to see and, hopefully, enjoy!

  19. Rosalynde Welch on February 14, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    Ben, you make some cogent points. Still, though, I think there really has been a qualitative difference in charismatic manifestations: the Kirtland temple dedication, the mass vision of Brigham Young as Joseph, the group healings along the banks of the Missouri—these things were, it seems to me, collective experiences, and they just don’t happen that way anymore. Don’t you think?

    Lorie: a fine comment, thanks. I disagree, though, that there has been something unique about Mormonism’s reassignment of the charismatic: it seems to me that the Church has simply followed a fairly typical organizational lifecycle—that is, increasing systemization and rationalization—at the same time that society in general has been radically disenchanted. Your point about women’s attraction to charismatic religion being situational rather than inherent is a plausible one—and certainly one I’ve considered myself, and would like to accept. I don’t like to think that women’s minds are simply less rational than are men’s. But across history—I’m thinking, for example, of medieval female spirituality—women seem to have gravitated to the visionary and the miraculous, even in situations (like, for example, a convent) in which a measure of institutional authority was available to them. But keep on making the argument—I want to believe you!

    BrianJ: To answer your last question: I’m not sure, but I’d postulate that the Spirit uses a different language when communicating to a rational mind. As I pointed out above, people still recognize miracles in their lives—but those miracles are, these days, more likely to be explainable but complex or highly fortuitous events than unexplainable, irrational happenings. But we’re moved to praise God and his power all the same, which I think is a lovely and becoming thing.

  20. greenfrog on February 14, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I agree that a one-off experience doesn’t really get to your point, but perhaps it “does tell something in the end.”

    Years ago when I was a recently-arrived missionary at the MTC, I was a firm believer in Christianity, but I had no meaningful testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet. Naturally, I prayed about that situation while there. One evening, a Church leader came and spoke to the missionaries assembled at the MTC on the work of Joseph Smith. As you might imagine in such a story, I felt a strong spiritual manifestation inside myself during that talk, though I understood that to be a personal manifestation. But when the talk ended, the closing hymn was “Praise to the Man.” As we began to sing, I felt very strongly an impulse to stand, even though I would have been the only one in the congregation of a couple of hundred people. I turned and mentioned that feeling to the sister missionary sitting next to me. She responded, sensibly, that if that was what I felt, that was also what I should do. But before she finished her response, two other congregants had stood in other parts of the congregation. I joined them, and, as happens in groups, all others did then, as well.

    That is the only group spiritual manifestation I’ve had within an LDS setting, but I have used it as a referent to orient my thinking with respect to the group experiences depicted in earlier Church history.

  21. grego on February 14, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Rosalynde wrote:
    “Second, however, these charismatic displays have disappeared almost entirely from present-day first-world LDS experience: healing and prophecy have been absorbed into the priesthood structure of Six, the gifts of tongues have been rationalized into MTC language learning, and visions seem to have simply vanished from our shared religious experience. There are a number of plausible explanations for the curtaining of charismatic religion, mostly variations on the descent of the iron cage of a disenchanted modernity with its rationality and technology—and many of which I find convincing (although I, for one, am quite partial to many aspects of modernity, rationality and technology).”

    hardly. though perhaps it might seem that way, and in some cases, emphasized that way, especially officially. healing and prophecy? i’ve seen them both in women, and more than once. if you mean using the priesthood to do so, or in the name of the priesthood, then that is a different matter. i know people who have visions. these things are hardly dead, just perhaps not as evident. maybe when our grandchildren read our journals, they might feel the same you feel now. the gifts of tongues? elder nelson in public in italy, about 10 years ago. elder oaks in poland (?) a few years ago–and this reported by him in the church magazine. so yes, it still happens.

    i read a section in the ensign every month that shares experiences of women having visions, revelations, the help of God, etc.

  22. BrianJ on February 15, 2006 at 11:49 am

    Rosalynde,

    I hope you can appreciate my wry humor regarding your comment to Lorie: “Your point…is a plausible one—and certainly one I’ve considered myself, and would like to accept. I don’t like to think that women’s minds are simply less rational than are men’s…. But keep on making the argument—I want to believe you!” Now, as you consider what you said, are your “likes” and “wants” rational? Are anyone’s? (P.S. I hope you take this as it is intended: a friendly, non-serious challenge.)

    greenfrog,

    You relate a very interesting story, because I was in a similar situation but with very different outcomes. This was a Fireside held at UVSC with Elder Ballard as the speaker. (I think it was connected to CES and would have been around 1996—just in case anyone else was there and remembers it differently.) After his rousing sermon, we sang the closing hymn (I do not remember which). About 60% of the congregation felt very strongly the desire to stand and sing; I was one of them. After the hymn was over, Elder Ballard got back up—before the closing prayer—and gently but firmly censured us. Loosely paraphrasing him: “It is good to feel excited about the Gospel and want to show it outwardly, but in this church we wait for direction from our leaders—in this case, the chorister. Apostasy grows from doing more or less than you have been directed by your leaders.� I have no recollection of what else he taught that night, but you can see why this stayed with me.

  23. Julie M. Smith on February 15, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    BrianJ–

    I saw the broadcast of that fireside (although I remember neither the location nor the speaker) but I remember that counsel clearly. I remember some half-joke wrapped into it–along the lines of ‘don’t pack your bags for Missouri until you see us pack ours.’

  24. greenfrog on February 15, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    BrianJ,

    To the extent that the instruction was believed or followed, your tale is a sad one, indeed.

    I have chosen not to live my life that way, recognizing that I do so outside the contours of what some view as proper and orthodox.

  25. Sideshow on February 15, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    How does Elder Ballard’s statement square with 58:26-29, in which the Lord seems to say that we specifically should do things that our leaders have not told us to do? Does it actually only apply to the Lord, and our leaders actually should tell us everything that we should do? Is that really what Elder Ballard said? Can someone reference a quote?

  26. BrianJ on February 16, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Sideshow,

    You raise a good point, and I am sorry that I cannot give a quote of Elder Ballard (though I must say that I am glad that Julie remembers the same thing). My memory of what he said–and surely my interpretation of it–was not a command to become a robot. Rather, he was making a case for order. D&C 58 does not suggest that you can disregard direction from leaders. (In the case I mentioned, the fact that the chorister did not signal for us to stand could be taken as an implied order to remain seated; when we stood, we diregarded that direction.) I think I could have found other ways to express the Spirit that I felt–like going home and praying with gratitude, recording it in my journal, telling friends the next day, etc–and thereby be anxiously engaged in a good cause. Uzziah might have something to say about this…

    In summary, I think that Church leaders (from prophet to chorister to whatever) set parameters for us to operate within, the Spirit helps us find the right areas in which to focus within those parameters, and Elder Ballard felt that we had misinterpreted the Spirit’s promptings. I recognize that sometimes the Spirit will prompt us to go outside the boundaries, but those times are rare. Nephi slaying Laban comes to mind as an example, but can anyone think of an example in the scriptures when someone was told by the Spirit to challenge a righteous leader? Again, Nephi comes to mind as doing the opposite, as when he still went to murmuring prophet Lehi for direction on where to hunt.