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Friday, September 14, 2012

MMM Quotes 11: The Rise of Modern Mormonism

by Seattle Jon (bio)

I just finished Prince & Wright's David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. Everyone should read this book. In the meantime, here are a few passages that stirred something within me.

On knowledge bringing risk ...

[David O. McKay's] philosophy was that true education is liberal, painted by the broad brush strokes of all academic disciplines, unfettered by thin pencil lines of dogma. Speaking at the dedication of a church high school in New Zealand he said: "Members of the Church are admonished to acquire learning by study; also, by faith and prayer; and to seek after everything that is virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy. In this seeking after truth, they are not confined to narrow limits of dogma, or creed, but are free to launch into the realm of the infinite for they know that 'truth is truth where'er it is found, whether on Christian or on heathan ground.'

Well aware that knowledge brought risk, McKay's response was to manage the risk, not proscribe the knowledge. Noting the "young man who, as his immature beliefs fall from him one by one, finds himself substituting science for religion, and the scientist for God," his response was to add religion as a refining influence on the young scientist, not caution him to retreat to safer ground.

On the disappointment he felt with his first temple experience ...

"Do you remember when you first went through the House of the Lord? I do. And I went out disappointed. Just a young man, out of college, anticipating great things when I went to the Temple. I was disappointed and grieved, and I have met hundreds of young men and young women since who had that experience. I have now found out why. There are two things in every Temple: mechanics, to set forth certain ideals, and symbolism, what those mechanics symbolize. I saw only the mechanics when I first went through the Temple. I did not see the spiritual. I did not see the symbolism of spirituality. Speaking plainly, I saw men, physical state, which offended me. That is a mechanic of washing ... I was blind to the great lesson of purity behind the mechanics. I did not hear the message of the Lord, "Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord." I did not hear that eternal truth, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." The symbolism was lost entirely ... And so with the anointing, following the washing. Do you see the symbolism? ... How many of us young men saw that? We thought we were big enough and with intelligence sufficient to criticize the mechanics of it and we were blind to the symbolism, the message of the spirit. And then that great ordinance, the endowment. The whole thing simple in the mechanical part of it, but sublime and eternal in its significance."

On politics ...

"While we respect and revere the offices held by the members of the First Presidency of the Church, we cannot yield to others our responsibilities to our constituency, nor can we delegate our own free agency to any but ourselves. We know that each of you will agree that in this instance we act in conformity with the highest principles of our church in declining to be swayed by the view expressed in the communication of June 22nd under the signatures of the First Presidency. We hasten to assure you that we stand ready at any time to receive your views, that they will be considered and evaluated as the good faith expression of men of high purpose, but we cannot accept them as binding on us." - Senator Frank Moss (D-Utah) expressing his displeasure in the Church getting involved in political matters

"It could be pointed out there's a moral obligation to permit men to see employment regardless of union membership. It also could be argued that there's a moral question involved and the church has every right to take an active interest in the well being of all its members. But basically the right-to-work issue involving the controversial section of the Taft-Hartley law, is a matter of politics. As such, it lies far outside the jurisdiction of any church leadership. It's just not a proper matter for expression of church views and certainly church pressure is improper, to say the least. Leaders of any church should speak up on clear-cut matters of theology or morals and all members of Congress should be happy to listen and try to profit from proper advice on such matters. But church influence should be limited to problems and issues that are clearly church problems and issues. Churches have no place in politics." - A pointed editorial in an Idaho newspaper

Two months after Kennedy's assassination McKay received a phone call, the transcript of which read:

Johnson: "Mr. President, this is Lyndon Johnson ... I am an old friend of yours. I don't know whether you remember me or not, but you've been receiving me every time I come out there."

McKay: "I remember you very well. I'm glad to hear your voice too."

Johnson: "I wonder if you feel like coming down to Washington and see me sometime in the next week or two? ... I don't have any emergency, but I just need a little strength, and I think that would come from visiting with you an hour or so."

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