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Heretics in the Church.


Ray Agostini

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From what I gather, some posters here are active Mormons who have liberal views. By "liberal" I mean that they do not necessarily believe all the doctrines and would be considered heretics by some more orthodox members. I have at times been surprised to read a poster's views, thinking they were not Mormon, or even anti-Mormon, only to learn they are active members.

So to you who fall into this category, semi-believer, or believer with unorthodox ideas, how do you manage cognitive dissonance, and how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I should comment that this phenomenon is not new. It's been around as long as the church has. One of the early Twelve Apostles, Amasa Lyman, developed some "strange ideas":

While in Europe Elder Lyman developed some strange ideas. He delivered a discourse in Dundee, Scotland, on the 16th of March, 1862, which virtually denied the necessity of, and the fact of, the "Atonement of Jesus Christ." No satisfactory explanation appears why this matter was allowed to pass apparently unnoticed until the 21st of January, 1867. But it was not until then that Elder Lyman was brought before the Council of the Twelve for his heresy.

    "The Quorum of the Twelve" says the account of the meeting, "were horrified at the idea that one of the Twelve Apostles should teach such a doctrine." When interrogated upon the subject Elder Lyman avowed that such had been his views--that is, that men were not saved through any atonement made in the death of the Christ. Each of the quorum then spoke against the views of Elder Lyman. Elder Woodruff said, "that he felt shocked at the idea that one of the Twelve Apostles should get so far into the dark as to deny the blood of Christ, and say that it was not necessary for the salvation of man and teach this as a true doctrine, while it was in opposition to all the doctrine taught by every prophet and apostle, and saint from the days of Adam until today. The Bible, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants teach, from beginning to end, that Christ shed his blood for the salvation of man, and that there is no other name given under heaven whereby man can be saved. And I can tell Brother Lyman that his doctrine will send him to perdition if he continues in it, and so it will any man; and furthermore, such a doctrine would send this church and kingdom to pieces, like an earthquake. There never was and never will be, a saint on the earth that believes in that doctrine, it is the worst heresy man can preach.

    After the Twelve were through speaking Elder Lyman was very much humbled "and asked forgiveness."  The council repaired to President Young's office, where the matter was presented to him. The president sustained the views of the Twelve and emphasized them, "and required Brother Lyman to publish his confession and make it as public as he had his false doctrine." To this he evidently consented for a most humble acknowledgment of his error was published in the Deseret News!

    Unhappily, however, Elder Lyman did not adhere to his confession of error, but in a few months reaffirmed his conviction of the accuracy of the principle of his Dundee discourse against the necessity of, and the fact of, the atonement; and as a result of this course, after an investigation by three of the apostles, Elder Lyman was excommunicated from the church by action of the Twelve apostles in a council meeting at St. George, May 6th, 1867; which action was ratified by the general conference of the Church on the 8th of October following.

    Amasa Mason Lyman died February 4, 1877 at Fillmore, Millard County, Utah. His blessings were restored after his death.

Amasa Lyman

Others have trouble with the BoM historicity, plural marriage, the word of wisdom, and the list can go on. I'd like to know how you who hold unorthodox ideas tolerate the tension, if any, or whether you have a smooth ride despite holding to unorthodox ideas.

Mind you, not all heresy or unorthodoxy is "liberal". There has been quite some tension here between members at times. For example, between the hemispheric and LGT models for the BoM, and also how literally members should accept the prophets' teachings. Some commentary on that would not be out of order, but primarily I'd like to know how "liberals" handle themselves in the church atmosphere.

If orthodox active members wish to comment on how they feel about "heretics" that's okay as well.

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Ray A wrote:

I have at times been surprised to read a poster's views, thinking they were not Mormon, or even anti-Mormon, only to learn they are active members.

you're not alone. :P

and, it goes for vice-versa, too, though i can understand that one much more.

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From what I gather, some posters here are active Mormons who have liberal views. By "liberal" I mean that they do not necessarily believe all the doctrines and would be considered heretics by some more orthodox members. I have at times been surprised to read a poster's views, thinking they were not Mormon, or even anti-Mormon, only to learn they are active members.

So to you who fall into this category, semi-believer, or believer with unorthodox ideas, how do you manage cognitive dissonance, and how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I should comment that this phenomenon is not new. It's been around as long as the church has. One of the early Twelve Apostles, Amasa Lyman, developed some "strange ideas":

I don't consider my '"unorthodox" ideas strange. They make perfect sense to me. Most of my "problems" accepting any doctrines or teachings have to do with science. I don't have a problem with most spiritual truths--just teachings that are in conflict with what I know about the natural world.

how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I'm in the minority so I certainly don't expect them to conform to my ideas.

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I find that when I state something that is against the "normal" belief structure of the church, I just get puzzled looks and a few raised eyebrows. Of course my different views are nothing super controversial.

katherine the great Posted on Mar 11 2006, 07:09 PM

I'm in the minority so I certainly don't expect them to conform to my ideas.

In church or out of church, I couldn't agree more.

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So to you who fall into this category, semi-believer, or believer with unorthodox ideas, how do you manage cognitive dissonance, and how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

This liberal isn't too concerned about the affairs of the church outside of himself, so he tends to keep most of his opinions to himself. But if someone presses him on the matter, he will gently remind them of the heritage of free thinking that they both share.

"Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences 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, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres 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)
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Ray A, a couple of things to remember are: none of us here are apostles like Elder Lyman (at least I hope not), and none of us are preaching over the pulpit (at least not in the same way) like Elder Lyman--which means the opinions of a few nutters like us aren't even a blip on the radar screen.

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I think different approaches in effect deal with tension differently. Like I think American culture essentially is very border based centered in approaches-like you could qualify for almost all criteria for a certain identity or group, but even if you only don't fit just one of the criteria, you could conclude you don't qualify. The identity if based on the borders, and it's a very "either you are with us or against us" approach.

BUt I'm multicultural myself-I'm heinz 57. Basically all my identities would cancel eachother out and I'd be a blank slate as a result if I did border based approaches to identity! So, like many other multicultural folks, the approach preferred is centered based. Like I can identify with many criteria of a one group, but not all criteria, and still identify with that group. Likewise, that means I can identify with different groups simultaneously this way, in ways that seem wacky and totally off to a border baser!

Consequently, the attitude of a center baser is that tension and dissonance isn't an abnormal state but a reality of life really. It's more about trying to find a balance and an acknowledgement of the different claims within you.

The question of cognitive dissonance reminds me of that quote from W.E.B Dubois regarding a having a border based approach asserted upon oneself:

"It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one

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For me, Its hard to imagining a reply to the OP's questions without first saying that there is a great deal to unpack in the way the questions are presented. For example, in the way terms such as 'liberal', 'cognitive dissonance', and 'orthodoxy' are deployed. There seem to be a great many assumptions at work informing this discourse. Assumptions that I think frame and distort the discussion in a negative way.

I take it that the OP was both sincere and not intending to be confrontational or negative; which is even more reason to pause and consider before responding, for there should be no ill-will or snap to judgments in such discussions.

What does it mean to be 'liberial' in a theological context? To many Mormons the term liberal is already tainted by associations with political ideologies that they reject. But there is a broader sense of the liberal, for example in the way that our system of governance is accuratly described as a 'liberal democracy'. Then their is the difference between the intellectual projects of the so called 'left' and the 'right'.

A great deal of difference between these projects comes down to how meaning is understood to be created. For 'conserative' thinkers meaning is often understood as being something that is instilled in a text, a painting, a poem, a scripture etc by its creator. The work is a result of and carries the creator's intentions and meaning. This is at the heart of a foundationalists reading of the constitution, as an example, that the orininal text has a specific, singular, meanings as given by its authors; and this meaning is easily found by reading the document as face value.

On the left, the question of meaning is addressed differently: Meaning is understood to be influenced by numberous factors, not the least of which are historical context, and the nature of language. Exploring the nature of language has in some ways been the most important aspect of the intellectual left in the second half of the 20th century. Language is viewed as being incabable of creating fixed meanings. This is not understood as a flaw or a problem its seen as an opportunity for, a call to, greater critical engagement with the text under consideration.

The cynic would say that the "liberal" conception of how meaning is created is an excuse to be overtly political or to make a text "say" what ever the reader wants it to; that without an appeal to an author as logos meaning is lost, or at least damaged or threatened. But history shows us that there is no shortage of both "liberal" and "conserative" thinkers who are more than willing to engage in acts of political reading, so it not strictly a matter of 'liberial's' selfish political will.

Anyway that's just part of the context that needs to be considered when asking about so called liberal thinking.

As for orthodoxy this is also a huge issue. Let me say this, that as the history of avant-garde art has shown the "margins" of a society or social group are often a place of great power and influence.

Being in the margin it is necessary to articulate one's faith often so the idea of being "one people" does not take the form of an intellectual and ideological straight-jacket.

It is also necessary to articulate one's faith from the margins, because those on the margins bring to the discussion insights and creative interactions with faith and scripture that is simply not found in the "main stream."

This is not cause for cognitive dissonance in any way. " Unorthodox" and "beyond the pale of orthodoxy" are two very different issues. When those who are unorthodox come to the discussion with a generousity of spirit they have a great opportunity to exapnd and enrich the discussion, and allow for a broader range of positive expressions of faith.

anyway, I'll stop there.

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So to you who fall into this category, semi-believer, or believer with unorthodox ideas, how do you manage cognitive dissonance, and how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I also think the OP was making the best effort possible to be respectful in bringing up this topic. It was interesting how Ray implied that abandoning orthodox views must necessarily increase the amount of cognitive dissonance that one encounters. For me, it was the opposite...I had to take a more "liberal" view in order to decrease cognitive dissonance.

Someone I respect very much once said that "God gives us cognitive dissonance so that we can eventually settle on truth." Abandoning the historicity of the Book of Mormon, for example, was my way of getting closer to the truth. Once I decided that the Book of Mormon is metaphorical, I felt great relief. I felt I was coming closer to the truth. It just isn't the truth that orthodox members believe.

I am an active member of the church, but I don't accept many of the official church doctrines. I tend to only believe things that make sense. It's the only way I can effectively participate in church without feeling like a cognitive hypocrite.

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Ray A:

I have no problem at all with the Doctrines of the Church. Just when someone tries to tell me that THEIR INTERPRETATIONS of the Doctrines is What I MUST believe.

How true that is!

Just as I do not teach my interpretations of doctrine as the only way to believe, I hate it when others try to tell me that I must believe their interpretation, whether its a Sunday School teacher or a Stake President. The 4 Standard Works are 'the Standard' we must uphold, they are the doctrinal Standard.

How do I deal with differences of opinion, If I feel strongly that I can back my interpretation out of scripture in a class setting, I will do so. otherwise I will ignore the differense and once got up and walked out on a Elders Quorum teacher that was exponding all types of speculation on 'havings ones calling and election made sure'

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Daniel Peterson:

QUOTE (Doctrinal Engineer @ Mar 12 2006, 12:57 AM)

I tend to only believe things that make sense.

So do I!

With respect, there is content to Doctrinal Engineer's post that should not I suggest be glossed over too quickly.

He seems to be saying that if a doctrine seems to him not to make sense, after he has applied to it the best tools he has at present for evaluating evidence and checking consistency, then he declines to believe it.

That is quite different from the attitude of some posters on this board, who are prepared to deal with doctrinal problems by saying:

(a) I know the Church is true;

(b) Things we don't understand now will all be made clear by God in his own time.

© So I shall continue to believe in doctrine X no matter how many apparently cogent objections are raised to it.

I suspect DCP joins Doctrinal Engineer in feeling uncomfortable with that position.

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Thanks for all the replies so far. I am reading them with interest, but can't reply at any length now as it's very late Down Under.

From Douglas Hunter:

For me, Its hard to imagining a reply to the OP's questions without first saying that there is a great deal to unpack in the way the questions are presented. For example, in the way terms such as 'liberal', 'cognitive dissonance', and 'orthodoxy' are deployed. There seem to be a great many assumptions at work informing this discourse. Assumptions that I think frame and distort the discussion in a negative way.

I take it that the OP was both sincere and not intending to be confrontational or negative; which is even more reason to pause and consider before responding, for there should be no ill-will or snap to judgments in such discussions.

I realised the possible connotations when writing up the post, but decided that sometimes you have to risk misunderstanding, and those words/expressions are the venacular used in all these types of discussions. "Liberal", in this context, does not mean political liberal, or even liberal in the usual intellectual sense. It's a liberal in the church, like for example when, I think it was Fielding-Smith or Harold B. Lee, said that "a liberal is one who does not have a testimony". That's what I want discussion about, and whether there is any place in the church for liberals, in that sense.

There was no intention to be confrontational or negative. I simply want feedback from people who have been in these situations, or are in them now, and how they define that experience. I have already seen some good examples I can relate to.

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I think that a large part of the premise for this thread depends on stereotyping.

To be honest, every supposed "orthodox" Mormon I have ever gotten to know really well has held to at least one so-called "heretical" belief.

The stereotypes that are at work here is: that there is a single and absolute and simplistically orthodox line of thinking within the Church, and that Mormons all think exactly alike.

Regards,

Six

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To be honest, every supposed "orthodox" Mormon I have ever gotten to know really well has held to at least one so-called "heretical" belief.

I have found that to be true, too. But is that.......heretical? To say that? I talked to one ex-bishop and he said the gospel is the Sermon on the Mount. Nothing else. But you had to understand his tone, and his see his facial expressions, and to realise that what he said is pretty much what the BoM suggests. See 3 Nephi 27. And that is why the BoM contains "the fulness of the gospel".

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From what I gather, some posters here are active Mormons who have liberal views.  By "liberal" I mean that they do not necessarily believe all the doctrines and would be considered heretics by some more orthodox members.  I have at times been surprised to read a poster's views, thinking they were not Mormon, or even anti-Mormon, only to learn they are active members.

So to you who fall into this category, semi-believer, or believer with unorthodox ideas, how do you manage cognitive dissonance, and how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I should comment that this phenomenon is not new. It's been around as long as the church has.  One of the early Twelve Apostles, Amasa Lyman, developed some "strange ideas":

I don't consider my '"unorthodox" ideas strange. They make perfect sense to me. Most of my "problems" accepting any doctrines or teachings have to do with science. I don't have a problem with most spiritual truths--just teachings that are in conflict with what I know about the natural world.

how do you manage the members who are more orthodox?

I'm in the minority so I certainly don't expect them to conform to my ideas.

Kathrine,

You are one of the good ones!

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Who says orthodoxy is always right? Sometimes the heretics are right. If Christianity had not challenged Judaisms norms Christianity would not exist.

I was a heretic for many years in the LDS. I handled it by keeping in the closet so to speak. The only time I was not afraid to be honestly myself was on the internet. Then I was baptized Community of Christ/RLDS after I had my name removed from the LDS membership rolls.

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Ray A:

"I think it was Fielding-Smith or Harold B. Lee, said that "a liberal is one who does not have a testimony". "

Assuming that you are correct in the quote. I simply allow them the right to be wrong.  cool.gif Most of us probably wouldn't agree with JS politics either. :P

The quote was definitely from one of them, and I do think it was Harold B. Lee. I can check this later in more detail.

Meanwhile, I picked this off another website, a post from someone, which has a "Mormon liberal litmus test". I will provide my own answers in parenthesis. If you want to do the same go ahead.

I
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