God said what to do but not how to do it.

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Roy
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God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by Roy » 12 Apr 2017, 17:14

This is a statement that I have heard many times in regards to polygamy. It has always bothered me. To me it is similar to God telling Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish" but failing to mention anything about marriage and just left them to figure it out on their own. How much collateral damage is God willing to tolerate before he gives them guidance on this point?

Recently though I thought about this statement in a new light. What if God commanded JS to found/restore God's church - and then He remained silent on How to do it?

Would an individual with such a mandate not be authorized to make decisions to the best of his ability? What if this individual needed to be somewhat misleading and overconfident in order to inspire others to follow his lead? How much of that is good leadership and getting things done vs. how much of that is unethical?

I certainly am not finished mulling this thought over. If God commanded JS to found a church (or that JS believed that he had received such a commission) and then Joseph was left to his own devices on how to go about doing it - that certainly appears tobe a viable narrative that would mostly fit the available evidence.

What do you think? What would be the strengths or weaknesses of such a theory?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

GBSmith
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by GBSmith » 12 Apr 2017, 18:23

Roy wrote:
12 Apr 2017, 17:14
What if God commanded JS to found/restore God's church - and then He remained silent on How to do it?
The number of ways the church organization and doctrine changed over the years before JS's death is good evidence to me that he was on his own in figuring it out. That's assuming that he was commanded by God to do it in which case, interestingly, the result is still the same.

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LookingHard
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by LookingHard » 12 Apr 2017, 18:33

Roy wrote:
12 Apr 2017, 17:14
This is a statement that I have heard many times in regards to polygamy. It has always bothered me. To me it is similar to God telling Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish" but failing to mention anything about marriage and just left them to figure it out on their own.
I was about to say, "Well that wasn't the first dad that shied away from having the birds and the bees talk with the kiddos.", but then again - maybe it WAS the FIRST!

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SilentDawning
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by SilentDawning » 12 Apr 2017, 21:12

I am going to take a Project management approach to this. I teach this discipline, and have formal training and certifications in it. When a project sponsor (God) delegates a project (founding the church) to a project manager (JS), then there are certain principles the sponsor needs to abide by, to ensure there is a suitable result. Ultimately, the sponsor (God) is responsible for the outcome of the project, and for its impact on the people it affects.

A good "project sponsor" (ie, God) would give sufficient direction to ensure a quality result, while allowing the project manager (JS) to have enough room to create the finer points of the scope. There would be sufficient resources provided to help JS fulfil the mandate. There would be guidelines and constraints that ensure basic principles are followed.

A good sponsor will also monitor the situation, and assist the PM in making course corrections when necessary -- the sponsor (God) is the keeper of the vision. The sponsor would also tear away roadblocks the project manager cannot remove himself.

So, I honestly don't believe a God would allow massive, glaring mistakes like the priesthood ban, and plural marriage. I firmly believe the priesthood ban was an expression of Brigham Young's racist tendencies, and plural marriage was as result of JS's sexual appetite. JS's libido led him to engage in sex with young girls, and he responded with post hoc doctrine that justified it. These errors detract from the argument that God was at the helm of this church. There are arguments in favor of this claim, but some of these glaring mistakes certainly weaken that argument.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

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Ann
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by Ann » 12 Apr 2017, 22:34

I think one weakness is that it supposes a God or Father/Son who care more about establishing a church than spreading a gospel of Golden Rule love.

(I'm completely on board for inspired humans still feeling their way.)
How much collateral damage is God willing to tolerate before he gives them guidance on this point?
I think it's interesting that we tend to accept a God the Father who breaks eggs, or "lets" us break eggs, to make the omelet. (Sorry, better words are not coming to me right now.) But we usually don't talk about Jesus being the moving force behind something like polygamy. We don't suggest a perfect, loving Christ, who showed unusual regard for women, saying, This is going to be heartbreak and disaster for quite a few, but if that's your best idea to get this done.... Because we portray Christ as The One who cares about the one.
"Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery." - Joseph Campbell

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

"Therefore they said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said unto them, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes...." - John 9:10-11

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 13 Apr 2017, 07:15

Roy wrote:
12 Apr 2017, 17:14
This is a statement that I have heard many times in regards to polygamy. It has always bothered me. To me it is similar to God telling Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish" but failing to mention anything about marriage and just left them to figure it out on their own. How much collateral damage is God willing to tolerate before he gives them guidance on this point?...What do you think? What would be the strengths or weaknesses of such a theory?

In theory I'm all for the idea of God letting people figure some things out on their own instead of trying to micromanage people's lives down to the smallest details, prophet or not. However, in the case of the way JS practiced plural "marriage" this just sounds more like a rather weak excuse and classic example of mental gymnastics than a very good explanation for what we actually see. One problem with this is that God supposedly already did give the following relatively specific details regarding polygamy in D&C 132 (which JS apparently didn't follow very well according to historical accounts).
D&C 132 wrote:61 And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.

62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified.

63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfill the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
Sure according the Church this was originally recorded in 1843 but if God supposedly thought it was important enough to provide details like this then and send an angel multiple times to get JS to take more wives then why wouldn't he have provided sufficiently detailed instructions in any previous revelations? As far as the question of to what extent the Church is just a product of JS and other leaders acting as men that would be great if the Church would recognize this possibility but it seems like it is currently all about strict obedience ("with exactness") not allowing people very much leeway to figure things out on their own.
"Truth is what works." - William James

Roy
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by Roy » 13 Apr 2017, 09:18

Roy wrote:
12 Apr 2017, 17:14
What if this individual needed to be somewhat misleading and overconfident in order to inspire others to follow his lead? How much of that is good leadership and getting things done vs. how much of that is unethical?
Part of the thought behind this is that Joseph seems to be willing to speak in the name of God to inspire confidence in his followers. He did this with specific missionary calls, he did this in directing the sale of the BoM copyright, he did this during the Kirtland banking episode, He did this in the assembly of Zion's camp, He did this with the discovery of the "Zelph" bones, He appears to have done this in creating the LDS endowment.

(the Zion's camp incident is interesting because I remember reading in RSR that at one point JS wrote [in his journal or a letter home] that it was becoming clear that the camp would not be successful in retaking the lands in Missouri. This despite having assurances of success in revelations. Thankfully JS disassembled the group rather than stubbornly leading them headlong into a bloodbath.)

So it appears that Joseph would at times step out onto a limb and claim divine revelation to bolster his footing with his followers. Maybe he did this a lot.

OTOH, JS does not appear to be a cynical and calculating fraud. He does seem to believe in his own divine mission. Thus perhaps God gave him an assignment early on, or at least Joseph believed as much, setting the whole thing in motion but not really following up.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

ydeve
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by ydeve » 13 Apr 2017, 10:28

Believing in his own mission does not actually necessitate prior heavenly visitations. People revise their memory of prior events all the time. It's possible to trick yourself into believing you've experienced something that never actually happened.

The argument that JS must necessarily have had heavenly manifestations because he believed in his mission to some degree doesn't really work.

Roy
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by Roy » 13 Apr 2017, 12:02

ydeve wrote:
13 Apr 2017, 10:28
Believing in his own mission does not actually necessitate prior heavenly visitations. People revise their memory of prior events all the time. It's possible to trick yourself into believing you've experienced something that never actually happened.

The argument that JS must necessarily have had heavenly manifestations because he believed in his mission to some degree doesn't really work.
I personally do not think the theory requires visitations, only that JS had experiences that led him to believe deeply in his role and mission as a latter day prophet.

I am considering this as a potentially defensible position for someone that wants to stay faithful to the LDS church but really does not have good explanations for many things (historical, doctrinal, and otherwise) that appear to not be from God.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Roadrunner
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Re: God said what to do but not how to do it.

Post by Roadrunner » 13 Apr 2017, 12:30

While I think a good leader lets those under him/her learn and make mistakes, there's a limit, similar to what SD said. I'll let my toddler learn to walk by falling and scraping his knees but I won't let him run into the street. Polygamy was running into the street in my opinion.

Another point is that God didn't seem to mind giving JS detailed instructions in many mundane matters. There's even a whole section of the D&C that is a Q&A with the Almighty. I tell you if I had a Q&A with the creator of the universe I'd ask something besides what the eyes and wings are of the beasts in Revelations represent. We spend hours talking about chastity - it's the sin next to murder after all - so it seems God would tell JS and BY to tone it down a bit.

Maybe it's a giant test to see how faithful we are, or maybe they were the only leaders who could establish this church and so God had to put up with some stupid decisions, but a simpler explanation is that if there is a just God that He didn't approve of what JS and BY were doing in regards to polygamy.

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