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Saturday, November 19, 2005 

Revelation or pragmatism?

The scriptures tell us that God is unchanging. His commandments, apparently, are not.

There are tons of things that have changed in our short 175-year history. Polygamy, the Law of Consecration, the Word of Wisdom, and too many doctrines to mention. Why do commandments change? And do these changes come from God or from simple pragmatism? These are impossible questions to answer, but worth reflecting on.

Very few people lament the passing of the Law of Consecration, or should I say its temporary abeyance. I think the reintroduction of polygamy would be more welcome to the modern church than the full Law of Consecration. Signing over all of your property is definitely NOT one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. After several experiments by both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, this commandment was put on hold till further notice because it simply did not work. Perhaps our fallen natures couldn't handle it, or perhaps it never was a workable social system to start with. Is this an example of God being pragmatic or just our leaders? Does it matter?

Polygamy is another example of a commandment that was formerly energetically encouraged but now lies in the scrap heap of Mormon history. Many people believe this too is only temporarily dormant (i.e. it will return in heaven) but I will leave that question aside for now. What is clear is that the Church was under enormous pressure by 1890 to publicly disavow the practice of polygamy, which it did. It's difficult to view this as anything other than a superficial capitulation to the federal government, especially in light of the secret plural marriage sealings that continued to take place in the temples. Did we sacrifice a sacred doctrine to get a Mormon into the Senate, or did God?

I have to admit that the timing of all these changes does bother me. Don't get me wrong, I am happy that the Church has abandoned many practices that I find unpalatable, but I wish these changes had occurred without extraordinary outside pressure. Just once I wish the Church could be ahead of the curve on broad social trends. Perhaps God just doesn't work that way, but I sure wish he did.

"Just once I wish the Church could be ahead of the curve on broad social trends. Perhaps God just doesn't work that way, but I sure wish he did."

So do I Ned, so do I. I always think of 1978 and wonder why. The length of time before the priesthood was extended to every worthy male doesn't shake my testimony, but I often wonder why it couldn't have been 1878.

Ned, in your first example, I think you're talking about the United Order, not the Law of Consecration. My understanding is that every individual who goes through the temple is bound to live the LoC, but the United Order was an attempt to create a society that lived the LoC.

Mike-- Welcome back. It's good to see you around again.

Ben-- I will be the first to admit that I am no expert in Mormon history. I avoided using the term United Order because I thought it referred to a specific attempt to implement the LoC, and any future attempt wouldn't necessarily be called by that same name. While we do covenant to keep the LoC, I think it's definitely a watered-down version, especially compared to the United Order. That's why I contrasted the LoC with the "full LoC."

You really think that the law of polygamy would be welcomed back before full consecration/United Order? I'd like to see a poll on that one. I'm under the strong impression that most people would fall the other way. People hate polygamy!

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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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