A Historical Note on “Unorthodox Mormonism”

In a shamelessly obvious attempt to become a perma blogger at BCC, juvenile instructor Ben Park has written the following guest post. Have a heart and give him a read. 

There has been a lot of discussion about the label “Unorthodox Mormon” recently—what it means, how long this idea has been around, and what their role (if any) a “Cultural Mormon” would/should have within the LDS tradition. Most discussions seem to assume a few points concerning the concept: it entails a member of the Mormon Church who does not believe in all “mainstream” beliefs or follows every dictate from the Brethren, it is a recent phenomenon attached to Mormonism’s transition into modernity, and that individuals who fall within its parameters are forced to the margins of Mormon culture. This is an especially salient topic in online discussion, as discussion groups, podcast communities, and even several books in recent years have coalesced around supposedly “unorthodox” Mormonism.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled with the increased attention to Mormon heterogeneity; indeed, I hope that this is the dominant message that sticks after this most recent “Mormon Moment.” I love the vibrancy of our faith—an open-ended vortex with limitless possibilities and numerous appropriations. As Matt Bowman astutely pointed out a few months ago, there is much that Mormons can believe, but little that they must believe.

On the other hand, the historian in me cringes at the way this heterogeneity has been framed, especially in online forums. Perhaps it is an extension of generational hubris—we are all raised being told that ours is a “chosen generation,” after all—but there seems to be a tendency to emphasize that this is a new development, that today’s unorthodox saints are shattering the strict parameters of the traditional Mormon experience. The narrative typically argues that LDS conformity, literal belief, and orthodox posturing are all being newly challenged, perhaps even transcended, and Mormonism itself is morphing into something radically different.

I fully grant that if there is anything new with Mormon cultural heterodoxy in the twenty-first century, it’s that the internet has pushed such ideas and identities into the public consciousness. Indeed, I keep waiting for some scholar with a background in religion and media to examine how certain LDS online communities and figures have become something today that would have been impossible a decade ago: a movement that shifts the primary component of thousands of individual’s Mormon identity away from LDS chapels, away from local communities, away from the traditional avenues of Mormon sociability, and toward online discussion groups that provide no new information, no novel interpretations, and no robust organization, but only a forum in which all involved are offered personal validation and a venue for personal angst.

But behind the layer of modernity’s digital footprint remains a long tradition that is being overlooked. Faith, commitment, and orthodoxy are never stolid and staid features within a static church organization; rather, they are nebulous concepts that are constantly in flux and never fully representative of larger groups and people, even if they are all participants in the same organization. Especially within Mormonism, I want to argue, there has always been a tradition of a broad spectrum of belief rather than fixed trajectory of narrow views—the latter concept is the result of Mormonism’s correlation process, which was designed to make everything (and everyone) appear uniform and indistinctive.

I aim to offer here three examples from Mormonism’s rich historical legacy of divergent and dynamic beliefs.[1]

The first anecdote comes from the late nineteenth-century. As everyone knows, the practice of plural marriage was a crucial tenet of the Mormon identity between 1852 and 1890. It was practiced by the church’s leadership, trumpeted as the familial ideal from the pulpit, and identified as the fundamental marker of LDS culture. But surprisingly, even with the leadership strongly commanding faithful latter-day saints to enter into the practice, young Mormons started to “vote with their feet” against the practice. Mostly a result of the younger generation deciding assimilation into American culture—both through ideas of marital love (which was better emulated in monogamous relationships), and the new economic fads offered by the “gentile” businesses then reaching Utah through the transcontinental railroad (which was more readily affordable for a two-spouse household)—was more desirable than the sacrifices commanded by their church.

The anti-polygamy legislation, which then led to the manifesto, later rendered these decisions made by numerous young Mormons moot; but the point remains that, for many of the saints living in Utah in the late nineteenth-century, “Mormonism” did not entail being fully obedient to a controversial yet foundational command. Such an ideological position in the face of such stern commands—remember, most LDS leaders in the period equated plural marriage with exaltation—strikes against the caricature of nineteenth-century members being always-obedient to their prophet’s demands.[2]

Move forward a few decades. When Prohibition—an act LDS leaders and state of Utah strongly pushed for—was being threatened with repeal, the Church jumped into the political discussion. President Heber J. Grant proclaimed that the eighteenth amendment, which prohibited the sale of alcohol, was “one of the greatest benefits that has come to the people of the United States,” and that repealing it would be a drastic mistake. In 1931, when the repeal debates were coming to a head, the Church added the phrase “We stand for Physical, Mental and Spiritual Health through the Observance of the Word of Wisdom,” to their youth manuals, a move that made all young members recite the motto word-for word on a consistent basis.

During the presidential election of 1932, when prohibition was a major part of both party’s campaigns, the Church took an even firmer stance. The First Presidency released a statement that justified their speaking out on the issue because it “concerns very intimately the personal moral welfare of the men and women and youth of the Nation and of the Church in the nation.” President Grant wrote several editorials in the Deseret News denouncing the repeal, and even spoke on the issue at the October conference on the same subject. “Let me promise you right here and now,” he declared to the saints, “that if you vote for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, there will be [unfortunate consequences].” He emphasized that he “hoped and prayed that we as a people would not vote for the repeal,” because doing so would be voting for wickedness. And what happened? Most of Utah voted to repeal the law by a margin better than three to one, making Utah, ironically, the final state needed to ratify the twenty-first amendment. “Thank God for Utah” a prominent banner proclaimed in a New York parade.[3]

Let’s look at one more anecdote. In Armand Mauss’s monumental Angel and the Beehive, he argued that Mormonism had assimilated into American culture to such a degree in the mid-twentieth century that the Church mad a conscious attempt at “retrenchment” for the following decades. Social, religious, and political views among the Mormons were very much in line with other people of their same demographics during the period.A survey taken at BYU in 1935 revealed the shocking news that most BYU students were not as rigid in beliefs like Mormonism being the “one true Church,” the literal reality of Satan, or even the idea that prophets were always correct. (They were, after all, children of the parents who voted against prohibition!)

The official response was a strong and sustained push over the pulpit and through correlated materials to strengthen the orthodoxy of the Church membership. The indoctrination through books by Bruce R. McConkie, the re-emphasis on Church authority, and the centralizing of beliefs and practice through correlation seemingly brought more stability.[4] But did it bring more conformity? To an extent, it definitely did, as it better demonstrated more than ever before the ideal image associated with LDS membership. But it also could have primarily masked the heterogeneity that remained at the local level, as a there was a growing rupture between the correlated image and the lived reality.

I could give more examples, like the doctrinal disputes in late Nauvoo and early Utah, the low figures of church attendance in late-nineteenth century, or even the voting patterns of the mid-twentieth century, but these anecdotes give enough of a taste.

Now, I’m not saying that there hasn’t been a strict and narrow orthodox ideal trumpeted from the pulpit, because that’s certainly not the case. Nor am I arguing that we haven’t had many faith-promoting histories that present a monolithic and conformist past, because those types of volumes still occupy the shelves in Deseret Book. These are the remnants of correlation, and a result of the centralization of cultural authority in the mid-twentieth century and the uniform image presented ever since. But I am saying that there has always been variance at the lived experience of the faith, always a spectrum of belief and practice, always a local push to assimilate with broader cultural values over the values preached from the pulpit. These tensions are nothing new. In a way, these tensions have always been at the heart of Mormonism.

Which brings me to my final point, and that has to do with the terms “cultural Mormon.” Beyond classifying—or, more accurately, caricaturing—ideas of belief and commitment into superficial, artificial, and narrow categories, to adopt the phrase “cultural Mormon” assumes that there is a clearly defined sense of what simple “Mormonism” entails. (Hence the need to differentiate.) To press for an “Unorthodox Mormonism,” a “cultural Mormonism,” a “True Believing Mormonism,” an “Open Mormonism,” or a “New Order Mormonism” means acknowledging that the basic and traditional “Mormon” label is incapable of encompassing these various cultural beliefs and expectations. It is, in itself, the same type of historical amnesia that we accuse hagiographic works of committing: it overlooks the nuance and complexity of the historical record.

I’m a firm believer that Mormon practice, Mormon belief, and the Mormon tradition embraces a broad spectrum of ideas, opinions, and realities. (And I hope the “I’m a Mormon” campaign means that many in SLC agree with me.) By forfeiting that umbrella, which is what we do by attempting to create new Mormon categories, we are conceding the elasticity of the term, overlooking the potential for its uses, and forgetting its dynamic history.

And that, I fear, would be very unfortunate.

_________________________________

I should note that some of these ideas crystalized over a lunch discussion with Matt Bowman, Jed Woodworth, and Rob Jensen, so I extend credit to them.

 [1] Note: I did have a fourth example, Edward Tullidge in 1867, but that section became so unwieldy that I made a post solely devoted to him at the only true and living blog, Juvenile Instructor. (link)

[2] Discussion of young latter-day saints, especially the generation of young women born around 1860, rejecting the practice of plural marriage is found in Kathryn Daynes, More Wives than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 173-174.

[3] Summary and quotes mostly come from Richard Cowan, The Church in the Twentieth Century (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), 128-132.

[4] Figures for LDS political, social, and religious assimilation, as well as the Church’s official response, are taken from Armand L. Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 33-45. For the surveys of BYU students, see Harold T. Christensen and Kenneth L. Cannon, “The Fundamentalist Emphasis at Brigham Young University: 1835-1973,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 17 (March 1978): 53-57. And seriously: go read this article if you have jstor. Remarkable difference between 1935 (before correlation) and 1973 (after correlation). Worthy of its own examination.

Comments

  1. Meldrum the Less says:

    I agee with about everything except the part: “we are conceding the elasticity of the term”

    It hain’t us nonconconformists changing the rules.The LDS church is becoming increasingly inflexible and isolating us and giving us the boot in one way or another. The internet allows the unorthox Mortmon to be less isolated and more visible.

    You may be a firm believer that Mormon practice, belief, and traditon embrace a broad spectrum and all that jazz but my bishop weened on pure correlated material doesn’t. He needs to realize that not everyone in the ward thinks like he does and so do 90% of the TBMs competing for his place on the Mormon ladder.

    Also I would have included J.Golden Kimball in the discussion and pointed out that the Relief Society was the driving force behind Mormon Utah voting to repeal Prohibition, but these are mere quibblings.

  2. bethanyanddaniel says:

    Ben, I usually skip the more scholarly posts because my attention span has been decimated by my blog addiction, but I found your post to be very readable and interesting. I learned some and have had my perspective changed. Thank you.

  3. Very nice, Ben

  4. Very interesting Ben. Thanks.

  5. xenawarriorscientist says:

    While I agree that the ideas discussed on the Bloggernacle usually aren’t anything truly new in Mormonism, I think it *is* causing a change in our community that is entirely new. Take the Gutenberg printing press: sure, there were heretics from Catholicism before that, and Luther probably didn’t think up all 95 theses de novo on his own. But it’d be a huge whopper to say printing technology “didn’t lead to anything new on the Catholic scene.”

    Furthermore– if novelty were the test of value, would any of us be studying the scriptures or listening to General Conference?

    Similar to these resources, I think the Bloggernacle is something that brings different things to different people at different times. It seems pretty common for people to show up, be very active in posting for a few years, and slowly drop out as they resolve some of their faith crisis issues. The lack of novelty in topics might not mean they’re irrelevent– it could also mean they’re eternal truths that keep being important to whole new crops of people over time.

  6. Ben, I like your thoughts for the most part. One quibble: you reference “online discussion groups that provide no new information, no novel interpretations, and no robust organization, but only a forum in which all involved are offered personal validation and a venue for personal angst.”

    While I personally witness this kind of thing to some extent in almost every online forum in which I’ve participated, there are others where in fact new information and novel interpretations are quite prevalent, and personal angst is mostly absent. These particular forums tend to be populated by Mormons that have seen a period of relative stability in their faith journey, i.e. they don’t feel the need to justify their beliefs or decisions as much, and they’ve reconciled much of their position and status in the Church.

  7. Jessica F says:

    I find it fascinating how correlation was successful at creating a single way to be. The history is amazingly rich. Maybe I just like the layers of the human experince that I feel sad that it has been simplified. Its also not only a Mormon thing. I think the post WW2 consumerism culture of created a possibility of conformity that did not exist before and I find that sad becuase it could have created a culture that was able to deal with complexity.

  8. So you’re saying that unorthodox Mormons are only recent because “orthodoxy” has been a relatively recent invention? That’s how I would summarize it but I don’t know if that fits with what the blog post says.

  9. The meaning of orthodoxy in Mormonism has evolved over time. Correlation is probably the main event that triggered modern orthodoxy. Richard Poll, an LDS historian, said that before correlation people didn’t really use the term “follow the Brethren.” It was an after effect of strengthening Salt Lake’s control. Orthodoxy, before then, would have been about different terms.

  10. “online discussion groups that provide no new information”

    I take this statement to mean that the forums don’t provide any information that couldn’t be found anywhere else. This is largely true, but so what? Is an information source only valuable if it is unique? The forums get information to people who otherwise wouldn’t find it — particularly those who aren’t professional historians or sociologists. To argue that the online forums serve no informational purpose is to speak from a rather privileged position.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for commenting. I have a minutes so I’ll offer a few quick responses.

    MtL: I acknowledged that the Church, through correlation, is presenting a very narrow and, well, correlated definition of the term, but for us to concede to the new restricted parameters is only to perpetuate the problematic definition.

    Bethanyanddaniel, John, and WVS: thanks a lot; I really appreciate it.

    XWS: again, I don’t think it is a change as much of a transition. The foundational structure was already set, the internet is just taking it to a more public level.

    Trevor: I fully agree that there are many venues in which real research, real interpretation, and real discussion take place. Heck, I hope so, because then I’d be wasting quite a bit of time at some of these places. However, as I’m sure you’d agree, there are some venues that are quite popular that are very much *not* that.

    Jessica: agreed, especially on your brilliant insight on consumerist culture. There needs to be a study on how Deseret Book has changed the lived religion of Mormonism within America.

    Larrin: that about sums it up, though I would mostly nuance it by saying that while there has always been an “orthodoxy” trumpeted from the pulpit, the local expectations of conformity to that orthodoxy has varied throughout the years. Drastically.

    David: Armand Mauss explores that very point in the book I mention in the post; he even charts the rise of phrases like “follow the brethren” between 1960 and 1990.

  12. Matthew: a very fair question. I’m mostly saying that the heralding of such communities that are mostly gisting other information–and usually gisting them in complex and problematic ways because they are being done by mostly untrained, if earnest and sincere, individuals–is a recent advent of the internet. In the study I mention in the paragraph you bring up, which is tangential to my larger argument and which I admittedly don’t have the expertise to write, there needs to be an examination of the dissemination and interpretation of knowledge in these non-specialists forums. There are loads of virtues, of course, like further reach of ideas and individual participation, but there are also more troubling and problematic issues that should also be addressed. That is all.

  13. “The LDS church is becoming increasingly inflexible and isolating us and giving us the boot in one way or another.”

    I’m old enough to see things very differently than that.

  14. I guess I would say I agree with Matt’s point…going further to say that scholars and researchers and historians tend to be in conflict with popularizers on a number of level, but the work of the scholars and research and historians don’t hit the mainstream UNTIL they are addressed by popularizers. Whether that is a movie, or a textbook, or something by Malcolm Gladwell, the popularizers are the ones who get those ideas into the eyes and ears and hands of the relevant publics.

    Getting to the larger point, Ben, I find these lines interesting:

    Which brings me to my final point, and that has to do with the terms “cultural Mormon.” Beyond classifying—or, more accurately, caricaturing—ideas of belief and commitment into superficial, artificial, and narrow categories, to adopt the phrase “cultural Mormon” assumes that there is a clearly defined sense of what simple “Mormonism” entails. (Hence the need to differentiate.) To press for an “Unorthodox Mormonism,” a “cultural Mormonism,” a “True Believing Mormonism,” an “Open Mormonism,” or a “New Order Mormonism” means acknowledging that the basic and traditional “Mormon” label is incapable of encompassing these various cultural beliefs and expectations. It is, in itself, the same type of historical amnesia that we accuse hagiographic works of committing: it overlooks the nuance and complexity of the historical record.

    Whenever folks claim Mormon (without any caveats, hyphens, etc.,) but do not present that Mormonism in particular ways, they are castigated and criticized by other folks as being wolves in sheep’s clothes, inauthentic Mormons, not Mormons at all. Although I agree that to press for an “unorthodox,” “cultural,” “uncorrelated” Mormonism concedes “Mormonism” to another subset (e.g., “orthodox,” “true believing,” etc.,), I think the choice to do that is often a choice against engaging (or appearing to engage) in activities that could be seen as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

    There is a huge question of institutional imprimatur as well. So, the church has diversity within it. But what are the relative institutional statures of the various parties? For example, in your polygamy example, the different statures is clear:

    It was practiced by the church’s leadership, trumpeted as the familial ideal from the pulpit, and identified as the fundamental marker of LDS culture. But surprisingly, even with the leadership strongly commanding faithful latter-day saints to enter into the practice, young Mormons started to “vote with their feet” against the practice.

    Polygamy is practiced by the church’s “leadership,” trumpeted from the “pulpit,” identified as the “fundamental” marker. These sorts of categories have more institutional imprimatur than the “young Mormons” who voted with their feet. Even if terms like “orthodox,” “unorthodox,” “uncorrelated,” “true believing,” and “new order” are fluid, reifying something that doesn’t exist as concretely as anyone might think it does — we can do a comparative analysis. That’s why, even if we disagree about the specifics, it’s not like “orthodox” or “unorthodox” are terms that are unintelligible to any of us.

  15. Ben (#11) helpfully notes that the Church has always in some way trumpeted “orthodoxy,” but that “local expectations” have varied over time. Many wish that there were now more space for “local” variation, but today people are not attached to localities, rooted in local communities as they once were (at least to a greater degree than now). The old Mormon local community might seem to us to represent an attractively longer leash from headquarters, but that community itself likely enforced an orthodoxy, or rather an orthopraxy, that would hold little appeal, I imagine, for contemporary enthusiasts of “diversity.” Church “correlation” is obviously part of a broader process of responding to new conditions that include the decline of the social and moral authority of local communities — an example of the Church adapting to requirements of times — “progressing,” you might say. The question of the possibly Gutenbergian implications of the new media for religious life is a good one, but I see little reason to hope that virtual cyber-relations can supply the defect of real communities. (Elder Bednar’s thoughtful CES talk on the subject of virtual realities comes to mind.) It is easy to see that “Correlation” marks a distinctive phase of Church development. It is harder to conceive alternatives to it.

  16. This is great, Ben. These stories need retelling, as our history of heterodoxy is a feature of our religion, not a bug. The history of Mormonism’s push-pull relationship between the pews and the pulpit isn’t something we talk about too much, and that’s perhaps a shame (again: feature, not bug).

  17. Three centuries is hardly a sufficient time frame within which to adequately examine the difference between the “strict and narrow orthodox ideal” and the straight and narrow way. The vibrancy of Nephi’s faith did not arise from an “open-ended vortex”, but by giving diligent heed to the words of eternal life as expounded by his father Lehi.

    The “nuance and complexity” of Mormon heterodoxy is at least as old as Laman and Lemuel, if not older. While Nephi continually and lovingly called his non-conformist brothers to repent in order to enjoy celestial ideals, they stubbornly insisted on transcending their way into the wilderness. They preferred to assimilate broader cultural values rather than assimilate the doctrine of Christ.

  18. So, Lucy, anyone who doesn’t believe exactly the current “orthodoxy” (whatever that is and however ambiguously it is defined) is a modern Laman or Lemuel – even if the current orthodoxy is different than a previous orthodoxy (and any number of future orthodoxies) – and even though we have these things called continuing revelation, personal accountability and living according to the dictates of our own consciences – and even if we still sustain and support the leadership of the Church in their callings and faithfully strive to carry out our own?

    Wow.

    I like Elder Wirthlin’s analogy of God’s orchestra. It is how I see Zion. I’m assuming, based on your comment, you would prefer to hear only the piccolos.

  19. I live in Oregon, and I grew up in a ward whose members had a variety of political affiliations, including as many independent/ non-affiliated members as we had republican members.

    There was an LDS member on the school board, but when release time seminary was almost cut, it was Lutheran and a Baptist members of the school board who helped keep release time seminary an option.

    There was a rich tradition of Boy Scouts, as well as a vocal minority that did not believe that BSA and the church were correct in banning gay leaders. Several good friends did not participate in cub scouts or boy scouts. It meant they were not in mutual every Wednesday, but only a few members (the five loudest had grown up in Idaho and Utah) tried to convince the families to send their boys to scouts, after they had explain their position. (All of those young men still went on missions. Two of them started going on splits with their dads and the missionaries when they were sixteen.). I want my son to be involved in scouting, and he loves it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect members who feel differently.

    By many strict interpretations of LDS culture, many of us would be considered a little, or a lot, as unorthodox mormons. Certainly there is a larger percentage of members who are not republicans, that campaign hard for causes and candidates we believe in.

    Until I started reading feminist Mormon housewives, I didn’t know that there was anything strange in having a feminist viewpoint. I knew many women at church who lived and taught with a feminist bent. I even remember a YW activity about the importance of equality in the workplace, marriages, society, and the church. We roll played how to respond when we ourselves, or someone else, was being treated badly or differently, just because they were girls/women. Maybe we were all being indoctrinated to become feminists? ;-)

    I also know women, including the wife of a stake presidency member, who talked about the priesthood as something that was shared by sealed spouses, and who openly talked about Heavenly Mother and their speculation about how eternity would look. There was always the assumption that one of the parts of being perfected was that patriarchal systems would not be necessary.

  20. I think lucy that the Nephi story doesn’t actually apply to this discussion. For example, I’m fairly heterodoxical. There are lots of beliefs in the Church that I chalk up to folklore and tradition. I’m not obedient to things I don’t think come from God. But I also keep my covenants and worthily attend the temple. So am I a Nephi? Or am I a Laman and Lemuel? It just doesn’t quite make sense to stretch it out to fit this dicussion.

  21. Julia – Thank you for sharing your experiences! As I’ve read and participated in various parts of the Bloggernacle over the years, I’ve worried that I’m the only one who seems to have experienced Mormonism in a way that has been open to a variety of ideas and differences of opinion. I am glad to see someone else sharing that their experiences have been like mine: being included even when having heterodox ideas, and feeling like church discussions should, could, and do go beyond the bullet points in a lesson manual.

  22. Meldrum The Less says:

    Ray #13:

    For your literary amusement, might I offer you the contents of secret handbook 1 restricted to bishops and up. A couple hundred pages of gripping adventure, if you have not perused it yet. Published about 2010 I think.

    I come from a long line of heretics of various stripes but these new instructions are really strapping us down and causing too many of us to opt out to various degrees. As for local practice, I concede that your experience is probably different than mine. But the ram rods in charge of my ward are indisputably getting longer, and stiffer and more barbed. It is to where you practically need a temple recommend to make a stray comment in class or anything else, except maybe paying tithing or home teaching or cleaning the building.

    It is one thing to “see” things differently. Quite another to catch the boot square in your ass for doing/not doing the same thing you have always done since coming home from Vietnam and watching the same thing happen to a father who fought in our most recent engagement with the Japanese.

    Maybe this is why so many people are going inactive these days. We are just being too darn flexible and inclusive with them. I feel better already. (Bending over).

  23. “that if you vote for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, there will be [unfortunate consequences].”

    haha, bracket craziness!

    When I see discussions of labels like this I always like to self-promote my manifesto against “TBM,” which gets at these issues, too:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2011/05/manifesto-against-tbm/

    #17, lucy: ‘The “nuance and complexity” of Mormon heterodoxy is at least as old as Laman and Lemuel, if not older’

    Hi Ralph. The problem Ben is calling attention to is that the ground under Lemuel’s feet has shifted repeatedly over time, reflecting societal norms in various sometimes unpredictable directions. Your comment basically assumes a uniform view which in reality, in practice, doesn’t exist. “Historical amnesia” is what Ben called it.

  24. BH: the bracketed portion was where Grant outlined all the negative consequences, which went on rather long. My paragraph (and post, for that matter), were already long, hence the brackets.

  25. hehe, I know, I just thought it was a really funny bracket because it affords an opportunity to let your imagination run wild! No prob.

  26. Let’s also not forget that whenever terminology like “orthodox” appears, it is sometimes used as a thinly veiled euphemism for those who live in the heart of zion vs. those out in the hinterlands of the “mission field.” It turns out that a lot of LDS send their sons and daughters out to make converts, but wouldn’t want that same young person to actually (gasp!) marry one.

    My experience is much like that of Julia in #19. A lot of things that are a Big Deal in other places just aren’t where I live. We were at a restaurant near the temple and a younger guy from the intermountain west stopped by our table. We chatted, and he finally got up the nerve to ask, “Bishop, why is it that you are wearing a blue shirt to the temple?” My husband said that he had gone straight from work, and was wearing a tie, so it was no problem to wear a blue shirt; there was no requirement to wear a white shirt. The guy was skeptical, but did not ask why he hadn’t worn a white shirt to work that day. I honestly had no idea that there was even a preference to wear a shirt of a particular color into the temple.

    The first time that I heard the term “diddley squat” over the pulpit was from a bishop who was begging the ward not to get caught up over little things.

    I love the orchestra metaphor.

  27. Fascinating, Ben.

  28. #22 – MtL, I’ve read the handbook. It’s less restrictive in many ways than it used to be and more restrictive in others. My main point is that “getting booted out” means most literally “excommunicated” – and that happens much less often overall now than it did a few decades ago (and back in the earliest days).

    I’m not disputing at all what happens at the local level in many places. I’m just saying that official discipline for heterodox views happens church-wide far less often than it used to happen – and the single biggest reason is that the current top leadership doesn’t want it to happen as often as it used to happen.

    Just as a very public example, an unnamed, heterodox member who is prolific online within the disaffected, struggling portion of our membership (and no friend of this particular blog) would have been excommunicated long before now back in the day (as recently as 1993, for example). The fact that it hasn’t happened, despite what many see as serious provocation on his part, is instructive, imo – as is the non-action taken against the conference to discuss interacting with our gay brothers and sisters highlighted recently here on this site.

    I just don’t see the Church getting more and more inflexible at the global level. I see it as exactly the opposite, with the exception of certain high-profile issues.

  29. I have observed a similar phonomenon with exit narratives, at least from our now ex-Mormon neighbors who were driven out by ultra-orthodox leaders. Granted my experience has beeen limited to up and down the East Coast, but when I read exit stories I wonder what Church culture they were in b/c their Mormon experience-cultural or otherwise-is usually so different from mine. Occasionally where I live we are saddled with a “ram-rod” leader, but that only lasts for 3 hours on a Sunday. Apart from the bloggernacle and home teaching, if I run into two other Mormons during an average week outside of Church that is a lot. When I leave my chapel, I blend back into my community where there are, unfortunately, very few Mormons. I socialize with my neighbors, coach youth sports teams and do all of the other things which make up a community sans any other Mormons to do them with. So all the “ramdoddedness” gets left behind at the chapel while me and my family go our own way and navigate our own way in the world. (We are all very active, fwiw.) We patiently suffer the overzealous and judgmental and letter of the law leaders for a while. More often than not they see the error of their ways and become more balanced and recognize we are not all cut from the same cloth and there is no uniform way to be a Mormon. (I won’t even comment on the correlation between coming from Utah or the Intermountain West and being ram-rod/orthodox, but the smart ones usually see the error of their ways and adapt to a changed world view. The ones who can’t or won’t usually run for the hills-literally the Rockies.)

  30. I think it is useful to make an effort to define orthodoxy. Maybe many people who think of themselves as non-orthodox really are orthodox. Some like to wear non-orthodox as a badge of courage in some way. To define Orthodoxy, I would start with the articles of faith and probably not go much further. Maybe add belief in the restoration, which is probably implied within the articles of faith. What do people think of that as a definition?

    It seems much less than that, and you need to start asking yourself if you really are Mormon. We don’t have to believe all the folk doctrine to be Mormon. I don’t think we need to refrain from cola to consider ourselves orthodox, believe in Paul’s description of heaven, or that polygamy is what God wants/expects of us.

    However, if we believe the B of M is something less than it claims to be, or that the Priesthood that Mormons claim is not real or unique from other claims on authority in other churches, why would you want to call yourself a Mormon, secular or otherwise? I’m thinking of people like John Dehlin (an early commenter on this thread) who from my memory of listening to him describe his faith or lack of faith has nothing or all most nothing in common with believing Mormons. To use him as an example, he doesn’t believe in the atonement, is unclear about what he believes about God, doesn’t believe the B of M is what it claims, doesn’t believe Joseph was a Prophet or by extension that there was a Restoration. He has few if any beliefs in common with Mormons or even Christians for that matter, yet he seems to want to call himself a Mormon. I think it would be more accurate for him to call himself an observer of Mormons.

    I’m really not trying to position myself as the definer of what a believer is, but this seems pretty basic. Is it fair to delineate orthodox and non-orthodox in this way for starters?  And if you don’t believe the basics, why do you want to be considered Mormon? Just consider yourself an observer, maybe.

  31. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 28
    Are you referring to John Dehlin?

  32. Mike that is what I assumed. (shrug)

  33. Frankly, Mike, I was thinking about multiple people whose comments I’ve read and activities I’ve observed over the past five years or so – some very active, some semi-active and some not active at all.

    I probably should have said that directly, but I figured people reading the comment would mentally insert the name of whomever came to mind – and focusing on only one person would limit reaction to perceptions of that person and, perhaps, turn into an argument about whether or not that person should be excommunicated. I didn’t want that to happen – and I still don’t want it to happen.

  34. Ray,

    I think one interesting thing I’ve heard from more cynical voices is that the church’s reluctance to excommunicate in a high-profile way may not be a reflection of changing global priorities…but rather, it’s a pragmatic choice in light of things like Romney’s presidential candidacy. If Romney were to lose and the media spotlight to redirect for a moment, these folks believe that the church might actually go back on a slash-and-burn campaign.

  35. I understand that cynical view, Andrew, but I just don’t believe it.

  36. #18 “So, Lucy, anyone who doesn’t believe exactly the current “orthodoxy” (whatever that is and however ambiguously it is defined) is a modern Laman or Lemuel”

    If by “orthodoxy” you mean the faith of baptized members who believe the testimony of the living prophets and apostles concerning Christ’s Atonement, the centrality of marriage and the family, and the universal need for repentance, then, yes, that’s one way of looking at it.

    “I like Elder Wirthlin’s analogy of God’s orchestra. It is how I see Zion. I’m assuming, based on your comment, you would prefer to hear only the piccolos.”

    No. I like Elder Wirthlin’s analogy as well. I love the symphony of faith. Fortunately much of the incessant murmuring that threatens to drown out the piccolos with the rest of the orchestra takes place in cyberspace, so at least for now it is relatively quiet.

    #20 “I think lucy that the Nephi story doesn’t actually apply to this discussion.”

    The author is emphasizing what he calls “divergent beliefs” and “dynamic beliefs” over what he calls a “fixed trajectory of narrow views” in a relatively short period of time, and I disagree with this narrow assessment of Mormonism. I resist the idea that Mormonism is morphing into something radically new, as if it were simply one of an endless array of lifestyles to choose from. Mormonism is not nebulous. It is remarkably clear and straight forward, and stands in stark contrast with worldly philosophies. Uncomfortable truths and doctrines that make demands on our souls are easy to dismiss as a “strict and narrow orthodox ideal trumpeted from the pulpit”. Certainly there can and should be a variety of opinions on shirt colors, caffeinated drinks, and even events in recent Church history, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are absolute truths that have always pertained to our faith, since the dawn of creation, in Nephi’s time, or now… truths that transcend us, not orthodoxies that we transcend.

    #23 I’m not Ralph, and historical amnesia is to view everything through the lens of modernity.

  37. Lucy, the following is a sincere question:

    Do you realize that the description at the beginning of #35 fits the vast majority of people here and lots of members who have views that are considered heterodox by many members?

    It’s specifically because so many members won’t accept multiple counter-melodies and harmonies being expressed at church that so many of them get expressed so much online – by firmly believing, faithful, dedicated, leader-supporting members.

    I think it’s not accidental that Elder Wirthlin was the one who used that analogy, given his political views that weren’t exactly aligned with the majority within the Church throughout his life. He knew personally what it was like to be an oboe among the piccolos – and I’m positive he knew that others whose views were like his were being compared to Laman and Lemuel by members in their wards and branches. I’ve heard it personally and had to deal with the fallout, and I’m sure he was aware of it much more broadly than I could be.

  38. #36 I don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity, including your own. I do, however, question the accuracy of the ideas expressed. I have no objection to a variety of preferences, whether in politics or in music, only to variety in doctrine. I’m not sure which political views you are referring to, but it’s not difficult to hear the difference between Depeche Mode and the Hymns of Zion, between The Doors and the Brandenburg Concertos (don’t get me wrong, classic rock and 80s music have a lot to offer… Joseph Smith was, after all, a Rough Stone Rolling). If the Lord, the Holy Ghost and the living prophets are the oboes to which we are invited attune our instruments, that goes for the electric guitars, the kazoos, and the cowbells, as well as the piccolos (and by all means, please, more cowbell). In this “forum in which all involved are offered personal validation and a venue for personal angst”, are we dancing to the beat of a different drum or simply becoming chimes to worldly winds? Are we creating celestial harmonies in cyberspace or simply echoing the tinkling cymbals and the sounding brass?

  39. Oh lucy, if you are not Ralph, please understand that you tend to appear bringing us slightly clearer visions of his personal pet peeves and concerns. You do him a great service by making him slightly more approachable. If you are really not his sock puppet, nor one of his several relatives who rush to his defense, then he owes you a great deal. Cash in and become his editor if nothing else; we’ll all be better off for it.

  40. Elastic, dynamic. Yes, Ben. We must be. Excellent post.
    My one complaint is to Jacob, who chose to introduce Ben as a “juvenile instructor.” I find that an ad hominem attack. Ben is younger than some of us, but calling him juvenile is unfair. We’ve heard great things about his teaching at BYU. I personally consider him an extraordinarily bright, up-and-coming scholar. Jacob, please choose your words more carefully. They can be daggers.

  41. I’ll confess that I’m not really sure if you’re being facetious or not, Margaret. I certainly was. Ben blogs, as is widely known, at Juvenile Instructor, so……

  42. Oh my, Jacob. I GOT YOU!!! You and Kevin Barney. Now for the rest of the BCC bloggers… (Of course I know about JI.)

  43. I blog at a Site called irresistible disgrace, but it would be extremely inappropriate (although entirely flattering) for you to call me irresistible… Try to consider the impact of the things you say.

  44. It would perhaps be even worse to call you a disgrace, Andrew ;)

  45. Haven’t met you, Andrew S., so I don’t know if I’d be able to resist calling you irrestible.
    Ben Park, like Jacob Baker, is part of the Mormon scholarly future, as Ben’s post (and Jacob’s posts) demonstrate. When I tease in person, people can usually identify it because my my mouth twitches. When I do it online, they can’t see my face. Jacob could do a whole post on Levinas with that observation. And it would be quite relevant to our new internet world. So much is lost in VIRTUAL conversation. We misread, presume, attack, etc. The posts themselves are often stand-alone stellar, but once the comments begin, we can misunderstand one another in astonishing ways–which we might not do were we face to face. And in fact, this comes back to Ben’s point about the perception of homogeneity in Mormonism. No one who knows several Mormons well will assume that we’re all lemmings.

  46. John, at least, as long as I stay out of BCC spirit prison.

  47. I knew that Margaret. (Cough). I totally did.
    By the way, how is that comedy you are working on about missionaries in Africa? ;)

  48. European Saint says:

    Re #39. John C.: Do you honestly believe your comment (even your line of thinking) adds anything to this discussion? Quite frankly, I think lucy is on to something, but you — instead of discussing the ideas she raises — elect to make it personal… aparently so as to avoid any substantive debate. Not cool.
    I, like lucy — whom I have never met, BTW — believe that this question is very much worth asking: “are we dancing to the beat of a different drum or simply becoming chimes to worldly winds?”

  49. re 45,

    Margaret,

    Not disputing the credentials and bona fides of any of the mentioned individuals (or countless others). But I would like to point out that many of the members of the Mormon scholarly future lack institutional imprimatur…and I mean, they even lack something with some of the membership or with nonmembers…I found it kinda funny, but also kinda sad, for example, that Matt Bowman (another juvenile instructor, I believe?) was castigated for his “The Mormon People” for not being Mormon enough to cover such a project. Like…can you believe that there is confusion on 1) whether he is a real Mormon and 2) whether his book is kosher to tell the/a Mormon story?

    This is something, BTW, that happens on all points of the belief map. Whether it’s non-Mormons who want to know if MB is “objective” enough from Mormons who want to know if MB is “insider” enough.

    The question is not whether Mormons are lemmings. But whether the entire diversity of Mormonism is just as institutionally legitimate (and legitimized) as each other element.

  50. Fascinating observation, Andrew S. I’ll need to find out more about you.
    Matt Bowman is a force unto himself, and explodes onto whatever blog he chooses, I think.
    As for the perceived “orthodoxy,” I suppose age doesn’t matter. Many people are uncomfortable with RSR.
    Your final paragraph is compelling. There are lines in the sand. I tend to disregard anyone who teaches that polygamy is essential for eternal progress, and anyone who teaches that God ordained the priesthood restriction. Rather, I should say that I reject those ideas. For me, they cross a line which I cannot in good conscience cross. I have heard nothing from Bushman or Bowman which crosses any lines my own mind has set up. But I also know that I cross lines on others’ minds. (My recent statements on the Proclamation on the Family met some controversy.) One of the problems, of course, is that if a particular bishop or SP is a traditionally orthodox idealogue, members might be crossing a line in his mind if they’re Obama supporters. (Yes, that has happened.) With the worldwide web, we are in a great experiment to see if we can ALL get along. Some of us (myself included) have been publicly slandered. Someone calling himself “Mr. Correlation” suggested that when I said “God is in charge,” I really meant “Boyd K. Packer will die.” Completely untrue, and yet he made sure that my name was repeated numerous times in his post so that if anyone were searching my name, that was sure to come up. I’m an ordinance worker, a Sunday school teacher, a BYU professor. All of this suggests I’m pretty orthodox. Yet this person found me to be unorthodox enough that he created a post to challenge my faithfulness. Unthinkable. But I’m certainly not the only one who has had similar things happen. Many at BCC have had their names sullied. Joanna Brooks had entire articles dedicated to muddying her reputation. All of that is something we’ll need to examine. Ben’s post is a fine start.

  51. MBY,

    I agree that age doesn’t matter. But the fact that many people are uncomfortable with RSR kinda goes to my larger point — it’s not that young people must be the only, or the primary group lacking institutional authority…we could use a number of categories, like for example: it’s “gays, feminists, and intellectuals.” For any number of values of “gay,” “feminist,” or “intellectual.”

    We can go through so many examples. We don’t need to rely upon very traditionally controversial folks like “John Dehlin.” I mean, you have Neylan McBaine who is absolutely brilliant, and should unquestionably be considered faithful…but there are people questioning whether she “went too far” or is going against the brethren, or whatever else. You have all the folks on this blog, and throughout the Bloggernacle, who are suggested, implicated, or outright stated to be murmurers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and so on.

    And as you note, that’s just *one set of lines*. As you point out, different folks can have a completely different set of lines (e.g., as you pointed out — polygamy often is a stickler).

    Ben’s post may show the “rich historical legacy of divergent and dynamic beliefs,” but he doesn’t show that such divergent and dynamic beliefs/practices/etc., have been accepted in the past, or that those things have been seen as deserving ownership of Mormonism (no prefixes) as orthodox beliefs and orthoprax practices have claimed to own.

    Maybe what’s new this go around is not the mere existence of a challenge to “LDS conformity, literal belief, and orthodox posturing,” but rather that these things are being challenged in such a public way (thanks to the internet, in good part), that the church chooses not (or perhaps cannot afford?) to lash back as it would have as recently as 1993.

  52. Look, European Saint, what should we expect when A) lucy’s rhetorical style in fact DOES seem quite a bit like Ralph Hancock’s; B) Blogs like BCC, Millenial Star, and others get people commenting behind whacky aliases all the time; and C) YOU of all people come to “her” defense specifically regarding the authenticity of the alias. Give it up already and just comment using your real names. Give me a break.

  53. European Saint says:

    Interesting, Jacob. I had no idea that an alias was a negative here at BCC, or that I was unwelcome for using it. Meanwhile, perhaps you know something about lucy that I don’t (is she not a she?). In any case, I will give you a break. I see that you appreciate John C.’s comment more than mine (and lucy’s). Sorry for rubbing you the wrong way, brother.

  54. lucy #38 “are we dancing to the beat of a different drum or simply becoming chimes to worldly winds?”

    I think much of this depends upon perspective. Rewind the time back a few decades. Church leaders were very adamant against birth control. Good members didn’t use it. Suppose I, at that time, disagreed with this position. Am I differing in perspective, or am I on a dangerous course to apostasy? As it turns out, the Church later backed off the issue, and now birth control is permissable so long as a couple plans on having children. Had I held this position then, and hold it now, according to some people I would have gone from dangerously approaching apostate to perfectly in line with Church teachings, yet I hadn’t changed my belief at all. I could provide quite a few more examples of this sort of thing. But I hope this example demonstrates that one can be very heterodoxical, and yet an absolutely good member of the Church.

  55. Last comment on this little sidebar. ES, of course having an alias is not negative here, in and of itself. People comment with aliases here all the time and we don’t have a policy prohibiting it. I was referring specifically to yours and lucy’s aliases because I think it’s rather ridiculous to maintain that there is no relationship between the two of you when every time “lucy” has engaged the comments here in any sustained and substantive manner you are right there backing lucy up. Combined with A and C in my previous comment, QED.

  56. European Saint,
    I am not ill-intentioned nor do I harbor ill will. I’m teasing, which, as you see elsewhere on this thread, is fraught with peril. From you, of course, I should take seriously a denial that lucy is Ralph. Therefore, I won’t think that anymore. Perhaps a teaching or graduate assistant? If you all used your real names, it would be easier, of course, but where’s the fun in that?

    In answer to the entirely appropriate Hancockian question lucy poses, the answer is “s/he is right to ask folks to question what is motivating their own beliefs and acts. It is a truth as universal as it is banal.” I suspect that if lucy revealed more about her beliefs, I would not find them all that unworldly, but I’m happy to be proved wrong. Reveal thyself, lucy! After all, god doesn’t respect masks.

  57. It’s obvious that the kingdom of heaven is like a symphony where there are differences that make the music more beautiful. I think the more interesting question is what is part of the symphony and what is noise that is detracting from the music.
    Where the line is about what is in the symphony and what is out is going to be different based on the person’s feelings but the more important question is where is the Lord’s lines. The Lord I think feels strongly that there is definite lines of what is in and what is out seems obvious to me through many of his parables that begin “the kingdom of heaven is like unto a….” The wheat and tares analogy, the 10 virgins, the sower, the net of fish, all suggest that there are people who think they are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven but will eventually be cast out.
    The end goal on earth for the kingdom of heaven is to establish Zion, which is of one heart and one mind. That of course doesn’t mean identical thankfully, but one heart and one mind must mean that that there is a point in which enough difference from the lord’s heart and mind will disqualify one from zion.

  58. JTB,
    You are right, of course. Perhaps the only appropriate response to that observation is to ask, “Lord, is it I?”

  59. As individual members I think that is exactly right, I think for those who have stewardship over others to help them to reach the Kingdom of God, it gets a little more tricky. Trying to lead without being overly judgemental is a balancing act that few can manage well.

  60. #38 Once again, more talk of tenets. Joseph Smith taught correct principles, such as faith in Christ and repentance, and let the people govern themselves… and he actually taught correct principles. There are absolute truths to live up to and defend. Let’s live up to them and defend them instead of flattering each other about how heterodoxical we are. I will stop using an alias as soon as it looks like it is safe for differing opinions to be expressed in the bloggosphere, which, by the looks of it, might be never. If you think bucking “orthodoxy” is hard (which I agree, it is in some cases), try questioning entrenched “heterodoxy” in the bloggosphere.

  61. lucy, I don’t think you are using orthodox and heterodox the way others here are using these terms. It seems like orthodox to you mean those that have true beliefs, and heterodox are those who have false beliefs. However, I think the terms can be best be distinguished by an approach to truth. Orthodox Mormons typically see everything as black and white. I remember this one missionary who told us that if you are 99% obedient, you are still being disobedient. That kind of approach. Heterodox, in this context, relates to those willing to see the shades of grey and ambiguity in right and wrong for many, but not all beliefs. You pretty much have to believe in Jesus Christ to be a Mormon, but what constitutes correct entertainment standards, well…. This isn’t a Laman/Lemuel approach to truth (they were downright disobedient), it is something different. I don’t think you are having the same conversation that everyone else is having.

  62. Quickmere Graham says:

    lucy #36: “#23 I’m not Ralph, and historical amnesia is to view everything through the lens of modernity.”

    Ralph who? Oops!

    Your personal definition of historical amnesia is different from the one I’m using, apparently, so let me be more specific: your understanding of “the gospel” as some sort of hovering Platonic ideal is not necessary to Mormonism. You gloss over a good deal of change within the Church (a true *and living* entity, eternal progression and all that, not eternal stagnation). You assume a personal position of orthodoxy, draw your circle and overlook the way the restoration has actually worked on the ground since the very beginning. You then make yourself out as a hero struggling against the scary winds of liberalism or heterodoxy, and thus assume any opposition to your position is simply evidence of the correctness of your ways. You fail to enter imaginatively into the framework of other members of the Church and instead situate them within your own little pre-conceived categories (like modernism), and to be frank, it gets boring after a while.

  63. Quickmere Graham says:

    This isn’t a Laman/Lemuel approach to truth (they were downright disobedient),

    Actually, let’s view Laman and Lemuel as very orthodox Jews who of course would have seen desertion of the Temple and the prophets as being beyond the pale. They know what the truth is and any deviation from it (like say a younger brother in the grips of modernism forsaking the traditions of the Jews by usurping their birthright) is read as threatening and results in resistance. Thus, lucy is like Laman and Lemuel, of course. See how easy it is to dismiss someone simply by aligning them with a scripture villain? lucy ain’t no dummy.

  64. I am now a Graham-ite. Or would that be a Quickmerean?

  65. Lux Straussiana says:

    You people are all being ridiculous.

  66. Lux Straussiana says:

    First of all, it’s silly to argue that Lucy is a man. Why would a man impersonate a woman, given that women don’t get much respect? A woman impersonating a man makes sense, but not vice versa.

    Furthermore, I happen to be a former student of Ralph Hancock’s and I can guarantee you he would NEVER say some of the things that Lucy has said here. Yes, there are some similarities of view, but also there are obvious differences. You’d all know this if you were more familiar with his work. Sheesh!

  67. Yeah Lux, nobody respects women . . . [ducking my head, running out of the crossfire]

  68. A Nonny Mouse says:

    DavidF takes it hook, line, and sinker….

    Nicely trolled, Lux.

  69. A good troll is subtle. Lux’s comment was a blunt force object of McNaughton proportions. :yawn:

  70. Shoot. I’m such a newb.

  71. A Nonny Mouse (#68) Quit stealing my moniker ;)

  72. Ben,

    I really enjoyed your post. For a religion that believes in continuing revelation we have an odd tendency to think that things have always been the way they are now. That our culture and standards are static.

    Our difficulty in dealing with ambiguity might be a defining characteristic of this generation of Mormons.

  73. Ben, outstanding article! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone assert that unorthodoxy is new, but if they do, you’ve certainly debunked that notion. Given our ever-expanding understanding / ongoing revelation / caving in to societal pressures, the idea that the church is unchanging makes no sense to me. I agree with Ray that we are in a relaxing period, and I hope it’s not just because the eyes of the world are upon us. I can identify with these earlier saints who declined to participate in polygamy or prohibition. Faith requires the courage to live according to the dictates of our own conscience.

  74. Alex #21 – I have always thought it would be interesting if all commenters and writers stated where they grew up and where they live now. My perception on most LDS websites have a large majority of commenters who grew up in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, but that is only an assumption unless someone includes their location in a post. It might be an interesting poll to find out where people are from, and how it correlates to political beliefs, experiences as children and youth, where missions were served, etc. I would love to know if online communities, both of current and exmembers, have the same makeup as the church in general. I personally would guess that online is skewed.

    #73 Hawk
    I hope that this is a general opening up. I think it is likely to stay more open because there are so many eyes watching that almost nothing can be gone in secret, at least in the general membership. I certainly don’t believe that pockets of “ultra orthodox” Mormons will find each other as they flee from liberal areas. We already see huge trends of people choosing to live in communities where political associations are strong. I will have to see if I can find the California study from a few years back.

    I have a friend who lives in Alaska with a VERY conservative ward and stake leadership structure. I sometimes have a hard time believing what her leaders do, not because I think she is lying, but because my heart breaks for all the unnecessary additional pain her ward is bringing on her family during a terribly difficult time in their lives. I want to bottle up my ward and FedEx it overnight. My visiting teacher is wonderful to me, and I would miss her if she went to Alaska, but my friend needs a visiting teacher that is that loving, selfless and willing to build her up, more than I ever will.

    I don’t think we have to worry about the general church moving backwards as much as we should worry about moving some parts of the church forward.

  75. Oops!

    First paragraph to Hawk: I believe that pockets of…..

    Sorry, restructured the sentence and forgot to pull the don’t out.

  76. Meldrum the Less says:

    What the heck was going on from about #71 and back? Cute, but I really don’t get it. Sorry for being so thick between the ears. Never mind. Don’t try to explain it to me. I don’t really want to know if I even could. Sorry.

    rb #29.

    I really relate to your approach. It made so much sense to me, about 15-20 years ago.

    The trouble with “the smart ones see the error of their ways” is that the smart ones are your kids and they see the error of the ways of the orthodox (or since I can’t grasp the definitions, why not sling some trash) or rather they see the error of the ways of the Nazi Mormons and adapt themselves right on out of the LDS church.

    ******
    Yeh;
    Since the smart ones only experience the 3 hours of misery every week instead of total immersion in a faith community. Since too many of the nice people are isolated from the youth by the ram rods. Since nothing else the smart ones do for the rest of the week has much of anything to do with their crazy ancestors from Utard or whereever. (Attend BYU, that factory of ram rods, are you kidding?) Since they find plenty of friends from other faith traditions who are living what seems like the crucial principles of the gospel taught to them in their home at the feet of their devote and reasonable parents so much richer and sweeter than their legalistic ram rods in the ward house fast lane to the Celestial kingdom.

    Since eventually the smart ones graduate and go to work and the ram rods demand 10% to participate in any meaningful way at all for what appears to be nothing or worse in this life. And then hand them a broom to sweep out the richest church on the earth for free and call it service. When the smart ones have participated many times in real community service at other churches.

    Like, at what point are we not surprized when they don’t turn out to be Mormon? Like, if the Mormon church is no more than a 3 hour long weekly enema, not necessary in order to navigate your own way then what is the point?

    Running for the hills turns out to be crawling or self-telekinesis. The worst of them couldn’t survive in the hills anyway. The kinders grow up at rocket speed. Turn around twice and their entire childhood is spent. This approach becomes their only eternal reality of the LDS faith: I was raised Mormon. I know what it was like: Boring, stupid, manipulative, miserable.

    I hope it all works (or worked) out better for you, rb and the Alaskan friend of Julia et al., than it did for about 80% of the parents in my ward. As for those good old faithful (and growing ever more unbalanced) ram rods who after retirement are blissfully patting each other on the back as they sit through interminable temple sessions and go on glorious mission vacations and won’t do a damned thing to help anyone in their community, I don’t really want to know about them either. Sorry.

    I would adjust Julia’s last remarks #74 to “we should worry about moving MORE parts of the church forward MORE QUICKLY.”

  77. it's a series of tubes says:

    Meldrum, why don’t you tell us how you really feel? :)

  78. Meldrum the Less says:

    I don’t have that much time to explain it all.

    Simple version;
    I love the Mormon faith and people.
    I think the Mormon faith needs to be far more Christ centered.
    I am not orthodox yet fell like the orthodox are those headed for hell.
    I think the church is more out-of-order than it has ever been and failing in fundamental ways.

    The solution at least partially will come from the ground up.
    It appears to me that we are moving away from that solution not towards it.
    I desperately want to do what I can to fix or help remedy the situation.
    I am inept. I see problems and solutions but can’t bring them to pass.
    I am getting older and my health is not that good any more.
    I will probably go to my grave with too many regrets and unfinished business.
    I just can’t bring myself to shut the flip up and let it pass.

    I think too many people in positions of responsibility think they have their calling and election made sure don’t have the urgency to solve anything. All is well in Zion.
    I’d like to light a fire under them.
    Gotta go.

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