My least favorite quote

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
User avatar
SMiLe
Posts: 27
Joined: 23 Feb 2010, 13:24

My least favorite quote

Post by SMiLe » 18 Mar 2010, 08:12

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing. - Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, April 2003
This quote by President Hinckley has probably done more to damage my testimony than anything else in my memory. I understand that by promoting this dichotomy, he was basically saying that if you have a testimony of one particular aspect of the church, then you could rely on that testimony to tell you that the whole church was true. I guess I have a more negative mindset than that though because I immediately look at the inverse. Does this mean that if I find any one thing that I believe to be untrue, then the whole church is untrue?

I would like to stay in the middle ground. I would like to choose the part that resonates as true within me and reject or ignore those things that do not. But I constantly come back to this quote and wonder about myself.

Now, I know that there is someone who will tell me that President Hinckley was just a man and was possibly just expressing his opinion. That may be, but it brings me to a different paradox in my mind. We are taught in the church that the words of the prophet are on the same level as scripture. This is cultural rather than doctrinal, but that doesn't get you very far in Sunday School class or EQ. Even our lesson manuals for the youth teach them that general conference reports are scripture because they come from the apostles and prophet. However, the prophets themselves will tell you that they are not always prophesying. So, how do we know which is which? We now teach now that many of the things that Brigham Young taught were just his opinion, but I firmly believe that the members of the church at the time didn't think so. I am sure that they believed that he was the prophet and was speaking as such. Letting the future generations decide what was prophecy and what was opinion does nothing to help those that are listening now.

So, is there really middle ground? Can I stay a faithful member in the light of President Hinckley's teachings? How do I reconcile these things in my own mind and find that place where I am comfortable and feel that I am being true to myself? These are the questions that weigh heavily on my mind.

SMiLe

User avatar
Brian Johnston
Site Admin
Posts: 3500
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 06:17
Location: Washington DC

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by Brian Johnston » 18 Mar 2010, 09:19

Believe me, you are far from being the only one that has had problems with that statement.

Before I say the rest of my comments, I really, personally believe it is healthy for us to question ourselves and be challenged by the more orthodox/traditional members in the Church. Doubt and dissatisfaction with our personal status quo to me are the seeds of change and personal progress. So I try hard to process those kinds of statements in a charitable light of appreciation for being challenged.

I agree that some, even many, members in Brigham Young's day followed his every word as scripture. He actually laments this situation at times, feeling frustrated that people around him were so willing to stop thinking for themselves. I REALLY don't believe that ALL members hung on his every word. It was probably not all that different than people are today. Things change, but people pretty much stay the same :-). The distortion happens when the more "blind" followers are the loudest and make it seem like everyone walks in lockstep. We don't.

How do you deal with this in SS and EQ? I can only tell you how I deal with it. My way works really good for me. On some deep level, you truly have to become comfortable with the fact that other people are NOT going to agree with your views, and that is perfectly OK. Not only does this help in Church, but it is honestly a powerful social skill anywhere, in any context or setting. The Church provides great training for that :-) You also have to become comfortable with just letting things go. We really don't have to correct everyone around us.

I build as much social capital as I can by being happy and positive, participating and being involved in my local ward community. THEN, I can challenge people. I do so with a smile on my face and with an honest and sincere desire to provide a different (yet positive) alternate perspective. If someone were loudly claiming that everything said by GA's, Prophets and Apostles were eternal and equal to scripture, and that general conference talks are also scripture, I would remind them of the canonization process establish and followed by the Church since the beginning -- it is presented to the WHOLE Church and voted on by the membership. Everything outside that is someone's personal views, even if they are very valuable and wise opinions. That is how it is done. Claiming it is otherwise goes against the process of establishing official doctrine. You can read Don Ashton's article on this process. We host it here on our website: http://www.staylds.com/docs/WhatIsOffic ... trine.html

Along the same lines of your specific question on this quote -- it simply can't be true. Or if it is, then the Church is a total fraud, which I don't think was the idea Pres. Hinkley wanted to convey. There have been so many changes and improvements over our 180 year history (good ones!), that one can not make this ultimatum. It isn't reasonable or practical. There has to be a middle ground. It's where every single person alive stands, the vast area between opposite and ideal poles.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

User avatar
Heber13
Site Admin
Posts: 7219
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by Heber13 » 18 Mar 2010, 09:30

Brian (as usual) is right on.
SMiLe wrote:Does this mean that if I find any one thing that I believe to be untrue, then the whole church is untrue?
I don't believe the church has to be perfect to be true. So I vote NO to this question you pose.
SMiLe wrote:So, is there really middle ground? Can I stay a faithful member in the light of President Hinckley's teachings?
This one, I vote YES. For me, the middle ground is how I handle myself in the church...honestly making sense of all teachings (including Pres Hinckley), practices, programs, and behaviors I see in the church...and how I funnel all things to Heber13's path to spirituality. I don't base my spirituality on any one things any one person states...even if that person is the prophet. It is my church, I choose to make it so.
SMiLe wrote:How do I reconcile these things in my own mind and find that place where I am comfortable and feel that I am being true to myself?
What a great question!! I think the fact you are wrestling with it shows you are on the right path.

It seems this deeply bothers you. Find out why, and choose how you will approach overcoming it, and there is great growth. That I can promise.

To quote CS Lewis again:
If our religion is something objective, then we must never avert our eyes from those elements in it which seem puzzling or repellent; ... the truth we need most is hidden precisely in the doctrines you least like and least understand. - CS Lewis
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16842
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Mar 2010, 11:39

I know hundreds of faithful, temple recommend holding, active, happy, content members whose least favorite idea is the way that "the one true church" concept is interpreted by other members.

Fwiw, I think the biggest issue is how each of us as individuals views and internalizes that concept. There are lots of ways to do so without resorting to "every single thing ever said must be Absolute Truth, and there is no Truth anywhere else." In fact, I would argue strongly that such an interpretation simply isn't scriptural or consistent with what the Prophets have said since Joseph Smith first opened his mouth and described his own role and weaknesses.
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
Brian Johnston
Site Admin
Posts: 3500
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 06:17
Location: Washington DC

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by Brian Johnston » 18 Mar 2010, 14:54

Yeah, thanks for saying that Ray. When I think of the "one true Church" idea, I think of it from a positive and VERY VERY broad perspective. In the big picture, the "Mormon" Gospel is the circle that encompasses all things that are true. That doesn't mean we have it personally right now, but that is the ideal. All things that are true and valuable should be a part of what Ray calls "Pure Mormonism;" therefore, it is all true. We just don't really know all of what that is yet.

The Church should be all truth, wherever it can be found. So in that way, practicing Mormonism is the process of inquiry and pursuing truth.

Along with that though, is the conscious knowing that I (we) aren't there yet -- thus the idea of a "restoration" process (still ongoing).
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

User avatar
hawkgrrrl
Site Admin
Posts: 3537
Joined: 22 Oct 2008, 16:27

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by hawkgrrrl » 18 Mar 2010, 15:04

I love how Brian said that, and I agree. The quote is very limited in its application and belies a very black & white worldview. It's just so easy to pin everything on a true / false dichotomy. Then you can seek for a sign that indicates that either it's all true or it's all false, and suddenly, voila, no more decisions and accountability - your life is set. I just don't think that's the high road to personal growth any more than thinking you can do whatever you want with no consequences. In life, beware false dichotomies; they are oversimplifications. Life is more nuanced than that. But false dichotomies are the stuff of good speechmaking.

User avatar
bridget_night
Posts: 881
Joined: 02 Mar 2009, 12:15

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by bridget_night » 18 Mar 2010, 15:23

Smile,

What an important discussion you brought up. It was only recently that an old bishop of mine used that quote on me and I told him I did not agree with that quote. He was like shocked that I should contridicate something the prophet had said. I told him that is like saying, "My husband is the only perfect man I could be compatible with and called of God to rule over me, or else he is of the devil, and a fraud. First of all, I know there are probably a 1000 different men I could be compatabile with, not just one right man. And second of all, my husband doesn't have to be called of God or be perfect in order for us to have a good marriage. So, interesting how people like to put everything in to neat piles or boxes. It's either black or white. Right or wrong. That is simplistic and child-like. Larry King gave Pres. Hinckley a quote on TV "As man is God once was, and as God is, man may become." And Pres. Hinckley said, "I don't know if we believe that anymore.' Now, that shocked me actually.

There was a two year period in my life where God told me to attend the 7th Day adventist church because it would be right for me at that time. Then God had me come back to the Mormon church as it is right for me now. The lds church has some distinct teachings that are very different from other religions and that answer difficult questions. Some of these teachings are truly beautiful such as we are gods in embroyo and the law of eternal progression and pursuit of excellence. But, some of its teachings have been harmful to members such as blacks and homosexuals, and women. So, like everything in life (people, organizations, philosophies, and ideas) are a mixed bag. A good friend of mine who was so abused as a child used to think people were either all good or all bad. He said that I was the first person to teach him that people are a mixed bag. So, there is a middle ground.

A friend of mine wrote an article for the Ensign some years back that she hoped they would publish. It was on pornography. She got back a letter stating that the church does not publish such articles in the Ensign as it is not a problem in the church. I believe this church was inspired to come about by the hand of God, just as many other churches have been. But, it is not either all good or all bad. My 25 cents worth. Bridget

User avatar
bridget_night
Posts: 881
Joined: 02 Mar 2009, 12:15

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by bridget_night » 18 Mar 2010, 15:27

hawkgrrrl wrote: Then you can seek for a sign that indicates that either it's all true or it's all false, and suddenly, voila, no more decisions and accountability - your life is set.

That is so good hawkgrril... I love that. It reminds me of the quote, "When the brethern have spoken, the thinking stops.' No way, Both BY and JS encouraged independent thinking. At the same time, we should be humble enough to consider what is truth when our leaders speak.

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16842
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Mar 2010, 17:54

"When the brethern have spoken, the thinking stops."
That saying was never stated by an apostle or Prophet in a public setting as direct counsel, and it's opposite has been stated over and over and over again, so I wish it would die. We hang on to SO much that simply isn't accurate or reasonable or right - sometimes, ironcially, just so we have a whipping post. If the Church shouldn't hang on to air-brushed portrayals of past leaders, then we shouldn't hang on to stupid statements that obviously aren't pure doctrine or scripture - and we can't demand others drop them as "good quotes" if we aren't willing to drop them as "bad quotes," since, in reality, they were never actual authoritatively delivered quotes.
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

LaLaLove
Posts: 230
Joined: 26 Apr 2009, 19:50

Re: My least favorite quote

Post by LaLaLove » 18 Mar 2010, 21:48

DH tried to use this mindset on me many times during my first stage of "doubt". Honestly I thought it sounded silly and pretty ridiculous. Lucky for me .. he's kind of talked himself out of thinking this way. He is open to gray being "good".
So what if it is all true or all false. Truth is nothing if it isn't acted upon..at least in the churchy service oriented kind of way. I love my daughter - it's true and good..my neighbor, my husband etc.
That quote just irritates me, it's worthless to me.

Post Reply