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Saturday, September 10, 2005 

Barbarism Begins at Home

I don’t have much to add. Mormonism will always be haunted by a tendency to judge and show contempt for others. A comment was made under JP’s post linking this judgment and contempt to pride. I’d never thought about it like that before, but I think it’s spot on. Is it possible to say, “this is the one true church,” without being lifted up in pride? Is it necessary, essential that we repeat that so often, even if it is true? I also wonder if this phrase, and others like it, haven’t become a vain repetition. The skeptic in me thinks that The Spirit doesn’t bear witness that “this is the one true church” very often; rather, that the teachings are true, that The Gospel is true, that joining the church or remaining active is the right thing to do. But I could be wrong.

A close friend of mine argues that discussions such as this damage the church. I disagree. Being on the receiving end of wrong judgment and hypocrisy, in my youth I nearly left the church. I can’t give numbers, but I know life-long non-members in Utah who have experienced prolonged Mormon unfriendliness, often in their youth. This doesn’t only happen in Utah, but the critical mass of members in that state makes hypocrisy and wrong judgment a more expedient danger. Some areas, in and out of Utah, show very little of this hypocrisy. How do they do it?

The phrase "this is the one true church" always grated on me while I was growing up. It always seemed so condescending to people who had just as much faith in other religions.

Since I did have many friends who believed other things, whenever I said that (usually in youth testimony meetings) I always felt as though I was being rude to people I cared about.

I don't think it is offensive to believe your church is the true church, or even that it's the only true church. I have lots of friends who are not LDS and who also think their church is the only true church. For people who are religious, that's what they're looking for...a true church. If they feel like they've found it, more power to them, and if they get offended that someone else found the true church elsewhere, that's they're problem.

I know that Mormons don't have the corner on the market for believeing our own church/religion is true. If I didn't think it was the only one, why would I be here? It's possible that people overthink this issue. There is little to be offended by, and I don't think others are as offended by it as we think.

And I don't see the correlation between knowing the church is true, or believing it's the only true church and justification for unkind acts. Unkind acts are personal choices that individuals make. I don't necessarily see this correlating with pride either.

I think we are taking the phrase "the only true church" and totally taking it out of context. The phrase is under a microscope. If we feel uncomfortable with the phrase, is it possible that we don't really believe the phrase itself is true...?

There are actual reasons why Mormons believe that phrase to be true and it has everything to do with the doctrine Christ has revelaed to us through his prophets through the scriptures and very little to do with pride.

To clarify a little... I’m not arguing against believing "this is the one true church." Like Kaycee, I have always had a problem saying it under most circumstances. I felt like I was being disrespectful of those who didn't believe this was the one true church-- after all, if this is the one true church, then theirs isn't. And it isn’t just that phrase… I’ve used it as a sort of stand in for other little thins that could contribute to pride and a culture of superiority.

I don’t think we need to do these things as much as we do. Individually, we can acknowledge to ourselves that this is the one true church. When I expose non-member friends to the gospel, I prefer that they hear the doctrines that support this being the one true church as opposed to simply hearing that this is the one true church.

As you suggest, it really is implied that most believe their own religion is the one true religion. If it’s already implied, do we need to repeat it? I’m not saying I’m right about this. I may be unjustly sensitized to the issue.

We say ours is the only true church because we prefer to delude ourselves. It is the same reason we voted predominantly to reelect president Bush, even though he betrays the most basic of moral values. We delude ourselves into thinking he must have had a good reason to invade a helpless country which posed no threat to us, 12 years after his father declared a war against that same country for the reason that they had invaded a helpless country that posed no threat to them.
We delude ourselves because we can't bear to think we have devoted so much of our lives and energy to a smoky chimaera. Why else do otherwise stable and intelligent people break down in tears when they bear their testimonies? The emotional pressure of claiming in front of witnesses that we are certain of something which we actually seriously doubt, that we "know" something to be a sign from God when it is just as likely a coincidence--we practise self delusion till we get so good at it that we become proud of ourselves. And it is no surprise that some are offended by that.

Hmmm, or perhaps instead we say that this is the only true church because the Holy Ghost has borne witness of that fact to our spirits, and that testimony burns so brightly within us that we cannot contain it.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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