Sunday, August 9, 2009

Every wind of doctrine

The polarization of America is a topic of almost daily commentary and political lamentation. When George W. Bush was first elected (remember?) he promised to be a "uniter" not a divider. He took his posse to Washington determined to change the tone, the culture and the conversation. That didn't work out quite the way he anticipated.

Then it was Barack Obama's turn. He went to Washington with the mantra, "Change we can believe in," and "Yes we can," and he has certainly delivered on the "CHANGE" promise in breathtaking speed. But wait a minute. The polls now tell us there's an uprising afoot. Doubts persist. Maybe it's not the change we do believe in after all, and the political divide is widening after initial poll numbers suggesting as high as 70% approval ratings.

As usual, it is the trust issue (once again -- remember the 60s?) -- that has really frayed the fabric of political life. Tempers are rising. People are scared, not comforted, by the messages they are hearing from Washington. Hope for change among conservative Americans, almost 40 percent of the population, is all but gone with those folks outraged at Obama's expansionist policies. The right simply does not trust this president and probably never will, much like the hard left demonized Bush.

Those hard-core liberals, making up maybe 20 percent of the electorate, are digging in and standing by their man. They actually believe in a huge federal presence in our lives to dictate who gets what in health care, and they love the income redistribution strategy in general. In Obama, the long-repressed hopes and dreams of the deeply committed leftists are being realized. With Bush gone there is no limit to what they can do now with two branches of government under their direct supervision.

The best part is the middle of the political divide -- the other 40 percent of Americans, most independents, who are losing hope quickly. Most Americans are not hard-core ideologues and are willing to give any new president a chance. That's where I reside. But with the recession still causing massive pain and a president who increasingly seems unsure of himself, the independents are getting nervous. I even read an article this morning that advocated a spending freeze for people with money -- the rich President Obama has singled out for higher taxes, you know the ones who make more than $250,000 per year -- as a form of protest to shrink the economy and teach this upstart whippersnapper in the White House a thing or two. Dumb idea.

Since last January, there certainly has been plenty of change. But, now the polls are suggesting that fewer and fewer in the middle are believing in it.

The Apostle Paul had much to say about conditions in these last days. For example, he tells us why Christ established the Church with its foundation of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The Church in the last days was established, he tells us, "for the perfecting of the saints," the purpose being to help us become men and women of Christ. The Church also facilitates "the work of the ministry" and is designed for the "edifying of the body of Christ," the members of the Church. This was necessary too in order for us to have a "unity of the faith" and also "of the knowledge of the son of God." In addition we are to progress "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12-13). These are lofty ambitions in the midst of all the confusion swirling around us these days.

Without the Church and its Apostles and prophets we could, in fact, be severely "tossed to and fro," being "carried about with every wind of doctrine." We could potentially be manipulated "by the sleight of men" and their conspiracies and cunning craftiness (Ephesians 4:14). Ah, the wisdom and the prophetic insight of Paul -- do you think he saw our day?

True Christianity requires real authority, real verity, real orthodoxy, and real unity! Then let the storms and the winds come, including the various "winds of doctrine."

Conventional wisdom already suggests to the human family on earth today that, if they want to, individuals can have sexual relations outside of legal heterosexual marriage; they can have freedom without responsibility; they have entitlements without work. Conventional wisdom likewise declares we cannot know that which is to come (see Jacob 7:7). Therefore, it concludes, seek present pleasure and avoid present pain.

The scriptures, not surprisingly, decry yielding to the persuasions of men; also, fearing men more than God (D&C 3:7; 5:21). The presence of prophets and Apostles encourages and helps the flock to resist this temptation.

While the Church has been established in our time never to be unestablished, all the risks of failure are still vouched safe because of moral agency for individual Church members. The life-styles and teachings of the world can still overcome those individuals who allow themselves to be tossed "to and fro," who are untethered in the teachings of Jesus and will not receive direction from His Apostles and prophets.

The unity we are to achieve must be the "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). We are not, said Paul, to be children in understanding, but rather to be men (1 Corinthians 14:20). Indeed, men and women of Christ!

After describing the significance and essential features of the Church, Paul urged its members to go forward, "speaking the truth in love," urging them to "grow up into him in all things, . . . even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

Just because Paul wrote it centuries ago doesn't mean it's outdated -- like all prophetic scripture preserved for our edification in the last days, it is timely and timeless. We need not be tossed to and fro on the shifting ocean and changing tides of public opinion if we are anchored in the Word.

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