August 6, 2012 by P. J. Toscano
LDS Church leaders cannot serve God and Mammon. They cannot serve the Lord or the spiritual interests of the Saints while preserving the conservative economic and political interests of the corporate Church and running it on a soviet model of authoritarian leadership.
The ecclesiastical institution owns billions of dollars of real and personal property free and clear of liens in scores of jurisdictions throughout the world. It owns farms and business interests; it has a mammoth budget that must be managed and accounted for; it has lawyers, accountants, architects, real estate professionals and other advisers that must be attended to; it operates schools; it produces publications; it requires public relations experts to manage and protect its image; it pays an army of employees—not to mention the missionaries and members who serve without pay.
All this requires constant caretaking, money and energy. The LDS apostles, acting as a board of directors of the vast LDS ecclesiastical empire, have a duty to grow, preserve and pay for its holdings, interests and investments. To do this, they confound sacred materiality with profane materialism. They encourage acquisitiveness and discourage equality. They countenance sins of calculation and condemn sins of passion. They require Church members to tithe on gross rather than disposable income, a policy that favors rich over poor and directly affects the access poor members have to church offices and to temple blessings. Church leaders amass Church property free and clear of liens while ordinary members are mortgaged to the hilt. They allow the Church to become more conservative and capitalistic. They profit from gender inequality in the work place. They seek political and economic power by forfeiting compassion and demonizing feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals. Thus, they render unto Caesar that which is God’s and unto God that which is Caesar’s.
Consequently, they cannot castigate the world for its inequalities because they contaminate the Church itself. They cannot call to repentance this or any other nation, kindred, tongue, or people without exposing the Church’s wealth to attack, seizure, or destruction. They do not preach Joseph Smith’s complex, rich and fascinating teachings that proclaim universal salvation, deny the existence of hell, call for equality, communalism, stewardship of the environment and decry greed, exploitation, violence and war; instead, they mute the message of the Restoration and recite mind-numbing anecdotes in its place.And so, the outward kingdom is maintained at the expense of the inward kingdom.
In the long, chilling shadow of these apostolic errors, many complicit men and some women have profited and prospered by the promulgation of heresies that replaced the gospel and the revelations and that serve the privileged to the detriment of the disadvantaged. I understand these errors may not have been first made out of malice or for personal self-interest. But they are spiritually fatal nevertheless.
Critics of my critique will say that it is unfair and unbalanced; that I am blind to the many laudable aspirations and achievements of the Church and to the personal goodness, integrity, and dedication of many leaders at every level; that I am blind to the determination of both leaders and members to improve lives, to make bad people good and good people better, to promote rectitude and honor; that I am blind to the hierarchy’s efforts to protect people from unnecessary pain, from despair, from the vicissitudes of life, from the evils of hostility, intemperance, and addictions of all kinds; that I am blind to the Church’s promotion of personal honesty, loyalty, integrity, education and industry, to humanitarian and charitable service.
But I am not blind. I acknowledge all these accomplishments and aspirations of the LDS Church, its leaders, and its members. I see nothing wrong with any of these ends.
My complaint is not with ends, but with means. My lament is that virtue cannot be achieved by compliance to the demands of corporate Mormonism or by mindless obedience to its leaders. The praiseworthiness of its objectives cannot compensate for the worst of all the errors of the LDS apostolate: The failure to preach Christ’s gospel of spiritual transformation based on faith in the unconditional love of God and their replacement of that gospel with a legalistic regimen of corporate rules and expectations of conformity driven by the carrot and stick of rewards and punishments, approval and disapproval, acceptance and rejection, fellowship and disfellowshipment, advancement and exclusion. Holiness cannot be achieved by substituting loyalty to the Messiah and the Holy Spirit with fawning obsequence to the corporate Church and its management.
Of course I could be wrong about this. But is it probable? Is it probable that holiness can flow from idolatry? Is it probable that Jesus would let his prophets, seers, and revelators become profiteers and regulators? Would replace the Mormon watch cry “the kingdom of God or nothing” with the ejaculation, “Let’s go shopping!”? Is it probable that the Atonement—the Messianic sacrifice of divine power, voluntarily accomplished as a pure grace of unconditional love, to rescue us from our blindness, power-lust and egocentric cruelty and to sanctify us as joint-heirs in glory—is just a crass debt repayment plan? Is it probable that Christ liberated us from the Mosaic Law, rendered the Ten Commandments a palimpsest for his Eight Beatitudes, transformed the Hebrews’ tribal solitary God of war into a cosmic plural Godhead of peace, and suffered himself to be crucified to death in order to inflict upon us the very religious legalism he so relentlessly castigated when he was on earth and then, in the latter-days, to authorize his modern apostles to seduce people with the promise of eternal life only to grind them up in a church machine?
Yes, I could be wrong. Mormonism may not be what I think it is. But is it probable that the Restoration has degenerated to what it has become by revelation?
–Paul Toscano, taken from Holy Shift, a presentation made at the Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium, July 28, 2012