Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Promoting faith

"As the Information Age is now upon us, we feel with all of this information out there, we owe it, particularly to the rising generation, to provide good, reliable information." That's from Steven Snow, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy (just below the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and spokesman for the Church on this particular occasion, saying that if it weren't for the Internet the Church would happily keep ugly information about the Church away from its members, especially the youth. It's time to start telling the whole story. Or at least enough of it to keep doubters doubting their doubts and not their faith.

"We have understandably in the past not spent a lot of time worrying about these issues because our mission is to promote faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," says Snow. Is it really that understandable, Steve? I'm not sure I personally understand it. I think my understanding for why the Church has been leaving all the juicy parts of it's history locked up in the First Presidency vault leans more in the direction of "holy shit, the leaders of the Church KNOW this whole thing's a giant clusterfuck of half-truths and total lies and they don't want to blow their cover!"

Members who don't want to consider the possibility that the Church has - since its inception - dealt dishonestly with its members and the world might come up with an accusatory comment like the following:

"You've seriously been to church every Sunday your whole life and never knew about this stuff? Come on! That doesn't make sense! The Church published an article back before you were born that mentions some of this in a footnote, AND an apostle brought it up in a stake conference a couple of decades ago. None of this should be a surprise!"

That makes perfect sense, right? We should all be responsible for finding and reading every Church publication and devoting all contents to memory, shouldn't we? What? Who cares if it's all in English? Members in non-English-speaking parts of the world should be learning English from the missionaries anyway! What? I don't care if they don't have constant access to and unlimited time to spend on the Internet! It's members' fault that they don't know this stuff! It's their fault they don't have a good enough understanding of the Gospel! It's their fault their testimonies can't handle a couple of bumps in the road!

Let's turn to Steven Hassan for some interesting considerations of what the Church has been up to. He points out that an organization is guilty of using deception when it (a) deliberately holds back information [that isn't "faith promoting"], (b) distorts the information to make it acceptable [as in the case of Joseph Smith practicing "magic"], or (c) lies outright [like claiming polygamy started in the early 1840s]. But that's only the beginning of the kinds of deception Hassan lists. When information originating from outside the organization is minimized or discouraged (as it is in the Church), when there are distinctions between insider and outsider doctrines [e.g. the temple] and leaders who control all the information are the ones deciding "who 'needs to know' what" (as has been and still is the case with the Church), and when the organization floods its members with propaganda (Ensign, Liahona, New Era, The Friend, Deseret News, I Am a Mormon, Church movies, etc.) you just might be in a cult.

I know Mormons hate being compared to a cult. They absolutely hate it. Mormons don't have to get permission from their bishops to make decisions about things like how to spend their money and where/if to send their kids to school. They can read and watch whatever they want without reporting it to their higher ups. Mormons are free to do what they want. And, no, the stake president isn't demanding members give up their daughters for polygamous marriages! How can anyone dare compare Mormonism to a cult?

We're not a cult! We're just okay wearing Church-prescribed blinders and having the wool pulled over our eyes. That's all.

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