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192: The Collective Church


Today we sit down and discuss the word CHURCH.  How is it used in Christian scripture?  How is it used in Restoration scripture?  Is it possible we have misunderstood this word?  Today I make the argument that we have.  That this is one more point we may have overstated and overreached.  While we seem to shout from the rooftops a narrow view of Mormonism, I hope we each begin to grasp the expansiveness and inclusiveness actually found in LDS Doctrine.  Thanks for listening.


15 thoughts on “192: The Collective Church”

  1. Another thought provoking episode. I have to admit the part that moved me the most was that recounting of the Colorado minister. Now THAT is both humility and Christ like. The LDS church leadership should really take a lesson from that type of truly humble leadership. It brought tears to my eyes and I realized I couldn’t even see my church and my leaders doing what you described her doing.

    Keep up the work. You are helping me for sure.

  2. This was absolutely the best and most spiritually uplifting podcast you’ve done. You spoke from a place deep within your heart and in turn touched mine. Thank you.

  3. Wonderful and thought provoking. You articulated and explained many things that I’ve believed for a long time, but couldn’t put into words nearly as effectively.

  4. Bill, I’ve listend to several of your episodes. I think you present matters in a pragmatic, logical way. In this episode, you advocate for an understanding of the word “church” in a much broader, universal way, than is commonly meant when the average member refers to the “Church.” You referenced scriptures to support your position. You used words such as “the Lord said….” this in D&C ___ or the Book of Mormon….or the Bible. Or, you referred to a statement of a deceased prophet of apostle. Those statements certainly make sense and support your idea about what the “church” really means.

    However, how can you really make any point at all when all of your references (including old testament and new testament) are suspect. When you (or anybody) says: “The Lord says ……” or “the Lord revealed to…..” how can one make any point on such suspect evidence. We don’t know if the Lord said anything, whether he simply gave a feeling to a prophet who then wrote something down that may or may not reflect what God really wanted the prophet to say, or whether a prophet just thought something he wrote down was a good idea.

    I say this because we know that many such statements by alleged prophets today are, years later, demonstrably false, that statements by the LDS prophets regarding doctrine are then shown to be false years later. We really don’t know anything about what God would say….do we?

    Seems like to make any religious point at all, one has to have something concrete to start from. Such as: God really, really, really spoke in a voice in a real language with real words to a man or a woman who then wrote down what was said. Or, if we can’t expect something so literal then something that confirms whether the thoughts and feelings communicated by God to a prophet and then to paper are accurate.

    Without such a basis, one can never make any religious point without it all sliding into a meaningless nothing because the sources one uses to make the point may be totally false.

    The whole idea of the Joseph Smith restoration was to say…the ideas of men were false, that all churches were wrong because they were the ideas of men and not the ideas of God revealed to a prophet….so, in the end, what any man says after stringing together relevant portions of the scriptures to make a point is really, in the end, just the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.

    1. great question. Generally I feel very safe in having hope that God is speaking in scripture. In other words I trust in the written word in the New Testament and Book of Mormon and D&C as the word of God. Now I am not saying I look at the whole as such. Rather I am specifically speaking of The actions and saying of the mortal Christ in the new testament (not the interpretations or teachings of others) along with When God speaks in the 1st person in the restoration scripture. I do not assume any leaders interpretation of those sayings is his mind and will and test all of that. I say generally because section 132 for me is problematic on these terms. Outside of 132 I am comfortable with my approach. Notice I didn’t mention the old testament. I think there has been too much alterations and time between multiple tellings of oral recopied history and the final written product to say with any surety this texts gets it right and there are too many problematic issue of approach to feel safe doing so.

  5. Bill, I’d go along with a foundation formed by God’s 1st person statements. I learned about the New Testament. Its writers were not eye witnesses and prepared their scripts 40+ years after the events transpired. Then we have Joseph Smith. I was shocked to realize that what we read today was produced without actually looking at the plates (he looked at a stone in a hat). I’ll leave room, then, for a a heavenly power that we simply don’t understand that somehow conveyed what was on the Plates to Joseph (that is me hanging on to the cliff with my fingernails). I don’t know what to think about the D&C and the PofGP.

    Perhaps, then, hanging on to the hope that some of the foundation is solid, I wonder about today. Living prophets? Continual revelation? Where is the evidence of that?

    1. Prophets today certainly don’t meet our assumptions and expectations. Perhaps our assumptions are accurate and these men fail or perhaps our assumption and expectation need major adjustment.

  6. Bringing Zion again is a subject of which I am studying diligently these days. The aftermath of so-called Elul 29 and the lack of anything exciting happening (except world craziness everywhere) has caused me to dig more deeply into why we have such ideas and hopes in the first place. The practical side of how Zion will be accomplished, therefore, is a natural course of study and source of hope for that which we individually have little control.

  7. This podcast confused me. I see you taking the LDS Scriptures as literal, almost word-for-word revelations from God (you make interpretations based on specific wording in the D&C, for instance), and then you use your interpretations to reevaluate the church and its doctrines. This is exactly what Mormon Fundamentalists do, and I don’t think of you as a fundamentalist (quite the opposite). For those of us struggling with the church, it isn’t the interpretation of “God’s word” that is the concern–it’s whether these “revelations” are really revelations at all. There’s so much that seems to to come purely from Joseph Smith’s mind and culture. You usually seem sympathetic with this doubt. So why are you suddenly taking the scriptures so literally without even discussing the question of their foundation?

    1. I see a huge difference between what God (allegedly) says in the first person and what others say when interpreting those words. I think taken at face Value I am pretty comfortable with what God seems to say himself (excluding the old testament) and am often really uncomfortable with the interpretations and statements made by others who claim to be able to discern such things that are not directly in the words of God.

      1. Thanks Bill. I respect viewpoints different from my own. Personally I find it hard to take the D&C, for instance, as “what God says in the first person” when you have sections like 10, 111, and 132 where Joseph seems to be using “revelation” to get himself out of sticky situations in a dubious fashion. Even many firm believers in Mormonism don’t take the D&C as God speaking directly in the first person (where every nuance of the wording could mean something) but rather as words Joseph put to his feelings of revelation (where the wording could be flawed). I personally find it nearly impossible to write or describe my interactions with God because they are so unworldly. It requires a lot of “translation” on my part, and the words are purely mine. I can’t see Joseph Smith being so different. Part of the problem I have with the LDS Church is how “concrete” and overly simplistic it tries to make things. God is a man that speaks English and his church is a typical corporation protecting its self-interests, and yet the doctrine is a confusing mess that the leaders try their best to avoid. What is an LDS faith transition if it isn’t doubting this whole scheme?

  8. Bill, I agree with Tim. Tim said: “For those of us struggling with the church, it isn’t the interpretation of “God’s word” that is the concern–it’s whether these “revelations” are really revelations at all.”

    The Church’s essay on Black’s and the Priesthood is an example. The essay “disavows” all past church teachings about blacks and the priesthood. Good for us. But what about the person who lived in 1930 and was taught that God’s doctrine was that Black’s were cursed (and the letters from the first presidency in the 40’s prove it was doctrine not opinion)? They were led astray. They formed opinions and biases that were passed down to my generation. The “doctrine” led to discrimination and false teachings and disdain for some of God’s children. I am ashamed that I entertained such thoughts. “Disavow” is to light of a word.

    And, after all of that, the Church expects us to believe that the “policy” was God’s revealed word? That God intervened and set straight the doctrine of the church by explaining how it is in heaven and how it should be on earth? Really, we are supposed to believe it? I won’t be ashamed twice.

    So today any person (and I don’t mean to single you out….all of the podcasters do this) who uses the scriptures or words of living prophets to make a theological argument by saying: “God says this or that” is really only making arguments about the philosophies of men.

    Dammit, the whole point of the temple ceremony was to learn where we can obtain God’s word from the horses mouth and not the philosophies of men. Interestingly, the idea is not to trust in the ideas of men, yet, that is exactly what we do.

    To me, this whole religious struggle boils down to profound sadness in coming to the realization that God may not really tell us anything. If he does, it puzzles me why a God would engage in communication that is so inherently suspect. When Jesus came to the Nephites (hey, look I’m even doing it) he made a big deal about writing down his words and those of Samuel the Lamanite. Yet, when he was on earth for heaven’s sake, he didn’t commission one of his apostles or somebody to follow him around and write down what he said! Or, for that matter, why didn’t Jesus take pen and paper and write down his own teachings. And, if he didn’t, then why argue about or rely upon the philosophies of men who, in the end, are probably going to all be wrong.

    A TBM would say (I know because I would have said this) that we were sent to earth with a veil over our memories to be tested and that it wouldn’t be much of a test if God was living amongst us teaching us what to do. Okay…I’ll believe this. But, it follows that God wouldn’t communicate to a prophet because that would violate the test.

    Bill, sorry this is too long, but think about the next time you or a guest makes a theological argument based on a 1st person statement from God (scripturally or prophetically). How can you be sure that your argument’s foundation is really based on what God thinks? And, if you simply say that you’ll have faith that such pronouncements are God’s words, what is your faith based on?

    1. I totally get this and can easily in my mind grasp the perspective that scripture may entirely not be of God and yet I choose based on its value to place that hope in parts of it. I am not arguing it is god’s voice but rather that I place hope that it is and know it contains divine truth that has been True in my life.

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