So, according to Ezra Taft Benson…

I don’t have a Benson quote for this post (although I did read Beware of Pride this morning and felt a bit like I do when I read Alma 5 (chastened)). Instead I have a concern regarding the usefulness of past prophets?

Why do we feel like we can set aside the counsel of past prophets? Admittedly, we don’t ususally look at things this way, but we tend to get so caught up in the interests/inspired counsel of the current prophet that we just don’t seem to ponder the former prophets like we used to.

Does continuing revelation make us a denomination that will forever be living in the now? Possibly.

And please, don’t talk to me about the “Presidents of the Church” manuals. I appreciate them (heck, I may actually love the things)). But the powers that be have sifted through all the prophetic material in order to find the stuff that the current president (and the guy in charge) think is important. I don’t think that we are always getting a representative sample of the actual concerns of the past president (which is fine, we shouldn’t necessarily expect the beliefs and problems of 40 to 150 years ago to match ours).

So, we get the following: President Benson’s concerns were (perhaps) inspired by a much more literal reading of the Bible than President Hinckley’s. President Benson’s rhetoric is therefore much more millenarian thatn President Hinckley’s. President Hinckley never explicitly says (nor implicitely implies) that President Benson was a wacko John Bircher (at least on the millenarian front). Yet, because President Hinckley’s emphases are elsewhere, we feel like we can safely ignore what President Benson had to say (or, at least, set it aside). So, we’re no longer millenarian (also, there’s the cold war thing).

Is this a fair description of the process? Is this appropriate? If not, what can we do about it?

The philosophies of men…

Is there anything we do in an average Block meeting that isn’t to some degree the spreading of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture? (Certainly that is what we are engaged in here on the ‘nacle).

I think that the sacrament doesn’t fit this category and in many cases prayer doesn’t either. Is there anything else?

Should something be done about this? If so, what could be done about this? Also, is this why people say that the sacrament is the real reason why me meet on Sunday?

The slow, lingering death of modern millenarianism [edited]

Is millenarianism dying the slow death in LDS culture? Jeff’s comment here stung me a bit, because I thought that I was just as millenarian as the next end-of-time freak. I admit to taking both a literal and an abstract approach to the Second Coming in part because, rhetoric aside, I am not terribly convinced that the end is all that near. But then, I read quotes like the following (from Pres. Benson, natch):

I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. But God will provide strength for the righteous and the means of escape; and eventually and finally truth will triumph. (“I Testify“, October Conf, 1988)

Am I just clueless? Am I marrying and giving away in marriage? Is my lamp low on oil? Am I procrastinating the day of my (food storing/72-hour kit preparing/gold hoarding) until it is everlastingly too late?

Does it seem like the the Brethren have given up on this front? Sure there are usually one or two talks in conference that reference the Second Coming, but it sure seems like there was more emphasis back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Which brings me to my point: was modern millenarianism an LDS (or generally Christian) way of dealing with the Cold War? I am not saying that the Second Coming ain’t coming, but rather did the ratcheting up of political tension during the Cold War lead us to believe it was coming sooner rather than later. Hence the urgency that we had then, as opposed to the lack thereof today.

Would this explain why it doesn’t seem so important today, in spite of the popularity of Left Behind and such?

Or is this merely a matter of us having been duped into complacency by the International Jewish Conspiracy?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an American Religion

There has been some discussion of late, prompted by Douglas Davies’s paper at the Joseph Smith Conference, regarding the status of the church as a world religion. On my mission, one of the common detractions potential investigators would make was that revolved around the idea that Mormonism is an “American” religion. In other words, Russians ought to believe in Russian religion and Americans ought to believe in American religions, so why proselyte in foreign countries?

While I don’t agree with the conclusion that these particular investigators drew, I think that their jumping off point may have some merit. The LDS faith is and will likely always be an American religion.

Let’s start with (what else) a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson:

I testify that America is a choice land. God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. This was the required prologue for the restoration of the gospel. America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever and is the base from which God will continue to direct the worldwide latter-day operations of His kingdom. (“I Testify“, October Conference, 1988)

We seem to believe that God has taken a direct interest in the formation of the US (Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America seem to be on their own). Additionally, He seems to have a keen interest in maintaining a hand in American politics. There is the “hanging by a thread” prophecy. There is the 10th Article of Faith (which seems at least willing to acknowledge the rest of the continent). There is the current church leadership, driving innocent German Families apart (see the first paragraph).

I know there have been recent efforts for more representation of the newer areas of the church in general leadership. I know that the move to send Elders Oaks and Holland into the mission field were possibly inspired by similar concerns. We do not appear to be a church that is much interested in spreading Americanism throughout the globe per se. Monolithic church culture may be a different issue (if such a thing can survive internationalism).

But America is always going to be central to our ideas. After all, the New Zion is in Missouri, not Brazil, Congo, or Uzbekistan. And, I would assume, that the next two or three generations of leaders will also be primarily American, due to language issues and due to training issues. Correct me if I am wrong but hasn’t the boom in South America taken place primarily in the latter half of the 20th century? This would seem to indicate that the Third World representation we would all like to see probably won’t happen for a while, since we are waiting for people to grow up in a church culture in a foreign land (just think how long it is taking the Catholics).

So, for the time being, we are an American church. But since we are all fellow citizens in Christ, perhaps we make too much of this.

Why do we reverence Emma?

No, really. Why do we reverence Emma? There are plenty of other women in the early church who are admirable, yet who didn’t fall away. Why does she get such special attention and devotion?

Is it because of her close relationship with Joseph? Oliver Cowdery had a close relationship with Joseph (admittedly not as close). He fell away over doubts regarding Joseph’s call (including issues with plural marriage). And HE CAME BACK. Yet, there is not 1/5 of the time spent in discussion of Oliver Cowdery as there is of Emma (statistics made up to emphasize my point).

Is it because she is a women? One with a section of the Doctrine & Covenants devoted to her (and a couple more chastising her)? Again, there are other early church women who didn’t fall away. Why isn’t Liz Lemon Swindle being paid money to paint their posthomous portrait?

What has Emma done to get all of this good press? Why does she continue to get it now?

(ps. I’m not actually an Emma hater and I do hope those two crazy, mixed-up kids work it all out. I just don’t understand all the praise heaped upon this woman whom we all admit didn’t make the right choice in the end (assuming that we aren’t RLDS)).

The necessity of the fall?

Christian, our intrepid Evangelical friend, is asking about salvation over at his site. One of the things he mentions there (as I mulled over my as-yet non-existent response) really struck me.

# So because of our sin (both Adam’s and of our own own) we deserve to die – after all, there is no forgiveness of sin w/out the shedding of blood (Heb 10:22), and in our sin we are already dead to God (Eph 2:1). We are incapable of turning to God on our own (Rom 5:12, John 6:44). We’re in deep do-do

We’ll call this Christian’s third rule of Evangelical salvation. Go to his post to see the others.

As luck would have it, I found President Benson expressing similar sentiments:

Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon. “(Ensign, Nov 1987, 83)

And because you know that I am all about the quotes, here is a third, from the famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

Here is my question: Do we actually need to feel the effects of the Fall in our life to straighten up? Can we really change our life if we don’t feel like that spider facing an immediate fiery doom?

In my life, repenting seems to come in fits and starts related to personal catastrophes, so I apparently do think that imminent destruction is helpful for one’s relationship with God. Somehow, I don’t think (the Rev. Edwards aside) that this is how it is supposed to work.