Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Would-Be Critic

So, Elder Oaks's take is that public silence --- well, not so much just silence, but privacy in critical communications in the hierarchical structure --- is a virtue in spiritual practice. He calls for a five-prong approach:

  • Overlook the difference, not necessarily accepting the view, but simply not acting upon it.
  • Reserve judgment and action during a time of reflection and consideration to allow for a change of position.
  • Meet and discuss the criticism privately with the leader.
  • Meet privately or correspond with a higher leader to discuss the problem.
  • Pray for resolution.

And it's all for the sake of love and unity within the fold I guess.

Have I got that all right?

Certainly, many take very public positions on many occasions on subjects not orthodox. Blake Ostler says, ". . . there may be times when the value of friendships, love and unity are outweighed by the the [sic] gravity and value of public discourse about the issue at hand . . ." and gives some examples: blacks and the priesthood and Prop 8.

It seems to me that hamstringing free and open speech within the Church on public issues is a vice. I might feel differently if I saw or felt that the private-communications venue had been or was now more viable than our sad history has shown. When outrageous acts have been perpetrated and unacknowledged under the cloak of privacy in past practice within the Church (e.g., MMM) and took so long to gain public acknowledgement and some degree of resolution, I have little hope that privacy works well. And it seems inimical to me of a loving Heavenly Father. I have nothing against the notion of "let's discuss that in private" when we're dealing with personal issues. It's another matter for me when we're talking about public issues and policy that reaches beyond the walls of the temple or chapel.

In the late '70s and early '80s, I quietly struggled with my faith perhaps more than had been normal up until then, even though the big mess with civil rights and blacks and the priesthood had cleared up pretty nicely. I hadn't agreed with the Church's positions on those issues, but had kept pretty much mum.

The LDS God that most people preached and believed in was, it seemed to me back then and it had for some time, too much like the Catholic or Protestant God: you know, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc., etc. One big bugaboo for me in those younger days was foreknowledge and its implications relative to agency. I am not trained in philosophy or theology, but the two notions just seemed incompatible.

I prayed, read, and studied the scriptures and the talks of the GAs, and even began broadening my resources beyond the LDS authorities, even going beyond the Church. At times, I made comments in Sunday School or at Priesthood Meeting, usually on the notion of foreknowledge and agency. It seemed to elicit askance looks and/or scowls. In fact, it still does.

I knew about SUNSTONE and DIALOGUE and even subscribed --- to SUNSTONE, for a while and DIALOGUE, to this day. One day at the UofU library, I looked into a back issue of DIALOGUE: issue, Summer 1984, where I found the article, "The Mormon Concept of God."

Reading that rather provocatively and confidently titled article wasn't quite as satisfying as the June 8, 1978 revelation some years before for me, but it meant a lot to me and my faith. It felt like an answer to my searching and prayers. It had a profound effect by making me realize that others (well, at least one other) felt --- but on a much more profound level --- somewhat like I did on the subject. Not that such thinking was necessarily right, but that we had similar feelings about God. It made it easier for me to cope with my differences in belief and thought from so many of the members in my ward and stake and even in the interpretations I was reading and hearing from Church authorities above the local level.

Since that time, of course I've tried to pay attention to Blake's writings. A lot of them go right over my head, but I still I consider them as best as I can, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not, and sometimes confused.

All of this is simply to say that I have great respect for the faith and thought of others who put themselves out there in a public place and for their ability to enlighten me mostly in positive ways.

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