This post is spawned by an interesting post from Mette Harrison on her suggestions for improvements for the Mormon church. https://religionnews.com/2018/10/15/10-ways-to-imagine-a-new-mormonism/
These posts come around from time to time, and it’s interesting to theorize what kind of changes we’d like to see. When I see lists like this, sometimes I come away with greater appreciation for my church. The list of what I like about my church is much longer than what I’d like to see change. Here’s my shot at the list. I’m taking this more at a theoretical and conceptional level than a list of specific, practical changes. Those would come naturally out of this kind of change.
- Letting go of certainty and embracing ambiguity. Instead of talking about our scriptures, doctrine, and church history founding events as certain, it would be nice to talk about them as things we hope for, or this is our best attempt at understanding God, but no one knows for sure. As we do this, we can open up space for Neo-Apologist views like BOM non-historicity, First Vision as the 1832 account not 1838 account, polygamy and/or some other problematic issues being viewed as mistakes without needing to explain them faithfully.
- Shift in how we view exclusivity claims. Instead of talking about ourselves as the only true church, I’d like to see us as truth seekers, who think we have a great religion, but we don’t claim exclusive truth or exclusive access to God’s priesthood power and authority. Truth and priesthood power are things we as a religion and a human family can seek and tap into by following universal principles.
- Shift in the value proposition. The value proposition of Mormonism needs to shift, if we admit less certainty about our doctrine. The value proposition now becomes the joy, peace, fulfillment, meaning, and support we experience in our daily lives as we engage Mormonism with faith and commitment.
- Shift in what makes us special or unique. Richard Bushman calls us the “do-gooders”. Or as the Book of Mormon Musical says ridiculously but powerfully our reputation is to be “really ****ing nice to everyone.” This is a great reputation we’ve developed. Let’s embrace it. Let’s shift our missions to be more service oriented (maybe 50-50 service to proselyting). Let’s keep doing our Christmas #lighttheworld. Let’s further develop our reputation for being very serious about following Jesus Christ in serving and loving our neighbors, creating Zion a Heaven on Earth, and making the world a better place.
- As we encourage less certainty about our scriptures, our doctrines, our past revelatory events, and our ability to channel perfectly the mind and will of God, we will naturally become more focused on scientific and human understanding. Out of this will come faster progress on important social issues like LGBT+ doctrines and policies, female equality, racism, etc.
- Balance of grace and works and dealing with guilt. I almost skipped this, because I personally think we do pretty well on this but included because the experience people have in the church seems to be varied on this point. We need to develop better how to teach standards, teach the importance to make a difference in the world, teach our kids to get straight A’s, emphasize the importance of education and career, how to succeed and get ahead, how to be (and prepare to be) faithful to our spouses, how to have high integrity and morals, yet also not develop guilt complexes or suicidal thoughts or deep dissatisfaction when we feel like we haven’t done enough. Aim for the stars but be gentle with ourselves when we only hit the moon. I think we’re getting a lot better on this, but we have more to go.
What’s perhaps more important is what we have right already that doesn’t need to change.
Book of Mormon, other scriptures, the hymns, retain the Sunday meetings, the sacrament, Primary, youth programs, missions, temple weddings, temple ordinances, seminary and institute, general conference, moral and ethical standards that are higher than the world at large, standards related to sexual purity, emphasis on families, eternal progression, Heavenly Mother doctrine, Family Home Evening, doctrine that I am a Child of God, pioneer stories, feeling of being a tribe or a uniquely bonded people, family history, and just about everything else.