I get very tired of having to do step by step or even line by line refutations of the nonsense that comes from the Givens’ et. al. Yet here we are again. When I first skimmed it, red flags went up everywhere and I was again grateful for the spirit of discernment and the guidance of prophets. Quotations from the document are followed by my refutations:
“This polarization [and contention of the world] is driving members of the Church to spiritually dangerous extremes, tempting some Latter-day Saints to reduce fidelity to knee-jerk traditionalism and others to abandon fidelity for worldly philosophies.”
We have always had weak and ignorant members of the Church, in various quantities, foolishly camping in dangerous extremes (until they get excommunicated). That is nothing new. From Godbeites to Snufferites, even the elect are being deceived.
“Fidelity” is (later) defined as “We are loyal to Jesus Christ and His Restored Church and submit to His divine authority by sustaining and following the local and general leaders of the Church”—which sounds great until you realize how those truths are being defined and it suddenly falls apart.
The “fidelity” attached to members is separated into two camps: knee-jerk traditionalism and worldly philosophies. Knee-jerk means automatic and thoughtless (read “stupid”) traditionalism. I don’t think most average church members see themselves as stupid, though being traditional can be very good and helpful.
Then there is the other camp, filled with those who follow worldly philosophies; the so-called liberals and progressives (Peggy Stack, Jana Reiss, Patrick Mason, Sam Brown, Joseph Spencer, Spencer Fluhman, and Matt Bowman are examples that some may have heard of). Also, I never read anyone who delves into and loves the philosophies of men more than Terryl Givens (I realize his son was a coauthor but he signed it). Some of these liberals want to keep a toe in the church to maintains a façade of legitimacy, but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing to varying degrees.) Some are even enabled to give presentations at ward and stake firesides/devotionals because unsuspecting bishops or stake presidents haven’t done their homework screening them; after all, some are even employed by BYU (regrettably). So we have a manifesto that allegedly speaks against those who promote the philosophies of men, while they wink at those who do. And sadly, tithing is used to pay for publication of their false doctrines.
I think most member-disciples see themselves as how Elder McConkie put it, several decades before this manifesto came to be: “Please do not put too much stock in some of the current views and vagaries that are afloat, but rather, turn to the revealed word, get a sound understanding of the doctrines, and keep yourselves in the mainstream of the Church.” Elder McConkie has used superior and more understandable phraseology than these authors; the mainstream of the Church is neither the liberal/progressive/left nor the nuts on the far right—it’s where the prophets and apostles are. And they are all traditionalists in the finest sense of the word, though they are neither stupid nor beholden to policy precedent. Yet the apostles are unwavering doctrinal traditionalists.
“those who replace divine instruction with secular measures of progress risk relinquishing eternal truths for misguided worldly ideas.”
“Any form” of question-asking seems to me to be a subtle way of saying, “our superior question-asking” that all should pay attention to and agree with. The right kind of question-asking, of approaching God in prayer to learn sweet doctrine and obtain truth, is a commandment. People need to be able to discern the difference between questions of dissent aimed at causing doubt, and questions of sincere desire to learn eternal truth. Apostates and unbelievers often frame questions seeking to create doubt, and even if given a good answer will reject it (Terryl Givens celebrates doubt). “Faithful exploration” is usually sophistry lingo for reinterpreting doctrine or mixing the philosophies of men with the gospel. Who are the Givens’ and their coauthors to determine what this so-called faithful exploration ought be? All the alleged faithful exploration that I have seen from the liberals/progressives has amounted to nothing but false doctrine (which is dangerous doctrine). “doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils” (D&C 46:7).
As a matter of fact, the Church fights against this kind of exploration. In their efforts to shield church members from exploration in Church materials, the First Presidency created a formal church department, called “Correlation,” that is specifically delegated the responsibility to keep church doctrine pure—both un-reexplored and un-reimagined. This determined effort of quality control is viewed as absolutely necessary to make sure church members are learning only true doctrine at church and in their homes. The First Presidency expends adequate resources to ensure that the imaginations and unorthodox interpretations that these manifesto author’s promote, cannot occur unless people seek it outside church auspices. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, which constitute the Correlation Committee of the Church, do all in their power to keep doctrine pure. Needless to say, the explorations, imaginings, and philosophizing of Terryl Givens and this manifesto itself, and the blogs written to support it, would not pass correlation review.
Latter-day Saints are welcome to believe anything they want, but they are not welcome to teach their personal views and beliefs to other members. If they persist in doing so, they are excommunicated (now called membership loss). “It is not the belief in a false notion that is the problem; it is the teaching of it to others. In the Church we have the agency to believe whatever we want to believe about whatever we want to believe. But we are not authorized to each something to others as truth unless in fact it is true.” So stated President Boyd K. Packer, and with that teaching goes out the window all of Givens’ exploring and reimagining and unorthodoxy.
“Subsequent revelation” as a category should not be lumped in with the question-asking or alleged faithful exploration. Subsequent revelation comes through the prophet of the Lord and is accepted by all Latter-day Saints staying in the mainstream of the Church. And it does not contradict past revelation. It may modify it or change a past practice or explain a truth better, but that is not for a blogger to decide or decree by manifesto. The fact is, the scriptures and prophets do strongly discourage (“condemn” as phrased here) most of what this quoted sentence wants permission to run with. I will discuss the meaning of “eternal truth” further below.
As for where church doctrine comes from, “In matters of doctrine and Church policy, the authoritative sources are the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and the General Handbook.” So says the handbook. No imagination or exploring welcome here, lest each member become a law and interpreter unto himself, and millions of tails wag the church dog. The Lord’s house is a house of order, not confusion.
“the path of discipleship takes us through a narrow course between two spiritual monsters: unbridled progressivism and obstinate fundamentalism.”
There are way more than two “monsters” that are set in our mortal probationary path. The Church has to contend with the liberal/progressives (like Givens and the others named above), atheists/agnostics/secularists, fundamentalists (defined as polygamist cultists), addiction (porn, drugs, gambling, electronics, etc.), anti-Mormons/apostates, and so forth. To call it a valley between only two things/”monsters” is ridiculous.
But what is “fundamentalism” in this manifesto? If they are meaning members who hold fast to the iron rod and partake of the fruit of the tree of life and remain there, ignoring the scoffing finger pointing and avoiding mists of darkness and rivers of filthy water; members who love the true words and messages of the prophets and apostles both former and current; members who know the Journal of Discourses is a mostly-hit and sometimes-miss proposition; members who know and love the doctrine of both past and present church leaders (including McConkie, Smith, Petersen, Packer, Romney, and all the other great past apostles the progressives despise and ignore), then please proclaim me an “obstinate fundamentalist” from the housetops.
If by fundamentalism they mean the polygamist cultists, or something called “deznat” that is not in harmony with today’s First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, then such people are in great jeopardy regarding their eternal life. (I for one do not care for internet fads.)
“Navigating these perilous waters requires radical orthodoxy. Radical orthodoxy is an approach to the Restored Gospel that seeks to harmonize fidelity with exploration and cultural improvement.”
If by “explore” these bloggers are seeking a guilt-free license to push their poor opinions on the rest of us, it’s more rot. I don’t need or want this radical manifesto (that is really not orthodox) to improve my culture or tell me how to live or treat other people. I want the gospel and Holy Spirit to do that. I improve my culture by studying the scriptures and church teachings and learning and living more of the gospel every day. Using fancy language to talk about using the Restored gospel to promote exploration and cultural improvement just seems confusing and complicates what most members do naturally in their consecrated discipleship. Certainly I have never seen wording or explanations like this from the prophets.
“Radical orthodoxy is orthodox because it promotes fierce fidelity to revealed truth, the institutional Church, and the Lord’s authorized representatives, and therefore rejects the excesses of progressivism. This includes meticulously heeding and unabashedly embracing the counsel and teachings of prophets and apostles regarding chastity and morality, the divinity of Christ, and the foundational claims of the Restoration—even when doing so runs contrary to popular, worldly views. Those who embrace radical orthodoxy strive to be valiant in their witness of restored truth.”
“Radical orthodoxy is radical because it promotes bold exploration beyond what is familiar, and therefore rejects the obstinateness of fundamentalism. It is willing to revisit many facets of our received paradigm in order to apply the revealed doctrines and principles of the Gospel to the unique challenges of today. That includes—under the tutelage of modern prophets—a revolutionary reconsideration of traditions, paradigms, and applications of the Gospel inherited from prior generations.”
“It is willing to revisit many facets of our received paradigm in order to apply the revealed doctrines and principles of the Gospel to the unique challenges of today.” It is not the Givens’ or their coauthors place to tell us what to revisit. We see the prophets, seers, and revelators with the keys doing what needs to be done in the general handbook with its updated releases. That is not anyone else’s purview. Our received “paradigm” is what we were given by the pioneers and their descendants, and converts, as they interpreted the scriptures and inspired pronouncements from former prophets. The scriptures are fresh today; they don’t need to be reinterpreted or revisited by the Givens’ or others. The Book of Mormon was written for our day and applies to our day as though it were translated yesterday. We don’t need to revisit or reinterpret or reimagine (whatever) to apply things to today that God already did. Read one of President Benson’s many talks on this subject to get the doctrine right.
We must avoid a “revolutionary reconsideration of traditions, paradigms, and applications” unless or until the Lord directs such. This “revolution” wording sounds like a liberal call to embrace the ways of the world to me.
We have Official Declarations 1 and 2 that came from prophets and that adjusted prior practices how the Lord wanted them adjusted. If revolutionary reconsiderations of any kind are necessary, President Nelson will tell us. But he has said, emphatically, time and again, that revolutions or evolutions won’t be found in doctrine. More revelations will come, but they won’t change doctrine, only expand and deepen and clarify it. And that is not “exploration.” This manifesto seems to really dislike the precious doctrinal teachings that have been inherited from prior generations. I don’t; I love the old doctrine as much as the new doctrine because it is the same doctrine (eternal truth). As I study and listen to the teachings of prior generations’ church leaders, I am taken by how inspired they were; just as much as today’s leaders. Because they all have the apostleship and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
There may be a few minor things from past generations that do not work today or have been changed (by prophets, not scholars), but the great majority of their doctrinal teachings are as sound and inspired and true today as they were then. Let us not try to change them as this blog seeks license to do, but rejoice in them; in the great reservoir of eternal truth that has been pouring forth on the Latter-day Saints for nearly two centuries.
“Radical orthodoxy cultivates humility and a recognition that far less is certain about many doctrinal matters than we often presume.”
We have four large books of scripture. We have a vast corpus of inspired talks given by apostles, filling many decades of conference reports. We have a prophet with direct access to God. If the Givens’ don’t know anything except the philosophies of men, that is because that is what they have studied. Others evidently know much more than they and their coauthors do. I reject their statement as false rot. Like Nephi of old, we do not know all things, and there are eternities ahead to learn all things in, but we know far more about the things of God than any other church or like group on earth. Being humble doesn’t have to mean you think it commendable to be ignorant. Elder W. Grant Bangerter told this story: “I had an interesting experience many years ago as we returned from our mission in Brazil. We traveled on a ship with nine children, and the ship carried about forty passengers, so we almost formed a majority. It turned out that there were three other ministers on board, and within a few days each of those three approached me and inquired how we could get together and visit about what the Mormons believe. They didn’t seem to be unusually interested in what each other believed, but they all wanted to know what we believe. With a little hesitation, because my experience had not been that of having contact with ministers of other faiths, we arranged an interview where all four of us sat down together. It turned out to be very congenial and consisted primarily of them asking questions and me giving the answers. I had supposed that they would come out with strong arguments supported by scriptures that would make it difficult for me to hold my own. But in their friendly, congenial way they just asked questions and it turned out that I knew the answer to each question. I didn’t realize beforehand that I was that well informed. Within a few minutes, as we visited, they began to turn to each other and make comments like this: ‘Isn’t it interesting? He has an answer for any question you can ask.’ They repeated that comment over and over again, and we ended our discussion on a very friendly basis. One of these men, however, two or three days later, engaged me in conversation and said, ‘I have been thinking of what you told us the other day and I wonder if it is right to know everything. I think maybe you know too much. I don’t believe the Lord wants us to know it all.’” Well, Protestants/Evangelicals don’t know what modern revelation is, nor how our extra standard works, beyond the Bible, are filled with eternal truth that they don’t have. The notion that we ought celebrate doubt and ignorance is offensive.
“Those who embrace radical orthodoxy are not afraid to ask questions, and they eschew dogmatism with regards to lesser controversies—even while they boldly defend faith, diligence, and conviction on matters of covenant living, revelation, doctrine, and authority. As we revisit the lines between tradition and revelation, we are careful not to dishonor the prophets of the past, undermine the projects and programs of the church, or ignore the moral witness and counsel of living prophets and apostles.”
Again, what kind of questions are they asking?, the progressive ones that create doubt, or questions directed to God in prayer? (and that they are not shoving on the public). Liberals and progressives have made “Dogmatism” a dirty word because doing so allows them to promote their own weak theories and wishy-washy views mixed with the philosophies of men. In reality, a valiant faithful Latter-day Saint is dogmatic about the truths of the Restored gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no room for hedging here; we are to develop such testimonies that we are dogmatic about all of the truths of the gospel.
I quote Elder McConkie, whom these authors do not like because he was dogmatic about truth: “Truth does not sway like a reed in the wind. It does not accommodate itself to changing social circumstances. It is not one thing in the day of Adam and another six thousand years later. Truth is autocratic and authoritative; it is dogmatic and domineering; it is conclusive and controlling. It is what it is though earth and hell cry out in violent opposition.” So much for the Givens’ rot. And as for “eternal truth”—it is things as they really are, were, and are to come. These definitions blow this manifesto into so many pieces that we hope to never see it again.
“we are willing to question our cultural and religious presumptions in light of both sound scholarship and ongoing revelation from God.”
Scholarship should always be questioned because so little of it is sound and contributory. It is so often replaced as the decades pass. Some little is highly worthwhile and helpful. Scholarship mixed with the philosophies of men is worse than worthless. Ongoing revelation for the Church is the province of the prophet, not the Givens’ et. al. If this means questioning our culture because of a revelation from God to his prophet, that is hypothetical and dependent on prophetic direction.
Too often, what happens is that first a person questions, then they doubt, then they want to change the church and its doctrines—or leave loudly if they don’t get their way. We have seen it over and over again.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson stated: “In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. Some rely on the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and their creeds. Others place primary emphasis on the reasoning of post-apostolic theologians or on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.” Very little of what these liberal “scholars” teach harmonizes with what the apostles teach.
“We do not believe in compartmentalizing the Gospel from our professional pursuits, politics, scholarship, social interactions, or hobbies.”
This is something good, though long-known, in the manifesto, but my experience is that there is little gospel truth in the productions of NAMI and the liberal/progressive bloggers (i.e. By Common Consent, Juvenile Instructor, etc.). I find little accurate gospel in the publications of the BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute; instead it has become a liberal/progressive hive of bad doctrine.
“We consider curiosity a virtue and desire to plumb the depths of the Gospel as well as of God’s Creation.”
The rest is more of the same. I struggle to want to spend more time with this material that looks good to the unwary at first glance but on further investigation is largely wrong and rotten.
“We often pull from enlightenment-era theology the idea that Eternal Truths are things that cannot change, and from this we’ve inherited the understanding that the way the Church is set up today — including our organizational structure, our traditions, even the look and feel of our temple ordinances — is the same in every respect as it was during Christ’s time. The assumption, of course, is that there’s one single right way of doing things, and that any variation must also be deviation. We also assume that the current traditions and practices of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ represent that one correct answer.
“Elsewhere, my friend Ed Gantt and I have argued — borrowing from the scholarship of James Faulconer — that this is a very “Greek” way of looking at things. Greek thought prioritized that which does not change, and placed stasis and non-change at the center of our understanding of truth. The Hebrews, however, had a different emphasis. As Noel Reynolds explains, Hebrew thought (in contrast with Greek) places the emphasis “on covenant as a means of establishing stable expectations in a changing world.” God is reliable because He has made covenants with us, and is true to those commitments, not because His instructions cannot change across time and place.”
The general priesthood office, priesthoods themselves, and service organization that administers them; the Church; is close enough to the Meridian Church for the prophets and apostles to use it as a strong likeness, though not exactness. The Restored Church is also the restoration and latter-day implementation of the Abrahamic Covenant. All this means that the “assumption” being made-up here is a bad assumption for people who know their gospel doctrine. I think Latter-day Saints are largely taking the changes and adjustments that President Nelson is making in their stride; at least most of the faithful and observant are. Why make a straw-man caricature and then knock it around?
I don’t care what Jim Faulkoner or Noel Reynolds’ scholarship says, or what the Greeks and Hebrews thought and did; nor should anyone else. Greek philosophy corrupted the Meridian Church into apostasy. It is all beside the point, which is that God restored His Church through Joseph Smith by many revelations and angelic ministrants and succeeding prophets have made the changes and adjustments that God has inspired them to make. It has nothing to do with Greek or Hebrew thought and everything to do with ongoing revelation, which the body of the church naturally accepts and delights to receive.
God’s doctrinal instructions (revelations) do not change; they may expand as more knowledge is revealed, but they don’t become wrong. Other kinds of instruction, like the law of Moses, are radical changes that may or may not be temporary. This is a more nuanced and complex subject than these folks are saying. For example: It is an eternal truth than mankind sin and must completely repent to enter the kingdom of God, where no unclean thing can dwell. How long the repentance process takes or whether a membership council is held are not doctrines but policies.
“When uniting the people of Mosiah and the people of Zarahemla, King Benjamin found need to introduce a new name and covenant.” Speculation and doctrinal misunderstanding. The covenant is the same between God and man. It may have had some particulars that were new or re-emphasized to these peoples, but the gospel was the same then as now, and it is known as the new and everlasting covenant; new to new people or a new dispensation receiving it that didn’t already know about it, but old and everlasting to the Lord.
“Alma the Elder found need to establish a new model for worship, in which the covenant community was distinct from the civic community. This was an innovation in a time in which the religious community was normally seen as coextensive with the civic community.” “Innovation” is a poor and misleading word. What actually happened was that Alma, as the prophet, got a written revelation instructing him on how to proceed. God imparted knowledge; Alma did not innovate—else what did he need God for? “Alma the Elder’s new covenant model.” No, God’s revelation, such as what we have in the Doctrine and Covenants; all part of the new and everlasting covenant of the gospel. Eternal marriage is one of them.
This author forgets that the Church’s handbooks are based on the Doctrine and Covenants and general inspired precedents. We do not innovate by stepping on and squashing the scriptures. Because they are God’s revelations to the Church, they tend to fit every need that comes up; no drastic innovation needed, just prophets applying the scriptures as inspired to do so.
“Writers and thinkers can explore ideas and possibilities for innovation, but as we do so, we should pay careful heed to the ongoing concerns and priorities of those God has called to lead His Church today.” This is the best joke of the whole blog. In truth, the prophets and apostles are watching the innovations and explorations into unorthodoxy and plain old false doctrine that the Givens’ and other BYU people are producing with great concern and have said so. They have warned the self-appointed innovators and explorers and imaginers to stay in the mainstream of the Church, and instead the Givens’ and Fluhman and others like them have run amuck, writing and publishing personal academic views far outside orthodoxy and pure gospel truths.
This wording is filled with sophistry and is rot. Just be loyal to the prophet’s teachings and forget these clever attempts to create exceptions. Of course not every word President Smith wrote or spoke was scripture, but 99 percent was true. He was one of the great doctrinal teachers of the dispensation, as were Elder McConkie, Joseph F. Smith, Harold B. Lee, Marion G. Romney, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and others of like power and prominence. This attempt to shove aside their teachings and invent new ones is dangerous. These expressions: “imagination” (I don’t want someone’s imagination for my doctrine), “outside the lines,” (means unorthodox), “etched in stone” (clever expression of sophistry to exaggerate), “isolated opinions” (demeaning). Determining doctrine in the Church is a more complicated subject, but this all sounds like an excuse to teach their personal beliefs and opinions without getting caught or called out or criticized by latter-day saints that can see what hogwash it all is. If you are loyal and valiant, be so all the way and not up to the limit where you want to write and teach according to your imagination or your own views that are contrary to those taught to and in the Church.
Enough! Keep your eye on the prophet, not this junk manifesto or deznat. Although,…if the liberals/progressives are mad at a group, they must be doing something right. I don’t know enough about them to say. But I do know and love the gospel enough to recognize when someone is playing fast and loose with it to promote their own sophistry.