GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Public forum for topics that don't fit into the other categories.
Roy
Posts: 4285
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by Roy » 30 May 2017, 13:33

This is a tangent from AP's thread about faith promoting stories used in GC.
Also...I expect more from GAs and church leaders than just someone in class...but...I also think they are prone to the same thing not realizing they are doing that. I expect more from GAs...but honestly...not much more. It shouldn't be that way...but it seems it is.
This weekend I attended the baptism of an 8 year old girl. The talk on baptism was delivered by her grandfather that just happens to be a GA. In the talk he asked the child why she takes baths "to wash away germs." He said that similarly the ordinance of baptism washes away our sins and makes us clean.

He then asked how long after baptism she is likely to remain clean. The girls father answered, "about a minute" to the laughter of many. The GA then said that this is why the sacrament is so important and make serious effort to partake regularly. We can renew or baptismal covenant weekly and become clean once again. Of all the ordinances in the church it is the only one that we do for ourselves multiple times.

(there was also a pretty long section of the talk dedicated to the "proper authority" but that is not my focus)

I feel that this explanation is very week doctrinally.

First, it makes it sound like it is the baptism itself that removes sins from us. I might compare that to a perspective where someone feels that it is their signature on bank documents that delivers money in the form of a loan. The signature is important. What it stands for is important. But it also just scratches the surface of how bank loans operate. But... we do believe in baptism "for the remission of sins" so this is a fairly minor point.

Second, I have a much bigger problem with the teaching on the sacrament. Do we really teach that the sacrament is a weekly pardon of sins? I had heard this before in the church but it seems more something that "just someone in SS class" would say rather than an official position of the church.

In looking at this charitably I tell myself that this GA might have been trying to simplify it to the level of an 8 year old.

But on to my real question. Where do GA's get their doctrinal training? What might separate their doctrinal understanding from that of "just someone in SS class"?
"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

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 5286
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by DarkJedi » 30 May 2017, 13:49

I am of the opinion that most of the GAs are not doctrinal scholars (it would be hard to make a case that Oaks is not) and in many cases some members better understand doctrine and scriptures than some of them. GAs seem to mostly fall into the category of "parrot" in my view - because they seem to parrot so often. They do get training before GC as far as I can tell, but I think it's much like other church training - more parroting and mostly designed as a correlation effort so they're all saying the same thing. Actually your sacrament example is a good one - it seems to me there has been more emphasis on it of late (perhaps stemming from the Sabbath emphasis) and I think that's because they're talking about it in these training meetings.

I know you're using the sacrament thing as an example, but I do have a testimony of sorts of the sacrament. I think it is important, at least symbolically. I don't think it in and of itself brings forgiveness of sins, and I don't agree that it's purpose is to "renew our baptismal covenants" (and actually dislike that phrase immensely). My understanding of the remission of sins related to baptism is that it comes via the Holy Ghost as the "baptism of fire." Similarly, I think that same thing can happen with the sacrament.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 3136
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by nibbler » 30 May 2017, 14:04

1) I believe GAs are called as GAs because they've shown an aptitude for being good administrators in the church, not because of any special ability to be doctrinal scholars or theologians. They got their doctrinal chops the same way most people do, through decades of rehashing correlated material.

2) There's also the parrot factor. GA Young says something during conference because GA Smith Jr. said it in a past conference, GA Smith Jr. said it during that conference because he heard GA Smith Sr. say it in a talk he gave at a funeral. All with no scriptural (text or speech canonized by vote of the members) references.

3) A person's position (job) in the church often dictates doctrine. A regular Joe is correct until a BP corrects them. A BP is correct until a SP corrects them. A SP is correct until a GA corrects them. And so on. Someone is correct until a higher authority (up to and including scripture) proves otherwise. If a prophet says taking the sacrament cleanses people of sin you'll have to bust out the scriptures and lawyer up to state otherwise.

In this case you could have dusted off Bednar's "Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins" and impressed everyone with:
The ordinance of the sacrament is a holy and repeated invitation to repent sincerely and to be renewed spiritually. The act of partaking of the sacrament, in and of itself, does not remit sins.
Bednar >> GA, so Bednar's doctrine wins.

4) I think your GA was trying to communicate the importance of attending church each and every week. The sacrament is the largest carrot we have to work with and things get interesting when we try to come up with reasons why it's vital to take the sacrament every week.

Hey, there's another question for doctrinal scholars. Why is it vital to take the sacrament often? Covenant renewal? I've been married to DW for a few decades now, I never felt the need to renew our vows, yet I'm as committed to her today as I was when we got married.
“We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.”
― Patrick Rothfuss


“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne

User avatar
SilentDawning
Posts: 6329
Joined: 09 May 2010, 19:55

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by SilentDawning » 30 May 2017, 15:44

Roy wrote:
30 May 2017, 13:33
This is a tangent from AP's thread about faith promoting stories used in GC.
Also...I expect more from GAs and church leaders than just someone in class...but...I also think they are prone to the same thing not realizing they are doing that. I expect more from GAs...but honestly...not much more. It shouldn't be that way...but it seems it is.
This weekend I attended the baptism of an 8 year old girl. The talk on baptism was delivered by her grandfather that just happens to be a GA. In the talk he asked the child why she takes baths "to wash away germs." He said that similarly the ordinance of baptism washes away our sins and makes us clean.

He then asked how long after baptism she is likely to remain clean. The girls father answered, "about a minute" to the laughter of many. The GA then said that this is why the sacrament is so important and make serious effort to partake regularly. We can renew or baptismal covenant weekly and become clean once again. Of all the ordinances in the church it is the only one that we do for ourselves multiple times.

(there was also a pretty long section of the talk dedicated to the "proper authority" but that is not my focus)

I feel that this explanation is very week doctrinally.

First, it makes it sound like it is the baptism itself that removes sins from us. I might compare that to a perspective where someone feels that it is their signature on bank documents that delivers money in the form of a loan. The signature is important. What it stands for is important. But it also just scratches the surface of how bank loans operate. But... we do believe in baptism "for the remission of sins" so this is a fairly minor point.

Second, I have a much bigger problem with the teaching on the sacrament. Do we really teach that the sacrament is a weekly pardon of sins? I had heard this before in the church but it seems more something that "just someone in SS class" would say rather than an official position of the church.

In looking at this charitably I tell myself that this GA might have been trying to simplify it to the level of an 8 year old.

But on to my real question. Where do GA's get their doctrinal training? What might separate their doctrinal understanding from that of "just someone in SS class"?
They get it through self-study, and from serving a mission. Some will have attended Seminary and get it from there. One leader told me that if the person is busy in the church with leadership, they attend very few PH meetings and SS lessons, so their mission and youth is where they learn the principles.
"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

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

Roy
Posts: 4285
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by Roy » 30 May 2017, 16:35

Thank you for your replies. It gives me new thoughts and avenues to ponderize. :think: :mrgreen:
"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

User avatar
dande48
Posts: 382
Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by dande48 » 30 May 2017, 22:22

My cousin actually works as a librarian researcher for the Q12 and GA. She had Uchdorf contact her several years back, stating, "I remember hearing this quote by a Monk, who said something like, 'When you want to preach the gospel, use actions over words.'." Her job is to take what the GAs wish to speak on, and find the references to support them.

I am sure it greatly depends on the General Authority. I think Holland is a strong gospel scholar. I also think some GAs are humble and careful in realizing what they do and do not know (Gordon B Hinkley was excellent on this). Many GAs try to make the doctrine as simple as possible. And then there's the fact, that there are many contradictory teachings and doctrines within the scriptures and the Church. But honestly, I think many General Authorities don't care so much about the exact truth of the details... what matters is that people feel inspired, humbled, grateful to Christ, and drawn to the atonement. If they can feel the Spirit, then it MUST be true. And that's all that really matters.
"Sir, it's quite possible this asteroid is not entirely stable." - C-3PO

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 15328
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by Curt Sunshine » 31 May 2017, 00:20

The same way most of us do.

There are some leaders who truly are doctrinal and scriptural scholars, and most would be considered intelligent by normal standards, but it isn't a prerequisite for the calling.
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

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 4251
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by SamBee » 31 May 2017, 02:38

Here are some examples to the contrary:

* Bruce R. McConkie
* Boyd K. Packer
* James E. Talmage
* John A. Widtsoe

I think one could make an argument for Jeffrey R. Holland. Pres. Packer's work tends to be a bit one note in my view - "Obey!" - but he is one of those figures like those listed above who have had big influence but not been full president of the church.

Talmage is far the most influential, and an interesting writer, while McConkie's influence has declined.

Widtsoe is someone I still hear about today, but I'm not that familiar with his contribution.
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."

User avatar
On Own Now
Posts: 1463
Joined: 18 Jan 2012, 12:45

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by On Own Now » 31 May 2017, 11:33

TSM - BS, Business, UofU, MBA, BYU. But he has also been an at-the-top leader for a major world Christian religion for almost 54 years, and was a Bishop, Counselor in a Stake Presidency and a Mission President before that, so, true to LDS religious-training view, TSM has been fully educated via personal experience, moreso than any other GA.

HBE - Doctor of Businness Administration, Harvard.

DFU - German Air Force Pilot, Executive for Lufthansa, MBA IMD business School, Lausanne, Switzerland.

RMN - MD UofU, PhD UofMinnesota, Surgeon.

DHO - JD University of Chicago, Utah Supreme Court Justice, President of BYU.

MRB - under-edcuated compared to others, but took over his father's car dealership in the 1950s.

RDH - MBA, Harvard.

DAB - PhD, Organizational Behavior, Purdue. College Professor. President of BYI-I.

DTC - JD, Duke Law School.

NLA - MBA, Harvard.

RAR - Kind of an every-man who worked hard and rose to be the COO of a chemical company, despite limited college education.

GES - BS in business Administration, USU.

DGR - MD, UofU

So, doctrinal scholarship is not a principal that leaders rely on. In a very LDS way, they have pragmatic doctrinal education.

As to the point about baptism/sacrament, I have to say that the LDS primary-level teaching of washing away sins and renewing baptismal covenants bugs me. Paul, who was a verifiable theologian (and I don't mean the Paul of Timothy), said of baptism that our old nature, the part of us that is always coming up short and prone to human foibles, is aligned with Christ by joining (symbolically and spiritually) in his crucifixion and burial, only to rise in a glorious "new life" just as Christ was raised to glory, no longer to be saddled with weaknesses, but to become what we could never have imagined without following Jesus. The best explanation of why we take the sacrament is in the prayers themselves, but I also think of it as an ongoing active and deliberate commitment to be (and stay) aligned with Jesus. In that way, it does sort of work as a "renewal of baptismal covenants", in that we are making the same commitment with both actions. However, I would not say that baptism's purpose is to cleanse us of our sins. I would probably say its purpose is to separate us from our non-spiritual nature. I would whole-heartedly disagree that the purpose of the Sacrament is to cleanse us of sins.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 4251
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: GA's as Doctrinal Scholars

Post by SamBee » 31 May 2017, 17:05

Probably should add Tad R. Callister to the list.
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."

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot]