The Horatio Alger of Religions

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SamBee
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The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by SamBee » 17 Mar 2017, 12:54

Horatio Alger Jr. (January 13, 1832 – July 18, 1899) was a prolific 19th-century American writer, best known for his many young adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. His writings were characterized by the "rags-to-riches" narrative, which had a formative effect on America during the Gilded Age.

All of Alger's juvenile novels share essentially the same theme, known as the "Horatio Alger myth": a teenage boy works hard to escape poverty. Often it is not hard work that rescues the boy from his fate but rather some extraordinary act of bravery or honesty. The boy might return a large sum of lost money or rescue someone from an overturned carriage. This brings the boy—and his plight—to the attention of a wealthy individual.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Alger
The Nephite story provided the template for Smith and Young’s social experiments with communalism. They would both try repeatedly to replicate the mythic Zion. Smith repeatedly told his followers, “if you are not equal in earthly things you cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things.” Young also championed wealth redistribution, “We have plenty here. No person is going to starve, or suffer, if there is an equal distribution of the necessaries of life.”

But like all utopias, the dream is easier than reality.

Facing the existential threat of federal disincorporation, the LDS Church responded by seeking assimilation at any cost. They began to privatize their cooperative business ventures throughout the 1880s and publicly abandoned polygamy in 1890. The course was set. To survive in America, Mormons would transform themselves into patriotic citizens. The quest for Zion would be replaced by the American dream. The rhetoric of communalism exchanged with a reverence for the free market. Romney’s ascendance to the nation’s highest office will affirm to Mormons that their faith is finally authentic – that they are the indisputable Horatio Alger of American religions.
http://www.salon.com/2012/04/15/when_mo ... ocialists/
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Ray DeGraw
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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by Ray DeGraw » 17 Mar 2017, 13:14

This is a fascinating comparison - and I have said often that survival cost us much of our idealism from the earliest days.

However, I doubt we would have survived (and certainly wouldn't have flourished) if we hadn't changed so dramatically.

Hopefully, as we mature, we can begin to swing back toward those earlier ideals - without the earlier extremes.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

squarepeg
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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by squarepeg » 17 Mar 2017, 15:25

Our faith was finally authentic once we acquiesced and sacrificed our ideals to appease the government? That seems kind of sad.

Maybe Pres. Kimball's 1978 decision could be interpreted the same way: We got to a point where if we held to our current policy we'd likely not survive, so we changed.

I assume garments are no longer ankle and wrist length because if we'd stuck with that we'd also not have survived.

This is making me sad, thinking of all these advances as happening just for the sake of survival.

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LookingHard
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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by LookingHard » 17 Mar 2017, 16:11

I don't know if the church "would not survive" but it would be a TINY fraction of what it is. Just look at the amish. Sometimes people relish being different and take comfort in discomforts feeling like the sacrifices are proof of righteousness and will bless them on day.

squarepeg
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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by squarepeg » 17 Mar 2017, 20:44

LookingHard wrote:
17 Mar 2017, 16:11
I don't know if the church "would not survive" but it would be a TINY fraction of what it is.
Yes. And that wouldn't be conducive to "filling the whole earth," so we'd be failing to fulfill prophecy.

Are we really the Horatio Alger of religions if we've had to compromise on what we'd previous claimed was God's will (at least several times) in order to stay viable and keep increasing in membership? Why would God want us to do certain things only until we reach a point in time at which continuing to do them threatens church growth?

Protestants criticize us for flip-flopping and changing our rules like we do, but I feel like they are no less guilty. Visiting a few Protestant churches gave me the impression that many of the pastors (though certainly not all) were like circus clowns or cheap motivational speakers, trying to sell the Gospel like a used car salesman, knowing that the more people they can win over, the more $$$, and the more their pride will be boosted. LDS bishops, in my experience, never come across as used car salesmen, and I can think of several reasons for that, including that our bishops get no salary.

So I'm trying to find some way around what looks to me like two versions of the same problem: both Mormons and Protestants appear to feel that the highest priority is increasing membership, and that end justifies what appear to be less-than-pure means. Maybe it does? Maybe it's so important to bring people to Christ that it's okay if we are a bit like lawyers in our methods?

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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by Ray DeGraw » 18 Mar 2017, 10:58

The primary directive of any organization, including religion, is to survive. Period. Everything else is secondary.

That sounds cold, but it is what it is.

Also, on-going revelation and eternal progress require change - and, at times, massive, fundamental, uncomfortable change. We talk about these principles as if they only apply to a rosy Garden of Eden and never cause pain. Change causes pain - to someone, somewhere, somehow, to some degree.

I look at it from the Book of Mormon's pruning analogy. Things that are bad or not conducive to growth and production of good are amputated (like polygamy at the end of the 1800s and racial bans a few decades later) - and I always have interpreted that as being ideas and false traditions and beliefs being pruned, as well as the people who stubbornly refuse to accept the necessary changes. The analogy says that happened always and will continue to happen to the Kingdom of God right until the very end. My job is to help people who might be killed in the pruning process survive - and, ironically, it is the ultra-conservative who least want to be pruned by admitting and letting go of the incorrect traditions of their ancestors.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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SamBee
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Re: The Horatio Alger of Religions

Post by SamBee » 22 Mar 2017, 08:28

LookingHard wrote:
17 Mar 2017, 16:11
I don't know if the church "would not survive" but it would be a TINY fraction of what it is. Just look at the amish. Sometimes people relish being different and take comfort in discomforts feeling like the sacrifices are proof of righteousness and will bless them on day.
There are several models for what we could have become - the CoC/RLDS, the FLDS, the Strangites, Bickertonites etc... say what you like about the succession - the Brighamites won out. Partly through compromise and partly through sheer hard work.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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