Historians don’t usually talk about the future, because they are historians! In our next episode with Dr. Casey Griffiths, he will talk about what he thinks will be the biggest future events in church history, as well as what some events of the recent past will make impacts in future Church history. Check out our conversation….
Casey: Even the things that are happening right now, it’s difficult to kind of pull back and say, “How big a deal is this going to be in 20 years? Are we even going to think twice about it? Or is it going to be something that really becomes huge in the history of the Church, the way it works. The Family Proclamation, which we put in, has had big ripple effects. The Perpetual Education Fund, which we put in, isn’t talked about as much anymore, though, I do think that if you look at the long-term effects of the Perpetual Education Fund, it’s going play a big role in the development of the Church, especially the International Church. So, it was a fun thought experiment to kind of sit down and have conversations. We, by the way, it wasn’t just the three of us. I was walking into people’s office and saying, “Give me your top five events.” They usually, the First Vision coming forth, the Book of Mormon, Priesthood is restored. I go, “Okay, give me your top five in the 20th century. Give me your top five in the last 20 years.”
So what are your top 5 events in the last 20 years? What do you see in the future of Church history? Check out our conversation.
Orson Pratt is less famous than his older brother, apostle Parley P. Pratt. But it could be argued that he has had a bigger impact on the Church than Parley did. From polygamy to the First Vision to his theological arguments with Brigham Young, Orson Pratt is one of the unsung people who has shaped the modern LDS Church.
Casey: There is a good biography. Breck England, wrote a book called, The Life and Thought of Orson Pratt, that I think is great. Apparently, someone is writing a biography. Now, I can’t remember his name. But, maybe in a couple of years, we’ll get another good one. But I think Breck England’s is really good. He addresses a lot of the issues that a 19th century Church member would face, which Orson Pratt is a good example of. You’ve had podcasts on this before, I know. But Orson Pratt almost leaves the Church. Well, he does leave the church. He’s excommunicated, because of complications over plural marriage, because of his wife, Sarah Pratt. He may have tried to commit suicide. They were worried for a little while there. Ten years later, he’s the person that’s chosen to publicly announce the practice of plural marriage. Then, he becomes known as the most famous intellectual defender of plural marriage. That’s an interesting journey in 10 years. Breck, who you should get on this, and you should talk to him about it, goes through a couple questions. One of the big wrestles Orson Pratt often had to answer for people was, “If I don’t enter into plural marriage, does that mean I’m not going to go to the Celestial kingdom?” In the 19th century, some Church members wrestled with the question of, “Is it eternal marriage, or is it plural marriage that’s essential for salvation.” Orson Pratt was the person that mediated those questions. The conclusion he came to was, “It’s celestial marriage, it’s not plural marriage that’s essential for salvation,” which is really because most Church members weren’t practicing plural marriage.
We’re continuing to discuss some of The 100 Most Important Events of Church History. We will talk about how observance of the Word of Wisdom has changed. We will also see who is closer to Joseph Smith’s observance. Is it the LDS Church or Community of Christ?
Casey: At any rate, Heber J. Grant is the person that finally, I think, just puts the hammer down. But there’s pressure from Brigham Young all the way up to making the Word of Wisdom more than just a suggestion, making it more of a commandment. Now, in Community of Christ, in the RLDS tradition, as I understand it, that pressure doesn’t exist quite as much. So, their observance of the Word of Wisdom, ironically, is probably closer to what Joseph Smith did, than what we do today. But it does show, like I said, that there’s other people in the Church, besides Joseph Smith that affect the course of the History of the Church.
We will also talk about how the LDS Church has changed from a regional church to a global faith with Dr. Casey Griffiths. Is the LDS Church exporting American culture instead of the Gospel?
Casey: But our correlation system makes it so that if you’re an active member of the Church in the United States and an active member of the Church in Thailand, you pretty much have the same understanding what the Word of Wisdom means. That is rare in the religious world. I’ll just say, that a uniformity of belief, the kind of which Latter-day Saints have across the board is rare. It comes at a cost in some senses, too. There are some things that are correlated that maybe don’t need to be, but on the whole, correlation has given us kind of this unified expectation. Church members will often get up and say, “Hey, I went to church in this foreign country, and it was cool to see them studying out of the same manuals as us.” And yes, that’s great. At the same time, too, there’s some question as to, when we say the church is globalizing, how much do we give? Another facet of my research that we wanted to put into this book was the transition from a regional American religion to a global faith. One of the major questions that the correlation movement had to ask was, “What is the gospel? What’s American culture, and what is the gospel and to what boundary do we cross over the two?” For instance, I have a friend who works in educational groups in Africa. In Africa, the idea that a husband and wife would kiss in public, in certain parts of Africa, is just taboo. It’s pornographic. They would see it as just terrible.
GT: Oh, really?
Casey: He told the story where this local American leader of the Church was worried that the husbands and wives weren’t expressing enough affection. He held a fireside, and he brought his wife up front, and he gave her a big kiss in front of the congregation and said, “I want all of you to do this.” The entire congregation was just sitting there horrified. “How can we do this?” Well, we’d have to go back to the earlier question of, is kissing your wife in public a facet of the gospel?” It’s really not.
Casey: It’s something that is part of American culture and in America is a good way of expressing your affection and love for your spouse, but it’s not necessarily something that we have to transfer somewhere else. Now, other things like the atonement, repentance, the Book of Mormon, we do have to transfer from cultures, and if they come into conflict, we have to deal with that. But there’s a lot of leeway. Church leaders have been negotiating this boundary for a really long time as to what’s gospel culture and what isn’t gospel culture.
Do we export too much American culture with the Gospel? Check out our conversation….