Ep 262 – A Tale of Two Poelmans

Written by on February 21, 2016

In 1984, Elder Ronald E Polman delivered a talk titled “The Gospel and the Church” in General Conference. It emphasized the importance of an eternally divine gospel being delivered through a man-made fallible church. The Brethren did not like this message, and made him re-write the talk to make the church as eternally divine and infallible as the gospel. They also made him re-deliver the talk in front of an empty tabernacle to record it and pass it off as the original. But thanks to home VCRs, they got caught. And today you can hear all about it, including clips from both the original talk and the re-written message. So listen in as Glenn and Scott (aka Jesse) are joined by Rock Waterman and James Rogers two discuss A Tale of two Poelmans.
*This recorded conversation was previously released in January 2011 on another podcast but has since been removed. Now it is back where it belongs.

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  1. Thomas Moore   On   February 21, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    At minute 15:30 Rock brought up a past phrase the church used to use all the time (I mostly grew up in SWK as prophet); that phrase is “Free Agency”. In approx. 2014 the leaders determined that members, CES, teachers, etc… should not use the phrase “Free Agency”. The explanation was that it was redundant, since Agency meant Freedom of Choice. There were many talks, but the one that I thought of was Free Agency or Moral Agency by Michael Morris. https://www.lds.org/liahona/2014/10/youth/free-agency-or-moral-agency?lang=eng
    This was just a double down talk on What the Church teaches About Agency, which seems to have been started around 2006. https://www.lds.org/topics/agency/what-the-church-teaches?lang=eng
    The way I was raised is we were/are Free. Yet, the “talks” make it seem like we’re not free. If we use our agency against the Church, they will take action and take away freedoms like free to attend Temple sessions, pay tithing, commune with members, etc…
    So Rock and I grew up with “Free Agency”…while later, younger members only have Agency.

    • Rick   On   February 21, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      I remember multiple seminary/institute/sunday school lessons where we were encouraged to not use the term Free Agency, but instead Agency, because of the redundancy. This was in the early 00’s through the early 10’s.

      • Thomas Moore   On   February 22, 2016 at 2:21 am

        Yes, they started taking Orson Hyde’s talk about English Grammar and using proper syntax to heart??? Which I guess they can use to justify the over 3,000 changes (corrections) to the BoM, not to mention the changes (corrections) to the D&C or why they can’t justify canonizing the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible; because of bad grammar and incorrect syntax??? http://journalofdiscourses.com/7/11

    • Orrin Dayne   On   February 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      From what I recall from reading his biography, David O. McKay was huge on “free agency” which left a substantial mark on the LDS culture given the length of his term as president. I remember when they finally decided to tank the term “free agency.” I wonder what McKay would think about that.

  2. KLucy   On   February 21, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    You talked about what was going on in the ’80s to make the Church so afraid of empowering people. You didn’t mention the Lafferty murders, which happened in July, 1984. The Polman talk was later that same year in October General Conference. If you ask me, the Church has a serious Nephi problem: They have to deal with the fact that their religion is built on this book in which the righteous Nephi sets an example by slaying when the voice in his head tells him to. The Church tries to control this dangerous idea by declaring (more or less) that they are today’s Nephi, and you are only authorized to obey the voices that they tell you to obey (not your own). Their only responsible option is to learn and seriously teach an exegesis that would call into question the rightness of Nephi’s act of murder. But that would mean a dramatic expansion of Mormon theology, and the abdication of their power as the presumed heirs to Nephi’s office for today.

  3. johnrc2   On   February 21, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Good points. Excellent talk by Poelman as originally given. I first heard of this redaction in 1986, though I was never able to hear the original and the alteration. So, thanks for sharing this. Whoever, called this original talk “a masterpiece” was right.
    People growing up in the church today think this authoritarianism is the way it has always been, but speaking as a person growing up in the 50’s, in a part-member family, under David O. McKay, and basically converting myself to the church and the gospel, I can emphatically tell you that this is NOT the way it has always been.
    It’s apparent to me this panel dates from the post-Poelman era. They are so concerned about what the church wants them to believe, vs what they know to be true, which they reduce to “something we feel good about”. You people really, honestly don’t know the difference between the church and the gospel, and this discussion is merely an academic exercise for you.
    The idea of church and gospel being separate was first planted in my mind by one of my BYU profs in the 1968-73 period of time.
    Later, I also came to realize that the church, the gospel, the Priesthood, and the Kingdom of God are separate, but related entities. Relationship does not imply identity. Indeed, relationship implies and necessitates separate entities.
    The principles of the gospel are eternal, but our understanding of the application of the gospel is not eternal. We only have as much understanding as we can collectively comprehend and apply at this time. (Still keeping Alma 12:9 in mind.) This is why we need living prophets — to help us understand and apply the gospel consistent with our own time, place, and culture. Our own Book of Mormon teaches us that God speaks to all peoples of the world, each in a way they can understand.
    No, the church is NOT the Kingdom of God on earth! It is clear from reading the D&C and even clearer from reading to revelations to John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. Reading the 4 Gospels, it is easier to prove that Christ established the Kingdom of God than that he organized an institutional church.

    • Randy_Snyder   On   February 22, 2016 at 7:01 am

      You, honestly, got one thing right. We don’t know what your vivid imagination believes what the difference between what the gospel in your mind is and the church in your mind is. It is clear to me the D&C “reveals” to us the earth is younger than most stalactites in name your cave are. So please, make another argument using the D&C as your authoritative source of ontological truth. It’s so compelling.

    • Brother Jake   On   February 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Yours definitely sounds like a more interesting time to be LDS. All the Infants come from the post-Poleman/correlated era, and that certainly colors how we perceive Mormonism. I’m sure a more compartmentalized mentality vis-a-vis the institutional church and the “gospel” would make for a better starting point, but I’m not comfortable deferring to LDS scripture as an ultimate source of truth. That seems like an exceedingly sandy foundation upon which to base one’s epistemology to me.

    • Zeke   On   February 23, 2016 at 1:58 am

      So the gospel says the church is related through the priesthood to the Kingdom of God??? And that’s why i need to keep paying tithes, learn a bunch of secret handshakes, perform the callings and attend the temple. How do I start a business, i mean church, like that? Awfully good work if you can get it……….

    • Saint Ralph   On   February 23, 2016 at 3:15 am

      That’s a very interesting point. I grew up in Salt Lake in the ’50s and early ’60s. My immediate family were apparently “Jack Mormons,” doctrinal “believers” who smoked cigarettes, drank coffee and almost never attended church. Many of our relatives and most of the Mormons in our neighborhood were the same as us, though there were some TBMs two doors down and some across the pasture behind us, as well as some of our extended family.
      The stories you hear on Mormon Stories and other podcasts of people struggling to find their way out of what amounts to an oppressive cult didn’t apply to our lives then. The kids from the TBM families in the neighborhood came to our birthday parties. Our TBM relatives came to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s where there was no shunning or shaming or weeping or shouting. The Mormonism we knew then was not what you hear about nowadays.
      What hadn’t occurred to me was that my experience of the church (which pretty much ended when I moved away at 14) was all pre-correlation.
      You’re right, the church in those days was not the one you hear and read about now.

  4. Happy Hubby   On   February 22, 2016 at 2:44 am

    I can’t remember where I heard about this do-over and how the original seemed better. So I essentially gave the original talk in Elder’s Quorum as a lesson. he he he 🙂

  5. GringoMex82   On   February 22, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I love this! It’s great to hear Glenn and Jesse/Scott pre-IOT. I’ve been thinking of filtering through old episodes of M.E., but it’s hard to tell which ones are worth listening to.
    Also, Rock Waterman sounds so much like Matt/Seth Rogan!

  6. AxelDC   On   February 22, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    When I first left the church, I attended a few liberal Protestant congregations. There theme was “find your own path to the Savior”. After a while, I started to realize that if I were finding my own path, I didn’t really need them for anything other than social connections.
    I think the LDS Church feared that if members started to think that the church was just a conduit to the Gospel, and not the Gospel itself, then they could circumvent the corporate structure and go directly to God. Such a heresy would render the church and its leaders redundant and unnecessary in the lives of its members, so they would cease to give money and time while they pursued their spiritually on their own. This defensive posture is self-preservation of the institution, not salvation of the soul.

  7. Orrin Dayne   On   February 22, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    This podcast episode was too good to be imprisoned behind a firewall. I’m glad the co-authors decided to set it free. (“This is a [podcast] Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We’re stealin’ it back!”).

    • Glenn   On   February 22, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      This one isn’t behind the firewall. It was ironically flushed down the ME memory hole altogether. Makes you wonder why, don’t it???

      • ART   On   February 23, 2016 at 4:12 am

        I’ve also noticed all of John’s “Best Of” episodes have all been Glenn-free. Fortunately ME is archived online elsewhere. I think ME is worth paying for, but John doesn’t deserve sole credit for all of it and he’s so inept at web hosting that it’s unlikely a purchase for “permanent access” will last more than a couple years before the site gets shut down with no announcement or recourse.

      • Saint Ralph   On   February 23, 2016 at 6:34 pm

        Even if you have “permanent access,” a number of the links are funky, i.e. the description comes up, but the player disappears before you can click on it, or you get a banner saying that “you need permanent access to access this content,” which when you click on it, says you already have permanent access, but leaves nothing clickable but the “back” button.
        I’ve tried leaving a message on his other site (there is no comment or contact link on ME anymore) but have heard nothing.

      • Orrin Dayne   On   March 4, 2016 at 1:23 am

        The streak of Glenn-free “Best of” episodes has ended! The First Vision for Dummies episode was just released in the past couple days.

  8. Bitherwack   On   February 23, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Just as an aside… Elder Ron Poelman died in 2011, a few months after this was recorded. I’m sorry we no longer have the possibility of hearing his perspective on the incident.

  9. Jesus H. Christ   On   February 23, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    The Poelman episode is another excellent example of how church leaders feel compelled to be authoritarian in order to stamp out the scourge of “apostate groups”, and in the pre-Internet age when Poelman gave his talk, that “apostate threat” was largely the Mormon fundamentalists hold scripture and precedents set by Joseph Smith as being more authoritative than the policies and pronouncements of living Church leaders. Poelman’s talk was indeed a masterpiece, and if the GAs had embraced the paradigm he presented, they would have positioned the church to withstand the information explosion of the Internet so much better. But the GAs have for so long been so obsessed with distancing the Mormon brand from polygamy that they feel compelled to be authoritarian leaders in order to prevent and root out secret polygamy practice among the membership.
    To be fair to the GAs, Old Joe put them in an impossible position. On the one hand, he gave them a narrative to use to claim authority. On the other hand, what Joseph Smith did with his authority–e.g., his antics with polyandry and polygamy–were so controversial that his successors had to discontinue some of his practices. So some of Joseph’s practices had to be abandoned. But abandoning core Joseph Smith doctrines like plural marriage and the united order created an obvious contradiction: On one hand, LDS leaders claim authority through Joseph Smith, but on the other hand, they’ve abandoned some of Joseph’s core practices. What are church members to make of that?
    Apparently the only way the GAs have seen to reconcile such an obvious contradiction is to do what they’ve done: claim authority through Joseph Smith, but also claim their authority is greater than even his, thereby giving themselves the latitude to pick and choose which of Joseph Smith’s practices to continue.
    Great episode, guys.

  10. Seth L.   On   February 23, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Great episode. Interesting to side by side compare these two talks. I try to be understanding with Mormon friends and family and say that I am OK with the church but it’s crap like this that makes me want the whole thing to crumble. This authoritarian control has created a toxic uncaring and unloving culture. It has removed thinking for yourself. All of the Mormons I know are kind and lovely people and it’s hard to see them have to toe the line their authoritarian rulers throw down.

  11. J. Cluster   On   February 24, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Oh, yes! I was scouring the Internet forever trying to find this episode! Thanks so much for posting, Glenn.

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