The Rocky Shore

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My trip to heterodoxy...

Wow, the last few weeks in the Bloggernackle have been hot. The exchange between RT here and here, John Dehlin here and here, and (holy cow) Louis Midgley and John W. Redelfs has been driven. Dave posted on the situation a little bit ago, but I'd like to throw my two cents in. The debate over at The Iron Rod seems to center more on heterodox versus traditional views of the church. I humbly submit my story:

My parents are both converts to the Church and I was raised with the traditional view of Mormonism. The Joseph Smith of my upbringing was a man who was ardently truthful, as American as anything and that those who opposed the church were motivated by the devil. I grew up and gained a personal testimony of the Savior, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I served a mission and then attended Ricks College.

My last term at Ricks was an interesting one. It was summertime, I was engaged (but my fiancé was a few thousand miles from me) and I was enrolled in a church history class. I thought this class would be run-of-the-mill. I mean, I had served a mission, read “Church History in the Fullness of Times”, The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt as well as Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I thought I had a good background. The first half of the class went uneventful, but then the Nauvoo period was reached and I had a desire to understand what the deal with Mormon Polygamy was. I asked my teacher for a few references so I could do some self-study and then I proceeded in delve into study like I never had before. It took only a little while before I confronted the problem. In the bookThe Words of Joseph Smith, I first confronted an instance of undeniable dishonesty by the Prophet.

Perhaps I was naïve (in fact I know I was), but I was very shocked and very troubled. There are a few out in the blogosphere who have said that we shouldn’t need answers to all questions, and that we shouldn’t look at and try to understand the difficulties of our religion, but such a request is too much to ask of me. Since my startling discovery, I have searched out answers, and have largely been able to reconcile many of the problems in Mormon history/theology. I have read much, and am greatly indebted to many writers who seek to write about the truth, even though many Mormons deride them as unbelievers and heretics. I would say that my odyssey has lead me to become a “Liberal Mormon”. I love the Church, even more now that I have a deeper understanding of its past. I do not blame anyone for asking the hard questions; I just hope those that do have the fortitude and stomach to truly seek out the answers.

For those who read this post who would also describe themselves as having a more heterodox view of the Church, what is your story? How did you come to this view? For those who are traditionalists, what has convinced you that your view is best? I am really interested. After all, you can’t fault someone on their conclusion, only on how they reached that conclusion…

14 Comments:

  • I don't have much to share on to of the podcast I did (My Story), but I appreciate reading your story! Thanks for sharing!!!!

    By Blogger John Dehlin, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:13:00 PM  

  • If it can happen at Ricks, it can happen anywhere. Reading books from my local public library (well, a succession of local public libraries) was my first source for a larger view of LDS history.

    By Blogger Dave, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 1:34:00 PM  

  • Can't I be a heterodox traditionalist?

    By Anonymous Ben, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 2:51:00 PM  

  • Dave,
    Ricks actually has a fantastic library for Mormon studies. That is where I first read dialogue (Todd Compton's "A Trajectory of Plurality", quite the introduction to Dialogue). I read a wide range of books that many traditionalists would call heritical, and their all in the David O Mckay library. They also have a decent special collections room, originals of the Millenial Star and the like, as well as original copies of "The Book of Mormon". It just goes to show you how few LDS students at Ricks actually read what's in the library.

    By Blogger Jared E., at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 5:46:00 PM  

  • Ben,
    I think you can be a heterodox traditionalist-- I think I am.

    My story is similar to Jared's. It started out with questions concerning polygamy. With that topic, I read the "truthful" articles concerning the prophet and uncovered many issues I did not know existed. Then, in traditionalist fashion, I read scriptures and brought it to the Lord.

    I love reading different theories of Mormonism and the true nature of Mormon history. Doing so makes me feel more informed, more liberated, and more aware of the religion I deem to be the Church of Christ.

    By Blogger Jilopa, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 7:31:00 PM  

  • I've posted my story elsewhere, but once I wrote a piece on what I called metrodoxy. That is what I really am striving for.

    By Anonymous J. Stapley, at Tuesday, July 11, 2006 9:43:00 PM  

  • I just want to know what the truth is. If I'm banking the salvation/exaltation of my eternal soul on this stuff, it had better be the right stuff! I have a testimony, but I don't know that a testimony extends as far as some people think it does. I think a testimony is gained line upon line, precept upon precept, principle on principle. We learn something, we try it, we pray about it, we find out that it is correct. If we haven't learned something yet, whatever it is we don't know may be incorrect, and when we discover something new, we've got to try it and prove it, too.

    If it is good, true, and squares up to the rest of our religion, and we get a spiritual testimony of it, then excellent, but if we find something false, it needs to be our job to dismiss with it, so that it doesn't begin to lead us down a wrong path.

    It is obvious that much of Church history is covered up by many folks with outright lies and twisted views of history or scripture. Lies, perhaps not originating in their own mind. Lies of generations. They may have started out as white lies, but those little white snow-balls rolled down the hill and gathered speed until they become massive and can crush a person. Is it the person's fault who made the snowball to begin with? No... It's the people who received it, without trying it themselves, as we have always been encouraged to do.

    I've got some pretty strange beliefs, but I have a testimony of God the Father, of Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost (although I may differ from the masses in my understanding of who and what type of personage these three beings are). I have a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, although it is Joseph Smith the Freemason that I esteem as such a great and good man, and a Prophet of God in a way not involving absolute infallibility, and scriptures that contain truth but also are not inerrant, and are perhaps shaped by the instrument by which they were tranlated or revealed.

    I am a convert to the Church. I've been in it for Seven and a half years now. I converted because of the things that, once I stepped inside the door, I discovered that the masses and the brethren seem to be eager to HIDE. Fortunately, the missionary discussions tell the story of Joseph's First Vision in a way that inspired me to learn from Books and the Internet, to seek it out myself and I recognized that it was Good and True. That is the type of Gospel I converted to. One with visions and mysteries, and great revelations. It isn't my fault that once I stepped in the door I found something different waiting inside. So, I hold to what I believe and try not to let what's inside bother me too awfully much. I can answer all the interview questions honestly. I have a genuine testimony. The little details of difference don't drive me away from the Church, but I may not see Sunday meetings as very valuable. I might think their worship is misdirected, and sub-standard compared to days of old, but it is the best we were able to do. Perhaps some day we will step it up a notch.

    I believe converts are more likely to start or become heterodox than BIC members.

    ~Jeff, a "Mormon Gnostic"

    By Blogger Jeff, at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:37:00 PM  

  • It was Sydney Rigdon who said, "When God establishes a church on the Earth, He sets up a system of government."

    As I study the details under the rug, the more I see the organization resembling a political system.

    By Blogger Jay, at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 7:41:00 PM  

  • Jeff,
    Thanks for your comments, very interesting. I actually really like what you said "when we discover something new, we've got to try it and prove it, too." I think all too often members get a confirmation that the BOM is true, and then feel free to just accept anything else that comes along connected to the Church.
    I'm glad you stuck with it even after you discovered the dirt that had been swept under the rug; the church is better for having you.
    I too have some pretty strange beliefs. I could probably count the amount of things I have a 'true' testimony of on a hand, everything else is up for grabs...
    Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Jared E., at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 10:58:00 PM  

  • "I humbly submit my story:"
    "Wow, the last few weeks in the Bloggernackle have been hot."

    Sounds humble me. Humble Enlightenment

    By Blogger dlkjdfsa, at Friday, July 14, 2006 6:49:00 AM  

  • Given your reading list you would have encountered a couple other instances of dishonesty: Abraham hiding his wife's identity, and Parley P. Pratt deceiving his pursuing persecutors. Perhaps the action of Joseph that so troubled you can be considered in a similar light.

    I had a similarly strong introduction to Dialogue, in an issue I happened to open with wide-eyed curiosity as an orthodox freshman in the BYU library: an article by Buerger on Mormonism and Masonry, featuring the statement that the Masonic structure as used in the endowment was not developed until the 1700s.

    By Anonymous Christian Y. Cardall, at Friday, July 14, 2006 10:57:00 AM  

  • Wow Christian,
    That article would be quite the introduction.
    In response to your suggestion on Joseph's dishonesty: that was largely my conclusion. Abraham's dishonesty is something I had been aware of for a long time. It wasn't so much Joseph's dishonesty that bothered me; it was the whole scene I discovered in Nauvoo surrounding it. It was my seeing that, largely, Joseph and Hyrum died over polygamy. It was all just so different than I had grown up believing.

    Christian, how did you deal with your discovery? Were you able to talk to anyone about it?

    By Blogger Jared E., at Saturday, July 15, 2006 11:17:00 PM  

  • I grew up in a family of ex-Mormons, but when I was 9 I decided to join the Church. Once I turned 12 an aunt decided I was old enough to know all the 'secrets' of the Church. She told me everything about the temple and since my grandfather was a Mason, I knew all about that connection. I knew more about Church history than most of my seminary teachers or church leaders. I'm glad I grew up knowing the realities of the Church. I think that if one day I had just discovered the truth, it would have been too much for me to handle.

    By Blogger Lucy, at Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:39:00 PM  

  • If neo-orthodoxy is orthodox, then classical Mormonism is heterodox, and generally speaking I would be neo-heterodox.

    Seriously though, I do not see how being acquainted with historical facts makes one heterodox, as in believing incorrect *doctrine*.

    Some doctrines have a close relationship to certain historical facts, but I do not know of anything that proves that any of those are incorrect, though they certainly might be suggestive to someone without a strong spiritual witness of precepts that logically entail the reality of figures such as Moroni, not to mention the Father and the Son.

    If one does not have that witness why believe in Christianity at all:


    "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

    Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

    For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
    (1 Cor 15:13-17)

    By Blogger Mark Butler, at Wednesday, August 02, 2006 10:38:00 PM  

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