No Time

The 20th comment on David Clark’s “Mormon Anxieties” post comments that the request to support a “yes” on Proposition 8 was “time sensitive.” After comparing this to President Hinckley’s recent directive to read the BoM before the beginning of the year, this same author writes “we didn’t have the luxury of weeks and months to ‘gain a testimony’ of it.”

There are instances where we must react based without detailed thought. For example, those who use firearms regularly in their line of work rely on decisions made earlier, in more leisurely moments, about how they will react under certain legal conditions and circumstances. But moral-political propositions presented for a vote with an understanding that there is insufficient time to seek genuine spiritual confirmation seem to me to be similar to $700 B bailouts for which we likewise somehow lack the time for public debate. Katy. Bar. The. Door.

Like David, I am not going to open a debate on the Prop. 8 issue. But I am interested in the idea that there might be circumstances in which we should act without spiritual confirmation on some major political or moral decision. This does not seem likely to me, because the LDS lifestyle seems to be full of at least anecdotal evidence of major life changes made on the basis of rather sudden spiritual inspiration. I am, however, open to learning more from those who have given it some thought.

  • Julie M. Smith

    I can think of very few situations (emergency medical decisions being one) where you may not have as much time as you’d like. But when was that Prop 8 letter read–this summer? So I think people had plenty of time to ponder, pray, and fast about this one, and it was wrong for that commenter to suggest otherwise.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    Ok, yes. I can see the possibility for morally uncertain emergency medical conditions that might require an expedient decision. That’s a good example, I think.

  • James

    My brother, who moved from Los Angeles just before the Prop 8 wave struck, said that most of his friends were initially against it. But because the church approached the membership this summer, each one of them had time to reflect on the issue a great deal and ultimately switched their vote. My brother speculated that had this effort been initiated in, say, October, most of them would have likely not voted for the proposition.

    I was deeply impressed that these people engaged the question so seriously, given that they’re primarily young professionals (many in the entertainment and media industries) in West LA. To me, this group has far more at stake socially and professionally than most who voted yes.

  • Chris H.

    Should we even have a “testimony” about the legal status of gay marriage? Anyways, this may more be an issue of political cluelessness than one of revelation. Maybe some didn’t think about it until the very end. They must have also been undecided voters on Nov. 3.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    Yes, with respect to Proposition 8, it seems reasonable to me that folks had enough to time engage the matter seriously and without haste — at least when it came to casting their votes.

    For the sake of this discussion, let me push the point a bit further, though. Once the church leadership came online with their guidance, how long did folks feel that they could pause before reacting in terms of providing money and support? Did folks feel that in order to respond properly they had to engage in supportive activities before they had a testimony if that was what they desired?

  • Mark Brown

    Mogget,

    I think this is complicated. Not just this issue in the immediate past, but the overall issue of obeying with promptness.

    When we read the biographies of the men who lead the church, we realize that sometimes it takes the prophets and apostles years to achieve consensus on a topic. It seems odd to me that we rank and file members will rush to beat one another over the head with the “Follow the Prophet” club if it takes us a few months to figure it all out when it took Elder Oaks, Nelson, Ballard, et. al. years sometimes to get to the point where they can be united. We cannot force personal revelation, or demand that it meet our timetable.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Mark,

    Yes, I agree that it complicated. Your addition of historical consciousness is a welcome addition to the debate, as well.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    But I am interested in the idea that there might be circumstances in which we should act without spiritual confirmation on some major political or moral decision.

    At least on the “moral decision” issue, this is the kind of thing that gets debated ad nauseam in the analytical vein of ethics (not the confirmation of the spirit per se but moral reasoning in time sensitive cases). Most of the scenarios involve the risk of someone’s life–war, hospital rooms, or random potential tragedies (See Foot’s famous trolley problem on the latter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem ). I don’t think it’s too hard to accept that there are moral dilemmas that require rapid response and may need to be handle before “confirmation”; although how often we come upon these, and if we wanted to create a distinction between a moral dilemma and an ethical dilemma may impact the severity of these examples as far as this discussion is concerned.

    On the political side of things, I don’t think most (if any) issues would call for a split second decision. That said, I think the standard LDS response to a scenario without a confirmation but under the direction of “priesthood leaders” (especially those higher up) would be to “follow the counsel and the confirmation will come with that leap of faith”.

  • http://www.keepapitchinin.org Ardis Parshall

    I am interested in the idea that there might be circumstances in which we should act without spiritual confirmation on some major political or moral decision

    Some have the default position — cherished by its holders, derided by some others — that when the Brethren issue a straightforward request, they will immediately begin to obey, even while they are going through a sometimes time-consuming process of learning to understand and getting a spiritual confirmation. That grows out of a prior conviction, perhaps accompanied by spiritual conviction, that the Brethren will not request anything improper.

  • http://smallsimple.wordpress.com/ Eric Nielson

    Some of us may never feel that we have had sufficient time for any significant choice. Sooner or later we must act anyway on many things.

  • Jerry

    Intersting that this comes up 30 years to the day after Jonestown Nov 18 1978, Just shutup and drink your kool-aid folks All is Well.

    I do trust our leaders would not lead us astray and giving them the benefit of the doubt is something I always do but not jumping before you look. I am thinking more of the non SL based leaders but even Apostles don’t always have a full knowledge of the things they speak about. Many of our leaders in moments of candor say things that are just ridiculous. They are human just like the rest of us. On the Mormons PBS show Pres Packer was almost ashamed of some of the quoted attributed to him. He handled it well but he has been abrupt in times past and said things he doesn’t necessarily hold to today.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Interesting and thoughtful points being raised. I find myself thinking about SmallAxe’s Trolley Problem because it introduces the intersection of psychology and moral decision making.

    I think the standard LDS response to a scenario without a confirmation but under the direction of “priesthood leaders” (especially those higher up) would be to “follow the counsel and the confirmation will come with that leap of faith”.

    This idea has roots in the Gospel of John, as Jesus invites his listeners to try out his ideas:

    John 7:16-17 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

    I find myself more inclined to follow this counsel when it involves higher levels of leadership than otherwise, as SmallAxe intimated. My psychology, or perhaps just [in]experience? And I think that if I were aware that it took the leadership a relatively lengthy period to come to agreement, I might be positively influenced by that. I might also feel like I needed a similarly long period, as well, though.

    Let me push this a bit further. It seems to me that it is quite unlikely that folks didn’t know beforehand which side of the fence the church would come down on with respect to this issue. Not only was I unsurprised, but I also knew without being told that significant political activity was going to be generated.

    So now, it seems to me that with a little forethought it is quite possible for church members to have known far in advance of any specific guidance that this sort of thing was coming. I once again find myself thinking that anyone who wished for a testimony that church guidance represented God’s will on this matter had ample opportunity.

    Jonestown

    Dude, do you have date marked on your calendar? I confess it had totally slipped my mind. For about thirty years, I think. ;)

    even Apostles don’t always have a full knowledge of the things they speak about. Many of our leaders in moments of candor say things that are just ridiculous

    I think this is why we look for unanimity in our leadership and a reasoned, coherent presentation of the major issues, so your point is important from that perspective.

  • Mark Brown

    Mogget,

    I agree with you that the knowledge that the leadership had to deliberate for a long time in order to formulate a position inspires confidence in that position.

    The difficulty for me arises from seeing how the church’s own position on this issue is changing rapidly. Two years ago we had a ballot proposal in our state which would have approved civil unions. A letter was read from the pulpit opposing them. Now, apparently, the church is fine with civil unions. Or are we? I honestly don’t know. (It wouldn’t suprise me to learn that there are differences among church leaders on that point.) Even ten years ago, the idea of an officially approved Gay and Lesbian club on the campus of BYU would have sounded like a headline in a supermarket tabloid. I’m very hesitant to predict what the church will do next, because it continues to surprise me.

  • Jerry

    Actually there was a big write up in the paper today with an interview of a survivor of Jonestown so I did get a refresher.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    I’m very hesitant to predict what the church will do next, because it continues to surprise me.

    Yes, your concern is well-taken. My thought at this point is that discomfort with a changing church position is pretty expected, but that it also arises because somewhere, somehow we’ve come to think that today’s divine guidance is eternally The Way It Is Going To Be. This, it seems to your humble historical-critical exegete and post author, is problematic.

    By saying that I do not wish to imply that you are at fault for regarding things that way. I know from experience that it gets presented that way, and in very official venues. In fact, it is hard to imagine being told to invest time and money in an effort to defeat something because that is what God desires, and then to find out in a decade or so that it is acceptable at some level. I think we might look to the example of polygamy and OD 1 for some loosely relevant scenes within our history. In fact, when the results of the election were first in and the anger was running particularly hot, it occurred to me to point out that the NT reports that Gentile Christianity evoked similar angst. And yet, 2,000 years later no one cares because the situation has changed so dramatically. These things are, it seems to me, all historically and culturally conditioned. Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s odd bit of historical hysteria and all that.

    So then, it remains a possibility that we could read changing church positions as divine navigation rather than something chiseled in stone. Here a hard left turn, there a slow right, and straight ahead for bit, perhaps. But you are right that an outlook such as this will not generate the sort of support that other approaches tend to yield.

    Mogs

  • Mark Brown

    Mogget, that is exactly what I have learned from this experience. At least I think that is what I have learned. Divine navigation is a good way to think of it.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Yeah, I guess it’s one way to see the search for further light and knowledge in action. It would seem that God’s relationship with his church and with folks in general is actually rather more complicated than we normally allow.

  • anon

    Mogget said “It seems to me that it is quite unlikely that folks didn’t know beforehand which side of the fence the church would come down on with respect to this issue”.

    Did the church call on it’s members to do all they can to defeat SSM in England, in Canada? , in Conn? Did the church do anything in response to Romney’s expansion of ‘gay rights’ in Mass? Why now, why CA? The church has NOT “come down” with respect to this issue before, how can you claim that folks should have known?

  • Chris H.

    In 2004 the Church came out in favor of a similar proposition in Utah (though that one also banned Civil Unions). President Hinckley addresses the 2000 California Vote in Priesthood session in General Conference. The members in Vermont where officially encouraged to fight the civil unions bill there.

    Back in 2004 or 2005 when the Congress voted on a national Constitutional Amendment, there was a First Presidency letter encouraging members to call their Senators.

    Elder Nelson was part of a group of religious leaders that made some very public comments about fight gay marriage a few years back (more of a response to MA).

    This is nothing new.

  • Gary

    Why assume that spiritual confirmation ever takes too much time? Spiritual confirmation of any matter can come as quickly as God wants it to come. If it is important that I have his answer, and time does not permit a lot of pondering and praying, then what prevents him from working to whatever deadlines might exist, and giving me the answer prior to the deadline for a decision on my part?

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Hello Anon,

    Chris had given you some specifics. To his specifics, I will just add that I remember the matter coming up in 1990 or so. I also think it possible for a reasonable person who is familiar with the LDS doctrine of marriage and the socially conservative positions normally adopted by church leaders to draw some rather accurate conclusions, even in the absence of specific guidance.

    I am, however, similarly interested in why/how California’s Proposition 8 gathered so much attention. Perhaps because this is Round 2 for California? I don’t know.

  • http://faithprorumors.wordpress.com Mogget

    Spiritual confirmation of any matter can come as quickly as God wants it to come.

    Yes, I think that this is a reasonable approach.

    The only thing I might wonder (speculation, actually) is if there are ever circumstances where God might withhold that confirmation and expect us to reason through the matter based on pre-existing revelation. Folks whose religious convictions do not include personal revelation, and I think that’s a good part of modern Christianity, work under this scenario much of the time.

  • Chris H.

    “To his specifics, I will just add that I remember the matter coming up in 1990 or so.”

    I do not remember that far back.

    (Were you old enough to be having adult conversations in 1990? –ed.)

  • Chris H.

    editor:

    While I was political since birth, I was likely a not as attentive in the 8th grade. I turn 32 today.

  • http://bycommonconsent.com sister blah 2

    Happy Birthday, Chris!

  • smallaxe

    Happy 32nd!

  • Eric

    Hello Eric,

    First, this thread is not open to debate the merits of various positions on Proposition 8.

    Second, I think that perhaps it would be best if you took some time to consider what you’d really like to say and then articulate those thoughts in a fashion that will both advance your cause and show your personal qualities and intelligence in the most favorable possible light. Your recent effort lacks something in both regards.

    Mogs

  • Gary

    Mogget: I believe that God often (in my experience, almost always) withholds revelation and expects us to reason through matters, not just on the basis of previous revelation, but also on the basis of our own judgment and experience. I could not make sense of my own experience with God if I did not believe this. If our goal is to become like Him, then we have to learn to make correct decisions for ourselves rather than always relying on our ability to discern his will.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Mogget

    God often (in my experience, almost always) withholds revelation and expects us to reason through matters

    Yes, I tend to agree that some level of reasoning is surely indicated. But we do have a significant number of our coreligionists who take a more robust view of the spiritual elements of decision making. Always interesting to watch it play out, though.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X