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Is the Church Governed by Social Revelation?

Don - September 26, 2005

It seems to me that members of the church tend to pride themselves in saying that our church has the same doctrines and same organization that Christ’s church had when he established it.  Obviously the church organization is considerably different, and so are many of the doctrines.

I have been looking back over church history in general and the church in my lifetime and find quite a number of changes.  It appears to me that many of the changes in the church have come about because of social pressures and or social changes in society.

Obviously polygamy comes quickly to mind.  So does the priesthood available to all worthy males.  How about missionary calls?  No longer do we ask married men to leave their families to serve a mission.  Now we call 19 year olds, great time in their life and it works well.  The old policy would certainly test our faith and provide dedicated missionaries.

Changes in the endowment.  No more specific penaties in the covenant / signs and token process.  The recent change in the washing and annointings.  Changes in women and child bearing…old days specific about not postponing a family, large families encouraged.  Now days we don’t hear this preached at conferences anymore.  And women not working outside the home…old days, they shouldn’t.  We don’t here this much if at all from conferences anymore.  Old days to the youth, don’t date outside the church…now date good people with similar standards.  Old days tithing, fast offerings, building fund, ward budget, temple fund were the "required" donations.  This Bishop would interview you and ask you to contribute a specific amount to the building fund, to the ward budget and to the temple fund.  These were usually pretty heathly amounts too. (I remember when the Seattle Temple was started the Bishop asked us to contribute $800, back then that was a lot of money for a young married couple to come up with, especially considering the other donations too….sure, sure, we were blessed for doing it, but are we missing out on blessings today because the change.) Now tithing, fast offerings and other choices if you want to contribute.

I’m sure there are other areas too.  It just seems to like the church has gotten easier, more main stream, less distinct, maybe even less challenging.  Maybe I’m just getting too old.


  1. I think you are correct. I wouldn’t choose to go back to the good ole days, but I frequently wonder if the price for my modern splendor was too high.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 26, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

  2. In this vein, has anyone served on a Church farm in the last twenty years? Whenever I hear someone talk of such an occasion, it’s a reference to something that once was. For myself, the last time was around 1979, painting fences at a dairy farm that is now a golf course. My cannery assignment for next Friday has been cancelled, as is the case more often than not. In the last twelve years, I’ve worked in a Church cannery about four times, which is a burden not much different from zero times.

    Comment by John Mansfield — September 26, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

  3. What are you talking about? Our daughters can’t wear two earrings per ear now.

    Much more difficult.

    Comment by Rusty — September 26, 2005 @ 4:37 pm

  4. John, I had forgotten about church farms. In Seattle growing up it was an hour and a half drive to the farm. We strung the wires for beans, then picked then, then had to can them too. In Spokane the farm changed from Rasberries, to Asparagus, to corn, to a new chapel.

    Rusty, I forgot that one too.

    What’s next from the brethern?

    Comment by do — September 26, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  5. I think it’s clear that the church has changed a lot over time. We no longer follow the Law of Adoption, polygamy (which was once thought to be necessary in this life for entry into exaltation) is gone, racial theories of worthiness are gone, the doctrine that those who join the church are the scattered blood of Israel before they join is gone, blood atonement is so far gone that we no longer acknowledge that it once existed, same with Adam-God, rebaptism is gone, payments to local church leaders who handle tithing funds are gone, female blessings of healing are gone, the Book of Mormon as a continental history is fading fast, and on and on. So what do we mean when we say we have the same stuff as the original Christian church? After all, we don’t even have the same stuff as 100 years ago.

    Well, okay, I guess we answer that by distinguishing between the essential and the fundamental. Whatever it is that we share with the primitive Christians, that is what is essential to the true church, no? Whatever changes must either be superficial or, at the very least, possible to be exalted without in this life.

    What, then, do we share with the primitive Christians? On the basis of the Nag Hammadi texts and the enraged writings of the early Christian fathers, I’d suggest that we share the idea of ongoing personal revelation (as opposed to ritualized, codified morality) as a way of knowing Christ. There may be other important parallels, but this seems like a useful starting place, no?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 26, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  6. John, I’ve worked on several church farms here within the last 10 years. Although more and more of the orchards are being sold as subdivisions as the housing market squeezes out farming in the region. Why should the church have fruit orchards for little return when it could sell the land to developers for millions of dollars? A few million dollars buys a lot of pears…

    However the canning program and the like are still going great guns here in Utah.

    I’d also caution about the law of adoption. I don’t agree with RT in the least that we don’t follow it any more. Rather, we only follow it with respect to mortal adoptions. But the grafting of adoption seems primarily to necessitate knowledge that we don’t have right now and that likely can’t be had convincingly until the Millennium.

    Comment by Clark — September 26, 2005 @ 6:02 pm

  7. Don,
    You were a YOUNG couple when the Seattle temple was being built? Are you sure?
    RT and everyone,
    I like to think (not that you disagree or agree) that many of those old things were weeded out and in some ways the church is more refined without all the weird things like the Adam-God doctrine, etc.
    Maybe with all the people the church continues to employ they’ll get rid of visitor center sisters.

    Comment by Bret — September 26, 2005 @ 6:21 pm

  8. Don, did you know my family back in the day?

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 26, 2005 @ 6:26 pm

  9. this seems like a useful starting place, no?

    I agree, RT. And in fact, we may eventually learn that revelation and authority are basically the whole story.

    I mean the primitive church was changing all the time too (think of the revelation Peter received about preaching to the gentiles for example). I think that the rock Jesus talked to Peter about really was the rock of current revelation (at every level of the church). That is the rock upon which the true is always founded in all ages.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 26, 2005 @ 7:48 pm

  10. Geoff, there’s an interesting element of tension between your two proposed constitutive elements of the true church. Authority in human hands tends toward bureaucratization and sometimes authoritarianism; personal revelation in human hands tends toward anarchy. Early LDS history shows experience of both of these extremes; recent LDS experience tends much more strongly, I think, in the bureaucratic direction. But in mortal experience, these two principles are not always in harmony. Perhaps this could best be described as an opportunity for creative and constructive disharmony, as each principle works to undermine the negatives of the other?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — September 26, 2005 @ 8:37 pm

  11. RT,

    I agree — tensions can and do arise. And you are right that culturally we are in the midst of a period where bureaucracy/authority is sometimes overpowering/drowning personal revelation. I think it is high time the trend started reversing, personally. I believe that over reliance on authority (and neglect of personal revelation) has led to spiritual and revelatory atrophy among many of the saints.

    I think this disharmony that occasionally arises between the two as you describe is what drives many of the best posts and discussions in the bloggernacle.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 26, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

  12. J.
    Who were your parents that I should know them? Where did they live and when?

    Considering all the changes that have taken place, it would be interesting to speculate on what will take place in the near future.

    How about LDS acadamy schools to protect our youth and educate them with like minded peers?

    Or expanding the PEF to include all members?

    Or ??

    Comment by don — September 27, 2005 @ 2:15 am

  13. Ron and Julie. They lived in Bellevue from 69 to 89. They were pretty involved in with the Temple.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 27, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

  14. J., I was gone by ’68, and Bellevue was and is the upper crust area, I lived in “Rat City” – White Center (West Seattle area….slums)

    Comment by don — September 27, 2005 @ 12:51 pm

  15. I remember it all so well. Thanks.

    Comment by Andy — September 29, 2005 @ 2:40 am

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