Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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vj8 I Dialogue PERSONAL VOICES Letter to a College Student Eugene England Your letter caught me by surprise, not because your particular form of unhappiness and your objections to the Church are unique—and not only because I remember you as a person living in quite a different universe than the one of sharp criticism and disillusionment which you now project with such vividness. No, my surprise was due mainly I think to the distance that I have moved in my own spiritual life from constant attention to those kinds of problems. Just a few years ago, as an Institute teacher, a member of the Bishopric of a student ward and a managing editor of Dialogue, I was confronted daily with the kinds of concerns you express, and I tended to think of them as central to the Gospel experience—to the struggle to know God and Christ and to love others. Now I am seldom involved with those particular problems—although overwhelmed with a whole set of other problems equally as mysterious and difficult and important. That is one measure of the distance between the Stanford Ward and the Faribault Branch. You talk about your disillusionment with your mission, how, after committing yourself to "offer people peace and kindness and hope," you found among your companions much "pettiness, narrowness, deceit and childishness, not to mention the obnoxious piety that only those who have the One And Only Way of Truth can possess." Yes, I've seen those things, still do sometimes—in fact find them in myself. And you talk about "bewilderment," your sense of having been betrayed because your idealism and devotion to the Church have led you to give service to it, but that very service has paradoxically revealed to you "dangerous tendencies in our bureaucratic, businessman's organization which are spiritually emasculating—namely, commercialism, exploitation of the gullible, statistics, and the self-righteous refusal to admit blunder and consider change where necessary." Yes, those things are there loo. Again, I find them in myself, in my own stumbling attempts to serve the Lord and the Church. And I am sure that you are right in your observation that "may- be it wasn't so hot in the 'good old days' either"—that these problems have been present whenever the Lord's kingdom was organized among human beings. Your letter brings back voices from the past, memories of precious friends and of other words spoken in anguish and tears: Since I've stopped going through the formal motions of meetings and statistics-oriented assignments, prayer and service have become more spontaneous, joyful and personal. And valuable. Am I going to hell? Yet at times I feel alone, like I'm drifting from something which is supposed to be true and good, which may be just another cosmic hoax. No, I don't think it's a cosmic hoax. And I don't think, as you suggest for a possibility, that the reason for the problems is that people have been taken in, like the congregations of Elmer Gantry and Marjoe but by more clever and smoother operators. No, I find incredible sincerity and great dedication in the Church at all levels. I think that the problems you mention arise not from some group or individual's lack of sincerity or honesty but because of the same kinds of ignorance and sin that beset us all. The special problem in the Church is that our high level of general satisfaction with the Gospel life style and our genuine spiritual experiences and resulting strong commitments tend to make us willing to let sincerity be enough, without requiring of ourselves what missionaries are always requiring of other people whose beliefs they are challenging— that one must be (as completely as possible) right as well as sincere. If we take the whole Gospel seriously it challenges us to be thoughtful, to test, to be sensitive, to be balanced in our use of faith and reason, of experiential evidence and the witness of the Spirit. If more Church members did these things most of the excesses that bother you so much wouldn't happen—but none of us does so very consistently, and that includes you and me. Your comment about how your life seems