Sunday, March 20, 2016

D&C, Earliest Extant Transcripts version

I spent the last several months creating a new version of the Doctrine and Covenants, generated from the earliest available versions of each section.  It is written in the same paragraph form as used in the source materials, with the verse numbering of the standard, current edition provided throughout in red superscript.

I have also included, as part of this edition, the Lectures on Faith and the original Section 101, both of which were removed from scriptural publication by Church committees lacking the consent or approval of the membership, making them still canonized scripture.

The book is available in ebook form and PDF, available to download for free. There is a link in the sidebar to take you to the download page with the different versions, or you can click HERE to go to the downloads page.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Held to a Higher Standard

The process of altering the definitions of words and phrases has proven to be a massive problem for those attempting to understand the scriptures in the LDS church. While the words on the page remain constant, the understanding of those words changes as we alter the definitions, thereby twisting the understanding of the scriptures themselves. Those raised in the church use words such as "church," "testimony," "know," and many more, which are normal English words with normal English definitions.  But within the LDS Church, the definitions of these words have been replaced or altered from the standard English understanding, with the new Mormon definitions having no acknowledgment or acceptance outside of the LDS Church. That provides not only a fertile breeding ground for confusion and misunderstanding within the Church, but a language barrier which must be overcome by anyone outside the Church who is trying to learn about its teachings.

One phrase that I feel I am watching be redefined at present is "higher standard." The alteration of its definition is coming through the practice of claiming that those who hold elevated seats of power and authority are held to a "higher standard."

When someone makes this claim, they generally either mean something more synonymous with "higher expectations" or "higher hopes," or they are speaking from a place of understanding that's how things should be, while largely denying that things are not as they should be. If a person holds a station of elevated authority and power, which elevated station is theoretically only obtained and held through meeting and maintaining an actual higher standard, then all who hold the elevated station necessarily must be meeting and maintaining the higher standard. Because that's how things should work, it is declared that's how things do work.  And to question whether they actually are working that way, or point to observable instances where they are not, is therefore offensive, and such must be decried.

But that's not how a "standard" works, and "standard" is not synonymous with "hopes" or even "expectations."

"Hopes" and "expectations" refer to what precedes evaluation, where a "standard" is the basis for the evaluation itself, on which consequences hinge. In its simplest form, there is a pass-or-fail point in a scale of measurement; those measured against that standard either pass or they fail.  A "higher standard" necessarily requires that there be more than one point of pass-or-fail, to establish the "higher" comparison.  There is at least one lower/average/regular standard, and then a higher one, which is more difficult to meet.  A high jump can be used as an example.  A regular standard can be compared to setting the bar at two feet, which a substantial portion of the population can jump over with little difficulty.  But when the bar is moved up to five feet, far fewer people are capable of jumping over the bar.  The five-foot bar is a higher standard.

For a standard to be "held," or for something to be "held" to a standard, means that what we evaluate against the standard must receive due reward for success or failure, without exception.  If a person is measured against a standard and does not meet it, the moment that you move the goalposts to redefine failure as success, the notion of a "standard" has evaporated. In this way, holding a standard is intrinsically related to the concept of "justice."

When speaking of behavior, there are only so many standards against which one may be reasonably measured.  One which we should all be familiar with is the concept of "law" (whether Divine or man-made). There are laws which all are expected to obey, with punishments affixed for failure to obey, establishing a baseline standard. For someone to be held to a "higher standard," more must be required of them than of those held only to the baseline standard.  A higher standard for behavior must be established in at least one of two ways:

1.) The higher standard has additional laws or requirements which must be kept, in addition to the laws making up the baseline standard.
  • We will use adultery as an example. The regular standard is to not commit adultery. A higher standard could include that in addition to not committing adultery, they must not harbor desires for adultery in their heart.  Should the person being held to the higher standard offend either of these, then they fail to meet or maintain the higher standard. The standard is higher because it is easier to offend the law, or alternately, more difficult not to offend the law.
2.) When one who is held to a higher standard offends the law, their punishment would be more severe than those who are only held to a lesser standard.
  • Let's say an offender of the regular standard breaks a certain law and the punishment is 10 years in prison. To claim a higher standard, one who commits the same offense must be punished with the same 10 years in prison, plus something more. The standard is higher because the punishment for offense is more severe, or else it is the same standard and not a higher one.
If failing to meet or maintain the higher standard does not require the loss of all authority, privileges, etc., which are granted by meeting the higher standard, then it is not a "standard" at all.

If one is not actually required to meet additional requirements atop a baseline standard, and/or they do not suffer greater consequences for committing an offense, then whatever standard they are held to, it is not "higher."  At best, they are held to the same standard as everyone else, which means they do not qualify for the elevated authority, power, rights and privileges associated with the higher standard.

Increasingly, those we claim are held to a "higher standard" are actually held to a standard beneath the regular one, a sub-standard.  Those held to this falsely "higher" sub-standard may act in ways that should be considered an offense–not only against the higher standard, but even against the baseline one–yet go unpunished. Or, if they are in fact punished for an offense, the punishment is less than that which would be exacted from those who are only held to the baseline standard. The higher standard is not upheld, and therefore it doesn't exist, outside of our vain imaginations.

In my view, we are currently redefining the phrase "higher standard" as higher hopes coupled with a sub-par standard. This is generating anger and resentment among many of those at the baseline standard, as they watch those supposedly held to a higher one instead enjoying a standard lesser than their own, while claiming all the power and privileges of the higher standard.  Others anxiously defend the phony higher standard, whether because they aspire to be numbered among those ranks themselves, or because they know and care about some of those in elevated stations and can't bear to consider the possibility that they may not be legitimately qualified, or out of fear that acknowledging the problems would reveal our weakness and foolishness and implode the system.

Whatever the case, redefining the "higher standard" in this way only makes it more appealing to the wicked and corrupt, as they see and understand that not only do they gain power and authority, but less will be required of them than those they gain power and authority over. With great power comes less responsibility, and accountability.

That is a dangerous standard for a supposedly free people to maintain.