A Spokane , Washington , newspaper reported on May
7, 1928 ,
the visit of Presiding Patriarch Hyrum C. Smith. The title of the article was
"SAINTS PUT LID ON WHISKERS: Presiding Patriarch Smith Tells that Joseph
Used Razor.' In the body of the article, it quoted the Presiding Patriarch as
saying, "Somehow or other when people hear the title "patriarch"
they expect to meet an old man with white hair and long, white whiskers....
They also connect white beards with the term 'disciple.' That, however, is not
the way I read the Scripture. I do not
believe the disciples selected by Jesus were either old or had whiskers. In fact, the Bible records that Joseph
shaved, and that Mark was a mere youth.
None of the disciples were more than forty years old.... I was ordained
patriarch 16 years ago. At that time it
was suggested that, to lend dignity to the office, I let my beard grow. I replied that I would follow the teachings
of Joseph-and shave." The reporter went on to comment that the Presiding
Patriarch, with hisshaven face, "has more the
appearance of a young business man than a church dignitary."
Hyrum G. Smith was my
grandfather. I presently have a beard
and refer to Hyrum C. Smith's grandfather, John Smith, for a precedent. I follow the teachings of Brigham, John, Heber
(including several with that name)-and don't shave. What greater illustration of how
inconsequential it is one way or the other. E. Gary Smit
Costa Mesa , California
recent article on dating the birth of Christ (SUNSTONE, 9:1) was a useful
collection of information on this well-worn subject, but there were a couple of
things missing. First, he failed to
point out that it is clear from 3 Nephi 2:6-7 that Mormon meant the 600 years
from Lehi's departure from Jerusalem until the birth of Christ quite
literally and not approximately. Now
whether the Nephite calendar was precise through all
its thousand years of duration, or whether Mormon was correct (in view of the
frequent disclaimers of infallibility) we cannot say. We can only state positively that Mormon
claims it was exactly 600 years from the departure until the sign of the birth
of Christ was given.
This prompts me to some speculation
on the Nephite calendar. I have always assumed, as I suppose most
people have, that they simply utilized the Jewish lunar calendar with its
present modifications to keep it in step with the solar year. But what if they used a straight lunar
calendar, letting the months cycle around the solar
year the way the Moslem calendar still does? That would make six hundred years
too few, rather than too many. Even with
months of 30 days each it would add up to 3,150 days in 600 years, or nearly 9
years! That is enough and to spare, even if we want to date the birth of Christ
at 4 B.C. Sometimes it pays to examine our assumptions! Kathleen R. Snow
In discussing the matter of grace,
Donald Olsen has presented an insightful, if flawed, examination of the
historical Christian view of God's relation to a corrupt humanity. While exhaustively examining the selective
scriptural basis for claiming that Christ's grace is sufficient to salvation,
Olsen nevertheless fails to provide any reason why anyone-whether churched or
secular-should believe that, relatively, human virtue is insignificant to God.
Olsen tells us that grace is related
to the claimed corruption of the human soul.
Without any discussion of what is entailed by this corruption (or even
what it consists of), we can only conclude that we have been presented with a
curiosity of language, a tautological truth: of course, if we are corrupted by
Adam's fall, by which our natures are depraved, we may need some assistance to
jump over a hidden abyss. But Olsen asks
us to treat as psychological fact that people are innately corrupt because
parts of scripture say so. This is just
The uneasiness with legalisms -- the
hollow formalities that Olsen should reject but does not clearly identify as
such, instead confusing "works" with the Pharisaical-enjoys a rich history of
abhorrence in the Christian ethos. disposition But
the efforts of Sister Teresa, or Albert Schweitzer, or the unnumbered saints
who labor to improve the human condition have not been shown by Olsen's
analysis to have been anything but thoroughly moral and genuinely
efficacious. Instead of rejecting the
hollow formalisms and ritual that many Mormons confuse with the religious
attitude, Olsen only treats us to a well-worn, but now fashionable, recitation
of the outline of the doctrine of grace, leaving the reader without any reason
to adopt this view.
The only difference, in action or
motivation, between Jesus' sacrifice and the actions of the best among us,
acting in the care of the weak and afflicted, is a matter of scope. The World War II concentration camp doctor who decided to accompany his infant charges to the
gas chambers, carrying two in his arms, rather than experiment on other
children, differs only from Christ's sacrifice and love because the
circumstances of that mortal doctor did not permit him any greater sacrifice
for innocence than he did. The doctor's
love and refusal to harm others is praiseworthy and certainly no "dirty
linen" to God.
The grace of Jesus Christ,
understood within the context of Mormonism's insistence upon the inviolate,
uncreated, and eternal status of the individual soul, might be properly
understood as the love and compassion of Jesus for his brothers and
sisters. Christ's sacrifice was chosen
out of respect for the intrinsic worth of each person, and was offered as a simile
of our moral obligation to clothe the naked, feed the starving, care for the
afflicted, and comfort the dying. The
Savior's act thus indicated a belief that human efforts might have genuine
effect in the service of God and humanity.
Judgment implies, if not requires,
that choice is the central issue. If
choice is made hollow by unearned grace, then how can God insist on the
judgment? Jesus wept over the children in the Book of Mormon [3 Ne. 17:14 -25] because of their innocence and
goodness, not their corruption, and because of the greatness that humanity is
capable of achieving, but so seldom does.
When thinking of the woman who cradled the frightened child, whom she
was unable to free from the path of an oncoming train, facing her death in
order not to leave a soul alone in fear, it is hard to imagine how such care
and compassion was not the result of a free and good soul, uncorrupted and not
in need of grace.
Now, perhaps Olsen is discouraged by
the experience of the twentieth century.
But just at the moment when we need the encouragement accompanying the
belief that we are not unavoidably tied to misery and degradation, Olsen and
his scriptures only offer us the nihilism and hopelessness that attend the
theology of grace. The love of Christ,
and the efforts and achievements of the genuine saints among us, require us to
believe that grace is as unrelated to the improvement of the human condition as
it is out of place in the Mormon metaphysic. Mark S. Gustavso
Salt Lake City , Utah
HATH ITS RANKLINGS
Okay, so they turned my picture to
the wall, they cut off my buttons, they broke my sword, and then they delivered
me unto the buffetings of Satan for a thousand years.
Why? And who are "they"?
Well, "they" are a multitude of secret societies to which Mormon
footnote freaks belong. They say if
three Mormons meet, they hold a meeting.
If four meet, they form an organization.
We're not supposed to have secret societies, but we've got ' em by the dozen.
How do I know? Because in all
innocence I asked them for copies of their membership roster, the reason being
that as the Taylor Trust I'm publishing "The John Taylor Papers" in
two volumes, and alerting LDS historians, scholars, students, history
buffs-footnote freaks in general-of the fact by a directmail
campaign. And I've been told in no
uncertain terms that the roster can't be had.
I say in all innocence, because
while I don't belong to any organization of footnote freaks, I do belong to the
professional author's union, the Writers Guild of America, and to the
California Writers Club, where information about membership isn't secret. The California Writers, in fact, publish a
yearly roster, sent to every member, and if as a result I get nefarious junk
mail, who cares?
Also, I was following counsel by our
inspired leadership at Salt Lake , who exhort us to follow their
leadership, do as they do. Well do I
remember a full-color poop sheet of four pages which as a home teacher I
received copies with instructions to deliver to my families, and also give the
sales pitch. The pitch was for a book by
a General Authority, and we were exhorted to urge everyone, Mormon, Jew, or
Gentile, to buy this book, for it should be in every possible home.
In studying the fine print, I saw no
suggestion that royalties would be donated to the Church. Nor was there any explanation regarding who
stood the cost of publication of sufficient copies to supply every home teacher
in the United States . (I don't have information about
the rest of the world.)
Well, the General Authority didn't
have his picture turned to the wall, his buttons cut off, his sword broken, nor
was he consigned to the buffetings of Satan.
But I know why not. While in
basic training in the World War II Army, I asked, "Why should I buck for
promotion?" And the officer in charge of indoctrination said, "Rank
hath its privilege." Samuel W. Taylor
Redwood City , California
It completely baffles me how writers
of letters to SUNSTONE can take pages to ponder simple concepts. E. K. Hunt's conclusion (vol. 8, no. 6, p. 5)
that "either men, women, and children were killed by Mormons or they
weren't" and that "either Juanita Brooks in her classic account of
the massacre is fundamentally misinformed and/or misrepresenting the facts or
my seminary teacher and the Mormon history he showed me were misinformed and/or
misrepresenting the facts" should indicate to him that somewhere in all
that there ought to be a message.
When one considers that practically
every facet of Mormon literature (such as the Millennial Star, Ensign,
histories of the Church, etc.) is crammed with attempts to justify or cover up
the eccentricities of the Church and its history, he should not be too
surprised to find out that, indeed, all is NOT well in Zion .
A study of even the Haun's Mill (supposed)
massacre will show that it, too, is nothing more than Mormon-leader
fabrication, based almost entirely on the obviously false testimony of Joseph
Even Juanita Brooks is proved guilty
of omitting the Church- leader-damning FORGED LETTERS (supposedly by Eleanor
McLean, Pratt's twelfth wife, and others) found in the appendix of Reva Stanley's The Archer of Paradise, a biography of
Parley P. Pratt by his great, great granddaughter. The letters appeared in the Deseret News just prior to the arrival of the ill-fated Arkansas train. That a scholar of the ability of Juanita
Brooks would overlook such essential evidence as these letters appears highly
suspect of either literary cowardice on her part or pressure upon her by Church
leaders, none of which is honest. Since
no one besides McClean himself was present at Pratt's
murder, the letters show the warped premeditation of Brigham Young in
condemning the rich wagon train from Arkansas to death as vengeance for Pratt's
death by a man from California . The Church never has and never can supply a
suitable justification for this atrocity; and its very existence dooms the
Church to acknowledge that its leaders wre murderers
and, hence, that the Church is founded upon falsity. (If you fail to print this
letter, you acknowledge, also, that you are as guilty as Brooks of omission of
J. Clair Batty's
puzzle over the need for the Atonement (same issue, p. 11) would be solved if
he would refer to the second article of faith which states, "We believe that
men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's
It appears that the Mormon god DOES
NOT practice what the Mormon leaders preach.
But then the third article of faith
confuses the matter further, stating that "all mankind may be saved by
obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel." It seems that Christ
went through all that suffering to have ONLY THOSE SAVED who were
obedient. Batty is not the only one who
seems confused. Grant N. Mildenhal
Moyne Oviatt's article in (SUNSTONE, Vol. 9 no. 1) was of
particular interest to me, not only because of its thrust regarding the value
of contemplation and heeding the inner light but also because some of my
ancestors were Quakers. Because of my
ancestry, I am surely not alone among Mormons in this interest. Both President Grant and President Kimball
had Quaker ancestors. American history
shows that the Quakers have made a contribution which is all out of proportion
to their numbers. Their role in the
antislavery movement, for example, was seminal and courageous. (Some of my
Quaker relatives were active in this movement long before it became safe or
popular.) Quakers also had a major hand in many reforms (social, economic, and
political) which have made America what it is. For instance, they promoted the "one
price system" whereby all customers were charged the same thing (in
preference to the old system of haggling where the strong or belligerent
usually prevailed). The impetus for this reform was motiated
by the radical-at-the-time notion that people should have equal opportunity
even if (or perhaps especially if) they are not inherently equal, i.e., equally
endowed. Quakers have been pioneer
reformers in connection with treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill. Their witness against war and oppression is
well known. Many of the activities
discussed here are described and evaluated in more detail in Gerald Jonas'
excellent book On Doing Good. His
treatment of the Quakers' dealings with American Indians is especially
interesting in that their approach was so similar to that of Mormonism.
In spite of my admiration for the
Quaker way I would like to point out a few areas where it seems to me less
practical and efficacious than the Mormon way.
First, style of meetings: I have been to only two Quaker meetings in my
life-one was the silent type and the other a sort of
testimony meeting. I must say that I
enjoyed the latter much more than the former.
Could I not learn to like the silent type of meeting? Probably
not. My feeling is that we learn
from others to the degree that they share their thoughts and feelings with
us. We can gain something from partaking
of fellow worshippers' spirits in silence-but not as much. We can certainly not be uplifted by silence
as effectively as we can by the singing of hymns. To rule out music (as in some Quaker
meetings) is to rule out one of the most uplifting and wholesome influences of
all. The testimony meeting I attended
was pretty much like a Mormon testimony meeting. It was inspiring because the people were
themselves, and they spoke from the heart. There were also hymns.
Perhaps it will be claimed that
sermons and hymns are crutches that strong, inwardly directed people do not (or
should not) need. Perhaps so, but this
is an elitist argument which begs the question of what sort of worship service
is best suited to the mass of humanity.
God's church should, logically, appeal to more than just the strong and
the inwardly directed.
Paul said he sought to be all things
to all men. Maybe this is impossible,
but it seems worth trying to have something in every worship service that
appeals to everyone. In our Mormon
sacrament meetings we have talks (few are really sermons), hymn singing , musical
numbers, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. special By having the sacrament every week, we
provide a time for contemplation that should be of high quality even if it is
not a long time. Members are supposed to
think of the Savior and what He has done for them. They are also supposed to have a "broken
heart and contrite spirit" in recognition of their sins and
shortcomings. This is in effect a chance
to repent and start over. Every Sunday
can be a new beginning thanks to the ordinance of the sacrament. What a blessing!
Because they deny the need for all
ordinances, the Quakers deny themselves the blessings that come from
ordinances. We are told quite plainly in
D&C 84:19-21: "And this greater priesthood administereth
the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of
the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the
power of godliness is manifest. And
without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power
of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh."
In reality, of course, the Quakers
are no worse off than other Christians in that they all "have a form of
godliness but they deny the power thereof." So, whether ordinances are
practiced or not, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men without the
priesthood. The point is that Mormons
are tremendously blessed to have the priesthood and its ordinances. No amount of contemplation and soul-searching
by Quakers, Hindus, or anyone else can make up for the basic deficiency from
which all of these man-made religious organizations suffer. Hence, the Quaker way may teach us the value
of contemplation and the inner light, but we can go a lot further with the
priesthood and its ordinances (and especially with the gift of the Holy Ghost)
than they (or other Christians, Hindus, etc.) can go without the priesthood or
proper ordinances and with only the Spirit or Light of Christ to enlighten
them. This is not to denigrate the
Spirit or Light of Christ but merely to recognize that it is culturally
conditioned ( asits individual manifestation as a
conscience must be) and is therefore not the undeviating and sure Spirit of
Truth which the Holy Ghost is. (See John 16:13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21.)
Although not treated in Ms. Oviatt's fine article,
I feel another aspect of the Quaker way is in error. While I both admire and deplore the Quaker
stand on war and self-defense, I deplore it more than I admire it. I respect the Quakers for their radical stand
against war as a means of settling national differences because I hate war
almost as much as they do. However, I
say "almost" because I believe that defensive war is justified by
The Book of Mormon makes this
abundantly clear. There is perhaps no
book on the face of the earth which sets forth in greater clarity the
circumstances which do and do not justify war (unless it might be D&C 98).
The Book of Mormon does this not in abstract theory but in terms of real life
dilemmas and tribulations. We are told
how Ammon's Lamanite
converts foreswore hatred and war because of the great harm it had done them in
the past. However, when their
protectors, the Nephites, were about to be overrun by
unconverted Lamanites and apostate Nephites the Ammonites were tempted to take up arms again
in defense of their liberty. They were
prevented from doing this only by the solemnity of their oaths and by the fact
that 2,000 of their sons who had not taken the oath were mustered to battle. In otherwords,
defensive war is justified by God. The
converted Lamanite parents were a special case of
"conscientious objection" because of their oath.
While it is tempting to argue that a
radical witness against war is needed to show the world how foolish war
is-especially when the radical witnesses are themselves made to suffer because
of their witness (as during the Civil War)-there is also the argument of equity
or fairness to consider. Is it fair for
one person to have to go to war and perhaps be killed in defense of his country
while another person escapes this fate because he is a certified
"conscientious objector"? The basic unfairness of this position has
been recognized by one Ben Seaver, quoted in Gerald
Jonas' On Doing Good: "We have intellectually condemned conscription as a
fundamentally evil system contrary to basic human rights. But when it became law we somehow
accommodated ourselves to it provided it allowed us an out.... We accepted
things which, when you examine them, turned out to be unbelievable: That we
should accept the right of the government not only to define religion, which
seems to be forbidden in the First Amendment, but also hat we should allow the
government to decide that only those who met this definition had a conscience
that was worth considering; that others didn't have a conscience." (P.
142.) In other words, acceptance of conscientious objector status condones
conscription and the nation's right to wage war, to defer some persons if they
meet a certain religious standard, and relegate all other men to the war
effort. Is this not preferential
treatment of a religious minority on the very grounds which they themselves
My third great grandfather, John
Sellers, was a practicing Quaker until the Revolutionary War came along. Because he participated in the war effort
rather than maintaining strict neutrality (he printed the Continental money),
he was "read out of meeting" or excommunicated. Did he do right or did he do wrong? I'm
convinced that he did right, not only because I believe the colonials had a
just cause, but because I believe in self-defense. (We know from D&C
101:79-80 that God "redeemed the land by the shed-ding of blood.")
Quakers benefitted from the defense provided by their
neighbors (and they still do). In my view it is more honorable to participate
in the defense of one's liberty than to stand aside as a neutral-providing only
that the cause is just. Even if the
cause is not clearly just (as in the case of the Vietnam War) we are still
obliged by our twelfth article of faith to be found "obeying, honoring,
and sustaining the law." Peace is devoutly to be desired, but not at the
price of freedom. Charles L. Seller
Knoxville , Tennessee
Having recently joined the SSMT
(Society for the Study of Mormon Theology) in response to their newsletter
distributed at the recent Sunstone Symposium, I am pleased to note an impetus
which is shared by all modern publications of the Dialogue-SUNSTONE ilk: the
notion that rigorous self-criticism is healthy-healthy for the Church as well
as each member.
Criticism is healthy for the Church,
despite its exclusivist truth claims, because those claims need objective
investigation not only to ascertain (1) historic proof of their existence, but
(2) analytical definition of their nature and scope, as well as (3) their
changes throughout history. ("Iron Rods" won't like the third
category, thinking it an atheistic concession to God's inability to
"control" history without change in derogation of God's, omnipotence,
but "Iron Rods," frankly, look for personal security more than they
look for truth; if they come to realize that God is as much a victim of time's
vicissitudes as is man, they would value their individual
freedom/responsibility rather than sacrificing it at the altar of "God's
unchanging plan for their lives.")
Criticism is healthy for each member
because it keeps him/her "honest." Personal growth occurs for those
venturing to "risk" their testimonies against real information in a
real world. A testimony is no better
than the information (true or false) upon which it is founded. Knowledge is fundamental, but only critical
knowledge -- knowledge tested (for truth) by hypothetical (or actual) adversariness, i.e. doubt.
Hardly a wonder, then, that there needs be "opposition" in all
things. Opposition criticism, doubt, and
the determination to know through it all are the criteria separating a
"good" testimony from a lazy one.
The sweetness of knowing without
restriction, in the full and honest light of rigorous self-criticism (regarding
all one's sources of knowledge) is the sweetness (perceived truth) powering the
venture to know. It is the hope that
religious dialogue (more "opposition" in a pluralist society) will
ultimately demonstrate Mormon truth claims to be vindicated among non-Mormon
"adversaries" (rendering them converts) as well as demonstrate our
individual half-perceptions and fuzzy ideas in mutual refinement of the exact
nature of those truth claims.
J. S. Mill said it best: "But
the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is,
that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing
generation; those who dissent from that opinion, still more than those who hold
it. If the opinion is right, they are
deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose,
what is almost as great a benefit [indeed, it's the same thing!], the clearer
perception and livelier impression [testimony!] of truth, produced by its
collision [opposition!] with error" ("Of Thought and Discussion"
in On Liberty, p. 18, emphasis added.)
A cheer for
Dialogue-SUNSTONE and their ilk, which are producing better
"testimonies" (perhaps for both Mormons and anti-Mormons, both of
whom will be held responsible for their opinions).
Is there room for creative
theological "formulation" (not merely "clarification") from
the unwashed multitude in the face of the Church's exclusive claim that direct
revelation goes specifically to the living prophet and no one else? Yes. Mere members can be, and often were for
Joseph Smith, the source of his prophetic inquiries of the Lord, inquiries
resulting in direct revelation to Joseph.
Does that mean that the
"idea" for that revelation was first "revealed" to the
member before it was to Joseph? No.
Truth, like commonsense, knows no official channel. Ideas are everyone's property. If the prophet or Lord chooses to
"sanctify" an idea by divine revelation, so be it. Members are still inherently free to
speculate and think for themselves.
Any conflicts which inevitably
develop between member speculations and the prophet's revelations are properly
manageable without resort to suppression.
Many a truth has ridden into history on the back of an error. Keeping a stable full of such errors may be
intelligent even for a prophet. The
First Amendment precludes suppression of error, so the stable will always be
Criticism of ideas in the common
search for truth is the prerogative of member and prophet. Neither should think itself infallible
(beyond criticism). Neither should be personally offended by the inevitability
of free speech, which is the necessary adjunct to free thought. And free thought (with its honestly
self-critical element) is the basis for one's testimony of truth. Gerry L.
Los Alamitos , California
I am so grateful for the SUNSTONE
which arrived yesterday. I read most of
it before laying it down.
"How General the
Authority?" by Cole R. Capener (vol. 9 no. 2)
deserves some response. "Individual Conscience and Defacto
Infallibility" reminds me that "truth though buried shall rise
Great Guide Book" by Rev. P.
S. Henson, I read these statements: "In the absence of any higher
authority man is bound to obey his conscience, even though he have reason to
believe that he cannot trust it. And
that conscience is anything but infallible is only too palpably proved by the
contradictory judgments it has registered in different lands and ages, touching
almost every moral question.
"One is bound to follow his
conscience whether right or wrong, and yet if the conscience be wrong the act
is not made right because it was performed conscientiously.
"But God in great mercy has
provided an infallible standard by which to rectify our private judgments, and
if we fail to make the rectification, then the failure is at our peril.
"That standard is his holy Word
-- which is the standard for all men and for all time, for the nineteenth
century no less than the first, for the world has not outgrown it and never
will while the ages roll.
I cannot understand why Mormon
leaders and interpreters refuse to acknowledge these facts, and insist on
conformity to their confusing conclusions! Rhoda Thurston
Hyde Park , Utah
One of the most challenging articles
in the recent SUNSTONE is "Understanding the Scope of the Grace of
Christ" by Donald P. Olsen (vol. 9 no. 2). The truth from MY standpoint is
that I had come to that the term grace is regarded by the Mormon church as a
feel Other churches speak of the
grace of God, and there is, of course, that awful hymn: "Amazing
Grace," but I never before recall hearing about "grace" from a
Mormon pulpit. I must confess I do not
understand the complexities of the subject.
After reading the aforementioned article I still don't understand the
principle. If one's good works do not
count toward one's salvation does it mean , I wonder,
that God has a favorite people He chooses to save? Didn't the Calvinist
Pilgrims believe only a minute fraction of God's children could be saved and
that not by virtue of personal works? I've always found this theory impossible
I recently viewed a KBYU-TV
devotional assembly where Bruce R. McConkie spoke on
Jehovah as opposed to Elohim. After viewing this and after reading
"Jehovah as the Father," I've been asking myself if it is necessary
to have an understanding of all these things? My own
viewpoint is admittedly over-simplified, but it seems to me that the gospel of
Jesus Christ was the most simple of doctrines and was preached to the most
simple of people. Does God require that
we be so totally nitpicky in our attempts to understand His simple gospel?
It is perhaps important to explain
here that I'm an INACTIVE Mormon. I think it is this very nitpicky style
amongst SOME Mormons that persuaded me to be inactive.
The article which really
discombobulated me in this issue was "Are Children Almost Too Much to
Bear" by James Tunstead Burchaell,
who is as I gather a Roman Catholic professor of theology. In the index to articles a footnote appears
with this title: "Nurture is natural only in virtuous human beings."
I, for one, would like to challenge that statement. I don't think "virtue" as such has
anything to do with nurture, or one's capability and ability to nurture. As "virtuous" individuals we like
to think we have an edge on such human qualities as the ability and
responsibility to nurture, but it doesn't always follow. Childhood teachings and indoctrinations are
important in determining what patterns one will follow in life. As a child and young woman, I was psychologized into believing that what I wanted above all
was to be the mother of a large family.
It was important to me, therefore, that I should marry a
"good" Mormon and prepare to fill this, the ONLY female function as I
saw it. In doing so I made worst possible choice of a mate
(but that's another story). As I was lying on the birthing table for the fifth
(?) time, I had a sort of minor revelation as my mind said to me: "This is
an awfully stupid occupation for th You to be involved
in. You don't even like children!" (Or words to this general effect.) In all my searchings of the gospel and in all my psychologizings
I'd never once gained enough self-knowledge to know that I don't like
children. All in all, although I think I
can classify myself as a "virtuous" woman, the sad fact remains that
I do NOT like to be with children and I'm NOT a natural nurturer. Oh, I loved my children. All of them were wanted, and I think I did a
passable job in rearing them. I'm
prepared to make great sacrifices to HELP, but I can't stand to be around
children as such. Much of the
indoctrination in the Church fails to take into account the fact that what
might be "heaven" for one individual would be nothing but hell for
I read the comments of Father Burtchaell and have to agree, IN THEORY, with most of his
statements, especially on infanticide. I
disagree with the author's quote from Dr.
Germaine Greer AFTER her journey to the East as a
guest of the Family Planning Association of India. Well, I've never been to India or any other so-called
overpopulated country. But I have read
and viewed on TV accounts of cultures where women's lives are given over to
continual childbearing and where the mortality rate for infants is tragically
high because there isn't enough food, or money, or means to provide the
necessary medical care, or where unsanitary conditions contribute to the
overall climate of disease. I think its
plain to see there is a problem with overpopulation and also with starvation in
various parts of the world.
I've always been thankful I wasn't
called upon to bear a retarded child. To
a woman such as myself, even "normal"
children are, as the author somewhat sarcastically suggests, "almost too
much to bear." I dread to think how I would have reacted to the
responsibility of caring for a retarded child.
Although I believe it is better to
prevent an unwanted conception that to abort a fetus, had I been advised that
the fetus I was carrying would be hopelessly deformed or retarded, I would have
been very seriously tempted to abort.
It is relatively easy to teach
others concerning the sin of aborting "defective" fetuses or to pass
laws to save the lives of such children.
The difficult part is in knowing that one has the RESPONSIBILITY to care
for that child all the days of one's life.
Too, I must always worry about what will happen to this child: WHO Will
care for him; who Will DEFEND him (from cruelty) when they're no longer around to
do these things.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Words of
Wisdom" by James N. Kimball, who must be a relative of the late J. Golden
I read with appreciation the article
"How General the Authority" by Cole R. Capener. This is an article which has personal
application to my own life and attitudes concerning the Church. I feel I can personally endorse it.
I got a few chuckles out of
"The Language of Niceness" by Emma Rebecca Thomas. Those of us who have lived all our lives
"in the Church" tend to forget the narrowness of some of our requirements
our language. I was always embarrassed
to refer too often to the name of "Jesus," even though my
pronunciation lacked the Southern drawl of the newly converted black woman to
whom the author refers. And often I have
been careless in my references to the "Holy Spirit," often using the
term interchangeably with the "Holy Ghost." I do understand that
Mormons see the "Holy Ghost" as the third personage in the
Godhead. I have always assumed that
"He" delegates his responsibilities to some extent. Also I think of a special spirit of
inspiration one sometimes receives as being a manifestation of the "Holy
Spirit." Again, I fear I fall very short in the matter of theological
As I recall, I agreed with
"Social Responsibility and LDS Ethics" (Courtney Campbell) at the
time I read it.
Provo , Utah
SPEAKING WITH AUTHORITY
The Theological Influence of Elder
Bruce R. McConkie
David John Buerger
Several years ago, a prominent LDS
religious educator and I were discussing the intellectual history of
Mormonism. We both agreed on the
theological prominence of B. H. Roberts and Orson Pratt, after which he
remarked: "Ask any ten Mormons on the street who is the Church's leading
scholar today, and most-if not all-will say it's Bruce R. McConkie."
I had to admit he was right. Elder McConkie has unquestionably been an influential spokesman
for Mormonism during his thirty-eight year tenure as a General Authority. I recall with great interest the fact that as
I was investigating the Church in the spring of 1973, Elder McConkie's
book Mormon Doctrine, was the first LDS publication I
purchased after the scriptures. It came
highly recommended by my peers.
McConkie was born 29 July
1915 in Ann Arbor , Michigan .
He served in the Eastern States Mission during 1934-36, then returned to
marry Amelia Smith, the daughter of President Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., in
1937. Elder McConkie graduated from the University of Utah in 1937 with a bachelor
of arts degree, and in 1939 received a bachelor of laws degree. His professional career
-included work as a U.S. Army security and intelligence officer, newspaper
editorial writer, public official, and attorney. On 6 October 1946 he was sustained a member of the
First Council of Seventy. During 1961-64
Elder McConkie served as President of South Australian Mission. the He was sustained a member of the Council of
the Twelve on 12 October 1972 .
Out of the seventy-four general
conferences held since Elder McConkie's call as a
General Authority in October 1946, he has delivered a total of sixty-nine
general conference sermons. With few
exceptions, these sermons have dealt primarily with basic gospel themes (see
figure 1). The three most commonly
FIGURE 1: BRUCE R. MCCONKIE'S GENERAL
CONFERENCE SERMON THEMES
Smith Story/Restoration 15
Ghost/Testimony/Revelation 8 11.6
Potpourri 7 10.1
LDS Church True 6 8.7
Chastity/Marriage 4 5.8
Foreordination/Election 1 1.5
Justification 1 1.5
Sacrifice/Consecration 1 1.5
1.5 include the
Restoration, Atonement, and the Holy Ghost's role in testimony and personal
revelation. Elder McConkie
has deviated only twice in giving talks on more narrowly defined subjects:
These were sermons on the law of justification and on the doctrine of
foreordination and election. During the
first twenty-five years of his service as a General Authority, Elder McConkie's main topical concern was Joseph Smith's first
vision and the restoration of the true church of God .
Since the early 1970s, however,
Elder McConkie's talks have often been multifaceted
in nature, covering several basic subjects within the same sermon. His preoccupation with the Restoration during
the 1960s was probably due to his perception that members of the First Council
of Seventy should speak only on missionary-related topics. On the other hand, his calling as an Apostle
in the early 70s might have been the catalyst to develop broader topics.
Nonetheless, it is clear that it has
not been the particular topics Elder McConkie has
chosen to address in his conference speeches, nor the breadth of subject
matter, nor the originality of interpretation which has earned him his
reputation. instead, the Apostle's impressive
influence stems, I believe, from (1) his sources of doctrinal influence, (2)
his position as an Apostle, and (3) his authoritative tone. SOURCES OF
notable doctrinal eminence is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in his many
published works. Clearly the most
significant of Elder McConkie's books-at least for
the purposes of this essay-is his popular encyclopedia of LDS theology, Mormon
Doctrine, first published in 1958 and recently rated among the ten best sellers
by General Authorities in the history of the Church. Rare is the sacrament meeting talk or gospel
discussion or lesson without some quote from its two-thousand-plus
entries. Mormon Doctrine is not an
interpretive study of those concepts which form the basis of LDS beliefs. Rather, it is a listing of any and all
concepts, topics, or issues considered germane by its author. Accessibility is its hallmark. Most of its entries are quite terse; only a
few receive extended attention. The four
longest articles are Signs of the Times, Second Coming, Millennium, and
Evolution. Interestingly, many of the
articles do not actually discuss doctrine, but deal with historical or biograhical topics.
In spite of its stature among Church
members, this book was neither commissioned nor endorsed by the Church. Even its author does not claim that his is
the official position on any given subject.
Indeed, in 1960, the First Presidency commented that Mormon Doctrine
"had been a source of concern to the Brethren ever since it was
published," and "is full of errors and
misstatements." They concluded, for a time at least, that the book should
"not be republished even in a corrected form"-to do so "would be
embarrassing to [Elder McConkie] and lessen his
influence with the members of the Church." (David O.
McKay Office Journal, 7, 8, 27, 28 Jan. 1960: Marion G. Romney to David O.
McKay, 28 Jan. 1959.) Of particular concern was the assertion that the
Roman Catholic Church was the "Church of the Devil" (pp. 108, 129).
Other volatile articles on Catholicism, including Indulgences, Mariolotry, Penance, Supererogation, and
Tran-substantiation, were removed in his 1966 revised edition. Nevertheless, over eighty percen
of the changes in this second edition involved cosmetic modifications which
changed the tone but ultimately not the meaning of the book's content.
Such official opposition
notwithstanding, the perception persists that Elder McConkie's
Mormon Doctrine offers the definitive, even quasi-official stance on all
doctrinal matters. The information in
figure 2 may explain why. Almost half of
the book's quotes belong to the Prophet Joseph Smith, representing
approximately 33% of the total nonscriptural text
cited in the book. The runner up was
Elder McConkie's father-in-law, Joseph Fielding
Smith. However, while
Elder McConkie's references to Joseph Fielding
Smith's books constituted about 29% of all nonscriptural
references, actual citations from President Smith's books only comprised about
60% of the total lines cited in Mormon Doctrine. About 15% of the book's cited text came from
Joseph F. Smith's Gospel Doctrine; almost 10% came from the Lectures on
Faith. Clearly, most Mormons would
consider these sources to be authoritative.
FIGURE 2: AUTHOR REFERENCES IN
AUTHOR BOOK NO. OF REF.
Smith Teachings 215
Fielding Smith TOTAL 178
Origin and Destiny 20
Gospel Questions 1
in Church History 1
of All Things 1
Signs of the
F. Smith Gospel Doctrine 39
Smith, et. al. History
of the Church 27
Smith, et. al. Lectures
on Faith 22
E. Talmage TOTAL
G.A. Sermons 14
Catholic Citations 13
Taylor TOTAL 12
Hunter TOTAL 9
Disc. of Wilford Woodruff 7
Commentaries (several) 7
D. Richards Compendium 4
Disc. of Brigham Young 4
Roberts Outlines of Eccl.
F. Whitney Saturday Night Thoughts
P. Pratt Voice of Warning 3
Reynolds Are We of Israel 2
Q. Cannon Life of Joseph Smith 2
Estimate 63,000 lines/375,000 words
In Mormon Doctrine.
Following the appearance of Mormon
Doctrine, Elder McConkie's next major publication was
volume one of his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary in 1965 (hereafter DNTC
I). This work, combined with the remaining two volumes of the series,
essentially offers a line-by-line doctrinal interpretation of the entire New
Testament. Because a good majority of
the book's text consists of lengthy quotations from scriptures and other authors,
it is helpful to consider the authorities upon whom Elder McConkie
relies to defend his assertion. Out of
287 nonscriptural citations, it turns out that Elder McConkie's most oft-quoted source is himself. Approximately 37% of the citations are drawn
from Elder McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, 26% from
Joseph Smith, 16% from James E. Talmage's books (many
of which are quotes from biblical scholars cited by Elder Talmage),
80% from Dummelow's Bible commentary, with the
balance representing about a dozen other authors. All of Elder McConkie's
quotations of himself come from Mormon Doctrin. The next two volumes of his commentary reveal
an even more interesting trend. As shown
in figure 3, over 71% of the third volume's references are to Elder McConkie's own publications. Of this 71% figure, 21% of the references are
taken from Mormon Doctrine, 11% from DNTC 1, 37% from DNTC 11, and 2% from DNTC
111. A combined cross-tabulation of all three volumes reveals 60% of the total
references come from Elder McConkie, 22% from Joseph
Smith, 4.5% from James Talmage, 3.5% from Joseph
Fielding Smith, 3.5% from Dummelow's commentary, and
the remaining 6.6% from other sources.
A similar pattern may be seen in
Elder McConkie's more recent series of books on the
life of Christ, with a couple of variations.
Figure 4 shows Elder McConkie's continued
heavy reliance upon himself as a doctrinal authority with Joseph Smith coming
in second place. Because he ventured out
of a strictly doctrinal exposition in this series, Elder McConkie
had to refer to other experts; his choice of authorities is quite
revealing. The three biblical scholars
used most frequently (even more frequently than James E. Talmage)
were Alfred Edersheim, F. W. Farrar, and Cunningham Geikie. These men,
incidentally, also served as Elder Talmage's chief
biblical authorities in his book Jesus the Christ, first published in 1915. It
is significant that all of these scholars' books were published in the late
1800s, their work (including Elder Talmage's)
predating the full impact of the biblical higher criticism. One can't help speculate whether Elder McConkie consulted more recent non-Mormon biblical scholars
or reliedexclusively on his predecessor's work.
It is interesting to note that in
Elder McConkie's last volume in the Messiah
series-The Millennial Messiah-only 34 non scriptural citations are made
throughout the book's 726 pages. Of
these, 85% are to Joseph Smith; only one reference is made to any of the
author's other books.
Other influences on Elder McConkie may be seen in his recent doctrinal
expositions. A good example is "The
Seven Deadly Heresies," a talk given on 1 June 1980 at BYU and unquestionably one of
his most controversial. The Apostle's
aim in this sermon was to correct what he perceived to be heretical thinking on
the part of some Latter-day Saints.
Specifically, Elder McConkie condemned the
following ideas: (1) that God is progressing in knowledge and learning new
truths; (2) that revealed religion and organic evolution can be harmonized; (3)
that temple marriage assures those so sealed of eventual exaltation; (4) that
the doctrine of salvation for the dead offers men a second chance for
salvation; (5) that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the
life to come; (6) that Adam is our Father and our God, the Father of our
spirits and our bodies, and that he is the one we worship; and (7) that we must
be perfect to gain salvation.
None of these points are original
with Elder McConkie; each has been discussed at some
length by previous General Authorities, most especially his father-in-law,
Joseph Fielding Smith. Some agreed with
Elder McConkie's positions, some opposed them. For example, Brigham Young's support for the
idea of God's progression in knowledge has been well documented; the origin of
Elder McConkie's dissent may be traced to President
Young's contemporary, Apostle Orson Pratt.
Elder Pratt's theological thinking also emerges in Elder McConkie's condemnation of Brigham Young's Adam-God
doctrine. While Elder McConkie's adamant denial of progression from one kingdom
to another is now usually held to be normative, none other than James E. Talmage suggested the contrary in his 1899 Mormon classic,
The Articles of Faith.
And Elder McConkie's
unequivocal condemnation of the theory of evolution has been clearly shown to
be but one of many differing beliefs held by General Authorities on the issue.
(Perhaps to counteract his sometimes extreme manner of stating positions, the
final published version of the heresies talk was substantially altered,
indicating that Elder McConkie's spoken views were
not to be understood as official statements of Church beliefs. His strong condemnation of organic evolution,
for example, was prefaced in the published version by phrases such as "I
believe," "My reasoning causes me to conclude that," and closed
with "These are questions to which all of us should find answers. Every person must choose for himself what he
will believe." [BYU Speeches of the Year, 1980, pp. 74-80.])
Another example of Elder McConkie's indebtedness to previous Mormon thinkers is his 2
BYU speech entitled "Our Relationship with the Lord." Elder McConkie's purpose was to condemn the "chief and
greatest heresy of Christendom" (i.e., Catholic and Protestant views of
God) and to correct the heretical thinking of some Latter-day Saints who had
enjoined gaining a "special relationship" with Jesus Christ. He described the Mormon view of the Godhead
with its three distinct, divine beings and concluded with his characteristic
directness: "you have been warned, and you have heard the true doctrine
taught." (BYU Fireside and Devotional Speeches, 1982,
Whatever its applicability to the
immediate audience, Elder McConkie's oration simply
reasserted the Mormon view of the nature of God which had been reconstructed
near the turn of the century. This
systematized doctrine was first clearly enunciated by Elder James E. Talmage in The Articles of Faith, later finding official
sanction in a doctrinal proclamation made by the First Presidency and the Council
of the Twelve in 1916.
The doctrinal authorities used in
these speeches as well as in Elder McConkie's books
clearly are perceived by most Latter-day Saints as proponents of mainstream
Mormon theology. This seems especially
true given that Elder McConkie's heaviest reliance is
upon Mormonism's founder, Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith's theology, however, changed a great deal during his
lifetime, starting with very conservative, Protestant-like interpretations of
the Godhead (for example, the original versions of D&C 20 or the Lectures
on Faith) and ending with very progressive, radical theological ideas seen in
his King Follett Discourse. Joseph's
theological spectrum was therefore varied, his ideas occasionally disparate.
The dialectical "thesis-antithesis"
inherent in Mormonism's founder went through a preliminary synthesis in Parley
and Orson Pratt's writings. The
interpretation of Joseph Smith's theology remained open, however, and despite
fundamental agreement on basic Mormon dogma, General Authorities sometimes
differed in their overall approach to theology.
This dialectical tension may be seen in cases such as President Brigham
Young's progressive ideas on the identity and nature of God as opposed to
Apostle Orson Pratt's more conservative understanding of the Godhead. LDS theologians James E. Talmage,
John A. Widtsoe, and B. H. Roberts later provided a
doctrinal synthesis which favored the progressive interpretation of the nature
of God and man. Some aspects of this
group's theology in turn evoked an antithetical reaction in the works of Joseph
Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. This contrast is especially pronounced in the
two schools' discussions of evolution and eternal progression. While Elder McConkie's
thological efforts agree with his predecessors on
many, perhaps most, fundamental issues, his books and especially his recent BYU
speeches clearly reveal an interpretation of Mormon doctrine reminiscent of
Christian conservatism. A HIGHER CALLING
position in the hierarchy has clearly added strength to the authority of his
opinions. When President Smith died in
1972, Bruce R. McConkie was the sole remaining
General Authority with a passion for theology.
His elevation later that year to the Council of the Twelve reflected his
growing popularity and solidified his position as doctrinal spokesman for the
Church. Both the Church population and
he himself seem to have accepted that mantle as his particular calling. In a 1980 letter to an LDS intellectual, he
remarked, "It is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine
is. It is your province to echo what I
say or to remain silent."
In addition, the apparent lack of
interest in theology among other General Authorities has magnified the
significance of Elder McConkie's work. Said he, in his 2 March 1982 speech at Brigham Young University , "It just
may be that I have preached more sermons, taught more doctrine, and written
more words about the Lord Jesus Christ than any man now living." Certainly Elder McConkie has published more theological books than any of
his associates in the quorum. Beginning
with his 856-page Mormon Doctrine, his three-volume Doctrinal New Testament
Commentary, and recent six-volume Messiah series, Elder McConkie's
books total 6,107 pages. By comparison,
this total is almost two-thirds the number of pages contained in the twenty-six
volume Journal of Discourses.
In addition, Elder McConkie's apostolic calling has extended his influence to
the scriptural arena: with Elders Thomas S. Monson and Boyd. Packer, Elder K McConkie
served on the Scriptures Publication Committee which helped to guide the recent
major revision of LDS scriptures. In
addition to correcting errors in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants,
and Pearl of Great Price, this committee produced a new topical index and
reference system for the King James Bible, including extensive use of the
Joseph Smith Translation. Significantly,
the revised Bible Dictionary included some extractions from Elder McConkie's book, Mormon Doctrine. THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY
Finally, Bruce McConkie's
influence may be due in part to the authoritative tone he employs in his
writing and preaching. A quality of
adamant certitude and acrimonious criticism is evident in even his earliest
productions. For example, in 1960, Elder
McConkie penned an attack on a polygamous offshoot
entitled, How to Start a Cult: or, Cultism as Practiced by the So-called Church
of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times-Analyzed,
Explained, and Interpreted; as also: Dissected, Divellicated,
Whacked Up, Smithereened, Mangled, and Decimated; or,
An Essay Showing Where All Good Cultists Go.
Within a few years, however, this
harshness had vanished. The tone of
Elder McConkie's writings and sermons following his
three-year mission in Australia (1961-64) is considerably
subdued. It is interesting to speculate
whether the change occurred as the result of a gentle chastening from that most
ecumenical of recent prophets, David O. McKay, or some firsthand experiences
Though today the Apostle's tone is
perhaps less acerbic, it is no less forceful.
Indeed, while he often denies official approbation for his opinions, his
tone conveys precisely the opposite. One
is left with the impression that to disagree with him is to imperil one's
eternal salvation. For example, his
conference addresses-especially since his calling as an Apostle-frequently
begin by bearing witness that "we are the servants of the Lord," and
"I say this not of myself, but in the name of the Lord, standing as his
representative, and saying what he would say if he person-ally were here."
Elder McConkie's recurring references to the
"many false and vain and foolish things [that] are being taught in the
sectarian world" of "apostate Christendom" underscore his belief
in the moral superiority of Mormon doctrine.
The Apostle believes that people espousing these errant beliefs
"have the intellect of an ant and the understanding of a clod of miry clay
in a primordial swamp." And speaking to the "intellectuals ithout strong testimonies" who
have fallen into heresy, he warns, "These, unless they repent, will live
and die weak in the faith and will fall short of inheriting what might have
been theirs in eternity."
Even taken together, however, his
theological sources, his position as an Apostle, and his authoritative tone do
not completely account for Bruce McConkie's
widespread influence. There is another
answer less tangible but likely more compelling. William James may have said it best: "In
the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us
only when our inarticulate feelings of reality have already been impressed in
favor of the same conclusion. . . . The unreasoned and immediate assurance is
the deep thing in us, the reasoned argument is but a
surface exhibition." (The Varieties of Religious
Experience, p. 73.) The need for complex theological arguments and
discussions seems to have diminished in the last few decades, especially at the
level of General Authority. There seems
to be a greater call for practical direction, strong conviction, and swift
action than the development of a systematic theology. All of these Elder McConkie has been able to provide.
At the 1982 Mormon History
Association conference, Professor Peter Crawley made the following significant
Even though it is a revealed
religion, Mormonism is all but creedless. . . . While certain doctrines are
enunciated in the standard works and some doctrinal issues have been addressed
in formal pronouncements by the First Presidency, there is nothing in Mormonism
comparable to the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Augsburg
Confession. Few of the truly distinctive
doctrines of Mormonism are discussed in "official" sources. It is mainly by "unofficial" means-Sunday School lessons, seminary, institute, and
BYU religion classes, sacrament meeting talks and books by Church officials and
others who ultimately speak only for themselves- that
the theology is passed from one generation to the next. Indeed it would seem that a significant part
of Mormon theology exists primarily in the minds of the members.
Crawley went on to point out that
"the absence of a formal creed means that each generation must produce a
new set of gospel expositors to restate and reinterpret the doctrines of
Mormonism." (Dialogue, Autumn 1982, pp. 20-21.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
has risen to that challenge in this generation.
Though his work is not original, revolutionary, sophisticated, or deep,
he does offer certainty in a world which has become increasingly relative in
its values. He provides simple answers
in a world grown com- plex and chaotic. With his apostolic position and tone he
guarantees the correctness of his positions for faltering Saints confused with
alternatives. He invites Church members
to lay down the burden of fighting the intellectual good fight: he will take up
the sword against all enemies of truth (both without and within the Church) for
us all. It is no wonder he resides in a
position of such importance.
DAVID JOHN BUERGER is director of
the personal computer center at the University of Santa Clara .
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS OR
The Latter-day Saint Position on
We often hear that war is evil, but
where is the personal evil in young men and women leaving the securities of
their society and possibly risking their lives to protect or advance causes in
which they sincerely believe? We speak of the inhumanity of war, but where is
the inhumanity in the intense personal relations of loyalty, devotion, and
affection among comrades in arms who often give their lives to protect their
buddies? We may condemn war in general or a specific war as futile, but how do
we express that to veterans whose bodies or emotions have been damaged or to
families who have only photographs to remind them of the young men and women
they sent to battle? It is easy to mouth platitudes about peace during
peacetime, but what sacrifices are we willing to make to proclaim peace after
our country has declared war? These have been the
challenges of the LDS position on militarism and conscientious objection since
The first book of LDS scripture is
part of the shared Judeo-Christian heritage, and reflects a sharply divided
view of war and peace. The Old Testament
glorified both aggressive and defensive wars of God's people against their
enemies, and it was a common occurrence for the heroes of these narratives not
only to kill captured enemy soldiers, but also to slaughter every man, woman,
and child in conquered cities and towns.
These were not aberrations among the Hebrews, but usually occurred in
fulfillment of commands by God or his prophets.
In contrast, the New Testament precept and example of Jesus Christ and
his Apostles were self-sacrificing and nonviolent even in the face of brutal
death. To those who were unwilling to
live such a life of pacifism, the first book of the New Testament proclaims,
"all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matt.
26:52) and the last book relegates all such to the grisly domain of the Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6).
Mormonism ignored a thousand years
of theological commentary and justification for war in the Judeo-Christian
tradition and began anew with the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon, which
provided a synthesis of Old and New Testament approaches to war. In the Book of Mormon narrative, righteous
generals "did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend [their]
people" (Alma 50:1), pursued their enemies and "did slay them with
much slaughter" (Alma 2:19), did not hesitate to use superior technology
against primitively outfitted combatants (Alma 43:18-2-1, 37-38), freely used
spies ( Mosiah 10:7; Alma 2:21, 56:22), occasionally
assassinated enemy leaders (Alma 51:32-36, 62:35-36), and threatened to
overthrow and kill their own civil leaders who did not provide material support
to the armies (Alma 60:25, 30). Nevertheless, militarism is dominant in the
Book of Mormon without reigning supreme
as it does in the Old Testament: At no time in the Book of Mormon were the
righteous armies the aggressors, nor did they make preemptive attacks against
an enemy that was obviously about to launch a war. They never waged wars of "national interest"
where any issue but immediate survival was at stake, and they never killed or
mistreated prisoners. Moreover, the
militantly defensive society of the righteous Book of Mormon people gave honor
and protection to pacifists and to selective conscientious objectors, The people of Ammon for reasons of
religion and conscience vowed never to kill and were protected militarily by
those of the society who were willing to fight and die in war ( Alma 47:21-24). The narrative also
gives honor to the military leader named Mormon who refused to support or
participate in a war that he regarded as unjustified in origin and evil in
conduct ( Morm. 3:8-16).
This Mormon synthesis of militarism
and conscientious objection was further complicated by the 1833 revelation of
Joseph Smith that is published as section 98 of the Doctrine and
Covenants. Aside from the requirement to
wait until the fourth attack before retaliating against an enemy, the
revelation stated: "And again, this is the law that I gave unto my
ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred,
tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, command them" (D&C 98:33;
emphasis added). This is the only written revelation instructing the Latter-day
Saints of their responsibilities concerning war, and in the document the authority
of secular government is conspicuous by its absence. According to this revelation, the Latter-day
Saints would go to war only by the specific command of God, which would be
conveyed by the LDS prophet. Therefore,
in matters of war and peace, the Mormon community was to follow the Church
president, not any civil ruler. Two
years earlier, section 45 of the Dctrine and
Covenants had already indicated that the Latter-day Saints would remain aloof
from national wars: "And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that
every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must
needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of
every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at
war with another." (D&C 45:68-69.)
With the theological basis of the
Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, Mormon leaders until the end of
the nineteenth century pursued an. ambivalent policy toward militarism, war,
and peace, which might be called "selective pacifism." In this
respect, the twelfth article of faith ("We believe in being subject to
kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and
sustaining the law") was meaningless, because a Latter-day Saint
revelation had given the LDS church theocratic precedence over civil law and
In 1833, Mormons in Jackson County,
Missouri, were mobbed by anti-Mormons and did not retaliate. In 1834, the Prophet organized a military
company, Zion 's Camp, which he led a thousand miles from Ohio to Missouri to win back Mormon losses by force
if necessary. But when, upon reaching Missouri , he faced a suicidal confrontation
with the anti-Mormons, he became conciliatory, and the company returned to Ohio without bloodshed. In 1836, the Church periodical argued in
favor of defensive war by threatened communities, but a month later, Joseph
Smith issued a letter that the Mormons "would suffer their rights to be
taken from them before shedding blood" (LDS Messenger and Advocate, July
1836, pp. 337-40). And in 1836 the Mormons did exactly that, by allowing
themselves to be peacefully expelled from Clay County, Missouri, where they had
previously fled from mobs in Jackson County .
In 1838, Joseph Smith authorized the Saints to become more militant, and
they engaged in pitched battles with anti-Mormons. Missouians called
this the "Mormon War," imprisoned Joseph Smith, and expelled the
Mormons from the state. At Nauvoo , Illinois , Joseph Smith led his Nauvoo
Legion of three to five thousand men under arms (the entire U.S. Army in 1844
had 8,453 men). He surrendered voluntarily in June 1844 to civil officers he
was sure would conspire to bring about his death. Nevertheless, in his last letter from Carthage jail, Joseph Smith commanded the
Nauvoo Legion to attack the town and rescue him before he could be killed. A mob murdered him before the orders could be
The first national war of Mormon
experience occurred as the Saints were moving westward from Illinois in 1846. The participation of the
Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War has traditionally been heralded as self
-sacrificing patriotism responding to the demands of the federal
government. In fact, however, Brigham
Young had sent an ambassador to President James K. Polk volunteering two
thousand Mormon men to enlist and be paid federal wages as an expeditionary
force to precede the Mormon emigration into the Great Basin of Mexico, where he
knew according to published reports of John C. Fremont there were no Mexican
soldiers or settlers. Polk trimmed the
number to five hundred and put the battalion on a journey along the present
U.S.-Mexican border to California .
President Young urged men to volunteer for the economic benefits that
would come to the Saints and promised that they would not shed blood. Apostle Orson Hyde told reluctant recruits
that the battalion would result in "the peaceable possession of a ome." The battalion brought
more than fifty thousand dollars to the common fund of the LDS church.
(Dialogue, Winter 1984, pp. 11-30.
Before the American Civil War,
President Brigham Young condemned all war:
Our traditions have been such that
we are not apt to look upon war between two nations as murder; but suppose that
one family should rise up against another and begin to slay them, would they
not be taken up and tried for murder? Then why not nations
that rise up and slay each other in a scientific way be equally guilty of
murder. (Journal of Discourses, 7:137.)
At the beginning of the secession
crisis, Brigham Young telegraphed Lincoln that Utah remained with the Union , and Mormons volunteered to
protect the mail routes within Utah territory, but Brigham Young
privately acknowledged that most of the Church leaders and members favored the
Confederacy. Publicly, President Young
at October conference, 1863, praised the soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy, as well as
conscientious objectors from both sides:
Multitudes of good and honorable men
become enrolled in the contending armies of the present American war, some to
gratify a martial pride, and others through a conscientious love of their
country; indeed, various are the motives and inducements that impel men to
expose themselves upon the field of battle; but a portion of those who are
peaceably disposed, and wish not to witness the shedding of the blood of their
countrymen, make good their escape from the vicinity of trouble. It is chiefly this class of men who are now
passing through this Territory to other parts, and I think they are probably as
good a class of men as has ever passed through this country; they are persons
who wish to live in peace, and to be far removed from contending factions. As far as I am concerned I have no fault to
find with them. (ID, 10:248.)
Thus, the Mormons waited out the
American Civil War from a position of near neutrality which was consistent with
both their theocratic prerogatives and their millennial expectations.
By the next national war of America 's experience, however, profound
changes had occurred for the Church and for Utah .
After years of defying federal laws, the LDS church president in 1890
announced the abandonment of the practice of plural marriage. Within six months, the First Presidency
disbanded the Church's political party, the People's Party, and sought to conform Utah to the social, economic, and
political expectations of the national government. These efforts succeeded in acquiring Utah 's statehood in 1896, and two years
later the nation went to war against Spain to liberate Cuba .
There were a few Mormons like Apostle Brigham Young, Jr., who opposed
supporting the war, counseled Latter-day Saints to go on missions rather than
volunteer, and publicly urged the Latter-day Saints not to volunteer. But the First Presidency instructed Apostle Young
to cease his antiwar activities and statements, because they felt that the
newest state could not fail to vigorously support the call for volunteers and tha Mormons as a minority now seeking accommodation with
the larger society should not be perceived as opposing a popular war. The First Presidency issued the following
on statement 28 April 1898 :
War has been declared, and we have
it to meet. Our citizens are called upon
to enlist, and Utah is asked to furnish cavalry and
batteries of artillery approximating 500 men.
We trust that the citizens of Utah who are Latter-day Saints will be
found ready to respond with alacrity to this call which is made upon our State.
(Messages of the First Presidency, 3:299.)
The War of 1898 was crucial in the
history of the LDS church views on war because having surrendered communitarianism, theocracy, and plural marriage in order
to survive as an institution within a coercive society, the LDS church leaders
also abandoned the theocratic prerogatives of selective pacifism that were
provided in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants. From 1898 onward, the official position of
the First Presidency would be to decry war, but to support any declaration of
war by the government and to urge Church members to support the conduct of war
by their government on the basis of the twelfth article of faith.
This official support of any
national war also followed the U.S. government's change of direction
in 1898 from an announced war to rid colonial peoples of Spanish imperialism in
Cuba and the Philippines to the conversion of those
colonies to American control. This posed
a particular problem in the Philippines where many Filipinos expected the United States to help establish their
independence after defeating Spain .
Instead, the U.S. annexed the islands, only to find themselves fighting the Filipinos who did not accept the
change of colonial overlords. The
Church's Deseret News editorialized, "Are we
going to abandon Hawaii and the Philippines to their fate? [ independence]
. . . [It was God's purpose to] have the influence of the United States felt in . . . those Asiatic
countries." (Robert Jeffrey Stott, "Mormonism and
War" [Master's thesis, BYU), P. 59.) Mormons who volunteered to
fight the Spanish to free Cuba found themselves in the Pacific
fighting Filipinos who wanted independence.
In f act, Mormon Wst Point graduate Richard W.
Young helped preside over the U.S. military government established during the
first years of the "Philippine Insurrection" that continued as a
guerrilla war until the eve of the First World War.
At the outset of World War I,
President Joseph F. Smith denied the claims of the British and the Germans that
God was on their side and would aid them in the war. Instead, Joseph F. Smith said, "The Lord
has little if anything to do with this war" (Improvement Era, Sept. 1914,
p. 1075). But when the United States entered the "Great War"
in April 1917, the attitude of the Mormon leadership had to change, according
to Church historian B. H. Roberts, who volunteered and served as the oldest U.S. chaplain:
Had Utah as a state acted reluctantly, or
had she failed in any respect to proceed as the other states of the Union and as the whole nation did, the
reluctance and failure would have been chargeable to the Latter-day
Saints. Per contra, Utah 's promptness in action and the
spirit in which she did her part would reflect patriotism, the intensity of the
Americanism of the same people. " (Comprehensive
History of the Church, 6:4.55.)
More than twenty thousand Latter-day
Saints served in the U.S. and British forces, and about six
hundred and fifty died in World War I. But contrary to the 1914 statement of
Joseph F. Smith, the role of God had changed in the war, as indicated in the
Church magazine, Improvement Era: "when our boys aim [their weapons] they
will see as if they looked with the eye of God" and "when the United
States army strikes, the blow will fall as if from the arm of God" (IE,
Aug. 1918, p. 914; Joseph F. Boone, "The Role of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints in Relation to the United States Military,
19001975" [Ph.D. diss., BYU], pp. 219-20,
Nevertheless, two months after the
U. S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Selective Service Act,
the Deseret News editorialized on 27 March 1918:
"Governments of, for and by the people are wise when they try to meet
[with noncombatant service], in a spirit of fairness, the scruples of those who
by training or instinct are averse to the bearing of arms with which to slay
their fellowmen." Although federal law provided for conscientious
objection, the twenty thousand American conscientious objectors of World War I
were turned over to the U.S. military, where they were
indoctrinated, harassed, and sometimes physically beaten with the result that
eighty percent of the conscientious objectors later chose combatant service.
Aside from providing for the
possibility of conscientious objection, Church leaders in World War I for the
first time had to address the situation in which Latter-day Saints were
fighting on both sides of a war. Joseph
F. Smith told the general conference of April 1917:
In speaking of nationalities we all
understand or should that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
there is neither Greek, nor Jew, nor Gentile; in other words, there is neither
Scandinavian, nor Swiss, nor German, nor Russian, nor British, nor any other
You must not condemn the people,
however much you may judge and condemn their leaders, who place their people in
jeopardy, and demand their life blood for their maintenance in position of
prominence and power. Their leaders are
to blame, not the people. The people
that embrace the gospel are innocent of these things, and they ought to be
respected by Latter-day Saints everywhere. (Conference
Report, Apr. 1917, p. 11.)
When World War II began, First
Counselor J. Reuben Clark condemned it in October 1939 general conference as an
"unholy war ... to make conquest or to keep conquest" (CR, Oct. 1939,
pp. 11-14). The Selective Service Act of September 1940 had passed the U.S.
House of Representatives by only one vote due to strong antiwar sentiment, and
in October 1940 general conference, President Clark warned the Latter-day
Saints that according to the rules of international law, the United States had
committed so many hostile acts against Nazi Germany that the two nations were
in a state of undeclared war (CR, Oct. 1940, p. 14).
At general conference six months
later, Elder Richard L. Evans (then a President of the Council of Seventy)
raised the possibility that Latter-day Saints might choose conscientious
Some of our young men, and some of
our mothers who are called upon to send them forth into service, wonder why
they have to go. There have been some
who have urged the Church and its members to declare themselves
conscientious objectors. There may be
some merits in this position, Perhaps we should reserve the right to so declare
ourselves at some future time. I can
think of possibilities and circumstances arising for which there could conceivably
come some times and conditions for which we might want to reserve that right.
Then Elder Evans went on to
acknowledge that strict conscientious objection had not previously been the
position of the LDS church. (CP, Apr. 1941, p. 42.)
In the remainder of 1941, J. Reuben
Clark continued to condemn the support of the United States for Great Britain against Nazi Germany. In August 1941 he joined former President
Herbert Hoover and fourteen other Republican leaders in a national appeal
against American war preparation, and in October 1941 President Clark and the
rest of the First Presidency wrote the director of the U.S. Defense Bond
program that "we do not believe that aggression should be carried on in
the name and under the false cloak of defense" (D. Michael Quinn, J.
Reuben Clark: The Church Years, pp. 205, 207).
After the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II in December
1941, the First Presidency issued its longest and most comprehensive statement
on war at the general conference four months later:
The members of the Church have
always felt under obligation to come to the defense of their country when a
call to arms was made. . . . In the World War, the Saints of America and of
European countries served loyally their respective governments, on both sides
of the conflict. Likewise in the present
war, righteous men of the Church in both camps have died, some with great
heroism, for their country's sake.
This Church is a worldwide
Church. Its devoted members are in both
camps. They are innocent war
instrumentalities of their warring sovereignties. On each side they believe they are fighting
for home, and country, and freedom. (MFP, 6:157, 159.)
In World War II, more than one
hundred thousand Latter-day Saints served in the American and Allied armed forces, with about five thousand Allied deaths
among the Latter-day Saints, and hundreds more deaths among German Latter-day
Yet the two counselors in the First
Presidency differed markedly about World War II. In October 1942 general
conference, President David O. McKay, the second counselor, sought to encourage
American LDS servicemen by saying: "We all realize with you, that you are
enlisted in a war against wickedness, and peace cannot come until the mad gangsters
... are defeated and branded as murderers, and their false aims repudiated, let
us hope forever." On the other hand, at the same conference, First
Counselor Clark said, "Hate driven militarists and leaders, with murder in
their hearts, will, if they go through to the end, bring only another peace
that will be but the beginning of another war." (CR,
Oct. 1942, pp. 68, 15-16.)
As a political conservative of
national and international standing, J. Reuben Clark had also become a
thoroughgoing pacifist by joining America 's oldest pacifist organization in 1939 , and becoming a member of its board of directors in
1944, which position he held to his death.
During World War II President Clark privately encouraged young men who
inquired his counsel not to volunteer for the armed services, to go on missions
instead, and he carefully monitored the treatment of those Latter-day Saints
who were placed in conscientious objector camps (similar to the relocation
centers established for the Japanese-Americans during World War II). After
World War II he persuaded the Church president to reimburse the Quakers for the
expenses of maintaining these Latter-day Saint conscientious objectors, and he
did what he could to intercede on behalf of a Latter-day Saint conscientious
objector whose local draft board tried to prevent him from going on an LDS proselyting mission following his release from the CO cmp.
Although J. Reuben Clark's
activities for pacifism and conscientious objection had been unadvertised
during World War II, almost immediately following the end of the war, the LDS
church went public discreetly in favor of conscientious objection and
stridently against militarism. In
September 1945, the Deseret News editorialized:
The earnest, sincere, loyal
conscientious objector, who, because of his religious convictions, asked to be
relieved of military service which would necessitate his taking the life of a
fellowman, is entitled to his opinion just as much as the man who felt that
poison gas should be used and the enemy annihilated completely. And the chances are that the objector would
prove to be the better citizen of the two. (DN, 11 Sept.
In December 1945, the First
Presidency also issued a statement against universal compulsory military
training that was also a severe evaluation of the military itself:
We shall put them where they may be
indoctrinated with a wholly un-American view of the aims and purposes of their
individual lives, and of the life of the whole people and nation, which are
founded on the ways of peace, whereas they will be taught to believe in the
ways of the war. (MFP, 6:240-41.)
We shall give opportunity to teach
our sons not only the way to kill but also, in too many cases, the desire to
kill, thereby increasing lawlessness and disorder to the consequent upsetting
of the stability of our national society.
God said at Sinai, "Thou shalt not
(Recently I was reminded of this
First Presidency statement as I listened to one of the ROTC groups at Brigham Young University singing the following marching
song: "I don't care what the Peace Corps says; I
just want to kill some Reds!")
As the nation began moving into the
Cold War with the USSR , the Church's most prominent
spokesman against war continued to be 1. Reuben Clark of the
First Presidency. He told a
selective service chief that Utah veterans would go to jail rather than serve
in another war, and at October 1946 general conference he also condemned the
means by which the United States obtained victory in Europe and Asia during
World War II.
In June 1950, the United States joined with other United Nations
forces in a "police action" against North Korea , due to its invasion of nonCommunist South Korea .
Approximately eighteen thousand Latter-day Saints served in the Korean War, and Elder Bruce R. McConkie
as a chaplain received a letter from a U.S. Army general: "I have the
highest personal regard for Latter-day Saints soldiers, and appreciate so much
the fine and patriotic service they daily render to their country" (Boone,
"Role of the Church," pp. 438-39). But in the middle of the Korean
War, the Church's Deseret News published the
following editorial on "The Problem of Conscientious Objectors":
The pacifist ideal is a beautiful
one-if everyone would subscribe to it and act accordingly. But if even half the world went pacifist,
they would be at the mercy of the ruthless portion of the other half who could
take what they would through violence and force.
The conscientious objector may have
had the will to fight trained out of him; but if he still has the will to serve
[in noncombatant duties] , he can still render valiant
The craven draft-dodger, or
conscience-less evader, is in a different category altogether. (DN, 25 June 1951.)
As the Korean War ended, America was gradually accelerating its
commitment to what would become its longest war, the Vietnamese conflict. Before the United States sent its armed forces to Vietnam , the Church's elder statesman,
President J. Reuben Clark, warned a U.S. senator such a commitment to against Vietnam (then a part of Indo-China):
I am impressed as to Indo-China,
with this fact: That country is a colony of France .
I am told that France has said she will not send some
classes of her troops to Indo-China. If
her colony is not worth her spending her blood for it, it is not worth our
spending our blood for it....
Finally, while unalterably opposed
to Communism, I can imagine that an enlightened Communism may be a whole lot
better than a decrepit, deficient, corrupt colonial government. I rather feel that that principle could be
applied to very much of the situation in the whole Far East .
In my personal view, our greatest
danger and greatest handicap is the concept, not yet more than half-expressed,
sometimes, perhaps, not even fully recognized that we are destined to dictate
to and rule the world, though we have not enough sense to rule ourselves
wisely. That is the first step towards
the ultimate decay that led to the downfall of Rome, that is carrying forward
Britain, France, Italy, and of course, Russia. (J. Reuben
Clark to U.S. Senator Henry Dworshak, 17 May 1954,
BYU Special Collections.)
As many as a hundred thousand
Mormons served in the U.S. military during America 's longest war, about a fourth of
them in Vietnam itself, with more than five
hundred and fifty deaths.
Once the United States committed itself to war in Vietnam , the continuity of LDS policy
since 1898 produced the expected endorsement of national war. The First Presidency stated: "We believe
our young men should hold themselves in readiness to respond to the call of
their government to serve in the armed forces when called upon, and again, we
repeat, we believe in honoring, sustaining and upholding the law" ( Deseret News Church Section, 24 May 1969, p. 12). Despite
the fact that millions of Americans and about ten percent of Mormon youth
opposed the Vietnam War, the LDS church could publicly take no other position
or it might have jeopardized its already fragile and
restricted arrangement with the U.S. government for deferments from the
draft for LDS proselyting missionaries.
But the First Presidency instructed
its secretary Joseph Anderson to reply to those who resisted the Vietnam War as
I am directed to tell you that
membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not make one
a conscientious objector. As you are
aware, there are thousands of young men of the Church assigned to the various
services in the military.
As the brethren understand, the
existing law provides that men who have conscientious objection may be excused
from combat service. There would seem to
be no objection, therefore, to a man availing himself on a personal basis of
the exemption provided by law. (Dialogue, Spring 1968, p. 8.)
The only public suggestion of a less
than enthusiastic response to the Vietnam War (since J. Reuben Clark was now
dead) came at the end of Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley's conference talk of encouragement to Mormon servicemen and their
families during the tumultuous year of 1968: "I make no defense of the war
from this pulpit. There is no simple
answer. The problems are complex almost
beyond comprehension." (CR, Apr. 1968, p. 24.)
Whatever comfort that brief statement gave to Mormon
conscientious objectors and to opponents of the Vietnam War was diminished
later that same day by Elder Boyd K. Packer, then an Assistant to the Quorum of
the Twelve Apostles.
Because Elder Packer's conference
talk of April 1968 is the only repudiation of conscientious objection ever to
be publicly expressed by an LDS General Authority, it deserves close
attention. Elder Packer introduced the
subject of conscientious objection by saying:
There have emerged in our society
groups composed mostly of restless, unchallenged young people. In the name of peace and love and
brotherhood, they criticize those who, obedient to the laws of the land, have
answered the call to military duty. It
is puzzling to see them renouncing their obligation, repudiating their
citizenship responsibilities. They
declare on moral grounds, as an act of virtue, that they will not serve. One can be sensitive, even sympathetic, to
their feelings, for war is an ugly thing-a heinous, ugly thing!
He then described a Mormon college
student who was confused about the war and about the counsel he was receiving
from friends and university faculty to become a conscientious objector or draft
evader. In answer to the question,
"How can he know which way to turn?" Elder Packer said: "First,
the scriptures are not silent on the subject," and he quoted the Book of
Mormon in support of Nephites engaging in defensive
war. After quoting the 1942 First
Presidency statement on war, Elder Packer stated:
Though all the issues of the
conflict are anything but clear, the matter of citizenship responsibility is
perfectly clear. Our brethren, we know
something of what you sense, something of what you feel.
I have worn the uniform of my native
land in the time of total conflict. I
have smelled the stench of human dead and wept fears for slaughtered comrades. I have climbed amid the rubble of ravaged
cities and contemplated in horror the ashes of a civilization sacrificed to
Moloch; yet knowing this, with the issues as they are, were I called again to
military service, I could not conscientiously object!
And he concluded with a renewed plea
for the young men of the nation to fulfill the obligations of their citizenship
by responding to the call for military service.
This was a time in the United States of strident radicalism against all
authority and civil disobedience against the draft, and it is therefore
understandable that in reaction to this social ferment, this talk on
conscientious objection did not include any reference to the f act that the
Book of Mormon and prior Church precedent allowed for conscientious objection,
nor the fact that Congress had long regarded conscientious objection as
consistent with the obligations of citizenship. (CR, Apr.
1968, pp. 33-36.)
The complement to this unprecedented
repudiation of conscientious objection during the unpopular Vietnam War was
Apostle Mark E. Petersen's talk that was published by the Church's Military
Relations Committee in 1970. To those serving in the Vietnam War, he said:
"Now the Church wants to show as much honor to you brethren going into the
military service as we show to men going on a mission.... But our good boys who
do pass away will be handsomely rewarded by a grateful God whose cause they
defend." (Mark E. Petersen, The Church and America, pp.
In view of these officially published
statements during the Vietnam War, it is not surprising that local leaders and
members of the Church began to regard conscientious objectors and other
opponents of the Vietnam conflict as disloyal citizens and
unfaithful Latter-day Saints. This
became a sufficiently important issue that the secretary to the First
Presidency sent out the following clarification in 1971:
Conscientious objectors may teach in
the Church (home teach, Sunday School, priesthood,
etc.), provided they are worthy of these positions and with the understanding
that they avoid teachings or discussions pertaining to war and their attitude
toward it. The same would apply to the
matter of their holding office in the Church.
There certainly could be no
objection to their partaking of the sacrament if they are otherwise
worthy. They could also be given
recommends to the temple provided they are sincere in their beliefs and a
maintaining the standards of the Church.
It would be contrary to Church
policy to disfellowship men because they have
conscientious objections regarding participating in military combat activities.
(Joseph Anderson letter, 21 Oct. 1971.)
The Book of Mormon does not indicate
that similar instructions had to be given for the pacifist people of Ammon, and this clarification is one measure of the
traumatic divisiveness the Vietnam War brought to LDS church members. Also noteworthy is the fact that while First
Presidency guidelines restricted conscientious objectors from using their
Church position as a forum for discussing war and pacifism, other Church
teachers were not restricted from advocating military service.
But America 's use of the atomic bomb against Japan heralded a new development that
eliminated the combat soldier: the possibility of armchair wars where men
pushing buttons could vicariously destroy whole populations thousands of miles
away. J. Reuben Clark was the first to
give official condemnation of this during his October 1946 conference address:
Then as the crowning savagery of the
war we Americans wiped out hundreds of thousands of civilian population with
the atom bomb in Japan ....
Thus we in America are now deliberately searching out
and developing the most savage, murderous means of peoples that Satan can
plant in our minds. exterminating We do it not only
shamelessly but with a boast. God will
not forgive us for this.
... And, as one American citizen of
one hundred thirty million, as one in one billion population of the world, I
protest with all of the energy I possess against this fiendish activity, and as
an American citizen, I call upon our government and its agencies to see that
these unholy experimentations are stopped, and that somehow we get into the
minds of our war-minded general staff and its satellites, and into the general
staffs of all the world, a proper respect for human life. (CR,
Oct. 1946, pp. 88-89.)
Thirty-five years later, three other
American citizens issued a First Presidency statement condemning the U.S. government's plans for basing the
MX nuclear missile in Utah , and added: "We deplore in
particular the building of vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry" (DN, 5 May
But Church headquarters sent out
mixed messages about war in 1981. Following on the heels of this statement by
the First Presidency, their press spokesman Don LeFevre
made the only public statement emanating from the First Presidency about
conscientious objection: "There is no place in Mormon philosophy for the
conscientious objector" (DN, 7 May 1981). In view of the Book of Mormon,
Doctrine and Covenants, nineteenth-century Church practice, repeated Deseret News editorials and First Presidency correspondence
in the twentieth century, such a statement is a curious example of Mormon
ambivalence. But without a public and
authoritative retraction, the statement stands in the public record as
Up to this point, I have emphasized
the institutional approach of the LDS church toward war, but another meaning of
church is the community of believers, those of us who share the Latter-day
Saint faith. And we must acknowledge and
give honor to the diversity of honorable responses to war among ourselves. I will give a personal example of my LDS
missionary associates during the Vietnam War.
One of the gentlest, most compassionate missionary elders I ever knew
volunteered for the Army Rangers and died during the U.S. invasion of Cambodia .
Another missionary came back to the United States , protested against the Vietnam
War, resisted the draft, and became a permanent exile in Canada .
A missionary companion joined the regular army the same day I did, and
he served in Vietnam without physical or emotional
injury, and later said he had no regrets about that service. We need to give honor to the conscientious
soldiers and conscientious objectors among us, because they are both seeking to
live the gospel the Later-day Saints know to be true.
D. MICHAEL QUINN was in the U.S. regular army for three years
during the Vietnam War, and is professor of American history at Brigham Young University .
Through his ancient prophet Moses,
the Lord declared, "Thou shalt have no other
gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). This commandment has been renewed in our
dispensation with the observation that
"every man walketh in his own way, and,
after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world,
and whose substance is that of an idol" (D&C 1:16). Brigham Young made
this modern application explicit when he stated, "I would as soon see a
man worshipping a little god of brass or of wood as to him worship his
property. . . . and he would as much justified in the
sight of God"
Unfortunately, the danger of idols
and idolatry are not limited to graven images and material sessions. If these were the only false gods we to
avoid, many of us might be relatively safe.
However, as President Kimball has observed, "Whatever thing a man
sets his heart and trusts in most is his god; and if his god doesn't also
happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in
idolatry" (Ensign, June 1976, p. 4). If beauty is in the eye of the
beholder, idolatry is in the heart of the idolator. Thus, anything other than God himself can be
In recent decades, the Church and
its members appear to have fallen prey to a new kind of idol: the traditional
family. Consider, for example, the
degree to which our teachings and practices are based, at least in substantial
part, upon the assumption that the traditional family is the key to our
spiritual progress or approach to God: For the first time in the recorded
history of Christianity and Mormonism we are introducing the gospel of Christ
with the slogan, "Families Are Forever." We offer a Sunday School course on family relations. Regular family home evening has become the
guarantee for keeping children active in the Church. We stress temple marriage as the sure
foundation for a successful family and a happy life. We encourage more than ever before family
economic preparedness and self-sufficiency.
We teach that the traditional family is the most effective, if not the
only, refuge from the wickedness of the world.
We preach that a return to the structure and values of the traditional
family is solution to our
present social and moral problems. th We
are taught that "no success can compensate for failure in the home,"
and that "the greatest work we ever do will be within the walls of our own
home." Missionary farewells and homecomings have become sacrament meeting
spotlights on the family. In short, the
traditional family appears to be the common denominator of the Church; and our
religion and church activities have become primarily a family affair.
In contrast, Brigham Young told
departing missionaries of his day to keep their minds "riveted-yes, I may
say riveted-on the cross of Christ" (JD, 12:33 ). Similarly, Jesus applied the
first of the Ten Commandments directly to the traditional family when he warned
his disciples, "He that loveth father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth
son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10:37 ). On another occasion Jesus
declared: "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and
wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he
cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
Not only does such an idolatrous
imbalance come between us and God, it also seriously affects how Latter-day
Saints view themselves, the gospel of Christ, and the purposes of the
Church. Our preoccupation with the
family, for example, has led us to make unsupportable statements to the effect
that heaven will not be heaven if each member of the traditional family is not
there. Certainly the casting out of one part of
heaven did not destroy God's heaven. third
While we should teach the gospel to each family member and encourage the
practice of family home evening, we cannot promise that no child will ever go
astray. Nearly all the prophets and
patriarchs had children who exercised their agency to reject God. Adam had Cain, Lehi
had Laman and Lemuel,
Abraham had Ishmael, Isaac had Esau, and Jacob had eleven sons. It is hard to believe that family home
evening would have cured all that.
More significantly, overemphasis on
the family runs the risk of creating a division between those who are part of
an apparently successful traditional family and those who for some reason are
not, including the adult unmarried, the divorced, the single parent, the widow
or widower, the parentless child, the childless parent, the parent with problem
children, the child with problem parents, the poor and sick, the needy and
afflicted. These people already suffer
under the heaviest financial, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual
burdens. I worry that our constant
emphasis on the successful traditional family creates pressures and burdens on
the very ones the Church is supposed to help and makes their association with
the mainstream family-oriented Church a painful and sometimes unbearable
experience. I fear that our traditional
family focus may alienate and estrange the very foreigners and strangers we
should be embracing as fellow citizens in the household of God.
Instead of relegating such
individuals to a lower class, perhaps we should be redefining as the common
denominator of the Church the special interest of all members in the spiritual
family of Christ. The family of Christ's
Church should be knit together by the unity of Christian faith, the ordinances,
and the mutual desire to establish Zion and see the face of God. Jesus warned that a focus on his family would
inevitably create divisions in the traditional family: "the father shall
be divided against the son, and the son against the
father; the mother against the daughter and the daughter against the
mother," and so forth (Luke 12:51 -53). But he certainly never
intended the focus on the traditional family to create a division in the family
of his Church.
It may seem incredible to some that
something as wholesome and lovely as the traditional family could become an
idol. Yet it is the very goodness of the
family that makes it the object of idol worship. The most dangerous idols are those which are
so closely identified with God or bear such strong resemblance to him that
worshippers sincerely believe they are honoring the real God. Thus, while the brass serpent was a graven
image which Moses made at the Lord's command (Num. 21:9), it later became the
object of idolatrous worship (2 Kgs. 18:4). Likewise,
the holy scriptures and even the family of Abraham, in
spite of their close relationship to God, became idolatrous obsessions for the
Pharisees and other Israelites (John 5:39 -40, 8:33 , 39).
How have we come to focus so much
attention upon the traditional family? In an 1858 discourse on idolatry,
Brigham Young cited examples of idol worship among various peoples and
identified a common origin of idolatry:
What is commonly termed idolatry has
arisen from a few sincere men, full of faith and having little knowledge,
urging a backsliding people to preserve some customs ... to put them in mind of
that God with whom their fathers were acquainted, without designing or wishing
the peopleto worship an idol. Idols . . . were not introduced at once. They were introduced to preserve among the
people the idea of the true God. . . . This is the way that idolatry has sprung
up in the world, through a method established to keep the people in remembrance
of the God they once worshipped and were acquainted with.
Brigham also prophesied that future
idolatry would likely result from efforts of the Church to keep the Saints from
Let this people backslide-lose their
present faith and knowledge, and in after generations, perhaps, a few would
cling to the Priesthood with all the vigour we do,
and would understand that the people were going into darkness, and would urge
them to have some custom, some form, some representation of their former faith
and religion. (JD, 6:194-96.)
Significantly, general conference
addresses in recent decades indicate that the leaders of the Church are
increasingly concerned about members backsliding, becoming inactive, and
falling away from their religion. I
believe that Church leaders at all levels have championed the traditional
family out of a sincere belief that the structure and values of the traditional
family would protect Church members against the sinful practices of our age,
encourage their continued activity in the Church, and help them remember their
religion. At the same time, however, the
Saints have been prone to wander and forget their God and neglect truth and
knowledge. The net result is the
establishment of familyolatry, at least for those who
believe the approach to God is through the traditional family.
To the extent the traditional family
is an idol, what can be done to eliminate familyolatry
without smashing the idol? The cure for familyolatry
is not the debunking of the traditional family, but the careful and consistent
preaching of true Christian doctrine concerning man's relationship and approach
to God. That is, we should not be
tearing down the traditional family, but rather building up the family of
To do this, our approach to the
traditional family must always be tempered by two facts: (1) salvation
is only in and through the family of Christ; and (2) the family of Christ is
not the traditional family. When Jesus
was teaching on one occasion, his mother and brothers approached "desiring
to speak with him." Because of the press of the crowd they could not get
near him. "Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren
stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who
is my mother and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward
his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my
brethren! For whosoever shall [hear the word of God and] do the will of my
Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and
mother." (Matt. 12:4650; Luke 8:19-21.) Though Jesus greatly loved his
earthly family, he wanted everyone to understand that the family of God is not
the biological family, but the spiritual family made up of those who hear his
word and do the will of his father.
As wholesome and wonderful as our
traditional family might be, we cannot afford to confuse it with the spiritual
family of Christ. It is by the name of
Christ Jesus that we are saved, not by any other family name under heaven. It is not through natural birth and
maturation in a traditional family that we are made alive and perfect in
Christ, but through the waters of baptism, the spirit of justification, and the
blood of sanctification. Regardless of
whose seed sired us, we must each receive the penetrating word of God in our
hearts and do the will of God to have eternal life.
We must also resurrect the correct
idea of man's relationship to God and the pathway by which he approaches
God. There is a tendency among modern
Mormons to believe that since we are the spirit children of God, we have the
spark of divinity within us which needs only to be fanned by our good works in
the traditional family to become a blazing fire of godlike attributes and
righteousness. The popular notion is
that God has given us the raw talent, but we must develop it. The traditional family is the laboratory or
clinical phase of our learning to be gods.
The problem with this line of
thinking is that it ignores the fall of man and trivializes the atonement of
Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches
plainly that because of the fall of Adam all mankind, including Mormons, are in
a state of nature described variously as "spiritually dead" ( Hel. 14:16), "lost," "fallen" (Alma
12:22), "unworthy" ( Mosiah 4:11),
"hardened" (Alma 34:9), "evil" (Ether 3:2),
"worthless" ( Mosiah 4:5), "carnal,
sensual, and devilish" (Moses 5:11; Mosiah
16:3-4). We are "cut off from the presence of the Lord" ( Hel. 14:16 ), and are unable on our own merit
or power to regain His presence. Although spirit children of God, our spirit family connection will
not save us. Even Satan and the
third part of heaven who were cast out can say,
"I am a child of God." Because the natural man is as much a devil in
embryo as a god in embryo, he is "an enemy to God" ( Mosiah 3:19 ).
According to the Book of Mormon, the
only cure for this condition is to "yield to the enticing of the Holy
Spirit and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement
of Christ the Lord" ( Mosiah 3:19 ). This is accomplished through
faith in Christ, repentance of all sin, submission to the ordinances, and
enduring to the end.
As we stress the importance of the
traditional family which is in the likeness of God, we must not ignore the
infinitely greater importance of becoming part of God's spiritual family. As we encourage temple marriage and sealing,
we must also teach that temple ordinances are not primarily for the purpose of
strengthening the traditional family but for endowing us with knowledge,
priesthood keys, and power sufficient to approach God and becomekings
and priests and queens and priestesses unto him. When we say that "families are
forever" we must always remember that the traditional family is forever
only upon the condition that each member is adopted into the spiritual family
of Christ. As we testify of the
happiness that can be experienced in a good traditional family, we must remind
ourselves that ear hath not heard and eye hath not seen what great things the
Lord has prepared for those who join his family. When we encourage traditional families to
make the home a refuge or safe haven from the world, we mus
acknowledge that only Zion , a separate society of the pure in
heart, can provide such peace and safety.
We must stop talking as if we
Mormons have some monopoly on the traditional family and instead humbly invite
all people, regardless of their traditional family status, to join the family
of Christ through the priesthood ordinances entrusted to us. We must bury the notion that we can become
like God through our own good works and resurrect the truth about our fallen
nature and our total dependence upon the mercy of God through the merits of
We may place our love and affection
upon any person or thing, so long as it does not come before our love and
affection for God. Nothing -- be it
brass serpent, scripture, family of Abraham, or traditional family-is allowed
to come between us and him. Only God can
save and sanctify individuals and traditional families. To this end the Church must be more than a
museum to display Saints and model Mormon families; it must also be a hospital
to treat the wounds of sinners and broken families and make all well in the
family of Christ. CHRISTIAN RYDER is a free-lance writer living in Salt Lake City .
PRIESTHOOD PRESCRIPTION FOR WOMEN
The Role of Women as Prescribed in Aaronic Quorum Lesson Manuals
Shane B. Inglesby
We live in a day when enormous
attention has been focused on the role of women in society. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints has been significantly involved in this concern, both as an official
opponent to the Equal Rights Amendment and as a target for charges of
patriarchy and sexism in its organization and theology. Throughout the sometimes heated discussion,
the Church has repeatedly denied opposition to equal rights for the sexes. But beyond this publicly held position, what
are the attitudes of Mormonism's hierarchy and bureaucracy regarding its female
An often overlooked means of
answering this question is to examine the lesson manuals which the Church
prepares to instruct its future leaders -- -the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood.
This priesthood serves as a preparatory calling for the majority of
worthy young male members between the ages of twelve and nineteen. During these years, young Latter-day Saint
males meet on a weekly basis to receive instruction regarding the
responsibilities of their priesthood offices (deacon, teacher, or priest) and
to learn gospel principles.
While on the average only one lesson
per year is devoted entirely to the role of women, many others provide
indications of role expectations, particularly in lessons dealing with the
family and in the didactic stories which appear periodically in all
instructional materials. Although
information prepared for the younger quorums tends to be more general,
instruction manuals for deacons, teachers, and priests quorums during the past fifteen
years all present a unified picture of the responsibilities of a woman to her
family. Deacons Quorum Manuals
Every year, the presidency of each deacons quorum is responsible for teaching two lessons to
the Blazers, a primary class for boys preparing for ordination as deacons. One of the questions the presidency is
directed to address during the presentation is, "Why is.
. . preparation ... to become a deacon so important to you and God?" The
manual gives as one of its answers: "You are building the foundation of a
home. A fine Latter-day Saint girl is
counting on you to provide the way to exaltation for her and the spirits in
heaven that will come to your home to grow in the gospel. The way you live and serve as deacon will
have much to do with the type of husband and father you will be." (Deacons Study Course Series A , p. 184.) Although
this statement primarily deals with the role of a young man in the Church, it
also suggests that a Mormon girl's entire salvation is based on the righteous
performance of one individual, a man. It
tends to diminish the responsibility she has in working out her own destiny
A similar point is exemplified in a
story from a lesson on welfare. In the
story, Rick Barnes learns that his father has been injured in an accident, but
will recover. At first Rick worries
about his family's financial needs, but is relieved when he remembers his
father's explanation of the Church welfare program. The lesson later elaborates that since Rick's
father was active in the Church, he had prepared his family for an emergency
situation by opening a savings account and saving regularly. Mrs. Barnes and Rick's sister helped can pears at
the cannery, and Mr. Barnes had made an
agreement with his brother that if either of their families was ever in need,
the other would help as much as possible. (Deacons Study
Course Series B  pp. 155-56.)
It is interesting to note that the
option of the mother working full or part time was never considered. Mrs. Barnes was also never given any credit for
any of the preparations that had been made.
She apparently relied totally on the support and preparedness of her
husband. It appears that not only is a
woman dependent on her husband for her eternal salvation, but for her temporal
salvation as well.
Many of the lessons deal with the
family as a whole. One particular lesson
states that the mother and father are both responsible for ensuring happiness
in the home by providing wise counsel for their children, creating an
atmosphere of love and respect, and providing as best they can for nourishing
food and a comfortable home (Deacons Series A , pp. 137-39). This lesson
never distinguishes between the roles of mother and father.
However, several distinctions are
made in the roles of mother and father seven lessons later. The lesson states that they both have the
responsibility of raising their children in righteousness, but that the Lord
has given each a specific role to play.
The role of a mother is outlined as follows:
Although mothers do not bear the
priesthood, they do share in its blessings with their husbands and have a very
important role to play in the family. . . . Mothers can be of great help to
priesthood-bearing sons by:
them prepare their clothes on Saturday for Sunday morning.
early to prepare breakfast before priesthood meeting.
sons early enough that they can be on time to meetings.
making family plans which would interfere with attendance at meetings and other
and supporting her husband in his priesthood assignments, and in holding
regular family prayer and home evenings.
f. love and consideration for
others in and out of the home. Teaching
an example of LDS womanhood, motherhood, and family living that will inspire their
sons to grow in the priesthood. (p. 170.)
This statement appears to be
assigning the mother all of the domestic duties while her husband and sons are
busily involved in activities outside of the house. Two deacons manuals
reinforce this idea through use of the Chinese proverb: "A hundred men may
make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home." Both lessons
quote David O. McKay concerning the virtues needed in order to establish such a
home: "Motherhood is the one thing in all the
world which most truly exemplifies the God-given virtues of creating and
sacrificing. . . . the mother who, in compliance with
eternal law, brings into the world an immortal spirit occupies first rank in
the realm of creation." (Deacons Course A , p. 39;
Deacons Series B , p. 218.) Again, the Mormon woman is portrayed
as the self-sacrificing homemaker and caretaker.
A lesson in a more recent manual
relates the story of a family which met under the direction of the father to
establish a family corporation. He
appointed himself as the chairman of the board and his wife as
vice-chairman. Each of their children were appointed as members of a board of directors. (Deacon Course A , p. 46.) The comparison of a family
to a business is not a new one, yet it is interesting to note the difference in
job titles between the husband and wife.
Although supposedly equal, their job titles suggest a higher ranking
authority in the title of the father.
Only one lesson for the deacons
deals with their social interactions with girls, perhaps reflecting the
presumed level of interest in most boys that age. Its main premise is that boys feel awkward
around girls, and its objective is to teach 'the roles of common courtesy and
good speech" (Series A, Priesthood Study Course, Deacons Quorum , p.
173.) The lesson encourages deacons to treat girls with more respect by talking
about things which interest them, opening doors, using proper language, being
polite, and always walking with the boy nearer the street. This lesson suggests that girls feel they
should be treated differently from boys.
An interesting change can be noted in a more recent deacons
manual. In the older manuals, women were
never quoted, but in 1983 at least two quotes from women are cited: Elaine A.
Cannon and Kathleen Lubeck (Deacons Course A ,
pp. 54-55, 99). However, neither of these quotes, taken from New Era articles,
addresses the roles of women. TEACHERS QUORUM MANUALS
The lessons in the teachers manuals present essentially the same amount of
material on women's homemaking role as the deacons manuals. One lesson in the 1983 manual presents this
information in the form of a quiz entitled, "What Do You Know about the
Patriarchal Order?" Many of the answers to these multiple choice questions
help the teacher further define family roles:
The father is the head of the home
is more worthy and qualified
is his divine role
is a question of law and order. [Answer:] ( b) and (c)
"The patriarchal order is of
divine origin and will continue throughout time and eternity. There is, then, a reason why men, women, and
children should understand this order and this authority in the households of
the people of God. . . . It is not merely a question of who is perhaps best
qualified. Neither is it wholly a
question of who is living the most worthy life.
It is a question largely of law and order." (Joseph
F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 286.) (Teachers Course A
, p. 107, emphasis in original.)
It is interesting to note the use of
the words merely and wholly in this statement.
It succeeds in reducing the role of individual qualifications and
righteousness in determining who will be head of the home, yet does not fully
diminish the influence of these qualities in the selection process. While this is perhaps intended to allow women
a more prominent leadership role where the father is unworthy, this usage can
also be taken to mean that men meet more qualifications and live more righteously
resulting in their calling as heads of the home.
The same lesson also states that the
mother is the head of the home "if there is no father." However,
unlike all other assertions in the lesson, no authoritative discourse is
presented to justify this statement. The
In the Lord's plan
is full equality between men and women
man is more important because he holds the priesthood
Lord loves his daughters as much as he loves his sons
(a) and (c)
"In the church there is full
equality between man and woman. The
gospel... was devised by the Lord for men and women alike. . . . The privileges
and requirements of the gospel are fundamentally alike for men and women. The Lord loves His daughters as well as He
loves His sons." (John A. Widtsoe,
Evidences and Reconciliations, Vol. 1, p. 24 1.) (Pp.
106-7, emphasis in original.)
Men and women may be equal in the
sight of the Lord, but women's responsibilities differ greatly from those of
men. Some statements indicate that a
woman's salvation will be determined by the manner in which she fulfills these
responsibilities: "Women do not possess the priesthood any more than men
attain motherhood, the feminine equivalent of the priesthood. Motherhood is the great talent and calling
given to women, and upon their magnification and use of this calling depends
their exaltation" (Series A, Priesthood Study Course, Teachers Quorum
[1970, 1972], P. 151).
An earlier lesson from the same
manual explains the responsibilities she has as a wife and mother:
Although the mother does not bear
the priesthood, she shares in its blessings by supporting her husband in his
duties. Since the mother spends most of
her time in the home, she has a special responsibility to maintain it as a
clean, peaceful, and comfortable place to be.
A righteous mother can do no more than anyone else to create a home as a
haven of rest from the pressures and tensions of the world. She is the individual to whom we turn when
illness comes. She is compassionate,
kind, and unselfish in her interests in our welfare.
After this explanation of feminine
responsibility, the lesson focuses on four main responsibilities of a mother,
which David O. McKay outlined. These
responsibilities include watching out for the physical welfare of the family,
teaching children through parental guidance and warning, ensuring proper
spiritual guidance for children, and applying wise financial management in the
home. (P. 147.)
A woman is not only responsible for
the spiritual well-being of her family, but the temporal well-being as
well. One lesson listed the duties of a
mother as (1) counselor, (2) "heart of the home," (3) child bearer,
(4) helpmate, (.5) homemaker, (6) preparer, (7) partner (Teachers Study Course
Series B , p. 69). A later lesson from the same manual lists
characteristics of a true woman which include a loving spirit, a desire to be
protected, chastity, femininity, friendliness, and beauty.
In the 1976 manual, a story intended
to show the adverse effects of disharmony in a family also establishes role
expectations for husbands and wives. The
husband's responsibilities are to put in a hard day's work and then come home relax. and The wife, on the other hand, is portrayed as
being responsible for cooking, washing, and childcare (Teachers Study Course
Series A , p. 105.)
The role of a woman is closely, if
not synonymously, related to the role of a mother in all the teachers
manuals. She is encouraged to focus
essentially all her attention on her home and family. Successful completion of these
responsibilities will allow her to become like our Mother in Heaven. While this concept is not frequently referred
to, the 1970 and 1972 manuals do discuss the desired ultimate destiny of the
Mormon woman-godhood (Teachers Series A [1970, 1972], p. 151).
Considerable emphasis is placed on
social relationships in the teachers lesson manual
compared to that of the deacons. The
majority of these lessons deal with "respecting" or
"honoring" women. The apparent
concern of these lessons is to help the young priesthood bearer gain social
acceptance with girls. For example, a
1971 manual reported the following:
Several seminary classes of junior
and senior girls were asked what they liked least about the way they were
treated by the young men of the church, At the top of
the list was the statement, "The boys treat us like we are boys. They still treat us like we like to play
football and push us around like they would one of their mate friends. " In other words, girls want to be recognized as being
females and be treated accordingly. They
will soon be assuming a very important role in families, as wives and mothers,
and resent the fact that boys do not recognize that they are different and want
to be treated with respect. (Teachers Study Course Series B
, p. 218.)
The differences between boys and
girls emphasized here are elaborated further in a manual published in 1973:
It is helpful in learning to respect
young women their own age if they understand something about the differences in
their attitudes and rate of growth.
women of this age [fourteen and fifteen years old] are usually more mature than
2. They a" apt to be more interested in boys than boys are
are apt to be more interested in social activities.
a often more interested in planning for the future
are usually more strongly influenced by their friends.
are often less self-conscious than young men.
women are usually more comfortable in a one-boy-one-girl situation, while young
men are usually more comfortable in groups.
women usually enjoy talking and visiting more than young men do.
young women find it easier to talk about themselves
than young men do.
women place more importance on politeness than do young men.
women are usually more openly affectionate than young men.
women appreciate a friendly relationship with other young people
women are usually more emotional than young men
women usually find it easier to accept advice from parents and other elders
than do young men. They enjoy being
protected. (Teachers Series B [19731, p. 73.)
These fourteen statements provide
many roles for both young men and young women to live up to.
There is an interesting contrast
between the manuals published before 1976 and those published afterwards. Before 1976 any lesson examining boy-girl
relationships referred to them as friendships: "Surely young ladies have
much to offer as friends. They can help
each of us [teachers] in becoming a better gentleman." (Teachers
Series B , p. 217.) Since then, however, there is an apparent
willingness to admit that these young men are preparing for dating and
"should be given some guidelines from the girl's point of view." The
instructor is encouraged to solicit the aid of a panel of young women who will
answer any questions the quorum members might have. Panelists are also asked to talk about how
boys can show respect for girls: "Girls enjoy associating with boys who
treat them well."
Greater concern for the morality of
the youth in the Church appears to have accompanied this openness. Teachers are admonished to respect the virtue
of a woman. A daughter is referred to as
"the most precious thing I own," and compared with a white gardenia
who should' be returned from a date "fresh and sweet" and not
"brown and shriveled" (Teachers Series A , pp. 48, 129, 130).
"Every young woman has a perfect right to feel safe in going out with a
young man holding the priesthood, knowing that he will respect and protect her
in every way" (Teachers Series A , p. 48). PRIESTS QUORUM MANUALS
The priests manuals both echo and
expand the views of women's role given in the deacons and teachers
manuals. For example, many of these
lessons deal with the family organization, making reference to the woman's
"very special physical and spiritual calling" and stating flatly that
"her role is that of homemaker." (Priests Study
Course , p. 210.)
But unlike lessons in other quorums,
these lessons also describe marriage as a "partnership" (p. 210).
This appears to contradict the notion stressed so strongly elsewhere that
"the man is the head of the family unit by virtue of his priesthood."
However, one manual resolves this contradiction by observing that
"leadership may be a partnership .. . . A husband
will seek the interests of his wife and confer with her on matters of mutual
concern. . . . All counsel completed, however, the decision is with the father,
for to him goes the recognition for success, or the criticism error." for (Priests
Study Course Series B , p. 123.)
That men have the final say while
women occupy the subordinate role of "counselor" is reaffirmed in the
following: "As a young man matures, he may find some empathetic girl
companion who will listen to his hopes and aims and desires. He will develop complete confidence in his
sympathetic listener. He may even be
willing to heed her counsel and advice." (P. 140.) This suggests that
counsel or advice which is offered by a woman is only accepted in those moments
when a man feels so inclined.
Consideration of such advice does not appear to be an important
dimension of the husband-wife relationship.
Many of the lessons in the priests
manual which discuss the role of women allude to an either abbreviated or
expanded version of David O. McKay's four major responsibilities of a
mother. One such expansion considers the
ways in which womanhood contributes to the priesthood.
an essential part in creating and maintaining the family-the basic tenet of the
Kingdom of God .
the husband and children in church work, encourages acceptance of
responsibility and punctuality.
the tone of spirit in the home.
and guides children in both spiritual and temporal matters on a day-to-day
emotional support to husband and family in all their activities.
an active role in church auxiliaries.
with husband in sacred, eternal priesthood ordinances.
her position next to her husband at the head of an eternal family. (Priests Study Course , pp. 209-10.)
This elaboration is meant to show
how women can, in fact, help support the priesthood in their own personal
activities. "It is true that a woman cannot perform
ordinances in the church, but she does a lot to get members of the priesthood
ready to do it" (Priests Series B , p. 139).
Another lesson in this manual
provides a specific instance in which wives can support their husbands:
Priesthood bearers who are husbands
and fathers have been counseled not to do church work to the extent of
neglecting their family. Nevertheless,
the support of a faithful wife and mother allows the priesthood bearer to
devote the considerable amounts of time to church activity that the Lord
expects of him. During periods of the
father's absence from the home, the wife carries a particularly large share of
the burden of caring for the children. (P. 199.)
Interestingly, this passage seems to
contradict the Mormon concept that families are more important than the
Church. Moreover, it implies that
fathers can justify neglecting their families if their wives can fill in for
them while they are away performing Church assignments.
Although women are to support
priesthood bearers, there are also several ways in which she is dependent on
them. For example, priests
manuals indicate that women must depend on priesthood holders for emotional and
spiritual companionship, protection, financial support, the reception of
priesthood ordinances, and the performance of certain physical tasks beyond her
Priesthood manuals mention little about women pursuing interests outside of the
home. In exception to this, the 1972
priests manual briefly addresser, this issue: "There is no objection to a
woman's entering and participating in any and all things which contribute to
the fullness of her womanhood, and increase her upbuilding
influence in the world. But the
important realm of home, in which woman's influence should always be felt,
should never take secondary position to her other interests." (Priests Study Course , p. 211.) Such statements do
not provide much incentive for women to look elsewhere in pursuit of greater
manuals focus considerable attention on the social relationships of boys and
girls, men and women. Part of the
purpose for this is to explain differences between the sexes and why they
exist. For example, one 1971 lesson
provides the following outline:
For a very wise purpose, man and
woman were created by God to play different roles. Boys and girls and men and women are
different in many ways
between the sexes was designed to provide individuality to all God's children.
complement each other to make a happy and interesting home life.
makes for maximum interest and vitality of personal relationships.
provides a realistic and functional approach to carry out the various
functional aspects of life.
are emotional, spiritual, and mental differences between the sexes.
occur in special interests. Young men
like physical activities and masculine things as they prepare to assume their
roles as husband and father and provider.
They become protectors. They
become leaders. Young ladies, by
comparison, are feminine in nature. They
do the things they like to do to prepare for the role of mother in the family. (Priests Series B , pp. 132-33.)
Such a presentation tells young men
that men and women are different in almost every aspect of life. It also states that because men participate
in "masculine activities" they will become leaders and protectors,
implying that women can never have these qualities.
Nevertheless, one lesson does acknowledge
that leadership is one of the many capacities women possess. As a result, women are justified in assuming
leadership over priesthood bearers directing speeches, dramatics, or
dance. when (Priests Study Course Series B , p. 140.)
Nevertheless, their authority and ability to lead is not considered as great as
that which men require to direct the affairs of a
stake, ward, or branch.
Another reason the priests manuals
discuss social relationships is to emphasize that in spite of inherent differences,
the same moral law applies to both sexes:
"In the Latter-day Saint Church
there is but one standard of morality.
In the world many people protect their girls and daughters, irrespective
of religion. They know what it means for
young girls to be treated as slaves, as playthings, and they shield their own
daughters from the ravages of men. But
their boys are too often left free to prey upon helpless creatures who are not so protected.
Thus, in the world you have a double
standard, but in the Church of Jesus Christ there is but a simple
standard. It applies to the boys as well
as to the girls." (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals.) (Priests
Study Course Series A , pp. 75-76.)
This same type of thought was
expressed in an earlier manual: "Realize that somewhere there is some girl presently living that will some day cross your
path. She is keeping herself for you and
for you alone just as she expects you to be keeping yourself entirely for
her. She would not want you as a husband
if you are not as clean and pure as she." (Priests
Series B , p. 135.)
Like the teachers manuals, the priests instructional materials for both 1973 and 1983 list
ways a priest can honor women with whom he associates. This list includes helping her "live,
not break the commandments," showing respect and manners, and treating her
"as an equal, an
... not ... as an inferior" (Priests
Course A  p. 25).
Three different lessons also devote
sections to those qualities each priest should look for in his wife. One lesson emphasized that a girl's
appearance, homemaking skills, educational intent, hobbies, and maturity should
comply with standards which have been established by the Church (Priests Study
Course , pp. 196-97). It is believed that adherence to such standards
will improve the quality of the marriage, and help ensure that the couple gains
eternal life and exaltation.
Another lesson states that when a
Mormon man thinks well enough of a young lady to ask her to
be his wife, that he is asking her to become the following:
consort and companion who brings all the characteristics and strengths of
femininity into masculine life.
friend and partner.
general manager and vice-president in charge of operations.
hostess and social secretary.
7. Your housekeeper.
bookkeeper and financial adviser.
children's nurse or doctor.
mother of your children.
all, your partner in the Kingdom of God .
In other words, after marriage the
woman would lead a life of total domesticity.
This section of the lesson continues by stating: "The total
services this young lady will perform for you, if measured on a monetary basis,
will be worth from $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
Keep this to yourself. If she
knows that you know it, she may ask for a raise. She will generally be satisfied for all this
effort, and these services with a few words of love and affection on your
part. This you cannot afford not to
give." (Priests Series B , p. 141.) This
statement apparently tries to use humor to bring out the worth of such services
rendered in a household. Regardless of
its manner of presentation, there is no denying that the Mormon woman is
expected to devote her heart and soul to her home and her family. CONCLUSION
The role of Mormon women as
prescribed in the Aaronic Priesthood manuals contains
all elements of Victorian role expectations.
Women are expected to be domestic, pious, pure, and submissive. Such expectations are believed to be natural
because of God-given feminine traits which differentiate women from men. In today's society many might argue that such
differences are nonexistent, and for this reason women should free themselves
from such expectations. In apparent
response, one Aaronic Priesthood manual printed this
comment: "Someone has stated that when women eventually realize that the
object of their emancipation is to make them not more like men, but more
powerful in womanly virtues, the implicit demand and need of women for a world
based on human principles may break through as the most important influence
upon history" (Priests Study Course , p. 210).
It is this type of idealistic view
that has allowed for little change in the definition of the role of women in
the Church. While changes in society and
individual circumstances will no doubt persuade many women to abandon their
traditional roles, it appears the LDS ideal will continue to be inculcated into
rising generations of Mormon males through Aaronic
Priesthood quorum meetings. SHANE B. INGLESBY is majoring in business at the University of Utah .
TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO
Church manuals affect our teenagers' search for identity? By Karla S. Gunnell and Nicole T. Hoffman
Although few people would deny there
are obvious sexual differences between men and women, there is a great deal of
disagreement concerning the meaning of those differences with regard to
sexually predetermined roles and behavior patterns. Certainly natural biological characteristics
attend the birth of every child, male or female. But the gender traits that develop subsequent
to birth are heavily influenced by the child's environment (social
circumstances and culture). Were this not so, we would not find such a vast
variety of gender roles as we compare other societies with ours.
The teenage years are a crucial time
in establishing role identity. Messages
received during this period, both overt and implied, have a significant impact
on self-awareness and developing gender-role patterns that persist into the
adult years. Teens look to the example
of parents and friends, as well as respond to more obvious discussion,
teaching, and advice from these and other sources. Latter-day Saint teenagers also receive input
from Church-sponsored activities and lessons specifically designed to influence.
their search for identity and awareness.
What do LDS teenagers learn from
Church instruction that will influence those crucial processes? A partial
answer to this question may be found by examining the lesson manuals used to
teach the priests (young men, ages sixteen to seventeen) and the Laurels (young
women "of corresponding ages") in the Aaronic
Priesthood Young Women program. The
teenagers are taught separately in this program, in contrast to their Sunday School classes, where they meet together. Therefore, it is instructive to examine the
lessons for both groups, comparing and contrasting them with regard to course
topics and content, and manner of presentation. lesson
The objective of Laurel Course B is
set out at the beginning of the manual:
By studying the lessons contained in
this manual, each young woman should better understand her relationship to her
Heavenly Father and the Savior, herself, her family, and others. She should learn to honor the priesthood and
those who bear it. She should also learn
more about living the principles and laws of the gospel, particularly with
regard to dating, the temple covenants, and eternal marriage. (Laurel Course B , p. 1.)
Motherhood and marriage receive the
major emphasis in this course of study.
Of the twenty four lessons outlined, seven deal directly with a young
woman's preparation to become a wife and mother. Lessons such as "Power of
Creation," "Motherhood: A Divine Calling," and "Preparing
for Motherhood" seek to help the girls to "develop greater respect
for . . . the power of creation," to show "that motherhood is the
noblest of all [their] callings," and to prepare them "to teach
[their] children the gospel" (pp. 31, 47, 52). In spite of this emphasis
on preparation for motherhood in these lessons, the manual nowhere discusses
the role and responsibilities of fatherhood.
Lessons not directly pertaining to
marriage and motherhood nevertheless have direct bearing on the topic of
relations between the sexes. Three
lessons in the Laurel manual deal with the priesthood,
its duties, obligations, and powers.
Presumably, young women who have a clear understanding of the
responsibilities of the priesthood can assist men in being worthy of their
callings. This idea is clearly spelled
out in lesson 15, "Women and Priesthood Bearers." Here the relation
of women to men is defined as supportive.
In a chalkboard discussion, the lesson leader is to ask the girls what
they can do "to actively support a young man who holds the priesthood."
Suggested responses include this list:
on his good points.
him as you want him to become.
a listening ear.
5. Be honest in your praise.
him in projects and callings.
a counselor, when asked.
what is delegated to you.
him with your prayers.
The following "true story"
is also included in the lesson:
Lynne had been called as Laurel class president in January to
replace a girl who had moved. It seemed
to her that the priests left most of the work for the Laurels. Lynne became frustrated and impatient. She had to phone the young men and remind
them of almost everything so she felt like a nag. She disliked being pushy in getting them to
help, but she was afraid if she didn't call them, nothing would get done. Her adviser suggested that she change her
attitude. She suggested that Lynne first
improve herself and develop a positive attitude about her responsibilities and
her relation shipto the young men who hold the
Lynne accepted the counsel and with
a prayerful heart went to work to determine what her responsibilities were in
each assignment and how she could carry them out quickly and effectively. She then took the attitude that the young men
would accomplish their responsibilities just as quickly and efficiently.
Her positive approach and attitude
worked. The fellows responded because
she treated them as responsible priesthood holders. Once they knew the young women were depending
on them and would support and encourage them, they led out. They began doing their full share of the
work. Instead of nagging or pushing,
Lynne began to be led by the priesthood.
It was a wonderful feeling! (P. 66, emphasis added.)
The third general area of emphasis
in this series of lessons is gospel principles.
Although overtly doctrinal in content, the lessons subtly imply
appropriate gospel-related roles for women.
The first lesson in the manual, for example, stresses a "Personal
Relationship with the Savior." Even the statement of objective implies a passive,
receptive role, rather than an active, seeking one: "Each young woman will
strive for a deeper understanding of how she is affected by the life and
mission of Jesus Christ" (p. 7, emphasis added). The lesson content
considers Christ's patterns for living, pointing out several
"characteristics of the Savior ... that can teach us the things we ought
to do" (p. 8). Of the wide variety of traits that could conceivably be
discussed, the lesson stresses these, many of which are considered traditionally
"feminine" behaviors: "Had firm priorities; resisted
temptations; studied the scriptures and quoted from them often; understood
right from wrong; put his mission above personal gratfication . . . . loved to help people. . . . spent
time with little children, blessed them.. . . took time for fervent prayer. . .
. [ showed] concern for his mother, even when he was
Other lessons on gospel principles
imply a broader area of spiritual concern than the content ultimately
delivers. Although "The Word of
Christ" has as its lesson objective to help "each young woman
determine how the word of God can be used as a standard in coping with the
world" (p. 77), the bulk of the lesson focuses on birth control, abortion,
marriage, parenthood, and divorce.
Social relations also receive strong
lesson emphasis. Lessons such as
"Developing Yourself," with the objective, "each young woman
will strive to become a more interesting person by developing her talents"
(p. 22), teach social skills and behaviors.
Yet even here, the emphasis subtly directed toward
marriage. is For example, the lesson
"Young Men: A Time for Every Purpose" teaches the girls that good
courtship relations in this life are a preparation for eternal courtship and
warns, "If a young woman's day-to-day behavior is such that it could cause
differences with her mate, then her marriage may have problems, if she does not
change" (p. 36, emphasis added).
As the young women prepare
themselves socially and spiritually for marriage, what are the young men learning?
According to the Priests Study Course B, "the purpose of this course of
study is to help each priest see himself as a son of God, endowed with the
priesthood, which, if used worthily, will help him and others become like the
Heavenly Father" (Priests Study Course B , introduction).
In support of this objective, the priests lessons discuss similar principles to those taught
the Laurels, but with a substantially different emphasis. The preponderance of the young men's lessons
deal with priesthood and priesthood obligations such as missionary work and
genealogy. Other topics include general
gospel principles, social relations, and marriage and relations with
women. Nineteen of the forty lessons
deal directly with preparation to serve a mission for the Church. Eight emphasize aspects of the priesthood-its
functions, responsibilities, and powers.
Typical lesson objectives include helping the "priest see the magnificence
of receiving all that the Father has, of becoming like him through the priesthood,"
and helping "the priests realize that their ultimate goal is exaltation,
which is impossible without the priesthood" (pp. 29, 67).
Both series of lessons emphasize
preparations for adult life. But in
contrast to the somewhat inwardly focused girls' lessons, with their emphasis
on developing a pleasing temperament and personality which will make them
successful wives, the boys' lessons are more outward looking. Lesson 34, for example, is entitled "I Can
Help My Family Gain Exaltation by Striving to Bring Love, Understanding, and
Order into My Home." A series of four lessons on
choosing a vocation or profession "teaches that a priest's primary goal in
his occupation is to serve his fellowman and thus extend Christ's Kingdom on
earth" (p. 155).
Other young men's lessons have a
more doctrinal emphasis. An outstanding
feature of this group of lessons is its insistence on the boy's individual,
personal responsibility for his salvation. "In Order to Successfully
Complete My Life's Mission , I Must Realize That, As a Free
Agent, I Will Be Held Responsible for My
Actions," asserts lesson 17. Action is emphasized as 'a result of
understanding. "I Must Commit Myself to Christ and to the Living of His
Gospel If I Am to Develop a Personal Relationship with God," states
another title. Six lessons are devoted
to gaining an understanding of Christ. "The priest must seek a personal
relationship with God if he is to become like him," states one objective
(p. 7). "The facets of the Christ like life" considered in that
lesson include "courage, joy, love, and adventure." "Other
facets of his personality are faith, beauty, charity, sacrifice, loyalty,
self-regard, justice, service" states the lesson, although these ideas are
not developed (pp. 8, 9).
Most interesting to examine are the
lessons concerning gender identity, marriage, and relations with women. The objective of lesson 35, entitled "I
Must Understand the Proper Role of Manhood If I Am to Magnify My Priesthood and
Help Others Become Like God," is "to help each priest understand what
true Christian manhood is and show him that this manhood is basic to his
priesthood" (p. 147). Marriage, rather than being treated as an end, as it
is in the Laurel manual, is discussed in three lessons as a priesthood ordinance
which is essential to men, enabling them to become God. In contrast to one fourth of the Laurel lessons which stress motherhood,
none of the lessons in the priests manual discuss
One lesson of the forty is devoted
to women. This lesson's objective is
"to help the priest understand the part women play in his life and how he
can honor them" (p. 151). It is worthwhile to examine this lesson closely,
since it is the only lesson on women and since, by implication, it defines the
calling and responsibilities of women.
The lesson's first major point is
"A Priest's Mother Stands at the Center of His Life ." The manual suggests the
instructor "Emphasize in the discussion that it is a priest's mother who
washes and irons the clothes, cooks the food, keeps the house clean, nurses the
sick, and does much to establish the quality of the home. She also encourages him on to high
accomplishments, is willing to overlook his faults and failings and is usually
the last to give up hope for him if he goes astray." He is then to ask the
young men to "share some of the experiences from your relationship with
your mother that illustrate the above qualities of motherhood." (P. 152.)
The notes to the adviser at the
beginning of this lesson warn, "While it may be natural for a priest to
show some embarrassment in talking about the goodness and the sacrifices of his
mother, he should recognize the important role she plays in his life" (p.
151). It is interesting to speculate why a young man should be embarrassed to discuss
the sacrifice of his mother. Could it
mean that up to this point his Church instruction has not discussed this topic
frequently and therefore the young man is sensitive to it?
The lesson's next point is that
"The Example of the Savior Requires a Priest to Honor Women." The
instructor is to ask, "What caused the Savior to extend such respect to
women in such an age as his?" Then he is to "let the priests think
deeply about this [and] help them arrive at the conviction that this was part
of his program to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
Following these assumptions, the
lesson asserts, "A Priest Should Particularly Honor the Young Women He
Dates." The lesson leader is to "point out that a priest's attitude
toward the young women he dates will probably reflect his attitude toward women
in general. Either he regards them as
daughters of God and potential wives and mothers, or he regards them simply as
something for his own pleasure and physical gratification" (p. 152). The
possibility of regarding them as other members of the human race is not
Another point of contrast between
the two manuals is the rhetoric, both in matters of lesson presentation and in
details of diction and style. The
statements of objectives, for example, differ markedly. In the priests
manual, the objectives emphasize achievement of goals. Lesson 1 states,
"We imitate the people we know best and have a personal relationship
with. God wants the priest to be like
him, and therefore this personal relationship is necessary. However, before a priest can have such a
relationship with God, he must sincerely desire and work for it." (P. 3.) Laurel objectives, on the other hand,
focus on receiving rather than initiating the action. These objectives imply that the nature of
woman is essentially passive, that people and principles influence her
life. The lessons emphasize the
empathetic and coping skills necessary for fulfilling such a passive role. For example, Laurel lesson 1 states,
"Each young woman will sense the magnificence of the priesthood." The
objective of Laurel lesso 3
declares, "Each young woman will determine how the word of God can be used
as a standard in coping with the world." By contrast, a similar young
men's lesson reads, "Living the Gospel Helps Me Progress toward
Even more explicit is the contrast
between the lesson objectives which outline a person's relationship with the
Savior. As stated earlier, the central
idea of the young women's lesson on this topic is, "Each young woman will
strive for a deeper understanding of how she is affected by the life and
mission of Christ" (emphasis added), while the young men's lesson,
entitled "Learning to Understand Jesus Will Help Me Become Like the
Father," asserts, "The priest must seek a personal relationship with
God if he is to become like him." Thus, women are to understand and be
affected; men are to seek and to become.
Not only in matters of word choice,
but also in basic structure, the lessons differ. Almost all the Laurel lessons establish their main
points through stories or object lessons which illustrate the desirable
behavior being discussed. For example,
the lesson on Young Men is introduced to the Laurels by asking a girl to frost
an uncooked cake, then when she has finished, asking another girl to frost a
"nourishing" baked cake. The
activity illustrates the idea "a time to every purpose." Priests lessons, on the other hand, establish their main
points by logical doctrinal support and scripture study.
Parallel lessons about the Holy
Ghost further illustrate this point. The
young men's lesson centers around "scripture
reading and marking" and discussion, supplemented by statements from
latter-day Church leaders. The young
women's lesson consists mainly of a lengthy "account of how guidance from
the Holy Spirit saved several lives." The story is told about and related
by a man. A similar number of scriptures
support the lesson concept, but the girls are not actively involved in locating
them, nor are they involved in any other kind of intellectual doctrinal
activity. Rather they are invited to
share "moments in your life-no matter how brief when you felt the
influence of the Holy Ghost."
Thus the very structure and method
of presentation of the lessons reinforces implied roles the boys actively study
and seek out scriptural support for their ideas; the girls passively listen to
stories and share their experiences-no matter how brief-with each other. This is not to discount the importance of
shared personal experiences as a teaching tool.
But to use this technique to the exclusion of other methods of active
participation is revealing and has behavioral implications. Girls are taught by being shown a behavior
which they should imitate; boys are encouraged to initiate appropriate
The fundamental objective of each
course of study is the same: exaltation of each person. Yet the prescribed methods for reaching that
exaltation are implicitly different.
Exactly what female exaltation is must be deduced by the Laurel , or perhaps is deemed
inconsequential, for it is never discussed in the lesson manual. Instead, the lessons prescribe roles of wife
and mother who will rely on the priesthood to guide them into exaltation. Conversely, priests are encouraged not only
to develop priesthood relationships to family, but to quorum and community as
well. Their life's mission is to serve
mankind and thus extend Christ's kingdom.
Their hope for the future is to become like God. KARLA S. GUNNELL is a
free-lance writer living in Colorado Springs .
NICOLE T. HOFFMAN is a Ph.D.
candidate at the University of Utah and former associate editor of
SUNSTONE and the Sunstone Review.
The Law of the Land
SOLEMN PROMISES UNDER SEAL
Jay S. Bybee
A couple of years ago while a law
student, I was teaching a Sunday School course in the
Doctrine and Covenants when I was struck by that work's occasionally legalistic
language. I have since discovered that
our modern-day scriptures contain a myriad of terms which might catch the eye
of Latter-day lawyers, including references to rights, duties, powers,
privileges, covenants, and agency to say nothing of repeated emphasis on the
law itself. While I would not try to
understand the gospel on the basis of Coke, Blackstone, or Hohfeld,
certain concepts familiar to the common law have given me additional insights
into certain passages of scripture.
On this particular occasion I was
fascinated by the striking declaration in Doctrine and Covenants 132:7 that
"all covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances,
connections, associations, or expectations that are not made and entered into
and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise . . . are of no efficacy, virtue, or
force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are
not made unto this end have an end when men are dead." The succeeding
verses make it clear that if the new and everlasting covenant is not sealed by
the Holy Spirit of promise, the covenant is not valid in the hereafter (D&C
The nature of this promise becomes more clear in light of a common law practice once called
'the mystery of the seal." This practice, adopted from the Roman empire
but dating back even earlier (Gen. 38:18, Esth. 8:8,
10), consists of placing some kind of identifying mark or seal on certain
documents. In early Medieval
times a cross or other symbol was used to signify assent to the document. As people became more literate, the
identifying sign used most frequently was a signature. Later, the signature was accompanied by a
The traditional documentary seal was
a wafer-like piece of wax which was attached to the document and then stamped
with a signet ring engraved with an heraldic crest,
initial, flourish, or bird. Seals were
normally used only by persons of nobility (both laymen and churchmen) and were
very distinctive so that they were difficult to duplicate. The story is even told of the peculiar seal
of King Edward III who conveyed certain lands to a hunter "and in witness
that it was sooth, he bit the wax with his fore tooth."
Familiar seals today include the
Great Seal of the United States (illustrated on a one-dollar bill)
and other ornate seals used by municipalities and states. Corporations typically have a simple
corporate seal with the name of the corporation and perhaps its date of
incorporation. And, of course, notary
publics, a vestige of the era when common people needed some way of
authenticating their signatures with an authorized seal are still used today
for certain documents.
The act of sealing a document
generally served three purposes. First,
the seal served as an indication that an individual had ratified or assented to
the documentary agreement. This was
particularly true in the days when a signature was only a form of the
seal. This function is closely related
to the second function, that of authenticating the document. Because seals were difficult to duplicate,
the fixing of the seal served to prove to all interested parties that this was
a valid document which bound the sealing party.
So important was the seal that at one time the seat represented the
obligation itself. Thus when a wax seal
was lost or destroyed from the document, the obligation was similarly
destroyed. With such enormous store
placed in the mark of the seal, the seal-bearer for an important person such as
a king had to be a trusted aide. (Witness the rightful heir's difficulty in
reestablishing himself because he could not find the seal in Mark Twain's The
Prince and the Pauper.) Even in more moderntimes, the
law has required that an agent purporting to fix a seal on a contract on behalf
of his principal must himself show a sealed instrument as evidence of his
Finally, the contract under seal was
the most solemn of all contracts in the law.
It was a formal contract which could be voided only under the most
egregious circumstances. Certain
important contracts, such as transfers of land, were required to be placed
under seal, and no oral modifications to the contract were recognized. While the contract under seat no longer
commands the reverence today that it once did, most states still have a longer
statute of limitations for contracts under seal than for ordinary contracts.
It seems to me that some of these
practices are echoed in scriptural references to important covenants. Indeed, the original meaning of
"covenant" in the law, as distinguished from other forms of contract,
was a formal promise under seal. In the
passage in Doctrine and Covenants 132 quoted above, the Holy Spirit of Promise
must ratify the contract to demonstrate that the Lord assents to the new and
everlasting covenant. Such witness
further serves to authenticate the covenant, to prove to all who know of it
that such covenant is in fact a godly covenant.
And it solemnizes the entire event by reminding those who enter into the
covenant that such a covenant cannot be taken lightly without breaking the seal
and destroying its effect.
Other references to sealing power
reaffirm these principles. Doctrine and
Covenants 98:2, for example, states that our prayers are recorded with the
"seal and testament" that they shall be granted. Here again the seal serves to ratify and
authenticate a particular promise so that all will recognize its source and
efficacy. The solemnizing function can
also readily be seen in scriptures referring to the sealing of a testimony,
such as by the shedding of one's own blood, as proof that the witness was true
(e.g., D&C 135:1, 7). Certainly such a testimony would be the most solemn
of all sealed witnesses.
While this does not exhaust all the
functions of the Holy Spirit's ratifying seal, it does illustrate the value of
examining the ordinary words and phrases which comprise the revelations. In this case, such a study can serve to remind
us of the seriousness of our own transcendent covenants made under seal.
Issues of Intimacy
A MIXED RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE
Members of the Church are well
acquainted with the exhortation that it is better to remain single than to marry
outside of the Church. In addition to
not having one's mate in the eternities, we are warned that marriage outside
the fold results in the loss of shared spiritual moments, common daily rituals,
and jointly held values which are the sweetest thing this side of the celestial
But the difficulties of a mixed
religious marriage can also occur for committed and active couples who marry in
the temple. I have come to know many
couples personally and in my clinical practice who, after months or years of
marriage, find themselves in great conflict about religion. The way couples experience their religious
differences varies as widely as types of marriage. But at least two types are fairly common.
One mixed marriage occurs when one
spouse reveals or develops religious questions or doubts after the
marriage. For example, one woman, after
growing up with an active-member mother and a nonmember father earnestly sought
a returned missionary from an active family so that she would not have to face
the conflict her mother experienced.
When her husband started to question some Church policies, she was
shocked and disillusioned. Her alarm
deepened when his doubts did not go away and in fact increased as their
arguments about the Church intensified.
Now she carries a deep sense of betrayal as his activity has become
sporadic. She wonders how he can really
love her as much if he doesn't love the Church.
The husband, on the other hand, reports that his feelings for her, their
marriage, and the children have not changed as his
feelings about the Church have. He
wishes she would relax and enjoy what they have in common.
The breach in such cases often
becomes very wide as the Church, each person's value, and the core of their
caring and commitment to each other is called into question. The more believing or orthodox spouse may
protest, "Does our marriage have meaning now that my spouse doesn't
believe? How can we rear the children effectively and be together in the eternities
if we are not united now? I feel abandoned now that my spouse won't attend
Church and pray with me all of the time.
I am not narrow minded because I am satisfied in my faith and do not
want to question anything." The more dissenting spouse laments, "Why
does my spouse equate everything good with the Church? I am not bad because I
have questions. Is love so conditional
that I am only loved if I conform to the Church?" Although polarized on
religious issues, both partners may be enduring common feelings of betrayal,
loss, confusion, and criticism.
Not every mixed marriage contains a
Believing Saint and a Doubting Thomas.
Another mixed marriage occurs between two active Mormons who define
Church doctrine or practices differently.
Another couple, both very active in the Church, interpret
doctrine and policies quite differently.
In one such instance, the husband declares that loving the Lord means
living the commandments and programs exactly as the Church prescribes with no
individual interpretation. The wife,
however, says that gospel principles are paramount and the Church is primarily
a vehicle for living those principles, therefore different policies and
practices are open to question. For
couples like this, whether tithing is paid on the net or the gross, which
family activities should the husband decide as patriarch, how Sabbath
activities should be conducted, and the amount of time spent in Church callings
become serious issues. The value of the
Church and the marriage are not challenged, but each person's character and
For these types and others,
balancing a split in belief and/or actions with the intimate and practical
needs in a marriage is a double load and often puts both spouses in double
jeopardy. Outer stability and inner turmoil
rarely go hand in hand, and a marriage can crack if one or both partners cannot
tolerate the emerging differences
Paradoxically, our Church culture foster
some of the factors that create these mixed marriages. may For example:
The Way We Marry. We exhort eligible members to marry with an
eye to Church commitment, which often means external guidelines. Activity in all meetings and programs, living
the commandments, and a testimony of the Church are prerequisites (with a
premium placed on having been on a mis-sion, being
from an active Mormon family, or attendance at BYU or other Church schools).
But we often make the mistake of equating religious orthodoxy with marital
compatibility. In actuality there may be
as many ways of being Mormon as there are Mormons.
Romantic anecdotes in testimony
meetings also show our tacit approval of brief courtships. But in such instances,
there is often no opportunity to discover the patterns of each other's belief
and practice, so no conflicts emerge.
Worse still, some become aware of differences in background patterns or
disagreement about Church matters but do not explore further. They enter an illusory agreement that the
marriage will bring more unity. That
illusion is often forcefully stripped away in the first year or with the advent
Additionally, we extol the benefits
of temple marriage but give little notice to the universal crises and conflicts
in marriage. Though well informed on
issues of finances, sex, children, etc., few Mormons know that it is normal to
experience periods of turmoil and reintegration and to rethink all areas of
life - including spiritual - throughout adulthood. Without this information, a spouse may
unknowingly stifle his or her partner's growth in the Church or propel a larger
disaffection from the Church than otherwise likely by demanding that religious
thought and life follow a certain mold.
Conversely, a person can push the spouse into a corner by insisting that
she or he join the period of doubt and questioning even when it is not in the
The Demand for
Similarity. With a strong
emphasis in the Church on finding a right and wrong way for everything,
identical religious thought and action between marriage partners is
encouraged. Where there are differences,
one spouse must be wrong. Ironically,
any church that has many criteria for goodness sets up as many points for
conflict as for congruency. (This is true generally: the more areas two or more
people want to share, the more areas for potential disagreement emerge. This is why friendships often work better
than marriages; we sharply limit the number of concerns which overlap with our
friends and often become really close to only those with whom we agree.) We may
be unwittingly sharpening a double-edged sword as we increase the number of
rituals and programs a couple must share as a condition for a happy marriage.
Sometimes the demand for similarity
is a symbolic issue in the marriage, not the real one. It may be that the two personalities are so
different that religion is only one struggle among many. When personalities sharply contrast, the
effort to share important issues in an intimate way becomes more
difficult. It is easier to want
someone's views to coincide with ours, forming a closeness out of an already
existing similarity. Unfortunately,
doing so locks us in the prison of our own strengths instead of building
bridges across our divergent ways of being.
Such an approach also keeps us from facing such difficult but important
questions as How can the qualities I struggle with in
my spouse enrich my life? Do I need to expand my arena of belief? Do I need to
The Expectation That Marriage Will
Be Happy If We Live Right. Marrying
alike and living a similar lifestyle certainly increases the chances for a
happy marriage. Mormons married in the
temple enjoy one of the most stable marriage rates in the U.S. and a high percentage report that
they are happy. But it is not a
guarantee. To expect that tragedy will
never happen, divorce cannot occur, and religious difference can not crop up
provides only temporary mental security.
Such a belief can be a set up for disappointment and is like denying the
coming winter and the need for insulation and sufficient fuel. Most marriages go through at least one, if
not several, winters. Every good
marriage I know has been hammered out, and each spouse has been stretched
beyond her or his former attitudes and actions.
If mixed marriages are not unusual,
what options are there? I think people in these circumstances are faced with
some hard choices, maybe even a Hobson's choice (a decision with no good
alternatives). Here are three:
or divorce. Occasionally, the
differences are just too great, and the differing action of each spouse are
seen as so wrong or manipulative that remaining married causes more torment
than satisfaction. Even though few
couples divorce solely on the grounds of religious differ- ence,
it is possible that separating and searching again for the intimacy that
similarity can bring is a better option.
in conflict. Many people can neither
give up their belief -- nor doubt. In
the words of one man, "I can change my actions; I can become more active
in the Church to please my wife, but I cannot just change my feelings and they
contain strong positive beliefs about the Church and also serious doubts."
Those who will not or cannot accommodate their views enough to bridge the
marital differences remain on a seesaw of conflict, each trying to convince the
other or retreating to separate worlds without satisfying contact or intimacy.
one's marriage. Faced with serious
dissonance between the ideal and reality, most people make some ideological or
behavioral shifts. But the process
generally occurs over a long time and in several stages. It is as difficult to redefine what we want
in marriage and feel good about it as it is to move to a different culture and
feel at home. The internal meaning of
our soul's wishes is hard to alter successfully.
Yet at times this is the best course
of action, particularly if we consider that our expectations may be quite
narrow. A piece of wit from a
long-forgotten source says, "We bring a list of expectations marriage, and when the reality
doesn't fit the list, we often tear up the person instead of the list." to
I think it is possible to live
satisfactorily in a mixed religious marriage.
But doing so requires some accommodating. To begin with, both partners must leave all
judgments to the Lord and not to their own opinions. Each must acknowledge, "Your beliefs are
as important to you as mine are to me, and our differing beliefs and actions do
not make us bad or evil." In addition, both should agree on such practical
details as the rearing of children (there is a tendency for one spouse to
oversee the children's religious activity), issues with in-laws, and flexible
attendance to Church functions.
Surprisingly, some couples find that their accommodated patterns can
bring as much richness as their former hoped-for, identical patterns.
Respect, trust, and love are
redefined, but very much present. And
for some, a similarity of viewpoints is gradually achieved.
These choices are not made easily or
without a good deal of confusion. It
often takes years to reach resolution about an issue that is the core of the
meaning of life for so many Mormons. But
for many the resolution can bring invigorating personal growth and new leaps of
faith. J. Golden Nuggets
WORDS OF WISDOM
James N. Kimball
struggle with the Word of Wisdom was really not his alone. Another member of the First Council of the
Seventy, Brother B. H. Roberts, had problems with alcohol. Perhaps that was one of the reasons they were
such good friends. They often traveled
together. Uncle Golden said that when
they were back in the hotel room after a long day of preaching and teaching the
gospel and meeting with the Saints, Brother Roberts would ask Uncle Golden to
go get him something so that he might imbibe and relax and sleep better. Uncle Golden was happy to do this. But he mentions in his diaries that after
several drinks Brother Roberts became very morose and depressed. He told Uncle Golden how terrible he felt
that he had this problem and how hypocritical he was to represent himself to
the Saints as a leader while struggling with this temptation. Uncle Golden would try to help him through
the night. On one occasion Golden went
over and put his arm around him and said, "B. H., I want you to know
something. Even when you're drunk, you're a helluva
lot better man than most of the Brethren are sober."
struggles with the Word of Wisdom sometimes forced him into ironic
circumstances. On one occasion, he was
asked to go to Cache Valley where the stake president had
decided to call all the Melchizedek priesthood holders together for the purpose
of emphasizing the importance of the Word of Wisdom. Uncle Golden didn't realize this was going to
be the theme until he got there. As a
matter of fact, he didn't know what he was to speak about until the stake
president announced it in introducing Uncle Golden: "J. Golden Kimball
will now speak to us on the subject of the Word of Wisdom." Uncle Golden
didn't know what to say. He stood at the
pulpit for a long time waiting for some inspiration; he didn't want to be a
hypocrite and he knew he had problems with this principle. So finally he looked at the audience and
said, "I'd like to know how many of you brethren have never had a puff on
a cigarette in all your life. Would you
please stand?' Well, Uncle Golden related later that much to his amazemen most of the brethren in that audience stood. He looked at them for a long time and then
said, 'Now, all of you that are standing, I want to know how many of you have
never had a taste of whiskey in all your life. If you have, sit
down.' Again, to Uncle Golden's amazement, only a few
of the brethren sat down. The rest of
them stood there proudly looking at him and then there was a long silence. I guess Uncle Golden thought they looked a
little too self-righteous, because his next comment was, "Well, brethren,
you don't know what the hell you've missed."
At another conference, where again
the theme was the Word of Wisdom, the presiding authority at the conference, a
fellow General Authority, got off on the subject of the Word of Wisdom and
berated everyone there for not observing it sufficiently. He ended his talk by saying, 'I want to know
who in this audience keeps the Word of Wisdom, the absolute letter of the law. I want to know who it is that faithfully keeps
the commandment. Would you all please
stand?" Well, most of the congregation stood. Then, for some unexplained reason, this
General Authority began counting heads.
When he found that the task was a little too much for him, he turned to
Uncle Golden, who was sitting behind him. "Golden,' he said, " would you come up here and count everyone seated on this
side of the audience?" Uncle Golden didn't move; he just began to count
from where he was seated. In a few
minutes the brother turned again and said, 'Golden, come here and help me count
these people." Not wanting to be a hypocrite, Uncle Goldenresponded,
"Oh, brother, I can see them all seated right here."
I don't believe he ever overcame his
problem with coffee. At least there's no
recorded evidence that would suggest it.
But he did make a statement or two about his life as he reflected on it
that may give us some understanding about the man. He wrote, "I'm no saint. I have struggled with righteousness all my
life, but after I'm gone I hope the Saints will remember this about me: I may
not walk the straight and narrow, but I try to cross it just as often as I
Queries and Comments
WHEN DOES THE SPIRIT ENTER THE
Jeffrey E. Keller
A similar question was addressed on
a national level early In 1981, when the United States
Senate convened hearings to determine when "human life" begins. At issue was a statement in an anti-abortion
bill sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms which read, "Present day scientific
evidence indicates a significant likelihood that actual human life exists from
Although several distinguished
scientists, philosophers, and theologians spoke in the congressional hearings
on both sides of the issue, the Senate committee was unable to substantiate Helms's claims regarding scientific evidence. The National Academy of Sciences subsequently
declared that Helms's bill dealt "with a
question to which Science can provide no answer." Leon E. Rosenburg of the Yale Medical School added, "I believe that the
notion embodied in the phrase 'actual human life' is not a scientific one, but
rather a religious, metaphysical one." (Science News,
May 9, 1981, p. 293.)
As the original question implies,
the religious, metaphysical issue of "human life" in Mormon theology
may boil down to the question of when the spirit enters the body. If, as Mormons believe, physical death is
that moment when the spirit leaves the body, it follows that a fetus is not yet
alive in the fullest sense until it unites with a spirit to form a living soul.
There are basically three periods
when a fetus could acquire its spirit: 1) at conception, 2) at
"quickening" (the first movements of life felt by the mother, usually
in the fourth month of pregnancy), or 3) at birth. Interestingly, each of these three periods
has had its supporters among the leaders of the Church.
The idea that the spirit enters the
embryo at the moment of conception logically entails the corollary that
abortion is tantamount to murder, with the same eternal implications of killing
an adult. While never directly
addressing the issue of spirit-body, many leaders of the Church in the middle
to late 1800s equated prenatal killing with infanticide. John Taylor, speaking of abortionists, wrote,
"They are murderers and murderesses of their infants.... and you that want
them, take them, and you that do will go with them, and go to perdition with
them and I tell you that in the name of the Lord." (Journal
of Discourses, 22:320, 1881). In 1884, George Q. Cannon stated,
"They [abortionists] will be damned with the deepest damnation; because it
is the damnation of shedding innocent blood, for which there is no
forgiveness" (JD, 26:14-15). As late as 1916 Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
"It is just as much murder to destroy life before as it is after birth,
although man-made laws may not so consider it; but there i
One who does take notice and his justice and judgment is sure" (Relief
Society Magazine, 3:367-68). Seven months later, the First Presidency gave
their "unqualified endorsement" of Elder Smith's writing. (RS
However, unlike other antiabortion
groups such as the Catholic Church, which recognized a fixed period of " ensoulment," the Mormon Church's position has never
been derived from an assumed time when the spirit enters the body. Brigham Young also associated abortion with
infanticide, although not as explicitly as did John Taylor and George Q. Cann on (see ID, 12:120-121); still, President Young did
not believe that the spirit enters the body until the time of quickening,
though he did not differentiate between abortion before quickening and abortion
after quickening. ( see Bush, "Birth Control Among
the Mormons," Dialogue, Autumn 1976, pp. 12-44, for a complete discussion
of early attitudes towards abortion). As quoted by Joseph F. Smith in Doctrines
of Salvation (2:280-81), President Young stated, "When the spirit leaves
them [mortal bodies] they are lifeless; and when the mother feels life come to
her infant, it is the spirit entering the body preparatory to the premortal existence." ( emphasis
in original. Se also ID 18:258). The
First Presidency of Joseph F. Smith was likely referring to Brigham Young when
they wrote, "True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a
tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the
spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a
man." ("The Origin of Man," Messages of the First Presidency,
vol. 4, p. 205). A scriptural precedent for this view may be inferred from Luke
1:41, "when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the
babe [John] leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy
Ghost," although this scripture has not been explicitly quoted for this
"quickening" has been a popular concept, there is no scientific
phenomenon recognizable as quickening.
The fetus begins to move as soon as the biochemical contractile proteins
actin and myosin come together, and the mother does
not feel this movement until months later.
Perhaps in part because of this, modern Church authorities have not
publicly supported President Young's hypothesis.
Interestingly, since Joseph Fielding
Smith's 1917 statement, the Church has also rejected the notion that abortion
is murder. In answer to the question
"is produced abortion termed as murder or not?" Elder David O. McKay
wrote in 1934, "To this question the Church has not made an authoritative
answer. It does, however, condemn
abortion as a very sinful act." (Letter to Nearly forty
years later the First Presidency affirmed this position: Tiena Nate.)
As the matter stands, no definitive
statement has been made by the Lord one way or another regarding the crime of
abortion. So far as is known, he has not
listed it alongside the crime of the sin and shedding innocent
blood. unpardonable That he has not done so would
suggest that it is not in that class of crime and therefore that it will be
amenable to the laws of repentence and forgiveness. (Church News, 27 Jan, 1973, p. 7).
One possible reason why abortion is
not classed with murder is the possibility that the spirit has not yet entered
the body. Not surprisingly, David O.
McKay believed that the spirit enters the body at birth. In the same letter quoted above, he wrote:
Undoubtedly the nearest approach we
have to definite knowledge on this subject is the statement made by the Savior,
3 Nephi 1:13, wherein he said: 'Tomorrow come I into the world.' This indicates
that the spirit takes possession of the body at birth. Life manifest in the body before that time
would seem to be dependent upon the mother.
President J. Reuben Clark, citing
the same scripture, similarly stated, "But it seems possible that the
spirit may not be present in the embryo till at least shortly before birth,
whether the birth be regular or premature." ("Man:
God's Greatest Miracle," BYU address June 21, 1954 , reprinted in pamphlet form). Another scripture not cited by the
brethren that may refer to the spirit's inhabitation of the body at birth is
Moses 6:59, ". . . ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and
the spirit which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul,
. . ."
A second reason why abortion is
viewed differently from murder is an idea propounded by Brigham Young-that the
union of body and spirit prior to birth, or even shortly after birth, is
reversible. As recorded in Wilford Woodruff's journal, October
15, 1867 ,
President Young said:
When some people have little
children born at 6 & 7 months pregnancy & they live but a few hours
then die they bless them &c. but I dont do it for
I think that such a spirit has not a fair chance for I think that such a spirit
will have a chance of occupying another Tabernacle and developing itself.
Whether intentionally or not, Elder
Bruce R. McConkie refuted Brigham Young's sentiments
as well as indirectly supporting the notion of spirit-body association at birth
when he recently wrote, "Mortality is fully upon us when we first breathe
the breath of life." (Ensign, April 1977, p. 3).
Despite the various opinions voiced
by General Authorities on when the spirit enters the body, or perhaps because
of them, the First Presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith's era concluded in 1970:
We may say that there is no direct
revelation upon the subject of when the spirit enters the body; it has always
been a moot question. That there is life
in the child before birth is an undoubted fact, but whether that life is the
result of the affinity of the child in embryo with the life of its mother, or
because the spirit has entered it remains an unsolved mystery." (Letter to W. Dean Belnap, Feb. 22, 19
This admission, however, has in no
way diminished the Church's abhorrence of abortion. Indeed, although the Church did not directly
address the Senate Hearing on Human Life in 1981, previous editorials in the
Church News indicated the Church would support the proposition that human life
exists from conception. A Church News editorial from August 3. 1974,
approvingly quoted Sen. James
Buckley of New York : "Anyone with the biological
facts knows that a fetus, from the moment of conception, is a living
human." (See also the CN editorial January 1, 1975.)
Elder James E. Faust supported this view in the April 1975 general conference;
at the same time he explicitly disassociated the concept of "human
life" from any dependence on a spirit-body doctrine:
Some say, as did the Supreme Court
of the United States , that it is only a theory that
human life is present from conception.
This is contrary to insurmountable medical evidence.... Because she
feels it, every mother knows there is sacred life in the body of her unborn
babe. There is also life in the spirit,
and some time before birth the body and spirit are united. When they do come together, we have a human
soul. (Ensign, 5:27-29, May 1975)
Three years later, Patriarch Eldred
G. Smith intimated for the first time since 1916 that abortion may be murder,
although he was probably speaking to the concept of "human life"
rather than spirit-body and did not intend his remarks to represent a change in
Church policy. After quoting Doctrine
and Covenants 132:19 ("And if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no
murder whereby to shed innocent blood"), Patriarch Smith stated,
"What do you think He's talking about? Is it possible that He was referring
to abortion? Think about it! Is there more innocent life than that of the
unborn child? And why is murder referred to when the Lord is talking about
marriage?" (Ensign, May 1978, pp. 29-30).
It should be noted, however, that
despite the sentiments expressed above that human life exists from conception, the fetus has never been accepted as having full individual
rights by society in general or the Church in particular. For example, if human life truly begins at
conception, the embryo, from the moment of conception, would enjoy all of the
rights any individual has in our society, such as inclusion in the National
Census, and medical aid and Social Security payments under Aid to Families with
Dependent Children. In the case of a
miscarriage, birth and death records should be filed and the fetus buried in a
cemetery as is customary for other, older, individuals. In the Church, such a miscarried fetus would
be entitled to a name, a blessing and a burial, none of which are currently
From the perspective of the medical
profession, the concept of human life from conception is also fraught with
difficulties. First of all, there is no
consensus about when conception (the beginning of pregnancy) actually occurs. The dictionary definition of "conception,
"which presumably most of the commentators quoted above had in mind,
usually refers to the moment when an egg is fertilized by sperm. However, the medical profession does not
recognize the beginning of pregnancy until the dividing, developing egg implants
itself in the uterus some six days after fertilization. This is the earliest point at which pregnancy
can be detected clinically. Thus, the
Food and Drug Administration labels the I.U.D., which works by preventing
implantation of the fertilized egg, as a contraceptive (preventing pregnancy)
rather that as an abortifacient (inducing abortion).
(To date the Church has not singled out the I.U.D. as being acceptable than other forms of
contraception.) Other points when 'conception" may occur are (1) at two
weeks, when the possibility of twinning is past (thus no "individual"
exists until then), or (2) when the fetus demonstrates awareness of or
responsiveness to external stimuli, spontaneous muscular movement, reflexive
action or a positive brain scan (EEC). Any of these criteria would negate a
finding of "death" according to the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of
less Harvard Medical School . (See Wardle and
Wood, A Lawyer Looks at Abortion, 1982, chap. 2.)
No matter which definition of
conception is used, once a decision by society or the Church is made to
recognize human life from conception, any medical procedure which increases the
rate of miscarriage could be viewed as involuntary mans laughter. This would include amniocentesis, x-rays,
cancer chemotherapy, and medications for the mother. An interesting case along these lines
involves the hydatidiform mole, which is a
potentially cancerous cluster of cells sometimes found in a woman's
uterus. Removal of this mole
theoretically could be murder, as it is nothing more than a fertilized egg gone
In conclusion, then, the Church's
stand against abortion apparently does not derive from a doctrine fixing the
time when the spirit enters the body.
Further, although General Authorities have held various opinions about
the subject of spirit-body, no "orthodox" view exists in the Church;
it is a "moot question." An interesting corollary doctrinal point
developed in the process is that life can exist without direct spiritual
inhabitation, through "affinity" with another spirit, in this case
the mother's, may be required. Finally,
although the fetus does not enjoy all of the rights of other individuals in the
Church, the Church has generally affirmed its right to live.
NOTE: U.S. Senator Jake Garn, (R) Utah , has reinstated a Constitutional
amendment "to prohibit the practice [of abortion] except when the life of
the mother is threatened."
According to the release, Garn's so-called "Human Life Amendment" has been
introduced in the past four Congresses and currently has twenty cosponsors.
Garn says he is "disturbed by
the 'outrageous' claims made by many abortion proponants
which would lead people to believe that the enactment of any human life
amendment 'will result in women being put in jail for having miscarriages. We even hear such extreme references as
"The crucial fact too often
overlooked in this debate is that once a woman becomes pregnant, she already
has a baby. The human life was
established at the moment of conception. . . . Medical and biological science
teaches unequivocally that life begins at conception, not a [sic] birth."
Says Garn, "May people insist
that the right to choose is paramount even over a right to life. Aside front the obvious fact that the right
to choose is meaningless until the right to life has been guaranteed there must
he some sort of limit on the type of behavior that can be justified by some
all-encompassing right to choose."
JEFFREY E. KELLER will graduate from
the, University of Utah medical school in May of this
year. He is the father of two.
"Queries and Comments"
welcomes suggestions for topics from readers.
Contact Gary Bergera, "Queries &
Comments" editor, in care of SUNSTONE. Article Digest
MORMONS AND THE LAW
New endeavors always seem to demand
some sort of a justification. In this
case, it's easy. Every year several fine
articles are published on various aspects of Mormonism and religion. They come in a variety of different
forms. Some are historical, some are sociological. Others are simply the fascinating ramblings
of an interesting mind.
What is almost always true, however,
is that many really important articles slip by unnoticed or unabsorbed because
we were either too busy to read them or perhaps because they appeared in
journals that we did not have access to.
On the other hand, sometimes
something we read grabs our interest, and we want
more-but don't know where to go to get it.
This new column will attempt to
satisfy both these concerns. First of
all we want to call certain outstanding studies to your attention, giving a
short synopsis of the most important and intriguing points that the author has
presented. And next, we'll provide a
short bibliography of other interesting articles that have been written on
similar subjects. Hopefully it will both
help you and inspire you to do additional in-depth reading.
Allen, James B. "'Good Guys'
Vs. 'Good Guys': Rudger Clawson, John Sharp, and
Civil Disobedience in Nineteenth-Century Utah ." Utah Historical Quarterly 48 (Spring
In "Good Guys" vs.
"Good Guys" James B. Allen addresses the paradox faced by
nineteenth-century Mormons in the wake of antipolygamy
legislation. He asks what conditions
justify disobedience civil laws when they appear to be morally reprehensible at the
same time assuming the importance of upholding and honoring the law?
The policy of civil disobedience as
announced by John Taylor in 1879 was part of a greater American tradition of
dissent among those who found certain laws offensive to fundamental values and
beliefs. The Mormons argued for a higher
law as the only true basis for judging the value of any single piece of
Allen suggests that the duality
implicit in this question lines up "good guys" against "good
guys" on opposite sides of the issue -- using the examples of Rudger Clawson and John Sharp to illustrate how the Church
dealt with both.
Clawson was the first polygamist to be tried under the Edmunds Act. He adopted the loyal mainline Mormon approach
which was to avoid confrontation but when caught accept conviction without
denying the principle. In so doing he
received the warm and consistent support of Church leaders and in the years
immediately following ascended to a leadership position in the Church hierarchy
as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
By contrast John Sharp became a
"dissenter from the dissenters." He chose in the confrontation to
give up the principle rather than continue to disobey the law. Sharp was looked upon by many as a traitor to
the cause and found his Church position affected by his decision to
succumb. He was eventually asked to step
down from his position as bishop where he had served for more than twenty years.
For both men the question was one of
conscience. Each evidenced the fact that
private and public morality are for many one in the same and that one's
personal integrity rests upon the complex relationship between one's actions
and one's sense of right. Finally, Allen
suggests that the moral rightness or wrongness of any decision is not always
absolute and that one should reserve judgment and carefully examine
motives, intentions, and integrity.
Cannon, Kenneth L. II. "Mountain Common Law:' The Extralegal Punishment of Seducers
in Early Utah ." Utah Historical Quarterly 51 (Fall
When Howard Egan killed his wife's
seducer and the father of her illegitimate child he was executing extralegal
measures familiar to many Americans who assumed that vigilante action best
According to Kenneth Cannon Utah's
Mormon majority condoned such measures.
The cases of those who killed seducers, as well as editorial reaction in
the press, attest to the existence of continued support for such extralegal
activities. In fact, in the period
between 1851 and 1877, there were no convictions of men who had extralegally punished a relative's seducer or rapist.
As defense attorney in the Egan
case, young George A. Smith voiced the justification for the extralegal
punishment of seducers, a principle of "mountain common law, when he said:
"The principle, the only one, that beats and throbs through the hearts of
the entire inhabitants of this territory, is simply this: The man who seduces
his neighbor's wife must die, and her nearest relative must kill him!"
Although there was not universal
approval of the practice, many prominent community and Church leaders seemed to
support extralegal measures to compensate for the inadequacies of legal
statutes and institutions. Mormon
historian B. H. Roberts found the frequent turning to the "unwritten
law" a tribute to the "high sense of honor, the virility, the
strength, and the courage of the community's manhood."
Cannon says that although vigilante
justice in territorial Utah was similar to the experience in
other parts of the country-it did attempt to bring order to society and to
control crime-for the Mormons controlling seduction had the additional benefit
of being good public relations. In a
time when many in the nation were accusing the Mormon patriarchy of
licentiousness, this intolerance of seduction seemed to be tangible evidence of
the high moral standards of the Church.
This article won the Dale L. Morgan
Award for the best scholarly article published in Utah Historical Quarterly
Linford, Orma. "The Mormons, the Law, and the
Territory of Utah ." The American journal of Legal
History 23 (July 1979): 213-35,
Throughout its history America has had a tradition of legalism
which holds a special regard for the law as both idea and a system of
institutions. As one legal historian put
it "People in the United States were anxious to reduce public
issues to legal issues, and to justify their notions of policy by appeal to
legality. Behind such thinking was a
widespread popular conviction that in a meaningful sense men
had 'rights' which they could go to court to enforce."
In this article Orma
Linford asks several questions about the Mormons and
their relationship to the law. How did
the Mormons reject this tradition of legalism and why? How was Mormon Utah
different from the rest of the country? What was the legal system created by
the Church in Utah ?
By the time the Saints had settled
in the Great
they had developed an elaborate philosophy about the law, lawyers, and legal
institutions. Much of this thinking was
developed through experience. The
Latter-day Saint church's history of confrontation with the law began with the
Prophet Joseph Smith, who was accused of various crimes, including imposture,
banking law obstruction, treason, murder, arson, robbery, and a number of other
felonies. In Kirtland, in Nauvoo, and
wherever they settled, the Saints seemed to invite trouble and experienced
repeated legal confrontations. They even
discovered the insufficiency of court systems led by their own men, following
laws of their own making.
In territorial Utah the Mormon majority began to work
outside the legal parameters of the law and created parallel law enforcement
bodies with their own jurisdiction, authority, and laws which clearly
constituted a challenge to federal authority.
The law and the legal institutions
made it possible for the rest of American society to have their civil rights
and liberties secured did not in the same way meet the needs of the
Mormons. which The resulting concept of law
was quite different from the traditional American interpretation of the rule of
law as a protector of private rights and a regulator of civil society. To the Mormons, individual rights were subordinate
to the good of the group. The establishment
of order had already been accomplished through God's laws. To them, laws, both spiritual and temporal,
were created for the growth of the kingdom.
The Mormons' special contempt for judges and for the law itself was
directly in opposition to the typical nineteenth-century American viewpoint.
concludes that this relationship was also different because of Latter-day Saint
idealism, utopianism, and the complete merging of Church and state which in the
rest of the country were so carefully separated. SELECTED WORKS
Allen, James B. "'Good Guys'
vs. 'Good Guys': Rudger Clawson, John Sharp, and Civil Disobedience in Nineteenth-century Utah ." Utah Historical Quarterly 48 (Spring 1980): 148-74.
Cannon, Kenneth L. II.
"Mountain Common Law: The Extralegal Punishment of Seducers in Early Utah ." Utah Historical Quarterly 51 (Fall
Church, Al and
Janice Perry. "The Long Arm of the Lawyer."
Utah Holiday , February 1979, 26-35.
Dyer, Robert G. "The Evolution
of Social and Judicial Attitudes Towards
Polygamy." Utah Bar
Journal 5 (Spring 1977): 213-35.
Ellsworth, Paul. " Mobocracy and the Rule of Law: American Press Reaction to
the Murder of Joseph Smith." BYU Studies 20 (Fall 1979): 71-82.
Galliher , J. F. and L. " Basilick. Utah 's Liberal Drug Laws: Structural
Foundations and Triggering Events." Social Problems 26 (1979): 284-97.
Gardner, Martin R. "Illicit
Legislative Motivation as Sufficient Condition for Unconstitutionality under
the Establishment Clause-A Case for Consideration: The Utah Firing Squad." Washington University Law Quarterly (Spring 1979):
Gardner, Martin R. "Mormonism
and Capital Punishment: a Doctrinal Perspective, Past and Present."
Dialogue 12 (Spring 1979): 9-26.
Gee, Elizabeth D. "Justice for
All or for the 'Elect'? The Utah County Probate Court , 18 ,55-72."
Utah Historical Quarterly 48 (Spring
Cochran. "Chief Justice Daniel Gantt of the Nebraska Supreme Court:
Letters and Excerpts from his journal, 1835-1878." Nebraska History 61 (Fall 1980): 280-309.
Linford, Orma. "The Mormons and the Law-The
Polygamy Cases." Utah Law Review 9 (Winter 1964):
Linford, Orma. "The Mormons, the Law, and the
Territory of Utah ." American Journal of Legal History
23 (July 1979): 213-35.
Moody, Eric N.
" Nevada 's Anti-Mormon
Legislation of 1887 and Southern Idaho
Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 22
(Spring 1979): 21.
Larry. "The Mormon Connection: Lincoln , the Saints, and the Crisis of
Equality." Western Humanities Review 34 (Winter 1980): 1-22.
Swenson, Raymond T. "Resolution
in Civil Disputes by Mormon Ecclesiastical Courts. . ." Utah Law Review 23 (1978): 573-95.
Wells, Merle W. "Law in the
Service of Politics: Anti-Mormonism in Idaho Territory ." Idaho Yesterdays 25 (Spring 1981):
Winder, Lori. "LDS Position on
the ERA: An Historical View." Exponent II 6 (Winter 1980): 6-7.
THE YEARS SHE SPENT INSANE
George had had Alsina
But few years when
their fifth was born.
Their lore was sealed with years of
And nights beneath the quilt she'd
The white and yellow pillowslips,
The laced crocheted embroidery
Were threads that tied the time to her
And witnessed all the angel-love
That could not be contained within
The fragile vessel that she was
And so, flowed into crewel blooms --
(Little lilacs on
Their fifth had brought brain fever.
He held her pulsing hands in his
And rubbed her
fingers in his palms.
Her cheeks were Winter's
Poinsettias bright on snowy banks;
The lines around her mouth and eyes
Impious tracks through virgin snow
Her eyes, half-open, stare at him.
Her little mouth stuck to her teeth.
He moved his hands to touch her hair
And let his fingers press her head.
He thought about the Priesthood
The way and words to bless, to heal
. . .
He kissed her dark and gleaming
"I have the power to call on
He whispered to her needlepoint.
"I'll use my strength to make
Lord knows I'll wilt without you
Her breaths were loud, laborious.
"I'll never be the same,"
"Oh, George, my love, please
let me go."
He held her close and breathed,
turned her head away.
And when George laid her down again,
She cried and stained the
The thread that
tied her down. -Margaret Blair Fox
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Huebener Group Lauded in Hamburg
Helmuth Huebener would have been sixty years old on 8
January 1985 .
But he was executed at the age of seventeen for masterminding a scheme to
distribute anti-Hitler flyers around Hamburg in Nazi Germany.
Anti-fascists now revere Huebener as a national hero. On the anniversary of his birth last month,
the Vereinigung der Verfolgtendes Naziregimes (VVN),
an antifascist group, and the government of Hamburg saluted Huebener
and two co-conspirators who survived him.
Karl- Heinze Schnibbe
and Rudi Wobbe, fellow Mormons now living in Salt Lake City , were greeted as celebrities, for
a week-long commemoration honoring the so-called " Huebener
It all began when Huebener became disillusioned with the National Socialist
Party. He observed members of the local
LDS branch becoming obsessed with Nazism.
For example, the branch president at one time mounted a sign on the
chapel door which said, "Jews not allowed to enter."
On occasion Hitler's radio broadcasts were part of Church services-the door to
the chapel locked to insure attendance.
In the summer of 1941, Huebener invited Schnibbe and Wobbe, who shared similar sentiments about the Nazis, to
listen to an illegal BBC radio broadcast.
During the next nine months Huebener used the
information learned from such broadcasts to produce some twenty-nine leaflets
which were distributed by Wobbe and Schnibbe around Hamburg .
When Huebener attempted to expand the
operation by inviting others to participate, the Gestapo was informed.
Huebener, Wobbe, and Schnibbe were arrested
on February 5, 1942 . Ten days later the branch president wrote
"excommunicated" on Huebener's Church
records. It was believed at the time by
most Church members that Huebener had defied the
Twelfth Article of Faith which admonished members to support the
government. Noted as a
"mistake," Huebener's membership was later
As ringleader of the group, Huebener was sentenced to die. He was beheaded on October
27, 1942 . Schnibbe and Wobbe were both sent
to labor camps on charges of conspiracy to commit high treason and for aiding
and abetting the enemy. Wobbe was liberated from Hahnoefersand
concentration camp by the British in 1945 and Schnibbe,
inducted into the German army four weeks before the end of the war, was
captured and spent four years in Soviet labor camps. Schnibbe has
recently published a book about his experiences. Co-authored by Alan Keele,
The Price is reviewed in this issue.
and Wobbe have visited Hamburg since their immigration to the United States .
However this is the first time the men have been publicly honored for
heroism. Says Wobbe,
"After forty years, to come back to a city that had actually put us away
in concentration camps and prisons ... now to be honored and taken around as
guests of the city with the members of the government . . . it was
surprising-even a bit uncomfortable."
and Wobbe visited the two prisons where they had been
incarcerated. When they visited Glasmoor, a labor prison located in the wetlands, they were
asked to address the prisoners. Says Schnibbe, "We told them how easy they have it now
compared to then. When we were here in
the 1940s we spent more than a year in the most conditions. terrible The prison was not so clean and nice-it seems
more like a hotel now."
"I had a flashback,"
recalls Wobbe, "about going down that long hall
to the interrogation room where I had been beaten. At least this time I could leave when I
wanted without getting shot."
Wobbe and Schnibbe also placed flowers at Ploetzensee,
the site of Huebener's execution. The Berlin prison is now a memorial to the
victims of the Nazi Regime.
At a banquet held at Helmuth Huebener Hall in Hamburg , Wobbe
and Schnibbe were asked to retell the story of their
fight against Hitler. They were then
awarded certificates "for outstanding opposition to the National Socialist
terror regime and the restoration of Freedom and Democracy earning the praise
of the VVN." Schnibbe and Wobbe
were also given two medals each for "distinctive and honorable
visited the branch in Hamburg where he spoke in sacrament
meeting and taught the lessons in Sunday School and Aaronic priesthood meeting.
Not only was he asked to relate his experience, but for the priesthood
lesson he was specifically assigned to teach about the Twelfth Article of Faith
which reads, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers,
and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
While quite a bit of international
and local publicity surrounds them, Wobbe and Schnibbe have noticed that none of it comes from the LDS
church. In fact they feel the LDS church
has tried to "whitewash" the whole story. They suggest several possible reasons. Wobbe believes that
there are presently some members of the Church in Utah and in Europe who were Nazi supporters during
the war. Now these members want to
forget their past and have solicited the support of the Church hierarchy in
this effort. They feel the leaders may
also be afraid that promoting Schnibbe and Wobbe as Mormon antifascists may thwart the Church's effort
in East Germany and other Eastern bloc
nations. Since communists are
antifascists, Schnibbe insists this could not happen.
"We are the of heros East Germany , and we are Mormons," he
says. "That would help the Church much more than what they do -- shun
To illustrate, Schnibbe
and Wobbe refer to at least two instances. In 1976 the play " Huebener"
by Thomas F. Rogers closed after a short but successful run amid rumors that Rogers had been instructed to forbid
further performances. When asked to
comment on the incident, Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of Twelve
Apostles said, "Who knows what was right or wrong then? I don't know what
we accomplish by dredging these things up and trying to sort them out."
and Wobbe maintain they knew-as all Mormons should
have known-what was wrong then. They
believe that even though the LDS church sustains the Twelfth Article of Faith,
this should not preclude following one's conscience.
They cite Doctrine and Covenants 134
verses 2 and 5: "We believe that no government can exist in peace, except
such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the
free will and exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and
the protection of life" and "We believe that all men are bound to
sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside ... and that
all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are
best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however,
holding sacred the freedomof conscience."
"We just had to 'do what is
right, let the consequence follow"' Schnibbe
echoes an LDS hymn.
Certainly "It was an experience
that matured us before our time," says Wobbe.
"But we'd do it again in a second.
There is no excuse for denying what's right. No way."
CHURCH ASKS FOR FEEDBACK IN NATIONWIDE SURVEY
Since "it is important for us
as Church leaders to be aware of the changing life experiences of Latter-day
Saint men and women, both in the Church and in society at large ... the Council
of the Twelve has asked the Correlation Department to conduct a national survey
in order to hear directly from a cross-section of Church members about the
impact of these changes on their lives."
So proposes the cover letter of a
thirty-six-page survey which asks participants to
freely, honestly, and anonymously respond to personal questions concerning some
of the most thought-provoking social issues facing Church members today.
The letter, dated October
29, 1984 ,
assures participants that the survey has "no right or wrong answers, and
no trick or hidden meanings in any of the questions." Indeed the questions
are very straightforward, usually requiring the participant to agree or
disagree with a statement on a scale from one to five.
For example one section asks the
participant to indicate how closely each of the following statements describes
their experiences as members of the Church:
It is unlikely that I can be heard
at the Church headquarters through the formal channels.
I feel that Relief Society lessons
and activities are not relevant to my needs and interests.
It is insulting to women to have the
'obey' idea remain in the marriage relationship.
Women should worry less about their
rights and more about becoming good wives and mothers.
Women should be strong, independent,
I have felt pressure in the Church
to fit into a mold rather than be an individual.
Other questions are directed to
single parents who are asked to agree or disagree with such statements as
"My children have been left out of some social activities at Church
because I am single" and "Sometimes going to Church makes me feel
guilty because I am a single parent."
Married participants are asked to
agree or disagree with such statements as the following:
My marriage has not measured up to
what I thought it would be.
Our sexual relations are
Women and men should have the same
chance to seek education and develop their abilities.
Husbands and wives should have an
equal say in decisions in their marriage and family.
"How often has your spouse done
any of the following during the last year?" reads one section. Participants may answer from never to once a
week or more to such options as "sulked, or refused to talk about an
issue? Insulted you or sworn at you? Threw, smashed, hit, or kicked something?
Pushed, grabbed, or shoved you? Kicked, bit, or hit you? Beat you up?
Threatened to use or did use a weapon on you?"
Another section queries: "in
general, who do you think has more natural ability to do the following tasks?
Men, women, or both are equally capable? Organizing, cleaning up, getting work
done, administering programs, having good ideas, teaching youth, planning,
sensing the needs of others, explaining doctrine, caring for children,
communicating well, training leaders, conducting meetings, making
Participants are also asked to
"indicate how well you think the efforts listed below help increase
women's sense of their own contribution to the Church":
Recent talks by General Authorities
have made efforts to speak to women in all types of circumstances, whether
never-married, divorced, employed etc.
Last April, the LDS Church 's General Conference included
women speakers in each of the sessions.
The Church's policy was changed a
few years ago that opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting could be
offered by men or women.
Bishops have been told they can
issue temple recommends to both single men and women who qualify but have not
served a mission
Motherhood and homemaking are spoken
of highly by the leaders of the Church.
"When you hear a General
Authority talk about women's roles," begins one section, "do you
almost always or almost never feel motivated, disappointed, angry, understood,
confused, guilty, pleased, or confined?"
Participants are also asked whether
certain specified practices in the Church seem "the way you would like it
Ward dinners are usually chaired by
Gospel Doctrine classes are taught
mostly by men.
Generally, young women are not
encouraged to serve fulltime missions.
The amount spent on Young Men's
programs and activities exceeds the amount spent on Young Women's programs and
Primary Presidents are always women
Sunday School Presidents are always
Nursery workers are usually women.
As a rule, women do not give talks
or pray in General conference.
A husband's permission is sought
before a call is discussed with his wife, but a wife's permission is not sought
before a call is discussed with her husband
Home teachers are encouraged to pray
with families they visit; visiting teachers are not encouraged to do so.
Finally, one section asks for
personal statistics: childhood and parental religiosity, tithing payment,
marital and employment status, and current Church activity. Participants are also asked to describe in
their own words, " the troublesome problem facing you at this time?"
"What do you think is the most troublesome problem for women in the Church
today?" The survey concludes with an invitation to make additional
comments in a space provided.
Sources say that at this point about
51 percent of the surveys have been returned.
It is unknown how many were asked to participate in the survey.
HIGHLY EDUCATED MORMONS ARE MORE
RELIGIOUS, STUDY SHOWS
Among Mormons, higher education does
not necessarily have a secularizing effect on religiosity. In fact, according to a study by Brigham Young University sociologists Stan L. Albrect and Tim B. Heaton, there seems to be a positive
relationship between education and church activity.
In the summer of 1981 Heaton and Albrect sent a survey to a random sampling of 7446 adults
whose names were taken from a computerized membership list kept at Church
Heaton and Albrect
acknowledge that a number of previous studies indicated that "educational
achievement impacts negatively on religious commitment and that increased
levels of education often lead to apostasy as individuals encounter views that
deemphasize spiritual growth and elevate scientific and intellectual
and Heaton note that such studies have treated all religions as a homogenous
group-which they say "ignores important denominational differences."
Although Mormons, Episcopalians, and
Presbyterians are similar in their correlation between education and church attendance,
Mormons have the highest overall attendance of all the groups considered. And even though Mormons with no college
education are not "exceptionally high attenders
... Mormons with college experience have attendance notably higher than any
For example, Church attendance among
highly educated Mormon men reaches a 77.3 percent level compared to
Episcopalians with 27.8percent and Presbyterians with 37.4percent. Among women, the attendance rate for Mormons
was 78.9 percent with Episcopalians at 38.1 percent and Presbyterians at 51.4
In addition the study shows that for
Mormon men measurable indicators of religiosity such as Church attendance,
scripture study, tithe payment, and personal prayer increased significantly
from a 34 percent Church attendance rate among grade school educated men to 80
percent among those with graduate school experience.
Women increased their Church
activity from grade school through college (48 to 82 percent), but the level
fell to 76 percent among women with graduate school experience. Albrect and Heaton
were unable to explain this decline.
In examining the various reasons for
the results of the study, the sociologists discount the idea that Mormons may
attend Church for "status attainment." Highly educated Mormons are
not religiously active because of peer pressure.
Heaton and Albrect
admit the explanation may be that when LDS college-age students attend
Church-owned colleges and universities, "almost 90percent report weekly
attendance, ranking them 18-20 percent points higher than those who do not go
to a Church university."
Yet another factor may be that
educated men and women often serve in the "lay-clergy" in various
leadership and administrative capacities. "Successful performance in these
callings requires a great variety of skills including things like bookkeeping,
teaching, organizational management, and interpersonal relations. Some skills are acquired through an
educational system. Since one's success
in one's calling is such a central aspect of church participation, the link
between education and participation comes as no surprise."
Because of the study, Albrect and Heaton conclude that increased education among
Mormons positively affects the expression of religiosity, activity, and commitment
to the LDS church.
Speeches & Conferences
GOTTLIEB ADDRESSES B.H. ROBERTS
"It seems to me that the point
that needs to be made is that two non-Mormons could never do an appropriate
book on the Church," observed Robert Gottlieb, co-author of America 's Saints: The Rise of Mormon
Power, to some 400 persons attending the 31 January meeting of the B. H.
Roberts Society at the University of Utah . "We would never be able to
understand the spiritual side of the Church."
Besides, continued Gottlieb, other
books had already explored that dimension of the Church. "There is very
little if any literature dealing with the modern history of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, however. America 's Saints describes the nature of
the contemporary Church and its impact on society-not only Mormon society but
society at large."
Gottlieb then went on to reminisce
with the audience about his experiences with co-author Peter Wiley in the
dogged pursuit of information about the Church.
When the Public Communications
department turned down twenty-eight out of thirty requests for interviews with
LDS General Authorities, the authors devised other means of gathering
information. For example, Gottlieb and
Wiley developed the "two-track" approach: they went around Public
Communications and independently set up interviews with individual Church
leaders. On one occasion, however, an
appointment which had been set using this method was promptly cancelled when as
a matter of courtesy the General Authority informed Public Communications. After all, said Gottlieb, "The purpose
of the Public Communications department is to keep journalists at bay. And although relations with Public
Communications were courteous, such incidents magnified the level of
"There is a deeply entrenched
journalistic myth," he explained, "that one cannot write about the
Mormon church because of the level of secrecy."
He and his co-worker ignored the myth and discovered the "vast network of
gossip," which "contains a volume of information."
"That is not traditional
journalism," he conceded, "but it is very open and far from the idea
of 'closed' information." In fact, he says, they had to eliminate a great
deal from the book because of the overabundance of documented material.
At the same time, Gottlieb admitted
the most valid criticism of America 's Saints is that they didn't spend
enough time researching the book. "There was so much more we wanted to
do," he says. For example he had
wanted to expand their treatment of women in the Church and the Church in third
world countries, specifically Central and South America , but they did not have the
financial resources. "The answer for us is to continue to write about the
Mormon Church in magazines, newspapers, books," he concluded.
When questioned by members of the B.
H. Roberts Society audience, Gottlieb discounted specific accusations of
possible inaccuracies in America 's Saints. He responded to the rumor that Elder James E.
Faust of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had complained about being quoted
directly in the book although he had never been interviewed by Gottlieb and
Wiley. Gottlieb explained the quotes
were taken from Faust's oral history which is available in the Church Archives.
When challenged on the book's
assertion that Quorum of Twelve member Neal Maxwell had been extensively
involved in the organization of the Church's Correlation Department, Gottlieb
stood by the information documented in America 's Saints. He says although Maxwell was not serving as a
Church official at the time, sources, including Elder Maxwell, support the
There have been some legitimate
questions about the book and about the intentions of the authors, said
Gottlieb. " it has been said we're not out of the
anti-Mormon fashion tradition, nor are we writing a faith-promoting book."
"What is our perspective?" is a good question, he admitted. very The answer, he maintained, can be found in
the last chapter of the book: "What is so rich in terms of the Mormon
culture and which will strengthen it in years to come, is when there is a space
and when there is autonomy-that sense needs to exist in the Church and in any
other institution in our society."
Jack Newell, co-editor of Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought and dean of the college of liberal education at the
University of Utah agreed with Gottlieb when asked to
respond to America 's Saints.
Newell concurs that the LDS church
"is beset with enormous problems dealing with scales." By trying to
regulate the affairs of the Church's nearly six million members, Newell
believes "the organization is bound to become highly bureaucratic."
Newell says the book accurately
describes such problems as the "untrained and relatively entrenched"
lay clergy. When inexperienced bishops
and stake presidents have questions about doctrine or policy, they tend to take
it to a higher level, such as General Authority. This tendency " raises
authority higher and higher which results in less autonomy down lower."
A loss of autonomy also takes place
when so many converts are regulated into full membership into the Church in
such a short period of time. Newell
indicates this puts a great deal of responsibility on the Correlation
Department of the Church because they have to write material and manuals for
people who are very unfamiliar with Church doctrine and society. Indeed, converts are supposed to be able to
"learn Church history and scripture, understand organizational demands and
become able to take on positions of responsibility in the Church leadership"
almost immediately after baptism. "This can be very challenging for new
members of the Church," says Newell. "This," he laments, has led
to the centralized organization of the Church," which he and Gottlieb
agree has tipped the scale from an emphasis on personal independence and
autonomy, to the Church's stress on authority and obedience.
CHANGES SEEN AT SIGNATURE BOOKS
and Ronald Priddis are a seemingly ubiquitous and
inseparable team. They met in 1981 when Bergera was editing a special issue of Dialogue: A Journal
of Mormon Thought; Priddis had contributed an article
to the issue. That year they helped to
organize the Seventh East Press, a no-longer existing independent BYU student
newspaper. Along with writing, editing and
producing the tabloid, they both served on the Board of Trustees. Since then the two have been co-authoring a
book which recounts the thematic history of Brigham Young University .
In the midst of working on it, however, Bergera
and Priddis were hired as publisher and
production/business manager of Signature Books-the same press that commissioned
them to author the book.
and Bergera had been serving on the Board of
Directors of Signature along with the company's owner, George Smith, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Allen Roberts, Everett Cooley, D.
Michael Quinn, and Richard VanWagoner.
As publisher, Bergera
succeeds Scott Kenney, one of the original founders of SUNSTONE. Kenney has
returned to BYU to pursue a Ph.D. in history.
30, a history and LDS church doctrine buff, graduated in 1980 with a BS in
psychology and completed a masters in Public
Administration at BYU in 1982. The Provo native has published articles in
SUNSTONE and the Utah Historical Quarterly, and he won a Mormon History Association
award in 1980 for an article titled "The Orson Pratt-Brigham Young
Controversies, 1854-1868," which appeared in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon
Priddis , also 30 and from the Bay
Area, graduated from BYU with a degree in Food Science and Nutrition.
Since Signature's founding in 1981,
the Salt Lake City-based company has published some twenty titles. One of their best-selling works is the
nine-volume Wilford Woodruff Journal, edited by Scott
Kenney. Over 450 copies have been sold
at $400 a set, says Bergera.
Other popular Signature books
include Orson Scott Card's Saintspeak, Summer Fire by
Douglas Thayer, and Saints Without Halos by Leonard J.
Arrington and Davis Bitton.
maintains that the purpose of Signature is "to publish scholarly works on
Mormon history, arts, and letters which would not find an outlet with
established LDS-oriented publishers."
With that in mind, the company plans
to produce at least four new titles a year.
In 1985 we'll see such works on the bookstands as Priddis
and Bergera's BYU history and Richard Van Wagoner's
analysis of polygamy from the 1830s to the present.
says he finds his new responsibilities "exciting, yet uncomfortable
because they're so new." He also says he looks forward to tapping from the
"vast readership Signature has the potential of reaching."
GAY ARTICLES PROVOKE DIFFERING REACTIONS
The Mormon church
has taken a very clear and firm stand on the issue of homosexuality. Church leaders have called it "wrong in
the sight of God," "a dark sin," and "unholy."
Because of the Church's rigid
position, the topic of "gay Mormons" has been publicly discussed by
few people. However, in 1982 a two-part
series on homosexuality at BYU was published in the Seventh East Press, an independent
student newspaper. The articles,
containing interviews with gay students and information on how the problem had
been handled both by BYU and the Church, are believed to have been partially
responsible for the eventual demise of the paper.
According to Maxine Hanks,
advertising manager and co-founder of the Seventh East Press, the articles were
not well accepted by either the advertising community or a sector of the campus
community. The Press became "somewhat
tainted as a gay paper" for a time.
In August of 1982, four months after
the Press articles, KBYU, a student operated public television station,
produced a series on homosexuality. The
first of the three-part series dealt with homosexuality in general, the second
with homosexuality in Utah , and the third with homosexuality
at BYU. The first two were aired as scheduled, but the third was not
released. The station manager, Joe
White, told the staff this was because it did not meet with the station's "standard
of journalistic accuracy."
More recently, an in-depth
three-part series on homosexuality was printed in the University of Utah student newspaper, The Daily Utah
Chronicle. The first part of the report
written by Marilyn Abildskov focused on the
experiences gay Mormons have in dealing with their sexuality and spirituality.
John Cooper, a life Mormon,
described the depression which beset him as he struggled with what he perceived
as an "evil" problem. "A lot of people are able to
compartmentalize their lives and can live a gay lifestyle while they still go
to church. I was never able to do
that," Cooper told the Chronicle.
Duane Dawson, a former BYU student,
said, "I understand the Church has to have standards to live by but we all
have to live with ourselves too."
A former president of the Lesbian
and Gay Student Union at the University of Utah , Michael Aaron, noted that
"nowhere else is the remedy as tough for gays as in the Mormon
The LDS posture on homosexuality was
detailed in the second part of the Chronicle series. According to the article, the Church's belief
that homosexuality is a "choice" matter and can be cured" is
often attacked as being too simplistic.
One "disillusioned gay
Mormon" wrote of the Church's stand, "Attempting to apply theological
dogma to a complex human condition (like homosexuality) often does violence to
both theology and the condition."
An LDS Institute of Religion
instructor, who wished to go unnamed as did all of the Church leaders
interviewed by Abildskov for the article, stated that
it would be a mistake to embrace solutions "because we know so little
about homosexuality." He also said that Latter-day Saints need to be more
Christian in their treatment of gays.
What does the future hold for gay
Mormons who are struggling with the dichotomy which exists between their church
teachings and their sexuality? This question was addressed in the third part of
Most observers agree that the LDS
position on homosexuality is unlikely to change. Because of this, a number of gay Mormons in
the Salt Lake area have chosen to attend
services of other denominations where they feel more accepted.
According to the article, the Salt Lake Unitarian Church , St. Mark's Episcopal Church, and
the Metropolitan Community Church all have "large numbers of
gay members already participating in their congregations."
These churches view homosexuality
quite differently from the LDS view. "I don't look on homosexuality as an
illness. It's not a matter of
choice," said Reverend Anthony Auer who is the pastor of the Mt. Tabor Church .
In comparison with previous
articles, Abildskov's series received almost no
"I feel completely cleared and
vindicated," exclaims Norman Hancock after settling his $18 million
defamation lawsuit against the LDS church out of court.
As reported in SUNSTONE Volume ten
number two, the Mesa , Arizona man had asked that his name be
removed from the membership records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. He claims that instead, local
leaders summoned him before a 16-member Church court where he was
"humiliated" and "slandered" with "false"
accusations of "illicit, improper, and immoral conduct."
According to Hancock, within weeks
of the hearing scheduled for March 1, 1985, he met with Regional Representative
Kenyon Udall and Phoenix, Arizona Stake President Kent Turley, who, as a
lawyer, was acting as legal representative for the Church Hancock says the men
had "been in touch with" at least five of the Twelve Apostles and LDS
church attorney Oscar McConkie before the meeting
where it was agreed Hancock's name would be removed from membership records and
his excommunication proceedings dismissed.
In exchange, Hancock dropped the lawsuit.
"Hopefully now anybody who wants to get out of the Church will use this as
a precedent without going through the excommunication process."
BACKS BAN ON ALCOHOL ADS
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints has joined a campaign seeking to ban or curtail all alcohol
advertising. Other civic and religious
groups involved in the effort include the National Parent-Teacher Association,
the National Council on Alcoholism, and the Baptist Church .
These groups, concerned about the
negative effects alcohol advertising produces, are led by an offshoot
organization of the Center for Science in Public Interest called SMART-Stop
Marketing Alcohol on Radio and Television.
SMART brought the issue to public attention two years ago by submitting
600,000 signatures to Congress asking for either a ban on beer and wine
commercials or for equal air time to advertise the dangers of alcohol abuse
A well attended hearing, scheduled
by Mormon Senator Paula Hawkins (R-Florida), was held before the Senate
Subcommittee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse February 7. At the meeting, none of the
senators, including Hawkins, took a definite stand on the matter.
A Church statement submitted to the
subcommittee was entered into the hearing record. The statement expresses concern for America 's youth, saying they "deserve
our best efforts to protect them from drug abuse."
"Existing scientific evidence
of the far-reaching harmful effects of alcohol abuse requires that the public
interest be protected by measures to restrict the excessive advertising of this
tragically abused drug," reads the release.
Despite Church endorsement of the
ban, Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Labor and
Human Resources Committee, does not support the proposal. Ed Darrell, press secretary to the majority
committee on human resources, said that while the Senator does not like the
advertising and is concerned with alcohol abuse, Hatch does not believe the will
have success in Congress. proposal
Darrell noted that the alcohol
industry has been very receptive to concerns about advertising. Since Hatch met with the Distilled Industry
Spirits Council of the U.S. in 1977, the industry has targeted
the responsible social drinker in their advertising and have actively
campaigned against alcohol abuse, said Darrell.
The current drive for a ban has not
been ignored by the broadcast industry which, according to the New York Times,
receives in excess of $700 million in advertising revenue from the alcoholic
The National Association of
Broadcasters, the major lobbying force fighting the proposal, plans to
"demonstrate that the industry is capable of addressing the issue
voluntarily," reported the Times.
Over the past year broadcasters have increased the number of public
service announcements on drunk driving and alcohol
The Justice Department has scheduled
a conference this month with hopes of outlining a voluntary resolution which
will be agreeable to both sides. In any
case, it is clear the Church will continue to push for at least a
"stringent curtailment of alcohol advertising on all media." D. C. TEMPLE SPOTLIGHTED
On the occasion of the tenth
anniversary of the Washington , D.C. temple dedication, an article
titled "The Temple By the Beltway" appeared
on the front page of the Washington Post Style section. Architecture critic Benjamin Forgey told SUNSTONE he felt the anniversary was "a
natural time to take another look at an outstanding building." Forgey noted that the large structure, which rises high
above the surrounding foliage to startle oncoming traffic on the Capital
Beltway, is "outstanding" in more ways than one.
In his November
article, Forgey detailed his impressions of both the
exterior and the interior of the temple.
He compared the exterior to Neuschwanstein, Emerald City , and a 1920s New York City skyscraper. He described it as being
"Neither Great Architecture nor High Art," but an "almost
bizarre combination of sophistication and sincerity, knowledgeability
Above all it is a memorable and likable building."
But when he toured the building
before its dedication, he was somewhat disappointed with the interior.
"Many may have been as surprised, as I was, not to find on the inside the
great sanctuary space traditional in Christian cathedrals. After all, from the outside the building
suggests a soaring interior room," he wrote. "In actuality, the
interior is much like a six-story office building."
Describing the decor, Forgey wrote, "in general the interior is undistinguished,
and the appointments ... run somewhat depressing gamut of motel modern and
His article received no reaction in
the form of letters to the editor, but a number of people commented to Forgey. It is a
building about which people tend to feel very strongly, he noted.
Coupled with Forgey's
article was another one titled, "The Temple as a Neighbor." The
writer, Lloyd Grove, interviewed several residents living in close proximity to
the temple. Except for one man who was
annoyed that his television reception to Baltimore had been cut off, most of the
people were not opposed to the temple's presence in their neighborhood.
One boy and his friends saw the templeground as a sort of adventureland. They called the temple the " Witches Castle " and said they often sneaked
through the fence surrounding it to play within its boundaries.
THE ELECT LADY RECONSIDERED
ENIGMA: EMMA HALE SMITH
LINDA KING NEWELL AND VALEEN TIPPETTS AVERY
DOUBLEDAY, 1984. $19.95, 394 PP. Reviewed by Marvin S. Hill
Within the mind of most of the
Mormon people who came west to Utah , Emma Smith, the wife of the
Prophet, has indeed seemed an enigma.
She was devout in many ways-the "elect lady" in the early
Church, leader in the Relief Society, a woman who endured hardship and
adversity and retained her love of Joseph-yet wavered in her faith when the
doctrine of plural mar- riage was introduced into the
Church in the 1840s. Emma then turned
against Joseph and the Church, and upon the Prophet's death seized property
belonging to the institution, refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young
or go west, and assisted in the establishment of an apostate organization. Linda King Newell and Valeen
Tippetts Avery have deliberately set out to
reconsider this negative image, to see Emma as an individual rather than a
symbol, writing, as they say, "neither to support nor to dispute
doctrine" but to allow "the line of condemnation or justification to
fall where it may." The amazing achievement of this biography is how well thes two distinguished scholars have succeeded in their
By any standard this is a fine
biography, informative, insightful, and at times provocative. Newell and Avery have done meticulous
research in original sources and are well read in the latest findings of the
"new Mormon" historians. A
review of some of their new information and fresh insights will suggest how
extensive their reading and research has been and how arresting some of their
They tell us that newspaper sources
show that Joseph Smith sought membership in the Methodist Church in Harmony, Pennsylvania .
In the spring or summer of 1829 that Emma's cousin bitterly
opposed this because Joseph was a "practicing necromancer" who would
be required to renounce his "fraudulent and hypocritical practices"
to qualify for full membership. but Joseph's
name remained on the class rolls for six months but he never attained
According to David Whitmer, Emma was disgusted at the spitting of tobacco
juice by the elders in a school in Kirtland which was held above her
kitchen. She said, "It would be a
good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a
sin." The elders countered against Emma and the ladies by suggesting that
the revelation should also provide for abstinence from the use of tea and
coffee. When "Joseph's revelation
came," Newell and Avery write, "it advised against the use of strong
drinks or tobacco."
Newell and Avery provide several
examples of Emma's devotion to Joseph, of the many personal sacrifices she
made, of the hardships she endured, and of her thoughtfulness and compassion
for others. To make ends meet
financially on more than one occasion she took in boarders, was left alone
frequently to deal with family difficulty and crisis, was driven from her home
and endured long periods of deprivation.
It took its toll. After fleeing Far West she wrote of her flight to Illinois with a touch of bitterness:
No one but God,
knows the . . . feelings of my heart when I left our house and home, and almost
all of everything we possessed. . . . the reflection
is more than human nature ought to bear.
If God ... does not avenge our wrongs on them that are guilty, I shall
be sadly mistaken.
These authors challenge the widely
held view that it was Emma who was largely responsible for Joseph's return to
Nauvoo and to martyrdom after he had escaped across the Mississippi on the night of June
22, 1844 .
Pointing out that the content of the letter which Emma wrote, supposedly in
protest against his flight, is not precisely known and that Hyrum was the one
who urged Joseph to return to Nauvoo, perhaps because his daughter was getting
married that night, they present strong evidence that Joseph had intended going
eastward rather than west when he crossed the Mississippi.
Emma inherited Joseph's debts upon
his death, and these plagued her for years.
Joseph had not always distinguished what property was his and what
belonged to the Church, and this proved a sore spot between Emma, a needy
widow, and Brigham Young, whose concerns were primarily for the Church. Brigham said Emma owned property in Nauvoo
worth $50,000, but Newell and Avery insist that inflated its value. Brigham By the time Emma paid her taxes in 1847 she
had land worth only $8,000, and two years later it was worth half that
much. At this time Emma was still
responsible for about $70,000 worth of Joseph's debts, so that she had hardly
prospered at Church expense.
They argue plausibly that James
Arlington Bennett authored the oft-cited letter to the New York Sun in November 1845 in Emma's
name, in which she purportedly said she never believed in her husband's
revelations and thought him laboring with a diseased mind. As they argue it, Bennett, who had championed
Mormonism for a time in New York while Joseph was alive, used this means to
disassociate himself from what he saw as an unpopular cause by having Emma say
that he told her he actually had no intention of joining the Church nor going
west with them.
But it is in relationship to Emma
and plural marriage that these authors focus their greatest attention by
devoting some 47 of their 309 pages to its treatment. Certainly from Emma Smith's standpoint it was
her greatest trial and the primary issue which prevented her from moving west
with the bulk of the Saints. The topic
is considered with great candor and sensitivity. Making use of the diaries of Helen Mar
Kimball, Eliza Snow, the Partridge sisters, and many others, they give us the
most intimate look at plural marriage in Emma and Joseph's life that we
have. They indicate that Joseph may have
felt some sense of guilt in the matter , that he
promised salvation and exaltation to those who became his plural wives, that he
did not provide for them materially but treated them with concern and made them
feel important to him, that he attempted to inform and educate Emma to the
principle, but after anguish and vacillation she in essence repudiated it, and
that Joseph was forced to guarantee its discontinuanceto
preserve his marriage. But he told
William Clayton at this time that he did not intend to give the practice up and
continued to enter into many marriages without Emma's consent and without her
After his death Emma had to find
ways to reconcile her personal knowledge of some of Joseph's relationships with
her concern for her young, maturing family.
She could never admit to her sons that their father was a polygamist,
and they carried this belief with them into the Reorganization movement in the
1860s. Much of the pain and torment that
plural marriage brought to Emma Smith is reflected in her confession to her
son, Joseph III, "I have always avoided talking to my children about
having anything to do in the church, for I have suffered so much I have dreaded
to have them take any part in it".
Newell and Avery spell out Emma's
plight in great detail and with great sympathy yet succeed at the same time in
avoiding any overt condemnation of either Emma or the Prophet Joseph. Later in her life Emma learned that her
second husband, Lewis Bidimon, had fathered a child
by another woman, but she did not divorce him and even allowed the child to
come and live at the Nauvoo Mansion .
The complexities, the controversies,
some of the corruptions, and the incredible idealism and devotion of these days
and these people are placed here in full view.
Some may feel uneasy, even disillusioned, at some of this. Wherever one falls in this continuum of
response, Newell and Avery have written a book that cannot be ignored. They have contributed one of the finest
biographies we have in the field of Mormon studies.
MARVIN S. HILL is a professor of
history at Brigham Young University .
THE VARIETIES OF GRACE
THE CANYONS OF GRACE
ORION BOOKS, 1984.135 PP.
by Edward A. Geary
The publication of Levi S.
Peterson's The Canyons of Grace by the University of Illinois Press in 1982 was a major event in
Mormon letters. It was the first
collection of short fiction on Mormon subjects to be issued by an important
"outside" press since Virginia Sorensen's Where Nothing Is Long Ago
(1963), and it won the Association for Mormon Letters Short Story Prize for
1982-83. Reviewing the book for BYU Studies, Eugene England declared that it
"may well be the best collection of Mormon stories yet." Bruce W.
Jorgensen wrote in his Dialogue review, "Levi Peterson's stories may be
the first Mormon fiction in this generation" to "seriously grapple
with Mormon theology." Further evidence of the book's importance may be found
in the difficulty some Utah libraries are reportedly having in
keeping it on their shelves as self-appointed censors steal or mutilate copies
as fast as they can be replaced.
The reissuing of The Canyons of
Grace for the Mormon market by Orion Books presents an appreciative occasion to
reconsider Peterson's achievement and make a tentative judgment (though it is
still very early) about how well the stories "wear" on
re-reading. For me, the first impression
that this is a significant contribution to Mormon letters is in no way
diminished, but I do find myself valuing the stories somewhat differently as I
read them again. "Trinity" struck me on first reading as the weakest
story in the book, and it still seems so today.
Not that it is badly crafted, but it has a kind of "undergraduate"
flavor, as though the author has just discovered the abyss looming beneath the
bright surface of life. "The Christianizing of Coburn Heights," which
I liked at first for its savage humor and incisive satire on Mormon
pretensions, is less satisfying on re-reading, and so is "The Shriveprice." "The Road to Damascus " remains impressive, as does
"The Canyons of Grace," despite its flaws. But the most mmorable
story is still "The Confessions of Augustine," which has stayed in my
mind with the vividness of a lived experience ever I first read it in the Denver
Quarterly in 1978 and which loses none of its power on rereading. since
"The Confessions of
Augustine" is the only first-person narrative in the collection, and the
voice Peterson creates for his narrator--protagonist, Fremont Dunham, is one of
his finest achievements. It is an
engaging voice yet also detached, brooding, searching. The voice allows Peterson to introduce
sizeable passages of theological discourse into the story without the loss of
dramatic effect. As Jorgensen has
remarked, "because Fremont Dunham needs such ideas to account for himself,
the ideas become not footnotes but part of the story's action." It is a
voice also that can accommodate an impressive range of mood and incident,
beginning with a matter-of-fact account of the roots of Fremont 's sense of sinfulness:
I was raised in Snowflake, a Mormon
village in northeastern Arizona .
My home was a two-story brick structure built in pioneer times of native
red brick. A silo, corrals, and barn
were at the back, and an ample vegetable garden to the side. One summer morning when I was small I stood
at the crack of a door peering at my mother, who sat in a rocking chair
breastfeeding my infant sister. Mother
covered her breast with her apron and called me into the room. I entered crestfallen and redfaced
"Won't you be a clean
boy?" Mother asked. "You mustn't peek at Mama. God doesn't like dirty boys. "
Thus begins an existence hedged in
by a censorious God. But there is also
another formative impulse in Fremont 's childhood: the immensity of the
landscape which surrounds the village and which seems to be "beyond the
realm where God and my mother were sovereign." In this way the thematic
poles of the story-and of the book-are established early: on the one hand the
grace of God, providing a kind of security but at the cost of self-denial, even
of spiritual mutilation, and on the other hand the natural grace of the
wilderness, offering a kind of freedom but also a kind of terror. The two forms of grace are irreconcilable,
and either or both may be illusory.
Recalling the time when, just out of
high school, he left the chartered confines of the Mormon village for a summer
job in a lumber camp, Fremont spells out this central tension:
God holds the earth in
vassalage. We call him Lord because we
hold our lives and lands from Him. But
if God chooses to neglect a demesne, it grows unruly and wild. There is in nature an impulse to be and to
grow regardless of God. If you had asked
for my conscious belief at eighteen, I would have said that God constantly
superintends the tiniest pocket and farthest corner of the universe. But on that May evening when I drove to the blue mountains, my feelings were those of an outlaw coming
into the security of an ungoverned land.
It was my delight to be in a profane world.
Peterson's own feeling for
wilderness is deep and powerful, and the finest passages in the book are those
in which he evokes the free life of nature.
For example, here is Fremont Dunham on his life in the woods:
How can I summarize wilderness? It
is an entity composed of infinite variety.
A single ant, a fern, a cluster of pine needles speaks, and an attentive
person can listen endlessly. When I
found a seep of water in a narrow, dark canyon, it was like the face of a
friend I had not seen in years. My lust
for sensation, for color and texture and configuration, was fed by the glint of
dew on bending grass or by the stark red-rust branches of the manzanita. . . .
But Fremont also has "intimate,
personal, mystical" feelings for the machines that are cutting through the
wilderness and which also seem to have a life of their own, for example
"the great circular saw mill":
Balanced on its arbor, it was as
high as a man. A hundred filed, offset
teeth gleamed on its circumference. When
the muffled diesel behind it worked and the broad rubber belt whirred on
pulleys, the great blade sang with an almost imperceptible timbre, like crystal
that has been lightly struck. In motion
the teeth blurred into the iridescence of hummingbird wings. At the elevation of the sawyer's finger, the
carriage man ratcheted a log into position, and suddenly it hurtled into the
saw. The teeth shrieked, the sawdust
a plank fell away.
It is important to keep in mind that
this is a retrospective nar-rative. Fremont Dunham is remembering these scenes
twenty years later, when he is a lumber-yard Operator in Salt Lake City and a
high councilman, well disciplined to the yoke of obedience, long after he has
learned that the self-existent wilderness is an illusion. There is thus in these descriptions a
powerful nostalgia for a lost presence, for a time when freedom and wilderness
had seemed to be real and sufficient.
Indeed, there is a nostalgia beyond nostalgia,
as evidenced in the description of the saw as though it were a natural
organism. Even in the remembered moment
of youth there is the post-romantic longing for a sentient universe. No wonder Fremont Dunham's voice carries the brooding
note of a long exile. He is, indeed,
doubly exiled: exiled from the wilderness which is itself an exile from a lost Eden of perfect security and perfect
Thus alienated, it is perhaps not
surprising that Fremont should come to believe "that
moral volition is an illusion." When his feelings for Annie Fergusson, a
non-Mormon girl with whom he has fallen into "a harrowing cycle of penance
and fornication," suddenly turn to revulsion one stormy night, Fremont
attributes the change not to something flawed in his own will but to the
overpowering will of God, a rationalization he preserves into the present time
of the narration: "I did not know that God would hang me on a trellis of
His own choosing and prune away that part of me that loves you." It is
this view that largely accounts for Fremont 's fondness for the Confessions of
Augustine, who similarly attributed his abandonment of his mistress to the
irresistible grace of God.
Irresistible grace in the
Augustinian sense is not a familiar notion to Mormons, and since it holds a
prominent place in several of Peterson's stories we may wonder whether this is
indeed Mormon fiction. Definitions of
Mormon literature vary widely, from Richard Cracroft's
insistence that it "in short, has the Holy Ghost" to Bruce
Jorgensen's wider net that would gather in "any works . . . by authors
whose background I believe to be Mormon,
regardless of the authors' former or current church standing or condition of
belief." Peterson's stories are "Mormon" in the sense that the
protagonists, with one exception, are Mormons at some crisis of their,
religious life. And
perhaps in a further sense.
Jorgensen claims, "The idea that centrally engages [Peterson's]
fictive imagination is one promulgated in the 'King Follett Sermon'-that both
matter and each human intelligence are as I self-existent' as God and hence
qualify or limit God's omnipotence." This idea is explicitly present in
"The Confessions of Augustine" though less clearly so in the other
stories, and Peterson is obviously interested in exploring the problematical
implications of Joseph Smith's finitism. But he brings none of Joseph Smith's optimism
to his treatment of the idea. Joseph
Smith's God, as far as I can tell, is not jealous of the wilderness or of the
human will. Indeed, in the view of Lehi, God is absolutely committed to the freedom of the
human wil: "And because that they are redeemed
from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for
themselves and not to be acted upon . . ." (2 Ne.
This view runs through other stories
as well. "Road to Damascus " is another parable of
irresistible grace and the loss of the wilderness and freedom. In "The Shriveprice"
Darrow Sevy's faith returns
"without warning or solicitation" in his seventieth year after he has
spent half a century alienated from his Mormon heritage. But the recovery of belief brings no joy but
rather the sense of sinfulness so deep that the only possible solution to
"the problem of damnation" seems to be blood atonement.
"The Confessions of
Augustine" is more successful than these other stories because the
protagonist is more complex and fully realized and because the themes are
clothed in a denser fictional texture. "Confessions," unlike the
other stories, cannot be reduced to a single idea. Although Fremont Dunham has in theory bowed
his back to the divine rod, the workings of grace remain significantly
Sometimes, when I am awakened in the
night by the wail of a locomotive or the barking of a dog and my Christian will
is at its lowest, I think of Annie. I
remember her clearly. I see her brown
knees beneath the hem of her denim skirt.
I remember her happy laughter and the glint of the sun upon her hair
while we loped horses across the grass and through the junipers. Though I am ashamed to say it, I remember in
the cup of my hand the weight of her soft, round breast. God will exact payment from me for these
memories; after the purging of Judgment, I will have them no longer. It is part of my perversity that this very
thought makes them more precious.
Nostalgia, again, for a lost
presence whose value is affirmed by the very act of denial. It is passages like this that make the story
resist any simple interpretation and leave it resonant in the reader's mind.
The concluding story in the
collection, "The Canyons of Grace," is Peterson's testament of
wilderness, a counterpart to "The Confessions of Augustine." However,
it does not quite come off for me, despite some brilliant passages. Whereas Fremont Dunham is remembering his
encounter with grace twenty years later, Arabella
Gurney experiences her crisis in the present time of the story. There is nothing necessarily wrong with
that. Indeed, one might expect a gain in
dramatic effect. But the third-person
interior point of view lacks the emotional cohesiveness of Fremont 's first-person narration, and Arabella is not sufficiently credible as a character to
bear the thematic weight of the story.
Part existentialist philosopher and part suburban Mormon girl, she is
capable of saying, "There has to be a God.
No one else can save me, though the price He asks is my integrity,"
and following a few lines later with " Gol ...
how do I know if I want to marry anyone?" Like Peterson's other
protagonists, she possesses an bundance
of self-hatred which she has turned to hatred of a violent, selfish, and
unforgiving God. She feels contempt for
her conventional Mormon parents but is more than a little conventional herself,
as evidenced by the fact that she has reached her thirtieth year full of
rebellious feelings but still a virgin:
could not remember having ever heard from either of them the slightest
admission that they knew each other sexually, though the fact was visible
enough in their ten children. Her father
and mother were amazingly alike: reverent in the extreme, scrupulous in keeping
the commandments, and doubtful of their salvation. Arabella loathed
them for their subservience, yet she also loved them, needed their approval,
and understood perfectly that God was to be feared.
In a sense, Arabella
begins where Fremont Dunham ends, with a feeling of powerlessness before the
divine grace. That is largely what
allows her to fall into the power of the ruthless "prophet" of a
polygamous cult, Reuben Millring, in whose face,
"aflame with conviction, wrathful against sin, touched by the promise of a
remote salvation," she sees "the face of God." And she ends
where Fremont begins, in the freedom of the wilderness. But whereas Fremont Dunham mourns the lost
presence of a wilderness that seemed to have a life of its own but which was
really entirely controlled by God, Arabella Gurney
experiences the death of her tyrant-God and in Peterson's most powerful prose
enters a wilderness that is itself absolute, at once devoid of transcendence
and incredibly beautiful, filled with a natural grace, not divine:
Looking at a berry-laden juniper and
a tall-stemmed yucca, she could almost believe they were friends who regarded
her with warm affection. The wilderness
bore her no grudge, was still willing to bless her. She was alive and the universe was holy. She would mourn for Reuben, who was dead, and
for all the others who could not bear to know of their ultimate
extinction. As for herself, she had
decided to be courageous.... Anxious to cover ground while the day was cool,
she strode to the edge of the ridge to take her bearings. An ephemeral predator upon a minor planet, who went forward free and filled with grace.
EDWARD A. GEARY is a professor of
English at Brigham Young University and editor of BYU Studies.
MYSTERY, VIOLENCE, AND SEX
THE TENTH VIRGIN
S T. MARTIN'S
PRESS, 1983. $14.95, 243 PP.
by Levi S. Peterson
This novel, a detective story set in
contemporary Utah , succeeds nicely in the essentials
of its genre, offering satisfying portions of fast action, tough talk, seamy
personalities, mystery, violence, and sex.
The matrix of its conflict and suspense is underground Mormon polygamy,
as the title, derived from Doctrine & Covenants 132:61-62, suggests. Although slanted toward a non-Mormon audience
(its author, a former native of Utah, is a professor of theater at Indiana
State University), it will make fascinating reading for those many Mormons
hungry for an R-rated interpretation of the Utah homeland.
Tough New York private investigator Gabe Utley returns to Salt Lake City at the request of his high school
sweetheart, who believes her daughter has been kidnapped by the leader of a
polygamist cult. She won't involve the
police because she fears for the reputation of her husband, a lesser official
in the Mormon church with aspirations toward an
apostleship Gabe's search takes him along the back
corridors of Salt Lake , through remote Utah villages and ranches, and into the
wilds of the Escalante canyon. Very
early he joins forces with a pretty and worldly reporter for The Deseret News, Mona McKinley, with whom he shares sources of
information, beds, and ready-mix affection.
An expose Mona has written for The Deseret News asserts that the polygamist sects of Utah have in common not only their
hostility to the official church but also a belief in the eerie doctrine of
blood atonement. "These people," Gabe
concludes upon reading the expose, "believed that the righteous should
kill sinners." The foremost practitioner of blood atonement (and, after Gabe, the most important personality in the novel) is Jedediah Kimball, the cult leader
who Gabe believes has taken possession of his
friend's daughter. A Machiavellian
prince of the Utah underground, Kimball employs
brutal force in his attempt to unite numerous cults. Before the novel opens he has assassinated
one of his brothers in a power dispute, and as the novel advances he executes
another before the horrified eyes of Gabe and Mona. Knowing persons attribute to him a wide
variety of malign events-the assassination of a Salt Lake doctor, leader of a
rival group; the inexplicable murder of a sixteen year old polygamist girl; the
attmpted dynamiting of a car which Gabe and Mona are about to enter; and a host of mysterious
threats, shadowings, and beatings.
Could all evil happenings derive
from this Rocky Mountain Tamburlaine? As the action
proceeds, it becomes apparent that the practice of killing or maiming one's
opponents in the struggle for religious leadership is not limited to fugitive
cultists. Endemic violence and
subversive religious politics undermine conventional law and order in the Utah of this novel, which brims and
jostles with Mafia-like brigades and religious warlords, one of whom is a
highly placed Mormon official. As a
church security man, a descendant of Avenging Angel Porter Rockwell,
tells Gabe, "You don't find a whole lot of
sentimentality among those tough old birds who run the Church." Although
Utah readers will recognize all this as a considerable distortion of reality
(it seems to many locals that the tough old birds who run the real Mormon
church have an excess of sentimentality), they will likely agree that,
fictionally speaking, a Mormon apostle who behaves like a cardinal of the
Italian Renaissance is an ingenious idea, making fo
complicated motivations and sustained suspense.
Moreover, this novel offers an
incidental variety of amusing, pro-vocative, and enlightening photographs
snapped from the oblique angle of its outsider narrator. Gabe's
characterization of Salt Lake lowlife-gays, barflies, and
pushers-is vivid and believable. He
makes a wry evaluation of Utah art, encountering in a city plaza
a sculpture garden that looks like "frozen images of the Osmond family
dressed in 1950s clothes." He warns out-of-state drinkers: "Any Utah bar that serves something stronger
than 3.2 beer at your table has to be a private
club. You want a strawberry daiquiri,
you become a member or you come in with a friend" (pp. 15-16). He leaves a
small town waitress a big tip, "quite aware that it would do nothing for
the wistful sense of loss in her eyes.
Something had passed her by." Despite his cynicism, he is warmly
appreciative of an elderly matriarch, one of the novel's most memorable
characters, who has a "smiling, knowing, and fulfilled face" and who
declares "innocence blooming with possbility"
to be the major premise of Mormon polygamy.
In summary, The Tenth Virgin is recommended light reading for Mormons,
offering fast-paced, suspenseful action, plenty of mystery, and an
interpretation of Utah life that, despite fictional
distortions, often rings true.
WOMEN OF THE CLOTH
JACKSON W. CARROLL, BARBARA HARGROVE, ADAIR T. LUMMIS
HARPER & ROW, 1982, $14.95, 276 PP.
Prejudice against women in the
church is nothing new. Paul the Apostle
enjoined women to "keep silent" in church. The disciple Timothy advised his early
sisters to be of a "quiet spirit." Unfortunately, such prejudice persists.
In Women of the Cloth, authors
Jackson W. Carroll, Barbara Hargrove, and Adair T. Lummis
explain in precise and analytical manner the attitudes, strengths, concerns,
and frailties of modern women with a calling.
To amass their scholarly presentation, they interviewed over 1300
clergymen and women, seminary faculty, church executives, and lay members. Some findings were unexpected, and some
They found that gender defines
status within the church and that the appearance of women in a traditionally
masculine role created a "clash of expectations" for
churchgoers. The authors hypothesize
that as women continue to move from pew to pulpit, the profession itself will
lose status. They claim that salary,
advancement opportunities, and social prestige of the ministry have already
decreased while the costs of obtaining a seminary education are higher than
On the bright side, the authors
report appreciable gains by women, and these select and upbeat examples should
provide happy reinforcement for any woman yet undecided about a career in the
pulpit. In spite of powerful traditions,
the numbers of seminary women have doubled - even tripled-in the last decade,
and women entering after 1970 have reported fewer obstacles and greater
acceptance than the pioneer entrants of the 1960s. As sociologists and theologians, the authors
treat, through the issue of woman in the church, a broad range of social
concerns. BY SAMUEL EPSTEIN, LESTER BROWN, AND CARL POPE
SIERRA CLUB BOOKS, 1983, $12.95, 593 PP.
WELL BODY, WELL EARTH
BY MIKE SAMUELS AND HAL BENNETT SIERRA CLUB BOOKS, 1983,
$12.95, 288 PP.
There is a sinister side to the
blessings of technology, and much of it has to do with the poisonous wastes of
so-called progress. True, nature
produces its share of poisons-the venom of the black widow spider, the toxins
in many an innocent-looking mushroom.
However, in the give and take of aeons, nature
has learned to adjust to them. To the
contrary, many industrial wastes are new, entirely outside natural cycles. Confronted with them, ecosystems break down,
and human bodies become hosts forcancers, mental
diseases, and horribly deformed babies.
Some 80 billion pounds of toxic wastes are dumped over the United States each year, a staggering figure.
The purpose of Hazardous Waste In America is to help avoid such a pessimistic
reaction. Since the widely publicized
disaster at Love Canal a few years ago, a number of books
have made clear that similar tragedies are happening-or are ready to happen-across America .
Often, their stories are gruesome.
They have been able to move communities and Congress into united action
with the urgency that shock can stir.
While the approach is valid, Hazardous Waste takes a needed and somewhat
different tack. The attempt is not to
spur readers with fright. Rather, the
volume is a carefully assembled overview, a sourcebook that documents the
problems and goes into the political, economic, and biological issues behind
them. Various sections provide case
studies, probe the legal ins and outs, explain the technology, and present the
prospects for the future of waste control.
Simply put, the book is the most comprehensive guide on the subject
available to the general public.
Meanwhile, what can individuals do
to safeguard themselves against the pollutants' daily attack against them and
their families? Fortunately, the answer to that question is tackled by Well
Body, Well Earth. The beauty of the book
is that it suggests common sense and not terribly complicated ways to survive
this man-made galaxy of poisons in which we all live. It also discusses ways to reduce stress.
Chances are that we can't eliminate
beeping horns and sonic booms overnight, but our lives are not totally out of
control. We can turn off the television
when no one is listening, and we can take time out to relax, exercise, and set
our sights on reasonable goals. We can
cut down on, if not eliminate, red meat, sugar, and food additives from our
diets. Though this goes counter to the
whirling squirrel cage of our society, so be it. Samuels and Bennett fault frenetic
consumerism for creating many of our ills.
Sensibly avoiding its traps will point us toward health and, more
importantly, peace of mind.
BY HUGH T. KERR AND JOHN M. MULDER
B. ERDMANS PUBLISHING CO., 1983, 265 pp.
"Tell me Chuck, are you
okay?" wondered Charles "Chuck"
Colson's Washington attorney one
humid New England night.
But Chuck was NOT okay. Then, and
throughout his lengthy conversion experience he trembled, perspired, and sobbed
uncontrollably. He wrestled wordlessly
with himself over the bitter memories of Watergate and emerged (at the end of
the chapter) "cleansed and cooled" by his tears of relief and whispering
the prayerful words "take me".
Colson's story is one of fifty
heartfelt and well-told conversion experiences dating from 280 A.D. to 1931,
embracing the lives of missionaries, philologists, an apostle , ex-slave, a 1960s revolutionary, an
evangelical baseball player, and the Methodist evangelist E. Stanley Jones who
organized the first "Christian Ashrams" in the U.S. but was, admitted
a fellow worker, "a mess apart from the Holy Spirit." an
Also included are Dorothy Day, Peter
Cartwright, Leo Tolstoy, Teresa of Avila, Dag Hammarskjold, Clair Boothe Luce,
and Malcolm Muggeridge, each describing in
fast-paced, primary narrative the particular events of his or her spiritual
Christ's image flitting across the
face of the moon transfixed Eldridge Cleaver and caused his spiritual
wraparound. A child's voice chanting
"pick it up and read it, pick it up and read it" turned St. Augustine's attention to an
open Bible lying mysteriously beside him on an outdoor bench. The rest, of course, is history.
The editors have put together an
insightful and highly diverse testimony to the great spiritual wind that, as
Christ promised, " blows where it wills
. . . THE PRICE
1984,126 PP. $6.95
I remember how stunned I was one day
to see photographs of Heber J. Grant speaking in a German branch with a
swastika draped over the pulpit. That photograph-more than anything else-brought home to me the
struggle confronting the German Saints as they faced the demands of church and
Recently, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, with the assistance of two of BYU's
finest scholars, Alan F. Keele and Douglas F. Tobler, has produced an autobiographical account of his
years in prison camps and his involvement with the young German Latter-day
Saint who defied Nazism.
Helmuth Huebener engaged Schnibbe and
Rudi Wobbe to listen to BBC broadcasts and distribute
anti-Nazi leaflets. In less than a year
they were arrested by the Gestapo. Wobbe and Schnibbe received harsh
prison terms and Huebener was beheaded.
Although much of the book deals with
Schnibbe's experiences following his arrest, most of
us will be fascinated by the light shed on Huebener,
clearly, a bold, charismatic figure who attracted
companions by the force of his personality and the brilliance of his mind.
Of additional interest is the
description Schnibbe provides of life for Mormons in
Nazi Germany. Some Saints tried to bring
Nazism into the ward house believing Hitler had brought "a sense of
destiny and purpose." Others supported the government in power because of
their belief in the twelfth article of faith and the fact that the Nazis were
is not overly critical of his fellow Saints.
It was a difficult period he says, and the initial cautious optimism of
the German Mormons toward Hitler changed as the U.S. entered the war and as German
armies suffered major defeats.
The Price is not a detailed
historical or scholarly account of Huebener and his
comrades, nor is it even remotely a survey of the tensions facing German
Mormons at a traumatic time. But it does
not try to be that kind of a book.
Ultimately, The Price is the story of a survivor. And it has an important message for us all as
we seek to understand the difficulties caused when one
defies the status quo.
IS GOD A CREATIONIST? [THE RELIGIOUS CASE AGAINST
EDITED BY ROLAND M. FRYE CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1983,
Duane E. Jeffery
If Mormons read only one non-LOS
religious book this year, in my opinion it ought to be this one. So far it is the only major work by
theologians responding directly to creationism, and while it makes no mention
at all of Mormons, it is loaded with meaning for us. In addition to an honest and up-beat
statement from Pope John Paul 11 summarizing what the Roman Catholic Church has
learned from its encounters with luminaries such as Galileo and Magnus, we are
treated to works by eleven scholars with solid backgrounds in theology and
scripture, several of whom have extensive science training as well. Though each is a devout believer in creation,
they are clear that such belief does not make one a creationist and share the
concern that, in Vawter's words, "Demonstrably,
(creationism) has done nothing so well so far as to bring biblical religion
into disrepute and make it sound ridiculous and obscurantist". Further,
from Young, "'Proving' the Bible or Christianity with a spurious
scientific hypothesis can only b injurious to the cause of Christ. We do not defend truth by arguing error in
its behalf." Gilkey eloquently posits that
knowledge exists on a variety of levels and that that from religion and from
science do not share the same level; both are indispensable, but they are not
comparable. He points out the excesses
of claims made by creationists as well as by scientists such as Sagan and Bronowski who on
occasion forget the nature of their data base and reminds us that both science
and religion have both demonic and creative forms. Hyers's essay is
fraught with implications for LDS readers; Sarna's
will at once titillate, alienate, and stimulate. One is astonished to find an 1880 speech by Asa Gray and saddened in reading it to see how pitifully
short a distance we have progressed in the century-plus since. In short, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, B. H.
Roberts, David O. McKay and like minds would and will find huge blocks in this
book to like, along with some that will stimulate us all to additional productve thinking and study. Highly recommended.