Swing Kids has a promising premise: the struggles of kids in Nazi Germany who love American swing. It touches on a theme that I wonder about often: how much would I sacrifice for my principles? It is regrettably overacted which distracts from the power of the story. Sometimes, less is more.
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“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.” (Bernard Berenson)
I thought immediately of all those covenants that I made as a Mormon. Some would tell me that I’ve lost my integrity by breaking eternal covenants. I felt bad about that for a while. Now I see that integrity demands that I break covenants made under falsehood. Constancy in promises can be a vice which values personal reputation over loyalty to the truth.
The only promises I regret breaking are those I made to flesh and blood.
Words to live by, the essence of my outlook on life.
Is it just me, or does “Follow the living prophet” contradict “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves”? On the one hand we are exhorted to follow whatever the current prophet says. On the other, we are supposed to be given correct principles and then left to govern ourselves. So which is it: prophet or principles?
Some may say that the living prophet is the source of correct principles, but surely a correct principle won’t change with the changing of church administrations. If prophet A teaches X as the word of God and prophet B preaches the opposite of X similarly, then one of them isn’t teaching a correct principle. Or they make God changeable. Either way, they are not a source of principles as I understand the word.
For example, Brigham Young sounds uncompromising when he says “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, page 269). When we remember that the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage was historically understood to refer to polygamous marriage (hence the need to keep this section secret for years), it is evident that Doctrine and Covenants 132 supports Brigham Young’s view.
Gordon B. Hinckley sounds equally uncompromising when he says “I condemn [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal.” (Larry King Live, aired 8 September 1998) Hinckley receives support from Official Declaration 1, only if we accept the idea that a current prophet can flatly contradict what a previous prophet taught as an eternal principle.
Some may claim that this apparent contradiction reflects a deeper principle, the principle of Jacob 2 where polygamy is righteous when God commands it. If that is the principle, then Brigham Young and Gordon Hinckley have both proven themselves unreliable in providing the correct principle by which the people can govern themselves. Given their public statements, their hearers would be unable to govern themselves. The audience is beholden to the prophets for constant guidance. Nothing that a prophet states as the truth can be relied upon to remain in force, even if the prophet states that it is an eternal principle:
The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259, emphasis added)
Contrast this train wreck of conflicting doctrine with the conservation of energy: energy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. This principle applies everywhere and for all time. We can rely on it to be true. When compared to the shifting sands of Mormon prophetic writ, this physical principle seems like an oasis in the desert.
The only principle that the Mormon church seems to preach is complete obedience to the titular head of its hierarchy. They are not, as Brother Joseph poetically put, taught correct principles and allowed to govern themselves. I wish they were.