I have picked out for comment some themes I see running through the Saturday afternoon session of the Mormon conference. The theme of families increasingly causes problems for them and I touch on the changes made in their new edition of the Scriptures, a subject I will be covering in more detail soon. Particularly interesting are the “dry” statistical reports which, if you know what to look for, can be very enlightening, not so much for what they say as for what they don’t say.
In May my church will hold its AGM where the financial accounts will be made available to members. We do this because the church is the people, not the building or the institution, and church leaders are servants of the people, the church, to whom we are accountable.
The Saturday afternoon session began with the sustaining of church officers and a report from Robert W Cantwell, Managing Director of the Church Audit Report:
“Based upon audits performed, the Church Auditing Department is of the opinion that, in all material respects, contributions received, expenditures made, and assets of the Church have been recorded and administered in accordance with appropriate accounting practices, approved budgets, and Church policies and procedures.”
Short on detail this wouldn’t inspire confidence in anyone but a true believing Mormon. The Mormon Church was incorporated in Utah as early as 1851 by Brigham Young and has several tax-exempt corporations including the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized in 1916 to handle property, the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organised in 1823 to handle money and Intellectual Reserve Inc. organised in 1997 to handle intellectual rights.
While UK law requires limited companies to submit accounts to companies house for public scrutiny no such legal requirement is made in US law. Businessweek produced an interesting study on the subject in July 2012. The Mormon corporation, therefore, is accountable neither to the the public from whom it derives tax benefits nor to its own members whose money they collect and use. By comparison a telling state of affairs.
The statistical report was as opaque. When Brook P Hales, secretary to the first presidency, reports that as of 31 December 2012 there were 3005 stakes and 29,014 wards and branches of the church those are simple facts but significantly short on detail. For instance, of the 29,014 wards and branches 17506 are in the United States (including Canada), 5,617 are in South America. This leaves, according to their own newsroom stats, 5,891 across the rest of the world. This is still an American church.
When he reports that “total membership of the church was 14,782,473” he is not telling the whole story. Historically it has been shown that, across the board, as much as 2/3 of that number have no meaningful involvement, are “inactive.” You can read how this works out in an article I wrote back in 2009. The numbers have changed but the working of them remains more or less the same. You can get the most recent stats by following this link.
Mormons and Gays
December 2012 saw the launch of a Mormon website, mormonsandgays.org, dedicated to open dialogue between the church and members experiencing same-sex attraction. It is worth noting, therefore, how much emphasis is placed on families in this session.
The nuclear family is the ideal for Mormons (Elder Richard G Scott). The missionary enterprise is represented as being the product of the nuclear family (Elder Russell M Nelson), with mum and dad, grandparents saving to send their children, and young couples preparing to serve as mission president and companion, older couples serving in retirement. The importance of mum and dad in raising children is emphasised and families can bless a local ward of the church (Elder Stanley G Ellis)
I hold the biblical view of marriage being between one man and one woman and, of course, Mormons have always emphasised families. “Families are forever” they say, referencing their controversial doctrine on the eternal nature of families based on the idea that God has a wife/wives and we are literally his children; you can read something about it here. But consider those in your church who are single for various reasons, perhaps divorced, never married, called to singleness, perhaps single parents, and how they would be made to feel if the nuclear family was preached as being only and always God’s plan.
David A Bednar of the twelve speaks of chastity outside marriage and the command to Adam and Eve to procreate as a sacred duty. A questionable use of 1 Cor.11:11, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord,” is marshalled to promote marriage relations as “the only authorised channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality.”
The use to which the text is put is questionable because it comes in the middle of a passage about conduct in public worship and equality of men and women before God and not marriage. Again, I believe that children are best raised in that family setting with a mum and dad. But the focus on marriage and procreation as sacred and eternal duties puts the emphasis on what men and women do and not on what God has done in Christ. It is also exclusive of so many for whom marriage and families are not practical, possible, or something to which they feel called.
The eternal family is the family of God and not the family of man. When we become Christians we are adopted into God’s family (Eph.1:5) and, while in this world God has placed many in earthly families, the family of God is for “whoever believes” (John 3:16) The Mormon/Gay initiative is laudable enough but sinners of all stripes need to be brought to Christ and not necessarily to marriage and parenthood.
Sherlock, Moriarty and Christian History’s 1800 year Black Hole
What most caught my attention was Elder John B Dickson’s talk, The Gospel to All the World. He gives a thrilling account of the early Christian Church, Jesus’ 40 day post-resurrection ministry (Acts 1:3), his commissioning of men to take the gospel out to the world (Mt.28:18-19), the revelation that included Jews and Gentiles as its recipients and Jesus’ words of commission:
He told them that, “. . . ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
…as well as the words of the angel on the Mount after Jesus’ ascension, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).
Elder Dickson declared, “We know that the gospel then went rapidly to the nations of the Gentiles.”
He goes on however, “… Now let us move 1,800 years forward to the time of the restoration of the gospel or the restitution of all things prior to the Second Coming.”
Having painted such a positive picture of the early Christian Church he, at a stroke, wiped out 1800 years of Christian history. God could not keep his church over a period of 1800 years when he had promised to keep it (Mt.16:18) and when he had kept Israel for more than twice that time? Christ’s commissioning, empowering and filling with the Holy Spirit of men and women of God to “go into all the world” somehow resulted in failure? The very thing they were sent to do they did but then there was a complete apostasy?
But where do Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty come into it?
That arch-villain and Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty has become so integral to the canon of Holmes’ stories that most people think he is a primary figure in the great detective’s tales. The truth is Conan-Doyle invented him and put him in one story (The Final Problem) for the sole purpose of killing off Sherlock Holmes. He did such a good job in creating this character, however, people who don’t know better make him more. They imagine his influence reaches back beyond the one story in which he appears, filling in the gaps left by the fact he is actually not there.
In the same way, when a Mormon leader presents the idea of apostasy Mormons will happily fill in this black hole in Christian history with dark tales of corrupt Medieval popes and priests and general apostasy before Joseph Smith came along in 1820, never once realising that, as Moriarty was created for the sole purpose of killing Sherlock Holmes, so apostasy was introduced into the story solely to create a reason for Joseph Smith.
In Mormon teaching, once that hurdle has been got over, almost 2,000 years of Christian history can be ignored, all those teachers, preachers, commentators, reformers dismissed. The only subject for discussion is what happened post 1820. Church history for a Mormon is Mormon Church history.
They know nothing of Clement, Ignatius or Polycarp, Athanasius, Augustine, John Chrysostom. Nothing of church movements and initiatives in history (summed up only in that one, to a Mormon, desultory word “reformation”). Church councils are misrepresented as solely divisive and political, people like Wycliffe, Zwingli, Calvin, even Luther are mere names, no more than markers along the road to Joseph Smith.
Elder Dickson informs us, “From the time of the organization… in 1830 the Church has moved steadily across the world from nation to nation, culture to culture, people to people on the Lord’s calendar and in his time.” But he began by setting out the Lord’s calendar and saying it was all going according to God’s plan in “the Meridian of time.”
Think back on those statistics. In fact, if you took the first 180 years of the early Christian Church and compared it with the first 180 years of Mormonism the former had crossed and travelled outside a vast Roman Empire, becoming truly international. Christianity began as a Jewish sect but in that time established itself firmly in the Greek, Roman and Eastern worlds. Mormonism started as an American cult and is yet to establish a truly international presence, despite inflated claims to the contrary – an American religion even yet.
Elder Dickson goes on, “Then in 1978 following the established pattern of revelation through the Senior Apostle, this time President Spencer W. Kimball, came the Revelation on Priesthood allowing all worthy males across the world to receive the priesthood and every blessing of the restored gospel…
… As a people West Africans believe in God, have absolutely no shame in declaring and sharing their belief with others and have tremendous leadership capacity. They are coming into the Church by the hundreds and every week or so a couple of wards or branches are created somewhere in the Africa West Area with, in nearly every case, all African priesthood and auxiliary leadership.”
You might be aware that the Mormon Church has just this year released a new, “English edition of LDS scriptures, pointing to new wording about race and polygamy…” You can read about it in The Salt Lake Tribune. One of the most significant changes made was to the heading above the 1978 Declaration referred to:
“The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.”
This has to be the most shameful piece of mendacity I have seen in a long time. If you want a clear account of what is behind this racist Mormon doctrine they are trying to dissemble over you can visit The Mormon Chapbook and read about Mormonism’s real secret doctrine.
But more telling perhaps than even this appalling misrepresentation of history is the admission that the Mormon Church, led by prophets, practiced and clearly taught this doctrine from 1848 through to 1978, 130 years out of its 180 year existence, without apparently knowing why! Their Scripture texts are clear on the issue, their traditional teaching is unequivocal, generations of Mormons (including me) could explain it in a five minute talk on a Sunday morning yet now it seems even prophets can’t explain it.
And so they celebrate their move into Africa, failing to tell the truth about how generations of Mormons, people and prophets alike, were taught to think of people of African descent as inferior and unworthy. I suppose the American dollar, the promise of prosperity and purpose on a continent so bereft of both is enough to make most people believe those nice American boys at their door and not ask too many questions. Not the fault of a sometimes desperate and ambitious continent but of an already well-fed and greedy for more corporation. Read more about Mormonism in Africa.