Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families" by Elder Perry

Find this talk here.

  • Most of this post is a long aside about "eternal families". I put it here in case it's helpful later on. Elder Perry doesn't discuss the doctrine of sealing directly in this talk.
    • Alongside the mantra "follow the prophet" because he can't lead us astray, there are few more prominent doctrines in the modern LDS church than that of eternal families. The "follow the prophet" doctrine didn't exist at the time of Joseph Smith, and the idea of eternal families has been heavily modified from what Joseph introduced. Of course, a belief in continuing revelation might make room for such changes, in theory. Joseph Smith taught, however, that one key to identify revelation is that it doesn't contradict previous revelation. He also taught specific doctrines about the nature of ordinances, in particular that they were instituted from the beginning of the world and may never be changed, if they are to retain their salvific power. Modern Mormonism must ignore both those teachings to make room for its modern innovations about eternal families.
    • Yes, I'm aware of the modern teaching that a live prophet is more important than a dead one, which suggests it's no problem to abandon whatever Joseph Smith may have said. This comes from Ezra T. Benson's "Fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet" talk, originally given at BYU in 1980. The principles given in this talk form the foundation of the "follow the prophet" doctrine as taught today. However at the time, the talk so bothered President Kimball that he called Elder Benson before a meeting of all the General Authorities and demanded he explain himself, saying Elder Benson's talk promoted "an unthinking 'follow the leader' mentality". He also required Elder Benson to apologize to the combined twelve apostles in a later meeting. The apostles reporting having been "unsatisfied" with the apology. (D. Michael Quinn, "Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power") Most of the doctrines Elder Benson advocated in the talk are without basis in scripture.
    • Joseph Smith is the only one of the LDS church's leaders who demonstrated the fruits of "prophet, seer, and revelator" as defined in scripture. The rest all did plenty of good things, but good works do not a prophet make, if we're following the definition in scripture. Therefore, I consider Joseph Smith's teachings of more weight than those of later church leaders. I also believe that even his teachings were not necessarily perfect, especially his teachings as we have them today. Many were hastily recorded for the recorder's own private purposes only, many things we attribute to the Prophet were "remembered" years after the fact, and Brigham Young began a concerted effort to doctor our history which continues today. See, for instance, Charles Wandell for information on that score.
    • As a result of the above, my take on "eternal families" differs greatly from what the modern Church preaches. I won't attempt to lay out my own belief here; among other things, frankly, I'm still sorting it out. I expect that will take a very long time. I will only start with the idea that Joseph Smith taught a doctrine of "adoption", involving sealing individuals to "the Fathers", one of a group of heads of gospel dispensations, with whom God had made specific promises. Hence Moroni's version of Malachi, that Elijah would "plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers." Note also that the Nauvoo temple not only remained incomplete when Joseph died, it was never completed according to its original plan. Though the Church today claims the temple was nonetheless completed, when section 124 commanded the temple to be built, the church was promised it would not be moved out of its place if it completed the temple in time. Clearly we were moved out of our place; I consider therefore that the temple was never completed to the Lord's satisfaction. Without a working temple, Joseph was unable to preach temple ordinances as he would have liked.
  • It's true Christ should be our example, of course. So I'm grateful Elder Perry wants actually to talk about Him, rather than telling stories of President Monson's earlier service in the church like so many conference talks do. Jacob 4 says, "why not speak of the atonement of Christ"? 
  • The parable of the wheat and tares doesn't liken tares to ways Satan influences us, as Elder Perry insinuates when he talks about "worldly ways" coming "by wire and through the air" into our electronic devices. Wheat and tares are people.
  • I certainly agree that "family values" generally must be retained in our homes and lives, and that whatever the truth may be of eternal families and sealings, the family is the perfect place to teach gospel principles and proper living, with a father and a mother, and we must not shirk the responsibility to teach there.

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