How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

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SilentDawning
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How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by SilentDawning » 22 May 2019, 22:25

One catch-22 I find the church faces is the need to change versus the need to stay credible. On one hand, the church leaders often need to make sweeping changes that improve the experience of being a Mormon. On the other hand, when these changes reverse deeply held policies, practice, and even doctrine formerly evangalized as a revelation, this hurts their credibility. People start questioning whether current doctrine or policy (whose line is often blurry) is accurate given the now-reversed mistakes of the past.

These reversals are often perceived as an admission of a mistake. And mistakes, coupled with divinely inspired leadership, don't go together very well. They hurt testimony, and they encourage the posture that church policy, culture, and sometimes even previously designated doctrine all needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Thoughts? Just how much can a church change without losing all credibility in its inspired/revelatory status and prophets who the Lord said will never lead us astray? Should we expect, given divinely led leadership, that there should be an absence of decades-long mistakes in policy, and a largely static set of doctrines and policies that transcend changes in world culture, trends, and membership growth patterns?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- 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."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

grobert93
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by grobert93 » 23 May 2019, 05:25

SilentDawning wrote:
22 May 2019, 22:25
One catch-22 I find the church faces is the need to change versus the need to stay credible. On one hand, the church leaders often need to make sweeping changes that improve the experience of being a Mormon. On the other hand, when these changes reverse deeply held policies, practice, and even doctrine formerly evangalized as a revelation, this hurts their credibility. People start questioning whether current doctrine or policy (whose line is often blurry) is accurate given the now-reversed mistakes of the past.

These reversals are often perceived as an admission of a mistake. And mistakes, coupled with divinely inspired leadership, don't go together very well. They hurt testimony, and they encourage the posture that church policy, culture, and sometimes even previously designated doctrine all needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Thoughts? Just how much can a church change without losing all credibility in its inspired/revelatory status and prophets who the Lord said will never lead us astray? Should we expect, given divinely led leadership, that there should be an absence of decades-long mistakes in policy, and a largely static set of doctrines and policies that transcend changes in world culture, trends, and membership growth patterns?
In my opinion, we have made a really big mistake in the church. We have taught to have blind or no hesitation obedience and faith toward the prophet and apostles. We have hymns and primary songs dedicated to following the prophet, to Joseph smith being perfect and the world evil. The church website constantly promotes the prophet's travels and speeches. As a church we often view the modern day prophet's words as scripture equal to the bible and book of Mormon. We have tied ourselves up as unique because we have a prophet. The problem with this is that when you convince millions of people to just believe in and follow the words of someone who is a prophet, now they have to make the right choices every time or you break shelves.

If parents teach millions of children about Santa and he pays a visit once a year, the person representing him has pressure to consistently bring alive the dream that children have. If he makes a mistake; it's revealed he's fake or Santa is revealed to not be a real person, millions of hearts are crushed and children now are not sure what to believe anymore. Is the tooth fairy or Easter bunny now fake too? what else are my parents not telling the truth about?

Reliance on someone creates problems. this is why i like the changes the church has been making recently, especially the talk that Bednar gave. It really helped me to make peace with the church, since i have been struggling to know where i fit in the gospel. We are to have a family centered gospel study and worship home. We are to not rely on the prophet for every question and struggle we have. we are to use the holy ghost and use the priesthood to bless our lives. While the church has not been very good at self-dependence talk, at least now they are finally trying to make it as clear as possible that we need to stop only just following a figure head in the church and actually learn to connect with the Lord himself.

So i think the church's credibility and the gospel's credibility are separate things. The church IMO is a vehicle or "handicap" for members to use as a way to give service, to share insights and to create social bonds. I do not believe that you need an organization of people in order to receive revelation, bless a sacrament and give service. However, as humans it is easier for us to do so if we have a leadership, if we have a place to meet. It is human nature ot have a "club". With that said, policies are part of it. They will come and go. Leaders may say they are revelation, and until recently it's been an issue when they've been revoked as just policy. but trying to be optimistic, if the church says XYZ about something, i now know that they want me to not assume it's the Lord's will or that it's 100% revelation after weeks of humble fasting and prayer in the temple, maybe it's just one or two of the men's opinions being put into practice.

Because my testimony is now in the gospel, in Christ and in what i personally learn and feel, i am finding myself less bothered spiritually by the church's choices and more hopeful that the church can continue to be restored according to the Lord's will and will be done so righteously.

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DarkJedi
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by DarkJedi » 23 May 2019, 06:26

If the focus of the Church of Jesus Christ is the core principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, GotHG) then the church can change a whole bunch and be credible. In the past it has been easy to conflate the gospel and the church, and in some respects it still is except for those of us who understand the difference. The gospel is eternal, it will always exist (and maybe has always existed depending on your understanding of eternal, everlasting, etc.). The church has only been here less than 200 years this time around. I think there is an understanding among many of us here, scholars like Bushman and Givens, and even among many of the general membership and leadership that the church is the vehicle for the gospel. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I do honestly believe the current changes are being made in part to make that clear and to make clear what the focus is and should have always been.

A while back I was in stake council and there was a letter read from the FP (there were a few, actually, culminating with the marriage waiting period end). One of the letters was a reminder that we need to be cognizant of those with food sensitivities in the sacrament and there should be something appropriate (brought by the individual according to the letter) passed with the regular bread but separated from it so as not to contaminate it. Somebody asked how that was to be accomplished, and the SP described how they do it in his ward (my ward does the same) - there is one deacon with two trays, the second tray containing the gluten free bread and that deacon also passes to those who need it besides his regular route. Somebody in another ward asked how they do two trays if they're supposed to pass the tray with their right hands. The SP simply said, that's not doctrine and it doesn't matter what hand you pass the tray with. Moral of the story: many members got so caught up in stuff from the post-McKay era (that's what I'm calling it for the moment until I come up with a good name, but this one's better than the McConkie era) that they can't tell the difference in the gospel, doctrine, tradition, culture, and policy. One of the things I love about the changes is lots of things those people (I call them Muggles or sleepers) thought were gospel/doctrine aren't - the waiting period is a great example. (We had a discussion about that in the meeting, too, I refrained from using Force lightning on one guy, but it was difficult to restrain myself and even though he didn't get away scot-free I still don't think he gets it.)

There is actually an advantage to the whole "follow the prophet" aspect from a certain point of view. If you'll recall, the original November policy was termed revelation by RMN. So was the the retraction of the policy. Although I don't believe either were revelation, it is possible they both were and if you are of the mindset that that prophet is always right/infallible, that's the only explanation. From that point of view, all of what RMN is doing is therefore revelation and part of the restoration (and I believe RMN thinks that's exactly the way it is). Thus, the focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and lack of focus on things like passing the sacrament tray with the right hand is very important.
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."

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AmyJ
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by AmyJ » 23 May 2019, 07:06

I am not sure that it can....

Increasing numbers of people are not necessarily holding onto a belief in God anymore, or a belief in organized religion necessarily.

In addition, communities are being forged online and/or in specialized niches that are replacing the community aspect that church held (NOTE: These groups also supplement the church community). In addition, increasing work loads and 2nd/3rd jobs and going back to school take up more resources and time from people.

Also, community support networks are picking up some of the communal care of those who need it when informal church organizations and church members used to do so.

Then there is the whole critical analysis of history where the church history is being redefined and reevaluated on all levels....

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Cadence
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by Cadence » 23 May 2019, 11:40

If you mean creditable in that every word spoke by leaders is from god that ship may have sailed already. But they can be credible as a thriving religion seeking truth. More change would facilitate that.


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hawkgrrrl
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 23 May 2019, 17:39

Change definitely undermines a belief in infallibility which is why so many orthodox members rely on the weak sauce argument that a discarded policy was somehow "right for its time," even when that time frame was incredibly narrow. But we don't have to believe in infallibility to find something credible. That's related to the weight of the thing being introduced. Nelson's willingness to try nearly every idea that pops into his head is dizzying on some level because the pace is much faster than we are used to, but the changes are pretty clearly policies, not capital R revelation (despite what might be claimed).

This is very on point with the post I did called The Progressive Fallout: https://wheatandtares.org/2019/05/08/th ... e-fallout/

Change is a problem when either the old thing or the new thing causes a lot of pain to people. When the new thing does, people don't want to do it. When the old thing does, we feel so relieved it's over that we start looking around for whatever else may be unnecessary pain.

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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 23 May 2019, 19:16

When Cadence and I agree and write essentially the exact same comment . . . :D :P ;)

The issue, I believe, is credibility vs. infallibility. I think the Church can remain credible IF, and only if, infallibility dies. If our scriptural canon teaches us anything, it is that prophets and religious leaders are not infallible - but those scriptures also teach that they still can be credible.
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.

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Gerald
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by Gerald » 24 May 2019, 04:26

RIght before conference there was a flurry of rumors that the Word of Wisdom was to be adjusted in some way. I was surprised how much that bothered me and how relieved I was when such a change did not come to pass. The odd thing is I don't feel particularly invested in that particular commandment. My faith certainly doesn't hinge on it. I also recognize that even if the Church eliminated that principle, it doesn't mean I have to run out and start smoking. I came to the conclusion the change is what was really bothering me.

I see the benefit of two hour church but still miss the old schedule. The combining of priesthood quorums makes perfect sense (I even advocated such a change on this forum a while back) and yet I still sometimes wish for separate quorums. I still haven't quite figured out what "ministering" is supposed to look like (even though I was never enthused by home teaching). (For the record, I feel the elimination of the waiting period is a very good thing!) There is something reassuring about consistency even if it isn't ideal.

I'm not sure the Church loses credibility as a result of change but it does stress certain members out (like myself) with these changes (as positive as they may be). Whether such stress results in loss of members remains to be seen. My guess is it probably won't. For some members, the answer to the question "Where else would you go?" is too frightening to contemplate. Thus far, none of the changes are really doctrinal. It would be interesting to see the response to a truly doctrinal change (e.g. women receiving the priesthood, validation of gay marriage, rejection of the historicity of the Book of Mormon etc.) The Reorganized Church (now Community of Christ) made many of these kinds of changes years ago. I think they lost a significant percentage of their membership as a result.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

grobert93
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by grobert93 » 24 May 2019, 05:29

Gerald wrote:
24 May 2019, 04:26
RIght before conference there was a flurry of rumors that the Word of Wisdom was to be adjusted in some way. I was surprised how much that bothered me and how relieved I was when such a change did not come to pass. The odd thing is I don't feel particularly invested in that particular commandment. My faith certainly doesn't hinge on it. I also recognize that even if the Church eliminated that principle, it doesn't mean I have to run out and start smoking. I came to the conclusion the change is what was really bothering me.

I see the benefit of two hour church but still miss the old schedule. The combining of priesthood quorums makes perfect sense (I even advocated such a change on this forum a while back) and yet I still sometimes wish for separate quorums. I still haven't quite figured out what "ministering" is supposed to look like (even though I was never enthused by home teaching). (For the record, I feel the elimination of the waiting period is a very good thing!) There is something reassuring about consistency even if it isn't ideal.

I'm not sure the Church loses credibility as a result of change but it does stress certain members out (like myself) with these changes (as positive as they may be). Whether such stress results in loss of members remains to be seen. My guess is it probably won't. For some members, the answer to the question "Where else would you go?" is too frightening to contemplate. Thus far, none of the changes are really doctrinal. It would be interesting to see the response to a truly doctrinal change (e.g. women receiving the priesthood, validation of gay marriage, rejection of the historicity of the Book of Mormon etc.) The Reorganized Church (now Community of Christ) made many of these kinds of changes years ago. I think they lost a significant percentage of their membership as a result.
Interesting that these changes have brought more stress to you. I say that because for me, one less hour of structured social church is a good thing. That's one less hour for bishops, clerks, leaders and so on to be fulfilling a stressful calling that usually requires spending time away from family. Ministering is what home teaching should have been, IMO. We seemed to need a set of rules and regulations in order to serve others. I believe HT was meant to be a way to make sure our brothers and sisters were doing ok, not to force read through a first presidency message and twist it to be relevant to our family's situation. It's learning to rely on the spirit more and our leader's programs less. IMO ministering is closer to what and how Jesus taught and lived. When i hear people (not just you) still bring up how they are still unable to understand ministering, i tell them that ministering is less of a program with check marks and more of an act of love and service to members of the church.

Church is a stressful ball of anxiety and programs, IMO. So many callings require so much sacrifice and discipline, often time away from family consistently. It's no wonder they are modifying the church programs for Sundays, we are told to keep the sabbath day holy but bishops and other leaders are too busy in meetings from dawn to dusk to even have time to observe it for themselves and their family. Anyway, my point is that yes, not everyone will understand, agree with or enjoy these changes (i am not happy with some of the missionary changes, and some of the changes i feel could have happened sooner for my benefit, etc), but it's in a way trying to enable us to learn to rely on ourselves to come unto Christ more than just attending several long hours of church, socializing and feeling anxious. This is my own personal experience, at least.

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SilentDawning
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Re: How much can the church change yet still remain credible?

Post by SilentDawning » 24 May 2019, 06:17

Curt Sunshine wrote:
23 May 2019, 19:16
When Cadence and I agree and write essentially the exact same comment . . . :D :P ;)

The issue, I believe, is credibility vs. infallibility. I think the Church can remain credible IF, and only if, infallibility dies. If our scriptural canon teaches us anything, it is that prophets and religious leaders are not infallible - but those scriptures also teach that they still can be credible.
But our current culture tends to support the notion of infallibility. Time for the members, and even some of the leaders to go back to the scriptures rather than popular church culture as their source of truth.

But I have a follow up -- shouldn't we be OK in expecting "more" from a church with all the truth and divine commission of our church? Shouldn't they be expected to act better than the average temporal organization? If not, why do they get a pass on this?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- 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."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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