Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When does a Heretic become an Apostate?

Special thanks to Spek, TruthSeekerToo and Younger Dude for giving me the idea for this post...

It all began with a comment from Younger Dude;

"Got nothing valuable to add to your post Watcher, just glad to be here in fellowship with heretics - lol."
Spek then posed the following questions;

"Dude,
What do you call someone who seeks to understand and apply the scriptures without allowing the teachings of men to cloud the mind and numb the spirit? Is that what a heretic is?

Spek"


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Anonymous Younger Dude responded;

"What do you call someone who seeks to understand and apply the scriptures without allowing the teachings of men to cloud the mind and numb the spirit?"

Third Watchers! haha"


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Anonymous Younger Dude returned again and said...

"heretic -
A person under any religion, but particularly the christian, who holds and teaches opinions repugnant to the established faith, or that which is made the standard of orthodoxy."

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Anonymous TruthSeekerToo then said...

"Heretics got stuck with the name "heretic" because they were the losers in the battle of officially accepted doctrine.

That's okay. I like the word heretic better than orthodox anyway."


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Anonymous Spektator then said...

"So when does a heretic become an apostate? Is it safe to say that a heretic is tolerated and an apostate is not?

What is there left to those who are unorthodox? Most times they are marginalized. At worst, they are shunned.

Does one need to wear a 'happy face' and simply go along with the flow or speak out and watch those around you put up their deflector shields?"

I think Spec brings up an interesting question. When does a heretic become an apostate?
What exactly is an apostate?

Is it possible to be considered an apostate by the leaders of the outer church and yet still be considered a humble follower of Christ and seeker of truth in the eyes of Christ?

I recently wrote an article about the time line of the world and in it I speculated that 1993 may have been the beginning of the last generation of probationary time.

I listed numerous events that took place that year, but there is one event that took place within the church that year that I did not mention in the article. I don't know if it had much impact on the church in general but it had a huge effect on me.

I didn't even think about it until Spec brought up this topic. Most of you youngsters are too young to remember it.
It was the excommunication (or disfellowship) of six very high profile members of the church who became known as the "September Six". ( I almost made it the "September Seven", although I was not high profile like them.. but that is a story for another time)

Among these six people were a few people who played a very important role in my early years of researching the scriptures and LDS Church History.

One was Avraham Gileadi a Hebrew scholar who wrote about the words of Isaiah and the last days.

Another was D. Michael Quinn who was an LDS church Historian that released some very controversial historical information about the LDS restoration movement. Gileadi has since been rebaptized. Quinn has not.

For those interested, Sunstone had Quinn speak about his excommunication on the 10th anniversary after it took place.

Gileadi has been very silent about his ordeal.

Another of the six was an attorney. He also did an interview that is really quite facinating, yet heart breaking and disturbing. The interview is in 7 parts. Part number 5 of the Paul Toscono Interview is here. It is 5, 6, and 7 that deals with the excommunication.

It is really sad how he seems to have lost his testimony.. although he still has hope in Christ.


As Spec would say,

"What think ye?"

7 comments:

Younger Dude said...

"When does a Heretic become an Apostate?"

Depends on who you ask. You would have all been apostates to me five years ago (people who watched "R" rated movies used to fit into this category as well, so thats not saying much - lol). Now you're just heretics.

"What is there left to those who are unorthodox? Most times they are marginalized. At worst, they are shunned."

Too true. If people are driven by fear, there is not much room for diversity. Anything opposed to traditions becomes a threat. At least being a heretic won't cost you your life.

"Does one need to wear a 'happy face' and simply go along with the flow?"

Probably the best use of the "happy face" is for when you are happy. As for going along with the flow or speaking out, I think that is something that is between us and the Spirit. For me, Sunday school has not been a good place to "speak out". Personal conversations, on the other hand, are usually when I feel the Spirit the most. Those are initiated very naturally and have their own spiritual flow. Without the Spirit, its like pulling teeth, and both sides get defensive.

"Is it possible to be considered an apostate by the leaders of the outer church and yet still be considered a humble follower of Christ and seeker of truth in the eyes of Christ?"

I sure hope so - the way my life is headed its my only hope. Sounds like this might be a good description of your situation, Watcher. Hopefully we get to hear the story someday!

My conclusion:

Wasn't Jesus an "apostate"? He was a heretic at the very least.

What else can we do but follow our faith in Christ, no matter where it takes us? Sometimes it scares me to consider what direction my life has taken, and where it could lead in the future, but I feel like Peter in asking

"Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."

I can't wait to hear everyones thoughts on this topic.

Arwella said...

I loved this post because this is such a pertinent issue in my life. Depending on how vocal I am in my beliefs is how shunned I am.

The other day I was mentioning to someone close to me (family), as we were discussing the Doctrine and Covenants, that they might want to reread the D&C with this amazingly important promise in mind;
D&C 1:37." Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Then I said, if God gave an unconditional promise and it hasn't happened yet, it will. Shouldn't this book of scripture be taken literally? Can we really be "Believers" if we don't believe His Word?

This person said to me, "Sometimes I think you forget that I'm a member of the church."

I thought to myself, soooo if you're a member of the church you shouldn't be a "critical thinker"? You shouldn't take the words of the Lord first and man's word second? I was really too stunned to say anything to this person.

All I could do was remember that I used to feel the same way and just pray that God will open all of our minds to the next level of enlightenment, wherever we are on our learning curve.

The scripture,"Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good"I Thess. 5:21 has so much more meaning to me than it ever did. You really do have to prove every man's words against God's. God's word wins!

If that makes me a heretic or unorthodox, praise God!

I would rather know the truth and be shunned. Actually, I would rather know the truth and be a little more inspired as to when to share truths.(lol)

TruthSeekerToo said...

Oh, Watcher, my heart got squeezed on this one.

I may be semi-young but I have read about the September Six. I greatly admire the works I have read by some of them.

"Is it possible to be considered an apostate by the leaders of the outer church and yet still be considered a humble follower of Christ and seeker of truth in the eyes of Christ?"

There is no doubt in my mind/heart. There are so many witnesses that this is true!
Is it possible to be considered an orthodox, valiant church member and be considered an apostate by Christ?

"When does a Heretic become an Apostate?"

I don't know if I wanna know the answer to this one. Obviously, those in earthly "authority" get to say.

This months Ensign has an article about personal apostasy. They would have the members believe these key points in avoiding personal apostasy:
*There will never be another apostasy of Christ's church-so don't worry about that.
The following lead to personal apostasy
*Unrepented sin
*Being offended
*Fault finding
*Assume authority that isn't yours

Funny how there is no mention of differing views of dogma, doctrine, scripture or procedure.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post because this is such a pertinent issue in my life. Depending on how vocal I am in my beliefs is how shunned I am.

The other day I was mentioning to someone close to me (family), as we were discussing the Doctrine and Covenants, that they might want to reread the D&C with this amazingly important promise in mind;
D&C 1:37." Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

Then I said, if God gave an unconditional promise and it hasn't happened yet, it will. Shouldn't this book of scripture be taken literally? Can we really be "Believers" if we don't believe His Word?

This person said to me, "Sometimes I think you forget that I'm a member of the church."

I thought to myself, soooo if you're a member of the church you shouldn't be a "critical thinker"? You shouldn't take the words of the Lord first and man's word second? I was really too stunned to say anything to this person.

All I could do was remember that I used to feel the same way and just pray that God will open all of our minds to the next level of enlightenment, wherever we are on our learning curve.

The scripture,"Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good"I Thess. 5:21 has so much more meaning to me than it ever did. You really do have to prove every man's words against God's. God's word wins!

If that makes me a heretic or unorthodox, praise God!

I would rather know the truth and be shunned. Actually, I would rather know the truth and be a little more inspired as to when to share truths.(lol)

Cub said...

I do not know what constitutes apostasy or heresy, but I do know that if our actions are driven by fear of apostasy or heresy, we need to repent. I fear apostasy. I fear that if my church leaders knew what is in my head and what I believe, I’d be kicked out of the church. But I recognize that this fear, rather than binding me to the truth, stands as a barrier between me and truth. Mine is a fear of man—a fear that my leaders have control over my happiness in this life and my salvation in the life to come. Ironically, in our journey to happiness and salvation, we must “Fear not what man can do.” D&C 122:9. I am in the process of repenting of my fear, and I trust that the Lord will take this burden from me.

The following quotes from Hugh B. Brown have been helpful to me in overcoming my fear-based approach to apostasy:

"We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people's thoughts. We should be modest and teachable and seek to know the truth by study and faith. There have been times when progress was halted by thought control."

"Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against each other so that the best, which might not always be our own, can prevail." [Wouldn’t Sunday school be cool if it were approached in this manner?]

"One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking. More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts." [This statement flies in the face of much of what is taught about apostasy over the pulpit].

I love the spirit I feel when I read these quotes. I have read a lot of material with different views about the church recently, and I have noticed that different authors (and even different blogs, quotes, etc from the same author) carry different spirits. Some writings have the spirit of seeking truth (even if they challenge traditional lds thinking), while others have different and sometimes darker spirits borne of other motivations. I appreciate very much the blogs I have read where the writers challenge church culture and dogma for the truth’s sake.

Cub said...

I found an interesting definitions of apostasy. According to Britannica (from dictionary.com), apostasy is

"the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith, publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ."

I like the simplicity of this definition. The focus of the definition is on Jesus Christ—apostasy is the rejection of Christ, and heresy is the rejection of one of Christ’s doctrines without rejecting Him. I believe that as long as we put our trust in Christ, and not in the arm of the flesh, we will avoid apostasy. So, as I relinquish my fear of ecclesiastical leadership and put my faith in Jesus, I am becoming less and less apostate (or at least I risk apostasy less and less). Sure seems a lot simpler to focus of Christ to avoid apostasy than to focus on “avoiding the mists of darkness that lead to personal apostasy by [1] repenting of our sins, [2] overcoming offense, [3] eliminating faultfinding, [4] following our Church leaders . . . [5] humbling ourselves [6] forgiving others [7] keeping our covenants [7] partaking of the sacrament worthily each week [8] strengthening our testimonies through prayer, [9] daily scripture study, [10] temple attendance where possible, [11] magnifying our Church callings, and [12] serving our fellowmen.” Ensign, June 2009.

Spektator said...

Perhaps it would help to define apostasy. Here is how the Church defines it according to the Handbook:
“Apostasy refers to members who:
1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
4. Formally join another church.
In such cases, excommunication may be necessary if repentance is not evident after counseling and encouragement.
Priesthood leaders must take disciplinary action against apostates to protect Church members. The Savior taught the Nephites that they should continue to minister to a transgressor, “but if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may destroy my people (3 Nephi 18:31; see also Mosiah 26:36)”

What is a heretic?

There is a good description in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
“In general, the word "orthodoxy," which derives from the Greek orthos, "straight" or "right," and doxa, "opinion" or "belief," means adhering to what is commonly accepted, customary, or traditional. The term "heterodoxy" means not being in agreement with accepted teachings or holding beliefs that go contrary to established norms. The word "heresy," from the Greek hairesis, initially was a value-free term based on the word meaning "to choose" or "to act with purposive effort." This term came to mean any school, movement, or religious system of belief that was freely chosen. By the second century A.D., however, "heresy" was used in a strictly negative sense, referring to the doctrine of those who publicly dissented from or denied any of the established teachings of the tradition to which they belonged. The dissenter was thus a "heretic." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1-4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992),, p.1054)”

I could easily accept the first century definition of ‘heretic’ as one who acts with a purpose or one who chooses.

So… when does a heretic become an apostate? I would suggest this happens when the candidate runs afoul of the leaders of the church. What is ironic to me is the mention of the support of plural marriage as a marker of an apostate. So if doctrine can change with time, how does one handle the implications. My great great grandfather was chastised for only taking 3 wives. Today, he would be excommunicated. So one could essentially stand still doctrinally and be shifted from orthodox to apostate…

Spek the heretic...
Has a nice ring to it.