You Are Probably A Mormon Fundamentalist

Have you ever said something like, "I believe all the words of the prophet." Or, "No matter what the Prophet says, I will do it or I will believe it." Or have you dismissed uncomfortable ideas or unfamiliar concepts from sound, faithful scholarship and defaulted to a comment similar to, "The prophet is silent on this; therefore, I don't need to know." Or even made a general statement of, "Always side with the prophet in intellectual and spiritual matters." 

If you have, you are most-likely a Mormon Fundamentalist. Interestingly, by making comments or believing this way you are in fact NOT believing the words of the prophet. Elder Harold B. Lee in quoting Brigham Young said the following:

“‘I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.’

To me, there is a tremendous truth. It is not alone sufficient for us as Latter-day Saints to follow our leaders and to accept their counsel, but we have the greater obligation to gain for ourselves the unshakable testimony of [1] the divine appointment of these men and [2] the witness that what they have told us is the will of our Heavenly Father.” —Quoted by Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve in Teachings of the Living Prophets (p. 47; Conference Report, Oct. 1950, pp. 129-130)

I've seen this happen too many times: men and women of profound faith attacked, condemned, judged and called to repentance for solid scholarship and sincere questions. Although I don't consider myself a scholar, I have also been on the receiving end of those who've been rebuked for doctrinal exploration. But I have also repeatedly seen brilliant individuals who are established scholars — whom the apostles refer to on their specialties — called out and condemned by Mormon fundamentalists. (Take for example Daniel A. Petersen, who was rebuked for not following the manual, of which he was the author/contributor.)

Because the scholars’ perspectives don't fit within narrow fundamentalist views, the fundamentalists feel they have to proclaim the prophetic view, as opposed to faithfully seeking out truth. 

What prompted this post was this exact exchange with one such scholar on Facebook: 

Today's encounter with unthinking LDS (non-polygamous) fundamentalism, directed at me.

"Wow. I cannot believe they are letting you teach the youth. Brother ---, all I can say to you is I wish you well. I will believe the words that come out of the prophet's mouth. I am one who would wear purple socks every Thursday if that is what he says to do. You can cite non-LDS sources. I'll stick to the church approved. My salvation isn't worth dabbling in the philosophies of men. Have a great life."

FWIW, I wasn't citing non-LDS sources or doing any of these other things, but this kind of worldview is very fragile and easily threatened.

In his insightful, faith-saving/strengthening book "Shaken Faith Syndrome," Michael Ash addresses this rigid perspective of fundamentalism:

"Having interacted — for over two decades — with people whose testimonies have been weakened or destroyed by something they have ‘discovered’ about the Church, I have generally found that those who are prone to fundamentalist ideology about certain facets of the gospel or early LDS historical events, are more likely to apostatize when they encounter challenging issues.

I use the term 'fundamentalist' in a way that may differ from other usages of the term. In LDS circles, for instance, the term 'fundamentalist' commonly denotes those who still practice polygamy. This is not how the term is used in this book.

Among many Christians, the term generally refers to conservative evangelicals who actively affirm what they see as fundamental Christian beliefs such as an inerrant Bible, which is literally interpreted and historically accurate despite any conflicting claims from science and modern scholarship. By association, the term 'fundamentalist' is also used to describe all those (of various religious beliefs) who take a very ridged, dogmatic, uncompromising, and unchanging approach to their ideologies (or belief systems). This definition more accurately depicts the way the term is used ..." (pg. 5)

Elder Hugh B. Brown in his book, “An Abundant Life” said the following:

“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should of course respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent – if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression … This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.

With respect to people feeling that whatever the brethren say is gospel, this tends to undermine the proposition of freedom of speech and thought. As members of the church we are bound to sustain and support the brethren in the positions they occupy so long as their conduct entitles them to that. But we also have only to defend those doctrines of the church contained in the four standard works — the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinion and not scripture. Although there are certain statements that whatever the brethren say becomes the word of God, this is a dangerous practice to apply to all leaders and all cases. The only way I know of by which the teachings of any person or group may become binding upon the church is if the teachings have been reviewed by all the brethren, submitted to the highest councils of the church, and then approved by the whole body of the church.

I do not doubt that the brethren have often spoken under inspiration and given new emphasis — perhaps even a new explanation or interpretation — of church doctrine, but that does not become binding upon the church unless and until it is submitted to the scrutiny of the rest of the brethren and later to the vote of the people.

And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then one's logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his or her spirit, because real conversion must come from within." —Hugh B. Brown, A Final Testimony

Furthermore, Michael Ash points out the logical fallacy in clinging to prophet’s words.

"And why should we follow their counsel if they might be wrong?

The truth is that we already pick and choose when we follow the words of the prophets. We also pick and choose the counsel we follow from the scriptures, our boss, the law, health professionals, our parents, spouses, etc. Since we are not perfect and not robots, it always comes down to personal choice ..." (pg. 33)

We are commanded to seek further truth, to study from all good books, to even question concepts, traditions and doctrines. It is the very purpose of our agency; it is what builds our faith and testimony. Not questioning/exploring is a lack of faith.

One scholar, Ben Spackman, has posted these insightful words to his social media of Eugene England, quoting B.H. Roberts:

"I believe 'Mormonism' affords opportunity … for thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development ... The disciples of ‘Mormonism,’ growing discontented with the necessarily primitive methods which have hitherto prevailed in sustaining the doctrine, will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and, departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new formulas; cooperating in the works of the Spirit, until they help to give to the truths received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.”

England then comments,

"President Roberts, of course, is not suggesting that the intellectual's task is to create new doctrine, but rather to take revealed doctrine and give it new formulations that will relate to the changing world we live in, that will enable us, for instance, to more effectively criticize our flawed social, political, artistic and intellectual environment by using the great germ-truths of the gospel." Dialogue 9:4 (Winter 1974), 47

I encourage you to seek out truth from all sources, to engage in meaningful dialog, to apply faith in your curiosity versus running to "safety" under a Prophetic blanket. We need more Saints who are well informed and can, as it says in Peter, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear [faith]." (1 Peter 3:15)


Additional Supporting Quotes:

Encouraging all to read, study, research and learn, apostle Charles W. Penrose (who would later serve as counselor to President Smith) declared,

“President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” (Millennial Star 54:191)

“And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God … would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves.” (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593–95)

Brigham Young said:

“What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (JD 9:150)

“How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves.” (JD 4:368)

“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied …Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (JD 3:45)

“Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the nfluences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will NEVER be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, [Gordon] or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory,immortality, and eternal lives; never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (JD 1:312)

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing … the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.’] … said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves …” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)

George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone.” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in GospelTruth, 1:319)

Christmas Sabbath

Over the years, I have been blessed to work in careers that provided me with a significant amount of time off during Christmas. This time of year is a type of Sabbath to me, to reflect on the tender mercies Christ’s life has brought me in my life — His marvelous redemptive power and the gratitude I have for His birth and life and restoring His Church in these latter days.

"Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:21)

He is an all-powerful God who keeps his promises and has provided us a sure way in this time of confusion by establishing his church as he said he would:

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:" (Ephesians 4:11-15)

In these latter days, He has restored his Church through Joseph Smith, that same organization that he established in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago.

Recently, I have made again, a study of Joseph's life and the miracles associated the establishing of Christ’s church.

The hand of God was in Joseph’s life in the establishing of His church. The faith of Joseph in Christ is profound and only comparable with those who have shared that holy calling as prophet. It is a great mercy for which I am thankful for, that Christ continues to reveal and guide us through his words and a living prophet today.