We’ve established that there are conservative Mormons (obviously) and there are liberal or “new order” Mormons. Taking the politico-religious rhetoric to its next logical conclusion, I’d like to make a case for moderate (or independent) Mormonism.
A recent article in Time discussed the differences between liberal and conservative patriotism. The key points really resonated with me for how Mormons view loyalty to the church.
- Hallmarks of Loyalty: paying tribute to the past (Pioneer Day?) even while portraying an idealized past that never existed, preserving the culture even to the exclusion of initiates (Mormon colonialism?), a tendency to grade on a curve because they take a dim view of human nature (Mormon persecution complex, Haun’s Mill?); use of symbols to portray loyalty (Mormon artifacts in our homes?).
- Signs of Disloyalty (to a Conservative): Criticism of the cultural norms or the glorious past; the infiltration of new norms into the culture; questioning the claim of greatness.
- What they get right: There’s something to be said for loving the church like you love your (possibly dysfunctional) family: because it is your heritage and your home.
- Cautions: May become “nationalist” (“one true church” mentality) or dismissive of other faiths; tend to substitute myth for history; expect unquestioned loyalty to come first and foremost; over time, symbols and artifacts may become a substitute for real faith; may become a club for the pedigreed few.
- The Big Question: Can the church truly embrace converts (and liberal loyalists alike) with a near majority conservative loyalty worldview?
- Hallmarks of Loyalty: Loyalty is to the ideals and concepts rather than to the organization; loyalty is about helping the church to live up to its potential in the future; new converts improve the church through diversity combined with commitment to the ideals; like to call the church on the carpet when it fails to live up to its ideals.
- Signs of Disloyalty (to a Liberal): Not owning up to mistakes of the past; reliance on symbols rather than the ideals; elevating the status of “insiders” regardless of merit.
- What they get right: They keep the church (and leaders and members) honest by refocusing on the ideals (may be JS restorationists) and being willing to ask the tough questions.
- Cautions: Believe the church must earn the loyalty of its members by living up to its ideals which will not always be possible (fallibility of leaders and lay clergy); may dismiss the pragmatic realities necessary for the church’s self-preservation (policies vs. doctrines); if loyalty is to the ideals, one can seek the ideals elsewhere (but lose the benefit of the church framework and fellowship).
- The Big Question: When liberals leave the church is it due to actual flaws of the church or their own Quixotic idealism?
The article cautioned both sides from going too far in asserting that their own patriotism is the only brand truly loyal to our country. Isn’t that a great caution for us as Mormons? Can’t we come to a moderate consensus about loyalty to the church that takes the best of both into account (or am I just being a liberal idealist to think so)?
So, are you a conservative, liberal or moderate Mormon? How do you “reach across the aisle” to others? Did you find anything new of value in the alternate perspective, or did this just confirm your biases?