Zelophehad’s Daughters

Finding Middle Ground

Posted by Guest

Jessawhy recently posed this excellent question:

I’m wondering if there is any middle ground between being 100% behind anything that any living prophet has ever spoken, and rationalizing myself out of the church.

How do you find the middle ground? How do you stay active without feeling like you’ve given your brain up to the Borg? Is there a middle ground? (In the scriptures it really seems black and white, maybe Satan tricks us into thinking there are shades of grey).

11 Responses to “Finding Middle Ground”

  1. 1.

    Of course there is middle ground. Everyone I know is in the middle ground. Even the current leadership is in the middle ground. They aren’t “100% behind anything that any living prophet has ever spoken” and they haven’t rationalized themselves out of the Church.

  2. 2.

    I’ve always felt that there was plenty of middle ground. First off, I don’t think Church members are necessarily beholden to every word spoken by prophets past — although you undoubtedly could lead a very good life by following all those teachings to the letter. Nor do I think that every word uttered by inspired men and women necessarily constitutes eternal doctrine.

    In general, when I hear counsel from Church leaders, I tend to compare it to the general principles of the Gospel that I believe. Most of the time they appear in harmony. When they don’t seem to work together, I have to take a second look at the statement, the setting, and my own convictions. Sometimes I’m wrong; occasionally the Church leader was wrong and recants the statement. And sometimes there is no convenient or immediate answer to the perceived conflict between the Church leader’s statement and my personal conviction. But for me, the bottom line is that those differences are far too trivial to invalidate what I know to be true, and they will work out somehow. I guess I have to recognize my own human fallibilities, as well as those of the Church leader.

  3. 3.

    One more thing, if you look around the LDS blogs you’ll find a ton of very active, apparently faithful people who could never be characterized as having “given [their] brain up to the borg.” These are people who are among the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered, on or offline, in or out of the Church. Off the top of my head: Rosalynde, J. Stapely, Clark Goble, Kevin Barney, Nate Oman, Julie Smith, and on and on. Just peruse about and you’ll find many many examples of people who are firmly in the “middle ground” as defined here.

  4. 4.

    First off, I don’t think Church members are necessarily beholden to every word spoken by prophets past — although you undoubtedly could lead a very good life by following all those teachings to the letter.

    I don’t think church members are beholden either, but the second part of that statement gives me pause. There are some teachings (blood atonement, women leaving husbands to marry up in the church, polygamy, racism) that just aren’t such good ideas.

    The scriptures do make things seem black and white, but we live in a world of brilliant color. In developmental theory, one of the hallmarks of mature adulthood is the appreciation of paradox. Following the prophets without question versus using one’s agency to choose for oneself create a tension that all church members have to navigate. I like to think that we are each living with that tension and finding our way the best we know how, and what’s good for one person may not be as good for the next. Of course that leads to there being as many ways back to God as there are people versus the one right way/straight and narrow path. I think it’s both- another lovely paradox to consider.

  5. 5.

    This is what we’re all about at The Cultural Hall. I totally believe that this is both possible, and heavily in practice.

  6. 6.

    Jeff Burton’s thoughtful articles posted to For Those Who Wonder are yet more examples. I cannot recommend them enough.

    Thanks so much for raising this very important topic.

  7. 7.

    Ugh! I thought “.org” was working, but it’s not. For those interested, try theculturalhall.com.

  8. 8.

    Thanks for the linke to the cultural hall. I’m excited to learn more about the site and people on it.

    Of course that leads to there being as many ways back to God as there are people versus the one right way/straight and narrow path. I think it’s both- another lovely paradox to consider.

    But isn’t that the point of Lehi’s dream? That there is only one path? Do we reject that notion b/c theirs (Lehi’s) was a world of black and white and ours is color?
    (I’m not asking these questions rhetorically, I really want to know what other people think).

  9. 9.

    Just want to weigh in on this one…. :)

    First of all, I think “middle ground” means different things to different people. (If you were to ask the prophets if they think they are on middle ground, I highly doubt that they would say they are! I think they believe there is one right path.)

    Of course we are all in different places in life and our “all we can do” is going to vary, and our efforts to come to Christ (The Way) will always falter here and there because we are human. And we make mistakes, which sometimes means detours. The detours can be overcome and fixed and straightened out, but I don’t think they should be encouraged. I think we need to be careful about assuming that any path we choose is going to be OK, without potential (and potentially serious) risks. If we are seeking middle ground as an excuse to forge our own path without the Savior, letting go of the iron rod as it were, then we put ourselves in potential danger. (See my recent post on A Prayer of Faith.) If the purpose is simply to alleviate guilt in deliberate rationalization and ignoring of prophetic counsel (see below for more thoughts on that), then middle ground doesn’t seem to fit into the gospel. We have been told we can be deceived and we shouldn’t rely on the arm of flesh (I would assume that means our own arm as well) ;) If, however, we are truly, honestly doing our best and seeking to follow the Savior (remember, He is the path, the Way) but find ourselves working through things along the way without 100% certainty, that’s a different thing, IMO. I think A LOT depends on our hearts and desires and motives.

    Also, one of the things I bring out in the piece I wrote today is that an important key to knowing that what is coming from our prophets is real and true is when the law of witnesses has been invoked. From Elder Eyring: “One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention….” It helps me to look for those patterns. What I hear Elder Eyring saying is that if we start to rationalize away those kinds of patterns, we are putting ourselves in spiritual danger. (His whole talk is about finding safety in counsel.)

    No matter what path we take, there is always a way back to The Way through repentance. But it seems to me that the shortest distance between where we are and where we want to be is the strait and narrow path. We can make our own path, but it will, by definition, be longer and riskier. And Lehi’s dream teaches us that it is very possible to wander off the path and be lost. I don’t believe his world was any different from ours. The fact that our leaders continue to use that story (it was referenced three times (prophetic repetition) this last Conference alone!) makes it clear that Lehi’s teachings apply to us today.

  10. 10.

    JWL made the following comment on a thread a month or so ago. I think it applies here as well:

    The tension between the authority of personal revelation and that of priestly hierarchy is one of the things that makes the LDS Church the “Living Church,” which is the part of the formula (“only true and living church”) that we always leave off.

  11. 11.

    I guess I should make clear that what I meant by quoting JWL’s very insightful remark is that we needn’t feel undue concern if we can’t quickly and neatly resolve questions, because the tension is there for a purpose. I would really start to worry if I understood everything, because then it would begin to feel as though I belong to the church of Mark.

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