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….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Casey.