(To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here.) In high priest group meeting on a recent Sunday, we had an interesting question posed. How would you describe your feelings about the church if asked by a stranger. Missionaries get it all the time but once you are several decades away from a mission it can be a “poser.” My initial contribution to the discussion was to suggest a quick overview of the Plan of Salvation. Another opined that that the concept of God being a perfect man of flesh and bone should be broached. Introducing the Book of Mormon was another suggestion.
The suggestion that the 13 Articles of Faith described Mormonism enjoyed popularity, until one contemplated the length of the 13 articles. It was later agreed that the Articles of Faith card could be provided to the questioner after a shorter answer was given. If this debate over a quick answer to Mormonism sounds comical or satirical, it shouldn’t. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is authority-driven. General authorities of the LDS Church, higher members of a higher priesthood, are considered authorities on Gospel questions. (Members are encouraged to have inspiration and personal revelation, but only within a sphere of influence. Myself, for example, could have revelation for my family, as could my wife. Our ward bishop has revelation for the good of the ward. A stake president for the stake, an Elder’s Quorum president for the quorum …)
If one attempts to go beyond his or her assigned influence, it can lead to disciplinary action. An example of that is occurring here. It’s worth noting that even those who seek major change in the church, such as a group wanting women to possess the priesthood, are not calling for deliberate conflict with church leaders. The LDS Church, in recent decades, has practiced correlation, which means everything stays the same, including texts for classes. (There’s an old “safe” joke among Mormons that we must fail religion classes because we take the same ones over every four years.)
In short, taking an individual stance on bedrock doctrinal issues, at least publicly, needs to have a higher confirmation within Mormonism. Individualism, as in going rogue, can get one in trouble. I recall in high school, in a World Religions class, my teacher being frustrated with me for constantly saying “we believe” when the class discussed our religious beliefs. “I want to know what you think!” he said. “But that’s what I think,” was my reply.
Some members believe that everything the brethren say, whether theological or political, must be followed. In the first 150 years or so of the LDS Church’s existence, church leaders were more vocal on many political issues, and members leaned on the statements. Today, that’s mostly disappeared, with this statement on its website. Still, there are exceptions for stances that are considered issues of morality, such as gay marriage and abortion. (A clue to how church leaders feel on secular issues can be gleaned by reading the Deseret News house editorials, particularly its Sunday editorials.)
Back to the original question: I gave that some thought and decided that I’d go with a recitation, or paraphrasing, of Second Nephi 25:26 in the Book of Mormon. You can read it here.