FORE!

There is a new convert in our ward who has not been at church for about a month. He is single, in his mid 30’s and teaches school at our local middle school. He is a nice guy. We are having a stake golf tournament this weekend and I invited him to play in it as part of a foursome from our ward. I have been looking for excuses to fellowship with this good brother, and I am glad that he has accepted the invitation.

The Elder’s Quorum President talked with me about him at church yesterday, and he is concerned that this man has been given some anti-Mormon literature. He believes this is the reason he has not been attending church lately. I am not sure why he thinks this, but it could make for an interesting day. I will be giving him a ride to the course which is about an hour drive away.

For the most part, I do not get bent out of shape by anti-Mormon literature. I often view those who stop attending, or leave the church, claiming that it was the anti-Mormon literature that made them do it are just looking for an excuse. I did learn recently that often it is who gives you the literature, more than the content of it, that can cause the biggest problem. This man is very close to his family, and if it was a family member that gave it to him, that could be a big factor.

So how should I handle this?

I plan on enjoying a nice game of golf, and will hope for good weather. I probably will not bring anything up at all unless he does. I am more interested in establishing a friendship than anything else. But this has caused me to review my usual approach to being confronted with anti-Mormon claims. My approach has two fundamental characteristics which are:

– Do not get defensive or loose your composure. No matter what is said don’t let anything get under your skin.

– Ask yourself if this person is humbly seeking the truth. If not, relax. What you say won’t matter anyway.

There are also some standard things which we Mormons do when confronted with this stuff. This is not complete, feel free to add to it if you like.

– Play the infallibility card. We do not claim that our church leaders are perfect. Perhaps they have said or done things which are wrong. The imperfections of a few leaders are not necessarily a reason to dump the whole restoration. There is no end to claims of this nature, some may be true, others not. No reason to panic if you hear something new along these lines.

– Some of the anti-Mormon claims are true, and are just explained in a bad way to those who do not have the background to understand it. Sometimes these things may lead to productive discussions. We don’t need to be embarrassed by our beliefs, but may need to take the time to explain them well.

– Tie things back to basics. Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Discussions about polygamy or other such things can often come down to whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. And the Book of Mormon is the evidence of his work. Bring things back to this foundation. If one has a testimony of the foundation, then many details make sense, or are at least easier to take.

I think this is a good general approach. It will be interesting to see if anything comes up, or if we just enjoy the day. I’m hoping for the latter.

How do you handle this stuff?

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30 Responses to “FORE!”


  1. 1 Ryan September 11, 2006 at 10:23 pm

    Great questions and best of luck to you (both your game and your fellowshipping)

    I find it depends largely on the type of person. I know, for example, that if I were to waver in my testimony due to some damning anti “evidence”, I would not be much affected by warm and fuzzy stories and testimonies. The strength of my testimony lies in the academics of the gospel, every time I find a correlation between the old testament and the endowment ceremony or between the Savior and Joseph Smith, the spirit hits me head on and I know it’s true all over again. When I watch movies like Legacy or Testaments, I am touched but in a very muted way.

    If this fellow is like me, he’ll want some straight answers about our history and will be willing to look beyond contemporary societal norms of marriage and propriety. If he’s like my best friend’s sister though, he’ll feel the spirit that comes from a simple testimony. The academic answers will never satisfy his hunger.

  2. 2 Wade September 11, 2006 at 10:36 pm

    Eric:

    As Ryan said, best of luck to you! I have had a bit of experience with people influenced by anti-mormon literature. I have almost always found that it really does no good to “defend” the faith; rather I find what works best is simply to ask them rhetorical questions that may get them thinking about their own beliefs (challenge them in return). True, this may in fact actually result in defending the faith, but it’s not so threatening if done appropriately. However, the best thing anyone can do is to just love the person, just be a friend like you’re planning on doing. That works the best.

    Ryan:

    Which one of my sisters are you talking about? 🙂

  3. 3 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 11, 2006 at 11:12 pm

    I, too, have had a few experiences with this. I have seen these things completely destroy one friend’s testimony. I tend to think of such material as spiritual pornography. The aforementioned friend gave me something to read and although I only read a bit (wanted to understand where she was coming from…ugh) it took a year to really get it out of my system. It’s dangerous stuff. But you know that, I’m sure.

    Something I try to ask is “Do you want it to be true?” …Alma 32-esque-like. If we want this all to be true, we should be doing the things that can help us find the truth — feeding the seed as it were. When Alma starts that discourse, he immediately makes it known that the seed of faith, desire, the word can be cast out by unbelief (v. 28 or 29…too lazy right now). I think it’s hard for a solid testimony to deal with the anti stuff. A tender testimony is that much more at risk. Sort of like you said above, if he really doesn’t seem to want to know and if he thinks the knowing will come from books that undermine what he could hope to be good and right, then it’s probably a losing battle. I think you have a pretty good perspective on it all.

    Good luck. Enjoy building the friendship. Regardless of the other stuff, that will be one of the most important things, even if for now he stays inactive. Knowing he has a friend regardless of his choice is a big deal. It’s a big deal for anyone. 🙂

    just a story i like, to tuck in your back pocket if it might come in handy….

    When I was a mission president, a fine elder came to me. I asked, “How can I help you?”

    “President,” he said, “I think I’m losing my testimony.”

    I asked him how that could be possible.

    “For the first time I have read some anti-Mormon literature,” he said. “I have some questions, and nobody will answer them for me. I am confused, and I think I am losing my testimony.”

    I asked him what his questions were, and he told me. They were the standard anti-Church issues, but I wanted a little time to gather materials so I could provide meaningful answers. So we set up an appointment ten days later, at which time I told him I would answer every one of his questions. As he started to leave, I stopped him. “Elder, you’ve asked me several questions here today,” I said. “Now I have one for you.”

    “Yes, President?”

    “How long has it been since you’ve read from the Book of Mormon?” I asked.

    His eyes dropped. He looked at the floor for a while. Then he looked at me. “It’s been a long time, President,” he confessed.

    “All right,” I said. “You have given me my assignment. It’s only fair that I give you yours. I want you to promise me that you will read in the Book of Mormon for at least one hour every day between now and our next appointment.” He agreed that he would do that.

    Ten days later he returned to my office, and I was ready. I pulled out my papers to start answering his questions. But he stopped me.

    “President,” he said, “that isn’t going to be necessary.” Then he explained, “I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

    “Well, that’s great,” I said. “But you’re going to get answers to your questions anyway. I worked a long time on this, so you just sit there and listen.”

    (M. Russell Ballard, “How to Find Safety and Peace,” New Era, Nov. 1997, 4)

  4. 4 Wade September 11, 2006 at 11:16 pm

    M&M:

    I hadn’t heard that story before, thanks a lot! I really really like it; there are lots of good lessons in it and it’s so short.

  5. 5 Jacob September 12, 2006 at 12:20 am

    I like the ideas you expressed in your post, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Along the lines of not getting defensive, I always try to convey to the person that they can feel comfortable expressing concern or doubt without judgment from me. Quite often, “discover the concern” requires you to peel back a few layers of attacks to get to the root, which rarely happens if you come out with guns blazing. The other thing I try to do is be very honest about my own views of the issue rather than trying to give a sugar coated version. I think this can help to build trust and can also allow you to tie things back the basics (as you said in the post). For example, if Iadmit there are things about polygamy that seem shocking to my current sensibilities it allows me to stress that this is why a personal testimony of the BofM and of Joseph Smith has been so important to me. Those are some of my main strategies. Best of luck.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson September 12, 2006 at 6:45 am

    Thanks for the comments all:

    Ryan:

    My guess is that this guy is more on the ‘social convert’ side. He got along great with the missionaries. My biggest fear is that the anti stuff came from a family member, not the content. Friendshipping may be the best approach for now.

    Wade:

    I like your thought on turning the tables when confronted with the content. IF someone asks something like – So you guys belief Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers? You can explain a bit, and then say – where do you think Satan comes from.

    M&M

    What the person wants is pretty important. I think that ties in well with the humble truth seeker. If a person wants out of the church the anti stuff provides some justification and excuses. I think the humble truth seeker will be just fine in the long run. Also that is a great story. The sources we get the info from are important.

    Jacob

    I agree that often the real concerns are masked by excuses. I also like the completely honest appraoch. I was asked once, by an ex-mormon, if I thought it was odd that the church would not let someone enjoy the blessings of the temple simply because of drinking a little tea. I told him yes, and that it may just be an odd test of obedience. When I agreed that it did seem a little odd the tone of the conversation went better.

  7. 7 AJ September 12, 2006 at 7:05 am

    Please forgive my intrusion on your thread, but a couple comments that were made are just begging for further discussion and exploration.

    As a once believing mormon currently in a state of transition out of the “one true church”, I feel I have some insight on this topic.

    Eric, for you to assume that those who leave the church just use “anti-mormon” literature as an excuse is both unfair and naive. Just because something isn’t “faith promoting” doesn’t make it untrue. I’m reminded of a quote by Boyd K. Packer (I think) who said “There are some things that are true that aren’t very useful.” I question the validity of that statement. Truth is very useful. Pretending the truth doesn’t even exist is tantamount to lying, isn’t it?

    Similarly, for M&M to pose the question “do you want it to be true?” is also relying on flawed reasoning. Just because you want something to be true, doesn’t mean it is.

    I’m not trying to invite contention here, and again, please forgive me for barging into your conversation uninvited. In my quest for the truth, I come across many sites, both for and against mormonism and I’ve tried to give equal time to mormon critics and apologists alike. And what I’ve surmised has been disturbing, to say the least.

    For almost 30 years, I’ve been a faithful member to the church and was never even exposed to any of the troublesome history or doctrines…probably because the heirachary has gone to such great lengths to supress anything found critical or faith damaging. But is that fair? To ask for a blind faith in Joseph Smith and his claims is just irrational. Even the early leadership, Brigham Young included, challenged people to examine the church as well as its doctrines and see if they would stand the test. (Brigham asked for a comparison to be made between the Book of Mormon and the Bible to see if it would stand the test.) Well, that’s a challenge I took to heart and the things I’ve found have lead to a complete and utter destruction of my testimony (which was based on biased presuppositions from the outset, by the way, not a fair and balanced examination of facts.)

    And no, it wasn’t easy for me to come to these conclusions. It wasn’t an excuse for me to leave the church to which my entire family belongs. And the process of leaving certainly isn’t an easy one, believe me. If I wanted things to be easy, I would just retain my membership and play the game…but that wouldn’t be honest either.

    Okay, I’ve said my peace. Of course, I’ll understand if you decide to ignore my post or just delete it altogether. I just hope I was able to offer some insight into the mind of someone who’s currently experiencing the effects of “anti-mormon” literature.

    I’ll check back for any responses and/or reactions.

  8. 8 Connor Boyack September 12, 2006 at 8:57 am

    AJ:

    I had a conversation about this very thing with a friend last night. His comment to me was that “of course the Lord would make it difficult to believe the Book of Mormon is true. If it were otherwise, faith would not be necessary at all”.

    It sounds like you have come across certain things in scripture or in church history that have troubled you for whatever reason. It sounds like you have become affected by “anti” literature, which is notorious for taking things out of context, telling half-truths, using deception, and a myriad of other attempts to destroy people’s testimonies. I have had a fair share of experience with this stuff, and time after time myself or somebody else was able to dispel the doubt it produced by using reason, logic, revelation and doctrine, and common sense.

    It’s sad to see the power Satan has over these people.

    Believing in absolute truth, I am aware of all that the gospel has to offer. I am amazed at all of the questions it answers, and how much sense it makes. I am grateful to know the condition of the soul after death. I am grateful to know about eternal marriage and families. I believe in continuing revelation and prophets in our day. Other religions and churches cannot offer these things, among many others.

    The problem with “anti” literature is that in order to disprove mormonism, you have to be able to disprove every part of it.. and that cannot be done. Evidences abound for the Book of Mormon. The rest of it, and much of the gospel, has to be taken on faith. Is that so wrong?

    If there is absolute truth, and you now have been led to believe that the church is not true, surely there must be another religion or church that has the truth? Surely there has to be somebody with priesthood authority to administer the covenants one must make to return to God’s presence?

    I’ll end only be saying that I’m glad you presented your opinion and experience in the manner you did; most who leave the church have quite the axe to grind and take an extreme position in their quest to denounce all who profess the faith they once shared.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson September 12, 2006 at 9:49 am

    AJ:

    Thank you for giving a gracious response. As long as discussions are respectful they are welcome.

    I have no statistics of course, it is just my opinion that many new investigators, that want the missionaries to stop bugging them, may turn to anti-mormon literature as an excuse. Certainly there will be exceptions to this. And certainly there are some who leave the church after years of membership because of it. I did not mean to put everyone in the same bottle.

    Truth is where it all come down to. But there will be many things which it appears we just can not know for sure. At least not yet. A lot of the anti stuff I have seen throws out what seems like absurd claims which I have never heard of, from questionable sources, and likely will never be able to be proven one way or the other. This can lead many to through the baby out with the bathwater unnecessarily. Which is a shame.

    We just got through reading Jonah in our sunday school classes this week. Here the Bible claims a fish swallowed Jonah for three days. Many may feel this sounds far-fetched. Should one through out the Bible and all of Christianity becasue of this story? I would say no. We don’t know all the details of this, so I would recommend holding on for now. But we could say the same about Noah and the Flood, and other things as well.

    Anyway, I don’t know what else to say. If you would like to e-mail me with some specific questions to address in future posts (or any of the people here) we would be glad to attempt to address them. We don’t know all the answers either.

    But again, thank you for your respectful input.

  10. 10 Ryan September 12, 2006 at 11:18 am

    AJ brings up an interesting concept that stretches beyond the point-by-point anti-literature into what seems to me to be a major thrust of most anti-mormon attacks:
    *The perfection of the gospel is marred because of the people who laid it’s doctrinal foundations (primarily Joseph Smith and Brigham Young)* To be fair, the church framework is laid out for such an ad hominem approach because we lay our claim to truth at the feet of what these men brought forth.
    But it is ad hominem nonetheless. The attacks against the gospel (leadership) find their foundation of support in contemporary, puritanically influenced societal norms.
    It’s not such a strange thing, then, that as the liberal left grows increasingly liberal, they are finding themselves tacit endorsers of the taboo history of Mormonism (that is, the same arguments used to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage are likewise applicable to polygyny.) The proverbial pendulum eh?
    To be fair, AJ seems to have tried to make a complete study of the doctrines but the weakness of that approach is that there is so little time and so much to know.

  11. 11 AJ September 12, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    I was hoping to keep things (and emotions) as mild as possible and I thank you gentlemen for your respectful responses.

    You’re absolutely right, in most of the conversation threads I’ve read (and I’ve only posted one or two comments myself), things often tend to get very heated, very quickly. It seems like everyone on both sides have plenty of “facts” and it’s difficult to sort through them and decide for oneself what is true what is just pretending to be.

    If you don’t mind, I’ll give you a little more background as to what led me to my current state of disbelief almost a year ago. I stumbled across the “moon men” teachings of the church. At first, I couldn’t believe it, so I thought I’d entertain the notion and do a little digging. Sure enough, I found a photo copy of the Young Woman’s Journal in which the teaching is found. I remember thinking, “well, if Joseph Smith and/or Brigham taught such a ridiculous thing, what other teachings exist that I’m not aware of?” So the search began and to be honest, it’s still ongoing, but I’ve already made what I sincerely believe to be a rational, informed decision. (I was born into the church, so I never thought to question things…I just accepted them at face value.)

    I found plenty of things to cast reasonable doubt, but it was the whole DNA issue that really spelled things out for me. Finally, it was the translation of the papyrus (you know, the infamous Book of Abraham) that was the final nail in the coffin of my testimony.

    I’ve read as much of Jeff Lindsay’s site as I could stomach, but it just seems like he’s grabbing at very weak straws.
    And I very respectfully disagree that to disprove mormonism everything about it must be discredited. If only 5% of the evidence speaking out against it is true, then it just isn’t what it claims to be.

    I won’t try to insert any more details, but I just don’t see much in the way of a harmony between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Different gospel, different nature of God, different definition of Jesus.

    I’m at a very strange crossroads in my life where I honestly don’t yet know what I believe, but I’m hoping to have it all figured out someday.

    Thanks again for letting me post.

  12. 12 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 12, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    AJ,
    I join with whoever thanked you for the way you shared your thoughts and feelings.

    The reasoning you present is not new; there are others who have walked the same path. What concerns me is that it is a path carved out by people. History is a tricky thing; it’s always told through the eyes of whoever is telling it, and that means we will get different stories — different flavors of the same story even. I am always saddened when someone will put such stories ahead of personal revelation that assuredly had been felt in the past.

    When I posed the question, “Do you want it to be true?” I may not have made myself clear. Alma talks about a desire to believe. What I was getting at is that sometimes we have to make a choice simply to feed belief, not to foster doubt, which can easily cast out the seed of faith. In the end, we are the ones who choose what to read and study and bring into our lives. Seeking intelligence isn’t just about reading everything out there; truly not everything is helpful or beneficial. When I encouraged the question I did, I was trying to say that if one wants this all to be true, perhaps that person might be careful about what to let into his/her mind and spirit. I hold to what I said from personal experience — some stuff out there is like spiritual pornography and is extremely difficult to purge from one’s soul and mind. My experience is that it is darkness to partake of such material, and I have decided that some of it must just be left alone. Scriptures talk about the adversary blinding minds. I believe that is one of his greatest tools against those who have inquiring minds. I am sorry to hear that the fruit of your time and reading has come to leaving what you held dear for so long.

    I believe that belief is in the end a choice, and so is how we choose to feed or, on the other hand, undermine such belief. None of us here is unaware of at least some of the things of which you speak. (I doubt we would be surprised by most of what has brought doubt into your mind, actually (although I think it’s admirable that you didn’t bring specifics into the conversation).) We realize that not all of our history may be perfect. We realize that sometimes there appear to be contradictions here and there that are puzzling. And yet, we stay. I have also sensed that those here who permablog at least stay not just hovering on the fence, but stay with their feet firmly planted on the side of faith. I hope that someday you might come to realize that the questions you have asked and struggled with really aren’t new, and that there are many, many of us who still have a firm faith in spite of such “concerns” (I put in quotes because I agree with someone above who said that often claims are unfounded, incomplete and with a clear agenda to undermine faith.)

    And so I would still ask, dear friend, if you want this still to be true. “If you can no more desire to believe, let that desire work in you.” Choose to feed the seed of faith. Leave the doubting stuff behind and see if you can grow your seed again. In the end, Alma teaches that it is only unbelief and lack of care for the seed that will keep it from growing, not the “badness” of the seed. Feed. The. Seed. 🙂 Its fruit is good and sweet and white. It is life and light. We hope you will be able to find that joyful fruit again!

    (Look for a post I plan to do today expounding a bit more on this whole conversation…too long to put in a comment. Argh. This comment was too long anyway!)

    I hope that you can sense that it is not my intention to sound critical. I have a deep concern for those who think they want to walk away from these things. I want to ask, “what then?” To where will you go for the answers and direction about life and God?

    Please realize that choices you have made have influenced where you are. BUT, you are not without choice still if the seed of faith is still something you desire to believe in. It won’t be easy; I know it can be very difficult from my own brief dance with doubt thanks to some garbage my friend gave me (not much of a friend, perhaps….). But it can be done. And it is worth it! This is not blind faith, my friend. Faith in part defines how we choose to spend our time and what we choose to hope and believe in. Faith is a choice of what to believe and do as a result. Faith does not require exhaustive knowledge. It requires action that supports the desired result of faith. God bless you to be able to come back. I hope you can sense the concern that those of us here have for you.
    Sincerely,
    Michelle

  13. 13 Connor Boyack September 12, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    Michelle, that was very well said. Exactly what I would have wanted to convey, but worded far better than I could have done. Thank you.

  14. 14 Eric Nielson September 12, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    ‘Moon men teachings of the church’.

    Step one, do not get defensive. We know the church does not teach anything regarding moon men, so there is no reason to get uptight about this common claim.

    Step two, my first impressions of AJ are fairly good. His respectful tone is a good sign.

    Step three, the infallibility card. Even if BY ever taught such a thing (and I believe a journal entry of a young girl is the only source of this ‘teaching’) what is the big deal. BY said several strange things. He was a man. He had opinions. Some of the things he said may have been wrong. He is not infallable.

    Step four, some claims are true. In this case this claim is on very shaky ground. It is simply not a teaching or belief of the church.

    Step five, back to basics. This ‘teaching’ has nothing to do with the plan of salvation, or much of anything else. If BY ever taught this, the church was not lead astray by it. God still lives, Jesus is the Christ, the BofM is still the word of God, and the priesthood has been restored. Regardless of what BY may or may not have said about moon men.

    OK. That is an example of the approach I suggested. Is it a reasonable approach?

  15. 15 Wade September 13, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Eric:

    Your approach is eminently reasonable.

  16. 16 AJ September 13, 2006 at 11:45 am

    I very much appreciate all of your replies. Even amidst this very impersonal medium, I can sense a genuine concern from each of you and for that I am grateful.

    While I’ll concede that the whole “moon men” teaching may be second hand information, the Young Woman’s Journal was a magazine (dated Feb 6, 1892), an official church publication, not just a journal entry. So I believe that gives it at fair amount of credibility.

    And I agree wholeheartedly that no one (save Christ) is infallible, but I don’t accept that as a valid enough reason to excuse some of the more troublesome teachings of a prophet of God. The whole Blood Atonement issue is another one I’ve struggled with. Was BY not speaking as a prophet when this sermon was given? How are we to discern between what is God’s word and what is merely a man’s opinion? Where do we make the distinction?

    I think most, if not all, of you on this blog would agree with me when I say that the LDS church of today is not the same as the one that was originally established. Much has been changed. The world was different then, and the church has been forced to adapt to new world views. I see this as being done out of necessity to survive as a social community, not because of divine revelation. If God is the all powerful being we all know He should be, then why hasn’t His will continued through the years as absolute? Why does it seem He changes His mind about original and key church doctrines in order to adapt to man’s laws?

    I’ll grant you, there’s the article of faith that steers members in the direction of being subject to the laws of the land, but God didn’t submit to Pharoh’s will when he wanted to emancipate His people from slavery. He made it happen, so to speak. And if plural marriage is so central to achieving celestial glory, as it has been taught by the early church, then why does God allow for it to be curbed?

    I’m hoping one of you might have something to help me understand this, without the primary answer being “just have faith” because I no longer trust that. Blind faith (and I think it’s fair to call it that if one accepts something as truth without a careful examination of it) can be a dangerous thing. I’m sure those followers of Jim Jones had faith, as did the members of Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians. Didn’t they have faith?

    If I’m being difficult, I apologize. You all have been very accommodating to me and my struggles and I admire you for being willing to converse with me. I’m just in this very surreal place where truth and faith are fluid concepts, capable of changing, or being changed at any given moment. It’s like nothing’s even real to me anymore.

    I promise I’ll keep at it though…who knows what might happen?

  17. 17 Wade September 13, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    AJ:

    I admire your ability to continue on! I would like to address what I think is one of your main concerns; because it is something I’ve thought a bit about. You ask:

    If God is the all powerful being we all know He should be, then why hasn’t His will continued through the years as absolute? Why does it seem He changes His mind about original and key church doctrines in order to adapt to man’s laws?

    This is a very good question and challenge. However, when you think about it, I think you have to acknowledge the limits of God’s power in regard to the agency of man. It is true, God’s will is always absolute and his truth remains ever unchanged. Yet, this does not mean that he will ALWAYS reveal all of it perfectly to the whole Church or the world. From the perspective of the Restoration, I would ask you to apply your question to the “dark ages” and what is termed “The Great Apostasy”. One could just as easily argue that the Truth actually didn’t exist because God wasn’t giving it to his children at the time. But this is far too simple of a view in perspective! Indeed, this overly simple and nuanced view is what catches and confuses many people when they see changes occuring in the Church (whether it be doctrine, practices, or traditions). They don’t understand that God is perhaps trying to tell us more, or He has chosen to take away even that which we have.

    Simply put, my point is that God doesn’t change, but what His people and His Church (those who make up the Church, i.e. His people) are willing to live by, believe, and accept changes ALL THE TIME! And there are numerous scriptures revealing the absolute truth that God can only work with us according to our conditions of readiness, faith, belief, and acceptance.

    For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that creceiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)

    And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works. (Alma 12:30)

    And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men. (DC 46:15)

    And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:3)

    For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul. (2 Nephi 26:11)

    And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts. (DC 1:33)

    Therefore, based on the above cited passages (and many more), I conclude that one can argue til their blue in the face that the Church is not true because the prophets change their tune and the Church has changed substantially over time, but these arguments are missing the point about God and the agency of man! God works among us only according to our conditions and readiness; he WILL NOT (he could, but then he would cease to be God) force us to receive or obey his truth, or to ready ourselves for it. This is one of the unfortunate conditions of mortal life and for which we are required to have faith (a principle that I think is actually misunderstood by many too).

    Thus, the perceived “changes” in doctrine or practices have nothing to do with the overall validity of the undergirding truth.

  18. 18 Connor Boyack September 13, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    AJ, you may be interested to read this post that J. Stapley wrote today.

  19. 19 Doc September 13, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    AJ,
    When I hear some changes introduced into the church being for its survival, I also wonder how much social change is directed by God preparing and giving us more complete truth. Isn’t it entirely possible, God isn’t changing his mind, but had a different end in mind all along. It may seem odd to think that the church could be led to change through God by external forces, but I don’t actually see why not. Many hold that the renaissance and the reformation were inspired by God.

    Certainly he has many, many children that have not and will not come into contact with the church in their lifetimes. I do not believe he has forgotten them. I think he leads them along to the truth as they are able to take it, just as he leads the Church in the same path. Shifts may occur as leaders bend to outside forces, but don’t discount inspiration in the decisions about which outside forces to bend to.

    This isn’t to say the Church is anything less than God’s kingdom on this earth with a distinct mission in preparing the Earth for his coming. I just think we may not always recognize this at work. It seems very presumptious for us to ever say we know all of God’s plans. After all, we believe God has revealed, does now reveal, and WILL YET reveal many great and important things regarding the Kingdom of God. If our doctrines were complete, why would we even require continuing revelation. I think Wade is on to something. We can only receive what we are willing to take in.

  20. 20 Eric Nielson September 13, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    I like AJ. From what I have experienced.

    So AJ – have you joined another church? I must confess, I don’t know where else I would go if I found myself feeling like you appear to. Is there anywhere where church leaders are perfect, or significanly more near perfect? Is there any long standing church that never changes? I’m not being sarcastic here at all. You may be feeling the same way.

  21. 21 Eric Nielson September 13, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, and by the way, is it ‘FOUR!’ or ‘FORE!’ The golf term I mean. Did I put up a post title in all caps consisting of one word and then mis-spell it? I am no grammar expert. ‘lil help?

  22. 23 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 13, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    As to the “four” issue, the correct word is “fore” but because there was a foursome going to golf, I thought it might be a clever play on words. 🙂

    AJ, I’m glad you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and I’m glad to hear you will stick with it. I have a friend who has asked exactly the same questions. I am going to go find what I have already written adn share that, FWIW. 🙂

  23. 24 Eric Nielson September 13, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    The FORE was a ‘play’ of sorts. With bringing up anit-Mormon literature I did not necessarily know where this would lead. Thus FORE! As in look out. I have yelled it many times on a course, but never spelled it. Of course spell check would not catch it.

  24. 25 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 13, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    Hey, AJ, just wanted you to know that the delay is not for lack of desire…I just got a new computer and have to figure out how to get my files transferred so I can email, etc…will get to it as soon as I can (ditto for my post I mentioned…haven’t had much time the past couple of days at the ‘puter).

  25. 26 Wade September 13, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    haven’t had much time the past couple of days at the ‘puter

    This may be a blessing! This whole blogging thing is getting close to an addiction for me lately. M&M, don’t worry or feel stressed about posting; we know you’ve got some good stuff up your sleeve! 😉

  26. 27 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 14, 2006 at 12:03 am

    This whole blogging thing is getting close to an addiction for me lately.

    Yeah, well, I doubt there is a blogger in the world who hasn’t experienced that. 🙂

  27. 28 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 14, 2006 at 1:46 am

    AJ,
    Someone recommended J. Stapley’s post on doctrine. I actually think that probably isn’t best explanation of doctrine (I actually disagreed with more than one point in his post…not that you have to believe me, either, but keep reading). He actually suggests something that contradicts what we have been taught by our leaders. I made the following comment over there, for what it is worth….


    I also think you may be conflating doctrine at some level with practices and policies…. We’ve actually been told that doctrine doesn’t change. Consider the following:

    “Changes in organization or procedures are a testimony that revelation is ongoing. While doctrines remain fixed, the methods or procedures do not….

    “There will be changes made in the future as in the past. Whether the Brethren make changes or resist them depends entirely upon the instructions they receive through the channels of revelation which were established in the beginning.

    “The doctrines will remain fixed, eternal; the organization, programs, and procedures will be altered as directed by Him whose church this is.”

    Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 14

    There are principles of the gospel underlying every phase of Church administration. These are not explained in the handbooks. They are found in the scriptures. They are the substance of and the purpose for the revelations.

    “Procedures, programs, the administrative policies, even some patterns of organization are subject to change. We are quite free, indeed, quite obliged to alter them from time to time. But the principles, the doctrines, never change.

    “If you over-emphasize programs and procedures that can change, and will change, and must change, and do not understand the fundamental principles of the gospel, which never change, you can be misled.

    “Now, listen carefully. I do not imply that you should ignore the handbooks or manuals, not for one minute would I say that. What I do say is this: there is a spiritual ingredient not found in handbooks that you must include in your ministry if you are to please the Lord.”

    Boyd K. Packer, “Principles,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, 6

    That doesn’t mean we always get the fulness of every doctrine. As someone said above in another comment, God gives us what we are ready for. But I think some of what you are struggling with is changing policies and procedures. And if you look at the Bible alone, you will see that that kind of thing happened quite a bit. The children of Israel had the higher priesthood and then lost it. The law of Moses was then the law until it was fulfilled. (Think of how hard that really must have been to have the whole structure of everything change so drastically when the Savior came! If we hold too tightly to thinking things should always be the same, we could fall into the same trap as the Pharisees did. Continuing revelation can be hard for the anti-change parts of ourselves. But it helps to realize that, in the end, the doctrines were still the same — from the time of Adam to our day, the structures and specifics with the fulness of the gospel and the Church are to point to Christ, to help us exercise our agency in a way that will open up the blessings of the Atonement in our lives.) The gospel started out only to Jews and then was extended to the Gentiles. Etc.

    I hope the above paragraph might at least partially address your question that “If God is the all powerful being we all know He should be, then why hasn’t His will continued through the years as absolute?” His will and purpose has never changed…that is to bring people to Christ and to give His children all that they can bear toward that end. The means that He has used to help and test obedience and faith along the way with that ultimate goal in mind (with His purpose of our immortality and eternal life) has changed. But that ultimate will of His to fulfill His work and glory has never changed.

    One last thought for the night…as I read some of your questions, I had the phrase “wheat and tares” going through my mind. Part of God’s plan includes agency, and He will allow social forces to play out in the midst of His kingdom. Not that those forces are “in charge” (God is always in charge!!) but we must learn to live in the world and not be of the world. And that all comes into play in God’s big picture (someone talked about that above, I believe). If you look at where we are on some key social issues, we sure aren’t budging there. And our leaders have said we simply can’t.

    God has reserved the right to give and take away commandments, but I think Pres. Packer gives us some excellent guidance. If we are defining as doctrine something that has changed along the way, then perhaps it wasn’t a doctrine at all….

    So, you ask: “Why does it seem He changes His mind about original and key church doctrines in order to adapt to man’s laws?” I would respond with: Are you sure what you are thinking about were “key doctrines”? For example, plural marriage in and of itself is not 1) originaly and 2) a doctrine that was universally applicable, and 3) hasn’t been consistently taught or lived by all through the dispensations of the gospel. It’s clearly not been allowed during certain times (like ours). I think the doctrine really is summed up in Jacob 2: 30: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things [that they should have one wife].” The doctrine is thus based in God’s ability to command that practice in particular circumstances as He sees fit (as happened in the Bible as well), not as a universal principle upon which all Church decisions and practices rest. It makes no sense to think that plural marriage is a requirement for celestial glory because even when it was practiced, it wasn’t practiced by everyone. (But the acceptance of the principleat the time, which meant acceptance of the prophet at the time might very well have had an impact on their eternal welfare! We don’t have the same expectation on our heads. We shouldn’t be wanting more than one spouse, because the law we are under is different. 🙂 ) Laws can change. That doesn’t means doctrines have or do, at least if we look at what Pres. Packer teaches. With all due respect to J., I will take Pres. Packer’s word on things. 🙂

    OK, I need to get to bed. Sorry for the long comment. I am glad you are here sharing, AJ, and I hope that perhaps something that is said here might be helpful. Indeed, don’t give up! 🙂

    And I wanted to say that I really appreciate your way of expressing yourself, AJ. Thanks for being gracious as you share your thoughts and concerns and questions. I feel a sense of goodness and kindness here as we all discuss. I hope I haven’t said anything that distracts from that! 🙂

  28. 30 mullingandmusing (m&m) September 15, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Hey, AJ, are you still here? Hope my long message didn’t scare you away…. 😉


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