Around the blogs

A few posts that I’ve noticed of late:

-Bob Caswell at BnL asks how we tell the difference between doctrine and history. E.g., why is the Word of Wisdom doctrine while polygamy is merely history — and how are these decisions made?
-Kathleen at some-other-blog writes on free agency and choices: How does our situation influence our choices and our agency, and how does that combination influence the consequences of our choices?
Lynette at ZD asks what it means to translate Christ’s life into our own actions. “I don’t think the question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ is always all that helpful in this endeavor,” she writes. “A more useful question, perhaps, is ‘what would Jesus want me to do?'”

16 comments for “Around the blogs

  1. May 29, 2006 at 9:16 am

    I don’t think that polygamy is only history. After all, D&C 132 has not been struck from the scriptures and people still enter polygamous relationships for eternity.

  2. May 29, 2006 at 2:53 pm


    But that’s just it, the irony is that polygamy has a stronger case for being “doctrine” than our current Word of Wisdom. Yet, in practice, the WoW is huge and polygamy is something we wish we didn’t have to talk about with the Mormon curious… In other words, our doctrinal focus seems to be more on those things which have less of a case of being doctrinal. Is the WoW eternal? Hardly. Is polygamy? Yes, at least, according to our doctrine. It’s just interesting to see Mormon evolution in action.

  3. jen
    May 29, 2006 at 3:23 pm


    1998 — During an interview with Larry King on CNN, when asked about polygamy, President Hinckley stated:
    “I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is NOT DOCTRINAL. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law.”

  4. mullingandmusing (m&m)
    May 29, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    It’s not doctrinal now, which is why Pres. Hinckley said what he said. And D&C 132 is certainly about more than polygamy.

  5. Mark Butler
    May 29, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    jen (#4), The only coherent way to interpret that statement is that President Hinckley is speaking of polygamy in context – e.g. as the contemporary practice of marrying and living with more than one wife at a time.

    Contemporary polygamy is non-doctrinal in two different senses – first, since God has withdrawn the injunction, it is, as is usually the case, currently being performed without divine sanction, and second, it is our doctrine to uphold the laws of the land, so it is out on that count as well. (cf. D&C 59:21-22)

  6. Mark Butler
    May 29, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    The rule of the Church is that the *unanimous* consent of the FP and Q12 is sufficient to make anything that does not do violence to the canon into the doctrine of the Church (cf. D&C 107:22-30)

    The Word of Wisdom is the doctrine of the Church on that basis. Other speculative or controversial propositions are not.

  7. May 29, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Still, we as members put waaaaay more emphasis on those things that may be “doctrinal” now even if ultimately not that important in the grand scheme of things (insert WoW here) and then practically ignore things that are huge eternally even if ultimately bad news now (insert mother in heaven or polygamy here).

    In other words, I’m fascinated just as much by our focus on the comparatively unimportant as I am on our silence on the important. Again, the question is why? and who decides? The who decides is more known while the why is the clincher. I personally speculate it has much to do with our quest for the Mormon Mainstream. The WoW, for example, is quirky enough to make us “stand out” but not funky enough to make our neighbors run for the hills…

  8. Mark Butler
    May 29, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    I am sure that if the government passed a law mandating the consumption of alcohol things would get *very* interesting.

  9. Ben H
    May 29, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Huh? Bob, the Book of Mormon teaches that polygamy is the exception, not the rule. So if it is not currently being practiced, how is it central?

    Meanwhile I think it is also a serious stretch to call the WoW marginal. How many women are beaten regularly by drunken men? How many children are neglected because drunken parents are not living up to their responsibilities (e.g. to provide and to instruct by precept and example)? How many people are killed by drunk drivers?

    You may say, “Well, drunkenness is different from drinking.” Okay, but how many people don’t know where to stop, or lack the will to stop there? A lot.

    That said, I don’t think we make it as central as you suggest, either. Oh, it gets used as an example a lot for a clear-cut commandment one might or might not keep. But frequency of mention is not the same as weight of emphasis.

    I suppose I should go look at the other thread.

  10. Kimball L. Hunt
    May 29, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    If the pharisees of old hold to words of the torah, Mormons do to fossilizations of status quo.

    OK, so re the Word of Wisdom: The religious Right’s last hurrah before the Bushes was Prohibition. At which time Mormonism trotted out Joseph’s mere word of wisdom /word to the wise to show how it anticipated this religious mainstream. Then right ‘n’ left the secular culture rebelled. But we didn’t.

    And, incidentally, this was simultaneously to our first ex-ing of the semi-secret polygs (h)umungous. When we went from Heber J’s having a beards and multiple wives to David Oman’s being the first to have neither, our missoinaries as well went from their being required in some cased to have beards to their being required not to. Then, to seal the deal, brother Wilkinson made a Jazz Age or Wall Street style of barbaring for men de rigueur for (ironically!) Brighan Young attendence — as had originally come into style to accomodate WWI gas masks and to differentiate men from women who now also cut/ “bobbed” their hair.

    But: really ‘n’ truly, how many of you REALLY understand the present youngest generation out thar’s music? When you have a geriatocracy, what they sense as status quo worth conserving and what younger people do sometimes varies; but, that’s our religion — uh, I mean, that’s ya all’s religion and I guess you’re stuck with it?

  11. Kimball L. Hunt
    May 29, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    humungous was a personal joke for among us I forgot to go back & delete. sorry

  12. Kimball L. Hunt
    May 29, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    And again (sorry) David Oman is David O. McKay.

  13. Mark Butler
    May 29, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    Short hair for men is not exactly a new thing – it dates back at least to Paul:

    “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” (1 Cor 11:14)

    The modern preference for event shorter hair probably has more to do with the advent of electric shears and disposable razors than anything else.

  14. May 29, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Ben!

    I have much to respond to you in your comment and hope it all comes across appropriately:

    “…polygamy is the exception, not the rule. So if it is not currently being practiced, how is it central?”

    If it, indeed, exists after this life and throughout eternity, I find it much more essential even if in this particular pin prick of eternity it’s a faux pas. But that doesn’t mean I like it… just that it’s difficult for me to join in on commentary boldly denouncing polygamous families as fringe and weird (meaning fringe and weird like our past Church leaders?).

    And I know using phrases like “exception to the rule� make us feel better even if in Mormon theology it’s way beyond “exception.� Perhaps it’s the “minority� relationship, but it is a routine Mormon practice for men to be sealed to more than wife for eternity. That’s hardly an exception.

    “Well, drunkenness is different from drinking.�

    Very different, extremely different, in fact. Just as “being drunk” is different than “being drunk and driving” or “being drunk and beating someone.” I just don’t buy the logic that we live by the Word of Wisdom to do our part in preventing future generations of drunk drivers and child beaters. You’re using the textbook example of slippery slope. There’s nothing intrinsically evil about alcohol. Christ didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

    Here’s an anecdotal example for you from the other side: Before my wife joined the Church, she had the occasional drink for holidays or in a social setting. But she never was a drunk driver, she never beat children, heck, she never even got drunk! So if you were to tell her that she’s living the Word of Wisdom as part of a prevention mechanism insuring she doesn’t do these things, it’d be down right insulting.

    “I don’t think we make it as central as you suggest”

    Could you offer even five doctrines that are more central and defining of our religion (and, I might add, that affect our daily lives more)?

    And Ben, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You start off with overblown examples shining light on the amazing effects of the WoW in response to me calling it “comparatively unimportant� (NOT marginal, I used my words very carefully. The WoW has its place; it just means little to me in comparison to eternal truths that are downplayed) after which you come back with a “I don’t think we make it as central as you suggest.� Which is it?

    For the record, for me, perhaps my thoughts are best explained using ratios. The ratio of our WoW focus to its doctrinal importance is way out of proportion when compared to practically any other focus/importance ratio of other doctrines (and I simply find it fascinating that some doctrines, like polygamy, have the inverse relationship, i.e., extremely important but little focus). Does that make sense?

  15. May 29, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    Enjoyed the links, I always appreciate these.

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.