Today I taught the lesson in Elders Quorum, and it drained me. It was the Pres. Kimball lesson on having no other gods before God (#14). I framed it in terms of Christ’s teaching to choose between God and Mammon, as one can only have one master. Then I wanted to go through Pres. Kimball’s thoughts to figure out how to live a life devoted to God in a world where subsistence depends on Mammon.
As some history, I stopped going to church for a year, and was only half-active for a few years before that, because I couldn’t see how this church related to Christ’s teachings or Joseph Smith’s project any more. Christ clearly taught to take care of the poor and never taught anything close to seeking riches. Joseph constantly strove to establish Zion, or at least societies without poor.
For the past many years, I’ve seen modern Mormonism as being thoroughly polluted and dominated by cold war philosophies that have nothing to do with the teachings of Christ or Joseph Smith. We are so afraid of ‘socialism’ that any talk of helping the poor on a societal level makes people nervous if not reactionary. Our current rhetoric concerning the family is also thoroughly infused with cold war ideas (completely unrelated to the teachings of Christ and only tangentially connected to any of Joseph’s teachings).
Thus, we are able to believe that it is the poor’s fault for being poor, it is evil to want to do anything about it on a large scale, and all we have to do to be disciples of Christ is create a comfortable, bourgeois existence for ourselves and our kids. Then we marvel that other groups in the Christian right happen to believe the same things we do, not recognizing that our current religion comes from the same source as theirs.
Anyway, this is what I came to be convinced of, and it is why I couldn’t stand to be around Mormons for a long time. I’ve since realized that my view was too dogmatic and that there is clearly more going on in the church than this. Since I’ve been back, I’ve seen a lot of truly Christian beauty in Mormonism.
Nevertheless, the stereotype of the Mormon cold warrior who thinks that focusing on the strictly-defined ‘nuclear’ family protects him from any leftist tendencies to consider the poor is not without some basis in reality. My EQ consists almost entirely of grad students. Some of us are in academic disciplines, but the majority of elders are in programs that will provide them with fantastic incomes and that don’t require them to really question or analyze too much.
Well, today I tried to prepare a lesson for everyone. Here I have quotes from Pres. Kimball saying that we shouldn’t focus on money, that we should help the poor, that wealth (capital) is dangerous. I thought I could use them and some passages from the scriptures to gently nudge the more fiscally-minded members of the quorum to consider what will be a truly Christian use of the considerable wealth they will one day enjoy.
But then my academic buddies kept wanting to expose the machinery of capitalist thinking and the protestant work ethic within LDS thinking. I didn’t disagree with anything they said – I’d already taken a break from Mormons as one firmly believing it. But was this the way to reach the members of the EQ who probably do believe that Jesus actually taught that men need to make a good living (which He didn’t), that women need to stay home and nurture within a comfortable bourgeois home (which He didn’t) in order to raise a righteous, ‘blessed’ family – and that this is the sum of the ‘gospel’?
Is EQ the place to expose all of the philosophies of men, clung to during the cold war, that still have such a negative effect on LDS thinking? Should one (teacher or participant) charge directly into all of the ways that such thinking contradicts the NT, D&C, BoM and other scripture? I opted to take a gentler approach, but I think I only managed to anger my more analytic friends while still alienating the future wealthy of America. My goal was to bring in the spirit and create quorum unity as we explored how to use the great wealth we all have to do God’s will.
How do you teach this lesson, or approach this topic in a church class?