Friday, August 22, 2014

Conference Talks, The Cornerstone of our Religion

After a lot of thought I came upon this viewpoint regarding gospel knowledge and understanding.  The more we follow an earthly church and its leaders the less we tend to know about the Gospel.  There are other views of course, which say that the more we follow to the institution, and follow it's leaders the safer we are, the more protected, less able to be deceived, happier etc... I present another view to consider. I like comments so feel free to share one if you want to discuss or share another view.

By "follow" I mean completely rely on, trust in, and look to exclusively for understanding or knowledge of the Gospel.  The more we "follow" in that sense my view is the less we will understand, or comprehend the Gospel of Christ.  From what I read, Joseph Smith taught this, and scripture authors's writings agree with it.  

D&C states it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6)

Joseph Smith taught:
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God(History of the Church 4:588)

The Church Correlation Department limits what can be taught.  Even the General Authority talks go through the Correlation Department.  Things Joseph Smith taught openly, even to non members are not allowed to be taught now days.  Entire volumes which used to be part of the canonized set of scriptures are now no longer scripture, they are forgotten, neglected, and fading from the consciousness of the members.  Missionaries are not allowed to read The Lectures on Faith in many missions of the Church (mine included). Instead of our scriptures growing, they have shrunken since the days of Joseph.

Seminary and Institutes are limited (again by correlation) to a list of topics which are "approved".  That list of topics intentionally excludes many many fundamental teachings given the prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith.  In an attempt to standardize the teachings, and reduce false doctrine, what has happened is a shrinking body of doctrine.  No longer is there as much freedom to teach by the Spirit, but we have limited the content of what the Spirit can even say.  It gets worse, and goes much further.  See here for an update.

Years ago the First Presidency issued a statement telling members they should no longer open their scriptures during sacrament meeting.  The overall use and study of scripture in church seems to be on the decline in favor of the manual or just referencing a block of scriptures and reading maybe a verse or two.  

So from this view you can begin to see the more you rely on an institution, and follow only what they tell you, only what they teach you, and only what is published in manuals, you will know less and less about the Gospel.  I'm not talking about heeding leader's inspired counsel.  And sustaining them with prayers and faith.  We as members should all do that.  When they speak inspired words, we know those words came from a higher source, so we would be following the higher source, not necessarily the instrument. It's our responsibility to distinguish inspired words from the rest.  When they ask us to pay tithing, attend the temple, serve in callings, participate in the ordinances, home teach we should.  That's all great.  I do all of those things and am better for it.  Those things are easy compared to lots of the things the scriptures ask.

In terms of knowledge, and what is taught, the Sunday School manuals have less doctrinal content each year.  They are more and more focused on the same basic principles. Basics are necessary, but will not keep people fed. More and more the leaders are focusing on timeless good principles but the restoration doctrine gets watered down.  The body and repository of knowledge from which the lessons, talks, manuals, and conference talks are taken is shrinking.  Many conference talks could be recreated by cutting and pasting paragraphs from past conference talks. I say all this only as an observation.

In former days of the LDS church to be a member of the church meant you studied.  You knew your stuff.  You could defend your beliefs.  You could discuss doctrine. You knew the scriptures well.  Early members had libraries of books focusing on the Gospel.  The book of Mormon used to be the "cornerstone of our religion".  Now it seems conference talks are the new cornerstone.  They are the assigned topic at least 2 weeks of the month in my ward.  And it's justified by talks in conference like "The 14 fundamentals of following the Prophet".  Which states that such persons words are more vital to us than the Standard Works.

The new trend seems to be instead of discussing doctrine, people are more likely to just quote a platitude, or cite a one line phrase from an authority.  The doctrine is not as well understood because we frequently rely instead on the position of the person speaking to establish the truth.  I've found that the occasions when I can even discuss Gospel topics are few and far between.  I'm not talking about deep conversations.  I'm talking about ANY conversation lasting more than 30 seconds about a Gospel topic. As a culture we may not discuss topics very long likely because we haven't spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. So of course our discussion would tend to be short.

This does not need to be the case of course.  Helaman 11:23 And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.

Knowing concerning the true points of doctrine is connected to "having many revelations daily". Nephi and Lehi had many revelations daily.  They did not have any official church calling.  The revelations they received were due to their faith in God and it allowed them to know the true points of doctrine.  This is not the consequence of a correlation committee limiting what can be taught.  It's the opposite.

Alma 5:46 is worth reading in this context
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.

The culture of our day seems to be one of "the leaders said this or that, so the thinking has been done".  Or "if I need to know something, the leaders will or would have told me" And thus ends many a discussion.  Which also can end the search for truth, or additional understanding, and then it's easy to follow historical trends of slipping into darkness, and gospel ignorance.

The other view is that there is safety in following a mainstream belief system, led by someone called as a representative of Christ to lead.  I respect that many feel that way.   The cornerstone of our religion could possibly shift right out from under us and we may not even notice.  

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