Demythologizing Mormonism

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Hagoth
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Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Hagoth » Mon Sep 19, 2022 9:12 am

RFM's latest podcast is a fascinating discussion about how the church is beginning to downplay miraculous events in church history. In this episode he addresses the miracles of Lorenzo Snow, specifically the Windows of Heaven tithing miracle and the I Saw Jesus in the Temple miracle. Both of these have been removed from narrative told in the the latest volume of Saints.

Here's the podcast, well worth the listen:
https://radiofreemormon.org/2022/09/rad ... mormonism/

At the end, RFM refers to other miraculous events such as the angelic restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods and asks if, since the church has started demystifying miracles, will they do the same for foundational miracles.

I think I have an answer for RFM. The answer is no, and the reason is Russell M. Nelson's ego. We have seen very clearly that Pres. Nelson has no problem exaggerating events to make them miraculous, BUT only when they are stories about him. I think it's very unlikely that he would want to get rid of miracle stories that involve Joseph Smith because those story validate his own necessity and authority. He is so important because he is the recipient of all of the keys that were restored through those events.

But, I can also see why he would want to erase stories about other post-Joseph prophets receiving revelation and hanging out with Jesus. They make him look bad. If he's the great prophet of the these-the-latter-days, why aren't those things happening to him? If he can demote his predecessors' revelations to sound as bland and vanilla as his own it takes a lot of heat off him.

This is a good trend. If every new president of the church is a megalomaniac who can't stand having their accomplishments compared to others, they will water the stories down until they lose their audience due to sheer boredom. Henry Eyring has already made it clear that apostles can't really give healing blessings. Nelson is slowly revealing that revelation is just another name for pulling rank over your cronies.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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stealthbishop
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by stealthbishop » Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:12 pm

I think this is an ongoing strategic move by the church. Focus on Jesus because he is much easier to deal with than Joseph Smith and Church History. This is one of the reasons why the church has had so many problems--it emphasized church history way too much and it is way too problematic. They doubled down on it over the last several decades and paid the price for it. The emphasis has been on taking investigators and LDS youth to the sacred grove and BOM first and foremost along with an obsession with the current living prophets and OTOH almost completely sidelining Jesus and the New Testament.

I think it's probably a good move for the church to pivot away from church history and living prophets. They can't do it completely obviously but it is much easier to debunk miracles over the past 200 years rather than 2000 years ago.
"Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess"

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moksha
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by moksha » Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:31 pm

Maybe replacing unbelievable faith-promoting stories with believable ones, like the prophet experiencing uncontrolled bladder release upon hearing that the Ensign Peak Advisors account had gone over one hundred billion dollars.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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Jeffret
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Jeffret » Tue Sep 20, 2022 10:32 am

Hagoth wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 9:12 am
RFM's latest podcast is a fascinating discussion about how the church is beginning to downplay miraculous events in church history.
This isn't beginning. This has been going on for a long time. Indeed, we can say this has been going on since at least after Brigham's death. And definitely since I started paying meaningful attention to Church stuff in the 1980's.

Brigham was very motivated to continue the mythologizing of his dearly beloved Joseph. He extended and clarified much of Joseph's most fantastical extra-mortal speculations. He was very insistent on the absolute requirement and eternity of polygamy, the Church's most notorious practice. The Church has been trying to downplay much of Brigham's teachings and practices ever since. They hung onto polygamy through John Taylor's tenure, though he didn't maintain the same sense of theological mythologizing. At the beginning of Woodruff's tenure they started the long process of discounting and attempting to ignore much of what Brigham had done and taught.

Between the time that I became an adult in the Church in the 1980's, the time I left I 2005, and continuing through to today, the Church has continued downplaying much of it's miraculous events. In the 70's there was still a strong sense of the inevitable return to establish Zion in Jackson County, the inevitable rolling forth of the stone cut without hands, and the impending return of Christ. We were Saturday's Warriors, saved for the latter days. Hinckley did a lot to downplay many of the more fantastical and miraculous parts of the Church, often very deftly without the members really noticing. GBH essentially drove the final stake in the Adam-God with his disavowal of the King Follett couplet. It was a big deal in online Mormonism at the time, but little noticed by chapel Mormons.

The Church has officially downplayed the fantastical origins of the BoM and has pushed away the idea that it explains the origins of the Native Americans. In the 70's and 80's, there was a lot of interest in the literalness of those ideas. The Church has tried to distance itself from them since.

The Mormon god has become the God of Small Things.
"Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see" (Charles Hart, "The Music of the Night")

dogbite
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by dogbite » Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:50 am

This is a path that lets members reject any belief they choose leading to universal cafeteria mormonism.

It is at its core a rejection of Divine Command Theory which is simultaneously the only claim to "Truth" the church has. They are rejecting their own authority to make authoritative claims.

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Hagoth
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Hagoth » Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:50 am

Excellent points, Jeffret.

Does anyone know if the miraculous transformation of Brigham Young to the image of Joseph Smith is in the Saints novelization?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Hagoth
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Hagoth » Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:56 am

dogbite wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:50 am
It is at its core a rejection of Divine Command Theory which is simultaneously the only claim to "Truth" the church has. They are rejecting their own authority to make authoritative claims.
Right. They are relying less on divine authority and more on their own authority, simply by virtue of having been ordained to their offices. One of the big perspective changes I noticed after my testimony deconstruction was being more aware of what authority they state when they speak. When the Q15 talk about what God wants when they are really just telling you what they want, with no scriptural references to back it up. They simply inert the word "God" in place of "the church," "we," or "I."
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Jeffret
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Jeffret » Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:34 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:50 am
Does anyone know if the miraculous transformation of Brigham Young to the image of Joseph Smith is in the Saints novelization?
That's probably a significant question.

Much of LDS doctrine during the 70's and early 80's came from Saturday's Warrior.
"Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see" (Charles Hart, "The Music of the Night")

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Jeffret
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by Jeffret » Tue Sep 20, 2022 12:52 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 11:56 am
Right. They are relying less on divine authority and more on their own authority, simply by virtue of having been ordained to their offices. One of the big perspective changes I noticed after my testimony deconstruction was being more aware of what authority they state when they speak. When the Q15 talk about what God wants when they are really just telling you what they want, with no scriptural references to back it up. They simply inert the word "God" in place of "the church," "we," or "I."
This one's been going on for a long time, also. Basically John Taylor was the last Church President to receive / promulgate revelations. The polygamist offshoots consider this highly important, claiming that the spirit of prophecy left the Church once Wilford Woodruff overturned (public) polygamy. I consider that their claim has some merit, but they rather grasped the wrong end of the stick. The revelation was never there to begin with, and Woodruff's actions to (publicly) terminate polygamy just demonstrated that his predecessors prophecies that it would never be removed were just puffs of smoke.

Since that time, though, Church leaders have learned not to prophesy, see, or make direct claims about the desires of god. Current leadership have fine-tuned that so that they never really say anything, but just relate what they think should be done.

Brigham always considered himself only a caretaker for Joseph's Church. Those who have followed after barely achieve that level.
"Close your eyes, for your eyes will only tell the truth,
And the truth isn't what you want to see" (Charles Hart, "The Music of the Night")

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2bizE
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by 2bizE » Tue Sep 20, 2022 1:51 pm

Turns out a lot of the faith promoting stories we have grown up on a pure $hit. Not surprising, but the church is trying to cover them up and then down the road will claim they never taught that paying tithing will open the windows of heaven.
~2bizE

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felixfabulous
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by felixfabulous » Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:26 pm

I think the church is in a tough position on this one. On the cover of the most recent Liahona, it shows a bunch of photos of all races of people and says "The Lord is Gathering His Covenant People." This was a big turn off for my wife who does not like the exclusivity this promotes (elect covenant people) while trying to be inclusive of different races. I think the hard truth is that a lot of the older true blue members in the US and elsewhere and people in countries outside the North America/Europe/Australia areas really respond to miracle stories and black and white/truth claim rhetoric. The danger of watering things down too much is that you risk losing people to offshoots like The Remnant and Doctrine of Christ. The more educated/secular members are deconstructing the truth claims and miracle stories, but they tend to be promoted and hype up the other people. As RFM points out, they are trying to have it both ways and let the true blues keep telling these stories while phasing them out with the younger/more educated members. I think the church is doing the same thing with garments right now. Letting the true blue folks think nothing has changed and that the younger people not wearing them are unrighteous and begrudgingly carving out space for people who don't want to wear them. The difficult thing is that liberal mainline denominations and the Community of Christ who have let go of truth claims and black and white rhetoric do not have the kind of commitment and vitality that more conservative churches enjoy. I'm not sure what I'd do if I was in charge. John Dehlin admitted in his interview of Patrick Mason that the challenge he's run into over and over with trying to build secular communities is that people aren't motivated to show up and help and contribute a lot without the guilt, shame and truth claim fire that conservative religions have.

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sparky
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by sparky » Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:36 pm

stealthbishop wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:12 pm
I think it's probably a good move for the church to pivot away from church history and living prophets. They can't do it completely obviously but it is much easier to debunk miracles over the past 200 years rather than 2000 years ago.
The problem is that at the same time they are toning down the history, they are white knuckling the authority claims. It's the only thing differentiating the church from other Christian churches. Sure, we have "eternal families" and temple work for dead people, but those hinge entirely on exclusive authority claims. If you don't need Mormon authority to perform marriages that don't break in the afterlife, then what is the point of those uniquely Mormon ceremonies? And that authority in turn hinges on historical events--God and long dead, resurrected apostles returningb from Kolob in the flesh to bestow it upon Smith.
The difficult thing is that liberal mainline denominations and the Community of Christ who have let go of truth claims and black and white rhetoric do not have the kind of commitment and vitality that more conservative churches enjoy. I'm not sure what I'd do if I was in charge. John Dehlin admitted in his interview of Patrick Mason that the challenge he's run into over and over with trying to build secular communities is that people aren't motivated to show up and help and contribute a lot without the guilt, shame and truth claim fire that conservative religions have.
It really does seem to be an unfortunate side effect of human biological and social evolution, that we need fantastical myths, arbitrary shame inducing rules, and a promised utopian future to build really cohesive communities. I'd throw it into one of the major challenges of the next century along with climate change and safeguarding/modernizing representative government.

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stealthbishop
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Re: Demythologizing Mormonism

Post by stealthbishop » Wed Sep 21, 2022 6:55 am

sparky wrote:
Tue Sep 20, 2022 2:36 pm
stealthbishop wrote:
Mon Sep 19, 2022 12:12 pm
I think it's probably a good move for the church to pivot away from church history and living prophets. They can't do it completely obviously but it is much easier to debunk miracles over the past 200 years rather than 2000 years ago.
The problem is that at the same time they are toning down the history, they are white knuckling the authority claims. It's the only thing differentiating the church from other Christian churches. Sure, we have "eternal families" and temple work for dead people, but those hinge entirely on exclusive authority claims. If you don't need Mormon authority to perform marriages that don't break in the afterlife, then what is the point of those uniquely Mormon ceremonies? And that authority in turn hinges on historical events--God and long dead, resurrected apostles returningb from Kolob in the flesh to bestow it upon Smith.
The difficult thing is that liberal mainline denominations and the Community of Christ who have let go of truth claims and black and white rhetoric do not have the kind of commitment and vitality that more conservative churches enjoy. I'm not sure what I'd do if I was in charge. John Dehlin admitted in his interview of Patrick Mason that the challenge he's run into over and over with trying to build secular communities is that people aren't motivated to show up and help and contribute a lot without the guilt, shame and truth claim fire that conservative religions have.
It really does seem to be an unfortunate side effect of human biological and social evolution, that we need fantastical myths, arbitrary shame inducing rules, and a promised utopian future to build really cohesive communities. I'd throw it into one of the major challenges of the next century along with climate change and safeguarding/modernizing representative government.
They will definitely need to keep authority, temple and ordinances. The rituals have to remain. I think we are maybe moving towards more of a Catholic framework.
"Take second best
Put me to the test
Things on your chest
You need to confess"

-Depeche Mode

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