Posted by: Loran Blood | December 3, 2012

“The Intellectuals” Among the Saints

Among the most interesting dynamics one observes as one studies the patterns and general tendencies of apostasy from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and, with especial relevance to this blog, when one’s transition out of the Church is a not a transition into evangelical Protestantism, which was for sometime the seeming traditional destination of many leaving the Church in the decades prior to the nineties when the evangelical Christian “counter-cult” movement was of primary concern to many LDS intellectuals and “apologists” (a term I’ve never been able to warm up to but will use here as a matter of longstanding convention), but into the “great and spacious building” mentioned in the First Book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, (which I will here, as I have long done elsewhere, associate with the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil as also mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon, and with what I have come to call Korihorism, or the philosophy of an ancient American anti-Christ, one of several mentioned, all of whom followed a similar philosophical, psychological, valuational, and spiritual pattern in their manner of life and the belief systems they created, taught, and defended in the justification of that manner of life), is the degree to which, as the gospel and its teachings are abandoned, the mind becomes occluded, congested, and fragmented with respect to gospel principles, and how “from him shall be taken even the light which he has received.”

New ideas, perceptions, orienting concepts, and worldviews take the place of a knowledge of the plan of salvation.  The new intellectual and psychological orientation has many facets but always a particularistic focus; race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual proclivity, age, peace, social justice, economic justice, “liberation,” “rights” (relative to solidarity within a specified identity group), saving the planet, reparations for some ancient grievance, the “reimagining,” or “transformation” of core aspects of society and human relations, hope and change.  As the gospel of Jesus Christ fades from consciousness, new forms of worship and messianic expectation arise, each with their own fallen world, their own redemptive sacrifices, and some with their own Edenic beginnings.

Joanna Brooks’ essay at Religion Dispatches entitled “Is Criticizing Mitt Romney an Excommunicable Offense? No” is a case in point.  Beginning as little more than a report about claims in another publication claim one David Tweed, an apostate critic of the Church who published details of sacred temple ceremonies, conduct considered to be both the prostitution of the sacred and indicative of deep dis-integrity regarding one’s sacred covenants with the Lord, according to the laws and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the essay then turns to Brooks’ and other LDS leftist’s traditional preoccupations: the alleged “controversial elements” faced by the Church (and she here mentions the traditional ace in the hole always played by critics of the Church, plural marriage, which is certainly controversial, but no more so than sexual abstinence before marriage, complete sexual fidelity during marriage, or that homosexuality is a serious violation of the Lord’s standards of sexual relations), “questions of the origins of the Book of Mormon,” a preoccupation of both the traditional evangelical Christian counter-cult as well as of the secularist LDS intellectual Left (but not a question at all for those who have received a personal, individual witness within themselves, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the principle of direct, personal revelation from God (which testimony or witness is described as the “spirit of prophecy” in Revelation 19:10), regarding the origins of that Book), and another favorite of our contemporary Korihorists, the claimed attempts of the Church to hide or render invisible unpalatable aspects of Church history.

As anyone who has been in the Church for any length of time well knows, any number of the “Boo!” claims made by people such as Brooks regarding problems and quandaries of Church history or the behavior of certain key figures in it have long been available to Latter-day-Saints in their own literature, both scholarly and of general interest.  Anyone willing to read, study, and search (as I have always been wont to do) and who wasn’t living among the remoter peaks of the Himalayas has long known of, and seen or constructed on their own, reasoned arguments regarding, most of the traditional problems and back alleys of Church history.

When Brooks asserts that “question of openness—the matter and manner in which the LDS community sorts through its own history and practices—is a source of tension among Mormons today,” she is not asserting something general amongst the majority of faithful, committed, active, and what in LDS parlance be understood as “valiant” Latter-day Saints who are struggling and striving to perfect and purify themselves from their individual sins, weaknesses, and biases toward both the trivial and the evil and who are striving to be cleansed and purged of their baser, carnal, “natural” inclinations, tendencies, and predispositions and “endure to the end” against overwhelming sociocultural odds (amplified and water duly carried by people such as Joanna Brooks), but a tiny, alienated (and when we are speaking of the Left, we are speaking of alienation, not only from the gospel of Christ, but from the principles of the American founding and the classical liberal philosophy and general worldview at its base), decadent intellectual elite whom Dr. Thomas Sowell has termed, the Anointed, and Kenneth Minogue has called The Olympians.  The LDS Anointed, like the secular Anointed around them, hold very similar perspectives, assumptions, and ideological visions of the world, but in our case, with an LDS gloss.  I use the term “intellectuals” as scholars and thinkers such as Sowell, Minogue, Bork, and the distinguished historian Paul Johnson has used the term, and not as an attack on intellectuality or advanced education per se, as it is nothing of the kind.

The broad way beckons and the foolish virgins move through the mist of darkness with lamps only dimly lit, while hands that should be grasping the iron rod reach for and close upon other things.  Leaving the Church is a matter of agency, but the Church, and the gospel of which it is the divinely authorized representative, institution, society, and community, cannot absorb so much as a particle of “the world” without sending out antibodies to repel the infection.  The last time that happened, the result was what we in the Church know as “the great apostasy,” and modern revelation makes clear that this is not, will not, occur again.  This is, in Latter-day Saint teaching, the dispensation of the fullness of times, the dispensation that will see the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, to rule and govern here personally, and the Church of Jesus Christ, in its purity and authority, will not be taken fully from the earth again before that time arrives.

The world – spiritual Babylon – cannot be domesticated and brought into the Church in some kind of ecumenical convergence of understanding and accommodation with the Church.  To do so would inevitably destroy only one side of that sociocultural integration, and those aspects destroyed would be the spiritual, ministerial, moral, and intellectual integrity of the Church, while Babylon would absorb the least unpalatable, broad and generalized ethical platitudes and politically neutered pieties left over from such a conflation, or at least make a show of so doing, while utterly deracinating the Church of its most “plain and precious” truths.

The authority of the priesthood would be extinguished, the knowledge of the plan of salvation and the intimate relationship of human beings to God would be lost, and the ordinances of the gospel impugned, cast among the swine, and forgotten.  Then, “without God in the world,” basking in our own enlightenment and led by the modern and postmodern intellectuals, we can set about seeing that the earth’s climate stays just where we desire it to be, that everyone, everywhere, has about the same things, in the same quantity, and of the same quality; that marriage is a contract between anyone and for any reason including, perhaps, the bearing and rearing of children (if allowed by the state past a certain point); and that omnipresent, omniscient, and omniresponsible government is the bread and an incessant, relentless maelstrom of all-enveloping entertainment composed primarily of exotic, intense violence and sexual imagery and loud, monotonous, insipid, brute, attitudinal music that closes and smothers higher, more refined feelings and sensitivities and generates a drug-like mass psychology and diminishing of individual thought and reflection; an ever greater and more pervasive immersion in the visual and the sensate, and ever less pausing, as the spine tingles with the sense of the profound, the enigmatic, the beautiful – the true – over a word, phrase, idea or argument found as we wander, the world, its veil of tears lost to us, within the pages of a great book the circus, of the post-Christian, post-liberal, post-literate, post-reflective, post-capitalist, post-historical, post-modern, post-post world of the progressive world of post-everything that was wrong with the world before the Left discovered the secrets of human felicity.

As we are called and encouraged, within the Book of Mormon itself, to “liken” the scriptures “unto ourselves” (paraphrasing Nephi) in our own contemporary latter-day context, I have come to associate Korihorism and the great and spacious building, including its attitudes, psychological attributes, and cultural patterns, with what is broadly and universally understood to be “the Left.”

This crosses a number of dimensions, from social issues (probably the most stark and obvious of the conflict of values and principles between the two worlds; Zion and Babylon, in scriptural imagery) to broader but related political issues, economics, and our relations with other nations.

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