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I’ve heard it said Catholic doctrine dictates that the Pope is infallible, but Catholics don’t really believe it.

Mormon doctrine on the other hand admits that the prophet is fallible,

but Mormons don’t really believe it.

That’s just a humorous highlight of the difference between the LDS Church and other religions, but most especially their respective followers.

I have a Catholic friend who grew up in South Dakota, had relatively no contact with Mormons there and yet she decided to blindly attend college at BYU.

“Notre Dame is Catholic, but so what? Right?”

I think I laughed for a full day when she told me that story. She lasted a year in Provo before transferring to a west coast state university. She had no concept that Notre Dame to Catholicism is not the same as BYU to Mormonism.

I suppose it could be said that the Mormon default is to accept the unwritten as if it were the written law.  I’ve heard many a Gospel Doctrine lesson where the “spirit of the law” was actually defined as the draconian “letter of the law” and only God himself can make an exception.  More liberal-minded Mormons are constantly doing battle within themselves to rationalize why their “spirit of the law” ways are OK in the bigger picture.

As a result of this phenomenon, my former Mormon self was fond of feeling the need to clarify the line between “The Gospel” and “The Church”; the LDS “Gospel” being the spiritual or eternal truths while the actual earthly manifestation of it all here and now is “The Church.”  “The Gospel” was perfect and true; “The Church” was a human structure and therefore possibly imperfect. The problem is that actually defining that line is as easy nailing Jell-O to a wall.  I also don’t think anyone really believes that version… unless you are one that visits this blog, that is.

Popular beliefs as dictated in modern LDS speeches, lessons and articles don’t really allow a difference, do they? There’s really no skills ever taught or discussed for critical thinking or evaluating contradictions and making a personal choice.

Take even minor issues like clothing.  When I was 14 my bishop prevented my father from ordaining me to the Aaronic Priesthood office of a Teacher because he wasn’t wearing a tie. In the late 70’s we could pass the Sacrament in a god-awful  flowery, silk, wide-collared dress shirt…but we had to wear that tie!

Years later when I served as Deacon’s Quorum Adviser, white shirts became the holy grail of personal worthiness.  You couldn’t pass the Sacrament in the popular 90’s pastel. As far as I know it wasn’t ever a written rule but I think a GA once talked in General Conference about how nice and respectful some white-shirted deacons passing the Sacrament appeared. SMACK!  It was suddenly policy everywhere.

My bishop, for whom I served as executive secretary, once told me that even an adult priesthood holder not wearing a white shirt indicated rebellion.  Black and white.  The Unwritten Order of Things.

I understand that the new Church Handbook of Instructions says that white shirts and ties are recommended because those are more dignified, but not required.  My point is that to a Mormon’s ears, that’s as good as required. It’s a tendency that Mormon leaders must be aware of and I’m therefore surprised they are as careless as they are with silly minor issues like that.  Look at the hoopla that followed Gordon B Hinckley’s offhand comment regarding women having more than one earring. Is there any middle ground anymore?

Then, there’s the oft-repeated example of perfect obedience where a wagon driver on a narrow mountain road can choose to drive the wagon close to the edge of the cliff (symbolizing personal thought and adaption) or near the mountain (symbolizing obedience to even minor random advice from Church leaders).

Somewhere along the way, the current church invented this concept that the leaders can never be wrong and they removed the checks and balances of power that once accounted for human error. Even on small things they somehow know better and I’m better off obeying than questioning because that way I’ll be blessed in the end.  It’s safer to obey… well, just about anything big or small, written or unwritten, the spirit of the law AND the letter of the law, the gospel AND the church.

Search, ponder and pray… well, really just pray because why exert the energy to search or ponder when there’s danger for discovery or “thinking too much” there. As long as the leaders are searching and pondering, I’m safe just praying right?