Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Institutions, Freedom and Joseph Smith

A few historians speak of Joseph Smith's great charisma as the key to his success. Others claim Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, suffered from megalomania. Although not an official psychiatric diagnosis according to DSM-IV (psychiatric Bible), megalomania is defined as "the obsession with, either in the form of irrational perceived need for or preoccupation with in one's own estimation having and/or obtaining, grandiosity and extravagance (especially in the form of great fame and popularity, material wealth, social influence or political power. While Joseph Smith claimed to be a prophet of God which could be considered a "delusion of grandeur," and while Joseph did hold great influence among those who shared his belief, I think that any claim of megalomania is unfounded. In fact, the life and teachings of Joseph Smith teach the very opposite principle.

Joseph Smith was an organizer and delegator. While he established himself as a prophet and spiritual leader over a church with hundreds of thousands of members, a military and political leader at Nauvoo, Illinois; Joseph Smith created institutions and organizations and delegated authority to them as much as possible. On the spiritual side, Joseph organized the Church of Jesus Christ after the manner in which he believed it was organized in the New Testament with a Quorum of 12 Apostles, Quorums of Seventy, and Quorums of Elders (Presbyters) and Deacons. He also called local Bishops and authorized them to shepherd and lead congregations in a number of communities starting at Kirtland, Ohio and stretching to Independence and Far West, Missouri and then to Nauvoo, Illinois. Megalomaniacs have a high degree of paranoia associated with their psychosis and have difficulty trusting others with power. This doesn't seem to fit the picture of Joseph Smith.

In addition to organizing spiritual organizations to govern the church, Joseph Smith organized community and political organizations and institutions. The most famous organization is the women's Relief Society which is the largest women's organization today in the world. Also Joseph organized the city of Nauvoo with schools, newspaper, press, Masonic Lodge, and many other institutions. Megalomaniacs seek control and seek for their followers to be completely depenedent upon them.

The significance and result of this high degree of organizational behavior is that after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844, all of the major doctrines, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and all church governing structures were in place. As a result, the LDS church has continued on without significant changes since. A sign of Joseph Smith's inspiration is the fact that the major doctrines, practices, and government of the church were all instituted and made interdependent, yet self-sustaining in 14 short years. Today, a doctoral thesis is rewarded for someone who contributes one piece of new knowledge to their field. Joseph Smith not only created a church but a culture and the outline for a perfect society.

The significance of the importance of institutions applies to our situation today. Our constitution is based on the principle of self-government and limited central government. We see this today in many areas. Medicine has its own accrediting and professional organizations. Attorneys the same. Even Amateur Radio has the AARL (American Amateur Radio League) separate from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Why all these independent institutions? Because we in American believe in being self-governed. And so we have established these institutions to develop rules and policies of self-government so the federal government doesn't have to. The great institutions of this country uphold and secure the individual freedoms and liberties of the people. And they do a much more efficient and more effective job in regulating behavior, promoting cooperation, and facilitating the delivery of quality goods and services for the people than the federal government can.

Why do I bring this up? Because whenever there is troubled economy, and whenever institutions fail, or individuals over institutions abuse their power and harm the public, it is a temptation of the people to loose their faith in our great institutions, give up our individual freedom, and place our trust, faith and hope onto a charismatic leader or into a more powerful federal government. This is a theme in the Book of Mormon Book of Ether and the Jaredite story according to Hugh Nibley (There Were Jaredites). Also, we see in Alma the stuggle of Captain Moroni against those they called "king-men" who wanted to do away with their elected government in favor of a king who promised government appointments and power to his supporters. I am sure those who wanted to be king also made great promises to the people as well.

With this in mind, I am disturbed by something that was said by Barack Obama's Investment Banker, Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emmanuel; who was quoted as saying we need to take advantage of this crisis situation and do things we couldn't ordinarily do. He is quoted as saying:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that, it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before. This is an opportunity, what used to be long-term problems, be in the health care area, energy area, education area, fiscal area, tax area, regulatory reform area, things that we had postponed for too long that were long-term are now immediate and must be dealt with. And this crisis provides the opportunity for us, as I would say, the opportunity to do things that you could not do before."

What Mr. Emmanuel is saying here is not in and of itself bad or wrong. But we must be careful what changes we make as a country. As an American people, certain CEO's and politicians have let us down and betrayed us. As a consequence, we see have seen in recent months the failure, and dissolution of great banking, investment, and insurance institutions. In seeing this, we need to resist the tendency to loose faith in our great institutions of our country. And, instead of centralizing more power in the federal government, we need to seek ways to strengthen the surviving organizations. Organizations and institutions which serve our nation and community by providing jobs, benifits, goods and services, as well as contributing to the preservation of our culture, liberty, and freedom.


Charisma Expert said...

Research suggests that during tumultuous times a charismatic leader is better for a crisis over a more traditional form of leadership. After the crisis has been abated, a more traditional style of leadership is advised.

According to a USA Today article, "Charmed, I'm sure" by Steve Bodow (12/9/02), charismatic leaders enhance profitability during economic downturns. Jay Conger, a London Business School professor and USC researcher says that the traits that allow charismatic leaders to help enhance profitability are:

· A restless compulsion to challenge the status quo. The charismatic leader is most at home, and most effective, in chaos.
· A clear vision within uncharted territory to explore
· An ability to articulate a vision compellingly to any audience and to imbue it with a sense of great importance.
· An ability to create a sense that no other person could--or would--take the same tactic.
· An ability to inspire and permit those around him to do extraordinary things.

These charismatic leadership traits are relevant whether one is a CEO of a company or starting a new religion. Joseph Smith would invariably fall under the Charismatic Leadership Model. The downside of this model is that insecurity and megalomania are often part of its characteristics. For example, when studying charismatic personalities, I often find: energy, passion, vision and a relentless pursuit of a goal as well as a degree of insecurity. In this sense, "Insecurity" is the fuel for the charismatic's ambition. Many charismatics were "outcasts" from majority and exclusive groups as children. They often carry a mental recording of not being adequate by the dominant culture. Because charismatics are often extremely sensitive, these messages serve as a catalyst for proving those voices wrong. The fulfillment of achievement is self-aggrandizing to the charismatic and trickles down to society reaping the benefits when the goal is positive. Rarely are the aims of charismatics purely altruistic. Their aims often stem from their need to be honored and respected. Charismatics don't necessarily view life any differently than most people on the surface, but their motivation and missionary zeal reconstruct reality in ways that viscerally tap into latent needs within others. To this extent, Smith had phenomenal success as a religious reformer, but to portray his motivations as purely angelic would misrepresent the model. This perceived "dark side" of charismatic leaders does not take away from their ultimate contributions, unless they've gone too far as to reverse the positive effects.

Edward Brown
Core Edge Image & Charisma Institute

BRoz said...

I agree that a Charismatic leader can be highly effective. The Book of Mormon says, if you could always have a righteous man to be your king, then having a king would be preferable. But since one wicked king brings the people into great sin and bondage, it was preferable for the people to not have a king.

So according to the Book of Mormon, in our current spritual state as a human race, having kings is too risky (didnt you see what Emperer Palpitine did in Star Wars?). The Book of Mormon has its own examples in King Noah and others.

In the Millennium, mankind will live in a higher spiritual plane of existence and Christ will be our King and Priest and we will live under a theocracy. But that kind of system while very efficent runs too many risks to be abused. Therefore, our current system of elected officials and delegating authority to our institutions is the safest system.

Anonymous said...

Pity he was such a child molester