I love the Bloggernacle*. It is a fascinating hodgepodge of riveting personal accounts, passionate arguments, juvenile hijinks, respect, disdain, sincerity, and irreverence. It has allowed many with beliefs outside the correlated orthodoxy of the Church*, otherwise isolated in their respective locations, to find others with similar worldviews and participate in the discussion of the LDS faith. But like any good thing, it has its vices.
As I have become more involved in the FOMC (Fringe-y Online Mormon Community—a term I just made up) over the past year, I’ve become increasingly worried about the implications of this little echo chamber we’ve created for ourselves. Now, it’s perfectly natural for this type of thing to happen when like-minded people get together and discuss things, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. However, I do think it poses a problem when it influences how people perceive the impact of this subculture on the larger Church.
I remember when I first broke away from orthodox belief and discovered the Bloggernacle. It was exhilarating to know that there were many who, like me, felt deeply connected to Mormonism but were uncomfortable with certain doctrines and cultural quirks. And in those first months, it seemed that everything was happening so quickly—look at how the Church doesn’t prescribe “cures” for same-sex attraction anymore! Did you see how Elder Packer’s talk was edited? And listen to Uchtdorff! The fringe crowd is growing! Our day will come! There are dozens of us! DOZENS!!
However, this week’s First Presidency statement drove home a depressing thought that’s been growing in my mind about unorthodox believers in the U.S.:
We are an unbelievably small minority in the Church, and our views/beliefs will never, ever be institutionally recognized or accepted.
I hope to God that it isn’t true, but I’m almost certain that it is. Now, there are probably many that say, “But look at the priesthood ban! The Church changed on that and it’ll change again!” And they have a point—the Church did change the policy. But (other than an anonymously-sourced essay on its website), it never really acknowledged that the ban was wrong or racist. Instead, a collective “I dunno” was written into the curriculum materials and all explanations justifying its existence were brushed aside. So I believe it will be with homosexuality; if the Church changes its position at all (a prospect I find incredibly unlikely), it will never acknowledge any previous homophobia or wrongdoing of any kind.
Here’s the bottom line: this is a Church whose official policies and curriculum is dictated by a hierarchy populated by those chosen specifically for their loyalty to the institution and its status quo. Sure, there are wards that are more accepting of ideas that fall outside the mainstream, but they are few and far between. By and large, uncorrelated beliefs aren’t (and probably will never be) validated by the institution.
Now, I’m not saying that we should shut down the Bloggernacle or that anyone with uncorrelated beliefs should get out of the Church. The Bloggernacle is a wonderful place for discussion about Church doctrine or policy, and uncorrelated believers can add much-needed diversity to their congregations. However, I am advocating a realistic view of what the relationship between the Bloggernacle and the Church is. Based on how outspoken we are, it’s is easy to think we are part of a growing, sweeping movement, but I believe this is mostly a result of the ease of communication afforded by the internet. In reality, the Bloggernacle represents an extremely small sample of the Church body; and since those with unorthodox views are rarely chosen for positions within the hierarchy, we have even less influence over the institutional Church than our numbers suggest.
The implication of this is, in my opinion, that those outside the mainstream of belief have a long life of frustrating lessons, cringe-inducing Sacrament meetings, and angsty conference attendances ahead of them. For those up to the challenge of rarely being able to share their true feelings and never having their opinions institutionally validated in Sunday meetings, I salute you. To those gripping to the pews every week, hoping that someday the light at the end of the tunnel will come and your worldview will be acknowledged as legitimate in the eyes of the Church, you may want to consider nightvision.
Crap. That’s depressing. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, though.
(*Clarifying disclaimer: when I say “Church,” I mean the correlated hierarchy that dictates Church policy and curriculum, not the entire body of people that participate in the organization. Also, when I mention the views or beliefs of the “Bloggernacle,” I’m referring to the disproportionately high percentage of those with “liberal,” uncorrelated, or otherwise unorthodox beliefs that fall outside of the Mormon mainstream, relative to a typical Mormon congregation.)