The Question, Part 1

General Musings

Engaging in meaningful and unemotional discourse has become rare and nearly impossible in today’s world. The reason for this is complicated but centers around the emotional conditioning techniques used by virtually every large organization in their marketing and public relations efforts. Governments, corporations, and churches all engage in these techniques for very different reasons but all with the same result—emotional conditioning.

Today’s government seeks to divide, conquer, and control. Corporations seek to endear themselves and their products such that we will be prone to favorable purchasing behaviors. Churches simply want to prevent “sheep stealing” or losing members for whatever reason. Since our subject here leans toward religion, we will focus our analytical efforts there.

Since Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, then John Watson and Edward Bernays and others, to the more modern practitioners such as Richard B. Wirthlin, current psychological techniques have been incorporated into LDS church public relations, advertising, and  Correlation Program, with stupendous success. 

For instance, when children are taught from an early age to “follow the prophet” because “he knows the way,” they gain feelings of comfort and security, and an emotional attachment to that notion, and hence, the individual. “Prophet” equals comfort and security without any requirement of individual thinking. No agency is required and no decisions need to be made—comfort and security becomes an unconscious, emotional response to these phrases. 

“Institutional awe” and the “cult of personality” are powerful tools in that effort. (While we will not define or analyze those terms here, you are advised to investigate further on your own. They are valuable concepts to know.) Whether the children “buy” or “buy into” the product/prophet, makes little difference. They, emotionally, own it for a lifetime.

This emotional “ownership” creates a bubble in which the “owner” may safely hide from objective analysis and even spiritual enlightenment. Inside is a calm but counterfeit  assurance that “all is well in Zion” and that the abandonment of objectivity is compensated by a promise of a successful ending. In this case, the desired ending is salvation. But is this how the Lord has instructed us to be? Are we to live inside an emotional bubble which insulates us from objective reasoning? Where are the scriptures that support such action? 

I am quite certain many of these remarks will “poke” at this bubble and you will experience programmed feelings of discomfort. You may mistake these “feelings” as being evil or from the Adversary. I take no pleasure in the “poking.” Your spirit and its connection to the Holy Spirit, light, and truth, will add a measure of cognitive dissonance to the equation. Your spirit knows the truth but your “natural man” feelings have taken control and the bubble rules, thereby stifling light and truth. The results of that stifling is also discomfort.

Discomfort is often part of the Lord’s way to get your attention. Alma the Younger, Saul, King Lamoni, and others felt the hand of the Lord in their discomfort as He gained their attention. They did not fight the discomfort but allowed the Lord to teach them and lead them to a better way. They all benefited from the experience and grew stronger in the Gospel. We, however, hide in our bubbles and refuse to allow the Lord to teach us unless He does so with the Gospel equivalent of vanilla pudding and candy canes. Mortality demands our objectivity if we are to progress, and objectivity demands realistic assessment. Unfortunately, many “Mormon” traditions do not pass the muster of such assessment.

When members, in general, are told (and then believe) that the church president cannot lead the church astray, they make an emotional purchase that creates the very tradition the Bible and the Book of Mormon warn against. Paul, for instance, explains the reasoning behind his terrible persecution of the Jews: 

"For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:  And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians 1:13-14)

Alma, similarly, describes the cause behind the Lamanites’ disobedience and rebellion: "...for it is because of the traditions of their fathers that caused them to remain in their state of ignorance..." (Alma 9:16)

Whether the techniques are classical or operant conditioning, the results rob agency. If the church simply taught correct principles and allowed members to govern themselves, as Joseph taught, they would grow and progress rather than shrink and wither in their respective emotional bubbles. From John Taylor Gatto (we’ll hear more from him later):

“I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.” 
John Taylor Gatto, “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through The Dark World of Compulsory Schooling.”

Well, I have to say, while emotion certainly is an important component of mortality, because of these sometimes overtly, and sometimes covertly, used conditioning techniques, emotion has become the primary bellwether of our judgment. The popular phrase of the 1960’s, “If it feels good, do it,” has taken on new meaning. Without the intellectual component, discovering the offered depths of the Gospel and righteous  judgment, are not possible. Consider the Lord’s response to Oliver Cowdrey after his failure at translation:

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.” D&C 9:7

Sounds like our modern “Millennials” generation. 

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." D&C 9:8

The intellectual component, in another word, “study,” comes first. That concept has gained a distasteful connotation as much of society has rebelled against high academic standards and endeavors. We tend to view study as much of the mindless homework sent home with students attending government schools. The purpose of such homework is not education but obedience. If you have doubts about that assertion, you ought to read “The Underground History of American Education” by John Taylor Gatto who was an award winning school teacher in New York for nearly thirty years. Here’s a sample of his wisdom:

“School is about learning to wait your turn, however long it takes to come, if ever. And how to submit with a show of enthusiasm to the judgment of strangers, even if they are wrong, even if your enthusiasm is phony.”

Now we turn to Dallin Oaks who demands just that: “…it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true…” He claims that his statement was taken out of context. Okay, let’s add some context to the end of his statement: “…because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord.” (From his talk at an LDSSA fireside in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on May 4, 1986.) 

How could true and honest criticism diminish a leader’s effectiveness unless you were attempting to put that leader on a pedestal where they were incapable of leading anyone astray? To find true criticism about a leader simply means that leader is equal with us all as imperfect mortals, all coming short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Becoming equal is a goal of becoming a Zion people. Do we not all want that? Apparently not Elder Oaks.

Whether they be church, government, or industrial leaders, all simply want us to stop questioning and obey orders. Now back to John Taylor Gatto:

"The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic -- it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.” ? John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Education

Lest you think me a Gatto fanboy (well, okay, I am), here are two others:

"It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty...The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Albert Einstein

“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.” Agatha Christie

That LDS families continue to send their children to government schools is a testimony to me that the Spirit of Discernment has nearly completely left our LDS society. Since our own Sunday Schools and correlated curriculum mimic the dumbing down of public education, that is no wonder. So much for the side trip. Let’s get back to our subject.

If there was one, even one, scripture that supported the claim that the Lord will not allow an LDS church president to lead the church astray, those who hold that tradition might have an objective case. However, there is not. Not one. Like the car salesman who pleads, “Trust me,” church leaders have only the opinions of the leaders, themselves, as support for their claim. They can offer no supporting scriptural evidence. And opinions, even apostolic opinions, are not scripture. And blatantly self-serving apostolic opinions ought to be a warning signal to discerning Latter-day Saints.

Notwithstanding the complete absence of corroborating scriptural evidence to support this erroneous and, agency-robbing tradition, the emotional purchase made by members, and the resulting emotional conditioning, will not permit objective analysis. Even the suggestion of such analysis may cause such emotional discomfort that the member may become angry or upset and completely exit the conversation and, perhaps, even a friendship. This, so they may not have to face the possibility that their beloved tradition might prove to be folly. Such were many Lamanites, and such are many Latter-day Saints, today.

There are those, however, who study and discover evidences for rational and objective analysis of such traditions, scattered throughout the scriptures. There are also those who the Lord identifies as ready for advancement and He speaks directly to them in an effort to nudge them forward. In my own studies, I first experienced the former example and subsequently the latter. I personally know others who also have experienced both.

The difficulty with those who present unsupported tradition in defense of their position to those who can present scriptural-based reasoning to support theirs, lies with the upheaval of emotion experienced when tradition faces scripture. Emotion is powerful. 

However, scriptural evidence, and the consequent light and truth, is also powerful. It is my hope that by presenting first the emotional issue and then the evidence, that emotion may be set aside long enough to consider the scriptural evidence. After all, some of the most emotional and moving events of the Book of Mormon occurred when Lamanites softened their hearts, abandoned false traditions, and turned to the Lord.

Continue in Part 2...

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