Who’s on The Lord’s Side: The Good, The Bad and The Dissenters?
Doesn’t that make them apostates?
Aren’t apostates of the devil?
Doesn’t that mean that dissenters=apostates=devil=evil
Dissenters are evil?
Shouldn’t we despise and shun them?
“The most frequent causes of apostasy are failure to maintain strict standards of morality, taking personal offense (real or perceived), marrying someone who is of another faith or who is irreligious, neglecting to pray and maintain spirituality, or misunderstanding of the teachings of the Church.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU
4. Do not contend or debate over points of doctrine. The Master warned that “the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.” (3 Ne. 11:29.) We are inconsistent if we resort to Satanic tactics in attempting to achieve righteous ends. Such inconsistency results only in frustration, loss of the Spirit, and ultimate defeat. Remember, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege.” (Eleventh Article of Faith.) – Carlos E. Asay, “Opposition to the Work of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 67
All dissenters from the true church of God are sinners
According to our modern dictionaries, a dissenter is “one that dissents”, and since we know what it means to religiously dissent, that means that a religious dissenter is one that does not religiously conform. But in the time of Joseph Smith, a dissenter was “one who separates from the service and worship of any established church.” Doctrine Against Dissent
Actually, I support the position taken by George Q. Cannon in 1869:
“A friend came to us this morning to question us respecting our reviews concerning apostasy. He wished to know whether we had said that we considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the authorities of the Church apostasy, as he said, we had been credited with having made a statement to that effect.
We replied that we have not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the authorities constituted apostasy; for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.
We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, can be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern His Church”
We fully ought to expect the leadership of the Church to do its job regarding the integrity of the Church as described by George Q. Cannon. But having said that, nowhere, however, in those remarks is there any precedent in terms of using disfellowshipment/excommunication for conformity-enforcement and suppression of dissenting opinions.
Assumptions … assumptions … assumptions.
Wouldn’t it be easier if big-mouths like those of us who dissent with the LDS church would admit that we get up every morning and ask ourselves what can we do this day to attack the church and do the devil’s work?
Would that not relieve believers from any obligation to trust or refrain from doubting our sincerity?
But such is not the case, at least within my own circle of dissenters.
If in fact dissentersàapostatesàdevilàevil are the bad guys, what should be done about them socially?
Call them names?
Equate doubts and dissent to sinfulness and unworthiness?
Hell, shunning might be the best thing when all is said and done.
Let’s assume they are evil=unworthy.
Better yet, let’s doubt their sincerity. After all, what about the Mormon way of life? What about the – you know – the one true way to see everything?
Isn’t that kind of the Church-approved way to see … to be?
Some time after my father passed away from alcoholism I received a letter from a brother from my childhood community; someone I had always admired and whom I had not seen nor spoken with in almost 30 years. His was a well-intended and loving letter of condolence over the loss of my father.
Apparently unable to limit his letter to love, condolence and good wishes, he also talked about my father’s life and quoted the following:
· Alma 12:6 And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity.
Can we just talk?
For most Mormons perceptually there is no difference between the Church and the Religion.
A famous exchange between Brigham Young and Bishop Edwin Wooley above reflects that perception in its fullest literalist degree. In essence, most Mormons see Church authority theologically established as the divine will of Jesus Christ over all matters connected to the religion of the culture.
Brigham, from his authoritative position and calling, anticipated that a disagreement with Wooley in which he (Brigham) as President was acting with authority and Wooley as the object of his correction was in error. In beating up Edwin Wooley Brigham thought Wolley might let being offended be a reason to apostatize.
After one of many heated exchanges with Wooley, Brigham told him caustically,
“Well, I suppose you are going to go off and apostatize.”
To which Wooley retorted,
“If this were your church I might, but it’s just as much mine as it is yours.”
I agree with Bishop Wooley and would express similar sentiments … but not about the procedures, actions and conformity-driven churchiness.
Churchiness is not spirituality. I would assert to contemporary LDS leadership and active Latter Day Saints that Mormonism as a religion and way of life is just as much mine as it is yours.
Good, bad or ugly, the Church has it’s own language that I’ll call “Mormonese.”
Lietta and I actually discussed this last week with our home teacher. Church language as in, “we were speaking Mormonese” with our home teacher employs uniquely LDS or religious definitions for common words and phrases that might have definition beyond religion. However, the meanings of these words and phrases gets altered within the context of Mormonese.
Case in point was Lietta objecting to the idea of the Holy Ghost withdrawing from someone out of harmony with the Church. The Home Teacher asserted that she was falsely describing the Holy Ghost as fragile and easily offended, which couldn’t be true because the Holy Ghost is one of the Godhead and would be above fragility.
The truth of the matter is in fact an example of how ideology – religious, political or otherwise – loads the language. In a point of fact, the LDS in a way do describe the Holy Spirit as fragile and easily offended by the rhetoric around the Holy Ghost withdrawing in the presence of personal sin or unworthiness.
Mormonese-loaded-language then allows believers to perceive “dissent” as a negative word or worse, equate dissent with apostasy. Dissenters murmur … rebel … foster contention … and are then categorized by Mormonese definitions, “Of the Devil.”
Non-Mormons normally usually accept dissension as a good thing; healthy even.
But not in the LDS loaded-language reality where folks are excommunicated for encouraging disagreement or beliefs in conflict with the true way of being and believing.
There is also the notion that those who criticize the Church are in reality persecuting the church, which implies that they are truly enemies of the Church, enemies of the truth and enemies of goodness.
Goodness, in Mormonese, is often psychologically equated to conformity and blind adherence to authority. Mormonese includes words and phrases that are loaded with ideas based on judgment and worthiness. In truth, such words and phrases as mental concepts essentially make it impossible to use them without passing judgment in a moral manner on a person or activity.
Who is good?
The righteous, spiritual and worthy … but not the stiff-necked, inactive, immodest or dissenters. Those who “rebel” choose against the commandments. Obviously then the following equation only works inside the context of Mormonese:
Obedience + worthiness = LDS Spirituality (which leads to blessings from a God who is pleased by non-dissenting conformity.)
A reality lost on most members in conversation one with another but not perhaps lost on non-Mormons who don’t speak Mormonese is the idea that believers almost naively gravitate more often to and enjoy the company of more of their own kind who understand this unique language.
One aspect of this unique Mormonese is that during our meetings we are allowed to make offensive and outrageous declarations about other human beings. Within the circled wagons of an LDS Fast and Testimony Meeting, for example, one can naively and aggressively assert pity and smugness in the self-righteous expression of “feeling sorry for those outside the Church who don’t have the truth we have.”
I was sitting next to my (at that time) “investigator” spouse) in an Fast and Testimony meeting the first time the awful offensiveness of that arrogant statement hit home with me.
Critical spiritual thinking
One of the aspects of our theology is our agreement to assume, if you will, command and control of a mortal life – namely, our own. Within the Church we share unfolding interactions with other people who have also assumed command and control of their own lives and according to the theology have come to mortality also in our time.
Along with that assumption – and in line with Joseph’s attitude regarding God’s glory (intelligence) and our mortal lives being defined by the need to learn good principles and govern ourselves – is the obtaining of knowledge in a process that includes critical thinking.
It is indisputable that God WANTS that we think critically for ourselves, avoiding any temptation to hand our thinking over to someone else’s magic (particularly magic masquerading as divinely appointed/called authority.)
Were our ability to think critically sufficiently and personally developed to its fullest, that thinking would include awareness (SENSITIVITY-based awareness) of the implications of our convictions. We must acknowledge the impact of how we express our convictions when we refuse to think critically about how others hear the messages we each proclaim.
Is it possible then that dissenters are not Church haters, rebels, apostates or generally evil/mislead/misguided human beings who fall short on the worthiness scale because they disagree with the Church?
Perhaps the better Mormonese phrasing would be to forget about insisting on all the legalistic procedural and faith-enforcing gobbledygook?
Might not honest dissent be honorable, worthy and faith-promoting?
Is that not what it means to worship where, when and how we may?
Can we not then supplicate the prophets, seers and revelators to inquire of the Lord regarding our concerns … and expect them to return and report the response rather than keep quiet and non-communicative? Would that not go a long way toward avoiding harm to the Church by responding in some other form than that which encourages hostile relationships in communities and families?
When Joseph was in Liberty Jail – anguished, suffering and in need of comfort – God was not silent, non-communicative and overly worried about conformity or Joseph’s potential for apostasy.
The Lord responded with Section 122 which included this wonderful passage:
2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
3 And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.