Sunday, February 23, 2014

The LDS Church and Consensus

In her critical essay "The LDS Church:  From Proposition 8 to Religious Freedom", Valerie Hudson mistakenly observes, "The Church perceives, rightly in this observer's view, that religious freedom is an issue around which a broad consensus can still be built within American society."

It is not evident from her essay exactly how Hudson discerns exactly what "The Church perceives", either with her gratuitous approval or not.  The rest of her criticism fails on the basis of this pivotal false assumption.

It is evident, from hundreds of years of Church history, that "broad consensus" has never been one of the operative decision making points on which Church policy turns.  Although this is quite difficult to communicate to those minded like Hudson, those who seem to put their faith in the intellectual theory of "social constructs", and promote popular politically-correct perspectives.

This philosophical approach, though proponents claim common membership and carry Temple recommends, neglects the consideration of greatest significance in relation to Church policy and Church membership.

Elder Oaks said of this academic approach,

I admire those scholars for whom scholarship does not exclude faith and revelation. It is part of my faith and experience that the Creator expects us to use the powers of reasoning He has placed within us, and that He also expects us to exercise our divine gift of faith and to cultivate our capacity to be taught by divine revelation. But these things do not come without seeking. Those who utilize scholarship and disparage faith and revelation should ponder the Savior’s question: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
God invites us to reason with Him, but I find it significant that the reasoning to which God invites us is tied to spiritual realities and maturity rather than to scholarly findings or credentials. In modern revelation the Lord has spoken of reasoning with His people (D&C 45:10, 15; 50:10–12; 61:13; see also Isa. 1:18). It is significant that all of these revelations were addressed to persons who had already entered into covenants with the Lord—to the elders of Israel and to the members of his restored Church.  (Historicity of the Book of Mormon)

I find it common among such advocates of heeding or being "sensitive" to popular consensus that they tend to confuse this with the principle of common consent.  But this idea is problematic, because common consent as practiced in the Church relates to our opportunity to sustain by covenant, and is unrelated to any sort of political veto power.  It is our opportunity as Church members to participate in a common and united expression of faith.

President Monson urges us to walk against the tide of popular criticism.  What we seek is the approval of God:
It is this sweet assurance that can guide you and me—in our time, in our day, in our lives. Of course, we will face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but also as a determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well.  (The Call for Courage)
There is a difference between prudently using the power of the tide, and just passively going with the flow because it is the consensus or seems overpowering and inevitable.

When I was SCUBA diving in coastal ocean waters in Southern California, as we did not have a boat, we frequently used the tides to access areas far from our entry point on the seashore.  We would identify areas of tidal outflow, popularly known as "rip tides".  And we would purposefully swim out into one of these "rip tides" and allow it to carry us out into deeper waters.  Thus instead of wearing yourself out trying to flounder directly through the onshore current and battering waves, we would let the tide work in our favor, to save time and energy.

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