Monday, February 11, 2013

Latter-day Saint Scholars Versus Lay Members: A New Priestcraft (3 Nephi 6:12)

It startles the honest reader to learn of a new dichotomy, now much drummed as if decree, separating Latter-day Saint "scholars" from "lay members," "lay readers," and the like. A word to the wise: We are all students, from Kindergarten up. 

FARMS betimes snorted that whiff of nonsense: "The new format will serve two audiences. The first is scholars presenting their findings to fellow scholars." There do exist "tens of thousands of intelligent nonspecialist readers" (we're breaking it gently), and, for their beguilement, "We plan to use superior contemporary design and attractive illustrations" ("The Editor's Notebook," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7.1, 1998). 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does enjoy a lay ministry. And, following the logic of such an organization, Christians who do not hold high office may, perchance, boast of being rank-and-file members. But every candid soul must object to a dichotomy slicing "lay members" from "scholars." 

Nephi would object: "And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches" (3 Nephi 6:12). 

Should we liken the scripture unto ourselves, there's precious little mutatis to mutandis.

Fools before God (2 Nephi 9:42). Let the scholar beware! He may soon appear a fool before God, for even run-of-the-mill Saints receive the promise: "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now" (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26). "As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints" (v.33). Those that "aspire to the honors of men," the called but not chosen, "do not learn [even] one lesson" (vs.34-5)! 

Besides, the Lord "[reasons] in plainness and simplicity--to prepare the weak [for] the day when the weak shall confound the wise" (133:58). Thus even "the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. . .shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" (89: 3; 19). Don't debate the Saints!

What, if anything, have graduate degrees or expectations of graduate degrees in 2015 or 2017 to do with scholarship anyhow? There has to be some limit to careening arrogance. It's enough to make one seasick--scholars soaring on one deck; everybody else at the oars!

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