“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” D&C 9:7-8
In my lengthy back-and-forth discussions with many believing LDS members over the past two years I’ve noticed a pattern which I would like to give a formal appellation to. I shall henceforth call it:
The “Behold, You Have Not Understood” Response
Before describing how this response works, I’d like to instead directly illustrate it with a recent example.
Example: Only LDS people get to heaven misunderstanding
Recently on Facebook a friend of mine (anonymised) shared the following, and had the following comments:
I actually found this post quite entertaining 🙂 But I didn’t want to stir up a fight in this case so I just left it without commenting.
So what’s happening here? Well, according to the poster, many LDS and non-LDS people seem to think that LDS people believe that only LDS people are “saved”. This is herein characterised as an unfortunate, pitiful, and gross misunderstanding of LDS doctrine.
AKA: “Behold [people who have this opinion] You Have Not Understood”.
I am now going to share some quotes from formal LDS sources:
- “The Savior satisfied the demands of justice for those who repent of their sins and endeavor to keep all of His commandments when He stood in our place and suffered the penalty for our sins. This act is called the Atonement…. However, Jesus did not eliminate our personal responsibility. He forgives our sins when we accept Him, repent, and obey His commandments. Through the Atonement and living the gospel we become worthy to enter the presence of our Heavenly Father permanently. We must show that we accept Christ and that we have faith in Him by keeping His commandments and obeying the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.” PMG chapter 3 lesson 3
- “Jesus taught that we must be baptized by immersion for the remission, or forgiveness, of our sins. Baptism is an essential ordinance of salvation. No person can enter the kingdom of God without being baptized. Christ set the example for us by being baptized.” PMG chapter 3 lesson 3
- “John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism.” PMG Chapter 3 lesson 1
- “Covenants are usually made by means of sacred ordinances, such as baptism. These ordinances are administered by priesthood authority.” PMG chapter 3 lesson 3
From the above quotes, I’d like to talk about what is the most reasonable interpretation of these quotes.
- Baptism is essential for salvation (herein called “to be saved”)
- Baptism must be done by the correct authority to be valid
These are basic LDS beliefs. LDS 101. Missionaries teach these to investigators world-wide daily.
This appears to clearly contradict the notion of “only LDS are saved”. Is it relatively clear from the above quotes how someone might reasonably have the understanding that LDS people only think LDS people will be saved? (Often at this point believing members retreat into a more complicated, nuanced and sophisticated viewpoint, not substantiated by formalised statements).
Generalisation of the “Behold, You Have Not Understood”
The pattern is as follows. There are three characters:
Person 1: Non-LDS / apostate LDS / doubting LDS person
Person 2: Currently believing LDS person with nuanced worldview
People 3: LDS leadership and their formalised statements
This is what happens:
Step 1: Person 1 makes some kind of claim about LDS doctrines or beliefs.
Step 2: Person 2 denies the accuracy of that claim, claiming that person 1 has not properly understood LDS doctrine (This is the “Behold, You Have Not Understood” part)
Step 3: Formalised statements from Persons 3 often contradict the “nuanced, sophisticated” worldview of person 2. This is either pointed out by person 1 (if they are knowledgeable enough) or it just remains in the background as a fact.
There’s a big irony here. The irony is that I actually prefer the worldview of person 2 over persons 3. Moving from a black-and-white, all-or-nothing worldview to a more nuanced, sophisticated worldview is a “baby step” forward in my opinion. It’s just a shame that persons 3 often contradict those views, when we look for their statements.
To take this further, as persons 3 get old and die, new persons 3 come up the leadership chain, and make statements that contradict the old persons 3, which leads to further “Behold, You Have Not Understood” stuff happening. It’s so funny to hear things in general conference like “people often misunderstand X or misunderstand Y” when the original source of the misunderstanding of X and Y can often be shown to originate in earlier statements of LDS leaders (other persons 3). We are our own worst enemies. Many of the headaches the LDS church experiences are from its own history.
In my life and discussions, this pattern has occurred for so many conversations on so many topics that it’d be impossible for me to innumerate them all, or give all of the examples. This “Behond, You Have Not Understood” is also a key factor in apologetics.
Behold, We HAVE Understood
Sorry guys, in many cases the problem is that critics HAVE understood the LDS church’s position on things. When Gordon Hinckley says the entire veracity of the church rests on the first vision and it’s either true or a fraud, we HAVE understood. When the church teaches other baptisms are invalid due to lacking the correct authority, we HAVE understood. When Brigham Young said that Adam was God made flesh and he brought one of his plural wives with him to the earth (Eve) we HAVE understood.
But please, keep being entertaining 🙂 it’s quite fun.