Limiting “Mormonism” to “official” doctrine is counter-productive

There is an idea in LDS folk theology that if you knew how glorious the bottom two kingdoms of heaven were, you would want to commit suicide to get there. Mormons sometimes even claim that Joseph Smith taught this, but this has been debunked. This “folk” theology is VERY strong in the culture of Mormonism. After a lot of searching (back when I studied this issue), I was only able to find one solid reference supporting this. It was only by the “Patriarch to the Church” in 1964, arguably not that important or authoritative of a position in the modern LDS Church. Yet, despite this singular reference, it is obvious to me (via many conversations with LDS individuals) that this line of thinking is persistent and important to many Mormons for its explanatory power.

If I want to respectfully understand and approach Mormonism as a generalized whole, I have to take this LDS folk theology very seriously. It informs the LDS mindset and mitigates the equally real LDS notion that the bottom two kingdoms are also, to put it lightly, negative experiences.

But notice that this doesn’t fulfill the strict, minimalist notion of what constitutes “official”, binding Mormon doctrine. I am compelled to take Mormonism seriously not merely as an elusive set of abstract ideas, explicated by LDS canon, but also as a set of LDS traditional beliefs that perpetuate, uncorrected and acquiesced to by the LDS institution. If I *limit* myself to the elusive, abstract, minimalist Mormonism of binding and “official” doctrine, it would actually be counter-productive to my understanding of the Mormon people and their traditional theology. It wouldn’t be loving.

Mormons, please think about this the next time you feel tempted to dismiss an evangelical critique/approach/summary/survey of Mormonism with the “it’s not ‘official’ doctrine” panacea.

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19 Responses to Limiting “Mormonism” to “official” doctrine is counter-productive

  1. falcon says:

    Well here’s the problem.
    When Joseph Smith launched his religion, one of the drawing cards was that individual members could receive direct revelation from God , not just the prophet Smith.
    Well, as you can expect, this concept had some glitches in it because if anyone could receive revelation, how was the prophet Smith to keep control of the group?
    So my understanding is that some sort of revelation hierarchy has developed within the Mormon sect. Generally I think that what happens in Mormonism is that individual members receive a revelation that the leaders are right. They never receive a revelation that the boys are wrong.
    Anyway my guess is that a lot of the Mormon folk doctrine comes by some loose cannon in leadership and picked-up by some rank and file and then with the retelling, the folk doctrine becomes fact.
    There is also a lot of nuanced thinking in Mormonism that is reinforced by doctrinal ambiguity. There’s a ton of opportunity for some enterprising go-getter temple Mormon male in full priesthood mode to put his spin on things.
    Let’s face it, what Mormons do is hear something a leader says and then fill it up with their own meaning.
    That’s the fun of Mormonism I’m guessing. Official or not, folk doctrine is the fuel that keeps the Mormon go-cart going around the track; in an endless circle.

  2. Clyde6070 says:

    No Here’s the problem.
    You put to much weight on personal revelation. It is for the individual only. Even Aaron can receive personal revelation.

  3. falcon says:

    Yea, I’ve received personal revelation clyde.
    God told me Mormonism is a false religious system, with false scripture and false apostles and prophets. I got a warm feeling when it was revealed to me so therefore my personal revelation is true.

  4. Rick B says:

    I also prayed and God spoke to me, He said to search the scriptures and I did. I also read the LDS scriptures and all I see is confusion, and contradictions. Then the RLDS and the FLDS have prayed and claim God spoke to them, They believe the also follow JS and call him the true prophet and believe the BoM, yet they don’t agree with LDS and lds don’t believe they are SAVED. So where does your believe of personnel revelation fit into others praying and not agreeing with you?

  5. Dale says:

    What Mormons “unofficially” mean is that you can pray to know the truth, and as long as your personal revelation confirms everything the church currently (emphasis on “currently”) teaches and believes, it’s a good method to discern truth.

    (Loophole ALERT!)
    However, if your personal revelation goes against the current (emphasis on “current”) prophet, you must be wrong. If you pray for revelation and God inspires you to practice polygamy–even though this is exactly what Joseph Smith did–your revelation is faulty.

    Of course, this is all folklore.

  6. Kate says:

    I agree with Dale! Ha ha ha! The whole “official” thing is so ridiculous! If a prophet said it, it’s OFFICIAL people! Just be up front and honest and say that things have changed and we no longer believe this. I don’t know how Mormons keep up with all the mental gymnastics! I’m tired just reading the excuses, I can’t imagine having to really wrap my mind around them! Of course Thomas Monson could put an end to all of this speculation and tell the world what is official, oh wait, but then the next prophet would just come along and declare all he said as unofficial and on and on it goes. WHERE IS JESUS IN ANY OF THIS?

  7. CD-Host says:

    Hi, I like to notify people when I link to them. Thoughts about Adam-God links to your Adam-God page.

  8. falcon says:

    OK, here’s one that never changes; cough-up your 10% so you can do the temple hocus pocus on your way to becoming a god. A person has to pay the franchise fee if they’re going to get their own store. Money is the mother’s milk of the Mormon church. They’ll tell converts that they don’t have to pay their dues but in order to get the big payoff, an entrance fee is required. This will never change! Like all aspects of life, money talks.

  9. TJayT says:

    I personally have to agree with Aaron here.

    If you take only the standard works (Bible, Bom, PoGP and D&C) there are some Lds ideas that have to fall along the wayside. Many of the things that would get cut are things that I would like to see get cut, but there really isn’t a way to discuss Mormonism without talking about infinite regression, a heavenly mother and the future creation of spirit progeny just to name a few off the top of my head. While these are things that I personally believe to be “Folklore” and ideas that can be cut out I know plenty of Mormons that do believe in them. And I know to try and talk about the mainstream faith without these doesn’t make much sense at all.

    Of course that’s if you believe there actually is any set Lds doctrine. I’ve heard it argued by my side that we don’t really have any set dogma, and that it’s a good thing.

  10. Mike R says:

    TjayT, am I understanding you correctly that you do not believe in a literal
    Heavenly Mother ? If this is true then how did you come to be ? Just wondering .

  11. TJayT says:

    I’m defiantly not sold on the idea of a Heavenly Mother. I think she’s just a logical extension of the infinite regression doctrine (since to be where he is God would have had to take the same steps we do, one of them Celestial Marriage). Since I don’t believe in infinite regression I don’t see any reason that there needs to be a Heavenly Mother. I suppose she “could” exist, but like I said I don’t see any reason why she “has” to.

  12. falcon says:

    You sure have a lot of fun with Mormonism. I can see why some creative minded folks get into it. That’s what the appeal was of Mormonism when it stumbled out of the starting gate; individuals getting their own personal revelations from God. As I’ve pointed out previously, while personal revelation was a nice shiny object to get peoples’ attention, it caused problems because “the prophet” was than really no better than the rank-and-file members in this respect.
    Smith lost a bunch of the folks when he got heavy handed going from the Book of Commandments to the D&C. They didn’t endorse the changes he made in the switch over.
    The early leaders really liked to speculate and came up with all sorts of odd, peculiar and bizarre ideas. But that was Mormonism and what it left was a collection of nonsense that today’s Mormons have to try and defend or explain. That’s why folk doctrine is such a convenient label and concept. It fits quite well with folk magic which was also a big part of early Mormon spiritual experience.
    But anyway, it sounds like you have your own particular brand of Mormonism. Don’t they excommunicate people like you?

  13. grindael says:

    “I want to say that for the benefit of my brothers and sisters who seem to think that the President of the Church should decide on all these little matters of difficulty that come up as in matters of doctrine, and that it is his job to sit in judgment on these matters, and give them a decision, and then back it up by Scripture. The President of this Church doesn’t need to back up what he says by ancient Scripture. He has the word of the Lord to us in this dispensation, just as the prophets of old had to the people among whom they lived.” ~Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, October 6,1916, p.24

    “No book is good enough to preside over the Church of God and direct its activities. Books are not a sufficient guide for a progressive people on their way to the celestial kingdom. They are good as far as they go, but they do not go far enough. We have something better–a living, heaven-inspired Priesthood, with the restored Gospel, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the principle of immediate and continuous revelation. Other churches are built upon books, traditions, decrees of councils and synods, private interpretations, man-made doctrines, maybe-so’s and peradventures. But the Church of the Living God stands where He has placed it, upon the Rock of Divine Revelation, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.” ~Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, p.105, Oct 5, 1925.

    I have literally dozens of such quotes. It doesn’t work to deny what they have said. They said it. They meant it.

  14. grindael says:

    “I can truly say as the Apostle Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” I am not ashamed of what the world is pleased to call “Mormonism;” I am not ashamed of any revelation that God has given unto the Latter-day Saints, through the mouth of modern Prophets; I am not ashamed to acknowledge myself a firm believer in the literal fulfilment of the Bible, as well as every communication of God to man, although I am well aware that the Scriptures have been more or less spiritualized by the whole Christian world, especially during the last hundred years. I believe that holy men of old wrote and spoke as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and that they meant what they said and said what they meant, and that the Apostle Paul spoke truly when he said, “that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” The Lord has taught us in a modern revelation contained in this book, the “Doctrine and Covenants,” that it matters not whether he speaks from heaven by his own voice, or by the ministration of angels, or by the mouth of his servants when they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is all the same the mind and will of God; and although the heavens and the earth pass away, my words would not fall unfulfilled.” ~ Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses Vol. 19, p.243, Sept 16, 1877.

  15. TJayT says:

    Falcon said:

    “Don’t they excommunicate people like you?”

    They haven’t yet.

  16. Rockbob5 says:

    All those members of the The church of Jesus Christ who are reading this blog and are in a state of doubt. Ask yourself this one question. How long has it been since you have read the Book of Mormon?
    If you don’t return to the source of truth and look to those who have misguided or alterior motives they will pull you farther form the word of God. I have read a lot of these posts. I am not even shaken by their words. I know that Jesus is the Christ and he loves us. I know that we have a Prophet upon the earth again today. Remember even the Jesus and Prohets of old were prosecuted, stoned, killed and defamed just like what is going on in these blogs. So pick up your scriptures and listen to God and not to men or women. I myself have undergone unfair treatment. There is one scripture you can count on. “By this shall men know if ye are my Disciples, that ye have love one toward another.” If you have a testimony of the restored gospel of Chirst here and now is the place to show it! Put on the whole armor of God!!

  17. Rick B says:

    Rob said

    Remember even the Jesus and Prohets of old were prosecuted, stoned, killed and defamed just like what is going on in these blogs. So pick up your scriptures and listen to God and not to men or women. I myself have undergone unfair treatment. There is one scripture you can count on. “By this shall men know if ye are my Disciples, that ye have love one toward another

    Rob, Why not put your money were your mouth is and show us where we are wrong? I’m tired of blog trolls that can only accuse and never provide evidence. I’m tired of mormons crying persecution with out facts. They sit here and say we are wrong, yet they cannot and will not tell us what we say is wrong and why. We provide quotes from LDS prophets, and scripture showing it contradicts each other, and all they can do is claim we are wrong and that were persecuting them.

    That shows they are wrong, dont care about the truth and are nothing but blog trolls and drive by mormons as Falcon likes to say. Come back with facts and evidence, you expect it from us and we provide it, so you yourself should do the same, and that shows you guys dont really have the love of Jesus that you claim.

  18. Mike R says:

    Rob, thanks for stopping by . You mentioned that there are LDS who are doubting
    and are perusing the info of this ministry(MRM, see Home page etc) . The reason for
    this may be that the Holy Ghost is drawing these LDS closer to God. There’s more than
    a few sincere Mormons who were drawn into the Mormon Church through the tailored
    message of Mormon Missionaries, these people became busy in all the activities that
    are provided . But after a time Mormonism’s gospel ‘system ” of all the myriad laws,
    commands, rules, were experienced for what they are—- a heavy load to bear . As our
    friend Kate here has asked more than once, ” Where is Jesus is all of this ? ” I agree.
    Consequently , many of these Mormons hungery to know God , are seeking . That means
    that re-reading the Book of Mormon is’nt the answer. You also mentioned that you
    believe that Jesus is the Christ and that He loves everyone . I could’nt agree more !
    It is because of His great love that He took the time to warn us how to be safe from
    from those who come claiming to represent Him and offer spiritual truths that directly
    affect our salvation , yet these truths are not endorsed by Him at all. These are the false prophets that would introduce false doctrine. You said, ” So pick up your scriptures
    and listen to God and not to men and women . ” For many Mormons this has proved insufficient to fill the longing in their hearts to more fully know God simply because
    they’ve seen what their leaders have introduced as gospel truths since 1830 but which
    are’nt taught in the scriptures

  19. Kate says:

    Which version of the Book of Mormon do you suggest they read? The original, most correct book on the face of the earth written in 1830, that is no longer “official?” Or the one the LDS church uses today with it’s nearly 4,000 changes from the original? Just curious.
    I was a member of the LDS church for 40 years and I would say to all those LDS members who are lurking here, there’s a reason you are here. Maybe something doesn’t feel right. Study for yourself. Buy a Bible not affiliated with the LDS church and open it. Ask God to reveal His true self to you. He will do it. The true and living Christ is found in the BIBLE, that’s what you should be reading.

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