“You know . . . it’s good to be the Pope!”
(which, of course, is why I’m resigning!)
by Fred W. Anson
The recent February 16th Mormon Reformation Day coupled with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI reminded me of one of my old Mormon Expression blogs in which I made some pretty bold statements:
“…I see some good things in the LdS Church and I see even more in Mormon Culture. There’s also much – particularly in the former – that, in my opinion, is really, really bad and needs to change. Never-the-less I’m just crazy enough to believe that there must be a way to keep the good and jettison the bad…
However, to get there from here the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from my perspective, must reform. And THAT, at least for me, is still a work in progress. That’s to say, it’s a work in progress for me because while I think I have an idea as to what end state might look like, I know that I’m not alone in this vision and I find the ideas and thoughts of others often more interesting than my own – hence the need for ongoing dialog.”
At this point you’re probably wondering, “Sounds interesting but exactly what kind of ’reform’ are we talking about? And what kind of ‘end state’ do you have in mind Mr. Smarty Pants?”
What follows is a bit “yesterday’s news” since I’ve already posted it on the Internet a few times, but never-the-less to get that “ongoing dialog” started I offer to you, for your consideration, my answer to the following question:
Q: If you were suddenly called to be the leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what, if anything, would you change?
A: If I were “Mope” I would . . .
(that is, Mormon Pope – a la Stephen Colbert)
1) Boldly declare as a new key tenet of the church, “A group that claims to have the truth doesn’t lie! From this point onward we will, without exception, be open and honest with everyone.” To this end I would mandate that Gospel Principles Chapter 31: Honesty be strictly adhered to by all members of the LdS Church from the First Presidency on down – period. That’s right folks, it ain’t just a public relations “front” or “escape hatch” for pushing back when people say that Mormons “Lie for the Lord” anymore more – it’s actually going to mean something!
2) Proclaim “Camelot II” and open up the Church Archives to all Scholars not just those who agree to write “Faithful” Mormon History.
3) Mission the Church Educational System with publishing truthful Mormon History rather than the white washed, spin doctored “Faithful” Mormon History that they currently publish.
4) I would offer to merge with the RLDS/Community of Christ and as a result take the following actions:
* Declare Joseph Smith a remarkable man and charismatic leader but not a Prophet of God.
* Decanonize “The Pearl of Great Price” and admit that the papyri that the “Book of Abraham” was translated from are nothing more than copies of the “Egyptian Book of Breathings” that Joseph Smith used to retain leadership of the Early Saints and keep the movement going. In other words, he “lied for the Lord” for what he thought was a worthy cause.
* Decanonize both the LdS and RLDS versions of “Doctrine and Covenants” and reclassify them as historical records useful for better understanding Joseph Smith and the Early Church but nothing more than that.
* Declare the Holy Bible as the ultimate authority for the LDS Church and encourage members to use modern translations rather the inaccurate and antiquated 1611 King James Version of the Bible.
* Declare “The Book of Mormon” to be a fascinating work of 19th century fiction akin to, say “Pilgrim’s Progress” but not real history. This, of course, would decanonize it by implication.
* Declare that continuing revelation must be weighed against the absolutes of the Bible and rejected if there’s a contradiction and/or discrepancy – just as in done is today’s Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches.
* Declare Baptism for the Dead to be unBiblical and a colossal waste of time because it’s based on a corrupt interpretation of Paul’s tongue-in cheek parenthetical clause contained in I Corinthians 15:29.
* Declare the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods unBiblical as they directly contradict the Book of Hebrews (Chapters 5-7 in particular) and declare all such past and present endowments null and void .
* Release all endowed LdS from their Temple oaths and vows and encourage them to share their Temple experiences with the public so that all the silly rumors and speculations are dealt with once and for all. Oh, and whoever wishes to can feel free to remove their Temple Garments.
* Shut down the LdS Temple system since it was initiated primarily to cover up Joseph Smith’s secret polygamous marriages as well as a means of injecting Masonic teachings into Mormonism.
* Convert all LdS Temples to public meeting halls and wedding chapels. And declare that everyone is welcome at LdS Weddings regardless of sect, race, or creed. ALL are worthy!
* Apologize to people of color for the LdS Doctrine of, “The Curse of Cain” and state that the racist passages in the Book of Mormon are reflections of 19th Century race based Theology in general and the expansion of the “Curse of Cain” due to Brigham Young’s personal racism in particular.
* Acknowledge that according to the Apostles (see 1 Peter 2:9 in particular) all Christians are Priesthood holders. As a result the LdS Church will join the Community of Christ in treating women like co-equals, like co-heirs in Christ, and like partners in stewarding God’s Kingdom.
* As a result of the aforementioned, it will be publicly announced that women can pray in General Conference (as well as all other church meetings and functions) and can run the Relief Society (including the Relief Society General Conference meeting) on their own. They can also give blessings just as they did in Joseph Smith’s day.
* Make tithing as well as monthly Fast and Testimony offerings voluntary and without repercussion should one choose not to give.
* Reverse all past excommunication and dis-fellowhship actions and apologize to all who suffered under this system.
* Restore the New Testament charismata (Spiritual Gifts) to the LdS Church making it Pentecostal as it originally was.
5) Mission the General Authorities with realigning LdS Theology with mainstream Biblical Christian Theology while still retaining the unique aspects of the legacy LdS Church that were Biblical, positive distinctives. To this end I would suggest Todd Wood’s excellent “95-Theses for the LDS I-15 Corridor” as a guideline to this end.
6) Invite reputable Biblical Christian Theologians to aid and assist the General Authorities with the previous action (#5 above).
7) Remind LdS Missionaries and parents of Missionaries that such service should be completely voluntary and that should be no stigma for not serving a mission. I would also encourage any active Missionaries who felt like they were pressured, manipulated, or coerced into going on a Mission to return home – at Church expense.
8) Apologize to ExMormons and encourage them to try the “New, Improved and Biblically based” Mormonism.
9) Apologize to the entire Latter Day Saint movement (main Salt Lake City “Brighamites” and splinter groups alike) for the “false revelation” of Polygamy and the harmful fall out that has ensued since.
10) Lobby all Southwest State Attorney Generals to actively begin prosecuting Polygamists within their states.
11) Mission the Relief Society with developing the means and methods of helping the women and children who want to escape from Polygamist Communities to do so with LdS Church support – including financial support for a set period of time.
12) Liquidate LdS Church holdings in non-religious assets to back fill for reduced revenues due to a significantly smaller membership and tithing base.
13) I would go to the Mormon Tabernacle and publicly apologize for Richard J. Mouw and how he has mislead both Mormons and Christians through his naivete and bad scholarship from the very same pulpit where he started the embarrassing insanity that followed in the wave of his November 14, 2004 apology.
14) I would also relieve those Latter-day Saints who deceived and mislead Dr. Mouw of all their callings and positions within the LdS Church and within church owned institutions – like Bingham Young University. And as I do so, I would say, “Thank you, it’s been nice!” to them . . . but then again, I wouldn’t want to violate #1 above.
The good news is that from now on these guys (and you know who you are fellas!) won’t be in a position to hurt anyone or embarrass the LdS Church any more – we’ll see you liars, deceivers, and manipulators at Church on Sunday but that’s about all. Hey, come to think of it a little Sunday School might do you guys some good!
15) Consolidate LdS meeting houses to accommodate the smaller attendance base and sell extraneous real estate to back fill for lost tithes and offerings.
16) And, oh yeah, in keeping with #1 I would join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and comply with their “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship” which includes public, financial transparency among other things. Those public financial statements will be a first for the LdS Church in the United States since 1959!
And if I managed to dodge all the neo-Danite Assassination attempts, the internal political coups, as well as the stress from the angry public outcry and condemnation of splinter groups breaking off and reorganizing in every which way (just like they did when the RLDS reformed) I might even live to see some or all of this fulfilled!
And I believe through these changes I that we would finally see a truly authentic Biblical Restoration of the LdS Church.
So that’s my list.
What would your list look like if you were “Mope”?
 This “revisited” edition is more refined and polished than prior versions. In addition I have annotated where I thought it appropriate, relevant to the discussion, and/or there’s been a “sticking point” in past discussions. I hope that the extensive hyper-linking doesn’t distract too much from the overall narrative and I apologize in advance to those who feel that it does.
 My intention here is to enable the LdS Church to gain from the “lessons learned” by the RLDS/Community of Christ – which I feel is headed in a generally positive direction and ‘further up the road’ than the LdS Church. However, on this point RLDS/CoC Historian John Hamer has remarked:
“On the point about merging the LDS and Community of Christ churches, that’s really like asking Taiwan to “merge” with China. Both Taiwan and China are legitimately Chinese countries and heirs to the China that existed before WW2. However, like Taiwan, we’re a tiny democracy, and like China, they’re a giant authoritarian regime. Even if the bigger polity was supposedly going to be absorbed into the leadership structure of smaller, i.e., if the Chinese Communist Party and the LDS hierarchy were abolished and the merged groups were restructured under the leadership of the smaller party, the smaller groups (Taiwan and the Community of Christ) wouldn’t have anything near the capacity to reform or assimilate the larger group.
That said, I do think that the Community of Christ is being called to provide a spiritual home for liberal Mormon seekers who are disaffected from their church’s authoritarian leadership and its sexism.”
(from Concerned Christians discussion board circa 2010 – link now dead)
(BTW, click on the picture of the Pope at the top to see a hidden “Easter Egg”.
See it how it pays to read to the end?)