Offenders for a Word, Part 2 – Do Mormons Worship Jesus?

May 17, 2008
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In my last post I wrote about how we are all forced to take a thought and translate it into words and that this is a sloppy and imperfect process. To make matters worse, the person that has to take those words and decode them back into a thought will fail to do so correctly in many cases because they’ll get stuck on the words used, either because they don’t realize words have many meanings or because they have incentive to misunderstand.

In this post, I want to apply what we’ve discussed to a real life situation: Bruce R. McConkie’s talk on worshipping Jesus.

Case Study 2: Do Mormons Worship Jesus?

The word-offense in question comes from Bruce R. McConkie’s now famous (infamous?) talk entitled “Our Relationship with the Lord” where McConkie states that Mormons do not worship Jesus.

Anti-Mormons, with eyes full of glee, shout “Ha! Mormons don’t worship Jesus! We do!”

Disaffected Mormons say “McConkie says Mormons don’t worship Jesus, but Hinckley changed that doctrine and now Mormons do worship Jesus! (See! That’s proof the Church isn’t Divine!)”

And even believing Mormons might ask “So which is it? Do we or don’t we worship Jesus?”

But all such questions, by their very nature, are really just word-offense. None of the above questions attempt to capture the real nuance taught by Elder McConkie on the subject.

The question that a person sincere about understanding McConkie (and perhaps by extention, sincere about understanding the LDS Church) would ask is “In what sense does McConkie believe Mormons worship Jesus? In what sense do they not worship Jesus?”

Now through word-offense, it might be easier and more fun to attack McConkie and simplify his full nuanced beliefs into something he never taught, but let’s keep in mind that, thanks to the Bible, this can be done to any Old Testament-believing religion:

1 Chr 29:20 states: “And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king.

Through word-offense, I can now make the claim that all Bible-believing Christians and all Jews believe that King David was a god and that he is to be worshipped. And thanks to the single use of the word “worship” for both King David and God, I can wreak some real havoc against any counter arguments about how they are worshiped in different senses of the word. [1]

This issue of word-offense on the word “worship” is not just a Mormon issue.

With this in mind, let’s make a sincere attempt to understand McConkie’s full nuanced teachings about worshipping Jesus so that we can understand what he really meant.

Understanding the Purpose and Context of McConkie’s Talk

Bear in mind Joseph Smith’s teachings that we need to try to understand the context of a scriptural (or in this case Apostolic) statement to really understand it: “I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire [sic], what was the question which drew out the answer…” (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 276 – 277)

McConkie tells us himself that he was concerned that members of the Church might be starting to pray unto Jesus directly to gain an inappropriately intimate relationship with the 2nd member of the Godhead that down plays or excludes other members:

Now, it is no secret that many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus.

He [the Father] is the one to whom we have direct access by prayer, and if there were some need–which there is not!–to single out one member of the Godhead for a special relationship, the Father, not the Son, would be the one to choose.

There are yet others who have an excessive zeal which causes them to go beyond the mark. Their desire for excellence is inordinate. In an effort to be truer than true they devote themselves to gaining a special, personal relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.

Another peril is that those so involved often begin to pray directly to Christ because of some special friendship they feel has been developed.

It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood.

McConkie Used the Word “Worship” in Multiple Senses

McConkie did not intend for us to understand that Mormons do not worship Jesus in any sense of the word. Again, he tells us this plainly:

I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense…

In the full, final, and ultimate sense of the word the divine decree is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him. [D&C 59:5]‘

In What Sense Does McConkie Say it Is Appropriate to Worship Jesus?

In this very talk alone, I was able to make the following list of McConkie’s ideas of appropriate attitudes towards Jesus that would, in many people’s minds, constitute worship:

  1. Awe
  2. Reverence
  3. Gratitude
  4. Love
  5. Service
  6. Fellowship
  7. Revealer and manifester of God the Father
  8. The way to the Father
  9. Praise his holy name
  10. Ascribe unto Him honor, power, glory, might, and dominion
  11. Treat Him as Lord, God, and King
  12. Worshipful adoration

McConkie adds:

We do not have a fraction of the power we need to properly praise his holy name and ascribe unto him the honor and power and might and glory and dominion that is his. He is our Lord, our God, and our King.

In What Sense Does McConkie Say It is Not Appropriate to Worship Jesus?

As quoted previously, the only example he specifically gives of inappropriately worshiping Jesus is praying directly to Jesus or forming a special or more “intimate” relationship with Jesus to the exclusion of or down playing the other members of the Godhead. To McConkie, this distinction is the difference between a lesser form or “worship” and “worship” in the “true and saving sense.” (“Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator,” says McConkie.)

It would certainly seem that the LDS Church does indeed believe in addressing all prayers to the Father alone, though in the name of the Son.

Worshipping Jesus as Part of the Godhead: Deconstructing McConkie’s Doctrine of Deity

Now this might seem to be the end of our inquiry here: McConkie says that we both do and don’t worship Jesus. We do in that we have certain feelings towards Him appropriate to Diety alone. We don’t in that we don’t directly address Him in prayer because that is reserved only for the Father. I think it would be significant if we could at least get this much out of McConkie’s talk and end our word-offense over it.

But as it turns out, there is more to the story, as McConkie himself tells us.

You see, McConkie, ever on the attack against his (in my opinion incorrect) understanding of “sectarian Trinitarianism” [2] was himself somewhat of a “Social Trinitarian.” For example, McConkie says:

Thus there are, in the Eternal Godhead, three persons–God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Testator. These three are one — one God if you will – in purposes, in powers, and in perfections.

McConkie, as with all Social Trinitarians, does not seem to make a complete separation of the Godhead/Trinity. In my opinion, this proper understanding of McConkie’s own theology of God is necessary to understand McConkie fully.

To McConkie, while we are to address prayers only to the Father – this is McConkie’s key point – such worship is actually towards all members of the Godhead, in a sense, because they are all one.

Look one more time at this quote… and read it very carefully… it will pop out at you now:

He [the Father] is the one to whom we have direct access by prayer, and if there were some need — which there is not! – to single out one member of the Godhead for a special relationship, the Father, not the Son, would be the one to choose.

McConkie later adds:

First, be it remembered that most scriptures that speak of God or of the Lord do not even bother to distinguish the Father from the Son, simply because it doesn’t make any difference which God is involved. They are one. The words or deeds of either of them would be the words and deeds of the other in the same circumstance.

McConkie’s Full Teaching: We Do Worship Jesus When We Worship the Father Because They Are One

I do feel McConkie was not entirely clear on this last point within this particular talk. But if you will allow me to take McConkie’s teachings as a whole rather than forcing one talk to represent the man, consider the following McConkie quotes:

The Father and the Son are the objects of all true worship. [Note the use of a single word here for both members of the Godhead]… No one can worship the Father without also worshiping the Son. … It is proper to worship the Father, in the name of the Son, and also to worship the Son. ‘Believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.’ (2 Ne 25:16, 29) (Mormon Doctrine, p. 848-849)

Though each God in the Godhead is a personage, separate and distinct from each of the others, yet they are ‘one God’” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 319)

There are three Gods – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – who, though separate in personality, are united as one in purpose, in plan, and in all the attributes of perfection. Thus anything, in these fields, which is revealed with reference to any of them is equally true of each of the others; and hence no attempt need be made in these fields to distinguish between them.

This understanding of McConkie’s beliefs helps us understand why McConkie believed in one very notable exception to praying to Jesus. He taught it was entirely appropriate if Jesus was bodily present. In his commentary of John 16:24 he said,

Perhaps as long as Jesus was personally with them [the disciples] many of their petitions were addressed directly to him rather than to the Father. Such was the course followed by the Nephites when the resurrected and glorified Lord ministered among them. They prayed directly to him and not to the Father.

He then quoted 3 Ne 19:17-18, 22: “…they pray unto me [Jesus]; and they pray unto me because I am with them…”

A Summary of McConkie’s Teachings About Worshiping Jesus

So what can we say for certain about McConkie’s teachings about worshiping Jesus?

  1. McConkie taught that in one sense of the word “worship” we do not worship Jesus. This sense is specifically stated to be either a prayer addressed to Jesus when He isn’t bodily present or forming a special relationship with Jesus to the exclusion of the Father or the Godhead as a whole.
  2. McConkie taught that in another sense we do worship Jesus. He gave many examples of different sense in which we do worship Jesus.
  3. McConkie taught that we are to address all prayers to the Father in the name of the Son.
  4. McConkie taught that we can and do worship Jesus, albeit indirectly, when we worship the Father.
  5. McConkie taught that it was appropriate to pray to Jesus in one circumstance, when He’s physically present.

Based on my reading and understanding of every General Authority before and after McConkie, it seems to me that McConkie was really attempting to express exactly what the LDS Church has always taught and still teaches today about worship of Jesus. So I believe McConkie does in fact represent LDS beliefs on this subject even if we wish he had worded it differently.

Comparison to Other Christian Religions

What I find interesting is that the above teachings about worshiping Jesus seem quite similar to the teachings of many “orthodox Christian” religions on this very subject. [3]

I do not see this as a coincidence. I’ve learned to not overlook the ability of other religions to find truth from the Bible. On this very subject, it’s hard to miss -

  • Jesus only taught people to pray to the Father, not to Him. For example: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsover ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16:23. See also Matt 26:39, John 15:16, and many others).
  • The Bible forces people to accept that there is more than one definition of the word “worship.” 1 Chr 29:20 is the best example of this, but there are others. [1]

Many non-Mormon Christians solely and exclusively address their prayers to the Father because of Jesus’ teachings on this subject. I am unaware of any non-Mormon Christian denomination that, at least officially, advocates having a special relationship with Jesus to the exclusion of or de-emphasizing the Father. [3]

The one area that we might have some disagreement between McConkie’s teachings and other Christian religions (and possibly even Mormonism) is in having an “intimate” relationship with Jesus. But here we again bump into word-offense. What does the word “intimate” really mean as McConkie uses it? As McConkie uses the term contextually, do other Christian religions really believe in having, as it were, an inappropriate relationship that doesn’t “maintain the required reserve between us” and God? [4]

Notes:

[1] Margaret Baker, an unfortunate favorite of Mormon apologists, actually does try to make the argument, based on this verse alone, that Jews believed King David was a god in the same way other polytheistic religions believed their king was a god. But at least Margaret Baker was tolerant enough to not claim that all modern Christians are really secretly polytheists because their scriptures teach king David is God. That would be word-offense.

[2] McConkie bore a misunderstanding the traditional view of the Trinity, as do many Mormons, as well as many non-Mormon Christians: “They say he is one-god-in-three, and three-gods-in-one who neither hears, nor sees, nor speaks.” He thought the Trinity was Modalism.

[3] Okay, I admit there are exceptions. On my mission there was a lady that would start out her prayers “O Holy Spirit of Jesus.” When asked why she did she’d say “well they are all the same person!” In other words she had misunderstood the Trinity doctrine to be Modalism. My real point here is that amongst non-Modalist Christians, which technically speaking is all of them if they understood their doctrines, there are few if any Christians that believe in worshiping Jesus in some special sense as McConkie is fighting against. (In my next article I’ll address how this means McConkie was himself taking word-offense against other Christians.)

[4] Remember, these are the very same Christians that feel our doctrine of deification is blasphemous because there needs to be a strong separation between creator and created. From their point of view it is we Mormons that believe in having an “intimate” relationship with Jesus and the Father that is inappropriate and without the required reserve appropriate for worshipful adoration.

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  • http://michelleglauser.blogspot.com Michelle Glauser

    Why do the people pray to Jesus in 3 Nephi 19? (Verses 18, 24, 25, etc.) Also, in verse 8, they pray exactly what he prayed. Don’t we believe that we should change our prayers? We Mormons often say that with the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was just giving an example, not something to be memorized. Another thing in this chapter . . . Jesus commanded Nephi to baptize all the people, which he did. But then why doesn’t he command Nephi to confirm them all? Instead the Holy Ghost just falls upon them.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Hi Michelle,

    Good questions. It’s hard to give a detailed answer on a post like this, but I’ll try.

    As for praying to Jesus when he is bodily present, Mormons do teach this is okay. Jesus is God and He represents the Father to us. In my post above I give the quote from McConkie that this is prefectly acceptable. Jesus Himself explained in the book of Mormon that the people did it only because He was present:

    3 Nephi 19:22

    Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say that they prayed exactly what Jesus did. I think you are refering to:

    3 Nephi 19:

    7 And the disciples did pray unto the Father also in the name of Jesus. And it came to pass that they arose and ministered unto the people.
    8 And when they had ministered those same words which Jesus had spoken—nothing varying from the words which Jesus had spoken—behold, [then] they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus.

    I have never read this to mean they prayed the same words, only repeated the sermons He had previously taught.

    That being said, I’ve always felt Mormons over do the “always vary the prayer” thing as a way of making an unneeded distiction between us and Catholics. Obviously we do believe that some prayers should not be varied at all, such as the sacrement. There is need for both rote prayers and varied prayers.

    As for the Holy Ghost and confirmation, I have never been one to believe that God always handles things in exactly the same way, as some Mormons try to teach. (They usually quote the verse about “ordinances” not changing while overlooking the abundant scriptural evidence that “ordinances” do in fact change if God wants them to. Besides, the word “ordinance” has changed over time and they aren’t adjusting to that fact.)

    God can handle things how He wants. We are subject to what He now teaches. This is why, for instance, the Book of Mormon gives two different accounts for the baptismal prayer — one prior to Jesus coming and one after Jesus came. Both of which are different then the one we use today.

    Prior to Jesus’s Coming: Mosiah 18:13

    …I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a ccovenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world

    After Jesus Coming: (Note, they had been given authority directly by Jesus): 3 Nephi 11:

    Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen

    What we do today (Note: we have not receive our authority directly from Jesus laying hands on us): D&C 20:73

    …and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

    What I find interesting about 3 Nephi 19 is that, although they did not practice confirmations back then, they still believed in the need to receive the Holy Ghost after baptism. In other words, God may vary things a bit, but apparently not by much.

    I could give you other examples of changes to how God handles (what we now call) “ordinances.” The point isn’t that they never change. It’s that if they do change they are changed by the correct authority — i.e. God.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Excellent, Bruce.

  • http://michelleglauser.blogspot.com Michelle Glauser

    Awesome, thanks for going to so much trouble. Sorry for a little bit of varying from the topic. :)

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Mchelle, just a simple follow-up:

    If anyone ever says, “Ordinances never change; the Church is false because it teaches that ordinances have changed and do change,” just remind them that God used to signify His chosen people through the “ordinance” of circumcision. He doesn’t to that anymore. Now circumcision is nothing more than a health practice that has NO religious significance to the vast majority of the world. Baptism replaced it – a significant change in the “ordinances of salvation”.

    Also, apparently the rules change greatly in the actual presence of deity, as your question and Bruce’s answer (and examples in the Bible) illustrate. That alone makes me very hesitant to claim I understand much about what the afterlife actually will be like. I can see easily the eternal principles being represented one way here in mortality and having the clear eternal picture be quite different without the need for symbolic representation.

  • Joe Geisner

    I have no idea how old you are Bruce or if you attended the devotional that day in March 1982. I was there and I was very close to Joseph Fielding McConkie. The feeling felt that day on the BYU campus and in Utah generally was nothing that you describe in your long post here. Joseph made it clear his father meant everything he said about worshiping the Father and him only. In that speech, McConkie was clear, emphatic, that we worship the Father and him only. The two examples from his talk below illustrate this point.

    “We know that God is the only supreme and independent Being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell and that he is omnipotent, omniscient, and, by the power of his Spirit, omnipresent.”

    “We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping (sic) Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense–the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.”

    I think it is important to add that the definition of the Godhead is not so clear and not so cut as modern Mormons seem to be implying. For three hundred years the greatest minds in Christianity grappled with the idea of one God, two Gods or three. We like to make it sound simple, well it is not. Do you believe in a supreme God? Before you answer, you had better think about the fall out from a yes or no. The great minds had to come up with Trinitarianism. Trinitarianism is; “with respect to the power, God is one; but with respect to the economy, the manifestation is triple” or think of a tree, there is one tree, but there is the roots, the trunk, and the branches.

    Van Hale points out in his excellent paper found in Sunstone December 2006 “I Am Liberal In My Sentiments Towards All Men” that Joseph endorsed three definitions of the Godhead in the final year of is life. I would suggest he even supported another definition found in the Book of Mormon, that of modalism.( see Dan Vogel in “Line Upon Line” and Melody Moench Charles in “New Approaches to the Book of Mormon”)

    Mormons today are not Trinitarians or Social Trinitarians, we are Tritheist, in other words: belief in three Gods, esp. in the doctrine that the three persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are three distinct Gods.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Joe, Given BRM’s own words in the talk and the other things he said that Bruce quoted, it’s really hard to make the case that there is NO way in which Mormons “worship” Jesus – or even that there’s NO way in which Elder McConkie himself “worshiped” Jesus. At most, it appears that he believed we do not worship Jesus *in the same way* we worship the Father (perhaps “as much as the Father”, although that wording gets tricky) – which is what Bruce appears to be saying and what I’ve been taught all my life.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> In that speech, McConkie was clear, emphatic, that we worship the Father and him only

    I did not say otherwise.

    >>> Mormons today are not Trinitarians or Social Trinitarians, we are Tritheist…

    These are just words. If you are comfortable with such a designation, by all means you should use it. I do not reject “tri-theism” though I think any one label fails to grasp our real doctrine of deity. That is to say, I agree with your statement here: “I think it is important to add that the definition of the Godhead is not so clear and not so cut as modern Mormons seem to be implying.”

    But I see such a statement as logically at odds with your simple acceptance of one label and rejection of another.

  • Doug G.

    Interesting post Bruce, I think your thoughts here demonstrate why so many of us in the church are now struggling with what we believe and what that belief actually means.

    I keep going back to this change in direction with doctrine. I realize we could have lots of debates about what the meaning of the word “doctrine” actually is, but for me it was the teaching that made us different from the rest of the Protestant religions that were the most important. Doctrines that we completely agree on would never make someone decide to be a Mormon over a Lutheran.

    So this then is my point, you’ve done a nice job, in your post, of showing all of us folks over 40 why we had it totally wrong back when Elder McConkie tried to get rid of what he thought was a great heresy in the church. The church of my youth had many teaching that were clear and directly in opposition to the rest of the Christian world. Even more relevant, we were proud of our better understanding of the “gospel” and all those things that made us unique.

    Now days, that confidence is gone as many “teachings” of the past are pushed aside as “well that wasn’t doctrine” or “he was speaking as a man not as the prophet” or “that doctrine was for a different time and people”. The list goes on, but I think you get the point. We don’t know what we believe anymore because even things we were so sure about in the 60’s are considered “misunderstood” today.

    I must be honest and tell you, I long for the church of my youth. We were sure of our beliefs and didn’t care what the rest of the world thought about it. Teachings included things like, “God is the same yesterday, today and forever”. “If God chose twelve apostles to run his church 2000 years ago, then any church without twelve today is not his”. Today, the church could change that organization and say; “Look that was for a different time and people, today we are run by a corporation”.

    I hope your getting the gist of my thoughts here Bruce. You have done a masterful job in many of your previous postings of showing how “teachings” can and will change and how change sometimes even occurs because words have different means to different people. Unfortunately, the side effect of all this just further illustrates the point that what we think we understand today could very easily change in 20 years and most likely will. Where is the church of my youth that had all the answers and knew we were right?

  • Joe Geisner

    I don’t want to get into a pissing match, but your words do say otherwise. If you recall your comments to me on your other Trinity post.

    You really believe we are Trinitarian? Then you do not understand what Trinitarian means.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Doug G, perhaps it has left its infancy and adolescence and has grown up? *grin* I don’t say that flippantly, nor do I mean it condescendingly. I just know that *everything* was more black and white when I was younger – and I see that in the Church, as well. Everyone was a convert in the beginning, even Joseph in a very real way, and I believe much of what drives people nuts is no more than the maturation process that is unavoidable in mortality as we learn and grow and realize how much we don’t know. (or, at least, that I wish was unavoidable – I have known some people and organizations that simply refuse to mature.)

    Fwiw, you probably realize I don’t see the changing understanding as a bad thing, but I also should make it crystal clear that I also don’t see any great, seismic shift in the CORE principles and doctrines of the Restoration. We still believe in a Great Apostasy, the restoration of the priesthood that can administer eternally binding ordinances for all of mankind, the reality of multiple prophetic sources and on-going revelation – both collective and personal – in all its messy glory, the centrality of Jesus in the Plan of Salvation as our Savior and Redeemer, the primacy of obedience (fruits) over work-less belief, the importance of establishing and serving in the Kingdom of God on earth, the eternal potential to become like God, and on and on and on. I don’t think we have abandoned – or even altered significantly – any of the Articles of Faith. How we express each of these CORE principles and doctrines has vacillated from time to time as we struggle to see through our glass less darkly, but the concepts themselves haven’t changed in ways that I would classify as significant.

    I know we disagree a bit there, but I just think it’s interesting that I can be classified as a “Skeptical Believer” here at Mormon Matters, while I am seen as an arch-conservative generally on FMH, mostly conservative on BCC and T&S, simply verbose on Trash Calls, insightful but occasionally heretical on Mormon Momma, etc. I think I am classified in each case in comparison to the general tone of the blog, which I believe is relevant to this discussion (and your frustration) in a real way. I don’t really care how I’m classified, since I know I am a “faithful, believing member” – and that’s all that really matters to me. Of direct relevance to this discussion, I accept that 20-50 years from now members might read what I have written and agree, disagree, laugh or have any other reaction. My words might be dissected, if anyone even reads them, to prove how wrong the Church is – because someone in my position of leadership was so badly mistaken; they might be read to show how right the Church is – because someone like me was so correct. I have no idea how my words will be used, if they are used at all, but, if they are used at all, I’m fairly certain they will fill both roles – as “proof” that the Church was right by some and wrong by others. That’s just the nature of the human beast.

    I’m just doing my best to explain (and evaluate) my own muddle in the middle as I make my way through life.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe says: “I don’t want to get into a pissing match, but your words do say otherwise. If you recall your comments to me on your other Trinity post.”

    I don’t know what you mean here, Joe. I went back and re-read my comment to you and it seems like a summary of this very post. In both I said that there are two sense of the word “worship” and that we do “worship” Jesus in one sense and that we don’t “worship” Jesus in another sense. This is what I’ve consistently said and it’s what McConkie taught, as is evidenced by his own words.

    There is no need for a disagreement between us to turn into a “match” as you call it. We can amicably agree to disagree. If you feel that Mormon beliefs on deity can’t be approximated with the term “social Trinitarian” then I will have to agree to disagree with you.

    You said back in your other post: “Joseph Smith moved though many stages/concepts and seems to finally attach himself to tritheism and this might be what Mormons believe today”

    I do not disagree with you necessarily. But I do feel you’ve now moved to a much greater level of certainty of a single label with post #6, but I feel that is your choice to decide how you choose to understand and describe your beliefs. Please allow me the same privilege I am allowing you.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Ray says: “My words might be dissected, if anyone even reads them, to prove how wrong the Church is – because someone in my position of leadership was so badly mistaken; they might be read to show how right the Church is – because someone like me was so correct.”

    Or all of the above.

    DougG, I understand what you are saying. My feelings are much the same as Ray’s. I do believe we’ve matured as a Church and I think it’s good. But I can see what you say about yearning for “the good old days” so to speak. There is a certain appeal to the simpler approach. But that doesn’t mean the simpler approach is “better.”

    Okay, sorry, to thread jack slightly, but let me give an example…

    I have given a lot of thought to the intolerance towards Mormons that I see. One of my observations is that in certain Christian circles, particularly the more militant Evangelical Christians, their intolerance isn’t just individuals being intolerant (as all religions, including ours will always have) but it is also (to some degree) institutionalized and organized. That is to say, there is organized religious encouragement towards intolerance to Mormons at times. I’ve seen this first hand and it is very real and ugly when it manifests itself.

    I do not currently see any sort of institutionalized equivalence in the Mormon Church, though of course there are individual Mormons that are bigoted towards other religions. (I know I’ll get flamed for saying that, but it is my honest evaluation.)

    Getting up in an LDS Church and saying nasty things about Evangelicals would get you a talking to by the Bishop in every ward I’ve ever been in (your personal experience my vary.) And I’ve never seen a ward “Anti-” class where misrepresentations are held up as truth about other religions – not that we don’t make honest mistakes at times. But as someone who has actively corrected such misunderstandings in my own wards, I’m happy to report that Mormons are now culturally adjusted to such corrections to the point where they accept them gladly and happily and without argument usually.

    What I find interesting is that if you go back in time, even just a few decades, I find that the Mormon Church did indeed used to have a more institutionalized bigotry towards other religions. While we never held (in my life time anyhow) “anti-Born Again” courses or what have you, we did intentionally misrepresent other religions for the sake of building ours up.

    While such practices are not *dead* per se, they are so significantly mitigated compared to decades ago or compared to our militant Christian neighbors today. It’s very clear to me that there has been an leadership choice to stop institutionalizing our bigotry towards other religions.

    So why am I explaining my personal observation on this? Because to some degree I have to admit that I “miss” the old days where I could explain that I didn’t believe in the Trinity because “only an idiot believes in one God that is three and three Gods that are one and where God prays to himself.” There is a primal appeal to taking such a stance. I can’t deny this.

    But the primal appeal, real though it is for me, is not a good thing. For such misrepresentations of other religions are bigotry, plain and simple. So appealing or not, they are sin and we should do away with them and repent as quickly as we possibly can.

    To some degree, I see what you are saying as much the same thing. I do not deny the appeal of the olds days, but it’s time to move. (Update: Doug, what I am advocating here is not that we act like Protestants, which is your perception and I don’t share it, but that we find real substantial differences and emphasize those and no longer use fake differences for the sake of making other religions look bad so that we look better in comparision.)

    I personally believe that our more militant Christian neighbors will eventually follow suit and we’ll see hate groups, like the counter cult movement, rejected by our Christian neighbors much like Christian skin-heads are today. I DO NOT see this as an eventual move to include Mormons as non-heretics, but I do not want that to happen. I simply believe our neighbors will eventually start to take a lot more care on how they represent the beliefs of other human beings and recognized the value of letting people define their own beliefs.

    And I think the Mormon Church will continue to improve in this area as well.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe,

    May I ask you a sincere question. I am not certain, from your posts (which I just reviewed) if you yourself believe what you are saying (i.e. you consider your self a tri-theist that also believes in a modalistic Book of Mormon) or if you are simply describing other’s beliefs and defining them.

    Here is the relevant quote:
    “I have been Mormon most of my life, but I don’t know what Mormons believe when it comes to the Trinity/Godhead. According to McConkie Mormons worship only the Father (was he Binitarian?). In the Book of Mormon there is only one God we worship and he is all three at different times(modalist). Many General Authorities today seem to suggest we worship Jesus.”

    In other word, please feel free to explain what *your* personal beliefs are even if they differ from what you feel McConkie, Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon taught.

    But for my money, I’m betting they were all describing the same belief but struggling to find the right words. And I’ll gladly dig through and attempt to understand what they really meant and reconcile them all.

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    If you feel that Mormon beliefs on deity can’t be approximated with the term “social Trinitarian” then I will have to agree to disagree with you.

    The problem here is that Joe and Bruce are each speaking from significantly different religions. As I’ve discussed such things on the Internet, I’ve distinguished between Mormonism and what I can only call “LDS-ism.” This sometimes has the unfortunate result of sending current LDS members into hysterical fits of anger, but it is simply an honest evaluation of my own observations. The LDS church of today is remarkably different than even the LDS church that I joined in 1979, whether you consider those differences good or bad. The LDS church of today is vastly, and with ever-increasing speed, different from Mormonism, i.e. the religion that Joseph Smith and other early Mormons taught.

    As I’ve participated in the bloggernacle, I’ve seen that many participants, despite being a largely educated group, simply seem to have no concept that doctrinal change has taken place. Instead, they go to great lengths to insist that current LDS teachings have “always” been the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Where modern LDS teachings differ from the records of what Joseph Smith taught, these bloggernacle supermen now pretend that the records are unreliable. If they can’t convince themselves and others that the records are faulty, they twist and warp the recorded sermons of Joseph Smith, insisting that he was really teaching 2008 LDS doctrine all along. They’ll claim virtually anything, in order to numb their own cognitive dissonance.

    Joe is arguing Mormonism here, while Bruce is arguing LDS-ism. It’s as simple as that. The only “disagreement” between them is the same kind of disagreement that would exist in a theological discussion between a Catholic and a Muslim.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Nick, as always, you are entitled to your opinions. That being said, please remember that I am speaking of my own beliefs and you are speaking of someone else’s and not your own. So please, becareful here and recognize that you are putting words into other’s mouths.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Nick, I agree with your central thesis of change, even if I don’t agree with your choice of terminology and your own preference for the past over the present, but I don’t think “it’s as simple as that” in this case. Elder McConkie’s various statements about the nature of God and our worship of Him/Them are hard to pigeonhole within one label. Bruce is saying that; Joe seems to be arguing against that by claiming that there really is one label that works for “The Church”.

    The same type of difference that exists between their interpretations existed among the apostles and members who were contemporary with Joseph, and it has continued ever since. There never has been consensus to the degree that one label for this issue could fit “The Church”, imho.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> Joe is arguing Mormonism here, while Bruce is arguing LDS-ism

    Please explain yourself further here, Nick. Joe states that the Book of Mormon teaches modalism and Joseph Smith, at the end of his life, taught tri-theism. So it would appear that if you agree with Joe that you are reifying “Mormonism” out of a collection of contradictory beliefs and thus I’m not sure I understand your point.

    >>> Elder McConkie’s various statements about the nature of God and our worship of Him/Them are hard to pigeonhole within one label. Bruce is saying that;

    Yes, Ray, this is exactly what I am saying.

  • Joe Geisner

    I admit I was nebulous in my first response to your Trinity post and more direct/positive in my response to this posting. On the question of what I believe, I would say the first response was much more personal and reflective of what I believe. The reason I was so direct in this response to this post was you seemed to have issue with me being nebulous, I figured you would like the more direct/positive approach.

    Now for my questions to you. Do you agree or disagree that Joseph affirmed three to four different approaches to Deity the last year of his life? Do you agree or disagree that the Book of Mormon is basically modalism when it comes to its teaching on Deity? Do you agree or disagree that orthodox Christianity is Trinitarian? Do you agree or disagree that Mormonism is not Trinitarian? Before we can continue any discussion we have some basic ground rules. Nick maybe correct that we could be so far apart (no common ground) in our understanding of these basic issues we can not talk with one another.

    Nick is correct, I was arguing the Mormon doctrine of Deity. No matter how you spin it Bruce McConkie was Trithiesm. The missionaries teach Trithiesm. I was brought up to believe Trithiesm. Bruce McConkie used words such as “one God”, because he along with every other Mormon does not want to be called Pagan. It was the Pagans who had multiple gods. The Christians did not want to be Pagans, they wanted to follow the Jewish example of only “one true God”. That is why they had to come up with the Trinitarian Deity.

  • http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    Elder McConkie presented this talk with a specific agenda in mind and in the process created a great deal of confusion. He was concerned about a book and even mentions it in his talk. He refers to it as an “unwise book”.

    I love the writings of Elder McConkie, but this particular talk created many problems and I understand that Elder McConkie received some criticism from the brethren.

    I agree that this talk has merit, but in order to understand his talk one needs to understand why he gave it. He was attacking a book written by a BYU religion teacher. I feel it was heartless of Elder McConkie to present this talk in the manner he did.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    “I understand that Elder McConkie received some criticism from the brethren.”

    Nice understatement, Jared. *grin*

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe, I do not want to play wordism with you. Yes, of course Mormons are, in a sense, tri-theists, just as you say. And yet, even by your very own words they are also monotheists: “Bruce McConkie used words such as “one God”, because he along with every other Mormon does not want to be called Pagan. It was the Pagans who had multiple gods. The Christians did not want to be Pagans, they wanted to follow the Jewish example of only “one true God”. That is why they had to come up with the Trinitarian Deity.”

    It seems to me that neither label is a perfect fit, but both approximate certain aspects of our beliefs. Getting hung up on the words themselves seems pointless to me. And since you seem to understand this, I do not understand your insistence on a single label. In fact, I can’t understand what you are disagreeing with me over.

    Do you agree or disagree that Joseph affirmed three to four different approaches to Deity the last year of his life?

    Tell me more about this. I have no knowledge of what you are referring to. I guess all I can say is that if you believe Joseph held three contradictory views of God that can’t be reconciled then, no, I don’t believe this. (Because, of course, I will take all the data involved and work to find a way to understand it all together, which is what I should do since I’m a believer.) But if you believe Joseph used three different methods of explaining a profound truth difficult to put into words, then yes, I might agree.

    Do you agree or disagree that the Book of Mormon is basically modalism when it comes to its teaching on Deity?

    No, I do not agree with this statement. As I have shown in my posts, I have no reason to believe this is true. Yes, I can see how someone seeking to hold the Book of Mormon or Mormonism as man-made would be able to make that case while ignoring the full teachings of the Book of Mormon on the subject. (Or if you prefer, let’s just say there is more than one way to interpret the Book of Mormon and Modalism can be taken from it if one wants to, but it doesn’t have to be read that way.)

    Do you agree or disagree that orthodox Christianity is Trinitarian?
    Yes

    Do you agree or disagree that Mormonism is not Trinitarian?
    Mormonism is not “orthodox Trinitarian,” no, because we reject substance theology, which is crucial to full orthodox Trinitarianism. However, Mormons have a close affiliation with “social Trinitarians” because they do not believe in substance theology either. However, we can’t really be said to be strict social Trinitarians because they do not generally believe in an embodied Father. So this is only an approximate match.

    Joe, I have to be honest here. I feel like you are just getting stuck on the words. I’m going to a lot of effort to fully explain the nuances of my and the LDS Church’s beliefs. I do not feel you are doing the same for me in return. I feel you are just holding up labels. I also feel that you are not making any attempt at all to take all the scriptural/prophetic data and work it into a single explanation like I am doing.

    Let me demonstrate my point:

    Please explain to me why you feel Mormons must be “tritheists” when McConkie clearly says there is one God. No, don’t explain to me that he doesn’t want to be thought of as pagan, I mean explain to me how you reconcile those two points logically. It’s not hard to do and there is more than one way to do. I’m just asking how *you* do it. I’ve already explained in great detail how *I* do it.

    And please explain to me how you reconcile the more “modalist” sounding teachings in the Book of Mormon with the Book of Mormon’s insists that the Spirit of the Lord and Jesus are separate physical beings and that the Father and the Son are specifically separate personalities that can speak in different voices from heaven. And please reconcile this for me with Joseph Smith’s teachings at the end of his life.

    If your answer is “Mormonism never actually taught anything specific and was often contradictory because it’s man-made” fine, we can agree to disagree. But if you intended to actually take those data points and reconcile them into a single set of teachings, please do so for me from your point of view so that I have any chance at all of understanding your objection to my beliefs.

    And please explain to me why McConkie, who you insist taught that we do not worship Jesus at all, specifically taught that we *did* worship Jesus and taught this on more than one occaison. (I demonstrated this clearly and plainly in my quotes from him and you did not interact with those quotes.)

    Joe, it’s one thing for you to disagree with me generically like you are doing. It’s another for you to explain your own understanding and try to reconcile these points yourself. If your belief is that McConkie was an old fuddy duddy that contradicted himself, very well, state that and we can agree to disagree. But if you intended to actually take those data points and reconcile them, please do so for me from your point of view and please explain how you think McConkie is saying something different from what I am taking away from him. I’m sure there is room for various opinions, but right now we have my opinion and your disagreement. But you have not explained your full beliefs.

  • Joe Geisner

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. My guess is that we will not find that common ground that I perceived was possible. I am sorry to have posted in the first place, I should have known better.

    When you answered the Book of Mormon question I realized that we have nothing in common. I was hoping to have a rational and serious discussion on this subject. You have made it clear that is not possible. When you use words like “believe it is true” and “seeking to hold as man-made” you want to discuss faith and belief. That is fine, but it is not rational or serious. I have tried to take these subjects seriously and have done as Paul suggested “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things”.

    Words are all we have in this medium, in fact it is what we have in most mediums. Unless one is able to discuss these issues on a serious level with words, understanding and definitions then the discussion is pointless. As I read your questions I am convinced my answers have already explained the difficulties you raise. In this talk McConkie said in the “true and saving sense” we only worship the Father, how much more clear does one have to be. This is the talk you have to use, he never recanted this talk, this is it. I am tired of playing FAIR games, putting round pegs into square holes does not work. I am tired of all the verbiage of “you are just getting stuck in the words”. I said that we don’t want to be pagan so we worship “one God”. I said it is the same for the early Christians. That is what the evidence provides and scholars have argued. If you want to have faith in something else that is fine, it is just not serious.

  • Kevin Rex

    This particular talk of Elder McConkie’s is, in my opinion, not a good representation of Mormon or LDS Doctrine, as there seems to be a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that Elder McConkie, just like all humans, was speaking in rebuke to someone that really wasn’t deserving of the rebuke and that perhaps E. McConkie was speaking in some anger. I would suggest studying other talks given by E. McConkie or other more recent general authorities to gain a more sound basis for launching into these discussions. The following website has a quite complete history of the events and circumstances that created Elder McConkie’s rebuke, and I think the evidence points towards something wrong in how Elder McConkie delivered this talk and affected what he spoke about in a way that was wrong.

    http://mormonalliance.org/casereports/volume2/part2/v2p2c06.htm

    If the link doesn’t work, mormon alliance on a search engine should get you there. Some of you might be aware of this website, but if not, this particular case report about Elder McConkie was, for me, very enlightening, even if not all of it is true or even if it is told by the son of the man Elder McConkie was trying to rebuke.

  • Doug G.

    Ray and Bruce,

    As always, thanks for taking the time to provide your insights to my ramblings…

    Ray, I had no idea you blogged on so many websites! I must admit, I really don’t take the time to do this anywhere else. I used to blog on mormon stories because I liked the stuff John Dehlin did when I first learned some fairly uncomfortable parts of our history. I think it’s somewhat disappointing that he stopped working for the middle way. Without it, I would be fairly lost as to what religion I should associate myself with.

    Please don’t confuse my nostalgia for the past with my current beliefs. (And I don’t think you are) It’s unfortunate, but you can never go back. It’s very much like when I believed in Santa Claus, as much as I would like to go back to that kind of innocent belief, the reality is you can’t. So it is with the church…

    “I believe much of what drives people nuts is no more than the maturation process that is unavoidable in mortality as we learn and grow and realize how much we don’t know”

    I have made very similar comments has this one Ray. I understand the need for change and I also understand how more scientific knowledge eventually drives religion to give up some basic beliefs. Not many in the church today believe in the “young earth” or that suns get their energy from other suns. We don’t actually need the blood of Abraham running through our veins to be chosen people, the Indians can be mostly from Asia and black people don’t need to wait for the millennium for the priesthood. I get all that and I even agree that holding on to those kind of beliefs would drive the church out of existence eventually. The Catholic Church has made many “adjustments” over the centuries to stay viable as well.

    I think we’re actually saying the same thing here (that’s scary) and I appreciate your honest approach to what for many is a very uncomfortable thing to come to grips with…

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> Ray, I had no idea you blogged on so many websites! I must admit, I really don’t take the time to do this anywhere else

    Wasn’t Ray recently awared “top commentator” or something?

  • Thomas Parkin

    “It’s unfortunate, but you can never go back.”

    That’s not true.

    ~

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    #17:
    Nick, I agree with your central thesis of change, even if I don’t agree with your choice of terminology and your own preference for the past over the present…

    It’s certainly true, Ray, that I prefer the Mormon past over the LDS present. I would simply clarify that this preference isn’t so much a Mormon Fundamentalist bent, as some might conclude from my comments. Rather, the changes that have taken place in the LDS church, particularly over the past 20 years, changed it into a religion which I no longer personally found useful, enlightening or attractive. The LDS church has become, for me, no more worthwhile than any random “mainstream christian” church. Those who know me well know that I long said that if I ever left the LDS church, I certainly would not become part of any other “christian” faith, because I found their teachings impossible to accept. The LDS church has, in my view, changed to the point where it falls closer to that category, than it does to the many beautiful principles I saw in Mormonism.

    #22:
    (Because, of course, I will take all the data involved and work to find a way to understand it all together, which is what I should do since I’m a believer.)

    Honestly, Bruce, what I see you really doing in most cases is taking select portions of the data involved and working to find a way to make it look like the data from Joseph Smith’s time onward reflected the opinions expressed by Gordon Hinckley and the modern LDS church. That may do something to temporarily numb your cognitive dissonance, but it sets you up for self-deception. Mind you, I certainly support your right to believe the current doctrines of the LDS church, no matter what I may think of them. I just find it frustrating when you and other try to pretend that they uniformly (or even predominately) reflect historical Mormonism.

    #24:
    This particular talk of Elder McConkie’s is, in my opinion, not a good representation of Mormon or LDS Doctrine…

    I agree that McConkie’s talk did not represent the current teachings of the LDS church. On what basis do you conclude that his talk did not represent Mormon doctrine?

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    You know, I keep seeing people try to convince others that Bruce R. McConkie never meant what he said in the BYU speech at hand. People keep trying to use other statements or writings of McConkie, in order to deny that McConkie ever believed or taught that Mormons do not worship Jesus of Nazareth. Somehow the apparent contradictions are supposed to “disprove” what McConkie so clearly stated at BYU.

    This reminds me of a similar situation, in which some LDS still attempt to convince others that Brigham Young never taught that Adam was our deity. The self-appointed “defenders of the faith” like to quote other, apparently contradictory, statements of Brigham Young, in order to “disprove” that he ever taught such a thing. Of course, some of those dishonest “defenders” even continue to spread the Mark E. Peterson falsehood, wherein he claimed that there was only one record of such a teaching (JD 1:50), and that it was “obviously mistranscribed.” Fortunately, we have honest researchers who have shown otherwise.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Not “awarded top commenter” – just identified as “most frequent commenter”. There is a BIG difference. Mine might say nothing more than that I like to talk. *grin*

    (and thanks, Doug, for your response. I really appreciate the way you worded it.)

  • Doug G.

    Mr. Parkin,

    “It’s unfortunate, but you can never go back.”

    “That’s not true.”

    Are you offering to start a new orthodox Mormon faith based on the teachings of 1830 church, the 1860’s church, 1904 church, the 1960, or the 1980 church? I don’t think I can go back, but perhaps you can. Just curious about how far back you’re eluding to in the contents of this discussion?

    You will need to start a new church as I’m very confident the one you’re in is not going back.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Nick, that’s a bit unfair in this forum. Nobody here is making the claim that BRM never said we don’t worship Jesus. In fact, this very post quotes him saying exactly that. It also, however, shows that such a statement doesn’t fully explain Elder McConkie’s full view on that question. **In that very talk**, as Bruce points out, BRM lists ways that we do “worship” Jesus, and he then he quotes other talks that CLEARLY state a “worship” of Jesus – in BRM’s own words.

    “Mormons don’t worship Jesus” is way too simplistic, since it carries all kinds of connotations that simply aren’t true in Mormonism. As I said in one of my comments, if you were to say that McConkie taught that we we don’t worship Jesus in the SAME WAY or to the SAME EXTENT as we worship the Father, then you have a solid argument – one which I would help you make.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Doug, in case Thomas isn’t around to answer for a while or doesn’t read your question, I’m fairly certain he meant that *individuals* can “go back” to the Church once they’ve left due to these types of doubts and struggles. From other things he has said, I know that’s what he has done. I don’t think he meant that the *Church* can – or should – “go back” to an earlier iteration. I think he misunderstood what you meant, as I think you meant the Church can’t go back. (I think the “you” complicated your comment.)

    Thomas, if that is not a correct reading of your comment, I apologize.

  • http://sospire.blogspot.com Miriam

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. Here’s a manual trackback, because Blogger’s trackback script won’t talk to your website.
    http://sospire.blogspot.com/2008/05/to-whom-do-jews-bow.html

  • Thomas Parkin

    Ray, yes. I’ve been in my Fortress of Solitude, honing my skills as a Bloggernacle Superman!!

    Doug, perhaps I misunderstood what you were saying.

    In any case, I think many older Mormon doctrines will come back into vogue. I don’t know why this would have to seen as a linear process.

    ~

  • IQ92

    The whole discussion feels circular and tautological. The minor premise is being widened until all conclusions are equally (in)viable (i.e, depends on what the definition of is is.)

  • Joe Woodbury

    I agree with Nick that there has been another fundamental shift in the LDS church on the theology of Jesus. (I say another, since the first edition of the Book of Mormon clearly was strongly monotheistic with a Jesus/God from the protestant tradition. This same Jesus centric monotheism existed in Joseph Smith’s first versions of his First Vision–God and Jesus were made separate in the edits of 1832 and the later versions of the First Vision.)

    The problem with simply focusing on Bruce R. McConkie’s 1982 talk is that it ignores several other talks he gave, including, perhaps especially, his final conference address in 1985. I heard the talk live and was touched by it, but at the same time was a little uncomfortable at the level of his fawning. That discomfort only increased in time. Regardless of whether McConkie was worshiping Jesus in 1982, by 1985 he undeniably was.

    Interestingly, in 1982 the missionary program was changed. The discussions were shuffled and we were mandated to use the the Jesus Christ discussion first. (I felt, and still feel despite my apostasy, that the Plan of Salvation was the central doctrine of Mormonism and that Jesus could only be understood properly within that context. I worried that putting Jesus first would serve to diminish the difference between the Mormon theology of Jesus and the general Protestant theology of Jesus.)

    Looking back now, it’s clear to me that McConkie was only a transition point. What he implied with words, he could not state as doctrine since that would have been heresy to his own earlier stated beliefs. Regardless, by the early 1990s, having a personal relationship with Jesus was being preached from the conference pulpit and being advocated in books. The church logo was changed. It’s gotten to the point where outsiders can be excused if they don’t know that Mormons still ostensibly believe in a Godhead of three distinct persons.

    (Ironically, McConkie himself denounced the modern Mormon Jesus theology in the 1960s and early 1970s as a great heresy.

    Incidentally, Mormons also don’t “worship” Joseph Smith, but that line sure got blurry a few years ago during the bicentennial celebration of his birth. Then again, I say worship, you say adulation, I say a distinction without a difference.)

  • Joe Geisner

    I just reread the April 1985 talk and it might have reached the level of fawning. But no where do I find McConkie recant his comments of the 1982 talk. One can read into what they want, but not once does he use the word worship.

    I also read chapter 20 in Joseph Fielding McConkie’s book “The Bruce R. McConkie Story” and he claims his father was assigned by the twelve to give this talk in 1982. Joseph never explicitly or implicitly writes that his father backed down from this teaching, if anything he affirms this was his fathers belief until he passed away. I have never heard or read a comment by a then current member of the 1st Presidency or twelve denounce or disavow McConkie’s comments at General Conference or BYU. If someone can point this out to me please do so. If you are going to sight the Mormon Alliance article, don’t bother. I was the source for the member of the 70s comments that said McConkie’s talk was “unfortunate and unchristian”. I know that McConkie’s poem has “I worship him with all my might”, but this was written and read in General Conference in 1972, not after his 1982 talk as some have supposed.

  • Doug G.

    I believe you’re right Ray. The “you” did complicate my point. I don’t disagree that people go in and out of believing. Some do go back after leaving as the outside world of religion is confusing at best. Most of us need spirituality to feel complete and therefore will put issues on the shelf, as it were, to enjoy fellowship with a community of believers. I still participate to make my wife happy and sometimes I even find a gem in the rough there myself.

    As I haven’t actually completely felt, it would be wrong to suppose others couldn’t leave and come back. Thanks for clarifying my misunderstanding of Thomas’s point.

  • Thomas Parkin

    ” I know that McConkie’s poem has “I worship him with all my might”, but this was written and read in General Conference in 1972, not after his 1982 talk as some have supposed.”

    It was also included in the 1985 hymnal.

    ~

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Woodbury,

    Hi Joe, I am not quite sure how to approach this. I’d like to engage you in some dialog as you are someone that clearly has a different point of view about the Church then I do and that is what dialog is: two people with different points of view discussing issues with each other without bitterness, without getting angry, without ad hominem attacks, and with respect for the existence of differing points of view.

    And I really don’t mind the fact that you see the Church as “changing.” I have never claimed it hasn’t gone through changes, even massive changes. I’ve never seen any believer on Mormon Matters, such as myself, make a claim counter to that fact. (Please note, for example, that Ray admits this in this very thread and so do I. It’s just that we think the changes are good.) So I’d like to engage you in dialog and try to understand where you are coming from better.

    Now part of dialog would be that I’d have to point out that I see your post in #37 as inconsistent and maybe even contradictory (even as Joe Geisner is pointing out in post #38, btw). But I’m really not sure how to approach such a statement because I fear I’m going to offend you by disagreeing with you.

    You see I came to Mormon Matters with intent to try to have dialog with DAMU and NOM Mormons because I feel like an exchange of ideas would be healthy for myself and for them as well. But my experience here, so far at least, has been that the full or partially disaffected elements really do not like dialog and prefer to simply not read what I say and counter with ad hominem attacks on me the moment they realize I’m a believer. Now there are some very notable exceptions to this rule (and DougG, I want you to know you are definitely one of those notable exceptions) but for the most part my experience with disaffected Mormons has been very negative and hurtful no matter how much I try to just engage them in dialog.

    I admit I’ve been less then perfect myself, so I’m not casting stones here. But I am trying to repent of any past offenses I’ve made and I’m trying to really engage people in respectful dialog.

    And here I am, still here trying my best to talk to people and enter into dialog and very willing to admit what my position is and admit that any set of data has more than one possible interpretation and that I can see where the disaffected Mormons are coming from, even if I no longer agree with them. In fact, I used to be disaffected myself, so I have first hand experience with both sides.

    Now we have some really good examples of how I typically get treated by disaffected Mormons right here on this thread. Joe Geisner went to a lot of length to ask me a lot of questions, which I dutifully and without prejudice answered for him in good faith. I then asked him a lot of questions in return. As you can see at #23 he took my answers, ignored my return questions, and then ended the conversation abruptly by claiming I was too irrational, not serious, and childish to bother with. I think Geisner’s ad hominem attack against me is pretty typical of how my conversations end: with no dialog at all and with the partially or fully disaffected Mormon using insults to try to cut me off so that they don’t have to engage me in dialog.

    I think Nick’s example on this thread is similar. I have to admit I was actually naive enough to believe that Nick would read my post and this time see that we were basically in agreement on how we read and understand McConkie’s talk. But instead Nick has chosen to strongly disagree with me – that much is clear from his ad hominem attacks – but I really haven’t the foggiest idea why or what he is disagreeing over.

    He didn’t interact with a single quote from my post. He didn’t even bother to explain what his position is and how he might interpret McConkie differently then me, assuming he even DOES interpret McConkie differently then me, which is not at all clear at this point. In fact, I have been left with the distinct impression that Nick merely read the title of the post, my name, and then launched into an ad hominem attack on me based on assumptions of what he thinks I might say on this subject, not even realizing that there is nothing for him to disagree with me over.

    So Joe Woodbury, I want to know if you are someone interested in entering into dialog (like DougG) or not (like Nick and Joe Geisner). Of course no one will ever force you to enter into dialog and I bear no ill will to either Nick or Joe Geisner for their choice to not engage me in dialog. I will respect this choice. And they will have to live with the obvious fact that they broke off dialog with ad hominem attacks. That strikes me as a sort of justice in and of itself, so that doesn’t really bother me either.

    But, Joe, it can be fun (if a bit frustrating at times) and productive to have dialog. I really feel like a better person for my dialog’s with DougG. The fact that we rarely agree isn’t the point. The point is for me to get into DougG’s head (and he into mine) and to understand better a point of view with which we we disagree. It turns out that there is often more than one rational explanation for a set of inconclusive facts — who’d have tought? ;)

    I’m going to, for the moment, have a bit of faith that you want dialog or you wouldn’t have posted here.

    (Since this is such a long post, I’m going to split it.)

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Woodbury,

    I am going to start off the dialog. I’m going to do this by pointing out what I see as an inconsistency with your post at #37.

    You make the following points (and if I am misunderstanding you on one of these points, please feel free to explain yourself further. I’ve personally found the Internet a difficult communication medium, so I doubt I’ll get all your points perfectly on my first try.)

    1.“There has been another fundamental shift in the LDS church on the theology of Jesus.” You see this shift as once the LDS Church did not worship Jesus, as McConkie clearly explains in the talk this post is about, but now the LDS Church does worship Jesus – contrary to McConkie’s talk as you interpret it.
    2.While McConkie, in 1982, clearly was against “worshiping” Jesus. You think he clearly did “worship” Jesus in 1985 because of his worshipful adulation/adoration of Jesus that was in that talk. And for the record, I think you are refering to referring to this talk.
    3.McConkie, while not wanting to directly disavow his former statements, had in fact made a massive change of doctrine when he began to worship Jesus like this.
    4.McConkie’s change is emblematic of an equivalent massive change in the LDS Church as a whole because we began to “worship” Jesus in this way to — “this way” meaning worshipful adoration like McConkie demonstrates in 1985.
    5.And in fact, the LDS Church has started to “worship” Joseph Smith in much the same way because of the adulation/adoration that is shown for Joseph, particularly at the bicentennial celebration of his birth.
    6.In fact, you see adoration/adulation like that as being synonymous with “worship.” It is, as you say, “a distinction without a difference.”

    Now Joe, I have no way of knowing if you actually read my original post or not. And I have no way of verifying if you will. So if you tell me you read the actual post, that’s great, I will trust you.

    However, it would seem that my post should have displayed a logical contradiction to your 6 points above.

    First of all, I am suggesting in the post that there is more than one sense of the word “worship” and that a failure to recognize this fact (and the fact that McConkie does recognize this fact) will cause you to equivocate, which is what I believe you are doing.

    So here is my proof, this quote from McConkie: “Would it be amiss if I reminded you that Jesus maintained a reserve between him and his disciples and that he did not allow them the same intimacy with him that they had with each other? This was particularly true after his resurrection. … It is a fine and sacred line, but clearly there is a difference between a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, which is improper, and one of worshipful adoration, which yet maintains the required reserve between us and him who has bought us with his blood.

    Here we have McConkie, in the very talk 1982 talk you are holding up as the baseline for LDS beliefs, unequivocally stating that Mormons do indeed hold Jesus in “worshipful adoration.”

    Now consider also this clear quote from McConkie where he admits we do worship Jesus in one sense of the word, but not in the ultimate sense of the word: “We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense [of the word “worship”]the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.”

    So it seems to me that this undermines one of your original points, take your pick. You can’t both insist that McConkie changed his mind about “worshiping Jesus” merely because he shows worshipful adoration for him in 1985 while also claiming that the 1982 talk is your baseline for LDS belief where he clearly allows for “worshipful adoration” of Jesus as something distinct from “worship” in the “true and saving sense.”

    And you can’t both claim the the LDS Church now worships Joseph Smith (by giving him adulation) while holding up McConkie’s 1982 talk as your baseline for LDS beliefs which clearly defines “worship in the true and saving sense” as something separate and different from “adulation.”

    So it appears to me that you have ended up with a logical inconsistency in your position.

  • Bruce Nielson

    #38. Joe, I see that you are back.

    Joe Geisner, how far are you going to take this before you realize that no one is disagreeing with you?

    Can you point to anyone here — at all — that has claimed that McConkie or the brethern “recanted” McConkie’s 1982 talk? Can you point to anyone here at all that is claiming they personally disagree with McConkie’s 1982 talk? Can you even point to anyone here that is claiming that it’s okay or proper to “worship Jesus” in the “true and saving sense”?

    You are arguing with yourself, my friend.

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    #41:
    But my experience here, so far at least, has been that the full or partially disaffected elements really do not like dialog and prefer to simply not read what I say and counter with ad hominem attacks on me the moment they realize I’m a believer.

    Good grief. If all else fails, cry persecution and claim martyrhood.

    I want to know if you are someone interested in entering into dialog (like DougG) or not (like Nick and Joe Geisner). Of course no one will ever force you to enter into dialog and I bear no ill will to either Nick or Joe Geisner for their choice to not engage me in dialog.

    It’s pathetic to watch someone cry alot about how they’re supposedly being subjected to ad hominem attacks. It’s amusing when you realize that their complaint consists chiefly of making ad hominem attacks against their supposed persecutors.

    I used to joke that when women tell their husbands, “you don’t listen to me,” it really means “you don’t obey me.” It seems you’ve presented an analogous worldview, where if we don’t agree with you, we’re not “entering into dialogue” with you.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Nick, I’d love to engage you in some respectful dialog. I’m stilling hope we can or it is possible. I apologize if what I’ve said here, or in the past, has offended you.

    I am carefully making my case via a conservative interpretation of McConkie and I’m hoping others that disagree with me (and I do not know if you do or don’t disagree with me) will actually engage me and explain their counter interpretations.

    Based on your posts, I honestly see no difference in the way we interpret McConkie, so far.

    If anything, it seems what we disagree over might be how to interpret later LDS apostles and McConkie’s own previous and later statements.

    I interept later apostle’s statements about “worshipping” Jesus in the same light I interpret McConkie’s statements about how he worshipped Jesus via awe and respect and worshipful adoration, but not in the true and saving sense.

    By comparison, you seem to me to be forcing a false dichotomy: McConkie says Mormons don’t worship Jesus, so both earlier and later teachings that Mormons do worship Jesus (including McConkie’s own) must be understood as contradictory. I see no other way to interpret your view at this point in time. But if this is the case, this is obviously simple equivocation and nothing more.

  • Bruce Nielson

    I wanted to include a link to Clyde D. Ford’s excellent article in Dialogue entitled “Jesus and the Father. The Book of Mormon and the Early Nineteenth-Century Debates on the Trinity”

    I think this is relevant to Joe Geisner’s dismissal of any view that didn’t accept Dan Voel’s theory that the Book of Mormon teaches modalism. Joe was so convinced of this that he called my and any counter view not serious and not rational and felt no need to consider any counter evidence.

    Ford’s research is far more even handed than Vogel’s and points out that actually there are several different points of view about what the Book of Mormon teaches about the Trinity and that modalism is merely one of the possibilities, but that even that theory is not without it’s problems:

    The most eloquent exponent of the Sabellian [modalist] interpretation of the Jesus as Father passages is Dan Vogel. In his writings Vogel has concluded that (1) the doctrine of Sabellianism was endorsed by some in the early nineteenth-century, (2) Sabellianism was the theology of very early Mormonism, and (3) the primary intention of the BofM author(s) was a Sabellian conception of the Trinity. While Vogel has made many important contributions to the study of early Mormonism, I believe that his conclusions in the area under consideration are questionable.

    Ford’s thoughtful conclusion was:

    Regarding the first, the BofM text itself seems to contain inadequate information to either eliminate or to unequivocally select any of the suggested interpretations of the BofM doctrine of the Trinity as the original intention of the author(s). As we have seen, the BofM reproduces many of the Biblical passages of adoption, identity, distinction, and derivation/subordination, yielding multiple possible interpretations. Also complicating the problem is that the BofM does not present a systematic theology, contains many ambiguous passages, and makes no statements at all on a number of key issues. Thus, in order to justify a particular interpretation of the Trinity, a scholar must invariably argue for (1) a given interpretation of ambiguous passages, (2) inclusion of important doctrines not actually present in the BofM, and/or (3) the priority of favorable proof texts.

  • Joe Geisner

    Bruce,

    You really need to develop some reading skills. I know you read comment #37 before my comment #38 because you then comment on #37 in #41 and #42. What part of my comments in #38 does not comment on #37 and some of the previous comments such as #20, #21, and #24?

    As for Mr. Ford’s paper and your comments. Again when you talk about these issues you don’t use words like “far more even handed” when Mr. Ford’s thesis is “I shall argue that a case can reasonably be made for multiple BofM interpretations, none of which can conclusively be shown by scholarly means to be the author(s)’ original intention” if you want to be serious in a discussion. I have not read Mr. Ford’s paper but I will. Clearly you have not READ Mr. Vogel’s by the comments you have made.

  • Joe Woodbury

    Bruce,

    You are being more than a bit condescending. Nonetheless, nobody can deny that there has been an undeniable shift in how the LDS church approaches Jesus. This was first evidenced in the changes to the missionary program in 1982 and then the change of the church logo in 1995. In this same time frame, there was an emphasis from the pulpit on creating a personal relationship with Jesus, another small shift. I also think it undeniable that since 1995, there has been a great public effort to emphasize that the LDS church is Christian.

    The question is whether all these changes constitute a change in theology or merely one in PR. I believe the former and believe that McConkie is ONE of the evidences of this. I believe that his talk of 1985 would have been denounced by him in 1968 as heresy. I see his 1982 talk as attempting to split hairs–to let us worship Jesus in the traditional Christian manner, but to not do so at the same time.

    While I do identify Bruce R. McConkie as the preacher of some of this change, there’s no doubt that the actual source of many of these changes was Gordon B. Hinckley. While not prophet in 1982, the rest of the first presidency was senile and he was effectively running the church. The logo change was his idea as has been the PR tour where he glossed over the more controversial aspects of the LDS church.

    You used the phrase “worshipful adoration”. I’m sorry, but in actual practice, there is no effective difference between that and worship. In LDS theology, we thank Jesus and move on. That’s it. We don’t adore him. He is our brother and did his job as hopefully we did ours. He is not favored by God over any of us. This view is seen as absolute heresy by most Christians and, unfortunately, increasingly by many Mormons.

    One final point; Joseph McConkie is a terrible source for anything. By first hand knowledge, I’ve learned not to trust a word he says. His apologia for his father is just that and nothing more. I think Bruce R said what he meant and meant what he said.

  • Joe Geisner

    A couple of quick comments on Mr. Ford’s paper. He seems to be presenting the development of the Trinity from scholars who are 100 years behind in New Testament scholarship. He seems to have no idea about the Ebionites, Marcionites, Docetic’s, or Gnostic’s and the debates on Deity that occurred right from the beginning of Christianity.

    Mr. Ford argues in his 19th century debates about Deity that in large measure from an apparent lack of Sabellian-leaning groups or prominent individuals in Joseph Smith’s time or region (Ford, 21-23), and concludes that “. . . the evidence is not convincing that ancient Sabellianism was an active doctrine of any early nineteenth-century group, including the early Mormons.” (Ford, 24). I will give Mr. Ford some slack on this since he did not have access to Mormon Parallels. But if he had, he would realize that the 19th century is full of modalist ideas.

    I will now quote from Melody Moench Charles so you can see what a real scholar reads like: Although modalism is the best description for Book of Mormon theology generally, it is not apt in every instance. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Book of Mormon authors were intentionally constructing a theology that would fit any previous or future model or label. Nor did they seem concerned about making sure that the theology of any one part of the book was always consistent with the theology of other parts. [Charles, 100]

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Geisner,

    Hey, thanks for stopping by, Joe. As you noted, I have edit rights on my comments and I republish my comments until I get them right. This is done in a sincere attempt to get my words right because some people get so hung up on the words used.

    And you seem to be right that I can’t read because I can’t understand the rest of your statement about “What part of my comments in #38 does not comment on #37 and some of the previous comments such as #20, #21, and #24?” Huh?

    It’s obvious now we’re just going in circles, as IQ92 stated, and there is nothing that will be added in the conversation. So thank you very much for your time and comments, Joe Geisner.

    I also appreciate that you read the article I posted and that you went on to admit that the Book of Mormon does not necessarily construct a modalist theology. That was very gracious of you, in all honesty. You came across very differently in the way I read your previous posts, but maybe this was what you actually meant.

    I’m not clear if you intended that as an olive branch or not, but I’ll accept it as such.

    Again, thank you for your comments, I really do appreciate them.

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Woodbury,

    I actually think your response to me is quite thoughtful, though I admit I don’t agree with it. But that’s okay. Nothing wrong with us disagreeing. And I’ve never claimed that the data can only be interpreted one way.

    I can see where you are coming from in some of your examples, such as emphasizing “Jesus Christ” in the name of the Church. It seems you aren’t so much pointing to any one incident but rather to an overall trend that you interpret as constituting a doctrinal change, even though no one change alone could ever be mistaken as such. Am I understanding you correctly on that?

    I think, for me at least, that means we might not be talking about the same thing. That the LDS Church has done things to emphasize Christ more is beyond doubt to me, so we can agree on that much. That these things amount to equivalent worship of Jesus as to the Father (“in the true and saving sense” if you will) is what I was discussing with this post, and I do not see you taking a stance on that issue one way or the other.

    So I’ll be willing to meet you half way and admit that there is at trend towards emphasizing Jesus more and I hope you’d be willing to admit that we very much still treat Jesus and the Father differently, in so much as we do not pray to Jesus nor emphasize Jesus *more than* the Father. (Your own post seems to emphasize this point.)

    Where I think we do disagree is on this: “In LDS theology, we thank Jesus and move on. That’s it. We don’t adore him. He is our brother and did his job as hopefully we did ours. He is not favored by God over any of us.”

    (Please also note here that you attributed “worshipful adoration” to me, but actually it was McConkie that used the term. I was just quoting.)

    Although I do not agree with your interpretation, it helped a lot for me to understand you point of view by your explaining that you see McConkie’s talk as a transition of sorts between and older and newer view of Jesus, which McConkie (in your view) as being contradictory in a single talk. (This is how I read: “I see his 1982 talk as attempting to split hairs–to let us worship Jesus in the traditional Christian manner, but to not do so at the same time.”)

    I think it’s interesting that you are the first person that I’ve talked to that claims a doctrinal change that has at least admitted McConkie did in fact teach that we do worship Jesus and don’t worship Jesus in two different sense of the word “worship”. I commend you on being able to clearly explain yourself on this as I’m quite unclear on what others on this thread even mean or believe on this point.

    I do have a question for you. You state unequivocally “[Jesus] is our brother and did his job as hopefully we did ours. He is not favored by God over any of us.” Further you are saying that the LDS Church has moved away from this original doctrine of the LDS Church.

    However, how can you sustain such an argument with something as blatant as the Book of Mormon around? The Book of Mormon most certainly does not equate Jesus to simply being a brother that did his job as we hopefully did ours nor as not being “favored” (whatever that means) by God over any of us. The D&C departs from your view here as well.

    [update: snipped here -- I explained more originally, but then realized later that my next post to you repeated it all, but more clearly.]

  • Bruce Nielson

    Joe Woodbury,

    One more thing. I’m not sure I agree with this statement: “I believe that his talk of 1985 would have been denounced by him in 1968 as heresy.”

    My evidence in my post might undercut that as a possibility. Consider this quote from McConkie in Mormon Doctrine in 1979: (I don’t have a 1966 version handy, so someone that does please verify how much, if at all, this quote has changed. Does this quote go back to the 1966 or 1958 version? How far back does it go?)

    The Father and the Son are the objects of all true worship. [Note the use of a single word here for both members of the Godhead]… No one can worship the Father without also worshiping the Son. … It is proper to worship the Father, in the name of the Son, and also to worship the Son. ‘Believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.’ (2 Ne 25:16, 29) (Mormon Doctrine, p. 848-849)

    Please note the 2 Ne 25:16, 29 reference, which is equally important:

    16 …they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name…
    • • •
    29 And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

    Now Joe Geisner was just trying to argue that the Book of Mormon was actually teaching modalism (or, for the sake of not offending Joe, he was or is now arguing that modalism fits it the best, but imperfectly.) For a moment, let’s assume a worst case scenario and assume he’s correct. Wouldn’t it be incorrect to maintain your assertion that “In LDS theology, we thank Jesus and move on. That’s it. We don’t adore him.”? Your assertion seems built on the assumption that we are to ignore the Book of Mormon’s teachings on this subject.

    If in fact there is no such thing as “Mormon theology” (Joe Geisner’s point, I think) and it’s really just a contraditory conglomeration of beliefs that developed and were abandoned over time, then Nick’s and your point that the LDS Church has moved away from their original theology can’t be right as there is no “original Mormon theology” to move away from. We just pick and choose the parts that we want to emphasize out of a contradictory bunch and reconcile the rest by whatever means we choose. The “change” now to (as you term it) “worshiping Jesus” is certainly not a move “away” from original theology, as the Book of Mormon is *as original theology* as it gets! This can only be said to be a shift back and forth between two competing theologies that both have claim upon the term “Mormon theology.” (And I’d add, the Book of Mormon might have stronger claim on the term because it came first.)

    On the other hand if Nick’s point (and possibly your point), that there *is* an original doctrine of the Church, is true, then we would certainly have to assume that the Book of Mormon was part of that “original theology” and thus the above quote would disprove you.

    So either way, I don’t believe you are appropriately representing the LDS Church’s teachings as a “change” of doctrine away from “LDS theology.”

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    RE: “The LDS church of today is remarkably different than even the LDS church that I joined in 1979, whether you consider those differences good or bad. The LDS church of today is vastly, and with ever-increasing speed, different from Mormonism, i.e. the religion that Joseph Smith and other early Mormons taught.”

    I joined the church just a few years earlier than 1979 and see a remarkable similarity between the LDS church I attend now to the LDS church I saw then. If anything, back before the block program was instituted and we used to travel to church 2 or 3 times and take the sacrament twice on Sunday, the
    worshipping of Jesus “via awe and respect and worshipful adoration” was more evident than it was even after the later change of the church logo, etc. Granted, this could be my own personal awareness at the time relating to the courses of study I was attending and the point of my progression in receiving ordinances. Nevertheless, THIS was the church of my youth.

    The following comment made me cringe: “I long for the church of my youth. We were sure of our beliefs and didn’t care what the rest of the world thought about it.” I think, in reflection of this comment, about those early Mormon settlers in Jackson County who may not have been neighborly because they assumed a right to the land that their non-believing co-inhabitants didn’t have. This attitude is one of pride and it has been named as one reason for the outcome in Jackson County at that time.

    The later 20th century pride that we “had all the answers”, “were proud of our better understanding of the gospel”, and had such strong feelings of rightness over our unique doctrines was a stumbling block to those who did not belong to the church. Alma 4:10 describes the wickedness of the church as a great stumbling block to those who did not belong to the church, and “thus the church began to fail in its progress”.

    The change in title of the Book of Mormon, change in the logo of the church, re-ordering of the missionary discussions emphasized more basic beliefs. These beliefs matched the church of MY youth. They speak a language that is easier for investigators to find the common ground bridge to accepting the restored gospel. When I arrived in the mission field in Japan, I found that my mission had instituted a “bridging lesson” to be taught before the other lessons. This was discouraging to me as it meant memorizing a whole extra discussion in Japanese when I hadn’t yet memorized all the discussions received in the MTC. “If this was going to be the first discussion, why couldn’t they have told us to work on it while we were in the MTC,” I thought. The rationale was, it was perceived that the lack of an understanding of who God and Jesus Christ were, by investigators of a non-Christian background, was a stumbling block to feeling the witness of Joseph Smith’s grove experience. When the new discussions came out, the bridging lesson was no longer necessary.

    Some critics might say that we “pushed aside” our unique doctrines, but I would say that we emphasized our basic and core doctrines. Didn’t Joseph teach that everthing else is an appendage? When the church is taken to task for pride and you see changes coming from the top, then you can witness that they take the admonishing seriously. Is this pandering or humble obedience?

    Thanks Bruce for your analysis of the topic and replies to the responses that followed. As I came into this post later and was reading the responses one by one, I was waiting for a response that would involve a discussion of the type you invited. I’ve hit the end and am writing my own post and still waiting.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> The change in title of the Book of Mormon, change in the logo of the church, re-ordering of the missionary discussions emphasized more basic beliefs. These beliefs matched the church of MY youth

    Rigel,

    I’m sure you know that I’m not supposed to post during the week… but I just wanted to add to your thoughts here that I feel the same way you do.

    I’m not saying “the Church hasn’t changed” as surely it has. But I see no “fundamental” change from between my birth and now. Any my studies into Mormon history have left me with the impression that I belong to a very doctrinally stable (in terms of the fundamentals) Church that has been very conservative on change and only made the most necessary ones.

    And to me, this included and continues to include “worshipping Jesus via awe and respect and worshipful adoration.”

    Thank you very much for your thoughts, Rigel.

    DougG, I thank you very much for your thoughts to. I see in them a lot of nuance where you see the pros and cons of change and wish for another way while admitting there isn’t one. (Or that it would be undesireable if change didn’t happen.) As always, even though we don’t agree, you’ve given me food for thought.

  • John Nilsson

    Bruce,

    Just coming off my enforced weekend hiatus. I’m glad you wrote this post. In fact, in one of my comments elsewhere on this site, I wrote, “I worship Jesus.”

    I was too young to be much influenced by McConkie’s talk. I must have been five.

    One of my hidden evangelical-leaning heresies is I will say “Thank you Jesus” every once in a while. Big Mormon no-no. But I am not pulling a George Pace here, right? At least, I’m not writing a book about it.

  • Bruce Nielson

    John, if saying “thank you Jesus” is a big Mormon no-no, then in my opinion the Mormons need to change, not you. :)

    (And in saying this, I in no way imply that all Mormons should say “Thank You Jesus” in such a manner. I am merely suggesting there is more than one proper way to show respect for Jesus and it shouldn’t be a “no-no”.)

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Just food for thought:

    The early disciples and apostles “talked with” Jesus; they “prayed to” the Father. One didn’t exclude the other. Things get tricky if “talking with” morphs into “praying to” – or if they are not seen as distinctly separate Beings, but it’s worth considering, imo.

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    The chapel where I attended church for the first 12 years of my life had a picture of Jesus hanging up above the doorway to the Sacrament preparation room. This was the day before LDS art became standardized and it was a picture one would often see at any Christian denomination of the day. We sang Primary songs out of the older songbook in the pre JKP days: Beautiful Savior, Jesus My Savior/Jesus my Friend, Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, Tell me the Stories of Jesus, I think when I read that sweet story of old, Jesus Came to John the Baptist, To Think about Jesus. We had our own Junior Sunday School sacrament songs as well, as we had one sacrament administration that was separate from the adult group. We sang hymns in Sacrament meeting with more standard Christian hymn lyrics such as “You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled.”(How Firm a Foundation) “Oh My Father” was sung mostly at funerals. Lessons used diagrams of a church structure with the cornerstone being designated Jesus Christ. We learned how our Aaronic Priesthood line of authority went directly to Jesus Christ.

  • Doug G.

    “The following comment made me cringe: “I long for the church of my youth. We were sure of our beliefs and didn’t care what the rest of the world thought about it.” I think, in reflection of this comment, about those early Mormon settlers in Jackson County who may not have been neighborly because they assumed a right to the land that their non-believing co-inhabitants didn’t have. This attitude is one of pride and it has been named as one reason for the outcome in Jackson County at that time.”

    Well Rigel, now were even as your comment here made me cringe. I’ve been told I’m too prideful in many ways, but this one was probably to most undeserved. My thoughts were more a reflection of my growing up in the 60’s and 70’s when I was fairly innocent and the church was unquestionably true to me. I read anti-Mormon stuff on my mission and found it weak and easily dismissed. I told people in teaching the BoM that it had already been proven true by archeology and the Smithsonian even used it as a map for finding lost cities in Central and South America. I told these untruths because that was the non-sense I had been fed in seminary. Back then, as has been already debated here and validated by many of these posts, the church’s teaching were certainly different than my children are being taught today.

    You can get caught-up in the arguments that have been going back and forth here about whether teachings have actually changed or if the church is still the same. I don’t wish to re-live all of that, so I’ll simply state that for me, it’s a different church. As for being too prideful, that’s probably true for other reasons, but not for the comment above.

    Using the “pride” card is the ultimate hammer used to persecute anyone who questions the church or in the case of early Mormons the reason certain revelations and prophecies can’t come to pass.

    For me, I don’t believe the Mormons were pushed out of Jackson County because of pride. Using that logic, I suppose they were pushed out of Farr West and Nauvoo for the same reason. Do you really think it’s that simple or that the Saints were still prideful after all the horrible things they suffered in Missouri? I believe the answer to the question of why the early Saints had so many problems with their neighbors is exactly why cult organizations today can’t get along with any of their neighbors. Please don’t get offended by the word “cult”. While I agree that the church today could reasonably argue that is not a cult, the church of the 19th century fits Webster’s definition to a tee. Perhaps this would be a good topic for another thread and another reason the church has changed over the years…

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    Doug, thanks for that response. I’m the last one who should be using a “pride” card or any other card to hammer anyone who questions the church. You’ve probably guessed that my cringe response is based upon having heard a number of comments throughout my church life and has less to do what I know about you. Thanks for explaining. I have seen examples of the zealous rightness that I had in mind when I wrote my response, as I suppose you have too. Some may be based in innocence (i.e. the 12 year old boy who was just ordained a deacon and says, “now I have more power than the Pope”), others in belief in tradition (“don’t worry, some day I know you’ll be just as ‘white as snow’), and others in prideful superiority. There are a host of other reasons.

    I can’t argue against it being a different church for you or blame you for longing for the church of your youth (you can see from my second post that I have that longing too). I easily accept that some things I was taught in seminary were not true and probably some things I heard in the Sunday School class I last attended. My experience with the church, however, does not agree with the “re-emphasis” of Jesus Christ of the 80′s as a change in our identity or a pandering motive. I don’t agree, for example, that Temple Square began showing “The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd” in place of “Legacy” as part of this plot. I don’t believe that a Mormon presidential candidate has to adopt “evangelical language” to state ‘I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior’.

    As far as the issue of other teachings changing, I suspect you and I would probably see eye to eye on many things. I don’t disagree with your analysis of the Mormon’s being pushed out of Jackson County. In fact, I worded my previous comparison VERY carefully (with emphasis): “it has been NAMED as ONE reason for the outcome in Jackson County at that time.” I don’t believe pride was THE single reason, but, heck, that Salt Sermon of Sidney’s was not very neighborly…and it introduced the term “exterminate”, if I remember correctly.

  • Doug G.

    Thanks Rigel, I need to get over my knee jerk reaction to posts.

    “I don’t disagree with your analysis of the Mormon’s being pushed out of Jackson County. In fact, I worded my previous comparison VERY carefully (with emphasis): “it has been NAMED as ONE reason for the outcome in Jackson County at that time”

    Sorry for my wrong assumption, you did word your post that way and I should have picked up on that. It certainly is recorded in the D&C as pride being one of the reasons and therefore your statement is correct.

    I haven’t weighed into the “Jesus as our personal Savior” debate in this thread much. I don’t consider myself enough of a theologian to make an intelligent argument one way or the other. Most of my experience is from my father, who loved the words of “Mormon Doctrine” and raised us kids on its teachings. He felt very strongly about us having a relationship with our Heavenly Father and understanding Christ’s role in our salvation. As my experience is within the walls of my home, I can’t speak for what anyone else thought or taught about Christ. So for me, the kinds of talks given in church today are different then what I heard as a youth from my parents. They certainly could have had it wrong and I fully except that my experience is just mine alone.

    FWIW, I feel that the emphasis on Christ in the church today is the right thing to do. Whatever our doctrine was back in the 60’s, the recognition of the need for a personal relationship with Christ feels right to me. Having said that, I’ve also learned that “feelings” can’t be trusted as a good barometer of truth, therefore the fact that I’m comfortable with the current worship of Christ doesn’t make it true for anyone else. I could get into a whole new discussion about spiritual feelings giving me incorrect knowledge, but that’s a discussion for another day…

  • Joe P.

    I’ll keep it simple.

    The LDS faith doesn’t worship God. They worship religiosity.

    When was the last time you saw someone raise their hands in the air with praise, or bow down on their knees in complete submission to God? When was the last time you heard someone scream “Praise God!”?

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Keepin’ it simple; keepin’ it wrong.

  • http://mormoninsights.blogspot.com S.Faux

    Bruce: I think you give an extremely clear explanation of McConkie’s position on the worship of Christ, but my question is: Why is McConkie’s explanation of his position less clear than your explanation of his position? I guess I am saying, I think you are correct about his position, but he (McConkie) could have stated his position more clearly.

    The essay I wrote on my website entitled “Do Mormons Worship Jesus?,” is one of my most heavily read. As much as I can tell (based upon Google search entries), many of the readers are non-LDS.

    The answer to the question is, of course, YES, we LDS worship Jesus as part of the Godhead and as Savior. No, we do NOT pray to Jesus, but we pray to the Father in His (essential) Name.

  • Bruce Nielson

    S.Faux says: “Why is McConkie’s explanation of his position less clear than your explanation of his position? I guess I am saying, I think you are correct about his position, but he (McConkie) could have stated his position more clearly.”

    I was actually going to address this in part 3, which I never got to.

    I hate to be blunt about this, but your question underscores the real point I’m making — that communication is very very hard but we pretend it’s not when we mock and make fun of what others said.

    McConkie went to great lengths to explain himself, a point proven by the fact that I had little to do but quote him. However, he was in the midst of his own offense over a word when he gave this talk and the tone was harsh and made several attacks on straw man positions of other religions. This really throws the reader off, I think, and reduces over all comprehensibility.

    Furthermore, you and I have the ability to see what things people misunderstood from this talk after the fact. This gives us a chance to clarify misunderstandings McConkie couldn’t have forseen. So we need to undertand what a huge advantage that is for us compared to him.

    But note that this made little or no difference at all to those posted hostile responses to what I said. Not one of them even bothered to review the quotes and state how they might interpret them different or how they disagreed with me. They simple launched into ad hominen attacks. Protecting their point of view was more important then understanding someone else’s.

    As I said, communication is very very hard. In large measure it’s up to the listener to decide they want to understand before understanding is possible.

  • http://mormoninsights.blogspot.com S.Faux

    Bruce, I hope you are NOT accusing me of mocking and making fun. I am not sure what you are being “blunt” about. Yes, communication is hard, and maybe your response to me is the very illustration of it.

    No, I regard McConkie as one of my religious heroes. I quote him all the time. I try to read everything he ever wrote, but I am still working on it. I do think his talk in question is a challenge to understand. I also think that you have written a very correct interpretation of Elder McConkie’s intention. I am merely stating in my response above that I wish he had been as clear as you.

    You are correct that hindsight is 20-20. I don’t think Elder McConkie anticipated the subsequent reactions. No writer and thinker can be perfect at that.

  • Bruce Nielson

    >>> Bruce, I hope you are NOT accusing me of mocking and making fun.

    No, I’m not. I just had a problem with communication :P

    What I mean is that mocking and making fun of what others said is very common and it happened with McConkie. I was not accusing you.

    My mistake was saying “to be blunt” which was a poor choice of words in this context. I just meant your making my very point — we have to dig out meaning because we really care what the person really meant. You did, so that’s why you were able to understand McConkie even though he didn’t word things the best. Others did not understand his words because they had no interest in what his real meaning is.

    But then isn’t that a bit of a paradox? McConkie’s talk really isn’t that hard to understand — what he really meant was stated quite clearly — yet many people misunderstand it. How do you explain that? Your explanation is “he should have worded it better.” True enough.

    But then when I worded it more to your liking, the same people that misunderstood McConkie still misunderstood. How do you explain *that*?

    Apparently more careful wording plays little or no role in ability to comprehend after all. Thus this wasn’t really McConkie’s fault after all. Thus the paradox.

  • Bruce Nielson

    S.Faux,

    And I apologize for the misunderstanding. It was my fault because of my poor wording.

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  • Kim Reece-Lairson

    Mc Conkie seems like kind of a hair splitter. Granny says the law of Moses is to lead us to Christ-maybe it took McConkie a bit longer to get there. He’s just a man. The only way sinful man can approach a perfect father is through Jesus Christ (See Psalm 110:1).

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  • jack

    Why do mormon always engage in word play? McConkie said mormons don’t worship Jesus. Hicnkley changed it and said yes, we do! Why is it mormons keep changing their doctrines. You seem to have no standard for truth!

  • http://kurinboism.blogspot.com/ kuri

    Gosh Jack, somebody should write a blog post about that.

  • http://clifornia-primier-repairs.info/ca/ siffWrovono

    My friend just tell me and I can’t believe it, Mike’s daughter are dead so tragedy and so sad. I am a big fan of him, he is a great guy, best boxer – crazy little bet but every body know him and like him.

  • margohelp

    had recently herpes virus found in my blood. what I haveto do??? I’m in panic…

  • apriles

    I’m really stuck on this oxymoron: “inappropriately worshiping Jesus.”

    It is not inappropriate to worship our Lord and Savior; we are commanded to do it. “…worship the true and living God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come.” (Alma 7:6)

    For any Mormon who is in doubt as to whether Jesus is our Lord and our God, brush up on your scriptures. It’s not in question. It never has been in question. Jesus Christ is the Almighty God, the Prince of Peace, our Everlasting Father.

    McConkie was way out of line for his inappropriate (even blasphemous) statements, and I’m sure the Lord is reprimanding him for them. McConkie deserves it. I would not try to defend him in the slightest lest I come under the same condemnation for being so obtuse about our Savior — and in public, too. McConkie has egg on his face and we might as well admit it.

  • cwinchesteriii

    This reminds me of fans’ attempts to harmonize the contradictions within the Star Wars universe. A bit of a streeeeetch. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/glmusso1 Gina Leanne Musso

    I stopped reading when you used the term: anti-mormon. I guess i can go ahead and say that mormons are anti-Christian