Our daughter came to my husband and I last night wanting us to help her study for her history test. It was mostly on the Reformation. As she was trying to get the main events straight, I told her, "everything was about religion and power and keeping that power." She said, "the Catholic Church sent out more missionaries," I said "yes, they were so concerned about everyone's salvation," with a smile on my face. She turned to me and said, "they sent missionaries out to get more money," I said, "oh, that sounds familiar," my smile now turning into a chuckle, guess who's been listening to her mom and dad talk? As we continued to go through the history, the parallels became fascinating! So let's have a little fun with history:
The Inquisition likened to The Mormon Reformation and The Strengthening the Members Committee
The Inquisition began as a legal way to contend with heretics. You know, those who spoke out about the Catholic Church wielding its controlling power over the helpless and innocent. Its name comes from the Latin root word inquiro, which means, "to look into". The inquisitors, those "looking into stuff" were accountable to only the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the earthly representative of God! They exacted penalties, tortured, and killed, those who objected to or threatened the power of the Church, you know, only stuff that God would do if He were on the earth. The direct result of the Inquisition was increased influence and power for the church and need I say, an increase in wealth. The two things, power and wealth, that God hungers after and that man is able to handle so well. I think I have that right. Yeah, that's right; and it was kind of a big, maybe biggest, violation of human rights in history, but there was the Holocaust, so... it's a toss up.
Okay, now let's compare the Inquisition to the Mormon Reformation. Why the puzzled look? Surely you've heard of the Mormon Reformation. Remember... we studied that in Seminary, at the same time that we studied the Meadow Mountains Massacre. No? I guess you're right, we didn't study those did we? I was in my forties in college before I ever heard of the Meadow Mountains Massacre. I just learned about the Mormon Reformation this year. It took place in 1856 and 1857. It was under the direction of President Brigham Young, our earthly representative of God, kind of like a Mormon Pope, the prophet, seer and revelator that speaks directly to God to get His will concerning His church. Those overseeing the reformation, Young's counselors, were only accountable to him. Though on a tiny, tinier scale then the Inquisition, there are similarities. Like only being accountable to the head of the church, and wielding complete authority.
The Mormon Reformation began with President Young's desire to increase spirituality within the church. He was unhappy with the worldliness of the saints, as they began to build up their own personal wealth. The reformation began by strict rules being enforced over the congregants through intimidation, home surveillance through a new home missionary program, and preaching the need for repentance and change from the pulpit at General Conference and other meetings. Young's two counselors, Heber C. Kimball and Jedediah Grant, went throughout the entire Utah Territory, encouraging members to reject sin and embrace all things spiritual.
Polygamy had been secretly practiced for years by the leadership of the Church, but in 1852, Brigham Young announced it as a church practice and doctrine. Thus, opening it up as a possibility to everyone. It was taught that polygamy was a more righteous way to live, in fact there are plenty of quotes from Brigham Young and others proclaiming it necessary to receive exaltation. When you have that bizarre of a marriage arrangement going on, you are just asking for trouble when it comes to sexual conduct. A monkey wrench was thrown into their entire moral culture, and as a result, men began marrying younger and younger girls, 13 and 14 years old was not uncommon. Adultery and fornication must have been seen as a problem, at least in the eyes of Apostle Parley P Pratt, who in 1855 asked the legislature to assign the death penalty for such behavior. In 1857 Heber C. Kimball spoke about adultery within the church and said that, those doing so, were "worthy of death, and they will get it."
Mormon's during that time, never really lived the Word of Wisdom like we do today. Many drank coffee, tea, and beer and smoked or chewed tobacco, Church leaders included. There are numerous journal entries and other records that provide enough evidence that it's not really debatable that the Word of Wisdom was just that, words. Leonard Arrington, church historian, said that the current attitude we have now about these substances, began in 1867.
By September 1856, the Utah Territory, had been suffering from a draught, there were increasingly more immigrants coming from Europe across the Great Plains. The economy was a mess and people were suffering. Mormon's really believed at that time, including their leaders, that they were on the brink of the Second Coming. As this call for greater spirituality continued, almost everyone was rebaptized. The prophet was preparing everyone to live "celestial law" in Utah. He is quoted as saying: "The time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old broadsword and ask, Are you for God? And if you are not heartily on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down." If you think that his choice of words, "hewn down" is a bit dramatic, then you haven't heard of his doctrine of Blood Atonement. He was not kidding around when he used phrases like that. To enforce this new "spirituality" among the saints, there were secret committees set up called "destroying angels" or Danites. There's an account of one group of people who left the Church during this time period being murdered, though probably sanctioned on a local level.
During October Conference 1856, 2nd Counselor Grant, called several presidents of the Seventy by name and accused them of adultery among other things, and he urged President Young to "cut them off and prune the trees around him". Home missionaries were assigned to ward families from their local teachers quorum, these were men in those days not 14 to 16 year old boys as they are now, to check on their physical needs and their spiritual progress; they were to report back to Church leaders regarding this. This reform was the genesis of home teaching. It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the home teaching program began as a home spying program, doesn't it? Sorry, I don't mean to criticize home teaching, it's a helpful service to many single mothers and widows, among others, today.
And hey, how about that Strengthening the Members Committee? You haven't heard about that either? I know, I'd never heard of the fairly secretive committee either, until I saw Elder Holland asked about it in a BBC interview by Michael Sweeney. (Can I just digress for one moment here to formally thank Elder Holland, if he had never agreed to interviews, I would have never known about this committee, or the fact that we don't know how we got the doctrine for the priesthood ban on the blacks, even though we were always taught it was a revelation from God, and I would have never known that the reasons for the ban are now referred to as "folklore" by our leaders. Maybe Elder Holland really is doing God's work, because without his interviews how would we ever learn these things!) Anyway, when Mr. Sweeney asked Elder Holland about the committee, Elder Holland acknowledged that it did and does still exist, ..."to protect against predatory practices of polygamists." Sweeney asked, "It's there to defend the church against polygamists?" "...that is still its principal task," answered Holland. When asked its subsidiary task, Holland said..."to be protective generally, just to watch and care for... any, err, insidious influence." There appears to be two members of the Twelve Apostles on the committee, that reports directly to the First Presidency. A spokesman for the church, Don LaFevre, said the committee "receives complaints from church members about other church members who have made statements that 'conceivably could do harm to the church', then the committee will pass the information along to the person's ecclesiastical leader." Kind of sounds like the Nazi Germany's snitch system. Problem is, nobody knows about the committee, so if you saw something you thought could be harmful to the church, you would have no idea that this committee exists, so how does that work? Elder Oaks in 1993, described the committee as a "clipping service." Well that about sums everything up; nothing more needs to be explained there. Except, what the heck is a "clipping service?" I looked it up, it's someone who cuts out coupons for you. That's nice! They used to spy on members and now they are giving them coupons. No... wait. It's not coupons after all, it's speeches, writings and activities of those suspected of apostasy, that's what's clipped and passed on to church officials. Isn't that a nice, harmless little committee, paid for by your tithing dollars no doubt. What happened to free agency, and turning the other cheek, and loving your neighbor and charity and all of that stuff? I wander if the disclosure of this committee is part of the missionary discussions?
Martin Luther likened to The September Six
The Protestants have their hero, and we have ours too. On Halloween day, three years from now, it will be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. His criticisms threatened the power of the Pope and the Catholic Church, causing his excommunication. Luther was a scholar who had studied Aristotle at the University of Efurt. We have our scholars too, they also threatened the Church's power and were excommunicated. These church's have no sense of humor when it comes to their power, let's just say they are very protective of it, and your loss of salvation does not cause them to loose any sleep, if you threaten their power in any way.
The September Six, who are they? They were a group of prominent LDS Scholars that were excommunicated, one disfellowshipped, in September of 1993. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, that did an article on them 20 years later, they were "writers that were rebuked." D. Michael Quinn, a historian and one of the Six said, ...The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials... A so called "faith promoting" Church history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past actually undermines the faith of the Latter-day Saints who eventually learn about the problems from other sources..." This statement made back in 1981 by D. Michael Quinn is more prophetic then anything I have heard from any of our prophets from that time until the present. This is literally happening on a daily basis now and people are leaving in droves.
The German and English Bible likened to the Internet
This is such a fun comparison! Control the message, control the masses. That bears repeating, so one more time, control the message, control the masses. Loose control of the message and... well bad things happen, like the Reformation or the Google apostasy. Bad things to the institution that is, the people might say differently. We all know the effects of getting the bible into the hands of the people in a language they could read, right? They were no longer reliant upon the institution to hand pick what they heard, and interpret it for them. The people could read it all for themselves and decide. That's exactly what is going on right now in the Mormon Church. The Church used to have control of the history, and the way it was presented to its members, and unless you were very curious and happened to have a key to the First Presidency vault, so you could view all the primary sources that contradict the white washed history, you would never know. But there were a few people who did get a "key" and their information has been recorded; remember D. Michael Quinn, one of the September Six, he's one of the people who had this "key". That was several decades ago, who knew right? Well some people knew, but they were few and far between, and you still had to be looking and know where to look for that information. Most Mormons are not curious, not because we are ignorant, we are actually a highly educated people. BUT, we are not curious, because we have been taught to not be curious! Not in those words exactly, the Church leaders don't put a swinging pocket watch in front of our faces, telling us...you are now getting sleepy, very very sleepy, then tell us...don't be curious. They just tell us that, anything that doesn't come from them is anti-Mormon and we should never look at that. We don't want to be anti-Mormon and fall into a trap that might take away our testimony, thus our salvation, so we are not curious, super not curious. Why would we be, for the most part, Mormons are very happy people, they have nice families and who wants to do anything that would tear at the root of all of that? No thanks, we'll just pass on that, wouldn't you? So even though this information was out there, it didn't look to be a problem for the Church. All was well in Zion; but as you know, all good things come to an end, and Google was that end.
There is so much information on the internet, good information, that is backed up by primary sources, double, triple backed up by primary sources, often the sources are the church's own publications from years past, or quotes from their own leaders, or doctrines that were once taught that have quietly disappeared with no explanation, like blood atonement. It's so prolific and well documented, that if you happen to trip across it on the internet, well... Google apostasy. What more can I say?
Jesuits likened to 18 year old missionaries
The Jesuits played a very important role in the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church tried to stop the bleeding from people joining with the Protestants. The Jesuits were organized and committed, and were all in all a very impressive group of people, that did many good things. The Mormon Church has a missionary program that is also made up of a group of impressive people, very organized, and very obedient. About three years ago, desperate measures must have been needed, to stop the bleeding from the Google apostasy. That's when President Monson made the announcement that boys could now serve when they are 18, previously it has been 19, and girls can serve at 19, previously it was 21. The Church anticipated that the announcement would significantly increase the number of missionaries, and it did. Unfortunately for the Church, the number of baptisms has not increased at the same rate as the increase of missionaries. So like the Jesuits, the increase in missionaries may help the bleeding, but like the Jesuits, who were not effective in stopping the Protestants, I'm afraid they will have little impact on the Google apostasy.
Henry the VIII likened to Denver Snuffer
Here's another fun one. Sometimes things just come out of left field. Who would have ever thought that a King, Henry the VIII, would get it in his head to break away from the only church in the land and start his own church, which he would be the head of. Kings are so busy anyway: feasts to attend, people to behead, countries to ravish, women to ravish, oh...I'm getting ahead of the story. Well anyway, you get the idea, they are busy, busy, busy. So why in heaven's name, pardon the pun, would you want to add, Popeship to your itinerary? Well it's just the oldest story in the book... pure love. To get the woman of his dreams he would do anything! Now image the shock and loss this was to the Papacy, the timing could not be worse. Just when the Catholics thought those awful Protestants were causing havoc, image loosing an entire empire! And the blasphemy of that wretched king proclaiming himself supreme head of the church of England.
Now things are not looking great for the Mormon church either. They're loosing members in bigger numbers then they'll admit to. They tried to head off their plummeting numbers by pulling out the stops with their missionaries, lowering the age requirement, thus bringing in the biggest number of missionaries the Church has ever seen. Only to see their baptism rate increase by a mere four percent. Enter, Denver Snuffer, forty year convert to the Church, who had been doing a lot of reading... a lot! He read the scriptures, he read Church history, he started comparing the two, he came to conclusions that the Church was off track. He wrote books about it, he blogged about it, he gained followers, he held seminars, he got excommunicated, his followers still follow him, they are leaving the Church, and being rebaptized. Now, Denver is no King of England, and he didn't start a new movement over the love of a woman, but it was passion that moved him, passion for a gospel of Christ that he saw being usurped by men who are not receiving revelation from Christ, in his opinion. And his followers hardly amount to a number to be noticed yet, but he's just in the beginning stages of his reform, so that remains to be seen.
The Council of Trent likened to the new Church Essays
Well, now we have come full circle. Just like the Catholic Church, when they were first threatened by the Protestant movement, they tried to use force and hold firm to their doctrine and ways of doing things; and just like any other threatened institution when they discovered that they couldn't beat them, they decided to join them, to a small degree anyway. The Council of Trent lasted for 18 years, but finally in the end, the Catholic Church did clean up some of its corruption, defined its doctrine, and made enough changes that it was able to carry on as an institution in a positive way. The Mormon church is following suit. It's leaders tried to clamp down, tighten their hold by excommunicating high profile dissenters, until that back fired on them, because of bad publicity. They still are very active in excommunicating folks, but there are some that are just too high profile right now, that they have backed down from their threats of excommunication. But if you're not well known enough to make too big of a media splash, watch out. The Church essays appear to be an attempt to come clean about some of the sugarcoated history that its been doling out for generations. Just as the Catholic Church had to admit in its reforms at the Council of Trent, that they had become corrupt in some areas, the Mormon Church is having to admit that they have been less than truthful and have not been forthcoming about its imperfections, which is many, and have had to admit that some of its doctrine was wrong and some of their scripture is not a translation from an ancient record, and that their founder may have not been exactly the near flawless person that they promote. But you have to really read between the lines to find that. They do protect his and their image to the best of their ability. Remember their authority and divine commission, is directly related to Joseph Smith's commission being divine.
So there you have it, a little history fun! Everything old is new again.