Monthly Archives: July 2008
Sorry to get your hopes up with the title, but there is no operative definition of “Official Mormon Doctrine”. There are many theoretical ones, but none of these have been officially endorsed by the Church leaders (and they would be the presumptive determiners of how to define Official Mormon Doctrine, right?). Of the various definitions LDS Church members have made up for themselves, none of them are applied consistently throughout the Church. While we may all agree that the “Articles of Faith”are “official”, or that the “standard works” are “official”, once you get beyond these clearly defined areas, it gets very gray, very fast.
For the most part, it doesn’t matter. Membership in the LDS church is a very personal experience. As long as people keep their mouths shut, it’s fine to have 20 people sitting in a Gospel Doctrine class each with their own personal definition of what is “official doctrine”. So what’s the point in writing about it?
The problem is when people actually start talking about “Mormon Doctrine”, and each has the assumption that the other people define “official doctrine” the same way they do. Since that is hardly ever the case, the conversation quickly degrades into an argument over whether or not something is doctrinal. After you’ve had this conversation 50 times, it gets pretty boring.
It also gets humorous when you mix in the propensity people have to regard anyone with a “stricter” definition of doctrine as a “zealot”, and anyone with a “looser” definition as an “apostate”.
The most entertaining and convoluted definitions of “official doctrine” tend to be found online (because that is where most of the conversations regarding official doctrine take place), and the practice of defining “official doctrine” from online discussions with LDS church members can best be likened to trying to nail jello to the wall. Except I suspect nailing jello to the wall would actually be easier.
With that in mind, I was pleased to actually find a useful summary of how we Mormons define our doctrine, courtesy of John Larsen at the Mormon Apologetic & Discussion Board. While there are many theoretical definitions bandied about, this is the first practical guide to “official doctrine” I have seen. And I think it is the most commonly used definition by online-Mormons, whether they realize it or not.
- You are bound to believe the things required by the temple recommend questions (if you want to go to the temple).
- You cannot public disagree with any doctrine held by a current apostle.
- New “doctrines” do not have to be reconcilable to old “doctrines”.
- Old doctrines taught by apostles that have not be renounced or contradicted by later apostles may well have expired without further action.
- There is an “unwritten order of things” both doctrinal and procedural that you may be held to.
- The current brethren may be “speaking as men” but you can take no action on this fact. This only applies to dead apostles.
- The scriptures are not necessarily a doctrinal bind since non scriptural commentary on the scriptures by later brethren my change or obsolete the scripture.
I will be printing that out and gluing it right behind my Articles of Faith. If you ever wish to discuss doctrinal matters in an online forum, those points are a good place to start in determining the likelyhood that other LDS will consider a statement or teaching to be “doctrinal”. If you plan on discussing a quote, teaching or “doctrine” that doesn’t meet this criteria, expect an apologist or other defender to argue “But that’s not really doctrinal…” in the first 24 hours.
LDS Relief Society Announces “Raise the Bar” Program
Hyrum Sanborne, Deseret News
July 7, 2008
In a letter to be read to local congregations on Sunday, the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced what they are calling the “Raise the Bar Again” program. Aimed at prospective husbands for the women of the Church and developed in conjunction with the Young Women’s and Young Single Adult programs, this new standard aims to raise the quality of husbands and prospective husbands for the women of the Church.
“Based on the success of the Raise the Bar program for missionaries, the women of the Church have been inspired to raise the bar for those men who would seek them as wives,” said Julie Bangerter Beck, President of the Relief Society. “For so many years, our young women and young single adults have had to settle when it came time to choose a husband. But not anymore. As we’ve seen, the holy calling of “missionary” requires a certain quality of man. How much more holy is that calling of “Husband”? Is there any comparison? We think not.”
The new program, which will be phased in over a six month period and will be taught extensively in Laurel classes and Young Single Adult Relief Societies, outlines minimum standards for physical, social, mental and spiritual qualities that should be attained by a potential husband.
Physical requirements will include a reasonable body mass index (<25), a dental and physical checkup, and low incidence of acne. Social standards help the women avoid any eternal companions that suffer from depression (especially bi-polar), ADD, or Asperger’s syndrome. Potential husbands should also receive a doctor’s certification regarding fertility and sperm count, and present this “Proof of Posterity” along with the engagement ring before any proposals can be accepted.
The Mental standards of the program are more flexible. Potential husbands will have to demonstrate their mental capabilities with a minimum GED or high school diploma, with a 2 year degree as the recommended standard.
The strictest standards are implemented for worthiness qualifications. “For years, we have left it up to the single women themselves to determine their potential mate’s suitability. Not so anymore,” clarifies Sister Beck. “Young men who haven’t kept up to the standard will no longer be issued Temple Recommends for sealings. We’re putting them on notice: the single women of the Church are sick of damaged goods.” Additionally, problems with pornography (including Victoria’s Secret catalogs, Bikini Cuts in Sandy, or the Jessica Alba movie “Into the Blue”) will disqualify a potential husband from consideration.
This new “Raise the Bar Again” standard replaces the current three-phase recommendation of Eagle Scout/ Returned Missionary/ Seminary Graduate. Over two years in development, earlier versions included standards for politics, humor and scrapbooking, but these were dropped as being impractical or odious. Surveys also showed that women didn’t necessarily want to scrapbook with their husbands, and most women are oblivious to the low quality of their potential husband’s humor during the courtship.
Some single men in the Church have expressed concern regarding the difficulty of meeting the new standards. “If the Lord has set this standard for a two-year servant, than how much more important is it that we, the women of the Church, likewise have standards for our eternal servants and companions?” clarified Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women’s President. “If the Lord doesn’t want them, then why should we?” Brittaneie B. Young, Laurel class president of the Orem 3rd Ward, was initially reluctant to consider rejecting potential future mates outright based on these standards. “At first, I didn’t like the idea that I shouldn’t marry someone based on whether or not they suffer from depression. But then my Mom explained that these new standards didn’t mean that these men shouldn’t ever get married. It just meant that they shouldn’t marry me.”
While there was no official response from the Young Men of the Church, Presiding Bishop Richard C. Edgley did hint at a commensurate “Raise the Bar” program in the works for potential wives. “While I can’t go into specifics, we’ve talked to the young men and I will say it may behoove certain young ladies to invest in a pair of jogging shoes and a thesaurus. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a silicone shortage in Utah within the next five years.”
[Note: Originally posted on my own blog but was declared kosher by cinepro so I’ll post it here as well: http://zackc.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/marriages-can-be-founded-in-religion/]
Caveats: I’m not married, not religious. These are just some thoughts. Take them with that grain of salt.
For the past few years I’ve read several message boards and something that’s constantly coming us is people who lose religious faith, and wake up to the realization that they have nothing in common with their spouse. They married when both believed the same thing, and when one changes belief, it fundamentally changes the relationship. The reason is that people believe marriages can be built solely on the issue of shared religion. Which I guess is true as long as they belief the same. Because religion provides social networking opportunities and spiritual fulfillment [for some] and also if two people believe they can get through the tough times because they’re married “in the gospel”.
This all changes though if one of the spouses changes belief. The apostate spouse often wakes up to learn that they have nothing in common with their spouse. They love their spouse, but don’t like their spouse. They aren’t as compatible with their spouse as they might be with some other person. Things go downhill, as both realize they don’t have much in common except that they went to the same church. The change in belief can also lead to changes in political, social, and moral views. Leading to a radical personality change. Leading to either an unhappy marriage [for the kids of course] or divorce.
Some can make it through [as evidenced by some of the people who battle on in difficult marriages, but they sacrificed the chance to search for personal compatability in favor of going with the person they’re going with. Part of this is the issue that young people want to have sex, and marriage is the only place where sex is acceptable. So young horny people marry whomever so they can get it on. But once those passions are fulfilled and children start to arrive, what do they have in common? Often times not enough.
Marriages within religion that lack anything beyond the most basic compatibility issues [hey you’re a woman, I’m a dude, we’re young and we go to that Church, lets get married and get freaky] are like building brick houses without mortar. Sure it’s fairly solid, but there’s no mortar to fill in the cracks. And if you look closely, you realize that the bricks move about and cause friction within the house. Subtle movements, but ever so slowly they shift until they collapse. Why? Because relationships can’t be built on one issue. You need numerous levels of compatability. Both in case of changing opinions, but also fall back positions in case of arguments. You have to have common ground to fall back on. Alright…so you disagree about religion and GOd…but perhaps you like the same books and movies and you like talking to each other and you like to both go dancing etc etc. Find more compatability folks.