In the March 2015 Ensign magazine–an official publication of the LDS Church–hits a new low. Despite minor steps forward: (1) reprinting Elder Jeffery R. Hollands remark about Mother Teresa (page 8) and an angel with wings (pages 1 and 5), there are several steps backward. We have come to expect so little from Ensign that whenever it can’t even meet these diminished expectations it is particularly sad.
Blame Liberal Professors, Liberal Media, and the Internet
In trying to find a culprit for America’s “none” phenomenon (no religious institutional affiliation) and the increasing popularity of secular humanism, agnosticism, and atheism, Elder Dallin H. Oaks comes up with: “The rejection of an unprovable God and the denial of right and wrong are most influential in the world of high education.” Are we talking about Richard Bushman, Joanna Brooks, Terryl and Fiona Givens, Jana Riess, Judy Dushku, John Turner, Duane E. Jeffery, Lars Peter Hansen, BYU evolutionists, BYU environmentalists, etc. here?
And Elder Oaks continues: “[Former BYU philosophy professor Chauncey Riddle] reminds us that humanism enjoys good press in the world today because most of the writers, publishers, scholars and media people are this persuasion.'” I guess Elder Oaks hasn’t heard of Fox News. He starting to sound a little like Spiro Agnew.
Elder Oaks continues:
Many people who believe in God and the right and wrong that exist because of His commandments experience scorn and mocking from worldly teachings and denial of God that occur in many organizations, including educational institutions and media.
In the same issue, Adam Kotter writes:
Largely because of the Internet, it is not uncommon for members of the Church to encounter ideas that challenge their beliefs. Some members find questions raised to be disconcerting and wonder whether it is acceptable to have a question about their faith.
It would have been wise for Bro. Kotter to acknowledge that frequently the information on the Internet is more accurate than the sanitized information in Church magazines, manuals, lessons, websites, etc. Given the Church’s past lack of candor, of course “it is acceptable to have a question about our faith.” This is a silly issue.
Not to be outdone, Elder Ulisses Soares states:
Is is not easy to face daily temptation. We are exposed to an environment that is hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is deteriorating morally. Media and technology invite us to participate in destructive and life-shattering activities that oppose our beliefs and the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What can I say about the Soares’ hyperbole? We in the United State are not faced with “an environment that is hostile to the gospel.” And neither are the vast majority of global, modern-day Mormons. The Jews, Armenians, Native Americans, Copts, 19th-century Mormons, African Americans, etc. can explain what real hostility is. Does Elder Soares have any data to backup the claim that we are living “in a world that is deteriorating morally.” Where is his evidence? And of course, lets blame the media and technology (I suspect he is talking about the Internet here) for whatever ails the world.
Instead of throwing rocks at university professors, the liberal media, and technology, the LDS Church leadership would be better off accepting responsibility for past failures (racism, sexism, sanitized history, polygamy, polyandry, biblical literalism, obsession with the dead at the expense of the living, etc.) and promoting the “loving thy neighbor” doctrine. Particularly since half the Church’s membership will soon live in developing countries, many living in abject poverty.
The Great and Abominable Church
Book of Mormon prophecies mention a “great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil,” which will have “dominion over all the earth.” I thought we had gotten past this idea when the temple ceremony was changed. But apparently not. In the mid-twentieth century, it was common to assume that the “great and abominable” was the Catholic Church. However, in a move toward ecumenicalism, this idea was dropped during the presidency of David O. McKay.
But Elders Oaks has brought it back:
Because no religious denomination–Christian or non-Christian–has ever ever had “dominion” over all the nations of the earth or the potential to bring all the saints of God down into “captivity,” this great and abominable church must be something far more pervasive and widespread than a single “church.”
Since it is no longer the Catholic Church that is the “great and abominable,” Elder Oaks implies that it is secular humanism, and that the devil is behind humanism. Yawn. I suspect that the lack of relevancy in modern institutional churches is more to blame than the devil.
Personally, I think the Church could learn a great deal from humanism (something that Elder Oaks and I agree on). Elder Oaks quotes from the 1973 Humanist Manifesto: “tradition dogmatic or authoritarian religions place revelation, God, ritual, and creed above human needs and experience.” There is a great deal of “human need” out there, particularly in developing countries. The Church could do well to broaden its scope.
Instead of playing the blame game, the LDS Church should be working harder to put its own house in order and accepting blame for past mistakes.