Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Thomas S. Monson's Court Date

The Mormon Internet, as glimpsed through the lens of my Facebook feed, has erupted recently with news that a British judge has issued a summons to none other than Thomas S. Monson. As can be expected, this has been accompanied by a flurry of opinions expressed via electronic invectives. I quickly found that I, too, had opinions on this matter; however, rather than express them on Facebook like a mouth-breathing plebeian (hi Facebook friends who might be reading this!), I'm going to put them on a blog. Like a sir.
"I believe I shall use the word 'Plebeian!' Jolly good!"

I had a lot of questions about this whole story from the moment I first saw a link to this article.  The first question for me, as I'm sure it was for most people, was: Is this even real? Granted, The Daily Telegraph is more respectable than its more tabloidy (totally a real word) cousin, The Daily Mail, but there's still this it that makes me wary.
"Slight dash of xenophobia? Brilliant!"
The next question, of course, is: What exactly is the plaintiff hoping to get from all this? I get that he's a disaffected former bishop and stake president, and I understand he's accusing the Church in general (and President Monson in particular) of perpetuating historical inaccuracies and teaching fraudulent doctrine in order to swindle tithing money from unsuspecting Church members. I also understand that he may be hoping for a similar situation to the one Scientology found itself in in France.

Yes, of course the Church perpetuates historical inaccuracies; I'm not arguing against that.  I too get upset when I find that correlated lesson manuals gloss over the really salient (or, more frequently, the really troubling) bits of our history. The multiple accounts of the First Vision, the sordid history of polygamy, the freaking-Adam-God-theory...there's a lot that gets mysteriously left out of Our Heritage.  Or is it mysterious? Is it really that out-of-the-ordinary to find a Church publishing a believer's history of itself rather than something more dispassionate? Is it really any stranger to leave out the bit about Joseph and Oliver using a witching rod than it would be to, say, downplay the fact that a certain church's founder mostly just really wanted to get divorced?
A man of his size would require at least four court summons.
Also, a civil court charging the Church with teaching fraudulent doctrine? I can picture the headlines now: "UK court finds LDS doctrine false, accidentally disproves entire Judeo-Christian religious spectrum; Buddhism, Hinduism put on notice."

The final question that's occurred to me, however, is this: Why are we so upset about this? More than likely, this is some weird judge making a strange ruling that will get thrown out or overturned any second now.  But even if that's not the case, what's so wrong with President Monson going to court? Though it's fallen out of vogue of late, Church leaders being brought before civil authorities is not exactly new.  Plus, why are we pretending like having the Prophet testify in court that he actually believes in the teachings of the Church is somehow bad? Isn't that the secret dream of 50,000+ missionaries around the world?
"A public forum for our prophet to express a heartfelt testimony of God, the Savior, and the Restoration, given in the face of persecution? No, thank you!"