…John Dehlin suggested that it was a mistake for modern Mormons to down play what he calls â€œ19th century doctrinesâ€ (as he interprets this, this means teachings about how Jesus was conceived, locations of the garden of Eden, belief in a large geography model for Lamanites, belief in 19th century views of the universe, etc.) He believed this is part of what makes Mormons â€œspecial.â€ (his word )I had a similar conversation with John Hamer that was almost exactly the same via an email exchange.
Interestingly, neither of these gentleman believe in any of those doctrines personally. They also are ardent critics of some/many current Church teachings, anything from being â€œthe one true Churchâ€ to the Churchâ€™s stance against gay marriage.
I guess I was left with the impression that they were selective in what they felt Mormons should emphasize and what Mormons should give up. Old disproven teachings that have no modern value were looked upon positively, core theology like â€œone true churchâ€ not so much.
Later in the conversation, it came to pass that perhaps it wasn’t John Dehlin or John Hamer who had said or believed these things (or perhaps once they had, but now they had a more complex view). Well, that part bored me and I didn’t want to bore you, so I didn’t link to those comments. Aren’t I so nice?
But I didn’t think the ideas of the above quote were all that outlandish. I kinda like the aspects of the church’s unique doctrine in a kind of love/hate relationship. I wrote about that later down the page too. It’s not something that I seriously entertain of course, and the critical part is as Bruce mentions — I don’t believe in any of these doctrines personally. In fact, some of them make me just a bit embarrassed. But that’s the kind of tradition we have, so I half think the church shouldn’t sterilize it. I feel bad because people ask me things like, “Would these changes make you believe in the church?” and I must say, “They’d be in a good step, but you’d have to change history to make me believe.” Oops! I’ve just wasted their time.
Bruce had a later comment that made me think though.
What I mean is, itâ€™s a problem for someone that doesnâ€™t believe any of it to explain to someone that actually does or wishes to: â€œYou should look at it this way. You should believe this, but not that.â€…I suppose Iâ€™m sensitive on this subject precisely because Iâ€™ve seen some â€œliberal Mormonsâ€ (probably the wrong term here) really push hard on believing Mormons about what they should or shouldnâ€™t believe but never even take the time or have the desire for feedback on why their suggestions will or wonâ€™t work.
I’ve been there. I think I’ve said a lot about how I feel the church should change its policies toward gay members, among other things. But it made me realize that I have two kinds of modes for thinking about the church…one of which is a practical one and one which is an aesthetic or anthropological mode. So I don’t necessarily think that a fondness for obscure church doctrines (even if I don’t believe in them and they are kinda weird) is meant to be taken seriously. It’s just an artistic quality of history and tradition. Meanwhile, when I think about the church in a modern and practical sense, I am glad that they are more streamlined and sterilized, but wish that they’d become more accepting…
Caveat! The comments for this article have evolved organically away from the nuts and bolts of the topic message, and some comments are quite lengthy. For comments that are central(ish) to the topic, read 1-14, 16, 18-26, 32-33, 35 below the starred demarcation, 37-38, 40, 45, 46, 49, and then skip alll the way to 69, 71 after the all caps, and then for the rest of the comments after that, we are back on schedule.