Count up all the liberal Mormons you know. Now, compare that number to the number you knew ten years ago. Now multiply the difference between the two by the number of liberal General Authorities, then subtract from that number the number of anti-intellectual General Conference addresses you have heard in the last three years. Finally, divide the number of active LDS (say 5 million) in the world by the resulting number. With me? You should now have your liberal Mormonism prognosis indicator. Here’s what mine looks like:
The resulting number is the number of new active liberal Mormons which we can expect to be created each year for the next five years. NAH, I don’t buy it either. But I know some of you had fun doing this “scientific” calculation.
Bottom line, there is no way to tell for sure what the future holds for liberal Mormonism. But here are some indicators that liberal Mormonism has a bright future:
- The Bloggernacle itself. With the explosion in the number of blogs, more spaces have been created for liberal Mormons to discuss Mormon theology and history. This will have an impact on the Church as a whole, although it is difficult to say what it will be. My bet will be that information will be more freely shared than in the past, and that more Mormons will begin to consider the liberal method of theological interpretation as the best way to deal with the information they are slowly assimilating.
- The Church. The Historical Department has been recently given an independent existence from the Family History Department. This new emphasis on the distinct task of church history, accompanied by construction of the Church History Library, official participation in the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and recent work on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, indicates a real willingness to engage with reason and evidence.
- Blake Ostler. As the only Mormon theologian working systematically with our theology as a whole, his three volumes of Exploring Mormon Thought gives liberal Mormonism something solid to sympathize with and react against. Using the terms of the latest philosophical theology, Ostler uses reason and evidence in his search through the Mormon scriptures to come to sometimes orthodox, sometimes heterodox conclusions. Ostler is a figure who will provide grist for discussion for liberal Mormons for years to come.
- Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Public interest and scrutiny of Mormonism will likely now not ever return to pre-Romney levels, forcing Mormons to use reason and evidence to rationally justify our traditions and beliefs to secular society.
Discuss, my friends: