Who Should Go to Church, Anyway?

Andrew S church, diversity, doubt, LDS, liberal, Mormon, Mormons, new order mormon, obedience, orthodox, questioning, religion, righteousness 49 Comments

So over at T&S they’ve been having this discussion about the recent media report about the majority of America’s drifiting faith issues. And I know, you’re about to say, “Dude, this isn’t T&S. We do things differently at Mormon Matters,” and I understand. And while I discussed this a bit at my blog, I most definitely know we do things differently here than there. So I wanted to try to approach the subject differently here and add some value (well…perhaps I won’t be so successful at this latter endeavor.)

My question is this…who should go to church and what should we expect of the people who go to church? Recently over at T&S (and I guess it’s spilled over in some comments in this latest article), there has been a tone that suggests that Cafeteria, Middle-of-the-way, or New Order Mormons are (or should be) a concern to the church. As Bookslinger comments,

I think the drift within the LDS church is also illustrated in the bloggernacle, not just those who’ve formally left the church, but also new order Mormons and middle-way Mormons. There are also those who claim to be solidly in the Mormon camp, but still attenuate some core beliefs. In addition to the cafeteria style “I’ll take a full serving of this, and some of this, but none of that,” people now seem to be nuancing, or adding shades of grey to, things that I had previously thought of as black-and-white, go-or-no-go.

Rather than admitting that one can’t or won’t comply with requirement “X” of the gospel (or of church policy), some people nuance away or diminish “X” as non-essential, or even as an incorrect element.

Rather than figuratively beating one’s breast and admitting a lack of faith/shortcoming/sin, the item is just dismissed or nuanced away.

Ouch. Somehow I feel as if he had some people in mind with some of these thoughts. Regardless, what it got me thinking about was…what should be the goal?

I’ve seen a lot of John Dehlin’s works about staying LDS, and regardless of whether this is still representative (I’m not totally sure, so I’m not sure if I’m completely misrepresenting his views), it seems to me that it distinctly disagrees with someone like Bookslinger’s view. Bookslinger’s comment seems to suggest (maybe it’s just my imagination) that there is an ideal belief system and all members should be striving to move to acceptance to that belief system. If they do not, they should understand clearly that they are not “nuanced” or in “gray areas,” but they are unorthordox, faithless, wrong, or sinful.

If that indeed is the position that Bookslinger (or anyone else) takes, then I suppose that’s not a bad position to take, if one will take it. However, the side effect that it produces is that it creates this incredible barrier to entry that can actually serve to push people on the margins (whether inside or outside the church) away.

This is contrasted, however, with those who would suggest that the number of “core beliefs” is more limited, so there is actually a wide range of flexibility in the church. People should not feel pressured to have to believe a certain way or leave, but instead should make the church work for them.

I see advantages and disadvantages to both. The hardline stance seems just a touch more appealing (because sometimes, you need to strong understanding of what is acceptable or what is not), but on the other hand, the hardline stance also makes it quite easy to look at it all and say no. The flexible stance makes staying in the church more appealing, but it may shy down on providing the tough love needed to provide transformational change.

If the goal is to have people go to church and keep going, then it seems like one might want to consider more flexibility. However, if the goal is to have a more committed community (even if that community is smaller), then perhaps one should worry about quality over quantity and stick with potentially unpopular, unyielding ideas.

Comments

comments

Comments 49

  1. I work in a group home for young boys (7-13) with severe behavior problems. We have a bit of a program here — a routine of how we handle things like meals, laundry, school, showers, discipline situations etc. Not completely dissimilar to how a family with six children would run, although we are more likely to be physically attacked by our boys, and are more likely to need to physically restrain them. We don’t always (often?) get to follow the program all that closely, but it’s something to work from.

    One of our residents has been here about a year. When he came here, his behavior was out of control — he was restrained multiple times a day, he would run away, etc. As one of our lead staff phrases it, we tried to introduce him to our world, and he caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the house. So we made the choice to cut him some slack on the rules of the house — “meeting him in his world.” While this can sound like rewarding bad behavior (and it can definitely become that if done wrong), the damage went down sharply, the restraints went down sharply, and things calmed down a great deal over a period of months. Then we began introducing him to our world again, a bit at a time, and he is now one of our best behaved residents on average.

    I think this is a decent way of dealing with new members, or those who aren’t able to deal with the whole applied gospel program of the Church. Make some reasonable accommodations in areas that aren’t important, and develop and show respect for the differences between what they are wanting and what we’re comfortable giving. Meet them in their world. Show them love. And then, bit by bit, introduce them to the full program as it makes sense.

    For those paying close attention, you will have already noticed that the program being introduced is changed by taking this approach. The program now has a flexibility that it previously didn’t have, and the people applying that program have now learned different ways of seeing things, so everybody now has a richer experience than they had previously.

    This is somewhat like my relationship with my home teacher. He’s a clean and pretty that’s got the perfect looking family, and he’s progressing nicely on the track to be a bishop some day (and he’ll be a good one). When he first came to our ward, he was made Ward Mission Leader, and taught the Gospel Essentials class that I was hiding from Gospel Doctrine in. He brought a very standard by-the-book approach to things, and that was eaten not quite alive by a class that wasn’t looking for by-the-book answers. He adjusted. Now, I talk to him about the sorts of things that John was deeply troubled by, and he shrugs them off. His position is that none of those things make the Church not true, and none of them change what he needs to do to attain the Celestial Kingdom, so they can be interesting to contemplate without doing any damage to his testimony.

    After a turn as EQP (he’s currently 1C), I think he’ll be ready to move along to a bishopric calling. Maybe five years out — when his oldest daughter is 16 and life seems really crazy.

    So that’s what I’m thinking. Let’s spend some time exploring each others worlds — those who are more comfortable in the Church program doing the meeting in the worlds of others — and then introduce them to “our” world a bit at a time.

  2. I don’t think the cafeteria approach is anything new. My parents have been doing it that way for 40+ years, and my grandparents did too. Whether the numbers are increasing or not I couldn’t say, but certainly one of the differences now is that the anonymity of the internet allows cafeteria Mormons the freedom to talk about things that can’t be discussed anywhere else.

  3. Sometimes I think everyone in the Church should live in Utah for a year or two just to experience the weird. I’ve seen people move out there and it doesn’t take long and they’re talking the ‘special’ talk (I live in the corn fields of sourthern Minnesota). I just got done with a stint in one of April’s posts on church conduits and this guy named Wade used the term ‘cafeteria Mormon’. I think that’s what it was. I hade NO idea what he was talking about.

    I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t last long there. You see, the truth is the truth. I’m used to saying what I want, when I want, and where I want. If somebody doesn’t think what I’ve said is the truth, ok then we can duke it out. If the scriptures are used and truth is really what is sought on both sides then both sides should speak freely. And by the way, in matters of right and wrong there’s no such thing as the grey area. That color was invented by people who were to chicken to face the truth.
    And Blain. If you’ve in the Church longer than 6 months, then get out of Gospel Essentials.

  4. The church is great at converting but sucks at keeping new converts. Maybe it is this all or nothing attitude.

  5. Rich,
    It’s funny, I work with a native SLC mormon who thinks of your ideology just as skeptically. She’s inoculated from the mental duality of what you say is the “grey area”, and able to have a much more balanced outlook on clearly conflicting moral, doctrinal, and social issues. So when an obvious new understanding of “truth” is discussed, she can actually have an open mind to consider the idea, and even accept the new “truth”. In this respect, I think cafeteria members are the one’s keeping the church out of the Scientology/Heavens Gate/FLDS club, from the worlds perspective. If you really think the world is black and white, I have a few doctrinal, moral, historical and scientific questions I would like to see answered.

    And Blain, attend whatever class you see fit. It’s a free country, and if you’re LDS, you get the added bonus of having free agency on your side.

  6. JTJ. Introduce me to your native SLC mormon when she’s confronted with a real time ‘clearly conflicting moral, doctrinal, (or) social issue’ and we’ll talk about the silly emptiness of grey area cowardice.

    Blain! Get out Gospel Essentials. Stop riding ponys is circles. It’s time for you to start jumping fences.

  7. Rich, Not everyone needs to keep your intolerant attitudes. Your opinions make God a racist as you’ve clearly demonstrated by previous comments on the topic of the priesthood ban. While I’ve never met JTJ, his comments could describe me as well.

  8. Please don’t feed Rich. His participation here at MM has been nothing but negative and confrontational in every comment he’s ever left here. Based on his initial posts, it’s impossible to know if he is a member or a classic troll. Just ignore them, please.

  9. I am going to do something a little odd for me on this forum and share some quotes I used in a Sacrament Meeting talk two weeks ago. All of them except the last came from our most recent General Conference.

    Margaret Lifferth, Primary General Presidency, speaking about our attitudes as members:

    “How do I respond to others with whom I disagree in matters of religion, lifestyle, or politics?”

    Elder Cook, Apostle:

    “Our leaders have consistently counseled us to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies. It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other.”

    Elder Andersen, Apostle:

    “…there are many wonderful people of any faiths and beliefs … Others share our faith in Christ … There is much we can learn from the good people all around us.

    Elder Wirthlin, Apostle:

    “The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of he symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.”

    My own summary:

    We rob God and ourselves when we exclude others simply because they see some things differently than we do. Period.

  10. Thanks for the heads up. I wanted to respond to the “grey area cowardice” though. I actually agree Rich, in some cases waffling in the middle does not take as much courage as going to either extreme. But in many other cases, sitting in the middle with ambivalence and ambiguity, refusing to be pulled by either extreme is MUCH more difficult, and requires a lot more courage. Sometimes the path of least resistance lies on the ends, not in the middle.

  11. Rich,
    A meeting is unlikely. Sticking to the question posed in the post of, “My question is this…who should go to church and what should we expect of the people who go to church?” I would encourage all LDS who are of a progressive mind to attend, if but to provide a balance of thought against the thoughtlessness in believing the world is devoid of “grey”. I would also challenge your ‘silly’ ’empty’ and ‘cowardice’ claims. Could anyone imagine if christianity had not progressed from promoting slavery (OT) to acceptance of slavery (NT) to rejection and protection against slavery? Clearly, those on the side of freedom for all humankind are neither silly, empty, or cowards. Perhaps (and unfortunately) less dramatic examples are to discussed in sunday school today, but they must, nevertheless be discussed, and by individuals on every side of the argument, including supermarket members.

  12. My wife asks me why I continue to church since I have clearly parted ways with the brethren. I tell her I go because I need to become a better person and if nothing else the hours at church make me think about that. I am unsure how long I will be able to go, but for now I go. I feel welcome there as long as I keep my opinions to myself. I am not good at making politically correct statements.

    A fellow high priest, who often expressed opinions contrary to everyone else in the group, felt unwanted and no longer comes. I remember calling one day after he took a beating in our priesthood meeting and told him he wasn’t alone. I told him I agreed with many things he had to say, but that I choose to remain quiet and keep the peace.

    I would like to think that the “committed community” and “quality over quantity” statements in the opening exist here only for purposes of creating discussion, but I am convinced that subconsciously many saints feel that way inside. Let the sifting begin is the thought. That sentiment was been expressed ad nauseum since prop 8.

  13. adam, sometimes I wish I lived in a black-and-white world, but then I realize all the growth I would have missed from the effort to understand difficult things. I like my own private wrestling, and I hope I never accept a spoon-fed life.

  14. “Let the sifting begin” – Thanks for sharing your experience Holden. This idea is a deeply sad one to me, and a imo a terribly disturbing way to view the plan of salvation. I prefer to see us all as needing A TON of growth, and we are all here to do it together. Let’s be as inclusive as we possibly can, and only exclude when it is absolutely necessary.

  15. Holden,
    I agree with your comment, “but I am convinced that subconsciously many saints feel that way inside” except I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think the only way for people to actually consider differing ideas is to actually challenge them. What better environment to have a reasoned, calm, discussion than in church 🙂 People can’t change their minds if there’s nothing to change to.

  16. To reiterate, what the Brethren themselves are saying is NOT what is being expressed by some (too many) members. It’s sad when we (collectively) lose sight of that, and it’s ironic when the most staunch “follow the Prophet” members are the ones ignoring them in this instance.

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    So, how are the Brethren supposed to create a message that shakes all the way down to the core membership and changes minds about how we should see people within or without the church?

    As you mention, Ray, you’ve got people who might otherwise be the staunchest “follow the Prophet” members, but instead of looking at the words as you’ve pointed out in your comments (esp. 9), they would listen to other things (and as you’ve experienced in other topics, like the one on the church as a conduit), people are most DEFINITELY adept at interpreting the same scriptures or the same words in drastically different ways (or in choosing different words that are more favorable to their case)

  18. I wish I knew, Andrew – and I’m sure they do, as well. 🙂 If Jesus himself couldn’t solve that one, it just might be unsolvable.

    OTOH, I’m positive that exact same question can be asked legitimately about me and you and what doesn’t “shake down the tree” to us – so I try hard not to judge anyone else’s inability to hear and follow things that seem clear to me.

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    but then again, I dunno about you, but things don’t “shake down the tree” to me because I already acknowledge I don’t consider myself a “Follow the Prophet” kind of guy…and it’s part of the discrepancy between how you can be following the same guys and coming to drastically different conclusions that makes me wary of it all in the first place.

    It seems to me that it’s easier to realize that people will hear and follow different things (that each seem clear to the person following it) when I realize that none of these things are necessarily indicative of overarcing evident Truths.

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    OK, so going through some of the other comments..

    Re 1: What are the “areas that aren’t as important” where the church can make accommodations?

    Re 2: So, even if Cafeteria Mormonism has existed for a while (which I would agree), is it something that people should keep on the down-low? Is it something that people should eventually be trying to move away from, or is it just as legitimate as any other position?

    Re 4: So, where would be good places to be more flexible and where are the places where the church should remain all-or-nothing?

    re 9: adamf, I think I agree more with your latter conclusion. Sometimes, being in the middle is a calculated decision that puts you at odds with people from BOTH extremes sides.

    re 11: Holden, how do you deal with such an environment where you have to keep quiet (or, as you witness others with similar ideas speaking out, you see them feeling unwanted)? Is this a healthy place to continue affiliating with?

  21. Andrew S – I would say the only time not being on an extreme is easier is when there is no thought involved. Example: I know many people who would consider themselves “agnostic”. Some of them have given it a lot of thought, while others just use the label and haven’t really thought about it at all.

    I think I know what you’re saying about being at odds with both sides. Last week I was almost simultaneously having discussions with a funde-leaning Christian and some funde-leaning Mormons. It was strange, but they all seem to be in the same group to me. I’m starting to think that atheists who reject religion altogether are not that much different than exclusivists who reject everything but their view of God… reminds me of a quote I read recently: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

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    re 20:

    Actually, adamf, that kinda gets me to one of my pet peeves. This will kinda go off topic, but I am annoyed by people who try to claim they are ‘exclusively’ agnostic because that doesn’t make any sense. Agnosticism answers a question about knowledge, but it isn’t sufficient to answer a question about belief. Obviously, if someone asks, “Does God exist?” This is a question about perceived knowledge. You can say “Yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know” (agnostic). But the question people generally ask is not that. It’s “Do you believe in God?” And in this case, there are two answers: Yes and No. It doesn’t make sense to say, “I don’t know” here because that is suggesting that you don’t know if you BELIEVE (when this should be evident to a person.) I think most people get caught up because they don’t want to admit that they lack a belief (perhaps they equate it to a belief in the nonexistence of God, even though lacking a belief in God doesn’t necessarily mean one positively believes he does not exist.)

    AAAANYWAY, back on topic. I think the Cafeteria Mormons are at odds with both sides in this way: they don’t appear to be “Mormon enough” for the conservative, “orthodox” members…but at the same time, these Cafeteria Mormons are still considered “too Mormon” by their non-Mormon fundamentalist/evangelical friends. So, in a way, liberal, Cafeteria, and New Order Mormonism are each a tremendous struggle to try to reconcile personal faith with the fact that *everyone* is against you and thinks you’re wrong/sinful. It’s not an easy path to take.

    And my position: I’m atheist, but I’m not strong atheist. I’m an atheist because I do not believe in God, but that does not mean I believe God does not exist. So I get flack from believers for not believing…but I get flack from strong/positive atheists for not positively asserting that God does not exist. It’s also not an easy path to take.

  23. I’m sure that I don’t believe in a lot of things that are true even without my endorsement. To me, atheists usually seem to be saying, “If this thing doesn’t make sense to me right now, then it can never be true.” How thankful I am that the world’s greatest thinkers and innovators don’t limit their achievements to whatever Bill Maher thinks is possible.

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    Now I’ll have to get in there.

    Atheism is not saying, “It can never be true.” Rather, even STRONG atheists (that is, those who actively believe god does not exist) have a caveat, “Show me the evidence.” The problem is…the evidence is weak or inconsequential, and evidence that people are looking for (scientific, empirical, decisive evidence) is in short supply.

    But atheism is not saying, “It can never be true” or “it is impossible.” I mean, theists don’t believe in God just because he is *possible*, because lots of things are *possible*. You have to be convinced to believe — whether through spiritual experience, faith, or whatever else you will say it — and if you have not been convinced to believe…if you do not have an inclination to believe…then you won’t. That is atheism.

  25. I have a few thoughts about Cafeteria Mormonism. First of all, it’s not new or uniquely Mormon. Humans by their very nature are “cafeteria” humans. We each have a unique perspective and set of values based in part on our personal experiences, level of intelligence, and more. Secondly, to state that members need to “get in line” with some orthodox view presupposes that there is a static orthodox view. In an evolving revelation-based church, that’s tough to do. Isn’t it Cafeteria Mormonism that some leaders disagree with other leaders on matters of theology? The religion is cafeteria-based to a degree (anti-creed).

  26. adamf, the quote is Stephen F. Roberts, and is used by many new atheists in some version or another. I don’t think you will find that atheist are staunchly rooted in their nonbelief, only in the academic evidence against current understanding of theism and deity.

    Greg, An honest agnostic/atheist is actually open to the reality of a deity, just as soon as we can find him/her/it/them in the natural world. Let’s not confuse Maher’s Ad Hominem attacks as being applicable to the evidence and arguments he or others presents.

    Andrew, you lost me a bit on the knowledge belief paragraph. If someone asks if you believed in god, why not ask which one of the more than 500 gods we know do they believe in? And if someone asks if you believe in their god wouldn’t you put them through the typical rigors of rational thought. The short clip of Sam Harris vs. David Wolpe found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjhbccXIp4c&feature=channel_page illustrates.

    Back on topic, I think you’ll always have people to the left and right of you, no matter where you are in the spectrum. Two orthodox believers can have the same level of disagreement about a doctrinal issue, just as two liberals, or both mixed together. If the church can stand the overzealous 10 year food, gun and ammo apocalyptic member, (you know who you are) they can certainly stand someone who doesn’t think the world was actually under water 4,000 years ago.

  27. Pingback: Public service announcement: Atheism is not saying “God is impossible.” « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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    Re 25:

    JTJ, regarding the definition of which god (of more than 500 gods), this brings up a slightly different idea…of theological noncognitivism. “Do you believe in God?” –> “I can’t answer that question, because the term god is meaningless — please specify what you mean first.”

    I tend not to take such a position, because once again, I’m not taking a strong position. And secondly, I think that the term “God” does have some bare minimum considerations that are implied when the term is used universally. For example, I think that as a bare minimum, God has to be seen as mystical. He is not *merely* a product of the environment (and indeed even in definitions of gods that appear to ‘limit’ God — for example, LDS ideas of a god who ‘organizes’ materials rather than creating from nothing…there is still an idea of mysticism or divinity to God.) So, if I don’t believe in this minimum, then the details don’t really change that.

    To hit your second part (with the Sam Harris link as well), I’m not an evangelist. I think that people should go to what makes sense for them, so I’m not going to try to peel away someone’s faith (which is meaningful to them) so that they go to my view. At best, if someone tries to limit *me* and someone tries to attack *me*, that’s when I will have to take defensive maneuvers, but if someone happens to believe in God and that is a net positive in their life, that alone isn’t problematic. If I’m going to put someone through the “typical rigors of rational thought,” then it will only be if I see that their faith is *not* providing a net positive in their life…they are struggling to try to believe, or in order to cater to the demands of their belief system, they are bringing undue stress to themselves, then I’ll try to help them out.

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    Now…let’s see, back to my topic (as author of this post, I really shouldn’t be the one threadjacking haha)

    re 24:

    I understand your point, Hawkgrrrl, but even you would say that it cafeteria-based…to a degree. Yes, the religion is anti-creed, but this doesn’t not mean everything is permitted and everything is doctrine. I mean, your comment seems very nice and accepting, but I don’t think you want to suggest such an open church.

    So, yes, we do not have a static orthodox view…but aren’t there some aspects that indeed are static and orthodox? I mean, the church would never conceivably drop Jesus Christ from its orthodox view…no amount of revelation could make that realistically happen. So, what are other ideas that the church could never conceivably ‘eliminate’ while still being the same church?

  30. Fwiw, anyone who says they are following every word from every modern Prophet (much less from all modern apostles) is either lying of ignorant. It can’t be done. In that sense, every single member has to choose what to accept and follow and what to put aside – temporarily or permanently.

  31. Andrew S-“how do you deal with such an environment where you have to keep quiet (or, as you witness others with similar ideas speaking out, you see them feeling unwanted)? Is this a healthy place to continue affiliating with?”

    Grinding your teeth at church is certainly not good in the long-run. Like I said, I go for now. I love my wife. She wouldn’t go anywhere else. At this point, I take the good with the bad but I do see a definite need for a change in my feelings or a change of venue.

    I found a relatively close Unitarian Universalist church that I am going to visit. I need to speak with gays to seek how they reconcile Christianity and their homosexuality.

    I do not see the church as a safe place for sharing differing opinions week after week. Unfortunately, when pushed into a corner, I can be very sarcastic. This dog needs a muzzle.

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    Re 28 and 29: good link, Ray, but it gives me something to pick at…one of your comments…

    It really is one of the ironies of religion that people think Mormons are brain-washed robots, when, in fact, we are supposed to be a nation of prophets with our own revelation – all within a very basic framework of the Restored Gospel.

    I like the fact that the Church provides general guidelines and then says, in essence, “Figure it out for your own situation and circumstances.”

    Oh, and I LOVE the focus on orthopraxy over orthodoxy.

    (emphasis added)

    So, this very basic framework…how far does it spread. I mean, yes, it is a “very basic framework,” but it still must be a lasting framework, no?

  33. Fwiw, I see the framework as one of general acceptance – as opposed to rigid conformity. Iow, as long as someone is “willing to keep his commandments” (rather than “keep his commandments”) – as long as they are willing to “desire to believe” (rather than “know for certain”) – as long as they are willing to phrase things as “I’m not sure” (rather than “that’s just stupid”) – etc., one generally is accepted as fine even if his or her specific views are a bit unorthodox. Generally, it’s only when someone becomes derisive, confrontational, scoffing, etc. that there are serious problems – as Holden mentions in his comment. (Unfortunately, however, those who take a “common / orthodox” view often get away with that type of attitude – which is sad. It’s understandable, but it’s sad.)

    I think this has been emphasized and stated much more explicitly lately (since Pres. Hinckley was sustained, at least) than previously. Elder Wirthlin was the best example over the last few years, but Elders Cook and Andersen seem to be carrying that torch, as well. Frankly, I’m encouraged by that movement.

  34. Holden & Andrew,

    Bark away gents, not all your gripes have to be directed at core doctrinal issues. Last month Pfizer started backing stem cell procedures aimed at curing macular degeneration in the UK http://www.pharmafocus.com/cda/focusH/1,2109,21-0-0-APR_2009-focus_news_detail-0-492714,00.html . The LDS church is silent on embryonic stem cell research, the catholic and evangelicals are against it. Not everybody has to be Rosa Parks, but we can try and put the mental transmission in first gear on current issues that affect us all. If the LDS church had the same stance on GLBT members 20 years ago that it has today, there could have been less depression and with out a doubt, lives saved. It’s not like the doctrine changed since then, but valid social pressures have made an impact, no matter how incremental. These things happen when the cobwebs of old thought are shaken.

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  36. RE #30 being muzzled & not seeing the church as a safe place to voice differing opinions and RE # 27 other ideas that can be eliminated. I was just a little slow typing….

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    re 35: OK, I was seeing the connection to comment 30 but not quite to comment 27. I’ve got that goldfish memory thing going on.

    So, back to 33…I guess the idea though is that there ARE social pressures though…some which chip away faster at the “culture” of the church (not doctrine, as you point out with some issues, but rather just the cultural leanings of some members) and some pressures chip away more slowly.

    …nope…I’m still not quite sure what you mean here, so I don’t know what to say in reply.

    I guess what I would say is…even if the attitudes of certain members are not doctrine, the church *is* comprised of people. So if a plurality of members have certain views about stem cell research, this can be just as vexxing as an official church position.

  38. Andrew, you are not atheist. You are agnostic, technically. I am skeptical about a great many things, and agnostic about a great many things. But I have a testimony of this Church, and I know God loves all cafeteria Mormons. I started out as a McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith follower because I thought that was orthodoxy. After having been bloggernacled, I have found a much more healthy balance between my skepticism where it needs to be applied and my faith where it needs to be applied. I no longer believe in a great many teachings from early Mormonism especially. And I feel free because my beliefs can now take shape around my research. I can follow evidence without being restrained by ideology. My mind feels much more healthy. I feel like now the Holy Ghost is actually leading me along from one serendipitous discovery to the next, and I don’t need anyone to tell me what is doctrine. Now my beliefs are much more eclectic, and I can feel the spirit burning on certain things that I would never have considered. My faith is now much more complex, thanks in large measure to John Dehlin and the bloggernacle. Though, with a skeptical eye open, I follow the brethren, because I also have a testimony of priesthood keys and authority. When I say I have a skeptical eye open, I mean to say that now it is my duty to test claims coming from anyone by the Spirit rather than swallowing them because someone in authority said something. Those in authority especially, I must use the spirit to know what is true, as some in the past such as Joseph Fielding Smith perpetuated so much of his own doctrine that became orthodoxy, in particular with creationism. This church does not subscribe to creationism, though old writings of general authorities would make you think so. I have a testimony of covenant keeping, and that I must perform the “laundry list” in my callings to be obedient and follow through with the keeping of my covenants. I fully expect that I won’t get my home teaching done numerous times this year, as I slog along the path. But that is what repentance is for. All my anxiety for perfectionism is now gone. I have taken the new position that I don’t have to go crazy to take care of all the stuff on the laundry list of my callings and my duties as a priesthood holder, but I just do the best I can do, day in and day out. My “works” wont safe me, but by grace I will be saved. But only because I obeyed, trudging along the path and tripping and falling, but staying on the path. This is the path that I have a testimony that burns within me that I do have the ability to follow if I just keep trying. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isaiah 35: 8). I’m a foolish wayfarer in the Church, doing what I’m asked to do by my leaders, and failing and repenting, but I know in whom I have trusted.

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    Re 37:

    Aboz, I most certainly am agnostic; you are correct. I do not know if god exists or does not exist.

    However, this does not answer the question about belief. Once someone makes an agnostic stance, they are not exempt from making a belief stance or not. Someone can say, “I don’t know if God exists, but I believe he does,” (agnostic theist) or “I don’t know if God exists, but I don’t believe he does,” (agnostic weak atheist), or “I don’t know if God exists, but I believe he doesn’t,” (agnostic strong atheist.) So, I am atheist because I do not believe in God.

    But, continuing to the heart of your message…I think it’s pretty interesting how the bloggernacle has affected you, and you seem to think it is for the positive (which I’m happy for). But a blog like Times and Seasons is also part of the Bloggernacle, and their bloggers seem to be preoccupied with a quite different sort of thing than John Dehlin has been advocating…so what of them? What of Jared from LDS Alive in Christ, who is a very active commenter here but who does have a very solid opinion on what is orthodox and what is not?

  40. 3 — You can get me out of Gospel Essentials when you drag my cold, dead fingers from the door jam. Gospel Doctrine (with the exception of my current situation with my current instructor) has been an enormously frustrating waste of time for a long time. For all of the idea that we can’t talk about controversial topics in front of new members and investigators, I’ve found that group to be far more prepared to handle a real conversation about plural marriage, including post-manifesto plural marriage, or the priesthood ban, just to name two issues, than the average GD class member is. Occasionally, we get a teacher who wants to teach the Orthodox Religion, but we can usually break them down and get things onto more real terms until they give up and go along with us.

    I have never been shouted down for saying something the teacher didn’t like in GE, or had a point blown off. I’ve had both happen in GD. And EQ, for that matter.

    5 — Thanks. I do. Half the time, I even pick the ward I want to attend (I work out of town weekends, and only come home for Church every other week). A very big determining factor for me is the GD class, especially the teacher.

    19 — Things that aren’t as important? Some easy things include folk doctrine and folk policy, wearing Mormon uniform, and the like. Other things would be the expectation that people present as perfect, or that they agree with the orthodox members about everything. A big place would be the pressure and competitiveness and meanness women have for each other.

    Now that I put it that way, those things all need to go away, period, not just for new members or people who don’t easily fit into the box. They are the philosophies of men mingled with scripture, and they are a cancer in the body of the Church.

    Stopping to think a little more, I think what I had in mind when I wrote this were the details of the program of the Church, and the idea that people need to look, dress, think, talk and act like everybody else who comes to Church every week. And I think that this comes less from Church leaders than it comes from average members. It is about putting on the Mormon identity, rather than in allowing the Restored Gospel to change your heart and life.

    Thanks for showing that someone read more than that I’ve attended GE in preference for GD.

  41. #19 – “Re 2: So, even if Cafeteria Mormonism has existed for a while (which I would agree), is it something that people should keep on the down-low? Is it something that people should eventually be trying to move away from, or is it just as legitimate as any other position?”

    I think for a lot of us there just isn’t any other option. I spent 20 years trying to be what I was supposed to be before I finally admitted that there some things that deep down I just don’t believe, and can’t make myself believe. If the choice were to become more orthodox or get out, I’d be gone.

    Cafeteria Mormons are still in the church because it’s filling *some* kind of need for them. So the question becomes “Are the members there to serve the needs of the church, or is the church’s purpose to serve the needs of the members?” If the church comes first in importance, then perhaps Cafeteria Mormons are undesirables who need to commit fully or move on. If the members are most important, then yes, Cafeteria Mormonism is legitimate and members should be encouraged to participate in the church at whatever level is most comfortable for them.

  42. Andrew,

    There are things you have written that I disagree with, and many things on Mormon Matters I disagree with very strongly. Mormon Heretic for example, I disagree strongly with a lot he writes. And T&S I disagree with strongly at times. But I don’t care, because what people choose to do with their lives has nothing to do with me. I got what I needed from these sites. That is all that matters to me. I don’t need anybody to declare to me their particular version of anything. I have a head on my shoulders and the spirit in my heart to be able to find my own way through this thing.

  43. Having been in the military and seen men in all kinds of circumstances–from whore houses, strip clubs, bar brawls, church meeting, and combat I don’t believe in atheism. I’ve seen men in fear with the possibility of death at any moment plead for help and the first thing out of their mouth was Heavenly Father please forgive me of……

    Note: I was active in the church while in the military.

  44. Aboz, Please tune in tomorrow. I think you may find a subject we agree on. 🙂 FWIW, I’m much more outspoken here than in my ward. Like Holden, I’ve found it better to keep a much lower profile at church.

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    Re 39:

    That definitely makes sense. I must admit that when I was younger, I’d look in disdain at people at other churches who would go in just jeans and t-shirts, and I’d think, “I’m so glad my church has higher standards.”

    But as I grew up, I realized that what you wear to church is really not important…and in fact, I was finding that some of the most spiritual, most knowledgeable people in the church were being shunned because they didn’t wear that Mormon uniform. And that’s a shame.

    now…about that GE vs. GD.

    I will say that…whenever I go to my home ward (since I’m at school most of the year and *gasp*, I barely attend any ward these days), I don’t even try to find the class I’m supposed to be in. I’m pretty sure it’s a GD class, but I’m pretty sure it’s the wrong age group. No one’s called me out on being a creepy college kid in the 16-17 year old class. And if anyone wants to chastise me, I’ll just pass the blame game and say my confusion is due to all of the college students in the area who won’t even go to class and show me which one is the right one.

    re 40:

    This also makes sense, Mytha, but I would have a question: do you ever feel a tension that perhaps many members actually *do* think the church comes first in importance? If so, do you simply look past these tensions?

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  47. Andrew, from a psychological perspective I would not necessarily say that being in a foxhole causes one to believe, but it is extremely common to cry out for something (may or may not necessarily be “god”) in times of significant distress. Even buddhists who may not believe in any deity have a practice similar to this.

  48. 44 — The only nominal difference between Course 16-17 and GD is the teacher and the class — the curriculum is the same. But the curriculum isn’t the part of GD that I have a problem with (well, other than the idea that we can reasonably cover the OT in a year’s time). My problem with GD is mostly in the culture of the room, and the stagnation of thought that goes with it. I generally have a problem stagnation of thought, and when it gets reactionary, then I have more of a problem with it.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that what we wear doesn’t matter. I would just say that it’s not as important in actuality as it is seen to be culturally. It would help if our official line could catch up with what actually goes on in terms of dress. We are told to wear our “best,” but that doesn’t address the unidentified standard of dress, nor the totally unidentified upper limit. The day after prom for HS kids aside, we don’t have people wearing formal attire to Church — no tuxes or evening gowns — and some folks own them.

    But, mostly, I think we need to be prepared to accept people as they are, rather than “encouraging” them to be “better,” especially when that standard of “better” is subjective and cultural, rather than doctrinal. More with the loving our neighbor.

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