June Music: The Best Rock Albums Ever
More on the Amendment Vote

Looking Beyond the Mark

The idea is floated by some people that many apostates "fell" because they were ultra-orthodox, and that they were "looking beyond the mark", or that they were seeking things beyond what is needful.  There are scriptures that seem to back up this idea.  There is the Old Testament injunction against "steadying the ark", in which story a non-Levite stopped the ark of the covenant from crashing to the ground, but was struck dead because he didn't have the priesthood which was required to touch the ark.  Another Old Testament story that reinforces the idea of not looking beyond the mark is the story of the brazen serpent.  The children of Israel were suffering from poisonous snakes, and if afflicted, only had to look upon the brass serpent that Moses lifted up and they would be cured.  Because of the simpleness of the way, many Israelites refused, and as a result, they died.

(A digression, but why does the church seem to look to the Old Testament for so many justifications?  I thought Jesus fulfilled the Law, and did away with such practices.)

The straightforward answer to this question was answered in a recent comment here by Abner Doon, addressing a different subject, when he said,

"If you're going claim that prophets guide your organization, and claim that salvation depends on obedience to said prophets, don't be surprised when members take you seriously... "

If an organization like the church has such absolute claims of authority and demands for obedience, there is no defense that someone can be "too orthodox" in their beliefs or adherence to the rules.

Of course, This argument assumes that everyone who loses belief started out as an ultra-orthodox, iron-rod believer.  I think that it is a false assumption.  In my relatively small and unscientific sample of acquaintances and friends, there is no single overriding attribute or strictness of belief or practice among apostates.

I do know some apostates who were ultra-orthodox believing members. I also know many so-called "Liahona" mormons who became full-fledged apostates.  There are jack-mormons who live heathen lifestyles who now no longer believe.  There is an entire spectrum of belief and practice of those who finally come to the conclusion that the church is not for them, for whatever reason. In short, I think that the demographic of apostate mormons is orthogonal to orthodoxy in belief or practice.

I think the warning not to "look beyond the mark" is no more than a scriptural paraphrase of "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" that the Great and Powerful Oz once commanded of Dorothy.  I think it has just as much authority behind it as well.


Matt Elggren

I totally agree with you on this, Domokun.

And after reading your summary of how OT TBMs get treated for being overly orthodox, I come to the following conclusions:

1. Either god has changed his approach, or no saint in recent memory has crossed the line, or the OT is totally false on the subject.

2. It seems much safer to err on the side of lacking zeal than on the side of being overly-zealous.

3. Based on item 2, I think straying as far from zeal as possible is what's best for one's health...as you can never be certain where the border between "good" and "ark-steadier" lies.

Abner Doon

It is true that some Mormons (though as you point out, not all) leave the church due to the disillusionment (brought on by a "ultra-orthodox" LDS upbringing colliding with the reality of the dubious nature of the church and its history) but isn't that entirely predictable? How were they supposed to disregard innumerable statements that the prophet speaks with God, we should follow the prophet at all times, disobey at your peril, do whatever your leaders tell you, never turn down a calling, a living prophet trumps a dead one, etc.? That was the essence of Mormonism for many of us, and it's all we ever knew. Why should we have believed liberal Mormons from Sunstone or elsewhere--whom we had long been taught to consider "ark-steadiers" or even apostates--who said the church was actually just a human institution? That's a different paradigm entirely, and has little or nothing to do with the teachings of the church. Isn't it ironic that the liberal members the church so readily writes off as fence-sitters are the ones who might have prevented other disillusioned members from jumping ship?

The comments to this entry are closed.