Structural apostasy

June 12, 2006 | 119 comments
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Off the top of my head, I think that in the Church we generally mean one of three things when we use the word “apostasy”:

1. A loss of priesthood authority, and especially the apostolic keys, following the death of the apostles (ca. 100 CE in the Old World, 400 CE in the New); this also connects with the loss of the one true church. If we want to be specific, we could call this “ecclesiastical apostasy.�

2. A fragmentation or loss of doctrinal truth after the death of the apostles. We can refer to this as “doctrinal apostasy.�

3. An individual person turning away from the true gospel after having once received it, usually referring to someone who actively rejects rather than someone who becomes lukewarm or passively indifferent. This is “personal apostasy.�

Apostasy is a big problem. Perhaps not quite as big a problem as the Fall, but big enough to have an entire historical period (in LDS history/cosmology) named after it, labeled “Great� (as in “great and abominable,� not “gee whiz, this milkshake is great�), and often given a capital-A.

When we talk about solving the problem of apostasy, we also think of it based on the three forms above. From an LDS point of view, ecclesiastical hierarchy isn’t a problem anymore – John the Baptist, then Peter, James, and John, took care of that in 1829 (there’s some debate about whether the apostleship was restored in 1830 or thereafter, following the organization of the church, but we definitely have it now). Doctrinal apostasy, on a large scale, was solved with the restoration of true doctrine through revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith and other modern-day seers and revelators. As per Article of Faith 9, we think there’s more to come, but we certainly believe that since 1844 we have had the essential doctrines of salvation and exaltation restored to us. Of course, most people in the world still live individually under the cloud of doctrinal apostasy, so we go about solving that with missionary work, bringing truth to all who will listen. (I suppose ordinances then solve the problem of individual ecclesiastical apostasy.) Individual or personal apostasy, in which someone has rejected the truth once accepted, is often difficult to overcome, but it also basically entails individual and communal ministering to the strayed sheep (or kicking goat, as the case may be).

While I think these three definitions of apostasy, and the ways we approach them, are fully accurate, acceptable, and real, I think Joseph Smith thought of apostasy in one more way that we often ignore. I call it “structural apostasy.�

We often quote D&C 121 and 122, two excerpts of the letter from Liberty Jail, penned by Joseph (some or all of it given by revelation) in execrable conditions in March 1839 and then sent to the church. We pay considerably less attention to D&C 123, also from the same letter. To get a flavor, let me quote vv. 7-8 in full:

“It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity. It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell.�

This passage best represents what I call “structural apostasy.� Joseph, who suffered his share of “murder, tyranny, and oppression,� asserts that these conditions which he and the Saints found themselves in, and indeed “all corruption� in the earth, owe to “the creeds of the fathers,� which were based on “lies.� For Joseph, apostasy was not only about false belief or false authority. It also entailed murder, tyranny, oppression, and corruption, which refer not to the ecclesiastical order but to the political, social, and economic order. All the structures of society which pit people against one another in anything less than the bonds of charity flow from the “mainspring� of apostasy. Apostasy is essentially the inverse of Zion. If a Zion society, as we get glimpses of in 4 Nephi and Moses 7, has structures based on love, peace, equality, and all things in common, then an apostate society is based on hatred, warfare, inequality, and disparity. Just as Zion is not just a group of people who believe the right things and have the right priesthood authority—although it certainly includes, and is based on, just that—so apostasy is not just people who believe wrong or don’t have priesthood (although it certainly includes that).

After thus describing apostasy, Joseph tells the Saints that it is their “imperative duty� to “waste and wear out our lives� in countering apostasy and its effects (vv. 11, 13). Here’s my punchline: Missionary work, home/visiting teaching, obeying the Word of Wisdom, going to church on Sunday, and stockpiling wheat in our basement are not the only ways to fight apostasy in the world today. They are important, even essential ways, but not the only ways. Those who seek to counter structural apostasy in all its forms—poverty, warfare, sexism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, illiteracy, domestic abuse, drug dependency, political corruption, corporate corruption, environmental degradation, police abuse, to name a few—are also doing the work that Joseph (and I believe the Lord) called us to do.

We are not Protestant dispensational premillennialists. We do not believe, as did 19th-c. evangelist Dwight Moody, that the world is a sinking ship and that God has given us a lifeboat and told us to rescue as many souls as we can, essentially abandoning the ship altogether. We often slip into talking this way, especially because it has become the predominant mode of Christian millenarian discourse since World War II, and we cite scriptures which seem to resonate with such an interpretation. But we are stewards of the world and all our brothers and sisters in it. Humanitarianism is neither a waste of time nor simply a PR stunt to grease the wheels for our missionaries. It is part of God’s work in the world.

I am not saying we should spend less time fighting the more apparently spiritual aspects of apostasy—if anything, we should step up, not slow down, our evangelism. But if we ignore the “iron yoke� of structural apostasy and its devastating effects in our communities and throughout the world, we are not living up the grand vision of transforming society that Joseph bequeathed us, and which I believe God would have us do in building Zion in all the world.

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119 Responses to Structural apostasy

  1. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    “We do not believe, as did 19th-c. evangelist Dwight Moody, that the world is a sinking ship and that God has given us a lifeboat and told us to rescue as many souls as we can, essentially abandoning the ship altogether. ”

    Though the ship is sinking all the same. From a certain perspective, we might even say that the ship was sunk from the foundation of the world. I still feel that its our duty to try and keep it afloat, regardless.

    But I don’t think that the verse you cite support me. Lots of what Joseph Smith did, and then Brigham Young, is much easier to understand as writing the world off and building Zion as a refuge and an alternative. In fact, much of what *you* say is much easier to understand that way too. You can’t get rid of your list of evils but by razing things down and starting over. No one is gradually reworked into a Christian. The old man of sin is buried and a new man is born. If you try to work with things as they are, you must compromise and be compromised. I can live with that, but can you?

  2. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    I think you’re right, in that my general impression of Brigham Young is that he was quite content to see the world go to hell, so long as the Latter-day Saints were saved. We could surely come up with a more nuanced view of Brigham, but his attitude toward the Civil War is telling — let the North and South kill themselves (at least in part in payment for the blood of Joseph & Hyrum), and then the Mormons will ride forth from their mountain safehaven and save the world (or what’s left of it).

    Joseph has two parallel visions, I think. Certainly he has the “flee Babylon and gather to Zion” mentality, which is akin to Moody’s lifeboat. But he also has a very powerful notion of transforming the world as it is, and not just through missionary work. When he runs for president in 1844, he basically does so as a reform candidate, with a platform of human rights and justice for all. He was not seeking to a) convert everyone, or b) destroy the United States and start over. He thought he could reform the system and make it better, and make people’s lives better. This was independent of their religious standing before God as members of corrupt and apostate churches. He even lets non-Mormons into his political Council of Fifty.

    I suppose that my view is that because I don’t have the capability to raze things and start over–only God and nuclear powers have that capability–I have to tackle structural evil as I find it. There are a lot of times I won’t be making Christians or even Mormons, just reducing evil in the world. I’m suggesting that’s good enough.

  3. J. Stapley on June 12, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Hmmm…Adam, I’m not so certain that I see what you see in Brigham and Joseph. Sure the rhetoric during the reformation was…extreme; however, the kingdom, as Patrick alludes to in his mention of the council of 50, was meant to remedy the world not to leave it.

  4. Dave on June 12, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    So would “social, political, and economic apostasy” be an accurate description of Structural Apostasy? How about “gender and ethnic apostasy”? It’s a nice concept, but it seems like you need some limits to make it workable. Otherwise everything about the world (our fallen world that is no longer an ideal Eden or Zion) becomes a form of apostasy.

  5. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    I don’t think it is accurate to characterize the Apostasy as based in malicious or self-serving lies, more the combination of white “lies” (lying for the Lord – especially distortions in favor of divine sovereignty) and simple misunderstanding. None of the Patristics strike me as corrupt, rather misguided – thinking that they did God service by their axiomatization of divinity.

  6. Jim F. on June 12, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    All the structures of society which pit people against one another in anything less than the bonds of charity flow from the “mainspring� of apostasy.

    It seems to me that this is at the heart of all three of your earlier definitions of “apostasy.” To apostatize is to create a division in the Church that, at least in principle, threatens it. I think that the bloggernacle is often unintentionally (or even counter to intentions) a vehicle for apostasy in that sense. When we pit saints against one another as we so often do, and when the feelings generated are either feelings of hate or feelings close to it, we condone and encourage apostasy in the fundamental sense of which you speak here.

  7. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    “I suppose that my view is that because I don’t have the capability to raze things and start over–only God and nuclear powers have that capability–I have to tackle structural evil as I find it.”

    That seems like an odd way to come up with a choice between the two views. The premillennialist view was never one that involved being an agent of that destruction; only a witness of it. And you certainly have that capacity. You take your family, you retreat to the desert, you home school and raise vegetables and do your home teaching, and await the end. (Which could be Tuesday, for all I know.)

    I’m not saying that I disagree with your choice, Patrick; I strongly agree with what you say about the need to take more seriously than most American Mormons presently do the apostate structural, environmental, social and economic conditions which constrain so many human lives around the world. But I do think any advocation of a religious humanitarianism needs to be chastened with a little bit (or a lot) of basic, good old Lutheran mournfulness. Dividing up the Mormon tradition, as you seem to, between Brigham-retreating-to-the-desert and Joseph-campaigning-to-reform-the-world, ignores the degree to which the latter can be, and I think should be, encapsulated within the former. Like Adam, I tend to believe that the world is doomed and that progress is a mirage; however, I also tend to believe that it is only that kind of perspective–the perspective that says all things will pass away and that we are strangers and pilgrims here on earth–which allows for the sort of building, the sort of aspiration to Zion, that is actually meaningful in a day to day way. Look at it this way: there is a universal, methodical, liberal humanitarianism, filled with confidence (and condescension), because it has aligned itself with the powers of the world; then there is a humanitarianism which is humble and immediate and radical and particular, because its advocates recognize that whatever good obtains in the world will be diverse and dependent upon God’s grace anyway. The latter should be our goal, I think.

  8. Jim F. on June 12, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Mark Butler (#5): Surely the apostasy was over before any Patristic writer came on the scene. They are misguided because they no longer have any guides.

  9. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    “I suppose that my view is that because I don’t have the capability to raze things and start over–only God and nuclear powers have that capability–I have to tackle structural evil as I find it. There are a lot of times I won’t be making Christians or even Mormons, just reducing evil in the world. I’m suggesting that’s good enough.”

    I suppose where I disagree is that I don’t think its really possible to tackle structural evil by reformist means. You can ameliorate it, but you end up compromised yourself in the process. Certainly this is the case if your list of structural evils includes things like poverty, warfare, and the presence of oppression and corruption in the political, social, and economic realms.

    One difference may be that we mean different things by structural evil. Perhaps you define it exclusively as evil that inheres in or is caused by structures, and while I would agree with that certainly, I also see structural evil as that evil which inheres in the heart.

    “All the structures of society which pit people against one another in anything less than the bonds of charity flow from the “mainspringâ€? of apostasy.”

    This may be the difference. While different societal structures can influence the degree to which we lack the bonds of charity, we and the devil are ultimately the ones who pit ourselves against each other. Put unrepentant humanity in a perfect structure and the structure would be turned to evil as much as the humanity would be turned to good.

  10. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Re: Mark and Jim’s comments (#5 & 8), I have problems with the concept of a “Great Apostasy” or “Dark Ages,” or at least the possible (but not necessary) implication that everyone was either evil or duped (i.e. the standard anti-Mormon take on Mormons). I think LDS writers have a great deal of work to do on the “Apostasy” period. Certainly it has to mean something that the fulness of the gospel and the priesthood was gone from the earth, but that doesn’t mean everything done between 100 CE and 1820 was trash.

  11. Doc on June 12, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Patrick,
    Welcome, I loved the post. I think your idea makes a lot of sense. I remember coming home from my mission and feeling this palpably as I read in the Doctrine and Covenants that ” The whole Earth groans under iniquity.”
    I also think this was absolutely Joseph’s vision of what the Church and Kingdom of God would bring. As Joseph stated in Zion’s Camp, “Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. . . . It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will [grow until it will] fill North and South America—it will fill the world (Conference Report, April 1898, p.57).
    I think in many ways we still have but a small picture of what Zion on Earth and the end of tyranny and corruption will mean. Too often, people will point to the failures of the attempts at a utopian system in the early church as evidence that this is something that will have to fail until the millenium. But restoration of the structural apostasy I would say is prerequisite for the ushering in, and is an apostasy that we have not as yet been able to completely root out of ourselves as a people.
    That Joseph saw this is evident in the 121st section when he describes the nature and disposition of almost all men. I believe that to really restore the Earth the change will have to start within ourselves as a people, and will draw others to it by example. And when we truly live it, others will be drawn to us regardless of their belief in the doctrine of the restoration. The emphasis on living a Christ centered life as the best missionary model in the last conference by Elder Ballard seems to me like we may be finally starting to “get it” as a people.

  12. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Russell is absolutely right–and I should have been clearer about this–that a strict dichotomy between premillennialism and humanitarianism is false. Premillennialists do not see themselves as the agent’s of this world’s destruction, and they often do very good work in the process of saving souls. What I’m suggesting is that if premillennialism equals retreat into enclaves of the “saved,” as it did for many fundamentalist Protestants in the mid-to-late 20th c. (and still today), then there is a serious problem of disengagement and not facing evil in the world as God would have us do. I like the idea of our humanitarianism being chastened by our premillennialism, and vice versa.

  13. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Jim F, the early patristics were contemporaries of the Apostles. St. Clement of Rome died ~101 AD, Ignatius of Antioch died ~110 AD. Many of the original Bishops were appointed by the apostles and carried the tradition directly from them. No imposters. The idea that the Apostasy was some sort of sudden event lasting less than a generation, instead of a gradual departure over centuries is radically untenable. Sure their were all sorts of curious ideas floating around – but the leaders of the Church were by and large not the ones who taught them. If the Apostles had a knowledge of the temple ordinances, it hardly appears that they passed them on to their only successors.

  14. Jim F. on June 12, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    Patrick, I’m not sure whether to read your response as agreeing with Mark and me or disagreeing. If it is disagreement, then you’ve misunderstood me and I think also Mark. My point was that whatever the “Great Apostasy” was it happened very early. Thhose dealing with its aftermath were not evil. They were just lost and doing the best they could with what they had. You’re right that not everything done between 100 CE and 1820 was trash. Indeed, a great deal of what happened in that period was very good and, surely, inspired by God.

  15. Geoff J on June 12, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Isn’t your “structural apostasy” the same thing Nibley (and scriptures) refer to as “Babylon”?

  16. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Patrick (#10), I agree with you. The apostasy was much more subtle, and there was much of value through the duration. The Catholics had a better claim to be God’s agents here on earth than anyone, with a few notable exceptions. Inspiration did not cease with the apostles. God works with what he has, according to the level of their understanding. Sadly sometimes that level declines, and worse is subject to theological lock-in, a prison of the most well intentioned of devices.

  17. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Adam, I don’t feel responsible for ending all suffering in the world. No doubt that any attempt to do so in reformist fashion becomes compromised. But I do feel compelled to target evil on a structural level, because that is where it so often exists. Again, I have no problem with focusing on the human heart, and people can be quite righteous in the midst of tyranny and oppression, but if we target structures then we improve conditions for a greater number of people regardless of the condition of their heart.

    Probably a bad example, but an example nonetheless: We had many faithful Saints, and even a temple, in the former East Germany, which countered the effects of personal, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical apostasy in many individual lives. But when the structures of that nation changed for the better (and while I don’t think free-market capitalistic democracy is Zion by any means, it did represent liberty from a certain “iron yoke” that millions of people were oppressed under), then a certain kind of apostasy had been countered, which had nothing to do with the purity of the hearts of the individual people.

    I see structural change as a path toward personal change, not just the other way around. But I also see just and righteous structures as a good in and of themselves. It shows God we care about this world, about ordering it correctly, and about building a good and just society for as many of His children as possible.

    I still like Russell’s humanitarianism-chastened-by-premillennialism.

  18. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    “I think that the bloggernacle is often unintentionally (or even counter to intentions) a vehicle for apostasy in that sense. When we pit saints against one another as we so often do, and when the feelings generated are either feelings of hate or feelings close to it, we condone and encourage apostasy in the fundamental sense of which you speak here.”

    Sadly I think you are right. But what’s to be done about it? We can either commit apostasy by making a public break with our brothers and sisters, or we can commit it or at least condone it by letting it pass by or by speaking against it in a muffled and equivocal terms. Obviously some ways of disagreeing are kinder than others, but I think that only reduces the problem but doesn’t eliminate it. As is said in one point in the Lord of the Rings, from now on all choices are evil.

    Perhaps that’s the core of my disagreement with Patrick here. I’m been trying to figure out what it is. I don’t think we should abandon politics and economics and so on to dwell every one of us under our own vine, and I do think we should look to our faith for the strength and the knowledge of what to do. So am I reluctant to agree just because I know that ultimately Patrick is going to use his ideas here to move on to others that I don’t like?

    Or perhaps the difference is that Patrick really thinks that we can do something good, whereas I’m inclined to think that at best we can do something less bad.

    Update: I’ve just read Patrick’s #17 and find myself very close to agreeing with him. I only baulk at the idea of “just and righteous structures.” A structure might be just and righteous, I suppose, if it symbolically acknowledges God or holy principles in some way. But I’m dubious that any structure itself is just and righteous, apart from the people of whom it consists.

  19. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    “While different societal structures can influence the degree to which we lack the bonds of charity, we and the devil are ultimately the ones who pit ourselves against each other.”

    True. Still, Adam, I look at it this way: neither you nor I will ever be able to come up with a system or a policy that will repair evil in this world. But we can pursue reforms in society that make it easier for individuals, communities, nations, etc., to try out this system, or that policy, with the aim of repairing particular evils. Human beings, slowly, inconsistently, sometimes violently, never especially coherently, but eventually, got rid of those social structures which tolerated human slavery. I don’t think that necessarily represented a step forward in some perfect linear plan for the social salvation of the human race, but it certainly means that the devil can’t any longer very effectively tempt me to enslave you. He’ll have to tempt me in some other way, which he’ll no doubt come up with–but in the meantime, I’d call that one a win of the cause of Christ.

  20. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    I think we’re on the same page, Jim. Re: Mark’s comments, perhaps we need to consider what the loss of apostolic authority means in an immediate sense (the patristics never claim apostolic authority, so what does that do to the church?), and then look at the gradual corruption of doctrine over time.

    I get the sense that General Authorities are reaching further and further back to “redeem” people pre-1820. Used to be nothing good happened before Joseph Smith went to the Sacred Grove, then we sanctified the Founders, then we discovered the Reformation and religious liberty, and now two or three apostles mentioned Wycliffe and Bible translation.

  21. Ben H on June 12, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Alright! Nice post. Patrick, I think you’re pretty much right on. I do think there is at least an important difference in emphasis between JS and either BY or the tack a lot of contemporary Mormons take on this. I have a question, related to Russel’s point. I think Russel is right that our ability to be an influence for good on the world can only be maintained if we also maintain a lively sense of being “not of” the world, and not just in our minds but in the way we live, since our minds are hearts ultimately are expressed and formed by the way we live.

    Joseph initially formed the church not terribly far from the center of gravity of American civilization at the time, but then moved farther away, and the church with him. Sidney Rigdon’s congregation drew the church to Ohio, and later the Saints went to Missouri, Illinois, and Utah. In the later stages, persecution is what drove the Saints further out into the wilds of the (mid-)West. I have had a tendency to think of all the movement west as driven by a combination of friction with neighbors, and in the case of Missouri a special conception of Jackson County as the revealed location for Zion. But would it be accurate to say that Joseph’s own vision for the proper development of Zion also required an element of separation from the rest of society that would have driven him west independently of these other two factors?

  22. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    If avoiding contention were the key to avoiding apostasy, we would turn Gospel Doctrine class into a lecture series. Silence befits apostasy far more than vigorous discussion, in my opinion.

  23. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    Or in short, silence allows the wounds to go unnoticed and unhealed, as people drift away from doctrines they cannot understand, first into acquiesence, and then into inactivity.

  24. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Russell Fox, #19:

    Agreed.

    But the example of the abolition of slavery is an interesting one (as in Patrick’s example of the liberation of Eastern Europe). In each case, a real advance was made, though probably less than had been hoped. But, in each case reformist means only got so far. Joseph Smith’s attempt to buy out slavery was a fizzle. Instead, slavery ended in blood. And while the wall didn’t fall in combat, to a very large degree the Reagan military build-up helped to bring it down. In other words, I’m still not sure if Patrick realizes the degree to which bringing about some good results usually entails bringing about bad results and using means that themselves would probably be *structurally* flawed in his view of things.

  25. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    “Probably a bad example, but an example nonetheless: We had many faithful Saints, and even a temple, in the former East Germany, which countered the effects of personal, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical apostasy in many individual lives. But when the structures of that nation changed for the better (and while I don’t think free-market capitalistic democracy is Zion by any means, it did represent liberty from a certain “iron yokeâ€? that millions of people were oppressed under), then a certain kind of apostasy had been countered, which had nothing to do with the purity of the hearts of the individual people.”

    On the contrary, I think that’s a superb example Patrick. Of course, as many inhabitants of formerly communist states can no doubt testify, once one kind of apostate structure (communist tyranny) is removed, another frequently moves in (robber barons amassing wealth and pornography on the streetcorner)–but I find it hard to believe any serious person could prefer the former kind of apostacy to the latter. Those who fought Soviet totalitarianism, both inside and outside the system, we’re doing God’s work, even if purifying their souls was the last thing on their minds.

  26. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    I think its a superb example too, Russell Fox, for exactly the reasons you point out.

  27. Dave on June 12, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    “Apostasy in that sense …” Sure, if you redefine the word, almost anything can be called apostasy. I disagree with the notion that disagreement, even disagreement with hard feelings, is apostasy, or even that it flows from the “mainspring” of apostasy, whatever that means. Or maybe the point is that “X plus hard feelings” is apostasy, regardless of what X is. X could be football.

    I’ll admit there are some in the Church who think that anyone who disagrees with them is in apostasy. The Bloggernacle, as I’ve experienced it, is at the other end of the spectrum. It is actually a good place to learn the opposite lesson: that there are people who can disagree completely with one’s LDS ideas yet not be apostates or otherwise partake of the “mainsprings” of apostasy.

  28. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    “I’m still not sure if Patrick realizes the degree to which bringing about some good results usually entails bringing about bad results and using means that themselves would probably be *structurally* flawed in his view of things.”

    I guess Patrick will have to speak for himself on that point; for myself, I agree that, as human beings are fallen, there will be nothing human–including human amelioration of gross and acknowledged wickedness–that will not also be fallen. The only people whose means will not be corrupted by their very humanity and temporality are the saints, and the saints–Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and from earlier today, perhaps Hugh Nibley–are, as George Orwell put it, by definition “inhuman.” That doesn’t mean we should wait to be led by saints (in fact, we probably shouldn’t), but it does mean we should be aware that, in the end, the humanitarian project is just going to be another project, of which there have been millions, most of which are mostly aimed at doing the thankless, necessary work of shoring up what a previous project had improved, and fixing what that same project probably made worse.

  29. Brad Kramer on June 12, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    This is an excellent topic, in many ways related to the Nibley threadjack over on Nate’s newest thread.

    Adam, do you really think Reagan’s military build-up had more to do with bringing Gorbachev to power, his enacting policies that decisively stripped himself of personal power, the efficacy of non-violent movements in E Europe, etc. than Gorbachev’s own personality or his personal relationship with Reagan did, to say nothing of all of the developments taking place in E Europe of which western academics are only becoming scarcely aware today?

    I’m not saying Reagan doesn’t play an important role, and his militant policies and black-shite rhetoric gave him the kind of negotiating credibility that Nixon had in China. But, ultimately, Reagan’s great success was not in staring down the evil empire with guns drawn, but holstering guns, sitting down with his “enemies” and negotiating a peace based, among other things, upon the acknowledgment that pouring money like drunken sailors into our respective militaries was endangering rather than saving the world.

  30. Brad Kramer on June 12, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    Oh boy, that should read “black-White rhetoric.”

  31. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    I do agree that even our best efforts, most of the time, are fraught with human frailty. But that should never paralyze us. Martin Luther King essentially admitted after being involved with nonviolence for a while that it was in fact simply less evil than violence. (I could probably find the quote, but it would take me a while.) I like a kind of Niebuhrian neo-orthodoxy in the sense of chastening all things, especially a naive reformism, but I can’t go all the way down that road with him. I think one of the beautiful things about Mormonism is that it says we can do good and be good, not just less bad. Our very identity as gods-in-training gives us the potential to do real good. Often that is mixed or polluted by evil in the world, but it does not have to be. I am in the end an optimist.

  32. Brad Kramer on June 12, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    Patrick,

    And Gandhi said that non-violence was superior to violence only because, he believed, it was more effective and more redemptive than violence, but that violence was superior to cowardice.

  33. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    “But would it be accurate to say that Joseph’s own vision for the proper development of Zion also required an element of separation from the rest of society that would have driven him west independently of these other two factors?”

    I suspect so, Ben, though reading Bushman’s biography got me thinking in a way I never had before about Smith’s own socio-political conception of Zion. Basically, what I took away from the biography was a sense that, initially, Smith understood Zion–to be built in Missouri–to be a humble, communalistic refuge, an alternative to the complex outside world. Then later, in Nauvoo, he saw Zion in more materialistic terms, as the center of a kingdom, a “theodemocracy.” The former definitely involved retreating; the latter, not necessarily. Was the latter an advance in his understanding? Or a perversion of it? (David Whitmer thought so.) Or was it just a different response to the pressures of the moment? I wonder.

  34. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Regarding Ben’s excellent question (#21), I think Joseph’s relationship with the West parallels his divided mind I mentioned earlier. He goes west — and prophesied going to the Rockies — because he needed space (and distance from his enemies) to build Zion in a literal, spatial sense. He was very much a man of the 19th century in this sense, as virtually everyone saw the West as a place of opportunity and renewal; lots of visionaries and utopians moved to the frontier to create new societies that would then transform America. But Joseph wasn’t in full-retreat mode, and I think he wanted to retain strong connections with the rest of established society. I think he saw Nauvoo as just about perfect, in terms of place — it was a city built by and designed for Saints (and provided a template for other smaller cities they established in the area in the early 1840s), but was connected to major trade routes (i.e. the Miss. River) and thus the Saints would be in constant contact with the world, all while building their own Kingdom on the Mississippi.

  35. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    “Think one of the beautiful things about Mormonism is that it says we can do good and be good, not just less bad. Our very identity as gods-in-training gives us the potential to do real good. Often that is mixed or polluted by evil in the world, but it does not have to be. I am in the end an optimist.”

    Excellent. This is where we part ways, I guess. You think the ship is sinking, can be saved though saving will be fraught with difficulty and we should be chastened by the immensity of the task. I think the ship is sinking and can’t be saved, but that we have a duty to try and perhaps we can keep it from foundering just a little longer.

  36. Russell Arben Fox on June 12, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    “Martin Luther King essentially admitted after being involved with nonviolence for a while that it was in fact simply less evil than violence. (I could probably find the quote, but it would take me a while.) I like a kind of Niebuhrian neo-orthodoxy in the sense of chastening all things, especially a naive reformism, but I can’t go all the way down that road with him.”

    I think Niebuhr’s assessment of MLK is one of the most insightful things I’ve ever read. If you can believe such a thing, in the week following the Birmingham bombings a major news program actually featured James Baldwin and Reinhold Niebuhr debating the civil rights movement (oh, for the days when television didn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator!). Baldwin went after Niebuhr; he’d been so hard on pacifists during WWII, so why did he think MLK’s non-violence was the right path now? Niebuhr responded that “King’s doctrine of nonviolence resistance is not pacifism. Pacifism….is where you are concerned about your own purity and not responsibility. And the great ethical divide is between people who want to be pure and those who want to be responsible….King has shown this difference.” (Parting the Waters, pg. 896)

    Some saintly Mormons may find themselves called to purity (Nibley, perhaps?). I agree with you, Patrick, in that perhaps we can to hold out hope for real good in this world, and not simply assume (as Orwell put it) that all saints are guilty until proven otherwise. Still, maybe Mormon optimism needs some Niebuhrian chastening: most of the time, if we want to do something about structural apostasy, we’re going to have to put ourselves somewhere on that continuum between purity and responsibility, and acknowledge that we aren’t going to be wholly one or the other.

  37. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    ” But, ultimately, Reagan’s great success was not in staring down the evil empire with guns drawn, but holstering guns, sitting down with his “enemiesâ€? and negotiating a peace based, among other things, upon the acknowledgment that pouring money like drunken sailors into our respective militaries was endangering rather than saving the world.”

    None of this would have happened, I think, if there hadn’t been big guns to holster and drunken military spending.

  38. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 5:40 pm

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether this particular ship is sinking or not – no one is going to inherit even telestial glory until they are saved through willing repentance. Anything we do to aid them now will be effort well spent. If it were easier to repent and grow in the spirit world, we wouldn’t be down here at all.

    God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin… God has wrought out a salvation for all men… So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved.
    (TPJS pg. 356-357)

    Despair of the world has no added value – not until a society acquires the spirit of bloodshed; and then judgment is soon to follow. Short of that, missionary work here is better than there – even by righteous example. Anything we can do to help others avoid a considerable tenure in hell is a good thing.

  39. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Who’s been arguing otherwise?

  40. Jim F. on June 12, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    Going back to some earlier posts (I can’t keep up):

    Mark Butler (#13, #22and 23: I don’t want to create a thread jack on when the apostasy occurred, so I’ll leave it at saying that I think we are in general agreement. In one sense it began during the apostolic era and ended who-knows-when. In another sense, it decayed as apostolic authority lost grouind and ended the day the last apostle died.

    In contrast, I don’t think we agree about contention. I don’t believe that disagreement and contention are the same, nor do I believe that either silence or acquiesence is usually the best response to bad ideas. But only by equating disagreement with contention or advocating silence and acquiesence would it follow that we ought not to avoid contention. We can disagree without being divided; we cannot be contentious without being divided. Much of what happens in the bloggernacle, however, goes well beyond disagreement to contention and ill-will and, therefore, to division. In other words, it encourages apostasy, the undermining of the Church.

    Adam Greenwood (#24) and Brad K (#29): Without denying the important role that U.S. foreign policy–i.e., the policy inspired and directed by Ronald Reagan–played in the fall of the East German wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I think that things like the Polish labor movement, the work of Pope John Paul. and the movement in the Czech Republic were more important.

  41. Ben H on June 12, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Dave, I hear you, but I think it is meaningful still to use “apostasy” to refer to any persistent state that keeps us away from and out of harmony with God, especially where that state persists despite the presence of elements of the Christian truth. Where people have the Bible and sincere preaching of it around them, and still exploit the poor or neglect their children’s education, I think that is apostasy, and institutions or socially embedded habits that perpetuate the exploitation of the poor or the neglect of children’s education or whatever are appropriately called instances of “structural apostasy”. Okay, the distinction between apostasy and sin here becomes a bit slight, but that doesn’t seem to me a problem; rather it just seems to fit with the truth.

  42. Seth R. on June 12, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Responding only to the original post.

    I suppose this means that Mormons ought to be fighting suburban sprawl.

  43. Brad Kramer on June 12, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    Jim,

    I couldn’t agree more. Reagan gets a share of the credit, but the lion’s share goes to Solidarity, Havel, et al.

  44. Elisabeth on June 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Great post. I’ve been thinking lately how Mormons are fairly unique in not really distinguishing between “heresy” and “apostasy”. Seems like we never hear of heretics, only apostates. I suppose this fits with our “all or nothing”, “one true church” theological tradition – you skip heresy and go right to apostacy. But, I guess as an intellectual exercise, I wonder at what point heresy becomes apostacy.

  45. DKL on June 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t have much affinity for the definiteness with which you define apostasy. Sure, it means some very definite things, but we mustn’t give the illusion that it is a definite event or even that it’s easily defined in terms of boundaries. That’s too easy. I think that it involves something similar to an “All is well in Zion” type of approach.

    This poem, “Forgetfullness” captures apostasy quite nicely. Both personal and organizational. There’s no single or simple event. It just kind of happens when you’re not noticing. It’s part of the natural movement of the universe toward it’s ostensibly ultimate goal of confusion and chaos.

  46. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    Adam, I do not mean to imply that you or anyone else present has been arguing otherwise, quite the opposite – to reaffirm and echo the utility of preaching the gospel to the world – even to the considerable numbers who apparently will never merit celestial glory.

    The relevance of the quote is that contra Joseph Smith and Brigham Young many Saints assume telestial glory is a kind of hell, justifying in a sense a dismissive attitude to this world and its problems. The conditions of salvation in any degree of glory do not bear this belief out, where ever it originated.

  47. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    Jim F (#40), I agree about the polarizing effect of contention. However I disagree about the terminology. Apostasy is generally defined as departure from the truth, whether by a single faction, or by the Church as a whole.

    In an really serious argument, either one side is promoting a false doctrine (heresy) or the other side is promoting a false doctrine or both have a incorrect understanding of the truth. If a disagreement does not amount to heresy by one or both parties, heresy relative to earthly orthodoxy, or heresy relative to the doctrine of heaven, then I think apostasy is too severe a term to be useful. Most contention leads not to schism in the doctrinal sense, but schism in the emotional sense, weakening fellow feeling and the unity of the Saints.

    The question of the value of heated disputes is one of persuasion in the direction of truth – if no one in the audience is being persuaded one way or the other the heat probably is enervating not enlightening. I think the first principle of discussion should be a willingness to be entreated – to abandon or modify ones views if demonstrated to be lacking – not as so often the case to use the truth in service of sentiment instead of sentiment in service of truth. That is what I believe, anyway.

  48. Patrick Mason on June 12, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    I don’t know that I’m defining apostasy like a dictionary might, but I wanted to suggest the ways we think about it, and perhaps one more way we should think about it. Consider it less as definitions 1, 2, 3, and 4, so to speak, but rather as a typology of different modes of apostasy, in which there are not rigid boundaries but differing characteristics.

    I agree that sometimes apostasy can be a matter of slippage, but I think it’s more a matter of intentional choices, i.e. some in the first-century church who openly rejected the authority of John (see 3 Jn 9), or some who depart from the church after having testimonies (Ezra Booth and others in the early church), or some who commit violence against what their conscience and the light of Christ tell them. Perhaps there are (at least) two different kinds of apostasy — the “falling away” model (2 Thes 2:3) and the “turn away” model (2 Tim 4:4), the former being a kind of slippage, the latter being a wilful rejection. Again, just suggesting ways that we can talk in more nuanced ways about the term “apostasy,” instead of saying it all the time without really thinking about what we mean.

    This is partly where “structural apostasy” can be helpful as a category — there are whole systems and structures that are apostate and which foster “murder, tyranny, and oppression,” which individuals are a part of but didn’t necessarily create and don’t always consciously support. We are probably all complicit in at least some of these structures. Part of D&C 123 which I didn’t quote originally is that Joseph says we should “waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them” that is to say, to reveal apostasy where we find it (even, perhaps especially, if we are entangled), and to shed light on it first by exposure and then by trying to remedy it. Perhaps then we create a less evil world, and if we’re lucky maybe we even create something good in its place.

  49. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    That should be “one or both”

  50. Kimball L. Hunt on June 12, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Three apostasies — plus one.

    ( I . ) & ( I I. )

    The (capital A) Apostasy is so defined because — with the possible exception of some aspects of the Creeds and determinations made at the Great Councils — the canon was closed after the New Testament. Then Luther came along saying the test for belief/ practice must reside wholly therein and anything contrary to it prove She had lost Her way. Then some “radical” religionists (as others termed them) in Joseph Smith’s time were creatively enamored of a return to some idealized, primitive Christianity. Yet the criticism the then-mainline folks made of these “radicals” was that their elders had lacked ordinations by those having authority — namely by a chain of transmission going all the way back through the Church fathers to Jesus himself.

    And then Joseph himself came along saying that the correct version of primitive Christianity that God restored through him resolved this problem since the resurrected apostles themselves ordained him.

    ( I I I . + O n e )

    The ideal world never exists in reality. Yet whether this then makes the idealist approach the world pessimistically or optimistically depends entirely upon whether the idealist, at any particular moment, is at peace with that fact. And this of course holds true even if one holds to social idealisms and not just eschatological ones.

    ======
    p/s methinks those famous lines of the reverend doctor Niebuhr’s as have entered our contemporary canon of proverbs — of course, the so-called “Serenity Prayer” — are exceptionally profound!: ( a. ) ACCEPTANCE of the existence of non-ideal. ( b. ) COMMITTMENT to the ideal as it can and must be practically worked towards. ( c. ) contemplation of the proper DISCERNMENT as to the foregoing enterprise! – klh

  51. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    Patrick (#48), I think “murder, tyranny, and oppression” is a bit strong in most cases, but otherwise I agree. The most salient thing about this topic to me is the tension between

    1. The diminishing returns of the prosecution of rather benign forms of heterodoxy.

    2. The amazing long term spiritual consequences of an incorrect understanding of the most simple gospel principles, for persons and societies.

    So ultimately we are bound to teach the truth according to our understanding, and to pursue the inconsistencies in our own beliefs, but not prosecute others so severely that we are inevitably in service of either error or divisiveness.

  52. DKL on June 12, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    Patrick, we’re probably on the same page about choices. But the choice factor is a complicated one. Do people wake up and say, “Today is a good day to apostatize”? Probably not. My guess is that people get caught up in certain ideas, and they follow them the same way that poor investors throw good money after bad money.

    But my point is a larger one. What I’m trying to get at is that apostasy is the natural order of things. Avoiding apostasy is similar in many respects to swimming upstream. Fallen man is an enemy of God, and all that.

    Maybe this is a threadjack, but it bears on the contention issue. I just don’t agree with the proposition that “contention is of Satan.” In fact, I classify the “xyz is of Satan” type of formula as organizational power politics, different only in scale from the neo-facist, theo-statism in the middle east that labels the US “The Great Satan.” Does anyone want to argue that in pre-mortality we chose Jesus’s Plan of Salvation so that we could overcome Satan? Best I can tell, we chose in pre-existance to come here to overcome the weaknesses of mortality, and Lucifer rebelled because his plan lost (not vice versa). I can’t see how our struggles would be any different if Lucifer had not rebelled.

  53. Jeremiah J. on June 12, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Patrick: Some kind of elaboration of 123: 7-8 is probably the key to the rest of the stalled political theology project we discussed a while back. However it ends up, I’ll probably owe you a citation now that I’ve read this!

    The next step in this discussion, it seems to me, is some kind of theology of “the powers”, “human law”, etc.–some kind of theological reflection upon the spiritual institutions that rule the world (aside from the one we already have upon the kind of people that inhabit the world). This really needs to be sorted out, since under the influence of scriptures like Eph. 6:12, we have from time to time been told of the demonic forces ruling the world–and yet we are also taught to participate in them, affirm them, and bouy them up (this sometimes becomes quite troubling. Since the publication of section 134, devotion to the state–in some periods and places–has come as close to idoloatry as it probably ever will). But political and social institutions are not simpliciter a reflection of the “fallen individual”, the “natural man”. In some ways the institutions seem to be more godly; in other ways they seem to be more corrupt.

  54. Tatiana on June 12, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    Patrick, what a great first post! I agree with you completely. I think we need to be about this work with all due speed. It is crucial to building Zion.

  55. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    DKL, Contention is not of the devil, contention is of the spirit of the devil. There is a difference – the devil (as a person) is not the father of all lies – the spirit of the devil (as an abstraction) is.

    In short, if Lucifer did not rebel we would all be better off, but that would not be the end of evil in the world. Evil has more to with the chaotic war of all against all, than the doctrine of any individual. We just pin responsibility on the devil, because he literally seems full of it.

    But ultimately the devil made me do it is bad theology, as is the idea that Adam purposely subjected humanity to his influence. Evil did not start in the Garden, the devil was tempted of his own lusts, and succumbed to them.

    The idea that mortal temptation was a consequence of the Fall is untenable for a variety of reasons – most particularly because it denies free will, moral responsibility, and is a classic expression of the error in Manicheanism, as well as the error in the conventional doctrine of grace – that evil is some sort of disease originating from a single source, or good a substance from a singular fount of grace. Nice metaphor bad theology.

  56. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    I am largely agreeing with DKL here, if that is not apparent.

  57. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    “The idea that mortal temptation was a consequence of the Fall is untenable for a variety of reasons – most particularly because it denies free will, moral responsibility, and is a classic expression of the error in Manicheanism, as well as the error in the conventional doctrine of grace – that evil is some sort of disease originating from a single source, or good a substance from a singular fount of grace”

    Mark Butler hath spoken.

  58. Clair on June 12, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    Patrick, you had me with the introduction, the warmup, and the body of your first post. I agree with Joseph and with you about an important form of apostacy being the inverse of Zion. What a great insight! But the leap from there to the punchline’s list of leftist causes left me cold – Poverty, warfare, sexism, racism, imperialism, colonialism, illiteracy, domestic abuse, drug dependency, political corruption, corporate corruption, environmental degradation, police abuse.

    May I still be edified and taught by the excellent concept you have posted, while holding a political view that views with more alarm the anti-Zion ills of abortion, marital infidelity, overtaxation, over-regulation, dictatorship, crime, economic envy, sloth, voter fraud, immigration fraud, property confiscation, profanity, vulgarity, and overall poor manners?

    I will continue to believe that faith, repentence, baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, individual by individual, offers a most excellent cure to both of our lists.

  59. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Adam, if you want to make the opposite argument, please do so. I have explained the reasons for coming to that conclusion in numerous places in the LDS blogosphere, and as yet not a single person has expressed any disagreement, and I didn’t want to repeat myself. You are the first to even hint at it.

    So if you think that LDS Neo-Manicheanism or the LDS version of the doctrine of Total Depravity has a leg to stand on, put your money where your mouth is. Otherwise I will continue to conclude that the arguments for those positions are so weak that no one dares even speak on their behalf.

  60. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 13, 2006 at 4:25 am

    Contention is not of the devil, contention is of the spirit of the devil.

    What do you do with the words of the Savior? “The spirit of contention is not of me but is of the devil [I read that as having the spirit of contention is of the devil, not that contention is of the spirit of the devil...read on], who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

    I don’t see how you can read that and not say, “the devil is the father of contention, and he is the one who eggs people on to contend.”

    The idea that mortal temptation was a consequence of the Fall is untenable for a variety of reasons.

    Um, but if there hadn’t been a fall, there wouldn’t have been any mortality, hence no mortal temptation could have even existed. I’m also curious to know what you do with the scriptures in 2 Ne. 2 that talk about the necessity of opposition and being “enticed.” I’ve not read other instances of your thoughts in the ‘nacle, so forgive my ignorance of that. (And if this isn’t the place to do this (due to possible threadjacking), then nevermind…just was curious.)

  61. Edgar A. Baguio on June 13, 2006 at 4:55 am

    Yeah, I think amen to Dave’s comment. I just have to avoid the first types of Apostasy, then this so-called Structural A can be avoided too. Meaning, if all members are faithful and true to their covenants, we can influence the world for good. Thus, the evils or corruptions that comprised this Structural “A” can be minimized or eventually powerless. Sorry, I am just a very optimistic type of creature.

  62. Edgar A. Baguio on June 13, 2006 at 5:13 am

    Again, amen to #58 Clair’s comment and #60 mullingandmusing’s comments. I like it, I can feel the Spirit of the Lord, not the spirit of contention nor the spirit of the devil. Wow! Mabuhay! Aloha! Shalom! and Nin Hao! to you all!
    Yeah, I think we need to do the basic principles of the gospel, particularly daily scripture study of the BOM and the other things mentioned by Clair.
    Any more comments? Let us repent on this area, ok?

  63. Patrick Mason on June 13, 2006 at 8:34 am

    In response to Clair and Edgar (58, 61-62), I’m all for first principles. Hopefully my post was clear that I’m not saying attacking structural apostasy should in any way minimize our attention to spiritual matters, the first principles being the foundation thereof.

    But (and you knew a “but” was coming)…

    I think first principles are just that–first. I think we sometimes get in the habit of saying if I have faith and repent (I’ve already been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost), then everything will be taken care of, and I’ll be wonderfully righteous. Well, you can have faith and repentance sitting in a cave. Now, if the Spirit calls you to do that, Elijah-style, more power to you. But in most cases, sitting in a cave means that you’re not engaging with the world. It’s difficult to show charity if you never interact with anyone. Obviously, I don’t think either of you is suggesting a total retreat from the world, but I’m saying that we need to go beyond just “first principles” to think seriously about what we do from there. Certainly first principles are our foundation, but what do they lead us to. An expansive, proactive definition of faith and repentance will lead you to do exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about — we should all repent from our part in the structural evils of the world, which means trying to change them.

    Also, I want to suggest that people who are not living the first principles may still be doing tremendous good in the world and fighting apostasy in their own way, even if they don’t know it. Those who fight the “iron yoke” of tyranny are fighting apostasy. Those who fight against racism are fighting against apostasy. Those who fight against abuse and neglect of the elderly are fighting apostasy. I’m suggesting that God sees their works as genuinely good, even if they are not beginning with first principles. Those of us on this list will begin with a foundation of faith and repentance, but I think Joseph Smith believed that people could do good in this world regardless of religious belief (and I doubt I’m saying anything very innovative here).

  64. Patrick Mason on June 13, 2006 at 8:43 am

    “abortion, marital infidelity, overtaxation, over-regulation, dictatorship, crime, economic envy, sloth, voter fraud, immigration fraud, property confiscation, profanity, vulgarity, and overall poor manners”

    Thank you, Clair (58), for calling me on the carpet with my list of structural problems. I definitely lean left (some people think I’ve fallen over and crashed on the floor), and so the list in my post reveals my biases, in terms of what tops my examples of structural apostasy. I would certainly add what you have listed above. I do think there is a distinction between structural problems and individual problems, but oftentimes individual shortcomings stem at least in part from structural weaknesses and failures. But that’s a liberal viewpoint in and of itself. While by no means do I neglect the importance of personal behavior, I do tend to look to oppressive, unjust, or ill-conceived structures as a way of understanding personal behavior. (This is, I think, where Adam and I part ways.) I absolutely recognize, however, that many of these structures that I wish to avoid and then correct stem from a secular liberal perspective, and any structures which seek to minimize the importance of personal accountability are in themselves deeply flawed.

  65. Russell Arben Fox on June 13, 2006 at 10:00 am

    “I definitely lean left….”

    How far (if this two-time Nader voter may be so bold as to ask)?

    “While by no means do I neglect the importance of personal behavior, I do tend to look to oppressive, unjust, or ill-conceived structures as a way of understanding personal behavior. (This is, I think, where Adam and I part ways.)”

    It’s a fascinating puzzle–historically and philosophically–how “conservatism,” which emerged in the modern sense as primarily an ideology fixated on the importance of social, economic, environmental and moral structures, should have become in the 20th century an ideology fixated on personal behavior above all. Not that the puzzle is impossible to tease out a solution to–given much of modern liberalism’s adoption of a liberationist, non-judgmental ethos, the contemporary conservative overreation is perhaps even obvious–but it remains a fascinating political story nonetheless.

    “…many of these structures that I wish to avoid and then correct stem from a secular liberal perspective…”

    As opposed to religious progressive perspective, yes; very well put, Patrick.

  66. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 10:29 am

    I do take specific exception to the inclusion of illiteracy and colonialism in your list of apostasy.

    We baptize the unbaptized by proxy, but we don’t teach them to read by proxy. When I hear people talk about illiteracy as an evil (as opposed to an unfortunate and largely avoidable disadvantage in an otherwise affluent society), it strikes me as characteristic of a pernicious brand of “everyone would be better off if they were more like me” paternalism. In the scheme of things, literacy is (a) a convenience/luxery, and (b) something that increases the potential value of one’s labor in the marketplace.

    This is further reflected in the classification of colonialism as evil. Colonialism has only recently fallen into disrepute, and only really because it provided a graceful way for the colonial powers impoverished by WWII to stop sending so much money to their colonial holdings. There were colonial powers that were fine and colonial powers that were abusive (ironically, the British treatment of the American colonies was quite equitable by historical standards), but saying that colonialism is evil per se just because it’s recently fallen into disrepute since the creation of the UN Committee on Decolonization. The results of decolonization have been as mixed as the results of colonization, which have been as mixed as the results of any form of government in general.

    In short, when i read your list, I see little more than a list of personal pot peeves. For example, you list sexism as apostasy, when Paul of Tarsus appears to have been something of a misogynist and talked about “bond and free” as though there were no problem at all with slavery. I’m tempted to say that this use of personal hobby-horses as examples of apostasy is closer to apostasy than anything that you’ve listed.

    mullingandmusing, I do not uncritically accept the scriptures. I don’t think that we should kill witches and adulterers, I don’t buy into Abinadi’s Sabellianism, and I don’t uncritically accept every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus. Much of what passes for scriptural authority is merely the embodiment of the otherwise ignorant outlook of ancient nomadic and agricultural tribes. Not all discourse can be polite. The fact that some discourse is angry doesn’t make it evil, and the fact that it isn’t angry doesn’t make it righteous. Wickedness is logically independent of anger and contention, no matter what Jesus says about it.

  67. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 11:36 am

    m&m (#60), We discussed this in some detail over at New Cool Thang, e.g. here:

    If original sin is out, then why do we all sin?
    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/05/why-do-we-all-sin/249/

    First of all there is no question that the devil actually stirreth up the hearts of the children of men to contention one with another. The issue rather is whether if the devil goes away, *all* contention does too.

    The believe that the devil is the root of all evil, rather than say *lust*, is untenable for a variety of reasons.

    1) Lucifer was an angel in a position of authority with God, who fell because of pride. He was a child of God – so who tempted him? What is the origin of the pride in his heart.

    2) A third of the hosts of heaven fell because they were convinced that Lucifer had a better plan than the Father, according to Joseph Smith, the contention was over whether all would eventually be saved. Since the Father’s plan was based on free will, some would refuse the terms and conditions of salvation and ultimately be left without the gates (cf. D&C 88:24,32).

    The irony of course is that by rebelling, a much larger number placed themselves in a position that presumably a much smaller number would naturally end up in – as enemies of righteousness. Now suppose that Lucifer were on a long vacation during the debate in the council in Heaven. Should we suppose that none of the other hosts in heaven would have similar objections? That if Lucifer were absent everything would have passed by unanimous consent?

    That is the problem with the idea that all temptation originates with the devil, as with the idea that the devil has any power that we (or somebody) does not willingly give him. If everyone quit following the devil, Lucifer (as a person) would be virtually powerless. But evil would not go away, because they could either follow someone or some group of others, or they could simply follow their *own* lusts.

    Here is James:

    But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
    (James 1:14-15)

    So this gets us back to original sin. Who corrupts our nature? Not Adam. Not the Fall. Not the devil. We do.
    They are our *own* lusts. Lust preceded the fall, and will follow us in the next life, to the degree that we do not discipline our desires and our will.

    The idea that the Fall *as an event* is the origin of evil in the world, contradicts so many basic points of LDS doctrine that it has to be regarded as allegory for the human condition, Fall or no Fall.

    Remember, we teach the doctrine of the fortunate fall. How could Adam willingly corrupt all of our natures? How could eating a piece of fruit or committing any other transgression be *required* for temptation to be possible?

    It is pure silliness, so I generally conclude with Brigham Young that the Garden account as we have it in Genesis 2-3 is a nursery school story, and a particularly bad one at that, and suggest that our loyalty to the more perverse implications thereof has more to do with an unwillingness to depart neo-Augustinian orthodoxy than any fundamental principle of our religion.

  68. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 11:37 am

    That should be “hosts of heaven”

  69. Jonathan Green on June 13, 2006 at 11:52 am

    DKL, about illiteracy, you are simply wrong. But I mean that in a charitable, non-contentious way. Perhaps in the eternal scheme of things illiteracy is irrelevant, but in the literate world that actually exists to be illiterate means being excluded from just about everything in just about any society around the world. The huge disparity in resources and power between literate and illiterate–a structural issue–is a source of evil in our present world. It’s one of the reasons the Relief Society takes upon itself to teach literacy. As post-Reformation Christians, giving all people equal access to scripture is part of our essential belief, and as believers in the Book of Mormon, literacy plays a particular role in our religion. People who can’t read need preachers, not inspired translators, but the Restoration began with the latter rather than the former.

    By the way, the “personal pot peeves” of the guys I went camping with included “dude, you stole all the seeds!” “dude, can I have one more hit?” and “dude, have you been holding out on me?” while my personal pot peeves were pretty much limited to the smell wafting over from the tent next to mine.

  70. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Jonathan Green, I’m a bit confused. The disadvantages of illiteracy that you mention are worldly disadvantages–this concern with worldly stuff is part of apostasy. Besides, Jesus said (though nobody seems to listen, as your list of worldly disadvantages demonstrates) the poor, the mourners, the hungry, the persecuted (for righteousness), and the meek shall (respectively) inherit the kingdom of heaven, be comforted, be filled, inherit the kingdom of heaven (again), and inherit the earth. That’s more than I ever got from reading!

    Also, you are confusing sources of evil with evil itself. Filthy lucre is a source of evil, but it is not itself evil; e.g., I’ve heard of people using it to feed the foodless (though I’d never make someone eat money, I’ve heard of kids swallowing pennies and I do hear that paper is high in fiber), to make wishes (though according to Nibley, the practice of making wishes by throwing coins into fountains originates with Satan’s priesthood) or even to make paper airplanes.

    Regarding my pot peeves, bogarting is the biggest.

  71. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    On the virtues of literacy, knowledge, wisdom, and education:

    And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
    (Omni 1:17)

    Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

    Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
    (Isaiah 5:11-14, italics added)

    THE proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels
    (Proverbs 1:1-5)

    MY son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

    For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.

    He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

    To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
    (Proverbs 2:1-15)

    Need I say more?

  72. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Mark, Mormon’s commentary notwithstanding, the apostasy of the Mulekites can’t really be blamed on illiteracy. The Nephites apostatized much worse, records and all.

    But regarding the general gist of the rest of the quotes: The most profound wisdom referred to in the Book of Mormon was the stuff that couldn’t be written, like what came out of the mouths of babes during Jesus’s visit.

    I’m not sure if you are equating wisdom and literacy, or if you are saying that literacy is a gateway condition for wisdom. I don’t think that either of these is a tenable position. I think that the most that can be said is that literacy is a facilitator.

    The basic problem with your position is that it seems to commit you on some level to the proposition that you and I will have some advantage over the illiterate on judgment day. Unless you’re willing to admit to this, you can’t say that illiteracy is an evil. At worst, it is a largely avoidable disadvantage. Saying that it is evil or a form of apostasy is a hyperbole.

  73. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    I agree the illiteracy is not an evil per se, however it is prime contributor to evil of all sorts. Not just any literacy will do of course. One needs to be literate in the things of God, broadly conceived.

    A true philosopher wishes to grow, and increase continually; he wishes his mind to expand and reach forth, until he can think as God thinks; as angels think, and behold things as God beholds them.

    You recollect I told you in the commencement, I should talk about things that did not particularly concern you and me; but the people want to hear something to advance their present knowledge; they want to find out if there is anything more for us to learn. When you have lived through eternities to come, learning continually, you may then inquire, “Bro. Brigham, is there anything more for me to learn.” My reply to such an inquiry would be, “Yes there is an eternity of knowledge yet to learn.”

    Search after wisdom, get knowledge, and understanding, and forget it not; and be not like the fool whose eyes are on the ends of the earth, or like the misers who are around us here; they are craving, and [so] anxious after property, that if they save a picayune on the wall opposite to me there, they would run over forty dollars to secure that picayune; their eyes are on earthly riches to the neglect of riches that are more enduring.

    There are a great many persons who are so anxious to learn about eternity, Gods, angels, heavens, and hells, that they neglect to learn the first lessons preparatory to learning the things they are reaching after. They will come short of them.
    (Brigham Young, Unpublished general conference discourse, October 8, 1854)

  74. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    I also object to the implication that salvation is a perfect ordering (or worse strictly a binary proposition), measured out in judgment in perfect linear proportion.

    That is a consequence of the doctrine of total inability, the idea everything inherent in man is evil or inconsequential, and God (speaking personally) is the only source of good in the world, such that anything not commanded or strictly empowered by him is worthless. D&C 58 teaches otherwise.

  75. Patrick Mason on June 13, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    Literacy in earthly languages, as far as is revealed to is, will not be a requirement at the judgment seat. But your argument that literacy doesn’t matter because it doesn’t matter in the next life is a bit too far-sighted and otherworldly for my taste. Sufficeth to say that I think this world is important, and to not think this world is important seems to stretch the Mormon interpretation of the mortal experience. While we’re here, gaining every advantage that is afforded us is important, and in fact part of our calling. While wisdom isn’t necessarily related to literacy, it’s awfully hard to be a “good” member of the Church nowadays (however we define that) if you can’t read the Book of Mormon. Is there a place for you? Absolutely. Can you do wonderful things and be on track to the celestial kingdom? Absolutely. But you are also limited from a number of areas that are common to the life of the Church. But my inclusion of illiteracy in the original list refers to any structures that keep people from literacy — thus, illiteracy itself is not a sin by any means, but any system, government, etc., that keeps others from the blessings of literacy is in error.

    Re: DKL’s other point in #66, I hardly think it’s simply liberal propaganda to say that colonialism is a structure that more often than not entailed “murder, tyranny, and oppression.” Using an arguably benign form of colonialism as your example doesn’t let the whole system off the hook. (And the Founders would probably take issue with your characterization — obviously they thought that there was something bad enough that it was worth killing and dying to overthrow. I have some moral qualms with the violence of the Revolution and what it does for the rest of American history, but let’s not pretend that the colonists, only 1/3 of whom supported the British, thought colonialism was peachy.) We could with very little effort find some of the worst abuses in human history as a direct product of colonial rule. And if decolonization hasn’t been a perfect process, and often looks worse than colonialism did, that doesn’t necessarily mean colonialism was wonderful — if anything it simply supports Adam’s earlier point that sometimes the best we can do when fighting structural evil is replace it with something structurally less evil. And I generally count that as a positive thing, though not an unqualified good.

  76. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Patrick, I think that we Americans tend to believe that throwing off the colonial yoke is a good thing, because it worked for us. But historically, I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that native governments haven’t generally tended to be worse than the colonial overlords, a la Zimbabwe and Haiti. As to why the American colonists revolted when (for example) Mexicans tolerated much worse government for many decades than the Brits ever provided is the basic puzzle of political science as expressed by David Hume: “Why do so few people succeed in ruling over so many?” Books have been written on the causes of revolution, but one thing is certain: the competence or corruption of government is not generally commensurate with the desire to overthrow it.

    I don’t understand what you mean by the system that preserves and fosters illiteracy? Are you talking about public schooling?

    I’m curious where you get your estimation that 1/3 of the colonists were loyalists. Was there a plebiscite or some kind of poll taken? DId it include women or non-landowners?

  77. Jeremiah J. on June 13, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    “And the Founders would probably take issue with your characterization — obviously they thought that there was something bad enough that it was worth killing and dying to overthrow”

    Aside from this point, using the relationship between England and its American colonies as a prime example of colonialism seems to indicate a basic misunderstanding of what colonialism is. It’s not the power excercised by a home country over its colonies and its own colonists, but rather the power and exploitation of the whole system of colonialism (the colonizing powers, their colonies and colonists, and the racist ideologies that went along with them) over colonized peoples. I entertain no illusions about the wretched and backward states in which subjugated peoples were often in before colonialism. I only claim that the latter didn’t improve the situation.

    I’m willing to suspend judgement on the possibilty of benign colonialism. But the actual historical record of colonialism is disasterous on an enormous scale. English colonialism is the only version that has any claim to the slightest shred of civilizing effect that all colonialisms claimed to produce, and that was bought with a long trail of blood and horror.

  78. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Jeremiah J: English colonialism is the only version that has any claim to the slightest shred of civilizing effect…

    What about Alexander?

  79. Kimball L. Hunt on June 13, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Alexander? Omi***.

    OK, just to count folks having minions within the Fertile Crescent, we’ve got

    Pharoah
    Joshua (re those Canaanites below the level of freemen or their heirs saved from death and allowed, if they wished, after 7 years to be adopted into the Covenant). David (re the Philistines and the Canaanite city of Jerusalem). Solomon (re folks um such as the people of Sheba et cee et cee)
    Babylon. Cyrus
    OK, yeah, mister Alexander, called “the Great’s” successor-generals.
    Various sultans
    Such folks (as rightly and duly criticized by saint Francis) as Richard “the Lion Heart”
    (Spriritedly): . . . “Oh Br-r-r-ritTANia! . . . bump BUM pumb bump bump bumm. Bum bum bupumba bump bum bumpa BUM bum pa bumm . . . ”
    Um, and yes, mister Napolean (tho not the one called “the Dynamite” but the one who was duly defeated by mister Wellington at Waterloo)
    “_______.” (Usage note. This entry will be considered blank, out of deference to the need not to troll reflexive bile from one of ye bloggernacle’s most formidable, resident theorists, mister Butler. Oh and of course as well to avoid the rhetorical faux pas of REDUCTIO AD HITLERUM)
    saint George the Bush (commonly known as “the Dubyuh” out of deference to his prodigious \\/\//ssom)

    =====
    NOT merely a rhetorical question: Are all of these folks evil by very definition?

    If your answer is in any way yes, then . . .

    \\/\//ELCOME to this meeting of the Anarchists club! Whose festivities shall start by a designated member’s reciting that quote of saint Tolstoy’s where he says only “the govmints” start war, and even wars with perceived, good results make “the people” suffer. And long live the philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth’s Sermon on the Mount and the Chinese philosopher Mo Tzu!

    Yet if your answer is any kind of equivocal no, then go ahead and join the reverend doctor Niebuhr and his ilk if ya want to. (However, you’ll also BE RIGHT!)

    And that’s my sermon.

    Amen. There’s refreshments being served in the hall. The sign up sheet for who’s to bring postum next week is over on the far table. (Postum? Hah, you guys are way too young fer Postum, huh! Hee hee . . . . . )

    [Administrative note: the first line of the entry was edited to eliminate mild blasphemy.]

  80. Kimball L. Hunt on June 13, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    (I meant to type: \\/\//isdom)

  81. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Postum was rather common in LDS households when I was a child.

  82. Jim F. on June 13, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Postum and its German parent, called “Pero” in the States and Canada, are wonderful drinks–almost as good as coffee in taste, but in compliance with the WofW and its recommendation of barley. If anyone would like a sample, drop by and I’ll share.

  83. Jim F. on June 13, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Coming to the conversation late, again. DKL says (#52): apostasy is the natural order of things. Avoiding apostasy is similar in many respects to swimming upstream. Fallen man is an enemy of God, and all that. Which is why continuing revelation–the Gift of the Holy Ghost–is necessary and why apostasy is the result of its absence.

  84. Edgar A. Baguio on June 13, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Hey, brother Patrick, did we say that we should “sit in a cave”? Living the first principle means to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause..” of course do I have to tell you, the other related basic duties that we have, like magnifying our calling, temple attendance, serving the poor and the needy, avoiding pride, loving others, obeying the law of chastity, law of tithing, be more submissive to the will of God, daily personal and family prayers, daily scripture study, loving others including those who may not like us and so on. Should I remind you of a thousand counsels from our living prophet and apostles about doing the basic principles of the gospel?
    By doing these thing we at least “let our light so shine before men..” and in a way, we can influence them for good, hence the “structural A” in our midst may have less power to influence others who may in one way or another “..see our good works and glorify (our) Father…”
    Anyway, I appreciate you try to reason about it, but please try not to put some “words to our mouths”, ok?

    Take it easy, the gospel of Jesus Christ can destroy any type of Apostasy.

  85. Edgar A. Baguio on June 13, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Hey, DKL; you remind me of Korihor, hahahaha!, just a joke..Are you ok? or should I ask, are you an LDS per chance? Anyway, I think you need love most of all, though.

  86. DKL on June 13, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Edgar A. Baguio: Are you ok? or should I ask, are you an LDS per chance?

    Um, yeah. I’m OK, and I’m LDS (an unusual combination, I suppose).

    Edgar A. Baguio: Anyway, I think you need love most of all, though.

    Are you trying to make a pass at me?

  87. Jim F. on June 14, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Edgar A. Baguio: You are welcome to participate in this discussion, but you should refrain from name-calling. Your remark at #85 was not funny, and adding “hahahaha” didn’t make it so. Please read the “Comment Policies” near the top of the right side bar.

  88. gst on June 14, 2006 at 12:45 am

    DKL is not Korihor.

  89. Edgar A. Baguio on June 14, 2006 at 5:00 am

    Hey guys, I didn’t say he is, ok? I said he reminds me. Do I have to explain the difference? Hey bro. gst! Please don’t put some words to my mouth, is that ok? I didn’t say he is Korihor. I said he reminds me of him. Well, if you think that way, ,, “as a man thinketh… so is he..” No more, no less.
    Mr. or Bro. Jim F., I didn’t make any name-calling, ok? Don’t put words into my mouth. Let’s be careful here. Hey, everyone knew at least what other things DKL said about our Savior, Jesus Christ. Hence, I asked whether he is a member or not.

  90. Edgar A. Baguio on June 14, 2006 at 5:19 am

    By the way, sorry DKL if I made such joke.
    “Wickedness is logically independent of anger and contention, no matter what Jesus says about it.” Do you have some respect of our Savior? “…and I don’t uncritically accept every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus. Much of what passes for scriptural authority is merely the embodiment of the otherwise ignorant outlook of ancient nomadic and agricultural tribes.” Are you sure about these statements of yours? No, I can’t just let you think that it is ok to “uncritically don’t accept every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus.” That’s why I said “reminds me”, meaning only a little bit similar to Korihor’s attitude. Why? is it because your wisdom is better than our Lord or something? What do you exactly mean by these lines? If you persist with this idea, and at the same time be active in the church, I believe you can have your reward, like Korihor got his. Let us not be deceived, white is white and black is black.
    Well, now I am not joking, I am serious. God will not hold you guiltless at the last day if you persist to “don’t uncritically accept every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus.”

  91. Edgar A. Baguio on June 14, 2006 at 5:27 am

    Hey, DKL, one more question.. Do you think the Savior would be pleased about your critical comments in every word that comes out from His mouth?

  92. Kimball L. Hunt on June 14, 2006 at 7:28 am

    (I shouldn’t waste your time with my only too predictable arguments here. But I can always repent of it later.) Anyway:

    We’re to do as Jesus says. So therefore, since Jesus said to sell what an individual has, give to the poor, and follow him (the kingdom of heaven’s then being at hand), should we uncritically follow this?

    We’re to do as Jesus did. As Jesus cast out evil spirits, should we all therefore uncritically make a diligent and sacramental practice of our casting out evil spirits from people?

    And, since Jesus said blessed are the meek and to judge not, should we then purposely and uncritically wallow in ineffectuality and refrain from wise discernments (at least due to one possible interpretation of this teaching)?of anything or anyone else in this world?

    And, now: Has the contention here been that both DKL and Korihor have practiced open heterodoxy through their both apparently merely saying that they don’t uncritically follow what Jesus said without accounting for certain criteria of discernment? (Whereas the rest of us haughty ones merely practice secret heteroPRAXY by our simply tending to ignore much of the particulars of more simply literal interpretations of what He said anyway?)

  93. Mark Butler on June 14, 2006 at 9:59 am

    DKL, Your argument regarding the apostasy of the Mulekites is a non sequitur, because it relies on the unproven axiom that all apostasy is one apostasy, with the same nature and causes in each case.

    The Nephites were worse, of course, because they sinned against greater light and knowledge, the Mulekites had merely dwindled in unbelief.

  94. DKL on June 14, 2006 at 10:09 am

    Edgar A. Baguio: By the way, sorry DKL if I made such joke [about you being the anti-Christ]

    No worries. I get enough of that kind of thing from my bishop, that I hardly even notice that kind of thing when it happens on the ‘nacle.

    Edgar A. Baguio: God will not hold you guiltless at the last day if you persist to “don’t uncritically accept every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus.�

    Fair enough. We’ve all got to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience. But just so you know, I fall short of eternal glory for a lot of other reasons, too.

    Edgar A. Baguio: Do you think the Savior would be pleased about your critical comments in every word that comes out from His mouth?

    With more than 6 billion people on the planet, I’m guessing that my own intractable sense of rationality isn’t even on his radar screen.

  95. Jack on June 14, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Ironically, but not unexpectedly, I didn’t notice–during my *quick* reading of this thread–much in the way of criticism toward academia. Surely JS’ use of the word “creeds” may have specific allusions to the “philosophies of men.”

  96. Kimball L. Hunt on June 14, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    ((Or an addendum of present application. (Sorry!)):

    Since literal readings of Jesus’s constant reiterations to “Turn the other cheek,” “forgive seven times seventy times,” and on and on — as incidentally made stateman/apostle J. Reuben Clarke isolationist — today make the majority of churches hardpressed to support Bush’s Iraq conquest . . .

    Would, say, any Southern Baptists who are hawkishly pro-Bush be allowed to think these others’ readings as, quote, uncritical?

    Or must red letter edition Bibles render all Christians peace marchers?

  97. DKL on June 14, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    Kimball, if there was enough confusion over what Jesus said (or had in mind) to fuel the disputes among the primitive churches, the schisms among the orthodox churches, the involvement of the church in territorial disputes/title claims of medieval Europe (including the one where they fought for ten decades for the Gods they made), the protestant reformation, and the American restoration era, then you can rest assured that there’s enough to fuel any dispute between peaceniks and warmongers. (Which is also part of the reason why I don’t think that my intractable sense of rationality really matters much to Big Brother.)

  98. Mark Butler on June 14, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Kimball, Our doctrine on that topic is laid out quite comprehensively in D&C 98 and D&C 134.

    Basically, the ultimate law of forgiveness only applies after someone quits attacking you. If an aggressor will not stop after adequate warning, then offensive action against an enemy is justified.

    Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded; But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.

    And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundredfold. And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;

    And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out. And now, verily I say unto you, if that enemy shall escape my vengeance, that he be not brought into judgment before me, then ye shall see to it that ye warn him in my name, that he come no more upon you, neither upon your family, even your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

    And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands; And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

    Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.
    (D&C 98:23-31)

  99. Edgar A. Baguio on June 14, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    Now I know, No comments. Go ahead and “.. repent it later…”

  100. Edgar A. Baguio on June 14, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    DKL, my friend, I didn’t say that you cannot worship according to the dictates of your own conscience, did I? With all the energy of my heart, I just hope that you spare the Savior from any comments out of the “dictates of your own conscience.” “We’ve all got to worship according to the dictates of our own conscience.” Yeah, but this doesn’t mean that this “conscience” should not accept uncritically any word that comes from its source, i.e. it is the very Light of Christ, you know this I suppose. Or do you think light and darkness can co-exist in your mind? Meaning, do you think your conscience which is the Light of Christ, can dictate something that is opposing to the very source of that Light? I don’t think so. Let me explain, every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God (including Christ’s, and living prophets and apostles) is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light…remember these verses in Doctrine and Covenants? If you want to know more about it, you can help yourself. I don’t usually spoon feed someone on scriptures.

  101. Mark Butler on June 14, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    EAB, I think you are arguing against a strawman of your own devising. Now strawmen are useful, but only when they are distinguished from actual persons. Your implications with regard to DKL’s spiritual state are pretentious to say the very least – if you did that to me, I would be far less measured than he has been. And more particularly, the righteousness of any participant here is not a legitimate topic for discussion. You are running the risk of ultima ratio administatorum here, I believe.

    So if you find DKL’s beliefs offensive, then come up with a reason why they are wrong. All this ad hominem meta-talk is beside the point. If faith is not consistent with rationality, then we do not even know what we believe, and all discussion is futile. So give us a reason.

  102. Edgar A. Baguio on June 15, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    Sorry, Brother Butler, I am run out of reasons that are “appealing to the carnal minds” so to speak. Go ahead, give your reasons to your audience, not to me though. I easily give up to something worthless than the dust of the earth. Sorry again for the last lines, but I think one of the BOM prophets mentioned about those people can be likened or less than the dust of this earth. Hey, don’t worry I am one of those worthless creatures sometimes, though.
    Thank you for all that you are doing here, you have your reward.
    Xaijien, Adios, Adieu, Ayo-ayo, Farewell!

  103. Mark Butler on June 15, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    Faith as irrational mysticism. The glory of God is what?

  104. Adam Greenwood on June 18, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    “Postum and its German parent, called “Peroâ€? in the States and Canada, are wonderful drinks–almost as good as coffee in taste”

    Almost as good as burnt bean water. (grins)

    Mark Butler,
    I don’t believe in total depravity, but you’ve conflated a lot of different ideas in the passage I’ve quoted, and resolved them all ex cathedra. I don’t think you can rightly expect folks to follow you around the bloggernacle and trace the thread of your arguments there, so its probably not right to treat a whole host of issues as resolved because you’ve resolved them to your satisfaction elsewhere.

  105. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Adam G., No, people do not have to follow the proceedings of the various weblogs. I just find it awfully inconvenient not to express my considered position on a subject as if it were a passing fancy. I am stating it, it is my opinion, I am not a neutral arbiter, I hold those points to near moral certainty, why should I litter it it with truth defeaters, as David Stove says.

    At least I have a belief, am willing to state it clearly, and defend it or modify it as appropriate. If I do not state it siwth some confidence, people treat it like idle speculation, which I affirm it is not. I may be mistaken in many respects, but certainly no more mistaken that what has regularly passed for LDS theology in our relatively recent history, a collection of unreflected folklore gathered from various sources that contradicts itself more than hangs together as any unified body of belief.

    So in other words, what I would like to see is more discussion about theology from first principles of the scriptures, and not the ridiculous assumption that if we cannot know something perfectly we do not know it at all, what David Stove calls, “The Gem”.

    The problem is that religion is all about faith, essentially inspired belief – fallible to various degrees, and there is no way to prove these points to a logical certainty, and the traditional metaphysics of spiritual being do not allow that anyway, as the history of conventional Christian orthodoxy has so abundantly demonstrated.

    Some people are content to legalize the gospel, to strip it down to its bare minimums, and refuse to believe anything until it is established with absolute certainty by a voice from the sky. I beleive the opposite path is the order of the day – as Joseph Smith said, no one was ever damned for believing too much, but rather for believing too little.

  106. Edgar A. Baguio on June 19, 2006 at 3:52 am

    Hey Mark Butler,

    Do you feel losing some arguments with Adam Greenwood? Don’t worry, it’s not obvious though. But a well informed reader with a good conscience knows it, (subtly).
    Sorry, I can’t stop telling you this. (Don’t worry, this is really my last comment, just for you.)

  107. Jim F. on June 19, 2006 at 11:07 am

    Adam Greenwood: about Pero, etc.: “Almost as good as burnt bean water.”

    Of course! Because they are burnt bean water (if one can allow the barley grain to be called a bean)!

  108. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Pettiness does not become neither a saint nor a gentleman, Mr. Baguio. The idea is not to “win”, but to persuade or be persuaded. The possibility of the latter is frankly much more exciting than the former. What kind of person wants to “win” if they are not actually right?

  109. Kimball L. Hunt on June 19, 2006 at 11:40 am

    (Only like original, blue label Postum; the red’s too bland!)

  110. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 11:40 am

    I should say “becomes neither”

  111. Adam Greenwood on June 19, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    Mark Butler,

    1. Indeed, we should look beyond the bare minimum (though this is much less important than other obligations we have). But we should be clear about our fallibility and uncertainty once we’ve gone beyond that bare minimum. We should also, I think acknowledge that the core of the gospel is our experience of it, and not our ideas about it.

    2. We should also reject the idea that we are all on independent intellectual trajectories, or even that we are all competitors in the marketplace of ideas, so that our only obligation is to accurately reflect our individual beliefs in our speech, or to engage in the cut and thrust of debate. We are a community. One way we acknowledge this is by making distinctions in our speech between ideas that are commonplace to that community and ideas that aren’t. This is not a major obligation–it can give way for all sorts of reasons–but its still an obligation.

  112. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Adam G.,

    The gospel *is* an idea. Our experience of the gospel is our experience in the grand social implemenation of that idea. Now the divinely authored *idea* of the gospel is to be distinguished from our *idea* about the gospel, but the whole point of studying the scriptures, hearing the word, etc. is to conform our idea of the gospel to his idea – the spirit is there to confirm that convergence. We have hope not in God per say, but hope in his *word*, faith that he is powerful unto the fulfilling of all of his promises.

    The word is everything – no more word, no more gospel. Experience is ancilliary to the word, not the other way around. Christ is the messenger of salvation, and unless we get a proper understanding of the message, his work is in vain, because we cannot carry on the tradition. The gospel is not about feeling, nor is it properly about thinking, but it is about doing, and one can only do properly and indeed feel properly, if one thinks properly. That is why the word is pre-eminent.

    Pietism and the gospel of holiness without the word is ultimately in vain. It is due to the word, that we know what holiness is. Without the word we would hardly experience it at all. The Holy Ghost is there to testify of the word, not to give us fuzzy feelings about nothing in particular.

    As to your second point, I understand the tension, but I disagree with scholarly convention of reduction in spiritual things, because by and large a knowledge of spiritual things cannot be gained to academic certainty. Once can suggest, cajole, persuade, etc., but nothing we beleive in is provable to the absolute standards of the deductivists, and the belief that it can be reduces the gospel to legalism. I think the ambiguity in the scriptures is intentional, and because of that we can only establish a position as part of a whole system of thought, a system which must be *suggested*, not demonstrated.

    If we step back to first order predicate logic and conventional metaphysics, I can prove almost any theological position you care to name. The perception of rigor in most theology is illusory – the semantics are too amorphous for that. So though I can put in truth defeaters, I prefer the declarative mode for anything that I am confident in beyond a moral certainty. And indeed scholars and philosophers in particular do the same thing – as long as the context is understood – which it should be on questions of this nature, I believe the most expressive form of writing is declarative interspersed with references to arguments, and not this crypto academic expression of theology as doubt in everything but the widest and almost meaningless consensus, a consensus often so ambiguous in LDS theology that it would encompass every other Christian denomination.

    Or in short, we hardly have a theological base from which to proceed – just a collection of principles held together with duct tape and mystery. I can hardly say anything without contradicting some authority or another, so why pretend there is a unified coherent system out there to speak in terms of? We simply do not have one, and rather that reduce all theology to skeptical babblings, I would prefer to speak in terms of a particular system. All coherent theology has to be done that way, or it reduces to proof texting. So if you contest my assertions, contest them. That is the idea in the first place. Know-next-to-nothingism makes me sick.

  113. Adam Greenwood on June 19, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    “The gospel *is* an idea. Our experience of the gospel is our experience in the grand social implemenation of that idea”

    I don’t agree. The gospel is our actual fall and our actual salvation. What we call the gospel is just the blueprint, not the thing itself. Christ’s message is not the way, the truth, and the life, Christ himself is. Words are how we communicate, words are how we guide each other to the right experience, but they they aren’t the thing itself. (Side note: its difficult to talk to you when you insist on imposing extreme absolutes on the conversation. Did I say that I favor a wordless pietism? Did I say I want holiness without ideas? Don’t get too caught up in the sound of your own trumpet.)

    “I can hardly say anything without contradicting some authority or another, so why pretend there is a unified coherent system out there to speak in terms of?”

    No one is asking you to pretend that. Where did I ask you that? Really, if you can’t stop fitting me into some preordained slot in an intellectual discourse you’ve worked out in your head, and start responding to *me* and *what I say*, I don’t see the profit in continuing this discussion. What I said is that being in a community requires some acknowledgment that our ideas are non-standard. That’s all.

    “So if you contest my assertions, contest them. That is the idea in the first place.”

    It would be easier if you didn’t conflate a hundred different assertions into one ex cathedra pronouncement and act like they were all the same. Anyway, if you are content just to assert, I am content just to deny.

    “Know-next-to-nothingism makes me sick.”

    And yet you yourself state that theology can lead to almost any conclusion and that the texts of our faith are so varied that practically any system can be constructed out of them. You seem to argue, as best as I can tell, that we are entitled to state our conclusions with certainty because everyone knows they are uncertain and contingent. This seems backward to me, but I can understand it–language is a funny thing. Except that you add that you are beyond morally certain of your own conclusions. I can’t make heads or tails of that in light of the other things you’ve said. Everyone knows your conclusions are tentative so you are allowed to state them as if they were not, provided that you don’t think they are tentative?

    Oh, and–once more–I never said we should limit ourselves to “next to nothing.” I *started off* my last comment saying we should look beyond the bare minimum of the gospel. I am beginning to think that we’re not actually engaged in dialogue here, but that I’m some kind of placeholder for a conversation you’re having in your head.

  114. Jim F. on June 19, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    Mark Butler: one can only do properly and indeed feel properly, if one thinks properly.

    If this were true, then the best members of the Church would be the best thinkers. However, there’s no evidence that better thinkers make better doers. Indeed, there are any number of excellent doers of the word who are not very good thinkers of it.

    I prefer the declarative mode for anything that I am confident in beyond a moral certainty. And indeed scholars and philosophers in particular do the same thing – as long as the context is understood

    I doubt that many philosophers or scholars take the strong assertive-declarative tone that you take. And the alternative is hardly mere consensus. You are entitled to be sure of yourself. We expect someone who has thought carefully about issues to be so, even if we disagree. However, surety-of-self is not inconsistent with a tone of good manners which recognizes that other reasonable people may not agree. It seems to me that often your tone smacks not only of confidence but of “no one but a fool could think otherwise.” To the degree that it does, that is unfortunate.

    It isn’t at all clear what you are referring to when you speak of “know-next-to-nothingism,” but it doesn’t describe Adam, for heaven’s sake!

  115. greenfrog on June 19, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    The word is everything – no more word, no more gospel. Experience is ancilliary to the word, not the other way around.

    I think this is exactly 180 degrees wrong. Experience occurs before ideas about the experience occur. When confronted simultaneously with an experience that teaches me “X” and words that teach me “not-X,” I’ll go with the experience every single time.

  116. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Greenfrog, I think our ideas our compatible. The question is first hand vs. second hand knowledge and culture – or rather science vs. civilization.

    I think you may very well be describing the situation of chaos that prevailed umpteen zillion years ago. the Most High may very well have been a first rate scientist, but that doesn’t mean that science told him *how* to author the plan of salvation, or set the foundation for celestial civilization.

    We are now in a situtation where pure empiricism can tell us little or nothing about God’s plan for us. Our embodied condition certainly can teach us basic principles, but that is only because God *designed* our bodies to do so.

    The susceptibilities and emotions of our bodies are not laws of nature per se, but rather engineered expressions of divine design for the fulfilment of all righteousness. Parley P. Pratt said that the Spirit taught the proper use and function of every human inclination.

    So we can learn something by reverse engineering biology, but physics is almost mute about the Grand Design – important constraints yes, but rich theological content is rather missing. Free will is a mystery to physics.

    We are so many million years into celestial civilization that we can learn *far* more from the word of revelation in minutes than centuries of scientific experimentation could tell us about God and his plan for us.

    Brigham Young had this to say on the subject:

    Upon natural principles, leaving out the light of the Spirit, the light of revelation, or saying that there is no God, and such being the case, on the natural philosophy of the natural world, and the natural belief, and ideas of those who imbibe deistical principles, they do not know whether it is the sun or not that shines upon us; they feel warm, they think they see the sun.

    But if your optic nerve may deceive you, so the astronomer may be deceived. “No,” says he, “I cannot be deceived,” and this congregation says, “We cannot be deceived; we know that we hear you preach to-day; we see you in the stand to-day, and all the earth cannot make us believe to the contrary.” May be you are deceived. “But we cannot be mistaken in this, we do know that it is certain.” Suppose that you go home and to-night sleep very soundly, and that perchance a stupor should come over you, causing you to forget what has transpired today; I have known such circumstances.

    Suppose you forget to-morrow what has transpired to-day in this Tabernacle, and somebody should come along and ask you whether you recollected what brother Brigham said yesterday, you would answer, “I did not hear him say anything.” It would be said, “You were at the meeting, and I saw you.” You would ask, “What meeting? I was not at any meeting.” “Don’t you recollect of going to meeting yesterday?” “No, I do not.” Did you ever know a person so forgetful as this? Well, it is not more strange than much other forgetfulness, not a particle more.
    (Brigham Young, JD 4:194)

  117. greenfrog on June 19, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    We are now in a situtation where pure empiricism can tell us little or nothing about God’s plan for us. Our embodied condition certainly can teach us basic principles, but that is only because God *designed* our bodies to do so.

    You realize, right, that your conclusion is a gloss you’ve imposed on experience, and one that essentially deems experience irrelevant?

    And where did that gloss come from? From hypothesizing after the fact about experience, whether you’ve performed that exercise yourself, or whether you’ve accepted someone else’s hypothesis formed after-the-fact of such person’s own experience.

    I simply disagree that experience has nothing to teach us about the gospel.

    I rather conclude that to the extent the words/ideas of “the gospel” do not connect to experience — my own or the experiences of those whom I believe to be reasonably honest and reliable reporters — then such words/ideas are simply fancy. They may be right, they may be wrong, but I think of them as no more substantive than the lines I imagine to connect the stars of the Big Dipper to create a constellation.

    The susceptibilities and emotions of our bodies are not laws of nature per se, but rather engineered expressions of divine design for the fulfilment of all righteousness.

    They are all I can experience of anything. (Note — I do not distinguish between susceptibilities and emotions of mind and susceptibilities and emotions of body — they are different sides of the same coin.) Accordingly, I see no value to your a priori (?) conclusion about the causal factor of such experience. However, whether your posited causation of such experience is correct, or not, I see no basis for disregarding the primacy of such experience. After all, it is via exactly those susceptibilities and emotions (i.e., experience) that you start the process that ends with the conclusions you reach about such susceptibilities and emotions.

    Parley P. Pratt said that the Spirit taught the proper use and function of every human inclination.

    Not sure of your intended connnection between this and the question of which of experience or abstraction should be understood to be primary and which secondary.

    So we can learn something by reverse engineering biology, but physics is almost mute about the Grand Design – important constraints yes, but rich theological content is rather missing. Free will is a mystery to physics.

    I don’t follow the connection between this assertion, which I think is true, but only for a limited period of time, given the stage of technological development we’re at.

    We are so many million years into celestial civilization that we can learn *far* more from the word of revelation in minutes than centuries of scientific experimentation could tell us about God and his plan for us.

    If God has anything to say about things that I can’t experience, I can’t figure out what use telling me such things would be.

  118. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    Greenfrog, I never said experience could teach us nothing, I said (or implied) that it was of limited utility by itself. I said that embodied experience could teach us quite a bit, by divine design. And of course, theology has to cohere with experience – if the gospel, at the last, does not actually *work* it is worthless.

    A pragmatic test – however empiricism does not usually refer to people who actually change their lives to see whether the gospel works, but rather to a detached skepticism that refuses to believe anything not pounded into their skulls. The latter worldly skepticism is what I am referring to here, not the practice of religion.

  119. Edgar A. Baguio on June 20, 2006 at 6:03 am

    Adam Green and Jim F.

    Thanks for your excellent and logical comments (#113 & #114), which are actually more persuasive than the one who wrote: “…fuzzy feelings…” You seemed to be more careful in choosing the write words to write in here and I think he now has no more “ideas” to reply to both of you. It also showed me that both of you “think properly”, if I have to borrow his lines. Looks like most of his words here, like “Know-next-to-nothingism” is just a pigment of a desperate, defensive mind which is run out of reasons.
    This is where the great difference lies between his arguments (if there’s any left) and yours (both of you).

    Thanks a lot, really.

WELCOME

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