In June, 2013 I created my first post for my website called mormonbasics.com. Now, more than 700 articles later, and a name change to gospelstudy.us, I figure I need to let people know that much of my original philosophy behind mormonbasics survives in my writings for gospelstudy.us. What follows is my original article explaining my philosophy and aim, with only a couple of website name changes.
My personal vocabulary is considered by most to be well above average. But in the world of the Latter-day Saint intellectual, those who use the Greek tradition of arguing everything, where nothing is sacred, and any argument with an argument is as valid as the next, my vocabulary is at about a second grade level. These people pride themselves in their mental gymnastics as they leap and swing through logical debates about spiritual things. There is a good example of such an article at The Millennial Star. This article seeks to explain the dangers that lurk in the background of trying to treat the gospel purely as an intellectual exercise.
I hope the author of this excellently written article will forgive my oversimplification of his writing efforts, but that is, after all, what gospelstudy.us is all about – keeping it simple. Reading that article made me do some thinking about what makes this website tick.
- What is the basis for the articles here at gospelstudy.us?
- What is considered authoritative, and what is considered speculative?
- What is the deciding factor as to whether something gets printed or is left on the shelf for someone else to write about?
I think these are some fair questions that deserve some short, but honest answers.
Mormon Basics (now called Gospelstudy.us) – Philosophy
The gospel of Christ is all encompassing. It covers every subject and influences every branch of thinking. Yet the gospel itself is reasonably simple to understand, if you take it one step at a time. Much of the gospel can be understood through simple study, but all the best parts require inspiration by the Holy Ghost so you see past the surface into the deeper parts of the spiritual pool. Christ taught in parables for this very reason. If we read the parables as stories, they are just that, stories. If we put on our spiritual goggles then read the parables, we begin to get all kinds of lessons out of them that those without the Holy Ghost would never see. This both protects the beginner from being judged on principles they cannot understand yet, and serves as a private tutor to those who are spiritually prepared for greater immersion in spiritual things.
The goal of this website is to take even the most comprehensive gospel doctrines, like the Atonement, and help regular people understand both the doctrine itself, and how it applies to them. Understanding the doctrine and the goal of a doctrine is important if we are going to need to live it from day to day, but understanding why it makes a difference in our lives is also very important. We also look at culture and expectations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires things of its members that no other church does. Because of our history, and the beliefs that we have, our culture is different than any other church. We see things a certain way, and approach problems and situations differently because we have a different view on life and the world. These are things discussed in these pages.
Authoritative vs. Speculative
Speculation, guessing about things we don’t really know about, really has no place in this website. All articles should be focused on true and supported doctrine and real-life experiences. Talks by apostles and prophets and leaders of the Church are considered to be authoritative, especially those given in General Conferences.
The Church, like each of us, is maturing in understanding and wisdom as the years progress. There are some views from the past that are no longer held by the leaders of the Church. If that bothers you in some way, I refer you to the New Testament. The leaders of Christ’s original church had problems with the doctrine of taking the gospel to the whole world. It took special revelations and years of practice for the original church to get used to the idea and the practice. It is a fact that the Lord teaches us the basics, but we have to learn the finer points by living the basic doctrine. As we come across things we don’t understand He fills in the gaps and our understanding of the principles and doctrines grow. This life is all about growing, and that means changing.
What Gets Printed?
The purpose of this website is to help members of the Lord’s restored church understand their own religion. It is also here to help introduce those who would like to know more about our religion to what we believe and what we think on certain topics. This is not the place to debate controversial doctrine that is not required for our salvation. This is not the forum for learning about why the Church did or did not do something in the past that someone is offended by. There are plenty of other places you can find those arguments. They have no home here.
You will find here uplifting, testimony-driven articles on parts of our lives that make a difference in how we live the gospel of Christ. There are articles on modern issues facing the Church, articles on Church lessons, Sorrow, spiritual patterns, the need for the Holy Ghost, the basics of the priesthood of God, the Atonement, the Fall of Adam and Eve, Funerals in the Church, what to expect when you go to a Sacrament Meeting, and so forth.
Gospelstudy.us may not be the most sophisticated intellectual property on the block, but that is not why we exist. You will probably notice very quickly that the articles are not heavily laden with scriptural references and outside sources. This is the place to come for doctrine that is (hopefully) clearly explained and understandable. The conference talks and Ensign articles found at the end of many of the articles have plenty of references in them for further study. And if you ever read or listen to a talk listed at the bottom of one of the articles that disagrees with what was said in the article, then please contact us so we can address the issue. Keeping the gospel simple (and accurate) is what we are all about.
Dear Brother Merrill,
I have question about Sheri L. Dew’s biography of Ezra Taft Benson: on page 547, she states that apostle Benson spent 4 hours with Alabama governor George Wallace (the rabid racist governor) discussing the possibility of Elder Benson being his running mate for president. Doesn’t this suggest that Elder Benson was racist as well, and that Sheri Dew is racist as well for not condemning such a meeting. Or am I missing something. I was quite shocked, because, otherwise, it had been an informative bio.
Sorry to be off the cuff about this topic, but I value your thoughts.
Sincerely & Respectfully,
Cobourg Ward, Oshawa Ontario Stake.
Without having read the material myself, I can only make speculations, so please keep that in mind while you read my answer. At some point in dealing with the behavior of those whom God calls as His special witnesses, we have to decide whether we trust that God knows what He is doing. If Christ called Ezra Taft Benson to be His mouthpiece on earth and represent Him in all things during the rest of President Benson’s life, don’t you think that perhaps that is some sort of endorsement from God as to the heart and character of President Benson? One of the things I have learned in my life is that we often see things only through our own colored lens. If we can find a way to see events from another perspective sometimes they don’t look so evil.
President Benson was fiercely loyal to the Lord and His work his whole life. If he entertained the notion of running for any office with a man who had a doubtful character he had to have good reason to believe that great good could come from that association or he wouldn’t have put his reputation in jeopardy by making the venture. Sitting down to table with a racist does not make you a racist any more than Christ associating with sinners made Him a sinner. Sheri Dew not condemning the prophet as a racist does not make her a racist by association. We should be very cautious about pointing the finger of accusation at the Lord’s servants without personal, firsthand knowledge of their sin. Remember President Benson was highly favored of the Lord and was called as His witness. We would be placing ourselves in a shaky position to look at a second or third-hand story about the Lord’s servant and pass judgment that they were sinners.
Like I said at the beginning of this, I haven’t read the book, and I don’t have any personal knowledge of this situation. But I have seen what passing such hasty judgments can do to a person’s testimony, and it isn’t pretty. Whenever I am tempted to speak ill of the Lord’s servants, I try to fall back on the most solid part of my testimony, that God loves me and doesn’t do anything in this life unless it is to help bring to pass my immortality and eternal life. The same is true for all of His other children. If He still approves of His own chief servant, then God must know something I do not, and therefore, I will trust in the Lord and do what I can to withhold my personal judgment until I know more. At some point, I just have to trust that the Lord is in charge and knows what He is doing. I hope this helps a little.