May 25 2011

Solved: The Mystery of the “Divine Potential” of LDS Young Women.

Poor Wayfaring Man

In the previous post, I focused on the fact that 12 year-old young women in the Church are taught, in YW Lesson Manual 1, Lesson 5, to find joy in their mysterious “divine potential”.  It is mysterious because Lesson 5, despite using the term repeatedly,  never reveals exactly what that “divine potential” is.  The mystery is rendered non-mysterious and solved, however, by reading through the group of lessons in the manual that follow Lesson 5.  Lessons 6 – 8 seem to flesh out the concept that Lesson 5 merely hints about.  Here is the whole group of lessons, in summary form: Continue reading

May 23 2011

The “Divine Potential” of Young Women in the LDS Church

Poor Wayfaring Man

In the previous post, I asserted that young women in the LDS Church receive messages that essentially accord them second-class status to young men.  It is clear, based on the words of Church leaders and the contents of the YW and YM curriculum, that the Church understands that these messages are there, and that they are psychologically harmful to girls.  Instead of repudiating and changing these messages, however, the Church reaffirms them as divine truth.

As an example of this, I will use Lesson No. 5 in the current YW Lesson Manual 1, titled ”Finding Joy in our Divine Potential“.  Here is the stated objective of Lesson 5:

OBJECTIVE:  Each young woman will understand her divine potential and learn how to find joy in it. (emphasis added)

Clearly, a young woman’s “divine potential” (whatever that happens to be) is not something she would be happy with naturally.  The Church recognizes that she needs to be persuaded and taught, from a young age, how she can adjust her thinking to eventually feel okay about it.   Continue reading

Feb 14 2011

Youth in the LDS Church

Poor Wayfaring Man

The LDS Church has developed gender-segregated youth programs to educate and socialize (read: indoctrinate) boys and girls in the Church as they reach adolescence and grow into adulthood. The programs start when they reach age 12 and generally end at age 19, at which point they join the gender-segregated adult programs. The girls’ program is called the “Young Women organization“, and the boys’ program is called the “Aaronic Priesthood“. Continue reading

Mar 10 2010

Lifeblood Battles: Ronald E. Poelman

Poor Wayfaring Man

As noted in a previous post, Church leaders often struggle to control how the lifeblood of the Church (i.e., personal reassurance that one is on the path to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom–a concept I’ve termed “Hope”) is distributed to, and apportioned among, the members of the Church.  Below are two examples of such battles.

Example 1:  Elder Poelman’s View of Divine Love:

About a month after McConkie’s speech excoriating George Pace for promoting the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Elder Ronald E. Poelman, a fairly new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy (one level below the apostles in the Church hierarchy) gave an address in General Conference which appears to have been carefully worded to imply the existence of a personal relationship with the Lord, without crossing any of the lines that McConkie had drawn.  Elder Poelman’s talk included the following statement: Continue reading

Mar 9 2010

Lifeblood Battles: George Pace

Poor Wayfaring Man

As noted in a previous post, Church leaders often struggle to control how the lifeblood of the Church (i.e., personal reassurance that one is on the path to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom–a concept I’ve termed “Hope”) is distributed to, and apportioned among, the members of the Church. Below is an example of one such battle.

In the early 1980′s, a BYU professor named George Pace had previously given speeches and written a book promoting the idea that people should “center their lives on Christ and…develop their own personal relationship with Him.” Even though Pace was simply echoing ideas recently taught in General Conference by then-apostle (and future First Presidency Counselor) James E. Faust, his “taking out the middle man” approach to interacting with the Savior prompted a humiliating public rebuke from Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, which included the following counsel: Continue reading

Mar 8 2010

The Lifeblood of the Church

Poor Wayfaring Man

In a previous post, I outlined the concept of the LDS Church as a living system. I’ve been thinking recently about what keeps a living system like the Church together. I think the general answer has something to do with the system as a whole being able to obtain and create things that the system components need (or want), but are unable to get independently. Continue reading

Mar 2 2010

Stare Decisis and the Priesthood Ban

Poor Wayfaring Man

Here is another example of LDS Church leaders retiring unwanted doctrine by playing with the concepts of “policy” and “doctrine” in order to avoid violating LDS stare decisis.

Despite early acceptance of black men into the LDS priesthood, the Church, beginning with Brigham Young in at least 1852 (and possibly earlier, with Joseph Smith), taught for more than 100 years that black people bore the Mark of Cain, which labeled them as a cursed and disfavored people in the eyes of God, and unable, therefore, to be part of the LDS priesthood. Continue reading

Mar 1 2010

Stare Decisis and Polygamy

Poor Wayfaring Man

Here is an example of LDS Church leaders retiring unwanted doctrine by playing with the concepts of “policy” and “doctrine”, and then making overtures of respect to the originators of that doctrine, in order to avoid violating LDS stare decisis.

In the nineteenth century, leaders of the Church taught that the practice of polygamy was an inextricable doctrine of Mormonism, and the only way to reach the highest levels of heaven. Continue reading

Feb 24 2010

Stare Decisis and the Prophets

Poor Wayfaring Man

The legalistic aspects of Mormonism are fascinating to me.  Here is one.

Stare decisis is a legal concept meant to establish consistency in decisions made by courts. The idea is that once a decision has been made by a court about a certain point of law, future courts should respect that decision and follow suit. This approach conserves judicial resources by obviating the need for people to bring the same legal dispute to court over and over again, because they can look at past cases and reliably predict what a court is going to say about the issue.   It also causes people to take more seriously the decisions of current courts, because today’s decisions are going to hold weight with other courts in the future. Thus, it is a way for courts to legitimize their own decisions by respecting the decisions of their predecessors. Stare decisis is a practical strategy for dealing with the fact that reasonable judges will disagree about what the law means, and even though it sometimes enshrines erroneous decisions into the law, it is generally considered a useful and effective element of the judicial system.

A similar concept is at work for the top leaders of the LDS Church (considered “prophets, seers, and revelators” by believing members of the faith), though the process goes largely unacknowledged. Continue reading

Feb 18 2010

Some Things Cannot be Changed

Poor Wayfaring Man

Here is another post inspired, in part, by a reader’s comment.  Deep Throat in the Deep South,1 in a comment rich with interesting Mormon cultural material, wrote the following:

Every blessing we have is predicated upon a law. You break the law, the blessing is gone.

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D&C 130: 20-21)2

One must be intelligent not to confuse administrative actions with the Gospel of Jesus Christ (i.e. truth) in its purest mode. There is a different between administration of earthly issues, the Truth of the Gospel, and, and what I call the “Doctrine of the Culture,” that some people cling to instead of the doctrine.

As a Mormon, I struggled with the legalistic LDS belief that all blessings a person receives from God are actually dependent upon his or her obedience to a specific Law (or body of Laws) of Heaven.  The reason I struggled is that I could never pin down exactly what the Law was, despite the fact that I was desperate to follow it.  (That seems to be a common theme in the LDS Church.) Continue reading

  1. Yeah, the irony of an apparently straight-laced Mormon naming him or herself Deep Throat hasn’t escaped me.  I assume the name is referring somehow to the Watergate informant, rather than the classic porn movie from which the informant’s pseudonym was derived.  Then again, either reference is kind of random. []
  2. By the way, this section of the Doctrine & Covenants (which is LDS scripture on par with the Bible or the Book of Mormon) is a treasure trove of canonized Mormon oddities, like Joseph Smith’s unfulfilled prediction about growing unrest in the American South (that eventually developed into the Civil War) being a precursor to the second coming of Jesus Christ, his cautiously hedged prediction that Jesus Christ’s second coming would happen prior to his 85th birthday (1890), his explanation for why the Holy Ghost is incorporeal, his insight into the planets that God and the angels live on, his view of what the afterlife is generally like, and other fun stuff.  Definitely worth a read, since these things are part of the “meat” of the Gospel that Mormons don’t share with outsiders very often (the “milk” always comes first). []