Date: February 08, 2019 02:44PM
One of the most striking comments I have read in the last little while is "Infinity is not just more and more of the finite." (I think this was written by Alan Lightman.) Infinity cannot be diminished by taking something away and cannot be increased by adding anything to it. Sorry, Buzz, there is no "beyond" to Infinity.
And while that has helped me to readjust my thinking about the Universe, it also points out a fundamental weakness in Mormon thought.
Classic Christianity (as well as several other religions from what I know of them) references a spiritual existence that is beyond our comprehension. In a little bubble of time we experience a shadow world and can perceive but a limited number of dimensions. There is no clear expectation of what our end state in the full scope of eternity will be. There is no end, period. It is something beyond mortal comprehension.
That concept is vague and perhaps a little unsettling. Those who want to know what's going on with their lives are left hanging. Mormonism seeks to meet this demand for satisfaction and certainty by constructing a more concrete context for life. Mormonism advocates eternal progression as our exalted end state. Eternity for Mormons, in other words, is more and more of the finite. More planets, more wives, more spirit children, more bosses above, more servants below, all feudally locked together in "covenants" - contractual agreements of service and reward.
This materialism (but tellingly, not the doctrine) is reflected in the Book of Mormon. The very purpose of the Book of Mormon was to serve as material evidence for the prophetic status of Joseph Smith and it did so by providing a religious context for the material evidence of the pre-European inhabitants of the American continents.
Whatever Smith wanted to accomplish with the Book of Mormon, it and his doctrinal amendments have ever since bound Mormon thinking to the tangible, the immediate, the "sensible."* Had Smith, like Mohammed before him, simply said that an angel or spirit of the Ancients had told him what to write down (without the specific claims of a historical context), Mormonism would not be in the bind it is today. It could have left doors open and preserved a little humble uncertainty. As it is, it is stuck with a "most correct book" of history that is demonstrably fraudulent . Apologists for the faith then resort to the appeal of faith and the limitation of human understanding to cover the gap between doctrine and reality. But they really can't have it both ways - sometimes a fixed, enduring, sensible "Man's Search for Happiness" gospel and at other times, an incomprehensible and nebulous mystery gospel. It is this irreconcilable conflict that is at the core of much Mormon cognitive dissonance; a shifting, sandy foundation. Leaders make definitive statements as eternal truths, which are then contradicted by successors who reshape them as personal opinion. Leaders have had to defend indefensible policies and then when change inevitably comes, confidence in doctrine is eroded. Having learned the lesson about the dangers of making big policy, leaders still try to focus on "real world" objectives, but they keep the scale small, like the directives on the number of earrings or use of the word "Mormon." Those teachings do not provide any inspiration in terms of the mysteries of the spirit, but do provide transitory distractions. They in turn however, will be set aside by the next generation, failing to provide either enlightenment in the spiritual or confidence in the practical. Generation after generation the accretion of dissonance builds and the scope of Mormon thought is narrowed by the treachery of facts.
* I remember reading long ago how one church authority dismissed the idea of humans crossing over the Bering Straight from Asia to the Americas as being impractical. And when the "Great Apostasy" is described, inevitably the loss of "plain and precious truths" is included. Plain and simple, that's the ticket.