Fundamental-ism


UnBlog # 508

There is an interesting article in Meridian Magazine entitled “Fundamentalist or Fundamentals? Get a Grip on Your Faith” by John Lynch. The article is beautifully written in some places. You may enjoy it.

The point, I believe, which he makes that is valuable to us is that the Gospel is living and dynamic – it changes. It changes because our needs change, our culture changes, our faithfulness changes. Programs change, people change, leaders change and the Lord upgrades and downgrades our understanding of doctrine based upon our faithfulness. The whole concept of continuing revelation is that new things, great and small, continually need to be revealed in order for church to remain living and “true”.

Any point of doctrine we cling to as a basis for our testimony is subject to change. Clinging to a doctrine as a basis for our faith, is like holding tightly onto a fistful of sand. It will slowly sift through our fingers over time. Brother Lynch writes:

“When I have seen people who were otherwise stalwart in faith shrink in the face of adversity. It is usually because they cling too tightly to some element of belief that itself is not [as] solid [of a] monolith as they might have supposed, but turns out to have shifting elements like sand. As they increase their grip on the granules, the shifting nature lets the grains slip one by one out of their hand until there is not enough for them to hold to.

“The actual topics of conversation in this regard could be myriad. It is almost always some teaching that is culturalized such that it becomes unofficially canonized in Mormon lore, or is perhaps something that was once taught and is no longer adhered to. We see this most markedly when the Church changes a policy or decision. Two large examples include the cessation of the practice of polygamy, and the lifting of the restriction of priesthood ordination of people from African ancestry. When polygamy stopped, some people clung to practices of prior years, and could not handle the shifting sands of practice. In the case of the priesthood ban, some could not let go of faulty teachings that sought to justify it, and they abandoned their faith because of it.

“People who cling so tightly to teachings and beliefs like this which can change are generally referred to as “fundamentalists”. These are people who cannot manage threats to their faith because of changes to what they had anchored themselves to. They leave no room for on-going revelation, presuming that what was – must always remain. Rather than reconsider their own thinking or assumptions, they conclude that the Church itself has moved away from truth and they find themselves rejecting it all! It is not because they lacked spiritual confirmations of gospel truths, or genuine communication with God. . .

“Because of one element that is now questioned, they must rethink it all (or so they suppose). In the end, they find themselves exchanging what they know for the doubts they now have forced upon them! The result is the proverbial baby swirling the drain with the bath [water].”

“There are many topics that can shake our faith and threaten the security of what we “know”. I need not recount them here. The topics that shake one are not an issue for another. Some people are seemingly never shaken. For those who endure, however, there is a predictable pattern that others might do well to follow. Such who endure are those who are not fundamentalist, but who focus on fundamentals. These are not those who cling to elements of belief, but who get a grip on faith!

“The fundamental issues in the restored gospel are not expansive. They are really quite simple. I tend to think of them as the following: First, the priesthood of God has been restored through Joseph Smith, a prophet of God. Second, that very priesthood persists in the Church in the leadership of a First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles, men ordained with keys which control the covenant exercise of the ordinances that bind us and our Father in commitments and promises. Third, the Lord continues to govern His church through these leaders, and the process of revelation available to them is available to me individually so that like Nephi, I can know for myself what they know. Fourth, the Lord has revealed scriptures in addition to the Bible that can help me govern my spiritual life, including and especially the Book of Mormon. Fifth, Jesus Christ loves me such that he willingly suffered what I rightly deserve to suffer for my mistakes, but he freely gives to me the opportunity to let go of my guilt such that my confidence can be regained in the presence of God and I can return to Him as His child!

“These five fundamentals I can hold to. I have had spiritual confirmations that I can rely on that affirm the same to me. These issues I need not exchange for temporary questions that arise from Church history, political commentary, or changes in practice. Virtually everything else, I need not cling to. . .

“If God does indeed provide on-going revelation, and he teaches line upon line, precept upon precept, then it leads to reason that those in the past taught things that sometime in the future may not be believed. That is OK!”

Brother John speaking here: These fundamental principles, and personal pillars of revealed truth, do not erode, and should not be subject to challenge.

We often hear, “Just follow the prophet, and you will never go astray!”  I would say it somewhat differently. “Just follow Jesus Christ, and you will never go astray.”

The tiny flaw in “just follow the prophet” is that not even a true prophet has the power to save us, atone for our sins, or redeem us. To my innocent thinking, it is inconceivable that a living prophet, or apostle, would or even could falter, teach incorrect doctrine, or lead us astray. But, it has happened historically, and if we choose to “follow” a mortal, then a misfire of agency by that leader would destroy anyone whose faith was built upon “just follow the prophet” alone.

No matter how “true” a prophet is, his greatest job is to bring us to Christ and instruct us to follow Him, as did John the Baptist and all others since Christ’s birth. The reason I say it is a tiny flaw is because in our day, if you are truly following our prophet’s example and applying his words, then you are being shepherded to Christ and the firm foundation that only Christ can offer us. Then, if a trusted mortal develops spiritual arrhythmia, or when a doctrine or application of that doctrine changes, it cannot harm our faith or tackle us off of the path.

Overlaying our love and followership of living leaders with undeviating discipleship in Christ will cement our love of the living prophet, and the latter-day church, and will provide an immovable foundation, which unlike lesser things, cannot sift through our fingers as we hold tightly to it.

Brother John

© August 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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7 Responses to Fundamental-ism

  1. Tiffanie says:

    Virginia Hinckley Pearce speaks of these fundamentals in her book “Through His Eyes” – only she calls it “Truth” with a capital T, vs. truth with a small t, and then there are also lies, good book that goes along with so many of the thoughts in your books. 🙂

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  2. Jared says:

    I guess a lot depends upon how one defines doctrine. I don’t think the “Doctrine of Christ” ever changes. On the other hand, the doctrine of the church changes constantly.

    Similarly, the authority of the priesthood and the authority of the church are really two very different things. Church leaders who act contrary to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, on a certain decision, are aptly able to exercise the authority of the church with zero authority of the priesthood. Real priesthood authority is inseparable from the powers of heaven as revealed through the Holy Ghost.

    I have zero confidence in any mortal following the Spirit 100% of the time. Accordingly, my faith is in Jesus Christ alone.

    I am grateful for church members and leaders who are not perfect because their (and my own) imperfections provide opportunities for me and others to exercise charity in connection to the “household of faith”–an imperative aspect of testing.

    When my brothers and sisters falter or run afoul of how I think things should be, I can receive a thrill of godly pleasure as I stretch my capacity in meeting to them the charity that can be funneled from the Savior, through me, to them, according to our needs.

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  3. dianehawkesd says:

    Dear Bro. John,
    You sure hit the nail on the head with this inspired message!
    Just last night I was visiting a less active individual and this very topic was his reasoning for no longer being able to be an active and contributing member of the Church. So, I will print this off for him to read and ponder over. It is good that he is open to a conversation concerning this matter.

    I had read the article previously but didn’t gleen as much from it until you expounded on it further.

    Thank you again for putting this topic into understandable learning.

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  4. ken h says:

    I taught the high priest in priesthood meeting a couple of weeks ago from Elder Christofferson’s general conference talk on the doctrine of Christ. In it he speaks of Brigham Young speaking in a morning meeting about Johnston’s army approaching the saints in the Salt Lake Valley in 1862 and how it was only brother Brigham speaking to the people in the morning meeting back then. Then in the afternoon meeting President Young spoke the mind and will of the Lord and said the opposite of what he, himself, Brother Brigham said in the previous meeting. The message that I tried to get across to the brethren that Sunday was “Never assume anything about anything, only accept that which is truth. And only that which is truth can only be known, comprehended and lived by the power of the Holy Ghost.” For the Holy Ghost speaks the words of Christ. We have the blessing and obligation to ourselves to know for ourselves truth. Christ is the Source of all truth and He IS the Truth, the Life, and the only Way home to God. The article that you site is timely and important as the pressure from the world is increasing at an ever greater degree. I absolutely agree, holding fast to fundamentals is the what the Savior taught as building upon a solid foundation that will endure the tests of time. Thanks again, John.

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  5. J.J. Brown says:

    Great point worth remembering for those who serve and who are being served.

    The priesthood infrastructure, the ordinances, the lessons, the home visits, the Bishop interviews, the LDS counseling, the shouldering of one another’s burdens must all point us to a greater individual reliance on the Spirit and Christ.

    An over reliance on any church leader, member friend, or cultural norm can become a spiritual codependency.

    I once home taught an alcoholic father. He and his family relied on me as a person, because they felt incapable of connecting to the Spirit themselves. I sensed that my role was to play proxy for the Spirit but that the greater role was to refocus their dependency away from me and onto the Savior as quickly as possible.

    In Conference, President Julie Beck talked about the need to be spiritually self reliant. I think the fundamental key on the list was that we can also receive revelation. It’s the only way we can know the other fundamentals are true.

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  6. Daniel A. Rogers says:

    “2 Nephi 32:5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way [Faith, Repentance, Baptism], and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

    6 Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.”

    The only doctrine to concern ourselves with is listening to the Holy Ghost as it leads us to Christ. Once Christ has manifested himself to you, well, then you you do what He says, but don’t concern yourself with that until you reach that point.

    I think we as a people have a lot less concern over doctrinal issues if we would focus on these verses in our lives.

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  7. Steve says:

    Bravo, John, for pinning our faith on the Savior, rather than on a mortal man. As you point out, prophets new and old can and do differ on doctrine. Perhaps that is why the Lord repeatedly told us that cursed is he who maketh flesh his arm. He warned us to beware of following mere men (JST Mark 9:40-48). Even Joseph said that the people’s minds were darkened because they were depending upon him too much.

    Steve

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