Church, as Divine Organization

The following penned by Laurie N. DiPadova-Stocks appeared in Dialogue (june 2010):

Bennion (Lowell), drawing on Weber’s (Max) warnings about bureaucracy, devoted his career to the daunting task of helping LDS students reconcile personal integrity and difficulties with any organization, including the Church (Mormon), to which they might be committed.  As he explained in his classes, every organization is characterized by contradictions.  It is simply unavoidable.  A school might embrace the ideal to offer the best educational opportunity to students yet find that it cannot affort to meet that ideal.  The police department might embrace the ideal of swift and timely justice, only to have to conform to the tedious requirements of due process along the way.  The first priority of any organization is to survive and to protect itself from perceived threats, at time emplying operational requirements that can be inconsistent with its own central purpose

Drawing on Weber’s typologies, Bennion would describe the Church as highly organized, bureaucratic, and hierarchical.  Interpersonal interactions in any bureaucratic structure (not only the Church) are impacted by what I term authority dynamics.  Examples include (but are not limited to) altering one’s actions in the presence of someone in authority, deference to those in authority, regarding the views of persons in authority as inherently more credible than those with less or no authority, fear of disagreeing with someone in authority, and not being candid in expressing one’s views within an organizational structure.

A Cynical Look at Institutional Religion

Considering these dynamics, we understand that while the Church may embody the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is constrainted by the limits of human understanding and capacity . . .  As Bennion would detail in class, the gospel is reality–ultimate reality–and the Church is an expression of it within the boundaries of time, space, language, and culture.

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One Response to Church, as Divine Organization

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