Remember that study that came out a while ago that pointed to atheists as being the most knowledgeable of other religions? Among the religious groups listed in the study, Mormons came out on top with regards to knowing more about world religions than other groups. I suspect, however, that if there had been substantial questions regarding their OWN religion that Mormons wouldn’t have fared so well.
The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine and Covenants, for example, are two of the canonized scriptures that Mormons hold dear in name, but not actually in practice. The teachings in these foundational books bear little resemblance to what Mormons actually do in their daily lives or weekly worship.
Take something as basic as the sacrament. This refers to the “communion” or the act of ceremoniously remembering Jesus Christ via reenacting Jesus’ Last Supper. Most Christian congregations do this occasionally if not every week. Mormons do it every Sunday at “Sacrament Meeting”, the main worship service.
The procedure for the ceremony is spelled out in The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 20:75-79), and Mormons appear to make grandiose efforts at following the procedure EXACTLY. If the priest flubs a syllable of the prayer, for example, the bishop will get up and make him repeat the whole prayer from the beginning. In truth, Mormons don’t really follow the instructions that closely. For a very literalistic society, Mormons have have figured out how to adapt and modify with the best of them.
First of all, , in verse 76 the scriptural instructions clearly say that the Elder or Priest administering the sacrament “shall kneel with the church” but Mormon church members don’t participate in this way. There’s no kneeling by the church congregation in a Mormon meeting…ever.
Secondly, in verse 78, wine is clearly stated as the liquid which represents Jesus blood in this ceremony. Mormons have since replaced it with water, also a liquid, but which carries none of the symbolism that wine does. There’s a long story of how wine made it into the ceremony and I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s fair to say that the clearly written scriptural instructions have been modified and adapted to cultural and behavioral norms of Mormon society.
Today, if a Mormon bishop tried to get the congregation to kneel during the sacrament prayer or if he introduced wine during the ceremony he’d be removed from his position of authority in an instant… and perhaps even subjected to church discipline.
To me that’s just one example of where Mormons don’t even believe in or follow their own scriptures. I can think of others. Here’s just a sample…
- D&C 89, known as the Word of Wisdom, or the Mormon health code bears little resemblance to the actual diet and behavior of a modern day Mormon.
- Polygamy is condemned in the Book of Mormon, but as an after thought it’s actually commanded in Doctrine and Covenants 132. Today, it is no longer practiced among living Mormons but it remains an active belief as multiple Mormon women are sealed every day to one Mormon man in Mormon temples. The only caveat being that only one of the women can be alive at a time.
- Masonry and “secret combinations” are likewise condemned in the Book of Mormon, but near the end of Joseph Smith’s life, he co opted the Masonite ceremony and initiated women to secretly legitimize and cover up his polygamous and polyandrous liaisons with them. Today, a Mormon can read the Book of Mormon’s disdain for secret societies in the morning and go participate in one that same afternoon at a Mormon temple without blinking an eye or having a second thought.
But the one issue that I’ve never seen addressed anywhere in the blogosphere or elsewhere comes from the stated Mormon doctrine in The Doctrine and Covenants regarding religious intrusion into government affairs.
It seems obvious and clear to me that once again, Mormon leadership and members violate their own scriptural injunctions when they get involved in civil affairs like they did with California’s Proposition 8 or the ERA Constitutional Amendment back in the 80’s. Mormon involvement and even leadership in these two social issues is well documented. And I’m not sure why nobody seems to have pointed out how this involvement violates their own scriptures.
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms of public or private devotion;that the civil magistrate should restrain crime but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
Can it be any clearer?
Doesn’t marriage qualify as a form of private devotion and personal conscience? Obviously this was written when their own religious behaviors (polygamy) were being questioned and the morality of THEIR behavior was attacked. But, if you ask me, this scriptural law clearly says to stay out of personal and religious lives altogether. Or does that only apply when you are the victim?
Why haven’t I ever seen THAT argument discussed among Mormons?
My guess is that it is because Mormons don’t know their OWN scriptures as well as they know the “faults” in other religions and in other people.
Ideas for Family Home Evening Discussions:
- There’s always been a discussion over which takes precedence: the scriptures or the words of the living prophet. Ezra Taft Benson made it clear that a living prophet’s words are more important, but Bruce R McConkie encouraged church members to measure current policies and practices against the scriptures. What do you think?
- What is your moral compass for measuring the scriptures and prophetic statements? Do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?
- If a living prophet can modify, change and adapt what is clearly taught in the scriptures what’s the point of even having scriptures or reading them?
- Since policies, ordinances, behaviors and practices of a modern Mormon so clearly CAN and DO deviate from scriptural injunctions can you really use the scriptures at all to argue in favor of “tradition” or to designate God’s unchangeable will?
- Discuss: Changes in practice and policy in the Mormon church always seem to benefit the church institution rather than act as an initiative to benefit mankind. Society always seems to be ahead of the church regarding rights and the human condition. Why is that?