Friday, February 15, 2013

Culture and Doctrine

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With no intended disrespect to anyone's beliefs or religious background, I'm asking this question:


Over the past couple of months I've watched as some women within the Mormon Church have staged campaigns for women's rights or visibility... or something.  A few are passionate about their cause of wearing pants to Sunday services citing the need to change cultural norms to better fit today's lifestyle.  Others have been adamant that women's spirits are being crushed because historically only men have offered prayers at our semi-annual General Conference.  People who've commented about these 'slights' in online forums have said it's the beginning of a movement to ordain women to the priesthood.  I don't really know if that's the goal or just someone offering a doomsday explanation.  But if it were to happen, it would be a fundamental change in the Church's basic doctrinal tenets.

Here are the only comments I will ever have to say about the place of either pants or pray-ers in religion:

I was taught that on Sunday you wear your best clothes to Church as a way to show your respect and best efforts to the Lord.  No one, to my knowledge, has ever said that your best clothes had to be a dress although for most of us it is.  No where in Church doctrine is it codified that Mormon women must wear a dress to Church services just as there is no place it is codified that any clothing must be of a specific style or fabric or price tag.

A prayer is said to both open and close any Church meeting.  To the best of my knowledge the person who is asked to offer a prayer is drawn from the general congregation to offer supplications to God on behalf of everyone, male and female, who is there.  There is no prohibition of a woman saying a public prayer.  I have.  Many times.  Whenever another person has prayed, I've never even thought to pay attention to who was saying the words because I was focused on what was being said.  Isn't the point of that reverent moment to get your mind in a place where you are receptive to the counsel about to be given by that day's speaker(s)?

Honestly, I do not understand why either of these 'issues' are issues at all... unless it is to cause strife amongst the women of the Church and draw our attention toward bickering over petty details instead of being united and engaged with the Lord's work.  And I really dislike the message it sends to the rest of the world that Mormon women are oppressed and unhappy and fighting to equal (or best) our men.  Some have argued that they bring it up for debate hoping that changing the culture within the Church will invite more people to participate.  Would you want to jump in to this kind of silly argument?

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the only Church to struggle with these kinds of cultural debates.  It is, however, the one I know the most about.  And I am aware that some Churches have modified their stand on issues like women and priesthood, same sex marriage, contraception, meeting formats, music, language and other things.  In some ways I see their reasoning... they are reaching out to be inclusive of ideas that weren't theirs historically.  Much of what I've read in the day or two since Pope Benedict announced he was resigning the Papacy leads me to believe that many are hoping that the Catholic church will change doctrines under a new Pope to include more modern attitudes and behaviors.

But... is it right to let culture reshape doctrine?

Consider the 13th chapter of Hebrews and the message that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And pay special attention to the verses just following that statement:  "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.  For it is good that the heart be established with grace..."

It would seem that culture needs to conform to doctrine.  Members of the LDS Church are often told that we need to be in the world but not of it.  That means, to not only don't worry about being different than anyone else, but to enjoy and appreciate that we are noticeably different.  Different is good, too!

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