10 Things Every Mormon Needs to Know

January 13, 2008
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In my view, the needed changes in Mormon culture do not require Church members to depart from their leaders’ counsel. To the contrary, I believe the most needed changes in Mormon culture will occur when Church members “catch up” with what the General Authorities have already told them. In my opinion, one of the most needed changes in Mormon culture is to eliminate Church members’ tendency to elevate the Church, its leaders, and its doctrines to a mythical state of perfection and completeness.

The following is a list of ten things I believe every Mormon needs to know to avoid developing unreasonable expectations about the Church, its doctrine, and its leaders. You could consider this cocktail of established principles a proposed vaccine for inoculating the Saints from becoming disillusioned by just about any difficult or controversial information about the Church.


1. Our current understanding is incomplete. One of our Articles of Faith is that God “will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” (Ninth AF.) The key words being “will yet” (meaning it hasn’t happened yet), “many” (i.e., not just a few), and “great and important things” (i.e., not just minor details). Thus, the Church has officially acknowledged we do not have a complete understanding; we don’t claim to know it all. So if a particular doctrine or policy doesn’t make sense to you, it may be because we are still missing some important pieces of the puzzle. And because our current understanding is incomplete, we should expect to see changes in Church doctrine and policy as the Church grows “line upon line, precept upon precept” toward a more complete understanding of God’s ways.

2. Church leaders do not claim to be infallible. Elder Faust said it clearly: “We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators.” (James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 8.) Similarly, Elder Hales has said: “I am not a perfect man, and infallibility does not come with the call.” (Robert D. Hales, “The Unique Message of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1994, 78.) So we should expect to occasionally catch our Church leaders being human, sinning, and making mistakes.

3. Not everything a Church leader says is inspired of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged that “some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:163.) Similarly, the Church’s official website recently stated: “A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.” (See www.lds.org/newsroom.) So don’t be surprised if a well-intentioned Church leader mistakenly expresses his personal opinion as if it were doctrine.

4. The scriptures may contain human imperfections. When divine inspiration is reduced to imperfect human language, we should expect some things to get “lost in translation.” (See Eighth AF ["as far as it is translated correctly"]; BOM Title Page ["And now, if there are faults, they are the mistakes of men"].) Also, don’t be surprised if a revelation or translation delivered by a man in the early Nineteenth Century sounds like something a man in the early Nineteenth Century would say. (D&C 1:24-25 ["these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language . . . [a]nd inasmuch as they erred it might be made known”].)

5. Prophets do not claim that all their inspiration is received through face-to-face conversations with God. When we say that a prophet speaks for God, that does not necessarily mean everything he says was told to him by God directly or face-to-face. Rather, prophets have made clear that their inspiration typically comes from the Holy Spirit. Elder Packer has stated: “This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings, through impressions and promptings. It is not always easy to describe inspiration. The scriptures teach us that we may “feel” the words of spiritual communication more than hear them, and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes. The patterns of revelation are not dramatic. The voice of inspiration is a still voice, a small voice. There need be no trance, no sanctimonious declaration. It is quieter and simpler than that.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 14.) So, as with the preceding point, we should expect some imperfections whenever someone undertakes the daunting task of reducing divine thoughts into human terms. And because there is some “room for interpretation” in discerning spiritual impressions, we should expect Church leaders to sometimes differ in their perceptions and views.

6. Sometimes God gives Church leaders discretion to make their own decisions according to their best judgment. Brigham Young taught: “If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, p. 46; see also Hel. 10:5-10, D&C 80:3.) In other words, sometimes God lets Church leaders decide what to do and then puts his divine stamp of approval on it. So don’t be surprised if a Church leader’s decision seems to simply reflect that leader’s personal judgment, as opposed to a divinely-issued instruction.

7. Doctrinal errors may exist within the Church. Elder Merrill C. Oaks of the Seventy has stated: “Our protection from erroneous doctrine lies in an overriding belief in continuing revelation to the current prophet.” (Merrill C. Oaks, “The Living Prophet: Our Source of Pure Doctrine,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 82.) I understand this statement to be an acknowledgment that doctrinal errors may exist within the Church, but that thankfully, those errors will be identified and corrected over time through continuing revelation. Of course, the possibility of errors existing within the Church should not surprise us if we keep in mind points 1-6 above.

8. None of the above should undermine our testimony that the scriptures are the “word of God,” or that Church leaders are inspired by God. The fact that a book of scripture or prophet may be mistaken about one or more things does not prevent them from being inspired about many, many other things. Nothing says a prophet’s spiritual discernment must be perfect or he is a total fraud. As Elder Faust stated: “I witness humbly that I know the Lord still guides his church through his servants, regardless of any individual imperfections.” (James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 8.) The idea that we can disregard everything a book of scripture or Church leader says if it can be proved that it/he was wrong about one or more things is the classic “throw the baby out with the bath water” fallacy.

9. Questioning and examining Church leaders’ statements is not only allowed, it is encouraged. Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (Journal of Discourses, 9:150 [quoted by James E. Faust, "Continuous Revelation," Ensign, Nov 1989, 8].) Of course, there is a big difference between honest inquiry motivated by a sincere desire to know the truth, and a pre-determined effort to prove the Church is wrong. The former is encouraged, while the latter is disingenuous.

10. It is unwise to conclude that Church leaders are “wrong” about something we don’t understand or disagree with. Humility and intellectual honesty require us to recognize that we are at least as capable of being mistaken in our judgment as are Church leaders. Accordingly, it would be unwise to conclude that Church leaders are “wrong” about something, or that a certain teaching is “false.” The most we should say is that we don‘t understand something, or that we have not received a testimony of the truthfulness of something. This may seem like semantics, but there is an important difference between telling a Church leader “you are wrong” or “you are teaching false doctrine,” as opposed to saying, “I don’t understand your position” or “I have a different point of view.” So here is the paradox: while we acknowledge the possibility (and probability) of errors existing within the Church, wisdom and humility should prevent each of us from concluding that our judgment and spiritual discernment is superior to that of our Church leaders. Accordingly, none of us should conclude we possess the superior judgment necessary to identify those errors; that task has been assigned to our leaders.

60 Responses to 10 Things Every Mormon Needs to Know

  1. Bruce Nielson
    January 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Spot on, Andrew!

  2. Ben
    January 13, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    An excellent summary. Elder McConkie in particular, made some statements along these lines that are all the more powerful coming from him, given his tendancy to dogmatism. See his talk referenced here, for example.

  3. January 13, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I love your points. Thanks, Andrew.

  4. John Nilsson
    January 13, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Andrew,

    I can’t say more than the folks above have done in terms of how great a summary you have given us. I’m tempted to wonder why we as Mormons are so vulnerable to unrealistic expectations of our Church and it’s leaders. I don’t know many Baptists who think as highly of their particular church. We seem to put a lot of value into the institution as an institution, for some reason. What perpetuates this attitude?

  5. January 13, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    . Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation,

    When I went to BYU in the early 70s before my mission, I was struck by Spencer W. Kimball giving a talk on that very theme. The thoughts in it have resonated with me ever since.

  6. Carlos
    January 14, 2008 at 12:14 am

    “2. Church leaders do not claim to be infallible.” Sure, but they certainly dislike members telling them so!:)

    “9. Questioning and examining Church leaders’ statements is not only allowed, it is encouraged” I thought both Elder
    Packer and Elder Oaks have publicly distanced themselves from this belief?

    I agree with most of the points here, and comments, but the one overwhelming issue is that we as individuals should find God on our own, which is our testimony, and that church leaders only guide us to Him. General authorities can’t give us a testimony.

  7. Jeff Spector
    January 14, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Excellent post, indeed. Some food for thought for all of us.

    Thanks

  8. Lisa Ray Turner
    January 14, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Great ideas. We really do need to know these things. Perfectionism is a huge problem in the church — expecting it of ourselves and our leaders.

  9. January 14, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    “Perfectionism is a huge problem in the church…”

    Excuse me, but how do you define “huge problem”? I find the majority of church members with whom I’ve been associated during my fifty years on this planet to be on the whole rather humble.

    Having lived in the so-called “Bible Belt” during most of that time, I can assure you if anyone has any problem with smug complacency, it ISN’T members of this church.

  10. John Nilsson
    January 14, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Illbay,

    We are commanded to be perfect. Hence a lot of guilt trips ensue when we are not. I know of no Mormon analogue, since you mention the Bible Belt, to the comforting evangelical bumper sticker: “Christians aren’t perfect, just saved.”

    Do you? Perfectionism means the desire to have things perfected, not braggadocio.

    • Alisha
      May 19, 2014 at 7:36 am

      We aren’t commanded to be perfect. The Lord knows that’s an impossible request. We will always make mistakes. We just need to learn from those mistakes and use the Atonement when necessary. Slowly we will become more like Christ, more perfect.

  11. January 14, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Agree with above points. The key being that if we or our leaders don’t know it all doesn’t mean we need to jump ship, but rather keep on riding. Understanding the 9th article of faith can help us to better share the gospel and approach our friends faiths in a more positive way.

  12. January 14, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    “I’m tempted to wonder why we as Mormons are so vulnerable to unrealistic expectations of our Church and it’s leaders.”

    Great question, John Nilson. And I think the answer potentially deserves it’s own blog post in the future. In a nutshell, I think it has to do with our emphasizing the calling and authority of our leaders without sufficient discussion of the “balancing” principles summarized above.

  13. January 14, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Beautiful! I have long thought that we would cause each other far less grief in the Church if we would let the Brethren speak for themselves and stop trying to put words in their mouths and “improve” upon what they say. (Example: The prophet encourages young men to be active in scouting; therefore, one must be an Eagle Scout to “get to” the Celestial Kingdom. Or, as one YW leader would say to her girls, “President Kimball WANTS you to play volleyball!”) One of the best talks I ever heard was by John Turpin, an LDS therapist, who urged his audience to distinguish between Gospel Teachings (eternal principles which never change), Church Teachings (administrative/cultural principles which change from time to time), and Member Teachings (everything else). Sadly, member teachings are the most prevalent and do the most damage. I am convinced that the last thing President Hinckley would want us to do is to take his words and use them to beat each other up.

  14. Jeff Spector
    January 14, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I had a situation with seminary a few years ago where I thought the Bishop made a decision that was not in the best interest of my kids. I contacted the Stake seminary coordinator to try to work something out.

    He came back to me with a “The Brethren have asked…..” And told him. Thanks for that, I would love to comply but it wasn’t a good decision for my boys. So they lost out on a year of seminary, even though their Mom did an awesome job of teaching them the Book of Mormon and they participated more than a normal class.

    I made a decision for my family in a less than ideal situation and I was not going to be bullied.

  15. January 15, 2008 at 2:16 am

    Carlos,

    I think the General Authorities would whole-heartedly agree with your statement that “we as individuals should find God on our own, which is our testimony, and that church leaders only guide us to Him.”

    I do not think Elders Packer and Oaks have distanced themselves from the principle that “Questioning and examining Church leaders’ statements is not only allowed, it is encouraged.” As I read their remarks on that issue, they are directed more specifically to a certain manner of questioning–i.e., PUBLICLY CRITICIZING the teachings or policies of the Brethren. They issued caution (but not prohibitions) about being involved in symposia, etc. in the context of much public criticism of the Brethren from those sources. But as Elder Oaks made clear in his Ensign article entitled “Criticism” (back in 1989, I think), there is nothing wrong with privately expressing a difference of opinion with the Brethren.

    I have to say, I think Elder Packer gets quite the bum rap amongst a lot of folks in the Bloggernacle. But his most recent conference talk was exactly the opposite of what he is made out to be. He went out of his way to take prophets down off of their pedestals. We should listen to him.

  16. January 15, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Actually, I think President Packer has delivered some of the most comforting conference talks I have ever heard. His April 1989 talk to the youth has to be among my all-time top 5 favorites (and is well worth listening to by any youth or adult who questions their self-worth). I agree, Andrew, his most recent was beautiful and did much to reinforce the worth of every individual, regardless of station. While I have in the past taken issue with some of what he said and how he said it, to focus on that is to miss the whole picture.

  17. David
    January 15, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Illbay, when you say “I can assure you if anyone has any problem with smug complacency, it ISN’T members of this church”, aren’t you proving yourself exactly wrong?

    I suspect the greatest challenge you’re going to face on critically evaluating the above “top ten” list is that the first several statements attempt to establish a credible degree of exemption from the expectations one might logically have from a church defined by its belief in direct revelation from God, and then capping it off with the last one, which says that they may be wrong, but you’re wrong to suggest that they’re wrong.

    It’s an illusion of honest investigation: you’re allowed to ask, but you won’t be correct.

  18. January 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    “It’s an illusion of honest investigation: you’re allowed to ask, but you won’t be correct.”

    David, I think if you re-read the 10th point, I am not saying what you suggest.

  19. TJM
    January 15, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    In response to:
    “while we acknowledge the possibility (and probability) of errors existing within the Church, wisdom and humility should prevent each of us from concluding that our judgment and spiritual discernment is superior to that of our Church leaders. Accordingly, none of us should conclude we possess the superior judgment necessary to identify those errors; that task has been assigned to our leaders.”

    There are errors in the church. But if you happen across one ignore it, because you’re too dumb to know it’s an error. Besides if it really is an error the leaders will surely inform you.

    What’s that about?

    • the_concerned_citizen
      May 28, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      No it means acknowledge the error to yourself and those under your stewardship who are prepared to deal with it. People with weaker testimonies may bury theirs before it has time to grow over acknowledgement of even the least egregious of “errors”.

      If you are truly able to recognize errors in the church, you are also able recognize that they happen and to trust that the Lord will at some point take care of it. In other words live accordingly to the light and knowledge you have been given and recognize that generally the best way to get rid of errors is to phase them out and acknowledge that for all you know the error you recognized is being addressed quietly.

  20. January 15, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    TJM,

    I’m trying to figure out whether that comment is intended to initiate a productive discussion or is instead meant to be just a snipe. I think criticisms of arguments are more persuasive when you don’t have to mischaracterize the other side’s position by inserting words the author never used. Nothing was said about “ignoring” what we believe to be errors, nor was anything said about anyone being “too dumb” to know something is an error. Rather, point #10 above is a statement about what I believe to be the most humble and wise reaction to a situation where we’re having difficulty understanding something, or when we suspect something may be an error.

    I’m certainly not the first person in the world to advocate an approach that essentially encourages people to be patient and have a “jury’s still out” or “wait and see” attitude, as opposed to rushing to judgment and jumping to strong conclusions that the Brethren are wrong. The most wise thinkers in the world’s history have been known to come to the conclusion that the more they know, the more they realize they don’t know. They came to understand that the process of inquiry can be productive and healthy even if one does not come to a final conclusion about the subjects of that inquiry, and even if your inquiry ends up generating more questions than answers.

    Of course, my argument above is intended for an audience of believing Mormons. If you are not (or are no longer) a believing Mormon, it will be nonsensical. But as all logical arguments are based upon certain assumed premises, if you accept the premise that the Brethren are called of God to lead the Church, then there is logical validity to the argument set forth in point #10 above. If you don’t accept that premise, then it’s all nonsense because there would be no reason to exercise deference to an authority you do not recognize. If that’s your position, that is fine. But it does not mean that people who exercise deference to an authority in which they believe are somehow intellectually dishonest. As explained, if you accept the premise of the GA’s authority, then their deference to that authority is entirely logical.

  21. TJM
    January 15, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Andrew,

    I don’t think my “layman” interpretation of item 10 was that far off. I do apologize if it offended. I tend to write few words and jump straight to the point.

    In response to:
    The most wise thinkers in the world’s history have been known to come to the conclusion that the more they know, the more they realize they don’t know.

    Very, very true. :)

    The most wise thinkers in the world’s history also never stopped questioning and further more, testing their inquiries and theory to the fullest extent possible without waiver or deferment to others.

  22. emile
    January 16, 2008 at 8:36 am

    When men or women are made perfect in faith do they need a prophet, a leader for revelation after all a personnel revelation is the only thing that brings you near God.

    So why wory about all those things. Those among us who have benefited of the second witness need not fear to stray in doctrine.

    Lets remember that th Book of Mormon is the star of the New Jersuralem and that our heart is only thing that needs to be pure nothing else.

  23. Nitsav
    January 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    The context of Elder Oaks’ statement about criticism is very useful.

    See the discussion of this statement in his PBS interview, here.
    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=f11cb868474e3110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&vgnextchannel=9ae411154963d010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD

  24. Bruce Nielson
    January 16, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Andrew Ainsworth says: “If that’s your position, that is fine. But it does not mean that people who exercise deference to an authority in which they believe are somehow intellectually dishonest. As explained, if you accept the premise of the GA’s authority, then their deference to that authority is entirely logical.”

    Spot on again, Andrew. You have correctly understood “logic” here. It’s all about the unshared assumptions that can neither be proven nor disproven.

  25. January 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Good points, and many of us have heard.

    However, I have a question about the application of these teachings.

    If a member of the church claims the right to NOT sustain the current Prophet of the church, and to NOT reject the evidence for that decision, and to seek for a D&C 107:81-84 type trial to end the “controversy” over him— do you believe this member should be automatically excommunicated, or should this member be allowed full membership until the controversy they claim to have is settled?

    Richard

  26. hawkgrrrl
    January 22, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    “If a member of the church claims the right to NOT sustain the current Prophet of the church, and to NOT reject the evidence for that decision, and to seek for a D&C 107:81-84 type trial to end the “controversy” over him— do you believe this member should be automatically excommunicated, or should this member be allowed full membership until the controversy they claim to have is settled?”

    Whether the person should be excommunicated probably depends on what they choose to do about the “not sustaining” and the nature of the matter that is controversial. They would not be eligible for a temple recommend. What would happen in practice is probably somewhat dependent upon local leadership responsible for the hearing.

  27. January 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Great list, thanks for the post.

  28. Robert Pruitt
    February 17, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Your work is both useful and appreciated!

  29. Adam
    February 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    That is the absolutely most redundant logic a have ever heard. You are essentially standing for nothing. You have an circular argument contradicting itself in the most fundamental of ways that leaves you without responsibility for any of your choices. Weak sheep. The Christian dogma was perverted from a older Roman God named Deyonesis. Born of a virgin, suffered in a garden, water to wine, raised the dead, ascended into “Heaven”, and was crucified in between to thieves. Oh yes, also, one of his last statements before he died was, “Father, they do not know what they do, forgive them.” A great second detail was that after three days, he came back from the dead, which was discovered by his mother. Your principals are nothing more then convenient deletions and additions constantly suiting into a absurd machination of self deceit.

  30. Paul
    February 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Adam,

    Thanks for flaming. I find several parts of your statement without merit and there are a few tips that you might want to consider in your (more than likely) continued trolling and inevitable flaming.

    First, spelling is essential to making a good “flame” on a message board. Learning to spell lends a little credibility to your argument.

    Second, there are several “facts” you mention that I fail to find any merit behind (through both library and internet searches). Your “Deyonesis,” a “Roman God,” was actually Dionysus, a Greek God (the Roman equivalent being Bacchus). He was not born of a virgin, he was fathered by Zeus.

    I find no stories of Dionysus raising the dead, nor suffering in a garden, tough the changing Water to Wine fact wouldn’t surprise me seeing as how he was looked on as the god of wine.

    Please also understand that much of what we know of these “gods” was from theatrical plays and oral stories, more commonly known as the imaginations of men.

    In response to your first argument, that infallibility is in fact circular logic indicating that we stand for nothing, please understand that no man (prophet, pope, llama, magistrate or elected official) is perfect. That being said, I fail to understand how a recognition of our own imperfections amounts to circular logic equating us as “weak sheep.” Quite the contrary, as listed in point 9 above, we are to question our leaders (something almost unheard of in modern religion). This would infer that we are not “weak sheep” as you so imaginatively put it, but rather free thinkers with not only the right, but the encouragement to question our spiritual leaders.

    I hope this post doesn’t offend you or upset you, as that was not my intention. Contention is not the purpose. I wish you well in your future flames. Take care.

  31. February 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Adam, I’ve heard the same silliness by people who claim that Mithra was really the same story.

    You could at least spell the god’s name right.

    http://www.pantheon.org/articles/b/bacchus.html

    Dionysus, also commonly known by his Roman name Bacchus, appears to be a god who has two distinct origins. On the one hand, Dionysus was the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, who is also the patron god of the Greek stage. On the other hand, Dionysus also represents the outstanding features of mystery religions, such as those practiced at Eleusis: ecstasy, personal delivery from the daily world through physical or spiritual intoxication, and initiation into secret rites. Scholars have long suspected that the god known as Dionysus is in fact a fusion of a local Greek nature god, and another more potent god imported rather late in Greek pre-history from Phrygia (the central area of modern day Turkey) or Thrace.

    Dionysus

    According to one myth, Dionysus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman, Semele (daughter of Cadmus of Thebes). Semele is killed by Zeus’ lightning bolts while Dionysus is still in her womb. Dionysus is rescued and undergoes a second birth from Zeus after developing in his thigh. Zeus then gives the infant to some nymphs to be raised. In another version, one with more explicit religious overtones, Dionysus, also referred to as Zagreus in this account, is the son of Zeus and Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Hera gets the Titans to lure the infant with toys, and then they rip him to shreds eating everything but Zagreus’ heart, which is saved by either Athena, Rhea, or Demeter. Zeus remakes his son from the heart and implants him in Semele who bears a new Dionysus Zagreus. Hence, as in the earlier account, Dionysus is called “twice born.” The latter account formed a part of the Orphic religion’s religious mythology.

    It does seem clear that Dionysus, at least the Phrygian Dionysus, was a late arrival in the Greek world and in Greek mythology. He is hardly mentioned at all in the Homeric epics, and when he is it is with some hostility. A number of his stories are tales of how Dionysus moved into a city, was resisted, and then destroyed those who opposed him. The most famous account of this is that of Euripides in his play the Bacchae. He wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus of Macedon, and nowhere do we see Dionysus more destructive and his worship more dangerous than in this play. Scholars have speculated not unreasonably that in Macedon Euripides discovered a more extreme form of the religion of Dionysus being practiced than the more civil, quiet forms in Athens.

    Briefly, Dionysus returns to Thebes, his putative birthplace, where his cousin Pentheus is king. He has returned to punish the women of Thebes for denying that he was a god and born of a god. Pentheus is enraged at the worship of Dionysus and forbids it, but he cannot stop the women, including his mother Agave, or even the elder statesmen of the kingdom from swarming to the wilds to join the Maenads (a term given to women under the ecstatic spell of Dionysus) in worship. Dionysus lures Pentheus to the wilds where he is killed by the Maenads and then mutilated by Agave.

    A song sung in honor of Dionysus is called a dithyramb.

  32. kevin
    February 21, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    you said “jesus” once

  33. February 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    kevin,

    So did you. Actually, you were only quoting someone else, so I’m not sure yours counts. :)

  34. Tim Grossnickle
    February 24, 2008 at 3:03 am

    Andrew: Ten Refreshing points for spiritual safety as far as they go, particularly for those yet in that preparatory mode which looks to the church, to great men, to similitudes, etc. for light and life. (3Ne.15:9). Nephi described his brethren in 1 Ne.15:3 and sorrowed at their condition (v.8,9). The hopeful in Christ look to Him as the living source of “every good thing and recognize inspired leaders doing the same, giving credit where it is due–to the Lord, even for their own best thoughts. (Moroni 7:24, Is.2:11).
    When the Book of Mormon speaks of the Church (Moroni 6, 2Ne.31) there is clarity about our being brought to “rely wholly upon Him who is mighty to save” and not on “the arm of flesh.” Faithful “instruments” do the same(Alma 26:3) and the work is to “point the way (the commandments, priesthood and ordinances being free gifts for this purpose, noted in Alma 13:16). Some call these “essential” as if to deify the instruments of salvation rather than the giver of the gift. The church is simply a Liahona. His gifts are freely offered the penitent. Many energetically point to these and other sign posts, which direct us toward the strait and narrow way of being connected to the true vine; but, rather than proceed these gather and iterate again and again “here is the path! Look! We have arrived “at the beginning of the iron rod…” “Let us stop and build a monument,” as if a great work is nearly done. Only the honest proceed (unwilling to suppose that they have enough (2Ne.28)of the goodness of God by their “good standing” in the true and restored “pointer of the way.” And many set their leaders up as kings and say “surely we are safe if we follow our leaders, they will do the work” (like we do with our governmental leaders) all the while putting aside our true duty and first work (John 6:28-29)to move forward with penitent faith and prayer to follow the Living Shepherd. We say we believe the church is true and it is. How much of that truth do we receive?(Hel.3:35, Alma 13:12-13), and to what degree? Presently many receive only in part, failing to “rend” that “veil of disbelief” (Ether 4 and Alma 12) in the merit, mercy, righteousness and good shepherding of the Redeemer. Alma 19:6 and Mosiah 4:11-12 are clarion. True believers rejoice in Christ and are found feasting (2Ne.32, 33). Shall we along with our leaders proceed, “never letting go” of His word to feast upon delicious fruit–His love, companionship, and good shepherding? or will we fulfill the negative side of prophesy as Gentiles who receive only in part and so lightly esteem Him(DC 1:14-16; 3Ne.16:10). There is so much disconnect from God as we look to great men in slothful and unfaithful ways, when their most frequent and fervent prayer is likely, “enable me and others to look unto Christ as we ought.” Though many do not have eyes to see, or ears to hear, a few present-day “leaders” may even be compared to that humble leader in Ether 3:2, considered by the Lord to be among His greatest. Alma 12, 1Ne.14 and Ether 4 are good chapters to see why the ten points above are particularly refreshing in a day when trusting in good leaders is about all the light and life many will pursue, refusing to take the Holy Spirit as their guide, they are the foolish and will not withstand that sudden day when the Lord makes bare his arm, when His goodness will burn them as dry grass, i.e. this knowledge of his goodness will be like consuming fire, for they refused Him while they were free to exercise faith, and now they know and cannot exercise faith (1Ne.14:7). How wonderfully the Book of Mormon opens the heavens for the honest in heart to seek Christ while there is still time (though less than most think.)

  35. March 1, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Andrew, I appreciate the post. Although your stated goal is to “avoid developing unreasonable expectations about the Church, its doctrine, and its leaders” I believe many of these points are equally helping in the development of the ability to effectively communicate perspectives of the Gospel with those of different faiths. I also hope that members realize that all these points apply to them as leaders within the Church. I hope that members will not always draw a dividing line between “Church leaders” and “Church laity” as if this is some sort of static division. In reality, the lay membership is the source of leadership within the Church. Personally, I don’t have much experience with members who “elevate the Church, its leaders, and its doctrines to a mythical state of perfection and completeness.” However, I wonder if this might arise due to members somehow not seeing themselves as leaders and teachers in their Church. If they did see themselves as a leader or teacher in the Church, I don’t see how they could avoid some of the points you have listed (#6 for example).

  36. Ron
    March 2, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I’m new to this blog thing but I want to jump in here with my own perspective on the subject. I think Andrew has done a good job with his list of ten but the problem with it arises from the fact there are two sides to this coin. However, this is a spinning coin where both the head and tails combine with each other, thereby making it hard to separate one from the other. On the one side of this argument is the head where the President of the church is viewed as God’s spokesman. If that is true then it is impossible to say that his words are not correct because that is tantamount to saying God’s words are not correct. On the tails side it is argued that prophets are fallible and therefore are subject to making mistakes in their pronouncements. Hence, the conclusion is that what they tell us may be wrong, in which case, we shouldn’t follow their advice.

    These two positions seem to contradict one another and the way most Mormons I know resolve this conflict is to focus on just one side of the coin while ignoring or dismissing the other side. The fallacy with this logic is that both sides are indeed true and need to be mingled together in one harmonious doctrine rather than being kept separated from one another. I noticed that many of the quotes on this blog from former prophets only cite one side of the coin. I believe it was Brigham Young who also taught that if we follow our leaders we can sleep safely like a baby in its mother’s arms. Another prophet said that we can be assured that the President of the church will never lead us astray. The moment he seeks to do so the Lord will remove him. In Primary we teach the children in song to “Follow the Prophet.” Isaiah was a fallible man as was Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Alma, and Mormon but we don’t question what they wrote, saying that we should determine for ourselves if their teaching are correct or not. I would think as Latter-day Saints we should accord our current prophets the same attitude. In fact, the Church itself has recently instituted a priesthood program entitled “the teachings of our times” whereby we use the most current GC addresses as our study text. Obviously, they don’t think these conference addresses contains errors in them.

    While I agree with much that has been said on this blog about questioning what our church leaders say (and I tend to ask myself a lot of questions in that regard) my fear is that those who are looking for a reason not to obey their leaders will misinterpret such a position to justify their actions. Coming from a Protestant background (I’m the only member of my family who is LDS) I hear all the time that we should not follow man but God. In effect what they are saying is that we have no authority to depend on except ourselves. That attitude is what has led to there being over 50,000 different Christian religions in the world today with everyone thinking they are the only ones who are right because there is no one authority who can settle these differences of opinion. If we don’t have someone who we depend on as our final authority in spiritual matters, when we are too quick to dismiss the teaching of our leaders because we think this or that teaching is uninspired, we then set ourselves up as being the final authority on what’s right and what’s wrong. If that attitude takes hold in our church it won’t be long before there are 50,000 different sects of Mormonism. I feel that it is extremely important not to focus on just one side of the coin. Both sides are true and both sides need to be kept in harmony balance with one another. At least, that’s my two cents worth of opinion.

  37. Danny
    March 10, 2008 at 6:37 am

    One thing Mormons should know:

    Love everybody!

    Peace be with you brethren.

  38. Sojourner Delta
    July 25, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    These words from Tim are the source of endless philosophical anguish: “The hopeful in Christ look to Him as the living source of every good thing and recognize inspired leaders doing the same, giving credit where it is due–to the Lord, even for their own best thoughts.”
    If all of my best (good) thoughts come from the Lord, then why do I even have a brain? If everything that is good comes from him and not through my own efforts – and everything bad either comes from him, or is the result of my own choices or the exercise of the free will of others or even just random chance, then what good can exist within the individual?

  39. Autumn
    November 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I love Mormons, and I pray for them everyday, but I cannot understand how you could say that the Bible “might” have fallacies (grammatical, yes, but context issues, no.). Even when it is said that the BOM was the most perfect book on earth, yet it has had about 4,000 changes made to it over the years. The Book of Mormon contains translation errors from the King James Version.

    For instance, 2 Nephi 14:5 is the same as Isaiah 4:5. The KJV incorrectly translates the Hebrew word chuppah as “canopy,” when the proper translation is “defense.”

    Another example is 2 Nephi 15:25, which is the same as Isaiah 5:25. The KJV incorrectly translates the Hebrew word cuwchah as “filth,” when the proper translation is “torn.”

    If Moroni buried the plates in the Hill Cummorah not long after AD 420, why is it that the Book of Mormon includes the KJV translation errors which didn’t occur until almost 1,200 years later? How could the Book of Mormon contain anything from the King James Bible?

  40. November 25, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    The children of Israel have given us substantial proof in the Bible that they repeat the circle of abdicating their salvation to their leaders. That’s the beginning of the “culture”. Men interpret the scriptures and then feed their arrogance and ego with the erroneous belief that just because they are called to the position of leadership, their word is law. This purported clairvoyance then gives them carte blanche to do whatever they want. We must challenge! We must question! We must experiment upon the word.

    Freedom is the fundamental principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without it we could not have chosen to follow God’s plan. Without freedom, we cannot choose to obey. Without freedom, we are slaves, like the dirt and trees that obey the laws set down for them, which is few, we will never obtain God-hood.

    Hence the reason for the Holy Ghost. It teaches us the truth of all things. Moroni 10:5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. Hence the brilliant plan of God is complete. Without freedom it’s not religion. Allegorically, it becomes a military creed, a socialistic banding, a communistic path. That’s not religion.

    Indeed, we are faced with the same things that Lehi, Enoch, Moses, and Mahonri faced, when the controllers of the religious government were corrupt and they were inspired by the Holy Ghost to leave and seek out a new land. A land of freedom.

    #
    D&C 98: 5
    5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

    #
    D&C 106: 1
    1 It is my will that my servant Warren A. Cowdery should be appointed and ordained a presiding high priest over my church, in the land of Freedom and the regions round about;

    Alma 61: 15
    15 Therefore, come unto me speedily with a few of your men, and leave the remainder in the charge of Lehi and Teancum; give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them.

    Ether 8: 25
    For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

    The hardest thing for us to deal with is the Bossy leaders then denying us privileges. Because my friend had has multiple arguments and a couple of heated debates, he attends a different ward with his kids. Now his son is ready to be ordained a priest and the Bishop won’t let my friend ordain him because “You don’t sustain your local leaders.” How controlling! He uses that to punish my friend! The Bishop has the option of using his brain and saying, “hmmm, this man is a worthy person, he doesn’t like me but that’s okay, so to smooth the situation over, I’ll let him ordain his son.” Instead, he holds the “Office of the Bishop” like reins and a whip.

    No wonder so many people leave the church. My own ward is down to 30% activity. It hurts my heart to see the people punished.

  41. November 25, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Need to add one more scripture that bears some interesting relevance.

    2 Ne. 3: 5
    5 Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.

    Freedom. We don’t lead from the top down, but support from the bottom up. That’s why hometeaching is so awesome. We get in the trenches and we become the communication matrix of the church. What’s the first thing you do in war? Break down communications.

  42. Harold Brown
    February 14, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    As a non-LDS Follower of Christ, I would like to comment on your “10 Things..” discussion. First and foremost, I do not believe that many if any of the writings of Joseph Smith were given from God or Jesus Christ. My reasoning is simply the fact of what Joseph Smith said himself, as you have recounted in point #3 and I quote:

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith acknowledged that “some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:163.)”

    What percentage of revelations were from God? How much was from himself and how much from Satan? These answers are quoted directly from Joseph Smith himself, so they cannot be misquoted. Joseph Smith could have had a face-to-face with Satan rather than Jesus and been justified in his own eyes to say that it was Jesus Christ. This woud have been perfectly acceptable to his early followers because of his personality, not because he was inspired by God. Open your eyes and ears, people! look at your temple ceremonies and temple garments, and their masonic symbols and influence (Joseph Smith was a Mason before he wrote the temple ceremonies), Look at your temples themselves, with signs of the masons, wiccans and other occult/Kaballah symbolism.

  43. May 5, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Can you please give a little more information on this?

  44. Andrew Lacayo
    May 13, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Andrew,
    I thought your comments were right on and more of us members need to understand these points. I will be forwarding this to as many members as I feel inspired to.

  45. My Thirteen Year Old's Dad
    October 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Andrew,

    My 13 year old “stumbled upon” this today and, I think, really benefited from it. Thank you!

    MTYOD

  46. Shawn Laramie
    December 2, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    So.. which of these ten points covers Joesph Smith mistranslating the entirety of the Book of Abraham to such a ridiculous degree that it is obvious that he made the entire thing up?

  47. Thomas
    December 2, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    #10: “Humility and intellectual honesty require us to recognize that we are at least as capable of being mistaken in our judgment as are Church leaders.”

    All things being equal — maybe. But things stopped being equal right about the time Eve chomped on an apple. No two people are ever perfectly equal in their susceptibility to error.

    Case in point: My (non-LDS) mother-in-law is one of the most credulous, unreasoning, unreflective people I know. Faced with (say) an anti-Obama chain e-mail, she will invariably glom onto it like a bass on a nightcrawler, and take it as gospel. It is not lacking in humility, but simple fact, that I (notwithstanding that I don’t think highly of Mr. Obama) have cultivated some intellectual tools that she has not, that make her more susceptible to certain kinds of errors than I am.

    So no, neither humility nor intellectual honesty require me to assume that any given Church leader’s judgment is at least as reliable as mine. When I see a Church leader displaying signs that he has cultivated habits of sloppy reasoning, or of drawing conclusions that don’t follow from the premises, I do not have to ignore those signs that at least as to those matters, the leader’s judgment is likely to be unreliable.

  48. Hawkgrrrl
    December 2, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Shawn Laramie – seems like you missed the point of #1 through #10 on the list. Also, on the BofA, I think it’s a stretch to say he made the whole thing up (as big a stretch as saying it was written by Abraham’s own hand). There are apocryphal sources that contain very similar passages.

  49. Heber13
    December 2, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    #46: Which covers it?
    The question is which doesn’t?

    Specifically:
    #8 – throw out the baby with the bathwater mentality – to me, there are great passages and messages I love in the BoA, despite the details of the origin. Why throw them all out if they make sense to me and I love them?
    #4 – scriptures may contain human error – any process of revelation is a mystery, they stand the test of time because they are divinely inspired.
    #1 – Our current understanding of things is incomplete – fires, lost records, revelation … there are lots of things that cloud or cause doubt around the scriptures and their origin… why must we prove it is 100% accurate to accept the teachings of it? The teachings can be believed through a spiritual witness of the principles they teach regardless of intellectual or scientific authentication.

    I guess, I agree with Hawkgrrrl…basically points 1-10 cover it. That was the point of the OP.
    Mr. Ainsworth said it best: “one of the most needed changes in Mormon culture is to eliminate Church members’ tendency to elevate the Church, its leaders, and its doctrines to a mythical state of perfection and completeness”

  50. Douglas Hunter
    December 2, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Concerning the BOA scholarship done in the past 2 years is pretty convincing. JS did not make it up, for the most part he copied it from other sources. It seems that scholars within the institutional church are comfortable with this idea as well. My guess is that its time as part of our scriptures could be coming to an end.

  51. May 30, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    The problem here is that the message of “obey, obey, obey, no matter what” totally undermines those points.  Let’s be honest, most of what is on that list is what is said when something a prophet says turns out to be wrong.  These are caveats that allow the church to still be true even when its leaders are wrong.  But they are never taught as principles to live by.  

    So while it is clever to couch this as a problem in the “culture” because that is non-threatening, and also simultaneously strokes the brethren, ultimately it has it exactly backwards.  Until the brethren stop asserting that their words are counsel from God (never going to happen) people won’t stop treating their words that way.    This is not a problem with a solution, IMO.  It is endemic to a system that claims authority.  

  52. Anonymous
    June 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Love this post and I agree – the more realistic we are in our expectations of the Church, and the more we adhere to what the Church says it is, the more at peace we can be with adhering to a religion that, despite its quirks, is in my belief the best alternative and has the ‘fullness of the gospel.” Which fullness, ironically, comes necessarily equipped with people and leaders who awkwardly try to do their best to interact with, interpret, and act on revelation.

  53. September 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I agree with this totally. Especially #10. I write a blog about my feelings of Same-sex attraction, and I constantly run into people who say that the brethen are wrong about the gay issue and so they leave the church in their pride.

    And you know what, as you said above, it is possible that they are wrong. But you also pointed out that we will eventually learn more (continuing revelation!). We have to wait in faith. It saddens me when I see people angrily leaving a religion they honestly believe is true because they think that there is a “wrong attitude” toward this or that issue. They would let that prevent them from living actively in the church and receiving the blessings of the temple and partaking of ordinances like the sacrament.

    Thanks again for some truly wonderful thoughts.

  54. Adam
    December 7, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Uh OH. Its time to change the doctrine, AGAIN. Because it is “allowed” to always change it to conform to the general population. For Mormons these days, to deny any link, ancestory, or responsibilty for whats going on down south in Hilldale, Utah, with all the polygamist, is JUST STRAIGHT DENIAL. Warren Jeffs would not accept the majority of the population of Amwerica telling him that young girls arent for him to inpregnate, so he kept up with it. However, smarter people knew, that they had to “rewrite” the doctrine to accept a “single” woman as their only wife. Just like they had to “rewrite” it for colored people to be accepted into the “preisthoodz”.

    This lds crap as always been viewed thru my eyes as a CULT. Only if you are one of them will you be treated with respect and dignity. Only if your one of them will you be seen as a “perfect” person. Bring em young IS A FALSE PROPHET. I will pray for all these brainwashed people. Because as it says very STRICTLY in the TEN COMANDMENTS, Thou shall not believe in False Gods. Well the whole lds people have a rude awakening when they do pass. ANd this I guarantee is the true words of someone who talks to God. Ill tell you one thing, 1 million dollars, nor 1 million little girls would ever convert me to a SICK and Wrong religion such as that. I ask you this, Mr. Lds person. How can you be so proud of your history? How can you tell lies such as “oh we didnt allow colored people into the prietshoodz because its like giving a 15 yr old the keys to a car”?? WOW what a lame excuse that is. ALL people are given a choice by God. Not just you overboasterous, rude and crude people who condem me to eternal damnation for not letting you convert me to such a heinous cult. I am Catholic and will be till the day I die. I say again. The prettiest women, nor money will change my mind. So go ahead and change your doctrine to accept homosexuals into the priesthood, LMAO after you spent millions stiking your nose up californias but for their stand on the issue. Dense and close minded people. Just look at the turmoil you have to accept responsibiltiy for in Hilldale. Its ok tho. Pass around your plain bread and water in church and maybe that will make those people go away, huh??

  55. Adam
    December 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

    The last one, #10, just shows that you as a mormon ARE NOT CONFIDENT of your teachings. You have doubt, just as the leaders do too. I NEVER DOUBT CATHOLISISM. It has been around since the dawn of time, and you kno what else…. THAT BOOK DOES NOT CHANGE for acceptance from ANYONE. It is written and PERFECT. This isnt a popularity contest

  56. Mike Olsen
    January 5, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    The Church recently declared that denying the Priesthood to blacks was nothing more than bigotry and racism. Over a 130 years of racism and bigotry from a church that bears the Savior’s name… Seems to be a pretty significant doctrinal oversight that deserves more than a faithful member to merely shrug their shoulders while uttering, “We don’t have all the answers/Our leaders aren’t infallible/They’re not talking face-to-face with Christ/I guess all that stuff about correlating skin color with righteousness and wickedness in the BofM are simple human errors.”

    Begs the questions – What else are they wrong about? What will the next about face be? Why would a loving Father in Heaven with a restored church and a living prophet remain so silent for so long?