In this episode, sociologist Jim Smithson talks of the LDS Church and all of its programs and organizational systems as a vehicle for delivering the gospel message, and uses the metaphor of a minivan in describing Mormonism’s vehicle type. Minivans are great cars, but they fit best in middle-class and suburban areas where people can afford them and the fuel they consume, where there are mechanics and the infrastructure that helps keep them up, etc. But how efficient are minivans in locales where there are no paved roads, few trained drivers and technicians, in international or domestic areas where bicycles would be a better fit, where public transportation is the only realistic way for citizens to get around? How well does Mormonism “work” in non-suburban, non-middle class, less technologically sophisticated areas? Are the Church’s size and organizational structures obstacles for really delivering a saving gospel message of hope and transformation, and for creating communities where Zion might grow and flourish?
This episode features Smithson, Sylvia Cabus, Ken Driggs, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a far-ranging discussion of how best to “do” church among those who do not fit the educational, income, or other profiles of the middle class. Cabus draws on her wide experience as an international aid worker and with the LDS Church abroad, as well as her own very urban and diverse ward in Washington, D.C., and Driggs from his fifteen-plus years experience in an inner-city Atlanta, Georgia, ward to share stories and reflect on Smithson’s theses about the current church and its challenges. How can the Church adapt more readily to serve those who are not in the demographic groups and areas where Mormonism currently works best? What are the biggest obstacles preventing these kinds of adaptations? What might be the best way ahead?
After listening, we hope you will add your stories, observations, and suggestions. This is a tough subject, with good desires on every side of the issue. Let’s brainstorm!