Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Extreme Rhetoric on the Part of One’s Religious Leaders, How Liable is the Adherent?

The recent controversy surrounding the extreme and divisive rhetoric of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, long time pastor and associate of Democratic Presidential candidate Barak Obama, has got me thinking. As Mormon’s we don’t chose our immediate ecclesiastical leaders, though we do have the option to sustain them or not. Therefore for us, if we have a Bishop or Stake President who say’s things we don’t like, well there’s very little we could do about it and I don’t think a reasonable person would hold us responsible for our leaders views. However in the Congregationalist faith to which Senator Obama is an adherent, things are decided largely on the local level and every congregation can set its own policy on a wide variety of things. Senator Obama, if he so chose, could simply transfer to another congregation if he had troubles with his pastors views. While this would seem a simple answer to his current political troubles in that regard, what about the concept of religious community, should the Senator be expected to abandon his fellow congregants, some of whom he’s worshipped with for twenty plus years, just because of some of the more extreme things his pastor’s said. For that matter why should it seem at all reasonable that a person embrace every facet of his friends personality or belief’s.

Mormons must confront their own problems with extreme rhetoric, and not just in the relatively recent past, say some of the things Boyd K. Packer or Bruce R. McConkie have said. If you’ve ever read from ‘The Journal of Discourses’ or other 19th Century Mormon texts you know that some of the things that period Church leaders said where way out there, and I don’t mean just weird (which 19th Century Mormonism undeniable was), but also violent or offensive. Let’s look at something particularly relevant given the larger conversation, the Prophet Brigham Young on the black race:

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind .... Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the 'servant of servants;' and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree." -Journal of Discourses, 7:290

The larger history of poor Mormon racial relations with Blacks need not be repeated here, nor do we need to delve into other controversial and retro-grade beliefs/practices of the 19th Century Church, such as Polygamy or blood atonement. The point is to embrace someone as a spiritual guide, a pastor in the case of Obama and the Reverend Wright, or a Prophet as in case of most Mormons and Brigham, is not necessarily to embrace all of their more extreme rhetoric. Most Mormons would not continence the Young quote listed above, just as Obama has not endorsed the more extreme sayings of his pastor. Yet both the members of that Chicago Church and the millions of Mormons world wide can no doubt find much inspiring and good in the words and deeds of there flawed spiritual leaders. Especially as Christians we should have an understanding of human imperfection and the need to embrace the humanity of all around us. I don’t hold Obama responsible for what his pastor says, nor do I fault him for not abandoning the Reverend Wright when it might be politically expedient for him to do so. I do however fault those, epically in my faith, who may be short sighted in criticizing anyone for accepting spiritual advice from fellow members of this highly flawed human race.

Obama's Speech relating to the Reverend Wright

Mormon Mentality post that served as partial inspiration for this post.

Mormons Going Online

Those of you who have searched Mormon topics on the internet before know there is a lot of conversation going on in regards to the faith, much of it not likely to meet with the approval of the Church public relations department. However now Mormons are actively being encouraged by the leadership to go online and blog about their faith. Independent blogs contrast with the Church’s highly correlated network of official and quasi-official websites, there the content is highly controlled, but the independent websites allow members to express themselves in highly individual ways. This turn about was unofficially inaugurated by Apostle M. Russell Ballard in a December speech to graduates of Brigham Young University. Since that time more and more Mormon blogs have sprouted up, many of them hosted by The More Good Foundation, a lay LDS apologetics and evangelizing group. I look forward to seeing what impact this has in the Mormon corner of cyberspace, and encourage readers to check out not only these new websites, but older members of the bloggernacle from whom I have learned much over the years.

BYU News story on Mormon blogging

The More Good Foundation

The Disallusioned Mormon on the new blog policy.

Bigelow's Rameumptom- Neat artical on the personality of new LDS Church Pres Thomas S. Monson.

Dave's Mormon Inquiry

Femenist Mormon Housewives- An LDS persepctive you don't hear much about.

Mormons Talk- I like this guy, he's very honest.

Ken Jennings Blog, nominaly Mormon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New documentary on the history of Black Mormons

Evan Mecham

Evan Mecham, a controversal Governor of Arizona and Latter-day Saint recently died, and I wanted to provide the link to his Wikipedia entry. Mecham was surley problamatic, if not an out and out corrupt bigget, but there is still some residual sensativity about him among Latter-day Saints of a certian region and age. He'd be a good subject for a book.