Mormonism has always been a home to members with many different religious temperaments, levels of belief, attitudes toward authority, and commitment to and comfort within the community. Still, even with this diversity, Mormonism has often felt to many members (and certainly to most outsiders) as monolithic—if the diversity is there, it hasn’t always been easy to find those “like you.”
Indeed, much of this sense and appearance of unity came as a result of the efforts of the institutional church to deliberately set and convey fairly rigid boundaries about what constituted orthodoxy and orthopraxis, and who was and was not a Mormon “in good standing.” Thanks in large part to the Internet revolution and the powerful networking it allows, this situation seems to be changing. Latter-day Saints are no longer looking quite as much to the institution for such definitions. Church members along many different spectrums of belief, practice, and commitment are finding each other and declaring their identities as Mormons, even if they fail to align very closely with the mainstream,
In this week’s episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks, Jared Anderson, and Blair Hodges explore various aspects of this new moment, this explosion among Latter-day Saints who don’t feel they fit the standard, institutional identity to begin to categorize themselves within the tradition’s larger tent. What challenges and issues have led to this eruption of felt need for broader ways to identify oneself? What positive purposes do the labels people are using to describe themselves and their place within the larger tradition serve? Are there drawbacks to these labels, especially ones that seem to work to distance those persons from particular aspects of Mormonism or religious “styles” that don’t match with theirs? Can the needs of all these different types of Mormons be met within one community, or do literal belief and a comfort with exploration of complexities (even doubt) need to be quarantined from each other? What are some of the ways the panelists are finding homes for themselves within this broad and wonderfully diverse LDS community?
After you listen, please join in the discussion below!