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 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


Oct 20 2009

Criticism Matters

Poor Wayfaring Man

In 1844, in the wake of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s murder at the hands of a mob in a Carthage, Illinois jail, he was eulogized by a very close friend, John Taylor, with the following statement:

“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.”

Now, that’s pretty high praise coming from a Christian. Maybe a little too high? Continue reading


Oct 19 2009

Jack Mormons and Apostates

Poor Wayfaring Man

There are basically two kinds of people who leave the LDS Church. I will call them “Jack Mormons” and “Apostates”. Apostates are people who leave (or are excommunicated) because they have stopped believing in some or all of the religious tenets of the LDS faith. Jack Mormons are people who leave (or are excommunicated) for reasons other than non-belief, like being unable or unwilling to follow the rules, or because of interpersonal conflicts with other community members.

Continue reading