NOM Song of the Week: Walking Contradiction
The 96 Theses: Constructive Suggestions for Improving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 13-24

The 96 Theses: Constructive Suggestions for Improving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1-12

As promised in an earlier post, I present the initial 12 of my 96 Theses, containing criticisms coupled with suggestions for how the LDS church can improve.  Where possible, I have provided links to information that provides some basis for a particular critique.  The first 12 Theses concern the church's lack of forthrightness and disclosure of information in various areas.  This secretiveness breeds distrust among members and with suspicion among outsiders.  I hope that readers of Equality Time will  comment upon  and discuss openly any of the issues raised in the 96 Theses

  1. Except in countries where required by law, the Church does not disclose any information regarding the amounts it collects in tithes and other offerings or details regarding the disposition of the same.
  2. The Church should publicly disclose, at the very least, the amount of money it collects in tithing and other offerings and details regarding the disposition of the same.
  3. The Church discloses very little information regarding the extent of its financial holdings, church-owned business, real estate, and other investments.
  4. The Church should disclose as much information as allowed by applicable law regarding its financial holdings, church-owned business, and other investments.
  5. The Church perpetuates the myth that General Authorities, including the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, are unpaid volunteers.
  6. The Church should disclose to its members how much the General Authorities receive in stipends, expense reimbursements, in-kind donations, and how much the Church expends on travel, security, and other expenses attendant to their ecclesiastical duties.
  7. The Church publishes and distributes images and ideas about Church history that are misleading or false in a calculated effort to indoctrinate its members with a “faith-promoting” version of its history.
  8. The Church should acknowledge that the “faith-promoting” history it has been teaching through its correlated materials is often misleading or false and the Church should present members with accurate and complete information about Church history. The Church should not teach through word or visual image things that are demonstrably false.
  9. The Church holds in its possession, in a vault to which only the First Presidency has access, numerous primary historical documents of tremendous interest and importance to the study of Church history. The Church does not grant access to this vault to even the most eminently qualified historians.
  10. The Church should open the vault and grant historians access to all primary documents more than 75 years old and/or make the documents available in electronic form and publish on the Internet.
  11. The Church presents a misleading statistical report on membership at each April General Conference that does not reveal the number of resignations, excommunications, and deaths.
  12. The Church should report the number of resignations, excommunications, and deaths, should include such number in the statistical report on membership, and should reveal the methods used to calculate the statistical report.

Comments

Cody Clark

Great ideas Equality. I'm greatly looking forward to the remaining theses. This is something that I have meant to do in the past but have just never gotten around to it. Keep 'em coming!

gunner

On 1/2. Simply looking at how the exmo community tears into the church everytime the cost of the "mall" issue is brought up, shows why the church will never release such information.

Good start.

DPC

Shouldn't these be nailed to the front doors of the Salt Lake Temple and not posted on the Internet?

All joking aside, if the Mormon church was to accept all of these theses, how would it be any different than any of the other liberal churches? Are you arguing that Mormonism should embrace generic American Protestantism as the Community of Christ has?

In addition, it seems that the minute a church moves from a 'conservative' world -view to a save the planet from pollution, war, poverty, etc, people stop going. How would your proposed modifications avoid this?

-Domokun-

DPC, shouldn't an action be based on whether it is right, rather than how it will affect membership numbers? Does CTR stand for Choose The Right or Count The Revenue?

DPC

I thought CTR stood for Chase The Rabbit.

I never said the Mormon church should make decisions based on the effect on membership numbers and to the extent it may be implied, I apologize for any misunderstanding. That was not the point I was trying to make. I'm asking a practical question, which I believe is valid and remains unanswered. Why is it that on an aggregate level conservative churches grow and liberal churches struggle?

Furthermore, I don't understand Domokun's question. First, any appeal to what is "right" or "principled" without an agreement on what those terms mean or represent is, to my mind, a red herring and an appeal to emotion. Second, and I may be wrong, but it seems that Domokun is implying that decisions should be made based on esoteric principles without regard to real-world consequences. That kind of argument is dangerous. Look at the Iraq War: Invading a country to topple a tyrant and install a liberal democracy in the name of global security appears to be a great esoteric principle. Alas, it appears that nobody really considered the real-world consequences that such an invasion would bring.

-Domokun-

DPSC, I agree with you that I think a human-based organization, such as a government has an obligation to look at real-world effects of it's actions. I was playing "devil's advocate" (heh) about wondering why a church supposedly led by God needs to do anything other than what is right. Why does God need to put Her finger up to the wind to see if the church membership will approve of an action? The answer, of course, is that the church is run by limited, fallible men who have no more special conduit to God's Will than anyone else, and the way they run the church is just like any other self-serving human institution.

So my question remains, is the church run according to eternal, unchanging truths, truths that take into account the intrinsic worth of every human soul, regardless of race or sex or socio-economic circumstance? Is the church run according to the porogressive ideas that all are equal before God and are deserving of respect and honesty? Or is it run just like every other corporation that works in order to maximize returns while limiting liabilities?

-Domokun-

Oops, sorry for that extra S that I put in your name.

Also, I meant "progressive" in the second paragraph.

DPC

Domokun, to clarify, my 'problem' with the 96 theses, if you could call it that, is that, if implemented, they would gut the Mormon church of any individuality that it currently possesses. I find it ironic that people decry the conformity apparently required by the Mormon church and then cry foul when Mormonism doesn't conform to the 'rational' values of the here and now.

For these reasons, I believe that the current debates on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, divine revelation, Joseph Smith, etc. are utterly meaningless, akin to arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and that we need to examine things on an even deeper level. We need to ask the real questions and get the real answers. You talk about the "intrinsic worth" of human souls, but what is a soul? What do we mean by intrinsic worth? Do these things actually exist or are they metaphors/myths, a post hoc rationalization if you will, of our beliefs and values?

-Domokun-

DPC, I ask again, but maybe in a slightly different way now, what's more important, being unique or being true/right? Does it matter if the LDS church loses some of it's unique aspects if it becomes more true and honest with it's members? If something is wrong with the LDS church, and Equality has identified a bunch of those things, is it more important to make changes that need to be made, or is it more important to remain "unique"?

Equality

Shouldn't these be nailed to the front doors of the Salt Lake Temple and not posted on the Internet?

"All joking aside, if the Mormon church was to accept all of these theses, how would it be any different than any of the other liberal churches? Are you arguing that Mormonism should embrace generic American Protestantism as the Community of Christ has?"

1. Yes. Some folks in Salt Lake have offered to do that for me, but I think the blogosphere is a modern indubitable equivalent to the doors of a church in the Middle Ages.

2. It would be like other liberal churches in some respects and unlike them in others. It would be a lot like the Community of Christ church, though. Perhaps enough like it to engage in some serious M&A discussions. One question to ask yourself if how is the current incarnation of the Utah church any different from generic digmatic literalist conservative Protestant churches? I would prefer to see the LDS Church resemble liberal Protestants and UUs than the Bible-thumpers. Your mileage may vary.

3. I disagree with your characterization of what the CoC has done.

DPC

Equality, as for Point #2: That's what I dislike about the direction that the Mormon church is going. I don't think the right path for any church to take is the path of Evangelical Christianity. If you think a Mormon sacrament meeting is tedious, just try sitting through a Southern Baptist meeting.

However, my own personal views and preferences aside, my original question is this: What do conservative churches have that make them, on the aggregate, grow whereas liberal churches face increasingly smaller turnouts? I'm not looking for any particular answer, nor do I believe there is any particular right answer.

Equality

DPC,

Good question. I question your question's premise: that "liberal" churches are declining and "conservative" ones are growing. I think there are studies that show it's a little more complicated than that. Some old-line Protestant churches are struggling and some conservative denominations are thriving. But some more progressive type churches are actually doing quite well. And the number of secularists is growing. There is opportunity for churches to work to attract such folks.

Janis Hutchinson

So, where's the rest of the 96 statements? Would like to read them.

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