Or Why I Frequently Disagree With Other Mormons.
I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in disagreements with other Mormons. And I’ve found this really all boils down to a difference in perspective. There are two type of perspectives I wish to discuss. These are what I call the Looking Back and Looking Forward perspectives.
For someone with a Looking Back perspective they look at where they are now and reconcile the past with that. What this means is a Mormon will start from what the know today; and believing that to be correct, will regard past decisions as necessary to get us where we are. Their understanding comes from the now and looking back into the past.
Someone with a Looking Forward perspective looks from the past and reconciles the past as it flowed into the future. From this perspective a Mormon will believe some point in the past was correct, and as time flowed any decisions may have been good or bad depending on if they maintained the integrity of that past. Where we are now might not be correct if past decisions are found to be in error.
Let’s look at some examples:
|Looking Back||Looking Forward|
|Pioneers||God wanted the Pioneers to travel across the plains to establish Salt Lake City so the Gospel could flourish and go to all the earth.||The Saints were cast out of Nauvoo because they failed to listen to God’s commandments. We are currently under condemnation.|
|President of the Church||There is a clear line of succession traced back to Joseph Smith.||There was no clear successor after Joseph’s death. Modern leaders are probably not true successors.|
|Section 89 (Word of Wisdom)||The Word of Wisdom is now a commandment and we are forbidden from drinking alcohol.||Section 89 says it is not a commandment and allows wine for the sacrament and mild barley based drinks.|
|Church Administration||Bishops are to lead congregations, Priests bless the sacrament, teachers hold the doors, and Deacons pass the sacrament.||Bishops are to oversee the temporal needs, while Elders are spiritual leaders. Priest may only administer sacrament if and elder in not present. Neither teachers nor deacons may administer the sacrament.|
Those are just a few examples. But I think you get my meaning. Now I’ll give you a practical example. Just recently I was conversing with another Mormon and he stated that a sacrament I participated in was not real because it was not authorized by a Bishop. I asked where it is stated that a bishop must authorize a sacrament. The other member said it was in the handbook. Yes, but the handbook is not scripture, I replied. This member said, No, but it was authorized by the Prophet.
Do you see the two perspectives here? Get into any discussion with an L-DS Mormon and it will inevitably come down to the President of the Church. Do you believe Thomas S. Monson to be a prophet? In other words, do you believe that where we are now is correct? Because if where we are now is correct, then it doesn’t matter how things used to be.
Whereas my perspective in the discussion was that the past was correct and any changes from that were incorrect. So from my perspective it doesn’t matter if President Monson authorized the handbook or not, because if that Handbook contradicts God’s revelations, it is not true.
For many the Looking Back perspective works; and if it works for you, that’s great. But it doesn’t work for me. Why? Because, no offense, it doesn’t seem rational. Time does not flow backward, it flows forward. Past events were not done with our current arbitrary position in mind as the inevitable goal.
Let’s say that 100 years ago at point A God revealed that we should paint our doors black. Then 50 years ago at Point B someone said, hey we don’t have any black paint, let’s use grey. Then today at point C someone says God wants all our doors to be grey. Yes I know it’s a silly example but bear with me.
Someone Looking Back would say, yes God originally wanted our doors black, but it was changed and now He wants our doors grey.
Someone Looking Forward would say our current practice is wrong. God still wants our doors black, because he never told us he wanted them grey, that was just something somebody used in an extraneous circumstance.
Both of these perspectives require that some point be viewed as correct. To me it makes more sense to look at the past because we can more easily examine it. The Lord said the saints would be cast out if they didn’t finished the Nauvoo Temple in time. They didn’t and they were. We can look at history and see it unfolding. The Looking Back perspective requires us to assume that whatever we are taught today is true. There really is no other basis than he said, she said. To me it seems a very weak foundation to have.
This is the big difference that seems to be the root of all my disagreements with other Mormons. Because it always seems to boil down to, “Do you believe President Monson is a Prophet or not?” I’m not sure how to really address this, because no matter what the answer it shuts the discussion down.
So, which perspective do you espouse? What point do you view as correct? What are the advantages of your perspective?