Things have getting strange with the Good Ship “Mormon.” It’s difficult to tell who is steering the boat; who’s at the helm? Two recent events come to mind:
- In response to a recent NBC documentary, the LDS newsroom stated that caffeine (at least in cold drinks) is not a Word of Wisdom issue and
- In response to BYU professor Randy Bott’s interview in the Washington Post, the LDS Church’s PR department disavowed Bott’s “curse-of-Cain” conjectures.
Reacting to the caffeine incident, one Mormon blogger asked the question: “I’m not sure if this is a policy clarification, or a full-on revelation–the LDS newsroom seems to be in charge of church doctrine now.”
Not to worry, apparently BYU staff continues to take a stab at defining various doctrine (although not always successfully as Bottgate illustrates). According to the Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the Ensign (Aug 2012):
LDS and evangelical academics and church figures have been drawn together since the late 1990s in what I think has become a provocative and constructive theological dialogue . . .
Realizing that the Latter-day Saints have quite a differenct heirarchal and organization structure than the vast evangelical world, no official representative of the Church has participated in these talks. . . .
So in discussions related to the similarities and differences in doctrine between Mormons and evangelicals, BYU religion professors are defining Mormonism, without any ecclesiastical oversight. This becomes very discomforting when I hear statements like Mormons are second to no one when it comes to biblical literalness.
It would seem that the news media and detractors are controlling the Mormon message. The Internet is starting to force decisions that should have been made years ago. And even worse, decisions are being made in an incremental fashion.
In 1978, black males were given the opportunity to obtain the priesthood. But there was no explanation for why it was denied in the first place. This omission gave rise to Bottgate. In 2012, Mormons were told that caffeine is not a part of the Word of Wisdom. But that just opened up a whole new set of questions.
Additionally, we have some Mormon scholars who want to make the LDS Church look more like an evangelical church. But why?
Reviewing the caffeine incident, the blogger quoted above wondered:
Can we agree that this is a dumb way for an omniscient being to communicate? It’s ambiguous, imprecise, and incremental. But consider: While it seems very unlikely that a god would need to use this method of imparting his will, it is exactly the kind of system that humans would use.
While I don’t think God needed to intervene on the caffeine issue (trivial?), or even the black issue (there seems to be plenty of historical evidence that the exclusion was not doctrinal), I think our leaders need to look at making decisions that are more inclusive and less incremental.