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