the average Peter Priesthood

I caught this op-ed in a local paper from a Mormon claiming to set the record straight on Mormonism. It’s a beauty because it illustrates how and what the average Mormon believes. Errors or ommissions include:

  • no discussion of the limited geography model; assumes a hemispheric model of the BofM
  • claims the moniker Mormon originated in 1930 (though this is probably a typo)
  • no discussion of the complexity behind the term “Christian”; just assumes that if someone calls themselves Christian they are
  • considers the prophet equivalent to the pope (infallibility anyone?)
  • claims LDS stopped polygamy in 1890 (they said they would in 1890, but didn’t until about 1905)
  • claims the RLDS (now Community of Christ) are the ones practicing polygamy; they never did and deplored the practice

I enjoy debating apologists online, but it does get on my nerves when I generalize about Mormon beliefs and they insist that average Mormons don’t believe some of the things they obviously do (e.g., apologists don’t think average Mormons think of the prophet as being infallible; apologists claim average Mormons think about the BofM as they do – a limited geography model or even metaphorical, etc.). IMO, the average Mormon is about where this guy is in his thinking.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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102 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Just for Statehood? A PR stunt?

    Seth, you’re oversimplifying Guy’s point (and in the case of blacks getting the priesthood you’ve taken an added liberty of misrepresentation).

    Now, the point is … did they make these changes because god changed his mind? Or because the members got a grassroots campaign going (really, there’s very little to no evidence for this)? Or because they saw the writing on the wall and made an executive decision? Whatever the reason, if it’s not because god changed his mind (or set the minds of men straight — whatever) then it makes no difference how it came about.

  2. Matt says:

    And really, in the context of this discussion thread, the point is that your average mormon thinks god was behind the changes, with a more liberal minority willing to say that men had it wrong and god just made the change when and only when men were ready.

    And why do most members think of it this way instead of as a response to grassroots pressure or outside pressure? Because that’s how we were taught the church works and admitting otherwise would be admitting that the church is not led by god but by some other force an this is not a very inspiring notion at all.

  3. MormonZero says:

    Matt – It is hard for me to get in TJ’s mind but he harped on churches a lot. Possibly he just thought it better to let Christ’s words stand on their own and then let every individual govern himself as he/she see’s fit. Although this kind of sounds like a spiritual anarchy.

    But speaking from the church’s perspective here and thinking about ways it can help itself I think they need to simplify things in order to survive. The technological changes, the cultural changes, and much more are changing so fast that it doesn’t even seem like the leaders are able to keep up w/ all the interpreting of “doctrine” that needs to be done. (for example the recent letter sent out to the wards from the 1st prez about not writing letters to GA’s but instead directing questions to your Bishop or SP) Then add some apparent cover-ups of church history (at least some ppl perceive this) and it just leaves ppl dazed and confused.

    I believe it is vital that the focus is intensified for a clearer picture in order to strengthen the faith of its members. The LDS perspective on doctrine does not need to change per se; maybe re-imagine itself would be a good way to explain it.

    Why focus on watching over and governing the church going folk in today’s world? Leave that stuff to “Caesar” and help the ppl survive emotional and mental strifes through pure and simple gospel principles. Help the people understand the “doctrinal” processes in the scripture–show them how to take a principal and apply it to their daily lives w/o giving the person the right answer b4 telling them to study it out. Why? B cuz there are too many questions to answer in too short of time to answer them all b4 a person has to decide what to do.

    A mormon might say well…yeah…we are taught to do that already…and I agree but the problem is that GA’s have (perhaps) overstepped their bounds already on other issues (i.e. the past stance on birth control) so that now many members become dependent on GA’s to tell them what is or is not okay. If they want to meddle in specific behaviors this is fine too…but rather than teach a black/white and right/wrong concept on every behavior instead, teach consequences for such actions beyond just teaching heaven/hell, worthy/guilty, confession etc. (for example you can teach kids to be abstinent w/ the definition being it will make you feel bad or you can teach about sex defined by topics of STD’s, abuse, pregnancy, abortion, etc. From the church’s position you can even teach them to not commit adultery (which for the church is a principle of righteousness not a behavior; the behavior would be sex), however sex is oftentimes made so hush-hush that young mormon ppl are confused when sex feels good rather than distasteful; combined w/ guilt this can lead to compulsive behavior–this can sometimes be a problem for ppl who are molested or raped; others abhor sex so much b4 marriage that they have a hard time coping or feeling good even about marital sex) Teach repentance but don’t teach what needs to be confessed to who. This leads to confusion. I can’t tell you how many institute and seminary classes I sat through where different teachers said that (fill in activity) needs to be confessed to a bishop, then a student asks what if i do (fill in activity) do I have to go to the bishop? Then the teacher says “if you feel guilty enough to be thinking about it then you should go to the bishop.” Then later you get a friend of mine confessing to the bishop that she “french-kissed.” To me this is really sad. This is why we lose so many young ppl.

    My point is “KISS;” Keep it Simple Saints.

    Love God, Love your neighbor and let your faith, hope, charity, beliefs, individuality, honesty (to self, others), virtue, be your guides in obeying the first two “great” commandments.

    Again…I know that most Mormons will say…yeah, duh this is exactly what we are trying to do…but my view is we “make the commandment[s]…of none effect by [our] traditions.” IMO those traditions are these ritualistic standards and almost compulsive like behaviors the church is teaching to its members and in so doing the truly important and most Christ-like principles of the gospel sometimes, if not oftentimes, get left to the way-side by even the most dedicated of church members.

    Sorry…this is way too long and I probably sound more like a rambling idiot than sensible person. I do not say these things w/ derogatory or demeaning intentions. They are actually in favor of seeing the church succeed w/ all my personal views and thoughts put aside.

  4. MormonZero says:

    I personally believe that if there be a god then he would want men and women to think for themselves. That would explain why so many cultural things are tolerated w/in the context of the gospel. I believe this would also be applicable to the GA’s (even if they were to see Jesus Christ).

    The problem arises though when many members believe church policy, behavior, or interpretation taught by GA’s is the current and future infallible truth. They’re just ppl trying to do the best they can w/ the experiences and circumstances presented to them. This viewpoint is further encouraged by strong emphasis on obedience first above all else.

  5. MormonZero says:

    That Peter Priesthood guy described in this post will not be able to survive emotionally, mentally, nor spiritually w/ the bridges that continue to link ideas, continents, cultures, and teachings together.

    It is for that reason I made the two previous comments. The peter’s and the molly’s can’t hide in “mormon bubbles” anymore. IMHO. and that is all it is. An honest opinion.

  6. Seth R. says:


    My views were almost indistinguishable from “Peter’s” as little as 5 years ago.

    Yeah, I’ve evolved that much in that short a time.

    Give the guy a bit more credit.

  7. Hellmut says:

    Seth, in 1890 the Church was practically bankrupt. The Brethren were underground and many Mormons were in jail.

    In 1978 Bob Jones University lost its non-profit status because of its racist dating policy.

    The reason why it took the LDS Church so long to respond to the pressures of public opinion and the government is that the unanimity requirement for the fifteen. Remember, had it not been for Elder Lee, the priesthood ban would have been lifted almost a decade earlier.

    The majority of the Brethren had recognized that there is no way around equality only a few years after Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson had passed the Civil Rights Acts.

    Change is difficult to come by when it requires unanimity. Any other organization that requires unanimity displays the same patterns of delayed reform.

    In that respect, there is no difference between the LDS Church and, say, the European Union. Change happens in the face of necessity. It just happens slower.

    As it was, the extremists were able to take the remainder of the Church hostage to a self-righteous, hateful, and irrational agenda. Elder Lee, of course, perceived himself to be super virtuous.

    That makes the episode only more scary.

    It is unfortunate that we have to repeat the same dynamic over human rights for our gay and lesbian children and neighbors.

  8. Seth R. says:

    Interesting side note…

    In a 1933 statement from the First Presidency, they framed the decision to abandon polygamy in light of Doctrine and Covenants 124:49-53. It’s an interesting few verses and an interesting argument.

  9. Matt says:

    How convenient that block of scripture is … yes, god has excused us from continuing in the very principle which was mean to grant us access to the highest order of heaven, because of our enemies whose children’s asses will now be kicked for generations because of it.

    Lovely excuse there. Only the lord commanded the saints to return to building temples at the earliest possible moment … do you think he’ll do the same with “the principle”? No, not the god of the LDS church. Not likely.

    Gotta admit, it must have been very painful for some to accept that their god was such a chicken-shit bully. Indeed, there were some who could not accept this, called the LDS leadership fallen, and went off to worship the true god in the wilderness … last seen in the neighborhood of Eldorado, Texas getting their asses kicked by gentiles and their children carried off into the captivity of Babylon just like the real people of god have always expected, and in the meantime being disavowed and shunned by their LDS cousins who have melted into the world of respectability and vanity.

    Yeah, I do love that little bit of scripture for the way it demonstrates the disparity between the modern LDS church and the church which actually required of its members exactly what they promised in the temple.

  10. Matt says:

    But don’t get me wrong. This is all like the slowly dissipating terror of a nightmare for me now. I can still feel it, even get passionate about it, but its like a phantom limb … when I open my eyes I can see that there’s nothing there.

    How very sad that my ancestors sacrificed all, that some even died, and that at this very moment there are some who abuse themselves and their children with a conviction that god requires it of them. I was taught to worship my ancestors for the price of the very same convictions which the LDS church now abhors.

    It’s all very confusing you know.

  11. mormonzero says:

    Seth – You didn’t survive the change by being a peter priesthood. “[you] evolved.” The problem the church is having is that not all ppl evolve the same way you do. Some evolve into exmo’s, NOM’s, or personal apologetics. None of which is able to keep the belief’s of their youth, which were taught to them by the church who has all the TRUE beliefs.

  12. Seth R. says:


    That’s just a part of growing up. Everyone loses childhood notions.

  13. mormonzero says:

    Seth – well…yeah…but this seems to me a lot like being taught that Santa Clause is true and then having to still rationalize why he is true even though he is not there.

    It would be like having your parents teach you that Santa Clause is real and then when you find out the stories don’t add up they explain it like this…

    Now, Santa clause doesn’t live at the North pole…he lives on the dark side of the moon–we think…santa clause has no flying reindeer…he has reindeer though but he lives on the dark side of the moon–we think…”but mom how does he get to earth then?”…”oh, sweety..well he still has his magic.”… Rudolph doesn’t have a glowing nose but he still led Santa’s sleigh through the stormy night..pointy-eared elves don’t exist to make toys but you can still ask for them and we will buy them for you at Toys-R-Us (which is a blessing from Santa Clause who bestowed the knowledge of toy making to regular men)… santa clause is not eating our cookies and milk but we like to have cookies and milk so don’t stop giving us your cookies and milk.

    Most ppl just give up their childhood notions completely rather than cling to them.

    However, I realize it is somewhat different w/ spiritual devotion. I don’t wish to make light of another’s spirituality and the way a person adapts to new knowledge. I respect the fact that you have been able to “evolve” and maintain your beliefs.

    My original intent for posting was to just explain my thoughts on how the church needs change in order to survive. KISS. I am also looking at the ppl as a collective whole and how to help that collective whole thrive not just one individual.

    What religious purpose is there to teach young ppl incorrect information and have them have to give up all those “childhood notions” other than to conform them to a certain way of life?

  14. Seth R. says:

    No Mormonzero,

    I think the Santa analogy is cute, but not really useful here. It obscures more than it illuminates.

    I think a better analogy is the teenager who discovers that his mom and dad aren’t automatically right all the time. How does the teenager handle that?

    In a lot of different ways obviously – all of which are germane to this topic.

  15. Wayne says:

    So, if the Prophet is not always right about God’s intentions what is the point of being a prophet? If he is just getting all his cues from the populace why bother listening to God at all?

  16. Matt says:

    Wayne, it’s that he’s right about as many times as you would expect from an random guess. Then you only have to point to the fulfilled prophecies as prophetic and all else as speaking as man. It’s called bamboozlement and it’s all the rage.

  17. Matt says:

    Actually, I thought mz’s Santa analogy was more than cute. It was brilliant. Good work, mz. It’s not your problem that some take offense at having their cherished rationalizations compared to what everyone (except western children under the age of accountability) knows to be poppycock.

  18. Wayne says:

    Having read the op-ed piece that this “Peter Priesthood” wrote, I can only hope that a Mormon ,with an average High school seminary education, will write another piece correcting everything he got wrong.

  19. Seth R. says:

    You know Matt, it is possible to leave the Church without becoming insufferably arrogant toward those still in it. Several people on this website have done so.

    But please, don’t mind me. Perhaps you might suggest that I also believe in Tinkerbell and the tooth fairy. Maybe that would help you feel better about yourself.

    Ah me… will the knee-slapping wit never end?

  20. MormonZero says:

    Seth – I understand your different perspective…and how your view of these things can be completely different. The difference tho, that I see, is that if you grow up and find out your parents weren’t perfect but they told you they were even though they knew they weren’t, wouldn’t it be a little different than simply finding out your parents are not perfect?

  21. Kullervo says:

    Except the Church is not my Mom and Dad.

  22. Seth R. says:

    OK fine Kullervo, maybe your polygamist great, great granduncle then.

  23. Seth R. says:

    You happy now?

  24. Matt says:

    Yes, Seth, I suppose it’s possible but then is it not also possible to stay in the church and not be insufferably arrogant toward those who have left … you know, such as framing their criticisms as personal attacks rather than allowing them to stand on their own as a valid point of view?

    I suppose not, since you find yourself inside one of the few organizations on earth arrogant enough to assume that its views, though made imperfect by people, are yet the most true representation of god’s view. I do believe your arrogance trumps my own by a deistic order of magnitude.

  25. Seth R. says:

    That’s right Matt, I’m just a stereotypical Mormon who thinks you left the Church because you got caught abusing Sunbeams.

  26. Matt says:

    Dude, wtf? Like I said, it’s all a personal attack for you. Must suck to have to deal with this ongoing personal assault every time a non-believer dares question your statements in anything but a most deferential and humble manner.

  27. Seth R. says:


    Re-read comment #67.

    Now please explain to me why that is not arrogant and condescending.

    I called you on it, and you tried to lump me in with all the negative stereotypes you have about a group you feel did you wrong.

    Frankly, I’m tired of smug non-believers telling me that I’m either some imbecile who believes in fairies, or dishonestly trying to cover up my mistakes with tortured logic. I try not to say these things about non-believers. I also try really hard to avoid bolstering my own opinion at the expense of other people. I’d appreciate a similar effort on your end.

  28. Matt says:

    See, that’s the problem Seth. You’re the only one using the terms “stupid, negative, stereotype, imbecile, fairie-believer, dishonest, tortured logic, etc”. You may try not to say these things about non-believers but you readily put these words into your opponents mouths and point them at yourself. This is very unfortunate.

    BTW- your comment 75 was of particularly poor taste. Consider this fact before you point to the comments of others and make accusations.

  29. Seth R. says:

    Saying that you are not convinced by the evidence that the LDS faith is “true” and explaining that is one thing.

    Claiming that belief in the LDS Church is akin to “believing in Santa” and something “everyone” outgrows once they get more brain capacity than an eight year-old is quite another.

    That said, yes, comment #75 was in poor taste and I would not mind if a moderator wants to remove it.

  30. Matt says:

    Yes, it’s obvious that you took that personally. I’ve already addressed the point.

    Now, who doubts that there’s a very good reason that the church baptizes its children at the age of eight and refers to this time as the age of accountability? Who doubts that this reason includes the fact that the child is indeed growing a brain and is on the verge of distinguishing themselves as a separate, distinct, and independent entity and just becoming capable of making “the wrong choice”?

    The church knows this and acts upon the fact rather than risk losing its children to an alternate worldview.

    This is not an insult, this is a fact.

  31. profxm says:

    I don’t want to get into the middle of this fight, but I do want to give some props to Seth – FYI, Seth is generally pretty level-headed and rarely does say anything negative about ex-Mormons. I don’t think I’ve said this before, but I value his contributions on this site quite a bit because he brings a perspective we don’t always get. Maybe he is somewhat masochistic (I couldn’t survive as long as he has on a believing Mormon site) subjecting himself to torture of dealing with all of us exes, but let’s try not to insult either way (not that I’m blameless in this matter, but I’m trying).

  32. Mormonzero says:

    FWIW, I never meant to offend anybody or instill anger or irritation on anybody’s part w/ my santa analogy. I am not a believer but I do go to church and respect all the good the church can and does do. The reason I presented this analogy was simply to show a problem that church has in retaining its youth and members in general. I personally don’t believe that the church can keep trying to preach things that are incorrect to their religious students. It is only weakening their position w/ each on going generation. They are losing ppl, IMHO, for all the wrong reasons. They spend so much time teaching how Santa did it or what Santa used to do it and oftentimes forget to mention why Santa did it. And IMO that is the part that is important…The WHY. Thus my belief in Keeping it simple and focusing in on the doctrinal principles rather than all the behavioral management stuff.

  33. mermaid says:

    I would like to second what profxm said about Seth. His viewpoints are a very valuable contribution to the discussion, and he has a lot of courage to keep plugging away in an environment of skepticism. Bottomline it seems to me is faith is a choice – some keep choosing to believe no matter how much “evidence” piles up against their beliefs. Not to be offensive, but there are still groups out there who believe the earth is flat, and the sun revolves around it. There are large groups of people who believe things that many other large groups of people think are outlandish. IMHO if beliefs lead to the religion of kindness, it doesn’t too much matter, but if they lead to treating others poorly, it does matter a lot and we ought to do all we can to help modify them to a less harmful belief system. An example is the belief that the earth was created for mankind – if it leads to us realizing we are caretakers and have responsibility to treat the earth well then that is OK, if it leads to a sense of entitlement that we can abuse the earth then that is a bad belief system. Most belief systems can be distorted to bad results if people want to use them to justify bad behaviors. Oh, I think I am off subject, sorry.

  34. Seth R. says:

    Well thanks guys.

    Sorry Matt. I suppose you just caught me on a crabby day.

  35. Matt says:

    No problem, Seth. Thank you. I too enjoy your comments … and find you quite engaging, as you can tell. 🙂

  36. profxm says:

    UPDATE: The author of the original op-ed letter has written back in to correct her letter:

    Did someone on here let her know?

    Also, note the mistake she corrected: RLDS are not FLDS. She didn’t correct any of the others. That would seem to indicate she doesn’t see them as mistakes (or the people who emailed her didn’t)… 🙂

  37. Kullervo says:

    OK fine Kullervo, maybe your polygamist great, great granduncle then.

    Seth, I actually wasn’t just trying to make a snappy comeback. There really is a difference between discovering your parents are imperfect and that your religion may very well be fraudulent.

    With parents, you grow up thinking they’re essentially perfect, and your image of them eventually has to be broken, because they’re not perfect. Nevertheless, while you may think your parents were perfect, you don’t actually depend on them for protection. You depend on them for food, clothing, upkeep, direction, guidance, protection etc. Parents are pretty much capable of providing those things without actually being perfect, so the disillusion about their perfection may change how you feel about them, but it doesn’t make you realize that they are actually unable to parent you, and that your relationship should be severed.

    Furthermore, parents don’t usually claim to be perfect. So there’s not the same sense of personal betrayal when they turn out not to be.

    So when your parents turn out not to be perfect, they’re still your parents. You’re still related to them, you still have history together, and you still have a relationship with them. They can even continue to provide support and sustenance, etc. none of that is affected by simple lack of perfection.

    If you have parents who it turns out can’t actually provide things like support and sustenance, then things are different, and your relationship as parent-child probably needs to be re-evaluated. For example, my parents no longer are capable of parenting me. I don’t need anything from them, and I don’t depend on them for anything, including guidance and emotional support, because they have proven incapable of providing those things. IT’s not a matter of themnot being perfect, it’s a matter of them not being able to be parents anymore.

    I still have a relationship with them because they are human beings and because I love them dearly.

    The Church, on the other hand, is not a human being. It makes claims about what it is able to provide, and since I believe its claims are largely based on lies, it turns out not really to be able to provide what it is supposed to. While it is still capable of providing something, it is not capable of providing enough of anything that makes up for the crap.

    It’s an organization, not a human being, so I am free to make this kind of assessment. Severing my relationship with the Church is not the same thing as severing my relationship with my parents.

  38. Seth R. says:

    Actually, all of those points have pretty good similarities to the relationship to the Church. I still think it is a pretty good analogy.

    Any analogy is only useful to a point.

    I’d go into more detail, but I’ve had a long morning and really need to crash for a bit.


  39. Kullervo says:

    My point is, the Church, unlike my parents, is not a human being, and is not related to me. If my relationship with the Church is dysfunctional, there’s much less to stop me from just severing the relationship.

  40. Kullervo says:

    And deciding that the Church is essentially a pack of lies is not the same as finding out it “isn’t perfect.”

  41. Seth R. says:

    And my point is that plenty of teenagers, upon finding their parents aren’t perfect, take it to the extreme of accusing their parents of being hypocrites, overbearing, dishonest, stupid, out of touch with reality, etc.

    Sound familiar?

  42. Mormonzero says:

    But do we have our parents telling us that they are the ONE TRUE parents and represent the ONE TRUE way of parenting?

    However the reaction from the child to the parents and the reaction from the person to the church can be similar.

    I guess, my question would be…What good is there in teaching falsehoods and opinions as truth other than for self-promotion?

    My thing is that the church teaches that the HG will testify of those things which are true and good. Why make it more confusing on a young and budding testimony by teaching things that they either do not know are true or really do know are untrue?

  43. Seth R. says:

    No, it’s about something you trusted and believed-in letting you down, and how different people deal with that. That’s the only point here.

    Your insistence on “one true parents” for the analogy misses the point of the analogy in the first place.

    You might as well just tell me my analogy doesn’t work because your parents never had a large office building in a small metropolitan city either.

  44. Mormonzero says:

    Seth – Okay, you don’t like my analogies and I agree w/ the results of your analogy but don’t think it is bullet proof. We don’t seem to understand each other’s analogies. That is fine. Who really cares? *shrug w/ a smile*

    Now, how about the question? “My thing is that the church teaches that the HG will testify of those things which are true and good. Why make it more confusing on a young and budding testimony by teaching [the young ppl] things that they (church teachers or leaders) either do not know are true or really do know are untrue, [while presenting it as truth]?”

    I was trying to present ideas on how the church can maintain and retain more of its members. I only used an analogy to show the mentality of the ppl that are leaving the church not the ones who are staying.

    It is a good thing that some ppl are able to overcome the let down of Santa, parents not being perfect, or a church not being what they thought it was. My opinion is that we have to go after the one, ten, or hundred sheep that leave (using Christ’s analogy, sorry if it is not perfect). I was only trying to present the thoughts of those who leave and present my most humble of opinions as to how the church might more efficiently maintain its membership. I was trying to think out of the box on how to help build up the church, not bring it down.

  45. Mormonzero says:

    I guess I see the CES being a little behind the times and struggling to keep up. But, who really knows? I guess ppl just gotta do whatever it is they feel is right.

  46. Seth R. says:

    I chalk up a lot of it to built-in organizational inertia.

  47. Mormonzero says:

    Yeah…I can agree w/ that. If the inertia is going too fast though they run the risk of getting out flanked. I think FARMS and FAIR both try to help out in this regard but I still see a problem of having to fight on too many fronts.

  48. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    (thanks to the internet) most all of the church’s BS is more or less known. Thanks to a better informed society, the days of slide & glide answers (really ‘replies’) to the factual questions will work with a smaller & smaller % of ppl.
    If I’m right, ‘the spirit’ isn’t a substitute for knowing the (available) truth. Joe set the tone when he lied about the ‘saints’ not practicing plural marriage, that’s been ‘the standard’ (albeit Very Low) ever since: thru the MMM, thru Hofmann, including the Book of Abraham, Kinderhook plates, horses & ‘fine steel’ back then… on and on. The GAs / COB crew MUST think that mormons (TBMs) are the most gullible ppl on the face of the Earth.
    To cap it all off (so far, at least) G.H. tells Larry King ‘I don’t know that we teach that’ then gives the very next conference ‘a wink & a nod’ saying, well, I (think) know what we teach.
    NO RESPECT for TRUTH, No Not Any.

  49. Kullervo says:

    No, if your parents are pieces of crap, they are still your parents. If your Church is a piece of crap, you find a different Church.

  50. Kullervo says:

    The analogy doesn’t work because parents (and family) are an extraordinary exception.

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