Recently there’s been gossip about a possible new Mormon.org replacement: Become.org. Jana Reiss wrote about it today in her “Top 5” General Conference rumors post. While I’m skeptical of the Church getting rid of their most recognizable website, the word “become” has already made its way on to Mormon.org as a three-part way to understand the Church, “Believe, Belong, Become” (or “Believe, Become, Belong” depending on which version of Mormon.org you’re looking at!). If the Church is trying to look more like other Christian denominations, this is definitely a way to do it. Variations of a believe-belong-become formula have been floating around for awhile.

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A Google image search for “Believe Belong Become” shows the prevalence of the phrase and its variations among different Christian denominations.

Background

Some scholars have look at religious traditions through a lens of three factors: behavior, belief, and belonging. For example, one sociologist in 2002 posited that ritualistic behavior fosters belief in certain doctrines and belonging in the community. But it isn’t just scholars using this three-part model. Leaders of Christian denominations themselves have worked for many years with variations on this equation when talking about conversion to the faith. As one Baptist pastor put it,

The church I first learned about God from and from whom I received my beginning theology had an equation they followed. It was an equation that went without challenge because we weren’t living in challenging times. It was an equation that drove everything about how we functioned as a church and no one questioned it…. Here’s the old equation:  Belief leads to behavior; and behavior leads to belonging.

Of course, that pastor was arguing that times were changing, and he proposed a different solution, “if we’ll find a way to allow people to belong, if they feel a sense of connection and welcome, they’ll find their way to believing.” Notably, a 2017 Catholic post also declared belonging as the critical first step, followed by belief and behavior.[1] At some point, people started replacing the word “behave” with the more ambitious “become.” The new process of evangelism (converting others to the gospel of Jesus Christ) thus became belonging, belief, and becoming.

Mormon.org

When I first heard the Become.org rumor, I figured (if true) it would have something to do with President Oaks’ October 2000 general conference address, “The Challenge to Become.” Oaks talked about the conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ requiring us to become something greater than ourselves.

To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become.

So Oaks covered belief and becoming, but no belonging (he does mention exaltation as a family affair, but he doesn’t mention the wider church community). So Oaks’ talk doesn’t have anything to do with the verbiage on Mormon.org, right? Well…

On one version of Mormon.org, this is what’s under the “Believe, Belong, Become” headings:

Believe

Welcome to a living faith, where truths influence our everyday lives.

Belong

Welcome to a family. Learn about our worship services – even join us this Sunday!

Become

Welcome to a support group, where we try to help each other become better every day.

Screenshot of one version of Mormon.org.

On another version of Mormon.org, this is what’s under the “Believe, Become, Belong” headings:

Believe

Welcome to a source of divine help.

As a companion to the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon teaches us about Jesus Christ and His immeasurable love for us. We invite you to learn more about this amazing book of scripture, as well as other beliefs that help us feel closer to God.

Become

Welcome to a living faith.

What we preach on Sunday, we try to practice every day. Living the values taught by Jesus Christ leads to a sense of purpose and happiness, as well as provide strength to face the difficulties of life.

Belong

Welcome to a community.

Here, we think of each other as family – and act like we actually are. Learn about our workshop services, community projects and age-based activity programs – you’re welcome to come join us this Sunday at a meetinghouse near you.

Screenshot of another version of Mormon.org.

Overall, the Mormon.org use of believe and belong matches up well with the traditional Christian usage of the terms. Click on “Believe” and it takes you to one of several variations of a website describing some of our beliefs. Click on “Belong” on one version of Mormon.org and there’s a cute website describing our church community. The other version links to website describing what it’s like to specifically worship in our community.

The interesting one is the “Become” section. On both versions of Mormon.org, the “Become” section takes you to a website describing our beliefs on the meaning of life. One line states, “God’s plan is not random. It is carefully designed to give you the experiences you need to return to Him again as a better person.” The only time the word “become” is used on the entire page is in dealing with life’s challenges: “You can choose to make the best of the most trying circumstances, and you can become better because of them.” In looking deeper, that section on challenges echoes Oaks’ “The Challenge to Become” talk.

Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call “the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:101 Ne. 20:10)…. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become.

Not to say that the meaning of life site only focuses on afflictions (although, there is a featured video of a mom talking about her son’s autism). The three major sections of the website talk about the significance of your life to God (meaning, Heavenly Father), others (mainly your family), and your eternal happiness (primarily finding joy amidst affliction, though it does mention baptism and repentance).

What’s missing from that website is the concept of becoming a disciple of Christ that you find in more traditional Christian denominational uses. Even Oaks took time to mention the pure love of Christ as a hallmark of conversion in his conference address.

We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes.

See, that’s more what I expected to see with “Become.”

Takeaway

It does seem that there is something to the “Become” rumor, though right now the evidence is on Mormon.org, not Become.org. Currently, the Become.org site is a duplicate of one of the Church’s beliefs websites, but that could change anytime. (Heck, the Mormon.org site has been driving me nuts with their variations just in the last week.) Regardless, like dropping our unique “Mormon” moniker, using a “Believe, Belong, Become” (or “Believe, Become, Belong”) motto helps us look more like mainstream Christian denominations. Maybe that’s the point?

Questions:

  • What do you think about Mormon.org using “Believe, Become, Belong”? Is this new or do you remember the Church using the phrase before?
  • What do you think about the way Mormon.org uses “Become”?

[1] There has been some deserved pushback on any sort of universal linear model for conversion like belong–>belief–>behave. One Lutheran bishop argued in 2013,

Belonging, Behaving and Believing are all significant aspects of a fully embodied disciple of Jesus Christ, but we may need to be flexible in our ordering. For some people, there is an intellectual connection to the faith, for others it will be the attractiveness of belonging to a community, and others it’s the behaviors. In other words, there is no one path. We are wise to see that there are multiple ways into the faith.

W&T blogger Andrew S approached Mormonism with a similar three-part structure in a 2016 blog post, noting that individual members appreciate different aspects of the religion more than others. One group’s primary satisfaction is behavior, the doing (Word of Wisdom, church attendance, prayer, etc.). Another group is drawn more towards the unique doctrines and beliefs, the intellectual satisfaction. A third group cherishes belonging, the strong sense of community in Mormonism.