Our guest poster, Jason M. Brown is a life-long ‘Niblian’ Mormon who grew up in Southern California. He served an LDS mission from 2001-2003 in the Dominican Republic, Santiago Mission. He attended Brigham Young University where he studied anthropology and international development. He is currently working on two master’s degrees at Yale University in Forestry and Theology. Jason is also regular contributor to The Mormon Worker Blog, www.themormonworker.wordpress.com and The Mormon Worker Newspaper, www.themormonworker.org. He can be reached at email@example.com
I’ve been kicking this post around in my mind for a while now so it came as no surprise when I found a Gallop Poll article entitled “Mormons Most Conservative Major Religious Group in U.S.” A whopping 59% of active Mormons consider themselves conservative; another 31% moderate, and only 8% liberal. In addition, 16% of active Mormons consider themselves “very” conservative, compared with only 1% as “very” liberal.
What surprised and saddened me even more than this disproportionate political bias was not that a majority of Mormons (inside and outside Utah) are conservative, but that 61% percent of “lapsed Mormons” (those who self-identify with Mormonism but seldom attend church meetings) consider themselves liberal or moderate; liberal “lapsed Mormons” are 20% alone. So that means, that 6 out of every ten people who do not regularly attend church, yet maintain ties, do not identify with the Republican Party or the conservative movement. These statistics do not count the thousands of people who have left the church permanently or no longer identify themselves with Mormonism due to feeling isolated, alienated or estranged by the politically conservative majority.
Following are a few personal experiences and ideas about how liberal and radical Mormons can begin to turn the tide on this state of affairs and make the church a safe space for those of us who do not self-identify as conservative or Republican.
First and foremost, those of us with radical or liberal worldviews (I myself most closely identify with libertarian socialism), must not be afraid to speak up, put forth and defend radical and liberal interpretation of the Gospel in our meetings, and actively challenge interpretations that we disagree with. Could it be that the growth of the Mormon “Bloggernacle” in recent years has been a result of those of us too afraid or timid to speak up in Sunday School, Relief Society or Priesthood? Now, for some of us speaking up in church may sound like a daunting task, and indeed depending on who is teaching it can be; there is very seldom much time, and sometimes the topics come with a lot of cultural and historical baggage. Perhaps many of us have not spoken up during church because we fear that it will create contention or that we will be looked down upon. Although I am not exempt from biting my tongue in church, or letting a Republican talking point pass for a Gospel principle, I am almost always pleasantly surprised when I do choose to speak my mind during church meetings.
For example, during the Proposition 8 debate in California I was visiting my hometown in Southern California. I attended church. It happened to be testimony meeting and member after member was getting up to praise the wisdom of the proposition and expound the threats that its failure would present to the Church and the family. As I sat taking this in, my pulse quickened, my heart raced, and before I knew it I was in front of my childhood ward (including the area authority) denouncing the Proposition. I spoke from the heart, and as my voice shook, I declared that as a Christian my primary responsibility was to the Sermon on the Mount and that I believed it to be bad politics to get involved in a civil rights issue which would inevitably put us on the wrong side of justice (again). When the meeting was over, I was mobbed by old friends, scout leaders, Priests’ Quorum advisors, and new members. Many agreed with me, some thought I was crazy, some strongly disagreed with me; but they all expressed loved for me and wanted to thank me for expressing my heartfelt convictions. One woman, who stayed at a distance until all the others were gone, came and with tears in her eyes thanked me. She was a new member, and her son is gay. She had been feeling so alone and conflicted about the church’s involvement in this issue. We talked, hugged, and she left with a smile. On that day I had spoken my mind on a very controversial topic and although many members did not agree with my interpretation of the Gospel, I left the meeting feeling fulfilled and part of a community that loved me.
This is the climate that I know can exist in wards all over the world, but that many of us are afraid to bring about. I tell this story because I strongly believe that there is a place both in the Gospel and the Church for radicals and liberals. We can still be of one heart and one mind while disagreeing on the particulars of interpretation and application of Gospel principles.
Another personal experience: During Sunday School here in New Haven, Connecticut where I currently attend church, we were on the topic of helping the poor. This was a few weeks before President Monson decided to include helping the poor and needy in the now four-fold Church mission. A woman visiting the ward said that she and her husband had worked with homeless people and believed that it was wrong to give them anything because this deprived them of the opportunity to pull themselves up by their boot straps and take personal responsibility for their own bad choices; and besides, any money given to homeless people would inevitably be spent on booze anyway, so why support their immoral habits? Now, I personally have tremendous respect for the appeal to personal responsibility that many of my Republican and conservative friends make when discussing issues of social justice and poverty. However, this sister did not understand what the scriptures plainly teach concerning those who would seek our aid. So, in a calm fashion I raised my hand, and began reading the words of King Benjamin in Mosiah 4.
“17 Perhaps thou shalt say; The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. 19 For behold, are we not all beggars?…”
King Benjamin here is uttering a strong condemnation of those of us who would refuse to give of our substance to the poor. However, the sister articulated a very common view in our society that poor people are poor because of bad choices. However, the radical Christ calls us to repentance. If someone asks of us, we must give; even if we can smell the alcohol on their breath. But this is not all. As Joseph Smith makes clear, we are to be actively engaged in a good cause (D & C 58:27), and working toward a society where there are no poor among us (Moses 7:18). Meaning, we are not just to give a regular fast offering, or a couple bucks to the guy outside the supermarket, but actively working toward a society where the structural and root causes of poverty are eliminated. We disagree on the appropriate institutional scale of implementing such a task in society, but nevertheless we are incontrovertible called to the task. The Sermon on the Mount, 3 Nephi, King Benjamin, the D & C, indeed the entire Book of Mormon all contain radical critiques of social inequality, seeking wealth for wealth’s sake and contain numerous admonitions to radical Christ-like love and economic cooperation. Sorry, Brother Beck, but social justice is the essence of the Gospel, and the fact that someone like Glenn Beck can read the same scriptures as me and not see that is appalling.
One might ask if I would simply flip the Gallop Poll statistic for a 60% liberal slant. My simple answer is no; what I really want is to see a healthy proportion of all political and social viewpoints; one that doesn’t automatically exclude social justice, preemptive war, the environment, or helping the poor as Gospel topics because they are too “political” while piously rallying the troops around “moral” issues such as prayer in school, abortion or gay marriage. That is a double standard that is only possible because of a overwhelming politically conservative bias by Church members and hence church programs. I am calling for this because it is in the tension between ideas that truth is found; as Lehi says to Jacob: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things, for if it were not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass” (2 Nephi 2:11). A diverse and healthy representation of political and social interpretations of the Gospel will lead us closer to true principles than close-minded political or religious dogmatism.
Brothers and sisters, do not allow conservative politics to pass as neutral theology, it is dishonest at best, and destructive at worst. It is driving good people out of the church and becomes a positive feedback loop: the more conservative the church culture becomes, the less tolerable it is for liberals and radicals. So, to all of you Beck-ites out there, this is our church too and we are not leaving.
Here are a few ideas for shifting Mormon culture:
- Participate in Mormon May Day on May 1-2. See www.mormonmayday.org for more details in the coming days
- If you haven’t already, read Approaching Zion by Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley
- Then, give Approaching Zion as a gift to at least one person this year
- Begin to compile a list of your favorite scriptures on social, environmental, and political topics
- Start a discussion group
- Set a personal goal to make at least one comment in your church classes
- Invite a less active radical or liberal member to your house for dinner to see if you share similar views
- Visit www.themormonworker.org for a radical approach to Mormon theology and consider subscribing
I suppose at one early point in my life I could have been described as a Niblian Mormon seeking a Nubile Mormon, but that is another story.
I’d say I’m leaning towards libertarian paternalism, rather than straight libertarian socialism, since it seems more in keeping with American political ideals. As long as we keep using socialism, the nutty right will continue to raise the Red Scare in the patriarchal line of Skousen who begat Beck. Yet even legislation that is libertarian and paternalistic is rejected by the right. An example is legislation that the Utah State Legislature passed this session that would have enrolled everyone in Rocky Mountain Power’s Energy Saver program with the ability for anyone to opt out. It would have saved enormous amounts of energy, reduced the state’s energy consumption and kept utility prices low (especially important for the poor). So what does Governor Herbert do? He vetoes the bill. Unconscionable and immoral doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I’m not as optimistic as you, Jason, in the ability to shift Mormon Culture from within. You make at least a passing reference to sociological/legal work that has been somewhat popularized by Cass Sunstein in his books when you wrote “becomes a positive feedback loop: the more conservative the church culture becomes, the less tolerable it is for liberals and radicals”, but you don’t go far enough. What happens is that as the culture becomes more intolerant of opposing views, the shift is exponential. Any group can create an echo chamber of ideas. This is effective if you are trying to inculcate a belief in an invisible supreme being, but disastrous when political ideology enters the field. Politics is given the imprimatur of God and the politics are polarized to the prevailing viewpoint. This gives rise to Christian militias in Michigan and Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. You see the same mechanism at work in Mormonism — from the most radical (FLDS) to the seemingly mindless shift towards conservatism and away from compassion in the mainstream Mormon Culture.
Also the Bloggernacle is frankly more of the same. It quickly becomes an isolated group that at best — as her on Mormon Matters and based on my experience — simply ignores contrasting viewpoints and at its worst filters out and removes any competing ideas — just try and post comments on an ultra-conservative (or liberal) site that effectively and articulately challenges their viewpoint.
As long as religious belief is tied to political ideology you will not be able to attack the one without threatening the other, so you are facing the uphill battle of telling people that you need to abandon eternity to save the present. Easier to say to the homeless that it is their own fault and give them the inevitable boot strap to the face.
You leave out the most depressing aspect of the immorality of the current Mormon religion and that is the seemingly silence acquiescence to murder and killing in the form of war. As long as killing is OK outside the tribe,then not feeding the sinners is a piece of Marie Antoinette cake. Apparently everyone forgot what the prophet said about the MX missile back in the 70s. Pacific-ism should be our mantra, not millennialism — Hey folks, 3000 is 990 years away.
Thank you for writing this! It is so refreshing to read these words, and know that there are other active members of the Church who share my sentiments. I, too, have decided that I no longer can sit idly by while church meetings become political forums where the Left is not present. While I am afraid to offend others or ostracize myself from my dear conservative friends, I need to make it known that we do not all agree on such issues. We need to accept that it is OK to agree to disagree. Until we truly try to understand each other, speak civily to each other, and allow open discussions, peace and progress will not follow. Jesus said love everyone, and in this political climate, we have allowed love to take the backseat.
She was a new member, and her son is gay.
People are not born gay and are not genetically predisposed. I sincerely wonder about members approving/condoning this lifestyle. If that person never abandons this lifestyle and is denied their exaltation in the end, will the member who supported and encouraged their choice be complicit? The Church and it’s members should be in the business of encouraging people to repent. Very often the world (radical) holds the opposite view.
It’s true what Jenn said to love everyone but Satan lieth at the door and somehow gets himself inside in unexpected ways.
If the Church/LDS people lets its guard down, then it will become like everyone else and will no longer be a peculiar people.
This is a very refreshing post.
I am not eloquent enough to prove causation, but my gut feel is that much of this was caused in the 1960s and 1970s, around the time of the blacks and the priesthood question. It seems that there had always been at least some “liberal” voices in the Church hierarchy prior to that point. Around that time, the conservative wing “circled the wagons” in defending an ultimately undefendable policy of the Church. It was a time of Benson and McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith and “the thinking is done…”. It had the effect of essentially suppressing any contrasting feelings and making it seem like that was the “right” way to be a Mormon (no pun intended). The current Church leadership is essentially made up of people who grew up in this environment – who think that this is how you need to think and talk to be a “good” Mormon.
My fear is that they are doing this even more with the Prop 8 issue as used as an example above. By “circling the wagons” around this, they are again marginalizing a wing of the Church. At some point down the road, if societal trends hold, there is going to be gay marriage. The Church will have to redefine its relationship with that, much the same way they had to do with blacks. But the “conservative” nature will be even more emphasized as “liberals” leave the Church.
Apparently you don’t know any gay people. My cousin 2 years younger than myself was always an effeminate boy. No one was surprised that he discovered he was a gay adult. My good friend’s daughter was never a model girl child. Again, no surprise when she discovered she was a Lesbian. Homosexuality is a difficult lifestyle, one few people would consciously choose. Many homosexuals have tried unsuccessfully to change. Science has determined a genetic predisposition to homosexuality. Nature verifies it–ever spend any time on a farm? The OT is not the final word on human sexuality.
I generally call myself a moderate, but comparatively, at least in Utah, I’m probably pretty liberal. It just seems to scare fewer people to say moderate. 🙂
At our local caucus meeting a couple weeks ago, I was running it, and noticed a couple from my ward looking for the door to get in, so I went out and welcomed them, they commented that they were surprised to see anyone from the ward.
I respectfully disagree with your post.
However, it does beautifully represent the exact nature of the post however – where someone that doesn’t have a conservative viewpoint is therefore somehow not “spiritual”. Perhaps there truly isn’t room in the LDS faith for people who have contrasting views and there is a better path.
In your mind, because I think that people were born gay and that they deserve the same rights as I enjoy, am I still a good member or have I let my guard down and been deceived by Satan?
Ulysses, I am cut to the core by your statement!
MM has worked HARD to try to be a forum for different viewpoints. Just take a look at the comments on my last post. Talk about different viewpoints, but we seem to be having an articulate and respectful conversation…
I know it degenerates sometimes, but the best of what we have here at MM gives me hope for what Jason is talking about. I tend not to express myself at Church, because I don’t want to be disturbing, but this post does make me want to give it a try.
Please be patient with the May Day site, we are still working on getting it up….
Jason — thanks for the post. Good for you for opening your mouth during Church functions. I’m in a similar situation (i.e. I’m in your stake) and I still feel at times hesitant to raise my voice in similar thoughts, even though I’m fairly certain that most people in my ward, and your branch, would probably agree with the points. We’re in some of the more liberal congregations in the area I think, but I still am hesitant to share my views. Which I mostly view as my problem. I ought to be more bold, but that’s another story.
In response to comment 4 of Mike’s, how much do you (any of you) see this mindset amongst the younger generation? My ward is full of college students, many of whom (if not most) are very liberal by Mormon standards. Could it be that in 20 years as more of us grow up and fill leadership that things will change? As an example, our bishop (who is under 30) and stake presidency (who admittedly are over 30) have both placed a lot of emphasis on service in our communities, service that has little to do with it being an advertisement for the Church. I think it’s great that we are beginning to fulfill King Benjamin’s words about service, and I think more of these ‘liberal’ ideas will be implemented as we grow older.
Finally, I also think that another aspect of this divide plays out in families. My brother is a moderate liberal, but his wife is ultra-conservative. When they come over, my wife and I have to bite our tongues and mostly try to steer conversations away from politics in general. It was really bad during prop 8, as my sister-in-law is from California, and I served my mission in San Francisco, and so we were both very interested in the vote, but had very different views. For a while after that, my sister-in-law thought I didn’t like her because I wouldn’t talk politics with her. It wasn’t that, it was that I was trying not to get into arguments. It becomes easy in family situations to not rock the boat. But perhaps we should look to create some gentle turbulence.
Don’t be cut to the core. I know it must take an immense amount of work to allow viewpoints from the likes of me and also of #3. The very fact that I can at least be ignored keeps me coming back and every once in awhile I find someone I agree with. I’m a contrarian by nature and disposition and I’m sure in a few short years before I’ll be old enough to graduate to curmudgeon status. That said, people self-select. You don’t have too many died in the wool TBM’s here or too many of what has been deemed Outer Bloggness.
The arguments here tend to shoot past each other and not much gets accomplished or resolved. Rarely is the argument kept on task, part of the nature of the Internet/Blog beast. I find myself essentially resigned to the inability to have a sensible discussion of issues. For example, this post which has degenerated in 9 comments to mostly a discussion of whether or not homosexuality is a sin or genetic. Huh? This was supposed to be about changing the church politically from within and in accordance with the more compassionate tenets of the religion.
My critique of Jason’s post is that I think the problems within the church is the church itself and it can’t be changed from within. It is a little depressing, yes, but the church is designed to get people to believe things that they can’t see and in that environment rationality and compassion get thrown out. If your belief is on the unknown and unseen, any one challenging that is a huge threat and will be either ignored if they have no power or removed. I believe history is on my side on that one.
So don’t despair, I like doing my Lear impression and wailing at the elements.
“If the Church/LDS people lets its guard down, then it will become like everyone else and will no longer be a peculiar people.”
We are like everyone else and to be honest we’re not that peculiar. We’re just as righteous and sinful, open minded and bigoted, kind and cruel, straight and gay, liberal and conservative as anybody and everybody else. To assume a specialness out of all the earth’s peoples is a bit of a stretch when you consider the LDS churchs numbers and success in living up to it’s principles. Assuming sin where there is none as regards political persuasion or sexual preference is taking on a judgement role that’s been assigned to someone else. As far as our possibly being complicit in another’s faults and failings, we’re all guilty of that.
Fwiw, I have lived in wards and stakes where what Jason describes (tolerance and respect for differeing opinions being the norm) actually occurs – where what I call “pure Mormonism” flourishes. A few of my initial thoughts:
1) Homogeneity breeds contempt, unforunately. Tolerance is MUCH easier to internalize when you are NOT part of a dominant majority. Thus, congregations outside the Intermountain West *tend* to be less conservative and more in tune with persecuted minorities – since they tend to made up of people who are reviled and persecuted themselves.
2) When those who are “the minority” leave any organization they create a more solid super-majority within that organization. I’m not “blaming” those who leave for leaving, but I am saying the Church would be a very different organization if they stayed and supported others like themselves. I’m not saying that flippantly or condemningly; I’m just saying that the most “ideal” wards, stakes, Bishoprics, Stake Leadership gorups, etc. in which I’ve been involved have been those where more moderate and liberal members participated (broadly and within the leadership) – where they didn’t leave because they were the minority.
3) It takes a lot of conviction and charity to create what Jason describes. It takes the “minority” not condemning or feeling superior to the majority – not acting toward the majority the way the majority might act toward them – not becoming themselves what they criticize in others.
4) “We love him, because he first loved us.” That’s worth considering deeply and carefully.
It isn’t easy to change a congregation or a stake or “the Church” from within, but it can be and is done. I’ve been part of such change more than once, and it’s worth the effort – but it requires, ironically, the type of characteristics articulated in the Sermon on the Mount, not the type of hard-charging aggressiveness normally associated with organizational change in our modern world. It also requires patience, and the lack of patience dooms more such efforts than perhaps anything else, imo.
Everyone, please fight the urge to turn this into a fight about homosexuality. This is a wonderful post with some very thoughtful discussion opportunities. We allow all kinds of differing opinions to be expressed here, but we don’t have to engage them all and fulfill Ulysses’ valid point in his last comment to doom a potentially great discussion.
There is a practical application of this plea to this post. Sometimes the best response is to ignore something with which we disagree and contribute instead to an uplifting and edifying discussion – letting the unchallenged and ignored prove our point on its own.
I am going to follow my own advice here and not reference it again. Please, eveyone, just ignore and move on.
I think that would be a good conversation to have here, Ulysseus. Jason, do you have any evidence that the Church can be changed from within? I tend to think that the lifting of the Priesthood ban came about because so many members of the Church had become sympathetic to equal rights that Church leaders simply had to address it. In my 30 years in the Church I have seen a lot of change in policies such as birth control, organ donation, and even the rhetoric surrounding homosexuality has changed significantly. I think this is all due to common members exerting subtle influence both through discourse and action. Sometimes this seems to go really slowly, and one wonders if it is really an effect of grass-roots power. What do you think?
Pingback: Radical Retention « The Mormon Worker
Correct me if Im wrong, but Warner Woodward wrote a good article years back about how many of our economic programs came from the bottom up. I believe PEF came about in the same manner.
After seven years I’ve given up. If they want their ideologically pure, politically conservative faith, where “moral” is reduced to “no sex,” let them have it. The church doesn’t have anything that I can’t get just as well at another church, and lacks many things that I CAN find elsewhere.
Thank you for this post. I am one with very different political views than most of my current ward. We moved two years ago from what could likely be called the most inner-city ward in our stake to the suburbs and have found and very big difference in the politics of the ward. The inner-city ward was an almost constant reaching out to the poor and needy, so much so that it felt burdensome. However, now looking back, it was a very charitable place to live, as we, too benefitted from the outpourings of love and the closeness of the ward, in spite of the many seeming failures of transitory ward. In my current ward, I feel I can’t speak up about politics or differing worldviews, but in the old ward, all viewpoints were patiently listened to, even if they were radical or actually crazy. Perhaps one help in the problem would be to re-think the geographical ward?
BIV and others —
Can the church be changed from within? I think history has shown that is more likely to be changed from without.
The prime movements came as a result of changes in society overall. Federal pressure and outside persecution pushed the Mormons west and ultimately led to Wilford Woodruff’s revelation. A long struggle with civil rights within the country led nearly twenty years later to Spencer Kimball’s revelation. Not to lapse into the gay argument, but recent softening of the Church’s position, such as backing the Salt Lake County or City (I forget and am too lazy to Google) ordinance against discrimination seems to be more of a reaction to outside ridicule and pressure than anything happening on the inside.
If you don’t change the rules and guidelines of the institution, it is very difficult to change it from the inside. Change and correlation are not compatible.
Ulysseus, you are probably right on this one. For example, Kevin’s suggestion (#18) to re-think the geographical ward might be an interesting proposal, but realistically none of us have any authority to even begin such a discussion. We could thrash it out here, but it would make absolutely no difference. It’s depressing if you are one who sees the Church as in need of a great deal of change.
I do appreciate Jason’s suggestions in the post because they seem to be actions that members can take which might make a difference (at least in some small way on the local level). I keep clicking on the link he gave for the MayDay activity being planned by activists at The Mormon Worker. I am interested to see what that is all about.
I like what Ulysses is saying. But I think we need to make some distinctions. What the author is advocating is change on a local level. People feel left out, isolated, alienated at the local level because that’s where they interact. As members, we absolutely have a tremendous impact in that area. On the general organizational level, Ulysses is right on. Change is not going to come from us, but from outside external forces.
I think the distinction is important because that’s why I remain. I’m not that interested in the organization, the LDS church changing in the way I think it should. But I am very interested in seeing the local level change.
I think that there is much that we can do to encourage change within the wards that we worship. I am not blind to larger problems that Ulysses has raised and yet my experience has shown me that there is the potential to facilitate a space for mutual respect to be the thing we focus upon rather than specific ideas. I think that it does take people who are willing to speak up on such issues but to do it a way which reflects our sincerity and love.
Thank you for this post. It has prompted me to be more sensitive to political issues within my ward, which with a General Election in the UK coming up shortly we might begin to see more frequently.
The May Day link will be up and running soon.
I want to thank you all or your comments. I don’t have time to respond to every issue. But I would like to state that I believe culture change within Mormonism is not only possible but inevitable. The Church is far from monolithic or static (though it may seem that way sometimes). What I am calling for is that we stop throwing up our hands at a Conservative Mormonism and start dreaming of the possibilities of a radical Mormonism. I for one was simply tired of being dictated the terms of my Mormonism, ‘you are a good Mormon if you do this this and this.’ NO. I am NOT struggling, or drifting. My questions and doubts ARE my Mormonism. And yes, I make mistakes. But unlike some Mormons I actually believe in Grace and value my mistakes, misteps, and spend alot of my mental energy dwelling on ideas outside of orthodox Mormonism. Studying Theology and philosophy has made me a stronger Mormon, but not in ways you might expect.
What I am interested in though, is PRACTICE. I want to live in community with like-minded Mormons and NOT leave church feeling spiritually exhausted from sadness for not feeling like I can relate to anyone in that building. But I can’t BE fully Mormon without you all, that is the beauty of it, and the tragedy of a dominantly conservative Mormon culture.
I LOVE that, and I sure do relate to it.
To be honest, I have absolutely no problem with people within the church having different political views. When it comes to big vs. small government, or economy, or all that stuff, it’s seriously just a personal preference matter. It doesn’t matter to me what party you identify with regarding this.
What I disagree with is turning church into a forum for expressing your differing views. Yeah, I know other people do it too, but that doesn’t make it ok. People aren’t perfect, and so it’s going to happen. I know this. But I very much disagree with actively encouraging people to make political comments in church meetings. I don’t honestly care whether or not you agree with whoever else commented, politically, that’s not an excuse to keep the wheel rolling by adding your two cents worth. You should be the bigger man, and instead of getting riled up, just realize that sometimes people say stuff that they don’t need to be worrying about in church. Because no one should be advocating political agendas in sunday school. That’s the entire reason that the church hasn’t come out and said everyone should be this or that. Because it’s got absolutely nothing to do with doctrine.
Doctrine is the important thing in church. What’s eternally true is a whole different realm, and that’s what we should be talking about. And just as a side note, I have to say a little bit of a “duh!” here. The things that we believe in as church members regarding true things, (doctrinally true things) make us by nature more conservative that some people. No matter how liberal your political views are, if you believe the stuff the prophets tell us that is important, and isn’t up for “interpretation”, you’re always gonna be just that much more conservative than any other radical liberal, whether you like it or not. It’s a completely normal thing, and not something to be stressed out about with statistics.
Yeah, I agree that we should be more open minded about having differing views. That is entirely true. But I don’t think it’s really that important to do it by shifting the statistics, or changing our being generally more conservative. I think we need to just do it by trying to help people really understand the love one another part of the gospel. Getting up and delivering political comments in church isn’t gonna do that.
Now, as for “interpretations”, the church isn’t like the government. There are a few things that you can see from that light… interpreting it differently than someone else, but there are things in the church that aren’t up for interpretation. That’s just how it is. God doesn’t bend his rules just because the rest of the world does. The more liberal the world gets, the more conservative our church is gonna seem. Not because it isn’t just, or isn’t up with the times, but simply because it DOESN’T change on so many issues, when everyone else does. That’s what makes it true. The fact that it isn’t bendable.
See the thing with stuff like prop 8 and all that is that it isn’t an arbitrary “what kind of government do the people want” kind of issue. The proposition itself wasn’t about “should gay people have rights”. It was about “What is the definition of family”. While it’s true that defining family in a particular way can have some political repercussions, it’s by far the lesser of two evils, and that’s why the church (which it rarely ever does) actually took a stand on it this time. Because there are some doctrines like the doctrine of the family that are SO important to our eternal salvation that we can’t afford to let it get crushed under the political bandwagons. There’s a reason why there have been so many statements issued, like the proclamation on the family. It’s too important to ignore. When the members of the church backed prop 8, it wasn’t in the spirit of condemning those who profess to be gay. It was in the spirit of protecting one of the most important definitions in the world: what is family.
If you look at it, everything else in the political world that the church HAS taken a stand on has been something like this. A situation where it wasn’t about a law, or civil rights, but standing up for an eternally true doctrine.
You may think that the whole priesthood with black people might be a contradiction to this. But it really isn’t. You see it wasn’t a matter of the people in the church fighting to keep black members suppressed. And it wasn’t a matter of resisting healthy political change. See, clear back when Joseph Smith was still around, he treated black people as his equals, and slavery hadn’t even been close to being abolished. It has never been a matter of regarding them as lesser people. Granted, I don’t know the answer to the reasons why. I have no idea what God was doing when he made them wait until more than 100 years later to receive the fullness of priesthood blessings. I’m not even gonna guess, because I’ll probably be wrong and just spark some kind of heated, hate-filled argument on it. But I have no qualms with simply realizing that He had his reasons, and it’s not really necessary for me to know what they are right now. If they become necessary, He’ll tell me.
And that isn’t the same thing as blind faith, just fyi. Blind faith is being asked to go and do stuff, and believe stuff without having a reason to. Blind faith would just be believing a doctrine because you feel like you’re supposed to. God doesn’t ask us to be blind. He WANTS us to question things. We are supposed to look at a doctrine, think and ponder about it, and question Him. Ask Him if it’s true, and then He can say yes or no. When He says yes, it’s not blind anymore. Because He has confirmed to our individual souls that something is true, even if we still don’t understand all the different parts of it.
This has political applications as well, in terms of deciding what’s interpretable, and what isn’t. Pray and get answers. Some people don’t appreciate that catch all answer, especially when speaking politically, but it’s one of those universal, unchanging truths, and no matter what the topic is, you can talk to God and ask Him anything. But only if you actually want answers. Sometimes people craft their questions or pray without planning to act on whatever it is, and He isn’t gonna get tangled up in your webs of intrigue. Just be for real, and you’ll get for real answers. That’s all.
So yeah, sorry that turned into a whole lot longer of a spiel than I planned. But I stand by everything I said. I really do think it’s honestly ok to believe lots of different political things. And I really do think that people SHOULD be more open minded about what other people believe, regarding differing political views, different cultures, or even other religions. We need to love more and argue less. But the venue for debate and political opinion is NOT in church meetings. Nor is it actually important and crucial to shift the statistics of the church. And just be careful about what’s interpretable and what isn’t. 🙂
Longest ‘bleg’ (blog entry + beg) advertising another blog ever.
I think you’re rather missing the point. We’re talking about a church, not a government or a country. You would be absolutely right if we were, but we’re talking about doctrines and religion, not a political platform.
Here’s the deal. This church is either THE TRUE church established BY Jesus Christ, or it isn’t. And if it is, as millions around the earth testify it to be, then we are and will always be a peculiar people.
Not because we sin less, or have fewer human foibles. But simply because we know the eternal truth of God and have the responsibility to represent that to the world. No matter how the world changes, or how the political vibe of the nation runs, or what you believe in politically, being a member of the true church of Jesus Christ will always and forever mark you as separate from the world. That’s what the term peculiar is really referring to.
And not in a bad way either. Not in a being better than other people way, or a shunning those who are different way. This happens, but not because it should. We’re different because it marks us with the holy ghost and the power of the priesthood, and as defenders of what’s right and true in the world.
You’re totally right that we’re all just as human as the rest of the world. You’re right that sometimes we really screw up. You’re right that we aren’t perfect. We aren’t “better” than everyone else. But it’s also true that if we give up on what we DO have, we’ll be even more like the rest of the world (ie no longer peculiar.) We’ll no longer have the eternal truths of God to hold us up when we fail. We will no longer have the priesthood, or the Holy ghost to guide us. And we will have betrayed the trust of our Father who has charged us, as his peculiar people, to stand up for things in the world which are right.
So in all these discussions about politics, it’s easy to forget that some of what we’re talking about is like that for a reason. We forget that it’s God’s organization, and not some creation of human kind. We forget that starting a movement or a campaign, or instigating organizational change WILL only happen if God says so. It’s only what He says is right, not what we think. We don’t need to treat the church like a massive committee. We need to focus on doctrines like respecting people, charity, love, service, and truth. The only true change that we can focus on is in ourselves.
It sounds like you’re have it figured out. Thank you for sharing your insight.
You might consider that to some, Prop 8 was a political issue since it involved voting, politics, and modifying a gov’t document (state constitutions are also considered law). I’m not sure what other requirement you would need for something to be considered “political” in nature. You also might consider that being “conservative” personally, and one’s political views might be two different things. Just because I personally don’t choose immoral behavior does not necessarily mean I have the right to force others to choose my morals. That’s what freedom is all about. You also might consider that everything is interpretation. There’s no other way for it to be (unless you define everything in mathematical terms).
One more thing. You might consider that the very reason we have revelation and an open canon are precisely because the rules are changeable. We don’t have the same set of rules God gave the children of Israel. We don’t even have all the same rules that the early church had. Just be careful when you say
You might find yourself backpedaling someday!
This fruit stinks. After years of biting my tongue in meetings, I just don’t feel that I want to be a part of the community anymore. I am tired of spitting into the wind. I don’t want these people teaching my kids anything. I am tired of having to explain EVERY Sunday about different interpretations of scripture, different ideas… Children grow up fast. I don’t want to spend any more time clarifying things. Instead I now have more time to lead their spiritual education. I want my children to retain their connection to their heritage through casual and deliberate church attendance. Proud Inactive family! But I am a bit saddened to distance myself from a community I have known my entire life. I am trying to replace that for my children, and we have been church shopping recently. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” There is just too many fumes at church.
And on the tangential sub thread: My children will be taught that family comes first, even before an institution created by God. They will not be taught by example that they should shun family members. We have an extended family member that is gay. That individual came to earth gay, tried very hard to get over it, was a “perfect child/young adult” by all accounts. If there ever was anyone who could change, it would have been him. I remember when I was young asking my Grandparents how they felt about “black people” pre announcement. One responded “We didn’t know any better”. I know better. My children will know that I knew.
Wonder if Global Mormonism or anything like it is on BYU campus now?
Reply #27 “Reply to GBSmith #12”
The problem with this is that EVERYONE thinks this regardless of which religion they choose. Are Muslims peculiar because the women wear a “funny” hat, or that they pray 5 times a day? How about Jews and their funny hats? What about scientologists who believe in Dianetics? Or perhaps the most extreme example, what about the Amish? Aren’t they peculiar? None of that “brands” them (or us) as the true church of God.
Sure we’re different! So is everyone else! The notion that “the world” is one way, and we are another is not very indicative of reality.
You’re absolutely right about that much. I appreciate you mentioning it. In fact, I think we’re in agreement, except that we’re talking about two completely different arguments. We agree that it’s true that everyone thinks this, and true that everyone is unique in some way.
I was naturally assuming that I was talking to other LDS members who believe the same as I do (ie. That Joseph Smith was called by God to restore THE true church to the earth, etc.) If such is not the case, I definitely apologize for that. I should think about stuff like that before I write. 😉
So in clarification of the point I was trying to make, active mormons believe that Joseph Smith was called by God himself to restore the only church on earth that has ALL the doctrine. Not just parts of it. There is a scripture that calls these people “a peculiar people” As far as within the Mormon religion itself, Gbsmith was not representing the tenets of the religion. That’s merely what I was correcting.
But taking the religious argument out of it, you are correct that not everyone believes this. And people who believe differently often believe similar things of themselves. I guess the answer is that only one group is gonna be right in the end.
You are talking to other LDS members, though I can’t vouch for all of them (myself included) believing the same as you do. But I am an active TR holding member.
I think I see what you’re trying to say, but this still doesn’t work. I don’t for one second believe that this church has ALL the doctrine. Otherwise we’d be done, no need for new revelation, closed canon, etc. The church does not claim to have ALL the truth, or a monopoly on truth.
Perhaps. Or perhaps everyone is right, or no one is right. That is, perhaps muslims, jews, and all christians who live Christ-like lives will be “right” in the end. Or perhaps, death is the end of it all. Since I have yet to die, I’m uncertain.
This is why we should be careful about our truth claims, and remain open to the idea that we might not be right. Perhaps we are, but perhaps there is other truth out there that we don’t know about and won’t accept because we’re too busy convincing ourselves that we have ALL the doctrine. Remember that many prophets past in our church have claimed that Mormonism encompasses ALL truth, even that which we haven’t stumbled upon as of yet.
Reply to GBsmith #12
What exactly do you mean by the true church?
And what do you mean by ALL the doctrine? Our own scriptures disagree with you on that point. The book of mormon actually defines doctrine pretty narrowly as faith, repentance, and baptism.
Im so tired of the only one group will be right in the end and its us argument. There are many great things about our faith and it works for me. There are also many true things in other faiths and traditions. It is a shame that all too often that rather than shining whatever light we have out, we put up mirrors around us so we can admire how much light we think we have.
It is truly fascinating to read this thread from the point of view of a Restoration denomination that is already far to the political left (in American terms) of the LDS, is trying to transform an American church into one that is rapidly becoming third world in orientation, and will, in the next two weeks, likely canonize a new D&C Section that will yank the church into an even less conservative position.
This suggests to me that the issue is less some conservative characteristic about Mormonism — except perhaps as a belief in being the one and only true church raises the stakes about being “correct” about the gospel’s nature. It seems to be a cultural phenomenon, because we are experiencing it as well. In fact, the same poll mentioned at the beginning of the OP pointed to Judaism as the most liberal religion in America, and its adherents have just as much difficulty in finding a “retention” for their CONSERVATIVES. (You should see the things Jewish bloggers are saying in the Jerusalem Post this week about editorial positions of the New York Times.)
Cultural minorities in situations of societal stress feel that stress more acutely. That doesn’t tell us much about which view, majority or minority, is more clear about the gospel itself. Political worldviews may even have genetic components.
But it suggests the difficulty and importance of continuing to listen to each other even as the stress of doing so increases and personal decisions have to be made.
give Approaching Zion as a gift to at least one person this year
That is a great idea.
I guess I have a different point of view. I am a socialist but I strongly disagree with a few of the basic premises found here. More politics in church = more politics in church. I have no interest in that. What I want is LESS politics of any kind in church.
I think the idea that the church community can or should be thought of in terms of a division between conservative and liberal political views is problematic at best. If for no other reason than it emphasized the wrong things when asking the question of what creates us as a community.
I reject the idea that the answer to the dominance of conservative politics within church culture is an increase in the visibility of politically liberal views. This just means liberals are giving themselves permission to make the same stupid mistakes that conservatives make.I have no interest in advocating for that.
I want to see a broad critique of the intertwining of ideology and theology, that should be our real project. Our project should also include embracing the poetic multiplicity of meanings present in scripture. It should also include a shifting away from the false belief that doctrine should be understood as wooden and fixed dogma; to an understanding of theology as an imaginative process of reading, interpreting, engaging with tradition, scripture, prayer and the spirit.
We should also note that when we are doing it right religion provides a powerful critical tool for questioning / challenging any political ideology.
Keep your filthy conservative and liberal politics away from my poetic, imaginative, creative, curious, beautiful, philosophical, Christian / Mormon experience of who Christ is, what he taught, and how he taught it.
A pox on both your houses.
(this is not to say that I believe that I have somehow freed my theology of ideology, obviously that is impossible. Nonetheless, good theology will reject ideology through the process of learning that exposes ideology as ideology)
Hahaha. Thanks JMB275. I didn’t realize I was making it sound so static and everything. No you’re on the ball there. We do have an open cannon and continuing revelation. Some things do change.
You are also right as far as freedom. I didn’t intend to make it sound like anyone has the right to force someone else believe what they do. It’s the same problem our world has with the freedom of speech. You can say anything you want to unless I don’t agree with it. Then you need to shut up. Haha. One of those human nature things that we need to get over.
I think I was just trying to emphasize that some of the stuff that man thinks should change is not going to change God’s mind just because it’s politically appropriate. For an obvious example, thou shalt not commit adultery. As much as it’s implied that things like that aren’t so bad now a days, it’s always gonna be wrong. And God is never gonna say, “Alright, now it’s ok to cheat on your wife.” That kind of consistency is what I meant by the things that don’t change are partly what make the church true. There’s no interpretation of that commandment that will ever get around the fact that it’s wrong, no matter what you say to yourself to make yourself feel better about it. It is what it is.
That’s a no-brainer example, but the application is still relevant to loads of other situations. Some things are changed by God for our good, and some things are constant no matter what the people think. And we’re often surprised about which is which. Now, you may be right. I could be totally thrown for a loop with some of the things that end up being ok after all. But it’s still ultimately God’s decision. If something like that happens, I’ll be more than willing to realize my expectations were wrong.
The thing that was bothering me the most is that so many commenters make this situation sound just like some government election. Like if we campaign, and join groups, and everything, maybe we can effect change in the organization of the church, and get it up to date with modern political stances. I really feel like that isn’t our job, and is completely inconsistent with some of our religious tenets. If this church is, in fact, the true church, then God’s got it all under control. If organizational change needs to happen, it’ll come from above, not from campaigns and committees.
The same is true with doctrinal revelations. If God commands something, then we’ll be taken care of. He’ll make it happen when the time is right. If we as the people try to force changes through, and try to make the changes happen ourselves, and in our own time, that’s basically telling God that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, and He’d better shape up. Not such a good thing to be saying to the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe.
I suppose it all comes down to the basics of our faith. Whether the church is really true, or it isn’t. From a purely logical point of view, if it isn’t, then none of the political stuff is gonna matter, because we’re gonna all have to end up finding something else anyway. But if it is, then the prophets are not out of touch. The doctrine isn’t antiquated. And the organization is right for us right now.
Political upheaval is not what we need to focus on, but like I said before, the love one another doctrines. The only changes we SHOULD be trying to make are the ones like that. Being more open to differences, serving more, loving more, being OUR best self before we try to tell other people what their best self should be.
On a separate note, I just wanted to comment on a different reply. Sorry, I can’t remember which number it was in, but it was basically saying that one of the reasons we are having trouble with compassion and logic is that we are in a religion that so strongly emphasizes belief in things we can’t see or prove.
To this I’d like to refer back to what I said before about the difference between blind faith, and faith. You’re completely correct that some people have problems with understanding how we can do both. But I submit that it’s certainly not impossible, and has nothing to do with a failing in church policy. I absolutely believe in questioning and wondering. But the fact that we have questions shouldn’t define us, but rather the fact that we know that when we have a question, we have an all knowing Dad who’ll give us everything we’ll ever need, and give us all the proof and the answers we could ever comprehend. That’s part of the open cannon, continuing revelation, things-that-set-us-apart discussion.
Good point, Douglas. I like how you put that.
I posted this comment a few months ago. Still seems good to me.
Great post, when I converted to the church there was a lot of things I needed to put behind me. But as I have grown older I have realized that some of these things are what made me unique. For several years I kept my political views to myself because other members would comment that you cannot be a good church member and be a Democrat. Also you should not listen to any music but the MTC or the Osmonds; well I never could get into the Osmonds or the MTC other than Conference or Christmas.
I made up my mind that from now on that I will be me, which I call a Gonzo Mormon, do my best to live the gospel, keep my Temple Recommend current, and listen to loud music, keep my politics a little left of center and not to take myself to seriously. I figure that I will be shoveling horse poop for at least a 100 years before I am let into the Celestial Kingdom anyway.
GMU (Gonzo Mormons Unite)
Ditto to Douglas Hunter about politics in church, but he said it way better than me.
I think that while its nice to say no politics in church it ignores the reality that there is no escaping politics in church unless we spiritualize the gospel so much that it hardly resembles anything that Jesus of Nazareth taught and did.
For better or worse, the gospel is political. Jesus came to set up a kingdom, ie the Kingdom of God. It is not just some imaginary abstract spiritual but a very real kingdom that does address social, economic, and political issues. On this good friday it would be good to remember that he didnt just die, he was killed and he was killed for real reasons. Not because of some abstract spiritual message but that he actually did challenge the political environment of his day. We are called to be a witness to the state, to others of what the kingdom is about and perhaps even take up our cross and die on it. Now if you mean american partisan politics than yeah a pox on both houses but we should not turn the gospel into an apolitical abstract idea nor turn jesus into a hollow shell without parts, passions and a vocation. Jesus was in part killed for his politics and what he was passionate about.
His mother said of him
and he said of himself
I think Stanley Hauerwas said it best
I think you must be referring to someone else’s post. Sorry about that.
I should have looked by further. Someone’s taking my name in vain.
Yossarian, I’ll tell you what I mean by “The true church”. I mean “It’s the true church of Jesus Christ, restored on the earth through a prophet of God.” I hope that clarifies things for you.
And double ditto on douglas hunter.
I’m not gonna get tangled in this whole thread, because it’s only gonna turn ugly. But I’m gonna say two things. One, yeah, I’m not dumb. I realize that open cannon and continuing revelation means that we don’t have every doctrine that will ever be placed on the earth. You know that I didn’t mean that too. Because I take it for granted that you are not dumb. Picking apart minutia isn’t really helping an argument. And if I have to go into such specific detail about what I mean then you either need to re-research or better yet, go find some missionaries.
Number 2, and absolutely the most important thing I ever say on this blog thing:
I’m not ashamed of declaring what I know. I’m not gonna back down like some of the people on this blog. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but it’s true. Being all wishy washy about stating the trueness of the church either means that you don’t really believe it, or that you have no spine. Making so many comments about “well, other people believe the same thing about their church” or “what do you mean by true” or “we should be careful about truth claims, we might not be right” are nothing more than indecisive banter. I have a spine, and I’m gonna show it right now.
I have prayed about the Book of Mormon. I have prayed about Joseph Smith. I have prayed about the church of Jesus CHrist. I KNOW it’s true. I know that there are truths in other religions, yeah. But bits and pieces. I am not saying that everyone who doesn’t believe as we do has earned a one way ticket to fire and brimstone. But there IS only one way. Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. I know that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus in a vision, and that they gave him true commandments to preach. And I know that they commanded him to organize THEIR church. And that this is it. I know that our church has the priesthood authority of God, also restored to the earth through a prophet. I know that the doctrines introduced in this church are true and for the best. And that if there is a doctrine that is not condoned, it’s GOD not condoning it.
I have had the Holy Ghost tell me that this is true. And it’s in a way that I can not, nor ever will deny. No I didn’t have a huge vision. But I don’t need one to feel the spirit. I have all the proof I need to know that these things are true. Nothing you or anyone else will ever say is gonna change my mind. I don’t care about political correctness or people pleasing… I’m gonna stand up for God even if the whole world hates me for it. I don’t understand 100% of it. Obviously. But that doesn’t make my faith blind. I don’t need to “be careful about truth statements” because I know what I know. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is THE church of JESUS CHRIST. I have no doubt about that.
So say whatever you want about that. Argue with me. discredit me. Throw articles and books in my face. But I’m not going to back down from God out of fear of some people on a blog. That is all.
Your point of view is far too reductive for me to engage with. Your own understanding of the political is totalizing, and you essentially parody my ideas without understanding them. Your distinction between a political Christianity and “some abstract spiritual message” is absurd.
I wonder if some of the reason for liberal Mormons’ disaffection is that modern left-liberalism may be fundamentally more secular in its cultural outlook than American conservativism — and whether this may go back to the original conservative/liberal divide between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
American conservativism (painting with a mile-wide brush here) typically traces its ideological roots back to the limited-government, Protestant- and British Enlightenment-influenced thinking of the Founders. This is not to say that American liberals don’t trace some of their roots back to the same place — but they also have roots in the Continental radical tradition, which was much more anti-clerical. This, in turn, may have had something to do with the fact that Catholic religion in Europe was seen as an ally of reaction, Joseph de Maistre-style, whereas English and American Protestant Christianity had more egalitarian and liberalizing tendencies. (There was a reason the Boston Tea Party was launched from a church.) “Strangle the last king in the entrails of the last priest” is not part of the American conservative political tradition; although we threw out the king, we tended to like our priests and pastors well enough. When you get “meaning” from religion, perhaps there is less incentive to get it from “the politics of meaning.”
Douglas #45, then please explain.
I just dont see how you neatly excise politics out of the gospel unless you are using the term politics in a very different manner. Nearly all of the lessons in church have political consequences in one way or another. I was not saying that you turned the gospel into an abstract spiritual idea but rather pointing out that it has real tangible consequences on how we live in the here and now and even into the political realm. Jesus’ teachings on poverty, violence, etc are either abstract or they will affect political considerations in some measure, no?
I would suggest people read Yoder’s excellent, “The Politics of Jesus” for a good primer on why the gospel is political.
I’m sure you can make a great argument from Scripture that we need to do more to help the poor. You can make a great argument from Scripture for pretty much anything. For every King Benjamin pulling a Jane Addams (I notice that Ben “labored with his own hands” for his support — nothing there about a 3-percent-at-55 union-negotiated pension), there’s a crusty old Paul saying “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thes. 3:10.)
Pace the OP, the essence of the Gospel is not “social justice” (or sexual morality, or food storage, or multi-level marketing) but Christ and Him crucified. The whole mystery of the Incarnation and Atonement. I would no sooner harness Christ to a specific left-wing political agenda, than I would attach him to John Birch/Cleon Skousen nonsense. Left-wing “liberation theology” darn near wrecked Catholicism in Latin America (or what was left of it): The Church “went to the people,” and the people went to the Pentecostals. To churches which recognize that the Gospel is ultimately personal, and the personal isn’t always, entirely, political.
Mormon liberals who are committed, for reasons beyond the nods the Gospel makes toward “social justice,” will likely remain believing Mormons. But their religious motivation to “social justice” is superfluous: It is an article of faith in the larger liberal tradition that you don’t need religion to be decent. The larger liberal tradition generally considers you quaint, and typically respects your faith only insofar as it is indistinguishable from what liberalism would preach anyway. Step out of line — on abortion, say — and you’re back to being a superstitutious Jesus freak. Fat lot of credit the Catholic Church gets for its significantly left-leaning Social Teaching. There is a hierarchy of left-liberal values, and if you blaspheme the sacrament of abortion, it’s bell, book and candle for you.
There isn’t a similar dynamic operating within conservatives. You can be a conservative member of a church with a liberal hierarchy (i.e., pretty much everybody in the NCC), and your fellow conservatives won’t care one bit. Maybe the Ayn Rand types might, but they’re few enough that they generally know to respect the others.
Amen to Thomas #49 as well.
I think it’s fantastic that you have the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
I surely will not be one to try to change your mind. I’m happy for you that you have had the kind of spiritual experience that was sufficient to convince you of your views. Thank you for sharing your convictions.
If you don’t wish to be misunderstood, then please say what you mean. It is not safe to assume that people will just “know” what you meant. Some of us are very careful in the language that we use in order to not be misunderstood. Additionally, there is no need to get frustrated or upset. Everyone here is friendly even though they may see things differently.
I agree with you completely. BUT, playing Devil’s advocate for a moment…from a faithful LDS point of view, Joseph Smith instituted a system in which “social justice” was the practical implementation of their religion. Though I would not assign such an agenda to Christ, it is clear that at least in Mormon theology (well, at least history) that we have strong roots in such a concept. Much less so in recent years, but Joseph had certainly taken this step in one of his more bold moves IMHO.
For me, it’s one of those deals where I’m gonna have to invoke Paul’s “we see through a glass darkly.” Christ taught what he taught, and an extrapolation of those teachings to political discourse seems to be a wildly unwise path. Let religion be religion, let politics be politics, and let science be science. When they overlap, choose the best tool for the job.
You are right that you can make a great argument to help the poor. It is one of the most discussed topics if not the most discussed in scriptures. I, however, think you overstate your case when you suggest you can make a “great argument” for pretty much anything. Thats more rhetoric than anything.
You also stated that
I agree but what does Christ and Him crucified mean? What does the cross mean? And if Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, with which I agree, than how do we interpret his statements on society, economics, and human relations? The Sermon on the Mount for example? This is why Tolstoy was a Christian Anarchist for example, because he understood the radical nature of the sermon on the mount.
you also wrote
I would agree that Christ should never be harness to any political agenda. the more important question is what is his agenda? and if his agenda is political in nature than shouldnt we not shy from that?
#47 & 48-
“I just dont see how you neatly excise politics out of the gospel . . .”
Read the last statement of my first post.
Read Yoder? Gee thanks, I never thought of that.
DUH! its not like I am unaware of a wide variety of writings and ideas concerning politics and religion. that is not the point at all.
I’m in no mood to suffer fools right now.
Re Sara #37
Thanks for clearing up your thoughts. I understand now a little better where you’re coming from. I’m glad you have such confidence in your abilities to discern the truth you receive from God. For many it is not so easy. Some have serious difficulties separating revelation from emotion and are unsure what God’s role is in that process.
On another note, I wanted to mention something. Just so you can ponder a bit. You have implicitly assumed a direct church to God line of communication. You casually mention that God is at the helm, and that His will will be done. But never did you acknowledge the role that humans play in that process. Remember that in Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” This means that people (more specifically men in our church) are expected to receive God’s will to pass along to us. But all people (even prophets) are colored by experience, personality, culture, etc. They make mistakes. I think it is a bit presumptuous to assume a direct connection of God’s will to our church. For me, a more useful metaphor is one in which God constantly tries to mold us, or push us in a direction. That means that revelation might come more slowly (after all, even prophets have to get over their biases to even be open to revelation that contradicts their culture), perhaps later, perhaps earlier than God would really like.
My point is, it’s a bit too reductionist for me to merely assume that if it’s God’s will it will be taken care of. People grow, and change slowly, and so does the church. There are some Mormons who believe that the restoration was only initiated by Joseph, and that we are constantly in a state of “restoration of all things” and that we still have a ways to go. Such a view is very much in harmony with Jacob’s olive tree analogy in Jacob 5.
“My kingdom is not of this world” pretty much settles, for me, the question of whether Christ’s “agenda” (if that worldly term is even appropriate here) is political.
I agree that “what got Christ killed,” as you put it in your post, was not a bunch of hippies angry that the Lord was harshing their mellow, but rather the duly constituted Church leaders, who feared losing “their place.” (John 11:48.) But therefore what? What is the “alternative to the world” that Stanley Hauerwas was talking about? What could be more worldly than Caesar? And what could better fortify Caesar’s power, than making his job description “helping the poor”? Who could argue with that? What power could be denied someone engaged in such a noble cause? What kind of self-absorbed cynical ingrate could think anything could go wrong?
On the one hand, we have Christ’s “radical” statements on economics. On the other hand, we have “be not many masters.” The idea that a clear prescription for any comprehensive political philosophy, useful in present-day society, can be distilled from the Gospels, may not be possible.
Im sorry you have to suffer this fool. All I was trying to say is that im not sure we can entirely separate politics from religion. If I misunderstood you, my bad. As to Yoder, I just really like Yoder’s writings and think they are a good start on this issue. I was not suggesting you never read him. It was more of sharing a book I like.
If you are going to quote the scripture at least do it in context. You are right that his kingdom is not worldly (of the kosmos) but working on entirely different principles than the kingdoms of the world. Why? Because as he says, if it were a kingdom after the manner of the kingdoms on earth he and his disciples would use force and violence. I think if you read his statements on the kingdom of God in their entirety it becomes clear that he is not suggesting he is apolitical but against using the means of this world including violence.
There may not be any ideology or clear political philosophy that we can extrapolate but we can certainly extrapolate certain positions which are political. Renouncing war would be an easy principle to glean from his teachings which has political consequences. But we are prob getting far off the OP
I always enjoy reading your responses Thomas.
The reason the majority of the members of the church are conservative is because the gospel principles are conservative. The principles of the Gospel attract the honest in heart. The liberals and their social agenda have destroyed the United States. They will not, however, destroy the Church because its leaders are unyielding on the truth.
#60: Ken S
You state that the “majority of the members of the church are conservative … because the gospel principles are conservative”
How this is interpreted is the whole point of the post. I suppose it depends on what your definition of “conservative” is.
Economically: the scriptures are replete (with examples given above) of giving away essentially all we have to the poor. The “ideal” economic order which the early saints attempted to live was very communal in nature. In the city of Enoch, there were no rich and poor. In the Nephites’ lands after the Savior’s visit, there were no rich or poor for several hundred years. In every scriptural example we have, people are equal. So the “gospel principle” seems to me to be more in tune with what we might term “liberal” today as opposed to “conservative”.
Freedom-wise: In Christ’s day, He upset the status quo, or what was “accepted” by society. In the early days of the LDS Church, we were pretty “fringe” and far from conservative with polygamy, etc. Our “liberalness” set us apart from the “conservative” society, which led to all the problems. At the time, we didn’t expect anyone else to espouse our form of marriage, but at least wanted legal protections to marry how we saw fit, even if it was rejected by the vast majority of the other American citizens. If this same attitude was projected onto the political parties today, I would venture that the “liberal” wing would most support this view today. The “conservatives” of today would probably more vehemently fight against what the early Church professed.
When it comes to rights and equality and many other things, I would also venture that the “liberal” wing more closely mirrors what Christ taught than the “conservative” wing. So I don’t know that you can make the blanket statement that “gospel principles are conservative”.
Regarding whether the “liberals and their social agenda (destroying) the United States”, most of the problems that we have now festered and grew under the leadership of Mr. Bush, perhaps one of the more “conservative” and openly God-fearing administrations we have had in a long time.
And finally, regarding the statement about church leaders being “unyielding on the truth”, I’m not really sure what that means. There are eternal gospel principles that have been around for centuries. But our policies have certainly “yielded” over time. We no longer practice polygamy, not because anyone had a revelation that it was un-true, but because we yielded to societal pressure. We changed our stance on blacks and the priesthood. We changed women speaking and praying in sacrament meeting. We eliminated using wine for sacrament in the temple around the time of Prohibition. Many things have changed. So, I would again be careful with a blanket statement about being “unyielding”.
It is really not a hard concept, some conservative principles are listed as follows:
Staying out of Debt
Fiscal liberals like Bush 41, Clinton (somewhat), Bush 43 & Obama have destroyed this nation with debt. Obama put more on the nation’s credit card in the past two years than Bush (who was horrible) did in eight.
Personal Responsibility/The Lord’s Welfare Plan
This is a conservative principle taught by the Savior and his prophets, especially King Benjamin and Heber Grant. It was also evident in the City of Enoch. In the event one needs assistance they were asked to rely on themselves, then their families and then their faith — NOT their government. This is a plan that will work forever and as the Savior said in the Doctrine and Covenants “both will be uplifted and edified”. In short, people should help one another as King Benjamin so eloquently stated and not turn this responsibility to the Government.
In contrast, the Big Government programs by FDR, LBJ and now Obama will bankrupt this country and those that depend on these programs will suffer the most when they eventually collapse. Technically, they have collapsed, but the Government leaders don’t have the integrity to admit the truth.
Proclamation on the Family
Most conservatives support preserving the family unit as defined in this sacred document. It also clarifies gender and roles of the male and the female. The liberals actively seek to destroy this document and what it stands for.
I could be here all night going over the list; or, just have you read the gospel principles book we are studying this year in Priesthood. Conservative principles flood this book — Moral Agency, responsibility, chastity, honesty, self reliance, hard work, moral cleanliness, etc…..
#62 thats some rich stuff you’re trying to sell
so people that arent conservative believe you should go deep into debt, take no responsibility for actions, and want to destroy the family? Oh and I forget they are against agency (I assume you think they are part of satan’s plan), irresponsible, unchaste, dishonest, leeches on society, lazy, and morally unclean.
no please go on all night with your list.
“One might ask if I would simply flip the Gallop Poll statistic for a 60% liberal slant. My simple answer is no. . .”
This post should have ended right there, but it didn’t. The rest of the post after that is saying the exact opposite by basically telling Conservative members to shut up; the exact thing that this liberal said is happening to them.
As for the whole post, it sounds great in theory. The idea that “61% percent of ‘lapsed Mormons’ (those who self-identify with Mormonism but seldom attend church meetings) consider themselves liberal or moderate; liberal ‘lapsed Mormons’ are 20% alone,” should translate into making the LDS more liberal-leaning sounds reasonable. However, the real world doesn’t hold this up very well. If what liberals continue to argue is correct, that members outside the U.S. are more socialist and communist leaning, then they should have a huge member retention advantage. They do not. Europe, that bastion of socialist democracies, is struggling to both retain and attract members. It could be argued that is because of European culture of anti-religion since the last century. South America with its huge political mixes and strong religious heritage might attract member baptism, but doesn’t seem able to hold onto those members any better than the above statistics.
Even in the United States the facts seem to counter a liberal tolerant Church is a stronger or bigger institution. Those Churches that are considered moderate to liberal are losing members faster than the conservative ones. Some conservative Churches are losing members, but many are growing. This begs the question; is the LDS Church losing members because it is conservative or are members leaving because they are liberal and would leave anyway?
#62: Ken S:
There are many, many things I could say. For the sake of focus, I’ll just stick to economic. I’ll even stick to King Benjamin that you brought up and quote a scripture from the original post:
“17 Perhaps thou shalt say; The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. 19 For behold, are we not all beggars?…”
I agree with you that the “ideal” is for each of us to care about our fellowman to help him/her voluntarily, or else through family and/or faith. It is a reality that we have poor among us. We have sick. We have downtrodden. We have hungry. My question to you is whether your proposed ideal plan works? When was the last time you (or any of us) paid someone else’s medical bills? When was the last time you bought someone food who was starving? When have any of us done as a non-LDS family did in the book “The Power of Half” and sold our house, downsized, and gave half the money away to charity to help the less fortunate? Do you honestly give enough in fast offerings each month to support a starving family for that month? We all try to do what little we can, but in reality, do you honestly think we can take care of our poor by voluntary means in a country which has shown so much economic disparity?
And if not, what other mechanism do you propose to take care of our poor? We sometimes have to rely on imperfect means. Granted, government programs may have their own problems, but they’re the best we have. As Saints, we couldn’t live the law of Consecration, so we live a “lesser law”. Since we aren’t collectively willing to truly share everything, perhaps government programs to help the poor are the “lesser law”
“As Saints, we couldn’t live the law of Consecration, so we live a ‘lesser law’. Since we aren’t collectively willing to truly share everything, perhaps government programs to help the poor are the ‘lesser law’ . . .”
I would rather not have the State deciding how I practice my religion. Wonder where I have heard that sentiment before? Now that its on the other foot I guess its OK to politicize theology.
“I think if you read his statements on the kingdom of God in their entirety it becomes clear that he is not suggesting he is apolitical but against using the means of this world including violence.”
The problem is that politics is violence. Politics, basically by definition, is the practice of government. And government’s fundamental nature is a monopoly on coercive force.
I’m fully aware of King Benjamin’s quote as I used it myself. I believe it and I practice his teachings to be best of my ability. Again, he was asking us to help our neighbor, not to hand the responsibility over to the Government. Again, the gospel principle is this: first look to yourselves, then your family, then your faith, but NOT your Government.
And by the way, I pay others medical bills, mortgages, power bills, etc through fast offerings. A program setup and inspired by the Lord. A plan that works because it is administrated through conservative principles and the Lord’s duly authorized representatives. Those that need assistance will go to their Bishop. He will ask them if there are any assets they can sell (ATV’s, Boats, RV’s,etc); he may even ask them to sell their home. He will then go through their budget with them and help them cut unnecessary expenses and will ask them to donate their time at a church farm like we have here in Florida. It maintains dignity for the receiver and financial stability for the program. It works because of conservative principles.
By their fruits ye shall know them and the fruits of the Government programs are awful. We are 14 Trillion dollars in debt due to these Big Government programs. This is 70 Million homes at $200,000 a piece. We are broke because of these programs. They do not work and they make this worse for both the giver and the receiver. If it makes things worse for both sides it is not of God.
Hey everybody the http://www.mormonmayday.org link is working! Check it out!
I pay fast offerings too. It’s the magnitude. If we pay the cost of 2 meals, how much is that. $20? $50? $100 per month? How many medical bills does that pay for? For one person that needs surgery for $5000, how many years of fast offerings is that?
You missed the point. The objective of the Gospel and it conservative principles is to have people become self reliant. The more that become self reliant, the more you have to draw from in terms of Fast Offerings. True, one person paying $100 will do little, but 100 families paying $100 will be $10,000 to help those in need and 25,000 wards paying 10,000 would be 250 million. In short, the mission of the Lord’s plan is to make people self reliant AND help those in need.
Yea, that’s exactly right.
My post #19 at Increased Civility in Our Conversations (next essay on Mormon Matters, see the link in the lower right hand corner of this page) seems to apply, but I thought I’d mention the first Mormon radical/liberal I remember. He was our home teacher when I was in eighth grade and the man who felt it was his duty to make certain that we were made miserable and hounded out of the church because the Air Force had sent my father to Vietnam.
Jettboy Even in the United States the facts seem to counter a liberal tolerant Church is a stronger or bigger institution. Those Churches that are considered moderate to liberal are losing members faster than the conservative ones. Some conservative Churches are losing members, but many are growing. This begs the question; is the LDS Church losing members because it is conservative or are members leaving because they are liberal and would leave anyway? — that is a question that no one has really given a good answer to.
I look at the Communities of Christ and wonder if that denomination will be here in two generations in any meaningful sense that the members of 20 years ago would recognize.
Stephen M, thank you for the example of Communities of Christ that I have forgotten. I have always wondered why the more liberal Mormons don’t just join that Church because it seems to embrace their ideals and theology. Conservatives who leave the LDS Church either join another Mormon denomination or become born again Christians. Yet, liberals leave and usually join Universalism if they return to religion at all.
As a CofChrist member, you guys tempt me to the sin of jealousy. 😀
I’m reading the Salt Lake media last night and seeing that the LDS had its THIRD WORST YEAR for baptisms ever. It still had a growth rate of 2.54%. I noticed that you had more baptisms by far than my church has members. You had more “children of record” (which I presume means children too young to baptize, but are children of baptized members) than my church has members in North America. Love to have your retention problems!
Seriously, the argument about the impact of conservatism vs progressiveism vs radicalism goes on in the North American Community of Christ just as it does here — it just starts from a baseline much farther to the political “left” than in the LDS and is strongly influenced by the presence of a third world skewing membership that sees issues very differently than North Americans or Europeans.
Even as we already have women priesthood and are considering ordination and marriage of gays and acceptance of membership from Christians of other denominations without rebaptism, and starting to structure ourselves toward more independent “national churches” to address moral issues Westerners never think about, there is still the tremendous tension between “left” and “right”.
The Community of Christ will NOT be here in two generations in any meaningful sense recognized by members of a generation ago. Whether for good or bad, it will be DIFFERENT. But then, the Community of Christ started thinking of itself as A TRUE, devinely inspired church instead of the ONE AND ONLY TRUE, divinely inspired church a generation ago.
That theology leads unpredictable places, just as the interpretation of the first vision as implying an anthropological “human-like” God led unpredictable places.
So the theological differences are not so easily bridged as: “if politically right, your theology is Mormon; if politically left, your theology is more comfortably Community of Christ. (Not that we wouldn’t we glad to take any refugees, mind you. :D)
As to numbers, I’ll be surprised based on extrapolation of previous trends published at the last World Conference in 2007, if we had even 1000 baptisms in North America in 2009. So if you move to the left, do it because you think it’s God’s will, not because you think it will be an effective missionary tool.
So happy the Mormon May Day site is finally up and working! 🙂
Very Good observations. I too feel that truth lies somewhere in between the Good intentions of men and the reality of God. I too feel that Mormonism in general has taken a worldly institutional consevative approach that creates the undesired classes we develope among ourselves.
I believe the solution to this delima can only come about by God Reopening the Heavens of Revelation to us through a very unique appointed prophet of GOD’S CHOICE. One who will have the power to clear up these differences of opinion and cause a divide among those who believe his words & those who don’t. I believe that final count of those who side with God will come from BOTH ends of the spectrum whose HEARTS are in the right place but doctrines in their minds are a little skewed.
INSTITUTIONAL should be the word that ALERTS us as something to avoid on BOTH ends of the popular political spectrum. They are Institutions of MAN & Zion can ONLY be founded on God’s Kingdom wihin each of us…A TRUE undestanding of God & His Government, which only another Man Like Moses would be capable of recieving from God & imparting that to us.
Any attempt at trying to establish that High Ground for the church, can only be accomplished by a Prophet. I’m just patiently waiting for the Lord to send a TRUE prophet with the power & answers we need.
I’m no scholar when it comes to formal education, having been a high school drop out. But I can recognize the truth when I see it.