Mormon Stories

In recognizing that politics is a topic filled with too much strife and vitriol (and yet many of our permas continue to prod that hornet’s nest), I’ve decided to choose a different topic with which to incense people: the issue of new order, or liberal, or heterodox, or non-traditional, or unorthodox, or most recently monikered, uncorrelated Mormonism.

While this world certainly doesn’t “reside” in any one place, I would be remiss not to mention John Dehlin’s role in reaching out to the “uncorrelated Mormon.” Mormon Stories, the new Mormon Matters Podcast, StayLDS…these are just some of the areas of his self-defined missiological calling to “the one” (who turns out to be quite more than “one,” at least anecdotally.)

…Shall I say that John has done more, save Matt Stone and Trey Parker only, for the recontextualization of Mormonism in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it? Or would that be too irreverent?

Well, certainly, reports of John’s exit are greatly exaggerated. Yet, John is in a precarious situation, as you can read about here.

Many people — on both sides of the Mormon belief spectrum — have an uncanny distrust or suspicion or cynicism about John. It’s absolutely amazing to me that both sides can claim him as one of them (both a believer *and* as a nonbeliever) while at the same time furiously rejecting him (as a nonbelieving wolf in sheep’s clothing or as insincere to his knowledge of the church’s history and doctrine.) If there is one thing you can say for him, he is a paradigmatic enigma. He’s absolutely fascinating, no doubt.

…but let’s not talk so much about John. Let’s instead talk about this group of people about whom he is so concerned: the uncorrelated, or nontraditional, or unorthodox Mormon.

I think that many of us here at W&T can sympathize with this group of people, maybe because many of us fit this category or are very familiar with people who do. Maybe a non-negligible portion of us have issues with the way church is run, or with particular doctrines espoused by the church now or that have been espoused by the church in the past (notwithstanding the progress the church has made since.) Maybe we can’t say with a straight face that we “believe” at all. Or maybe we struggle to recontextualize what it means to believe — whether we redefine the content of that belief (from literal to metaphorical?) or the actual act we consecrate as belief (from knowing to hoping).

And yet, as strongly as we can identify our points of otherness, of divergence, of uncorrelatedness, we just as strongly identify our points of Mormonness. It is our cultural identity; it informs our behavior; it encompasses our circle of friends and family.

So, we have reason to cling to it in some way or fashion. It’s our heritage as much as it is the church’s, right? Or we have family and friends that we love too much to let our beliefs come between us.

Or whatever our particular situation may be.

So…I can respect — to an extent — John’s service to and with uncorrelated Mormons. I can respect to an extent the process of recontextualizing, of reclaiming one’s Mormonism, even at immense unpopularity. I can understand why John has plenty of fans who believe that it is very much to the church’s loss if disciplinary action is taken against him.

…but…I still remain somewhat unclear. Confused.

tithing slipI want to see uncorrelated Mormons put their money where their mouths are.

I would love to see a big, open tent Mormonism. But I feel that perhaps this is naive.

Literally because of money (and time).

Suppose that the church “approves” of having uncorrelated Mormon supplementary groups in addition to the church. As something to augment, not to replace. If church doctrines remain the same, if church history remains the same, then what will this mean? Will the uncorrelated Mormons support the leaders and their revelations? Will the uncorrelated Mormons pay tithes to an institution with goals for using the tithes that they disagree?

And if they don’t or won’t, then why should the church support these groups? Why should they give them any recognition?

While the uncorrelated Mormon position currently stinks, I don’t see how from the church’s perspective it is all that beneficial to support them.

I mean, sure, from a perspective of human compassion it makes sense…but from a perspective of supporting particular truth claims and of supporting particular values, it doesn’t make as much sense.

In a way, I like — and even empathize with — many of the comments on John Dehlin’s latest Mormon Stories thread. For example, this one from J Seth Anderson:

I’m a 4th generation Utah Mormon. I’m a seminary graduate and returned missionary. I officially had my name removed after Prop 8, although I will forever be a Cultural Mormon. That fact took me years to understand. I do not believe the Church is what it claims to be. I am a blissfully happy non-theist.

Since leaving the Church I’ve been a devout student of Mormon history and doctrine than I ever was before. (Studying the Book of Mormon over a cup of coffee is one of my greatest pleasures.) Mormon Stories has helped me embrace my Mormonism, even though I am now not officially a Mormon. History matters to me, objective facts matter, open and honest discussion matter. My intelligence and understanding grow when I listen to Mormon Stories. Exploring ALL aspects of Church history and doctrine have helped me define me and my culture and more importantly have helped me understand what I can do to ease suffering in the world.

In many ways, I feel similarly. I suppose I haven’t had my name removed, and I don’t study the Book of Mormon over cups of coffee (but only because I quite frankly still can’t understand how people drink any of the stuff counseled against in the Word of Wisdom…I am only half-joking when I suspect that maybe what the church got right was the wisdom that one should not drink disgusting things 🙂 )…but I can definitely identify with being an even more devout student of Mormon history and doctrine than I ever was before (maybe because I redirected my time spent in boring meetings?).

…At the same time, maybe I put words in J Seth’s mouth, but I don’t see him rejoining the church, tithing 10% of his income to the church, or preaching the truth claims of the church about God or about what kinds of families are more divinely sanctioned than others to strangers. I see the church as having counter-intuitively made many people Mormon, but not made them believers.

I really want to know, any wandering Uncorrelated Mormons…what do you think? Am I completely off here? And how?