The power of the Mormon worldview

Mormons are different, really different. I know President Hinckley was emphatic in pointing out that we’re not different, or at least we’re not weird. But there are some things about us that are unique, both doctrinally and culturally and that set us apart from every other religion, Christian or not, and whether we like it or not.

It’s that Mormon worldview thing. I’m sure you’ve encountered the point of view in some LDS people that has been mistaken for arrogance. It can be summarized like this: “We’ve got all the answers and we know what’s going to happen.” That really ticks some people off. I know because I’ve experienced it many times.

A visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses

I love it when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. I’m impressed with their courage and tenacity. When I was younger, I did for two years what they do now. They are much more active in the door to door thing because it is an ongoing part of their religion. For me, it was mostly over after two years in Central America.

When they came to my door earlier this week, I looked them in the eye and waited for the first opportunity to tell them I’m LDS. Usually, that quickly brings the visit on the doorstep to a close, even though I invite them in. These two went right on with their pitch to get me to buy or to accept their magazine. That surprised me.

Things are only going to get worse

As part of their pitch, they asked if I was concerned about the current economic worries facing the world. “Of course,” I said. They asked, “What do you think we should do about it?” I replied immediately, “Repent.” “Do you think things are going to get worse?” No thinking required. “Yes. It’s prophesied to get worse.”

She could tell she was getting nowhere. She cut right to the reason for her visit. “Will you read this magazine if we leave it with you?” Her question deserved a direct answer. “No. I already have all the answers to life’s problems.” Oops. There it was again. It just kind of slipped out – that Mormon arrogance thing.

It’s really not arrogance

Unless you have experienced the feeling of certainty that comes from years of studying and teaching the doctrines of the restored gospel, you may be on the side of the fence saying, “Yeah that really is arrogant to think you know it all.” It’s not that we know it all, it’s just that we really do know what’s going to happen.

That knowledge is powerful. It’s based on scripture that the rest of the world doesn’t have – the Book of Mormon. It’s also based on revelations to Joseph Smith that clarify the Bible and give a clearer picture of events of the last days. That’s why Mormons are different. We have scriptures other than the Bible.

It’s not bad to be different

Sometimes we Latter-day Saints try real hard to demonstrate to the rest of the world that we really are like them. Well, we’re not because we have some things that are very unique. It’s OK to be different. “You’re exclusionary,” some claim. No, all are welcome. You just have to qualify for certain things like the Temple.

The differences between LDS believers and the rest of the world are becoming more pronounced, especially in California where I live. The recent attacks on our people for supporting and promoting Proposition 8 have brought us a world of attention – literally. We’re different because we stood up so strongly for this.

Benefits of the Mormon worldview

Because we enjoy a knowledge of prophesied future events, many of which we are now seeing fulfilled, we can rest assured that things are not out of control. They may be out of man’s control, but they are not out of God’s control. He uses natural events to fulfill his work. We can even ascribe our current economic crisis to God.

No, God didn’t cause the subprime mortgage crisis, or the automaker crisis or any of the other half a dozen crisis situations we’re going to encounter over the next few years. But we knew something like this was coming and have been warned for many years, most recently seven years ago in our October 2001 Conference.

Dealing with adversity

Even when unemployment or financial setback strikes home, we are able to look at the situation as simply part of the events of the last days. I suspect it is going to get worse and that some people will be angry – at God, at themselves, at society – because they are caught in the middle of an economic catastrophe rolling forth.

Some Latter-day Saints get it, even when it affects them personally. They just get to work, look for another job, tighten the finances and do all within their power, trusting that the Lord will somehow provide. This can be a real test of faith. I know. I’ve gone through it three times. The uncertainty is always at the door.

Signs of the times

We have yet to see so many of the things prophesied in Matthew 24 or D&C 45 come to pass. Will they happen in our lifetime? I am convinced that the famines, pestilences, earthquakes and wars have not yet come to the level that the Savior prophesied in Matthew 24 and that he revealed to Joseph Smith in section 45.

It is the natural disasters that we really need to be looking for. I’m talking the kind of catastrophic calamities that wipe out millions of people as we read in the book of Revelation. These economic catastrophes we are beginning to experience are just the beginning signs, intended to prepare men’s hearts for what is to come.

Summary and conclusion

Are we concerned about what is happening? You bet, but not for the reasons that the headlines scream. They get attention through fear. We are concerned because more and more people are ignoring the hand of God in all that is happening. It is our faith and confidence that helps us avoid fear as so much unravels around us.

No matter what happens, we can look to the prophets for reassurance that this has all been foretold. It brings an amazing sense of peace. It is a unique worldview, but it is really a gift from God – to be at peace in spite of a troubled world. It is a powerful feeling to realize that the return of the Lord is coming closer each day.

Comments

S.Faux said…
Honestly, if I were pitching some other religion and knocking on doors, you would be one of the last persons I would want to run into!!

I guess they call this a backward compliment.
Jettboy said…
I appriciate what you are saying LDC, but I think you are wrong. The idea that Mormons somehow have all the answers is simply not true, in reality and in theology. We believe all that has been revealed, all that is revealed . . . and most importantly all that will in some future time be revealed. It is a problematic viewpoint that causes more harm within the LDS Church than any other in learning about the gospel. I am a self-described conservative orthodox Mormon who is botherd by the theological (not so much the religious) positivism rampant in the LDS Church. We are not inerrant and infalible word of G-d believers; and we shouldn't ever be.

The emphasis from the beggining has less to do with what we know than what we have. What we know is through a glass darkly and always will be because of our mortal flaws of intellect and language. It is more than others from our view (and maybe this is what you mean), but hardly all-knowing. One of the great things about Mormonism is that we don't believe there are complete answers, even if we believe we have more answers. What we have is the only authority of G-d to perform saving ordinances and make official declarations. That is where Mormon "power of truth" comes from. It is, however, a trait shared by other religions and is not a unique worldview.

Don't get me wrong. I think that Mormon doctrine is a powerful and unique worldview. I just don't think it is because "We’ve got all the answers and we know what’s going to happen.” Rather, it is more like we can get the answers from the divine source if we need them.
Tim Malone said…
Hi Jettboy,

Yep, you're right. I was half tongue-in-cheek when I wrote this essay, especially in the first half. I made it clear in the commentary that we don't have all the answers. Here's the line: "It’s not that we know it all, it’s just that we really do know what’s going to happen."

I was pointing out in the beginning what many people think the Mormon worldview entails - that we do have all the answers. Your clarification adds a lot. Thanks. I agree that we have an advantage in that we know where to get the answers - modern revelation being a primary source.

In the second half of the essay, I tried to point out some of the benefits of this confidence that comes from a testimony of modern revelation - that we can be at peace when the troubles of the world beset us. You added another one - that we are the only ones with the authority from God to perform saving ordinances and make official declarations. Thanks.

I suppose what I was trying to do in the essay was to point out the subtle difference between the view that many accuse us of having - that we know it all - demonstrated by my response to the Jehovah's Witnesses - and a more correct view - that we have the unique advantage of modern scripture and modern revelation. Hence, we have so much more to offer the world.

That last line above is one of my favorite phrases and one that seems to evoke the most conflict when I use it in my travels on the Bloggernacle. See this essay for example. We do have so much more to offer the world and the idea of modern revelation and additional scripture is at the heart of it.

Anyway, thank you for making it clear that the false worldview I was trying to mock at the beginning of my essay is incorrect and damaging. I have seen enough of it to know that it actually limits growth and understanding when employed by those who think it is correct. They are close, but it just needs a little bit of tweaking, as you pointed out.

Thanks for your helpful comments.
Papa D said…
It's a fine line between what appears to be arrogance and what simply is confidence - and most of us cross it regularly as we strive to navigate life. For those who struggle, it can appear to be blind faith; for those who are scared, it can appear to be reckless disregard; etc. Iow, it appears to those without it to be whatever they lack.

I think that is worth considering, since it puts the burden on us to find a way to express our confidence in ways that do not appear to belittle those without it.
Tim Malone said…
Hi Papa D,

Thanks for your insightful comment. That is so true that we frequently cross the line between confidence and over-enthusiasm in the sharing of our testimonies and knowledge of the gospel. It is especially difficult when others unjustly ascribe arrogance to our communications when none is intended. That can hurt.

You counsel if good - to find ways to express ourselves in such a way that we do not appear to belittle those who lack. Perhaps it is best to simply proclaim the truth as we understand it in simpleness and humility without boasting.

Yet, we must be bold as the Lord has commanded us lift up our voices and spare not. In any event, I remain grateful for this unique knowledge that we possess as members of the restored church of Jesus Christ. It is powerful.
Papa D said…
"Perhaps it is best to simply proclaim the truth as we understand it in simpleness and humility without boasting."

Well said, Tim.
Jeff said…
Good comments and enjoyable reads. I would think that studying how Alma handled this somewhat very thing in chapter 29 could help us in our balancing act of confidence and arrogance. Thanks.

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