Monday, April 04, 2005

How relative is culture & revelation

With some things happening up here in Canada for me, posting will probably be even lighter than normal for a while.

Outside of General Conference the only issue I have been thinking about is the whole polygamy issue that has brought up again at some of the major blogs. Thus, the focus on Joseph Smith the conference was nice. I wonder if we don't bring a lot of our societal morals to bear on the question. Difficulties arise when what we think is obvious and correct doesn't mesh with the way things were.

While there are many different ways people try and rationalize things, my way of thinking seems to lead me to the following: God is really only worried about sexual relationships when they are not between committed couples. Of course this may seem incongruent with the Church's strong focus on chastity. But perhaps, as section 132 outlines God's view towards David, Abraham and Moses is the key factor on the issue. Because of church emphasis on chastity as a way to protect the family and societal emphasis on monogamy to do the same, we tend to extrapolate a very conservative view of God. The intersection between the two ways of protecting the family makes rationalizing old church views on the issue problematic. However, perhaps this is because we are looking at the equivalent of policy rather than goals.

It is probably safe to say that revelation, modern, biblical and from the Book of Mormon, indicates that God is concerned about protecting the structure in which children are raised. What is less sure, is how this is accomplished. Perhaps this is an area where the vehicle is less important than the results. In effect, because sex is such a temporal issue, any laws tied to it are essentially temporal in nature. Thus, what ever works to ensure a sucessful family structure may be fine. Problems arise when a given method is followed in an ad-hoc fashion where inevitable problems are solved by individual desires rather than God centered goals. I think it is the culture of immediate satisfaction mentioned in conference that is the concern of chastity today. If monogamy is used to safeguard the family, this only makes sense. Things that detract from monogamous goals are wrong. If polygamy were to be used I am sure that the specific policies required to curtail its obvious limitations would be required. However, which one works may be more a function of culture than anything else. This seems to fit in with some views that have polygamy being used to create a distinct culture for the church, akin to the separation of the gentiles from jews as symbolized by circumcision.

Of course, with my cultural background, I am more than happy to have polygamy remain a relic of the past. As people always mention, there is just no way it would work with the cultural memes of today. Perhaps a good lesson is to realize just how culturally subjective many of God's commandments are. One would think that the different perspectives arising from the Law of Moses, Book of Mormon etc. would help one realize that, outside of faith, repentance and baptism, there are relatively few things that don't arise as solutions to specifc problems of our cultural and societal heritage. Prophets are essential, because one law doesn't fit all. Fundamentalist notions that would have us change our culture to recreate a point time replica of a revelation heavy society may be missing the point. Because of the fallen nature of the world, all paths are corrupt. Thus the goal of the gospel isn't cultural mimickry, it is cultural problem solving. Pick a path and work through it. Picking and choosing things in the vein of today's social progressiveness is misleading. It ultimately attempts to stay one step ahead of natural consequences rather than standing to fight through them. So perhaps the fast pace and change of today's culture is the ultimate attack on revelation. Revelation becomes insignificant if the ground in which it should apply is constantly shifting. Detailed revelation will usually be antiquated if we feel we have changed from the conditions which spawned it.


Clark Goble said...

Ah!!!! You used the word Meme.

BTW - you never responded to the meme I sent your way.

chris g said...

I like the word. It is much better than taking a full sentence to explain an ingrained, usually inobvious, implicitly stated paradigm based perspective.

I will see about posting it in the next few days. I have been hanging out with Anne up in Calgary, helping Dave get his house ready to sell, and then visiting mom in the hospital.