11 August 2008

Doctrine, Policy and Tradition

This is my first foray into a deeper subject. As is ButtonGear, I am also a member of the predominant local denomination. Also like ButtonGear, I don't fit the local mold. Primarily because I am not a Utah Mormon.

I think that all of us, at one time or another - regardless of religious background, go through a phase where we question everything we have been taught. I think this hits those of us in the LDS community more heavily than others as we have some pretty odd beliefs . . . in comparison to the rest of the Christian community.

One thing I re-discovered in my search was a concept that my father explained to me as I was much younger. The church (and all churches I suppose) operates on three legs: Doctrine, Policy, and Tradition.

As I understand it, the doctrine of a religious community is comprised of those core issues they feel are requisite for salvation. All organizations, regardless of type, require policies to operate smoothly. As organizations mature, traditions grow and are the spice or flavor of the community.

As my father explained, policy and tradition can (and will) change. The doctrine remains as the core of the church. Problems arise when people start equating policy or tradition as doctrine. Some topics that often arise: "Coke (Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Mt. Dew) - are you going to hell for drinking it" or "White shirts - mandatory wear for all worthy priesthood holders?

The challenge becomes greater because of the tradition where anything said over the pulpit at General Conference is now scripture. On that same plane, if the Prophet makes a statement, it must be doctrine.

Bupkis! Brigham Young said that those of African heritage wouldn't receive the priesthood until the millennium. I loved President Hinckley. He was a Prophet of God. I also know that there are times that Gordon Hinckley's opinion came across the pulpit in conference or when he was conversing with Larry King.

So, the point of all this?

To my knowledge, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings one concept to the table that I haven't seen anywhere else. The concept that you shouldn't base your beliefs on anyone's say-so. We believe that you should consult your Heavenly Father with your questions and he will answer. Quite frankly, that is why I am here. I took Moroni's challenge but did so differently. My initial concerns weren't whether the Book of Mormon was true or whether Joseph was the Lord's prophet. I needed to know that there was a God. If not, nothing else mattered. If so, then I would continue the search.

So, I asked and got answers. The answers I received were not quite the answers I expected or even wanted. I know that there is a God and that he is my Heavenly Father. I know that He sent His Son Jesus the Christ and that he was anointed to atone for the sins of the world. That is the foundation for my testimony. This created a level of pain because I knew that it meant that I needed to change my life.

Back to the point. The process I followed is part of LDS doctrine. There is a God and you can converse with him to find out his will for your life. That is an example of doctrine. That we practice the ordinance of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is doctrine. The apparel of those officiating in that ordinance is policy based traditional. The bread and water used in that ordinance are policy based and traditional. I imagine that, in a worst case scenario, we could even use a caffeinated beverage in place of the water should the need arise.

Again I have probably overwritten. This has given me something to think about, though. Where is the division in the LDS faith between doctrine, policy, and tradition? The church helped cover this somewhat in 2007 with a press release entitled "Approaching Mormon Doctrine" ).

Me too ... two?

The blog you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the nerdy.

For the sake of relative anonymity, I'll refer to myself as ButtonGear.

It's probably not a GREAT disguise, but it will do.

My participation in this Blog is actually in opposition to the desires of my wife. Rather recently, I started a personal Blog and at a family gathering, someone mentioned it openly - which I assumed to be no particular issue. My wife, however took great issue with my blogging.

In short, she expressed that bloggers are silly slackers who peddled their worthless opinions, thereby wasting their time and efforts. A "real" writer would be paid for his words and efforts, not "give it away for free." She made it clear that - since I was at least college-educated, had a fairly good vocabulary and am a reasonable communicator - the definition of a blogger and her definition of me was completely incompatible.

Certain members of my family were amazed that I immediately "tucked my tail between my legs," as it were and simply said, "ok," since I had publicly argued with her about far less important issues. I just felt it was not worth the argument.

However, after some thought and encouragement from others, I decided to accept the invitation to participate in this blog ... anonymously ... for now.


Mostly because I feel that I have something to say -- even if I never make an intelligible point; even if no one reads or cares about the words I string together; even if my wife feels it would be far to degrading for me to spout my observations and opinions of life, the universe and everything.

So ... Briefly: Who am I?

I'm an about-forty-something white heterosexual Christian male with 3 kids, a wife and a mortgage. I live in Northern Utah, where despite being (I believe) a faithful member of the local predominant religion, I feel I break the "local mold" (read: tradition) by having original thoughts and opinions about subjects ranging from the origins of life and the universe to politics and religion.

My education consists of public schooling, a B.A. in Communication, a 2-year volunteer ecclesiastical mission to Germany, and (at the risk of sounding trite) the school of medium-hard knocks. I am not a great lover of literature or graphic arts, but I am (mostly) a self-taught musician who enjoys a rather eclectic assortment of musical styles. I even compose a little myself.

I have struggled over the years to define myself both professionally and politically. I consider myself relatively conservative, but have recently found that I have very small but curious outcroppings of what can be considered liberal leanings (like perhaps unions are not the minions of Satan).

... I will likely pontificate on my various belief systems as this blog progresses.

In short, I find myself at a number of crossroads in my life and I find this blog a fortuitous forum in which, not only to share my beliefs, but to document my journey of self. I am grateful for the invitation and opportunity to participate.

08 August 2008


So, I have been working on the foundation for this blog now for a while. After speaking with those currently involved, I updated the description of the blog and gave a brief description of the purpose of the blog.

Part of my challenge is that there are so many topics that are important to me that I don't really quite know where to start.

I did get some good advice from a blogger whose work I really enjoy. His site is http://www.bigredkitty.com/. It is definitely a topical site and doesn't touch what I or my co-writers will be discussing, but his information about blogging was priceless. Here is the gist of it, modified so that it isn't quite as specific to the topic of his blog:

1. Don't re-post from other sites without adding something of your own.
2. Don't steal ideas.
3. Make more whitespace: Massive chunks of text turn people off. Break up the paragraphs.
4. Focus: Once you find your niche, write about those issues. Your fans will get upset if you write about non-topical issues.
5. Don't worry about your niche, people will come based on your topics, but they will stay based on your writing style.
6. Don't write for the readers: Worry about your writing not the readers, the readers will come.
7. Write frequently: Once per week isn't going to cut it. The more you write, the better you'll get, and the more people will visit you to see what you have to say today. Daily, if at all possible. Schedule posts for the future if you can.
8. Adapt and evolve. If your audience doesn't want X anymore, don't give them X unless it is a core issue for you.
9. Don't change just for change's sake. Your blog has to meet a minimum readability standard, absolutely. But people will read you for your words, not your background image.
10. Love what you do. Your blog is for you . If you think it's for someone else, it becomes a job. Jobs stink and so will your blog.

/Thanks Daniel

Finally, to wrap up this entry, some personal information.

I am married with five (yes, I said five) kids. Quite happily married, by the way. We recently moved to Utah from Southern California. I really miss California. The move came because I have had some great employment experiences, many of them well above my education level.

Early in life someone said one doesn't need a degree to be successful in life. I lived that concept with a level of pride. I even have empirical evidence of this . . . I am amazed by the number of people who either educated idiots or are borderline useless but are validated in life because they are "educated".

While I still believe this is true (I will put what I've learned through my non- standard education path up against that of at least 80% of those who would be considered "educated"), I also recognize that there is definitely a Boy Scout mentality to the employment world. By that I mean that you have to have earned the correct merit badges in order to advance to the next rank. It became clear to me as I was managing one of the largest construction companies of its type in California as the housing market started to crash, that I would need a degree to really move my career forward.

So we loaded up the truck and we moved from Beverly . . . Long Beach, CA actually. Talk about an ego hit. As my wife and I looked at our life, we realized that we were far from where we needed to be. So, we cut our expenses drastically, moved in with family and are changing our lives to live prosperously. This means that I am back in school. We are digging out of debt (in another post I'll blog about Financial Peace University). We are working at choosing to act rather than be acted upon by external forces thus gaining control of our lives.

That's probably way too much so I'll end for now.