Hi everyone, I am really excited about today's post. Before we dive in, I need to share a few thoughts and clarifications. I really appreciate the comments and the emails and the discussions that this blog generates. However, sometimes I miss the mark and may leave the wrong impression.
What's Wrong With Me?
You've probably noticed that my arguments are lopsided.
There are two sides to every issue. Or three sides, or twenty. In this blog I am not focusing on all of the sides because I am trying to focus on the side that is most neglected.
I am pro-Church and pro-religion. For heaven's sake, I am rushing as a Freshman to become a member of Beta Sigma Firstborn!
But in society today, the popular sentiment is pro-religion already (see, e.g., President Dallin H. Oaks, "The Need for a Church," October 2021 General Conference). So there's little need for me to tell people that religion can, at times, bring us closer to God. If I did that, I would be preaching to the choir. (I mean, even Mafia bosses go to church on Sunday wearing double-breasted striped suits. I suppose they are better off for it.)
So my purpose is to highlight the other side: the less apparent but very real ways in which religion can become detrimental to our spiritual light. I do so hoping we can learn to navigate our churches in a more healthy manner by avoiding priestcraft.
I am pro-authority. I believe God is the ultimate authority.
I believe that Jesus showed us that authority arises from love, not from a person's rank.
"Jesus earned our loyalty ― not because He was the Firstborn(there are plenty of examples where "firstborns" got passed over, like Cain, Esau, and Judah) ― not because of His status as the Son of God (Satan makes the same claim) ― but because He showed us how much He loves us through His condescension and sacrifice."
So my intent in this blog is to highlight the way authority can lead to spiritual abuse when it is wielded using control, compulsion, guilt, and fear. Obedience squeezed from a turnip cannot save us (see Moroni 7:6).
3. Latter-day Prophets.
I am pro-prophet. I am pro-apostle (I mean, who isn't?!)
But my purpose is to declare, as Moses did, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets!" (Num. 11:29). I believe that we all can speak with the tongue of angels and give voice to the Holy Ghost by speaking the Words of Christ.
However, because our religion is so heavily slanted in favor of leadership's authority, I am trying to highlight the self-authority and dignity we each possess as intelligences, which deserve more respect.
I listen to the prophets. I follow Christ. Period.
I am pro-hierarchy. I think it works very well for Ford Motor Company. (Okay, now I am being sarcastic.)
I am pro-equality. I do not believe heaven (or Zion) is structured as a hierarchy like we see in the Catholic Church or in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which resemble the organization of LuLaRoe more than it does the House of God.
Therefore, it is logical to assume that the Lord will need to shake things up in order to bring his children into "oneness" at some point in the future.
Christ's labor of love is bringing forth Zion; it is His to shape as He sees fit, and apparently He sees worth in equality. I am not trying to impose my standards on Him; I am just trying to understand what the scriptures already say, and to prepare.
Connection vs. Control
Well, now that we've cleared all that up, let's get down to business!
I've mentioned before that there is a common misperception out there that Mormons (aka members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are good at building communities.
Instead, members of the Church are good at building hierarchies.
There's a big difference.
I don't blame anyone; it is just a fact that we're some of the least skilled people on the planet at building authentic communities without the aid of authority figures. That's the rub: all of our training is in hierarchical-based leadership ("Return and Report, underling!").
Creating leadership ranks is simply the only tool we've been given to organize ourselves in the Church. I mean, how else could we do it? We don't know. We've never learned how to let love unite us because we're too accustomed to uniting under leadership's authority.
But if someone took away our hierarchy, what would happen? Would we crumble like a Chips Ahoy cookie?
1.Communities arise from connection. We choose to associate with those who share common interests and values. We feel an affinity to our fellow community members who give us a sense of belonging. They become our "tribe," so-to-speak.
2.Hierarchies, on the other hand, depend on control. They tell us where we belong. Hierarchies provide structure and efficiencies we do not see in organic communities. Hierarchies leverage the control that leadership possesses in order to "make the trains run on time," so-to-speak.
Time For a Joke
I remember reading an anecdote about a past president of the Church in the early 20th century receiving a phone call on his birthday from the President of the United States, who was calling to wish him a happy birthday.
Prophet: "Who's this?"
President: "The President!"
Prophet: "President who?"
President: "The President of the United States!"
Prophet: "Oh, out here we're all presidents."
I like to joke that as soon as the Church moves into a new area it starts ordaining Presidents. Those Presidents call other presidents. And so on. We create a long chain of presidents spreading an hierarchical ecosystem in which the food chain is predetermined by a person's office and rank, stretching all the way up to the Mothership we call "Headquarters."
To paraphrase Abraham 4:11-12:
And the [Leaders] said: Let us prepare [the Church] to bring forth more [Presidents] each after their kind, whose seed in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon [the Church]; and it was so, even as they ordered . . . .
And the [Leaders] saw that they were obeyed.
(Abraham 4:11-12, New Hierarchical Translation)
Perhaps the problem we have with the priesthood is that we're producing fruit after our "own likeness" rather than Christ's.
Infinite Regression of Gods
This morning I read something interesting in a Facebook comment by Paul Toscano. He said, referencing the diagram, above, which was published after Joseph's death:
[I]n my view, this chart constitutes a graphic illustration of the greatest heresy in Mormonism.
Christ did not call us to a place on this chart. He calls us to love and joint heirship with Him in the godhead.
Equality not hierarchy is the heart of the gospel and the purpose behind justification, sanctification, glorification, and ultimate theosis.
This ridiculous chart suggests the very opposite—that Jesus died on the cross to resurrect us into a chain of command—an eternal bureaucracy of servitude based on which of us was first to be embodied in space and time.
The chart is a fascist distortion of what J[oseph] S[mith] meant in his final godhead discourses. It is preposterous. It manages in a single diagram to contradict the meaning of the gospel by turning the good news into bad news. It invalidates every utterance and every vignette of the Lord in the New Testament. It mocks his incarnation and his personal suffering with us on earth. It cheapens his crucifixion. It insults his infinite sacrifice.
Who Are We?
In order to understand Christ's doctrine, I think we need to remember who we are. I mean, it makes a difference who Jesus is talking to, doesn't it? Who he is preaching divine truths to, in order for them to progress? Jesus wasn't preaching to a trombone or tuna fish.
Christ's Doctrine only makes sense in the context of the audience he gave it to: a group of people with whom he desired to share community; with whom he yearned for celestial union, that we may be One with him.
So let's start with this fact: we are "gnolaum."
Two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
God is eternal. And so are we.
In the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith taught, "The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself."
So the way we interact with each other should reflect this reality, right?
We should treat each other in a manner that respects the divine nature we all possess? Isn't this how we comprehend God?
The day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me.
God is in each of us. We get to know Him by discovering Him in each other.
When we seek and nourish the divine intelligence in each other we come to know Him.