Catholics, Mormons, and Stephen Crane

My Organized Response to an LDS Missionary

Chapter 3 - Institutional Corruption

July 2001


XVI

There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.

Stephen Crane:War is Kind #16

 

I was intrigued by the fact that you read my "High School Poetry" page. That is why I published so much of it on my website. I wrote those verses at the age of fifteen and sixteen, during my personal quest of spiritual discovery. I was allowed to seek this knowledge freely, with no undue institutional coercion (regardless of what the nuns might have thought).

You noted my reference to "the savior disappeared" in Poem#4 but then took my thought entirely out of context. It is a poem, written at age sixteen,  about my loss of faith in man's institution of politics and government.

I Had No Prior Knowledge

A tune of gaiety exists.
It travels through the wilderness.
And though its course has many twists.
It offers peace through its caress.

An end to conflict and the strife
It brings with it is just a dream.
For hate has taken on a wife,
and both throw murk into the stream.

As scandal spreads throughout the land
And oral messages are speared,
All hope the government has banned --
Alas, our savior's disappeared.

02/12/75

link to "I had no prior knowlege"

As a child, I naively projected upon government leaders the gift of divine guidance and paternal love for the masses (including me). I realized that the Watergate scandal, and its revelation of how these elected officials had secretly acted, had left me feeling institutionally abandoned and crestfallen. As a child, I had naively believed these leaders to be more than just "ordinary men". They were, after all, elected leaders of large powerful institutions, called to their positions by the masses. As a child I had assumed that those facts must have logically meant that these political leaders were somehow "chosen", like the "divine right of kings".

That particular scandal, and the many predecessors and successors I have learned of since then (leading up to the most recent white house shame), let me grow up to understand that it is mere mortals, "decent men" with "decent motives", that lead these great earthly institutions. Neither a "saint" nor a divinely inspired shaman. Now, more than ever, I am aware of the corrupting influence of power. Whether the corruption comes from the right wing (with the rollback of workplace rights or destruction of irreplaceable natural resources) or from the left wing (with political payoffs and political correctness), these mere mortals can only hope to muster all of their limited human strengths to face down these challenges and stay true to their own moral compass.

I was sad back then (and even sadder now), that the evolution of the institution of politics and government had not changed since Tammary Hall or the fiefdoms of ancient England or even Socrates drinking hemlock. The very process of weeding out from the masses to select a few leaders creates great incentive to manipulate the process, a manipulation that nearly guarantees the selection of corrupt individuals through Darwinian survival. Jesus did not run for Roman prelate, he spoke simply of loving thy neighbor. He asked Peter to found a church, but He had to know that man was doomed to be corrupted by the very institution that He asked him to create.

"The savior's disappeared" was the loss of my childlike naiveté, the first admission of disillusionment, my "growing up" if you will. These institutions can either do good works for the downtrodden or cynically reroute wealth and riches ("spoils" if you will) from the masses to the few. And it will always fall upon the very human people at the top to achieve the first without succumbing to pressure (both external and of self-corruption) to do the latter.

But if, at the age of sixteen, I lost my childlike innocence, realizing that political institutions are run by corruptible men; what about the religious institutions? I was raised Roman Catholic, and there are many uncomfortable parallels between that organization and the LDS church. Both are headed by a "living prophet" whose word, when so decreed, is not considered just pontification or even law; it is actually held as the earthly interpretation of "God's Will". Such power must be very corrupting to all but the most strongly willed servant.

Am I saying the Pope is corrupt? Am I making that accusation against the current or previous LDS prophets? I shall make no such accusations here. But what I will say is that they each sit atop institutions that have granted to them easily corrupting personal power. It is easy for such a human being, such a man, to "fall away" from God's grace. To give into human wishes and frailties. The ordinary followers of such men must be very careful, I would say doubly-careful, to review each action and decree of their spiritual leader against any hint of base human motive.

But how shall we judge? Shall we sit alone in the woods or stare at the stars until we feel a "burning in our bosom"? Some would say so. I would say that such a test is no less temporal, no less influenced by the distractions of this world, no less mindless than its opposite: blind unquestioning obedience.

I left the Catholic church, after undergoing eight full years of Catechism training and performing all of the major rites between birth and adulthood, and could never ever, with clear conscience, go back. That is why it is so ridiculous for an LDS missionary to beseech me to "look into" his institution and the sacred texts of his religion in hopes of my finding conversion. It would be like a slave, freed from bondage, walking across the street to willingly reenter the servitude of a new "Massa". It is I that am offering freedom to you and all followers of Joseph Smith, freedom to accept and worship God and use your heart to serve His world.

If I will not say that the Pope and his church are "corrupt", then why will I not rejoin them? It is their requirement of blind obedience. Catholics threaten you with eternal damnation for any of a variety of offenses. High on that list is intellectually disagreeing with the decrees of the "living prophet". Of course, Mormons will tell you they do no such thing. In the LDS world, they will tell you that there is no damnation, only the denial of eternal exaltation unless you perform certain rites, all of which eventually come down to professing blind obedience to the "living prophet" and his personal interpretation of biblical and extra-biblical texts. Do they mention that the opposite of exaltation is damnation? I don't believe so, they have a pretty good PR department. The difference between LDS servitude to a living prophet and Roman Catholic servitude to a living prophet is like the old joke about the difference between capitalism and communism. Under capitalism, man exploits man, but under communism its the other way around. But this is no joking matter.

So is the current Pope corrupt? For once I can personally shout "not at all"! I have been thrilled to read his recent treatises on the value of mankind, against abortion, the immorality of any economic servitude imposed upon another. John Paul II has been a spiritual breath of fresh air for me. He is a man of great conscience pointing out the hypocrisy in both the socialist and capitalist business model. I respect him deeply, but do not and will not grant him the title of "living prophet" in my life.

Have you read much of JP2's writings? I rather doubt it. Most Mormons are very content to keep their eyes averted from the outer world, except to try to convert its "misguided" residents to join their own secret society. Do you personally read other doctrines, except for the purpose of finding and pointing out minuscule contradictions with your own or with other biblical references? I rather doubt that, too. While Mormons are nominally ecumenical, part of the so-called "brotherhood of churches", (giving a "further testimony to the same Jesus" as their heartwarming TV ads remind us); I certainly learned a great deal about how those TV slogans manifest in daily life during the three years I lived in Utah. And the lesson was no more flattering to Mormons than the one I am learning from intolerant southern Baptists in Florida. Intolerance, exclusion, and derision is the same, regardless of race, color, or creed. And it is the antithesis of the message that Jesus died delivering to us.

 

Copyright, 2001, All rights reserved

Chapter 2 Return to Main Page Chapter 4

Introduction & Background

7.

I'm Right and They're Wrong

1.

Serene Futility

8.

Under Duress

2.

Damning Hypocrisy

9.

Money in the Bank

3.

Institutional Corruption

10.

The Carrot and the Stick

4.

God's Voice

11.

Heaven Must Be Laughing

5.

"All Religions are Corrupt"

12.

God the Bouncer

6.

Sealed with Chains

13.

Unlock the Temple Doors

Catholic & Mormon Links Page




Originally Written: April 2001
First Upload: July 2001
Last Update: November 4, 2001