Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Freedom, God, and Man

Freedom, God, and Man

In other articles I have pointed out the long-term theological dangers of the true gospel and church establishing too cozy of a relationship with the political powers that be. There is almost always some kind of "state religion" in place, whether recognized or not, which has as its very purpose and goal the dismantling or co-opting of any competing ideology, specifically that of the Christian church, and that dismantling and skewing of the Christian church can be both subtle and powerful. A further difficulty arises when one group of Christians has fully accepted and absorbed the most important anti-freedom aspect of that political state religion, and then goes on the offensive, on behalf of the state religion, to mock and malign those remaining Christians who have not yet fully incorporated the aspects of the state religion that seek to belittle men in a theological framework to make them more pliable and obedient to the political powers that seek to control and exploit them, in other words, to take away their freedom.

To help illustrate this process of conflict of Christian sects on the issue of the nature of God and man, we should notice that in May 2016, Richard J. Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Theological Seminary, obviously a Protestant institution, published an article entitled "Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy" in First Things, an influential print and online journal of religion and public life.1 This article apparently caused quite a stir at the time, and it was fairly easy to find two articles which seek to rebut his claims in great detail.2 There are likely to be many verbal and written responses to his article, and there is apparently quite a long history of related discussion, but these two articles, combined with Mouw's, seem to cover the logical territory quite well.

At issue is whether the Mormons still believe and teach the concept encapsulated in Lorenzo Snow's couplet “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”

Mouw asserts that the Mormons are downplaying this old couplet nearly to the point where they don't really accept it anymore. The consequence of that change would be that Mormon theology becomes only marginally different from orthodox Protestant and Catholic theology. Perhaps "helpfully" striving to maintain the greatest possible distinction between orthodox Christianity and the Mormons, so the Mormons can be better vilified, those non-Mormons and perhaps even anti-Mormons writing rebuttals demonstrate that the contents of Lorenzo Snow's couplet are still widely accepted and used by Mormons as a group.

I don't intend to offer an exhaustive study of thought and practice among the Mormon leaders and members on this point, to try to determine the exact practical status of this teaching in the real world of Mormonism, but I do wish to make clear the logical issue itself and the theological consequences to Mormons if Mouw is right or eventually becomes right. As I see it, just being able reasonably and plausibly to call into question the import of Lorenzo Snow's couplet is a major theological setback for Mormons.

As a practical matter, it should raise many questions when we say that we can become as God is, in an exalted state with a continuation of the family and "of the lives," etc., as we do probably every week in various church meetings and publications, and hear continued promises about it, and then to separately hear a message from leaders that might sound something like this:   

But we really have no idea whether this sort of thing has ever happened before in the history of this or any other universe, or whether it is part of the settled gospel or not. In fact, we have no idea where our God came from or how he received his current exalted status. It looks like we may be the first to try this "exalted man" thing, and we have no idea how it is going to turn out. It may work or it may not, but we suggest you act as though it will work out anyway, a kind of very specialized LDS form of Pascal's Wager. It's not something we know enough about to have any significant faith in, but it still sounds like an interesting idea to us, and we hope for the best.

Actually, although we have descriptions of the various heavens in the D&C, we really don't know if that is accurate or not. Maybe the Protestants have the right idea of heaven and man's nature after all. Our heaven might be just a combination of Universalism (universal salvation for all) and the old heaven and hell idea, which at least offers more than one level for heaven.

My logic on this point is that either man is an eternal being granted extreme levels of freedom to learn and form opinions and act on those opinions and suffer or gain the consequences, bad or good, or he is not. If he is not extremely free, then he can never have the experiences and gain the wisdom (often by becoming an expert by first making all the mistakes) so that he can, through that track record, possibly earn the trust of those who hold the power in the heavens so that he can be said to largely "deserve" the powers and responsibilities and opportunities that are held out to be part of the state of exaltation. If he is not eternally endowed with that extreme freedom and those extreme opportunities, and instead is something much less, then the gospel of Christ is essentially meaningless and pointless, and the concepts of justice and mercy are also meaningless, and the whole complicated gospel theological superstructure collapses down to standard Protestantism.

Most man-made religions assert that man is a creation of God, so that man is inherently much less than God and is subject to every imaginable whim of God in that creation ex nihilo process, and any kind of limitations may apply. This is a very handy teaching for man-made religions, which I call "warlord religions," because it tells men, millions of times over, during their often miserable lives, that they are meaningless in the universe, to God and to earthly leaders, and so any earthly leader, naturally taking upon himself the title of the Viceroy of God, can abuse or enslave or kill men and it has little or no meaning or consequence since man himself is meaningless. Whether the religion happens to be some form of Calvinism or some form of Buddhism, the result is approximately the same – man is no more important than a grasshopper. The main difference is that with Calvinism, there is only one time through the system before reaching the end, where with Buddhism, an individual may be caught in a nearly endless reincarnation loop before reaching some endpoint.

The atheistic evolutionists say essentially the same thing, but just leave out any mention of a God, meaning man has no divine spark at all, but this is only a minor step down from the theology that man is a nearly meaningless plaything of God. In the atheist view, he just becomes "completely meaningless," instead of being "nearly meaningless." Such teaching, if believed, makes men into better physical and mental slaves, easier to govern and exploit. This, of course, is Satan's ideal world.

Luckily, it seems that most Protestants do not actually believe their own theology, and never have, since they are, and have been, the most consistent advocates of all forms of political freedom, and are responsible for the very existence of freedom in the Western world and especially in the United States. In fact, this makes the Protestants better advocates of the Lorenzo Snow couplet than are the Mormons these days, bringing up the "Are Christians Mormons?" issue examined by David L. Paulsen and others.3 The LDS church headquarters stopped being an advocate of scriptural Christian political freedom at least 80 years ago, so, on that scale, the LDS church is indeed less Christian than the Protestants, and that alone is a huge and nearly dispositive point in favor of Mouw's argument that the Mormons don't actually believe any longer in the idea that a man can and should become a God. They may say that in Sunday school, but they are unwilling to act on it or even mention it in the real world.

If the LDS church, by mistake or indirection or forgetfulness or spur-of-the-moment public relations policy, joins with all man-made religions in making man as small and unimportant and meaningless as possible, and concedes that any heavenly exaltation and power and continuing responsibility is unlikely, or that our likely status in heaven is unknown or ambiguous, then the LDS church will have become one of those thousands of man-made religions and is no longer unique in any meaningful way. The shape of our steeples may be all that is really left to distinguish us from all others.

While, in the moment, it may seem like good public relations or business policy to downplay this potentially unique and politically and religiously irritating feature of LDS theology, which puts men potentially equal with God, it appears that the church leaders actually have no idea of the catastrophic damage they are doing to the entire prophesied gospel mission when they waffle and claim lack of knowledge or understanding of this most important of all issues in LDS theology. The Book of Mormon may be the "keystone of our religion" as far as how the ideal religious teaching process goes, but the real keystone of the actual theology underlying the Book of Mormon is the nature of God and man -- the astounding claim that the two are of the same species and have the same possibilities. Quibbles about how and when to baptize a person pale in comparison.

I believe that Richard Mouw is to be commended for his diligent and objective research in uncovering and highlighting this LDS theological keystone, so to speak. His researches have caused quite a stir, as well they ought to. This is not a small point. Instead, it is the point on which hangs almost the entire uniqueness of the LDS gospel. When we find church leaders avoiding this topic or pretending they don't know anything about it, they are actually saying a great deal more than they probably mean to say. Their efforts at clever public relations tactics designed to smooth over public controversy about unusual LDS theology actually raises very many important questions, although those questions rarely seem to be clearly articulated, and so are left dangling, incompletely addressed.  It is one thing to try not to draw embarrassingly personal attention to an issue such as LDS "magic underwear," but it is quite a different thing to not be sure whether we believe some of our own teachings about the hereafter, which teachings are required in order for our theology concerning heaven to be internally consistent, or to not be sure whether we are orthodox Protestants or not.

Are Mormons Christians (as to their concept of man)?
There is a related line of reasoning we need to understand which involves some serious obfuscation which needs to be clarified. It is common to hear partisan Protestant preachers saying that Mormons are not Christians. Typically I believe that such a claim is quite baffling to most Mormons. We might answer that we certainly believe in Christ, and we even have the name of Christ embedded in the name of our church. But such an answer is really a logical non sequitur, of no help at all to the real debate which is going on. We are arguing past each other and expressing frustration since neither side actually knows what the other is thinking when they make these broad general statements about being or not being Christians.

If the Protestant preacher were attempting to state his claim as clearly as possible, instead of consciously using deception to demean and flummox the uninformed Mormons, he would simply say that the Mormons are not orthodox Protestants. But that is merely an unremarkable truism which would have no anti-Mormon impact in the marketplace of ideas. Of course Mormons are not orthodox Protestants. That is what both sides are saying.

What the preacher is really saying when he argues that Mormons are not Christians is that he is taking at face value our statement that we believe in the Lorenzo Snow couplet which means that we are saying that we believe man is of the same species as God, something which orthodox Christians completely deny. And, conversely, when we insist that we ARE Christians, to the carefully tuned Protestant theological ear we are claiming that we don't believe in the Lorenzo Snow couplet. In other words, we are talking past each other, with usually neither side understanding what the real issue is or even what their own statements mean to the other. Again, Richard Mouw should be applauded for his avoidance of polemics and getting to the heart of the matter. It is not the nature of Christ and our belief in him that we are arguing about, but rather the nature of man.

Grace and works
Having gotten this far into this theological thicket, it seems useful to bring up another related troublesome issue. The theological issue of the effects of grace versus works in the process of achieving salvation is also something which seems to divide the Mormons from the orthodox Protestants, and apparently involves the same kind of confusion about the nature of man and heaven. As I see it, if a person's version of heaven is simply that they will be given a harp to play and a cloud to sit on, then an uncomplicated gift of grace is perfectly adequate. However, if part of being in heaven means that an individual could be given enormous powers and enormous responsibilities, perhaps for the orderly advancement of millions or billions of people as they live out the various segments of their eternal lives, then works could have some real meaning. One does not want to bestow power and responsibility on someone, especially responsibility for other individuals, unless that person is well prepared and has proven himself. For example, a person does not usually advance to become the CEO of a company simply by doing a good job of working on the loading dock for a few decades. A great deal more training and experience and wisdom is expected of someone who has the power to make or break a business organization. Of course, orthodox Protestants do not have to worry about this kind of situation where good works would be required to achieve salvation or exaltation, since they can only imagine their being parked on a cloud somewhere and not interacting with anyone else.

Investing in freedom
Today we sometimes hear the phrase "paying forward" as a means for idealistic persons to take some action now which is considered an investment in a better future for themselves and others. Teaching convincingly about a heaven which involves great personal freedom and responsibility, which is an integral part of the Mormon concept of heaven and exaltation, is made a great deal more difficult to teach and to be understood if no one can find any examples in life, or even in any real-world history, that shows the great benefits of living one's life in freedom and being able to accomplish marvelous things through the use of that freedom. If everyone everywhere is in chains, how do you teach that chains are not the natural condition of man? It could make a Mormon Sunday school (if even permitted in an unfree land) just too theoretical to be accepted as a real possibility. Of course, people will always feel the need for more freedom when they are actually being oppressed, but, apparently, even those longings for freedom can eventually be confused and suppressed if enough propaganda and punishment is applied.

In other words, in order to be able to teach the correct gospel about what heaven is like, and therefore what life should be like here, and the rules we should live by, one should be actually living in a mostly free state, or at least be able to see vivid examples of where freedom is or has been available. The point here is to say that the gospel organization should always be teaching freedom as the first principle of the gospel and of heaven and of life here on earth. To fail to do that puts at risk the ability for anyone and everyone to even understand the gospel and its heaven.

We have the difficult situation today where the leaders of the LDS church decided at least 40 years ago, and perhaps as long as 80 or even 100 years ago, that teaching political freedom would not be part of their curriculum. They have obviously done that to make the church less objectionable to all the approximately 200 Caesar's who rule over the people of the Earth. But, in doing so, they have greatly muddied the content of the gospel while also making it much harder to teach in its clarity and fullness.

As it is, today's church leaders happily benefit from using all the advantages of being an American church and operating from an American base, which, at least at the moment, allows a great deal of  political and religious freedom. But they apparently take that freedom as a permanent given, an entitlement, for which they need to offer nothing in return. They apparently see no need to invest in freedom or to "pay it forward" to make sure that they and all others in our nation can maintain that freedom against the constant incursions upon it by the forces of tyranny.

The church leaders often seem to be saying that this is not really an American church, which seems to be code for saying that even though we are from America, we do not actively support traditional American ideas of freedom. At the same time, the church seems to be claiming the right to operate outside the legal ideology and control of the political entity in which its headquarters resides. For example, although the LDS Scriptures incorporate the U.S. Constitution by reference, the church headquarters does not seem to believe that any of those constitutional principles apply to its own operations. It seems at times to pretend to be either multinational or supranational or non-national as far as ideologies and allegiances and political duties are concerned.
But I don't think the church can really fairly and reasonably have it both ways on a long-term basis – exploiting all the advantages of a free America while denigrating the importance of that country and its freedoms and refusing to defend and extend those freedoms internally and externally.

Political freedom is the eternal quest of man, as illustrated by the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, speaking and writing in the context of French society before the French Revolution of 1789. The opening lines of his 1762 book The Social Contract are legendary:

"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his dramatic opening lines to his immensely powerful treatise "The Social Contract," wrote that man was naturally good but becomes corrupted by the pernicious influence of human society and institutions.4

I consider it scandalous that the gospel organization on earth would not take a vigorous role in this greatest and grandest issue of the universe and of all time, the freedom of mankind.


1. Https://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/05/mormons-approaching-orthodoxy.

2. Robert M. Bowman Jr., "Are Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy? A Response to Richard Mouw"

Ronald V. Huggins, "Lorenzo Snow's Couplet: "As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be": No Functioning Place in Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?" A Response to Richard Mouw."

3. David L. Paulsen, "Are Christians Mormon? Reassessing Joseph Smith’s Theology in His Bicentennial," BYU Studies 45, no. 1 (2006). pp 35-128.

David L. Paulsen, Hal R. Boyd, Are Christians Mormon? (Routledge, May, 2017)

4. http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/rousseau/rousseau.html

Can we avoid reliving the original apostasy?

Can we avoid reliving the original apostasy?

Joseph Smith had his first prophetic experience in 1820.  The year 2020 will be the 200th anniversary of that earthshaking event, which anniversary is obviously just three years away. I don't know of anyone who can tell us exactly when the gospel which Christ restored to the earth during his life in Jerusalem ceased to be valid as the true representation of Christ's doctrine.  Perhaps it happened at the 200 year mark. We can be fairly certain that by the time the Emperor Constantine became the effective head of the church just after 300 A.D., a church he had not even been baptized into, the church was quite thoroughly corrupted by that political involvement, as creeds, negotiated to achieve some unity among multiple Christian church factions, were substituted for the simple and unchanging truths of the Scriptures. The Book of Mormon does tell us that 200 years after the coming of Christ in the New World, the church which he established there disintegrated, indicating that restorations tend to have a limited life span.

The question for us today is whether we are following the exact same pattern as the prior two restorations, and whether we should soon expect the church to either fall apart completely or to be co-opted by worldly political or economic forces. The next logical question is how would we know whether we are a significant distance down that path?

In the famous book by James E. Talmage entitled The Great Apostasy, the assumption and assertion seems to be that it was nothing more than the untimely deaths of the early leaders or the personal sins and errors of the later church leaders which caused the priesthood line to be broken. However, there are many other factors which might be considered, such as changes to church doctrine and organization for the convenience of the church leaders, actions taken to centralize everything as part of intentionally building a religious empire, etc., as later reached full flower in the Roman Catholic Church which eventually controlled who could be the kings of Europe.

We hear of Peter being crucified in Rome, but according to Wikipedia, that would have been about 35 years after the death of Christ.  The original church quickly grew to include about 4 to 5 million adherents, making it demographically and politically feasible for Constantine to declare Christianity to be the religion of the Roman Empire, replacing paganism.  The growth rates implied by the size of the church at the 100-year, 200-year, and 300-year marks indicate a growth rate of about 8% to 10% each year.  That suggests that by the time of Peter's death, the church could have reached the size of about 40,000-50,000 members.  Surely that would provide an abundance of experienced men who could take up the role of apostle and carry on the religious tradition.  At that point, the death of one or a few men should really have no effect on the transferability of the gospel and its priesthood authority.  The typical answer to what happened to the church is that "all the original apostles died," but the previous calculation seems to negate such a simple explanation. Obviously, it is a mere truism that all men must die, regardless of what happens to the church. The very fact that the Church continued to grow at the 8% to 10% rate for perhaps 300 years seems to indicate that there were indeed sufficient leaders to facilitate that kind of rapid growth over an extended period.

It thus becomes far more likely that there were other powerful factors operating than simply the possibly premature deaths of the original Twelve. The next most likely factors include some changes in doctrine and organization that completely changed the methods of living, administering, and propagating the gospel.

It appears that it could be as late as 96 A.D. that the Apostle John wrote a letter to seven independent churches in Asia offering evaluations and counsel and advice.  It seems highly likely that at this time, even up to about 63 years after the death of Christ, there WAS no central organization whatsoever for the original church beyond the writings and travels and occasional meetings of the original Twelve and their immediate replacements.  In other words, it is highly likely that these seven churches were completely independent from each other, since communications among them would be quite slow and difficult, a far cry from today's options for instantaneous command-and-control systems.

The idea of sending tithing commodities back and forth among these different independent organizations probably made no more practical and religious charitable sense in a largely non-money barter society than it would have for Abraham to continuously send tithing commodities to Melchizedek, perhaps by pack train, and then expect to get most of those tithing commodities back from Melchizedek to take care of Abraham's own people.  More likely those Asian churches were completely independent from a financial standpoint and from a priesthood administrative standpoint.  They each had their "angels," or leaders, (Rev. 2:1) as the Scriptures say.  Most likely that means that someone such as a local patriarch had the sealing power which would allow all priesthood ordinances necessary for salvation for the living and the dead to be administered at the local level of a "church," perhaps what would be today's equivalent of a stake.

The appearances are that the early church members took the parable of the Good Samaritan as their main guide for church behavior and organization.  If they saw a problem, they immediately used their own resources to solve the problem.  There was no point in sending resources to some central location, only hoping to get some of those resources back much later to solve local problems.  That was simply an unnecessary and wasteful round-trip, and also invited fraud, waste, and abuse at the central site, and would be a continuous temptation towards a "paid ministry," and associated unrighteous dominion for personal profit. There was clearly no central paid ministry in these earliest of times, that being the greatest of the early church's defining success factors.

A vigorous Good Samaritan/Golden Rule attitude among the saints could easily explain the great popularity of the gospel and its associated members, resulting in its rapid and continuous growth. A local tradition of members helping members and others in need would amount to a very valuable social insurance function, something which was sorely lacking then, as it is in so many places today. This spontaneous gospel-based behavior would have been a very efficient use of resources available to members. There would have been no wasteful taxes, no huge administrative overhead, no monthly fees, and no regulatory burden as is typical of highly bureaucratized government-style welfare systems.

As to other administrative activity, the Scriptures tell us about one important meeting by the apostles and others in Jerusalem concerning taking the gospel to the Gentiles. That meeting could have included all the apostles, Acts 15:6, but otherwise it appears that nearly all the information we have about the administrative activities of the apostles are the instructions and exhortations contained in the 14 epistles of Paul (including Hebrews), 3 epistles by John, 2 by Peter, 1 by James, and 1 by Jude. In general, we seem left to assume that the Twelve operated much as a Methodist circuit rider who might have visited various outpost communities on the American frontier.

The turning point
The theory I want to present is that as soon as one leader in one city decided he was more important than any others and demanded control of resources from other areas and pulled back priesthood authorization to offer all priesthood ordinances locally for free, it was at that point that the original church became corrupted and ceased to function at the extremely high level of effectiveness that it had before. There may have been other elements of elitism that crept into the church over time, creating a two-class system, something to watch out for today. The scriptural phrase "freely ye have received, freely give," (Matt. 10:8) quite likely refers to administering all priesthood ordinances for free, without demanding in any way, direct, or indirect, the payment of money to receive those priesthood ordinances. This is still the meaning of charitable service.

The Law of Moses was terminated by Christ, making every man his own priest and ending the need for a tribe of professional priests. The Law of Moses included the concept of tithing, which was defined at that time as having the 11 tribes send 10% of the foodstuffs they produced to the Levites for their living maintenance, and the Levites would in turn send 10% of that 10% on to the central temple for sustaining the professional priests there.  In other words, the original tithing system allowed for about 1% of only a subset of the produce of the Israelite tribes to go to a central site.

It appears that under today's rules of sending a full 10% to the central church government, that goes far beyond anything that was operating under the original Law of Moses system, which itself was thought to be far too constraining and burdensome. Today's policies impinge greatly on the religious freedom of the members, especially concerning their charitable acts.

Perhaps most important of all is that members today can plausibly say that they have "paid at the office" by sending their 10% to Salt Lake City, and can legitimately feel that is the end of their charitable duty at home.  They have delegated their charity duties and their charity resources to Salt Lake City, and if they do very little extra charity at the local level, that would be perfectly justified. What practical sense does it make to have someone send all their charity money to Salt Lake where it may just disappear without accounting to the members, and then have to pay all their charity money again to take care of the actual local matters that need attention? Personal effort and administration, combined with personal resources, carefully used, can probably be easily 10 times more effective than any centralized government-style welfare operation. We say that personal examples of living the gospel are very powerful and convincing, but our current system minimizes the possible impact of personal examples by constraining close individual behavior in favor of remote institutional behavior, which tends to be a much blunter instrument.

Most countries in the history of the world have operated very successfully on about 5% or less of the resources of their citizens. But today local governments spend about 10% of GDP, state governments spend about 9% of GDP, the federal government spends about 21% of GDP, and the church has become just another layer of government, taking its 10%, for a staggering total of 50% of GDP for members. Those many governmental units, each and every one, are all supposed to be solving all of our social insurance problems for us, but none of them do, even with all their vast tax income.

I don't know that any of these governmental systems can be justified on any religious basis although they have explicitly claimed to have taken over all important religious charitable functions but perform those functions extremely inefficiently.  And the highly centralized church, with its 10% now, as opposed to its 1% before, seems to be on shaky doctrinal and social theory grounds.

There were numerous doctrinal changes that were required to override the teachings of the Savior which demanded that neither he nor any of his disciples receive any income as a matter of religious right from anyone.  Christ took great pains, both during his temptations, and thereafter, to make sure that he never claimed any power or authority or money from anyone.  He certainly did not build any kind of a bureaucracy -- military, civil, economic, or religious. It is interesting that James E. Talmage, in his other well-known book Jesus the Christ, omits any discussion of Christ's many statements on this point of avoiding any financial claims on members or engaging in any empire-building. Christ's kingdom was truly not of this world, and even Pilate believed him, where Pilate was paid to be suspicious of people's empire-building motives. Could the central church today say that its extensive kingdom is not of this world, and do so with a straight face and a clear conscience?

It seems likely that, rather than merely individual sins and errors, the great overriding deviation of the church in Rome was to claim money from the members as a matter of right, as did Caesar, as opposed to simply receiving gifts as a matter of charity.  It is interesting to see that the Catholic Church still has explicit political agreements, called concordats, to receive tax monies from some European governments. Other countries supply tax monies without such concordats. See "church_tax" in Wikipedia. Also, it is reported that, according to a German bishop's 2012 decree, "Germany's Roman Catholics are to be denied the right to Holy Communion or religious burial if they stop paying a special church tax." This amounts to excommunication, but without using the "E" word, presumably to allow an easier return to the fold. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-19699581

In summary, it appears that the Church today is following the exact path of the early Church which led to such a grand failure as it prostituted its religious legitimacy to support a corrupt political government.  The church today is claiming tithing as a matter of right from its members, without which it will not certify that members are in good standing with the church, and that their priesthood blessings are current with the Lord. However one chooses to describe the situation, that amounts to charging money for the receipt of the highest priesthood blessings.  There is no practical conceptual difference between this and the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church to receive and maintain salvation.

We might also notice that the church growth rates today are immensely smaller than occurred just after the life of Christ. Something critical has been lost. Those 8% to 10% growth rates are now in the range of 0.2%, 1%, or 2%, based on the assumptions used.  I believe the 0.2% growth rate is most accurate and illustrative, since it only counts those who become long-term members and who will continue to advance the cause, not those that come and go quickly.

It appears that we are far down the same path taken by the early church toward the inefficient centralized administration of everything and we should expect the same eventual result. Obviously, the early church had to itself become thoroughly centralized before it could be taken over by the Emperor in one easy step, thus adding it as one of his many levers of concentrated power over his citizens. If the church had consisted of perhaps 3,000 separate independent units scattered throughout the known world and beyond, as today, that joinder would probably never have been attempted, and the church would have remained "not of this world" in that important sense, and perhaps could have remained uncorrupted by politics for millennia.

We might even say that the church's being accepted as a legitimate competitor for tax monies, collected worldwide, like any other worldly government, is the beginning of its downfall. That essentially makes it a government supported church, because it is at least using governmental methods to collect that support. If there is no conflict or friction at all with worldly governments, Satan's preferred realm, then we should be suspicious that the true gospel has been damaged or lost. Additionally, the church is essentially asserting today that without an international banking system available to all potential members, linking them to Salt Lake City, no one can fully live the gospel or be saved.

Verifying the theory
I believe there is at least one important issue we could directly verify today without having to rely on medieval church history to confirm speculations about the earliest administrative methods, especially since the necessary detailed early church history may or may not have been preserved in a form we could use for that purpose. A simple "pilot program" of letting the Saints today spend nearly all their charitable money on local charity opportunities might quickly verify how well such a system works, and could demonstrate that the early Saints likely used such a system to achieve their great success, partly out of the near practical impossibility then of doing it any other way.

In fact, we have already given this system of tithing administration a good try and it came through with flying colors, doing as well as in the early years after Christ. The tithing system we have today was not even begun until about 1896 under Wilford Woodruff and only became full-blown in about 1960. The growth rates were just as good or even better under the administrations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as they were in the early church. A large gathering of members in the United States in the 30,000 range was given a huge boost by the 90,000 members who came from Europe during that same time period under those policies. They seem to have offered their lives instead of just their tithing.

Some more recent statistical data seem to verify the other side of the basic assertion that there is an inverse relationship between church headquarters income, size, and levels of worldwide control, as compared with church growth rates. Today's tithing policy was apparently finally put in place about 1960, and the growth numbers show a peak growth rate of 7.79% in 1962 with growth rates continuously declining ever since until we have reached the very low level today of 2% using comparable computation methods (actually 0.2% using more plausible assumptions). And this occurred in spite of innovations such as sending out more missionaries at a younger age. That may or may not be considered a statistically provable correlation, but it seems pretty instructive and convincing to me.

The church headquarters probably already has more recent data which would verify the same assertion, although the data may never have been examined with this question in mind. It is likely that imposing the "all tithing/charitable contributions first go to Salt Lake City" policy on all members worldwide, including those newest areas in countries around the world where the church may spontaneously spring up on its own because of information gained over the Internet, even before missionaries are sent there, may prove to be a great constraint and disincentive to the church's taking root in those places. This is likely to be especially true in the more remote and less affluent places where the gospel might otherwise be expected to be very much needed and very well received.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mormon Studies Issues

Mormon Studies Issues

1. Website goals
2. How to use this website
3. Mormonism Isn't What It Used to Be: What Does the Term "Mormon Studies" Mean at Your Institution?
4. A Practical Prophet: The LDS Church and O'Sullivan's Law

Website goals
I have hopes that my research work will become valuable to many different groups of people with many different agendas:

To the apologists for the church, I hope to show them the topics to carefully stay away from, since telling the full Scriptural truth would amount to an indictment of the current church organization they wish to defend, or at least could sow confusion among the ranks because of the inherent conflicts.

To the church's competitors in the world of religion, this should demonstrate some of the great weaknesses which the LDS Church has made itself subject to, and which they have made themselves subject to by adopting without question the 2000 year old Christian history that came to us through the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant groups which broke off from it.  If they wish, these non-LDS groups might be able to do a better job of establishing the truth than the LDS Church itself.

To the disgruntled and disaffected LDS Church members or past members, this could provide explanations for their negative feelings about the church as it stands today, and if their feelings are strong enough, they might become a force for reform.  As it is, many people seem to think that the only two choices they have is to stay inside a church which makes them uncomfortable on many different points, versus simply leaving the church, either virtually or actually. Armed with the right information, a third alternative might come to mind which is instead of joining all the leftist forces which continue to pull the church towards the world and Satan's ideologies and practices, they can become a force for encouraging a retrenchment of the church and its teachings and policies back to where it was about 120 years ago.  Pushing that huge reset button just might be enough to get the church back on track and keep it there for the next 200 years.

How to use this website
I am using this website to present my research efforts and thoughts on the large questions of what might be wrong with the church these days and what could be done to fix it.  At the bottom of the last entry in this series of entries is a link to a book-length work which is stored online on Dropbox.  This site is used as a place to add introductions to that book and to add additional material as it comes to mind.  Eventually, the goal is to present in one well-edited book all the information which is on this website or is linked to from this website.  But that could be a years-long process, and in these days of electronic publishing, there is no particular reason to keep the interim forms of the material out of sight until the grand finale when the finished and polished book is published.

I can't imagine that I could ever receive a substantial amount of money through selling such a future book, so there is no obvious reason to keep its contents secret while seeking out a publisher.  I assume that the only value to anyone in the world will be in making known the religious problems I see and describing some of the potential solutions. The potential value to the world in getting this right could be measured in tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars, but it is hard to imagine how any of that money might flow to me.  It is far more likely that this will end up costing me a ridiculous amount of time and money and effort, and that significant grief will be my main reward.  Nonetheless, somebody needs to do this thankless job. I hope to get some feedback from other people who examine these materials which will allow me to improve it and extend it.

Mormonism Isn't What It Used to Be: What Does the Term "Mormon Studies" Mean at Your Institution?
I am hoping that some of the many Mormon studies programs, typically at universities, or organizations associated with universities, would be interested in the research I have done on "Mormonism Isn't What It Used to Be."

As a church member myself, my personal goal is to find a way to repair a badly damaged Mormonism, but in order to do that, one needs to point out all the major problems so that solutions can be found.

There might be a few organizations who study Mormonism from an insider's view point, but even of that number I know of none of them who are trying to reset the doctrinal and policy trip meter back to where it was 120 years ago.

Like a car that needs some major maintenance at the 100,000 mile mark, I see the LDS Church as being in need of some major maintenance at its 200-year mark.  The last two restorations, done by Christ himself, once in Jerusalem and once in the New World, both disintegrated after about 200 years, and there is every reason to expect that Mormonism will do the same thing in our own time, unless something very significant is done to arrest its deterioration. Its enemies might rejoice, but its friends will not be happy.  I prefer to see it stay around intact.

Here are a few of the possible goals of any particular Mormon Studies program:

A Mormonism repair effort -- I know of no group or organization with this goal other than myself.

Apologetics -- These are the people that defend the church as an organization, regardless of whether it happens to be right or wrong on the Scriptures.  Their theme is "my church, right or wrong." Finding conflicts between the scriptures and the current church position could prove embarrassing.

Opposition research -- I assume there are several academic or religious organizations who study the church to point out its flaws and shortcomings so that their own members or any innocent bystanders will not be drawn to it in any way.

A social studies emphasis -- the various migrations and transformations of LDS Church members over the past 200 years probably offer some more general insights that might be applicable to other groups. But the effects of the changing content of theology on those social movements would likely be greatly downplayed.

A comparative theology emphasis -- the Mormons have discussed some interesting theological positions and insights over the last two centuries.  One careful researcher has asked the question "Are Christians Mormon?" and offers some evidence that other churches have gradually adopted some Mormon theological positions. One person who is alleged to have met that fate is Richard Mouw, past president of Fuller Theological Seminary. (See "Richard Mouw Gets Mauled by Mormonism" http://www.christianpost.com/news/richard-mouw-gets-mauled-by-mormonism-161977/)

A Practical Prophet: The LDS Church and O'Sullivan's Law
It is unfortunate and strange that an astute human philosopher with the highest personal integrity should be a better prophet on at least one very important topic with a crucial effect on true religion than are the fully authorized living prophets.  John Sullivan is a British journalist and political columnist and adviser who proposed a law of society and politics concerning the changing of ideologies over extended time periods.

The statement of his law which is likely to be closest to the original comes from Wikipedia:
"All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing." 

As slightly restated at UrbanDictionary.com the law becomes:
"Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left-wing over time." 

Paraphrasing that slightly for my purposes, I will adjust the law to read as:
"Any politically conservative organization will eventually become controlled by liberal ideology unless it always has an active program to avoid that very result."

The full entry from UrbanDictionary.com reads as follows:

O’Sullivan’s Law
O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.

Television shows are the best examples of this [:] 24, House. Charitable foundations are worse but harder to see.  [The TV show "24," meaning 24-hours, usually deals with tense terrorist situations. The TV show "House" deals situations in hospitals that can often be quite tense and exciting. Presumably they are good indicators of shifts in ideologies simply because they have weekly episodes, and the lifespans of the episodes and series are measured in months or years, not decades or centuries.]

One of the reasons for this is leftist intolerance versus right-wing tolerance. Right wingers are willing to hire openly left-wing employees in the interest of fairness. Left-wingers, utterly intolerant, will not allow a non-Liberal near them, and will harass them at every opportunity. The result over time is that conservative enterprises are infiltrated by leftists but leftist enterprises remain the same or get worse.

Also, leftism is in and of itself a form of decay. It’s what happens not just to television shows but to nations, churches and universities as the energy given off by the big bang of their inception slowly ebbs away. Rather than expend vitality in originality and creation they become obsessed with introspection, popularity and lethargy. Leftism is entropy of the spirit and intellect.

Another reason is that the parasitic nature of Liberals/Leftists attracts them to existing money.

An enterprise can stave off O'Sullivan's Law if their creators keep it in mind and remain vigilant and truthful.

O'Sullivan's Law hit 24 when they finally had a Muslim villain then started running disclaimers that Muslims aren't all terrorists.

The Annenberg Foundation was started by a Republican but it didn't take long before O'Sullivan's Law had them handing a [out?] domestic terrorist money for educating kids.

The ACLU, the Ford Foundation and the Episcopal Church all fell to O’Sullivan’s Law.

The law likely expects that a series of leaders and members will be active over a period of at least decades, and perhaps centuries, who pick up where the organization is at any particular time of a personnel change, and each has the opportunity to continue the gradual downhill trend through a series of small evolutionary steps, so it may be that none of them feel they need to accept full blame for the continual slide, although all are in fact responsible for the accumulated changes. 

I am suggesting that this process might be a little bit like a boat on a very large ocean where there is no land in sight and the very curvature of the Earth means that no one on the boat can see any other boats or any land, either to the rear, or straight ahead, or to the sides.  All one can see as water, and there are no fixed reference points, and without the sun in the daytime and the stars and the moon at night, there would be no reference points whatever to keep a boat on a straight course.  Tiny deviations in the use of the rudder or changes in the wind might have the boat veering off to the left or to the right or even going in circles.

Calculation: The curvature of the Earth is about 8 inches per mile.  So, for example, to a man whose eyes were about 6 feet above the water, a 30 foot high boat would be invisible, below the horizon, at a distance of just 22.5 miles.  A pirate ship could be only an hour or two's distance from its prey, and the prey would be unaware of its danger. Land might be easier to find where a 1000 foot mountain would just begin to be visible at a distance of 750 miles.

In the case of very general principles such as the concept of individual freedom and the application of the Golden rule, sincere men could disagree enough so that the "old ship Zion" might follow quite an erratic path over a long time period, and almost no one would have the awareness or the ability to keep it on a rigidly straight path.

This is Satan's world.  It should be no surprise that his constant negative pressure will have strong effects over time, regardless of the good intentions of good men, especially if they tend to rely on their own wisdom more than on the wisdom of heaven. Instead of imagining ourselves to be clever enough to be able to strike out on our own with confidence in matters of doctrine and policy, we should realize that Satan is has far more knowledge than all of us put together and will exploit every chink in our armor or logic. I don't sense nearly enough humility, or fear and trembling, emanating from Salt Lake City.

The Scriptures and the church have much to say in very general terms about the turmoil of the last days, the millennium, and other such apocalyptic matters, so it is strange to see that there is no apparent system for keeping the gospel strictly on course, and no detailed warnings about the problems that will arise if it is not kept strictly on course, complete with suggested preventive procedures.  This seems like such an obvious oversight that one might wonder if that very warning or procedure is the first thing to be deleted from the Scriptures and from the minds of the self-interested governing bodies that tend to quickly arise.  Prophecies about the behavior of prophets ought to be at the top of the list of Scriptural content.  But, apparently it does not, and so we continually suffer the logical consequences.

The process of "correlation" seems to be an effort to simplify and standardize and homogenize the truth, rather than acting aggressively to keep it from changing in any way.  The correlation process itself will almost certainly introduce doctrinal and practical errors, simply because it is explicitly trying to make the gospel more compatible with the world and to meet the administrative convenience of the church's governing bodies. Simply the process of trying to stay on good terms with every other political or economic governing body on the planet has to mean that the gospel is gradually and continually moved closer to the places where Satan has more nearly complete control.