Most people have noticed that political identity is now stronger in members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints than religious identity. For example, religious authorities asking people to wear face masks are routinely ignored by members under them who differ on the matter as a part of politics.
That is because there are no longer many Mormons.
Mormons were an ethnic group. As “Jan” Shipps, the well known American historian specializing in Mormon History noted, the ethnic nature of Mormons was a surprising feature.
A significant part of that feature was that Mormons acted as if they were part of an expanded family. Membership as a Mormon was more about acting in common, belonging to the community than it was about belief or behaviors.
The cultural entanglements, such as road shows, dance festivals, group dinners, sports leagues and the chapel as a community center created a vibrant sense of identity.
As Brigham Young stated, you were welcome as a Mormon as long as you participated, regardless of your beliefs. The importance of status markers, financial success and other factors was less important than group/family membership. A federal judge might have an enlisted man’s family over for dinner, for example, because they were both Mormons.
And, of course, religious or ethnic identity was much more important than politics.
The end of Mormons has resulted in an end of that identity.
As a result, social status, political views and other issues are much more important to those who used to be Mormons than the Church, which continues to grow less and less relevant to their lives.
When someone moves into a ward, it is not a member of the family coming home, it is now a time to evaluate them as either a benefit or a drain to the community. When a religious leader calls for an action, such as wearing Facemasks to combat the pandemic, you get protests such as the one in the recent news if a local school wants the same thing done.
While some of those in the picture are not LDS, that identity isn’t what is important to them. Their political identity is.
Additionally, belief has become more important than acting in common. A great deal of scrupulosity has emerged. “Building a fence around the law” has gone from a criticism made by Christ in the New Testament to a virtue.
They also existed in Jesus’ day. Much of His conversations with the Pharisees centered on the Law and tearing down the fences they had erected. Fences that kept people out of the kingdom of God and away from the Gospel. We can find one of these conversations in which Jesus seeks to kick down the fences in Mark 7:1–23 and Matthew 15:1–20.https://www.1517.org/articles/the-hidden-fences-of-the-law
Indeed, one way to mark the end of Mormons is to mark the end of the lessons on not building a hedge around the law and the move to creating such hedges instead.
Socializing is more by social status and class than as a group, congregation or ward.
There are other changes.
For example, one big change is how sexual offenses are treated by the Church. When I was younger, men were punished more harshly because they had position and power.
Now, the common complaint is that men are not held as accountable but are instead protected when they abuse others sexually—because they have position and power. News stories seem to report this steadily.
I could say more, or less on the subject of changes, but I think I will leave it to the comments by our readers to discuss the changes they have seen or experienced.
So, I have questions for our readers.
- What changes have you noticed most in the Church as it has ceased to be Mormon?
- What things do you see as better?
- What do you miss?
- What do you think of the loss of relevance the Church has to member’s lives compared to the relevance of their political party?
- Do you think status consciousness is an improvement?
- What are the downsides to membership as it has lost the meaning becoming part of an ethnic group or extended family?
- What does membership in the Church mean to you now?
- What other thoughts do you have?
I think you are talking about two separate things that you are somehow mixing together as one. And both of these issues are related to technology.
issue 1: It is true that we seem to be identifying ourselves more than ever by our politics. I don’t think that’s because people are generally more interested in politics than they used to be. I think it’s because social media and the Internet is driving this identification. Everyone now feels the need to take a stand on every issue and to identify themselves as a member of x tribe. A lot of public/electronic virtue signaling too.
issue 2: I don’t think political identity mentioned above has replace religious identity. Just because RMN has deleted “Mormon” from the lexicon doesn’t mean members of the Church see themselves any differently. But it’s true that overall religious identity has diminished just like identity tied to clubs and other organizations. And why is this? Because everyone has everything they need in their own home. High speed Internet. Cable TV. It’s the same reason why attendance at NCAA and NFL football games has gone down in recent years (pre-Corona). People would rather watch from the convenience of home.
And here’s how this relates to Church membership: we are doing less attendance at meetinghouses and more “attendance” at home thanks to Corona. The big question is, when things open back up, will people come back? Or will they stay at home? You can thank technology for all of this, not Satan.
Interesting approach josh. But “Mormons” in the 60s and 70s and 80s were much more focused on membership in the Church and not as readily divided by political beliefs.
It isn’t that the people see themselves differently, it is that the priority of political identity is higher.
I see your reasoning though, but it also accepts the loss of social cohesion as a given.
And I don’t see the RMN lexicon change as driving any of this.
But you raise a great question. What happens when churches open back up?
I don’t know but I agree it is a great question.
I remember the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. It was a bit cheesy, but liked that it was an earnest attempt by the Church to portray us members as the normal everyday people we actually are, rather than the exceptional people we sometimes believe we are. We fully co-opted and embraced the once-derisive nickname. I think the Church was really trying to clean up the PR damage done by Prop 8 a few years earlier, and in many ways they succeeded. At the time, we had a presidential candidate who was a real contender, but you could still be a good Mormon if you didn’t vote for him. There was also a hit Broadway musical that mercilessly lampooned our faith, but instead of responding with fierce opposition and boycotts, the Church capitalized on the show’s popularity and used it as a “missionary opportunity”.
Now that we aren’t allowed to be Mormons anymore, I feel like we are in a very different church now, and not necessarily a better one. Elder Uchtdorf was demoted. The current leaders are doubling down on an anti-LGBT, pro-religious freedom agenda (which, intentional or not, is very much connected to political identity) and continues to be doing nothing to address racial issues, apart from a few hollow gestures. The Church implicitly aligned itself with the current administration by having the Tabernacle Choir perform at the inauguration, as well as giving a personal guided tour to 45 when he visited SLC (both of these events were heartbreaking for me to watch). But the 3-hour block, boy scouts and home teaching are gone, and the endowment ceremony has been cleaned up, so there’s that.
SRM: I misunderstood. I thought you were associating RMN’s campaign against “Mormon” with members’ religious identity downward track. But you are not, and I agree that today it is much different to be a member of the Church than it was. I still maintain that it has a lotto do with technology. But there are other drivers. One easy example: these days many kids are involved with competitive sports. It’s almost impossible to juggle that with Church activities. My girls basically chose soccer over YW. There are just so many competing activities today. Imagine trying to organize a ward or stake roadshow in this day and age. Impossible (even pre-Corona)
I think a lot of the features of Trumpism that have infiltrated the politicized and conservative body of the Church would have happened with or without the dropping of “Mormon” from our identity. But after the discussion in the post, I’m thinking maybe there were some positive connotations of the term “Mormon” that have not carried over into the preferred “I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Maybe we lost something. Like if we could no longer call ourselves “Americans.”
The other effect is the current lockdown and how surprising it is that most of us … don’t miss church. At all. Maybe we’re not as “Mormon” as we thought we were. There might be thousands who will say, in a few years, “I used to be Mormon, and then there was Trump, and then there was Covid … and then I just wasn’t Mormon anymore.”
I should have been clearer.
You illustrate well that people now see other activities as more important and more relevant than Church.
David — I think you highlight a real issue.
Without social connection what are people spending their two hours on? Do they learn something new or useful? Is it worth the effort? Is it really part of their identity?
Good questions. I don’t know the answer.
It should be interesting to see where things go and what the church becomes.
I obviously don’t know, and don’t know how the church is reacting to the changes or what is planned.
Appreciate everyone’s thoughts.
Jack—you are right that there has been a lot of change. Not sure it is the laundry list you’ve shared, but I appreciate your feelings.
It seems that the loss of identification with organized religion parallels the loss of participation in other social/fraternal organizations (Elks, Masons, etc.). I agree that the growing use of technology has contributed to that.
I honestly thought that moving away from a uniquely Mormon identity/ethnicity was a good step for us, since there wouldn’t be as much class division between legacy members versus newer arrivals. I think, though, that instead of being more open to those with different backgrounds, we’ve all just adapted to relying on political identities to divide the world between us vs. them.
During the 2015 General Conference, President Uchtdorf gave a talk on being genuine; which included some narrative on “Potemkin Villages”. This address which describes the use of “villages with beautiful facades” but nothing of great substance behind them, has come back into my mind during the events and experiences of the last 6 months. Without a doubt, the LDS Church builds beautiful buildings, with remarkable grounds and stunning colorful flowers; all of which are quite pleasing to the eye. However, during these difficult months – I’ve perceived and felt an emptiness, lack of depth, no remarkable (spiritual or otherwise) assistance from this church; to a world and nation in great need. Oh yes, there are always (well worn) beautiful words and phrases…..but really nothing of much consequence. At a time when “the Church” could have done so much – personally, I think they’ve failed horribly – and I think they know it. (To their credit they did shut down the chapels and the temples after a time – and encouraged people to study and worship at home.) But, really…..talk is cheap.
As I watch all of my neighbors and friends (and their families) walking, laughing and playing together on Sundays now….and as we share conversation….I’ve been struck – and probably comforted to a degree – to learn how many of them have found the Church to now be quite inconsequential in their lives and that they really wish that they could find some way to not return to the “typical Mormon Sunday”. Ironically, most of these discussions include a declaration of a “close feeling to God”; but not as a result of anything the Church (or it’s leaders have done). In fact, the “organization of the Church” is rapidly being forgotten; and has been found to be more of a burden than a help. I would imagine that the longer the pandemic continues….and the longer people experience life outside of the “church norm”, the more Church leaders are going to be forced into a new reality; which might be vastly different than what they expect.
The LDS Church really is quite a beautiful Potemkin Village; but when things get rough…..there’s really not much behind the facade.
Agree with Dave, and leftloafer, Trump has created division, and distrust of authority, and shown no leadership. After 140,000 deaths conservatives still saying the virus is a hoax, and so is racism.
The leaders of the church at a time when they could have been leaders, shown the benifit of revelation, have talked about religious freedom, and defending discrimination, and otherwise no leadership. The fact that they closed down early is good but that they have opened up way too soon?
That most of the leadership are in at risk groups, could explain the first decision (self preservation) I bet the first presedency are not attending meetings.
If this goes on for another 6 months how many will return?
If Utah again votes for Trump, it will confirm that no moral leadership in the church, and not my people.
Geoff—you are making the point strongly that your political affiliation trumps religious identity. Thank you for supporting that point.
MaryAnn—indeed, there appear to be pluses and minuses.
Leftandloafer—I’m not sure how your criticism relates to the shift away from ethnic identity.
All—let me repeat (since this was missed some other places this essay ended up shared) that the end of ethnic identity over the past ten or so years has nothing to do with the name change/rebranding that occurred.
That happened after we ceased to be the Mormon ethnic group, not before.
Wendy W. Nelson said that metaphorical seagulls will devour the COVID crickets (Church News April 2020). If that happens, perhaps the Church will be relevant again. In the meantime, I have had three emails from my (Utah) bishopric, the most recent encouraging us to walk around the neighborhood and socialize on Sunday nights. Also, requests to report on those to whom I minister, an electronic quorum-wide call for help to help some dude move some dirt in his yard, and a ward email request to welcome two new families to the ward, from a social distance. Home church still in effect and we are waiting for future light and knowledge from our stake president who is also a physician…
The dissolution of Mormon cultural identity was well underway long before Nelson killed the nickname. The Mormonism of the 70s and 80s in which I grew up was dying in the 1990s. As Salt Lake wrested more and more control from local expressions of Mormonism and demanded more and more attention be placed on the Brethren, I watched all that was exciting about Mormonism vanish. Then and only then did Nelson come along.
I would love to hear thoughts on how Correlation may have impacted the decline in “Mormon” identity, since it seems to have grown along the same timeline as identity has dissipated.
Steven, institutional Mormonism and cultural Mormonism are not the same, except if you live in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, where the institution dominates culture.
In Hawaii, our members do not “ghost” one another; we do not understand “virtue signaling.” There are no “cafeteria Mormons,” or even “jack Mormons.” This type of talk is culturally inappropriate in the Hawaiian/Polynesian way of worship.
The Mormon culture exported by the institution that manages the Church is offensive. I hope that circumcising “Mormonism” decentralizes the potency of Utah in the institution.
MaryAnn, “we’ve all just adapted to relying on political identities to divide the world between us vs. them.” Not all. Some of us cannot adopt or persist with any available political identity/classification. I wonder if MaryAnn’s comment may be truer in some wards or locations than others.
Stephen, “What do you think of the loss of relevance the Church has to members’ lives compared to the relevance of their political party?”
For some, at least, it hasn’t lost out to relevance of political party, though the nature and scope of the Church’s relevance to their lives has certainly changed since I became aware of it in the 1950s.
“What are the downsides to membership as it has lost the meaning becoming part of an ethnic group or extended family?”
I don’t think I have grasped how it was ever an “ethnic group,” but I did grow up seeing a ward behaving largely like an extended family and have seen those behaviors less and less over the years since the 1960s. It has seemed to me that the extended-family behaviors in my 1960s not-intermountain ward had at least two foundations. One was the Mormon understanding that we had some “truth” or divine authority to offer non-Mormons who didn’t have it. In the Pacific northwest this seems to have led to significant growth by conversion in the 1960s, in addition to the growth by move-ins from Utah.. There wasn’t any “class division between legacy members versus newer arrivals” observable to a high-school student. I expect that may have been partly a function of perspective, but it was also a function of the other significant foundation of Mormon ward extended-family behaviors. That was the fact that we actually did things together that required investment of time, money, and effort — things that were not part of organizational matters or getting through a 3-hour block. We had a variety of group fund-raising projects for the building fund. There were the RS “bazaars” to raise funds for RS activities — both service and cultural. There was volunteer labor working on building construction. There was volunteer labor working on the welfare farms. There were significant scouting, ward camping outings, sports, music, speech, drama, dance activities. While some of those were motivated by programs originating in SLC, they did not have to be and some were locally initiated.
People develop extended-family type connections by working and playing together, not by sitting as a largely silent audience through a 3-hour block of once per week meetings. The scope of the work and play activities now possible, is not only a function of ward members having cultural and sports opportunities outside Church sponsorship. we had those in the 60s as well — and many participated in school sports, community-based music and drama organizations, and other matters. It was still possible to have such Church-extended-family events as well as the larger community-based events because we had wards large enough for the events to survive the absence of some ward members. Now having spent decades building churches without local involvement — churches that are too small to accommodate large wards, and having largely given up local fund-raising efforts, there is no practical way to go back to some of that extended-family-building activity even if we wanted to, which we mostly don’t. Conscripted local labor “cleaning” the buildings is no substitute for the kind of working together that once existed.
EJ noted that “correlation” grew over the same timeline as the dissipation of identity. At least one aspect of “correlation” that contributed significantly to the abandonment of local extended-family-building efforts was taking assets and control away from the Relief Society. Perhaps there were others as well.
The Church is hemorrhaging young people, especially educated young people, b/c of the leadership’s ongoing anti-LGBTQ crusade that has persisted post Prop 8. Nothing I am aware of will change the complexion of the Church more, or damage it more profoundly, than this phenomenon.
The title would be cooler if it were “Once Were Mormons” like the movie “Once Were Warriors”. Totally fitting to a group who were strong and mighty but the world changed and now they struggle.
Please don’t think I’m placing the church as a victim like the Maori and other indigenous populations were due to British upheaval of their world. The title made me think about some similarities of the two.
Still the concept of former glory but now trying to be relevant and survive in a world that’s moved on.
Some really interesting comments here, thanks to everyone for the good discussion.
One change that I have noticed is that some members have taken to Ward-shopping when they move. Growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I may not have been privy to this kind of behavior, but I was shocked to see this happen repeatedly in the DC suburbs in northern Virginia in recent years. After the Stake re-districted several wards, our Ward (wealthy, well-educated, but skewed a bit on the older side) was unfortunately left with a small youth program. We had great adult leaders, smart and kind youth, and lots of leadership opportunities. The program was probably about the same size as my home Ward’s youth group growing up, so it was small compared to some of the neighboring Wards but still a good size for a youth program outside the intermountain west. On at least three occassions that I can remember, large, active families would show up in our Sacrament meeting. We’d introduce ourselves and ask if they were just visiting or if they had recently moved-in. In each case, they said they were planning to move to the area but wanted to see what the youth program was like, and they commented that they’d be visiting the other Ward in our town. Well, needless to say we never saw them again because they decided to move into the Ward with the massive youth program. Unrelated, a counselor in the other Ward’s bishopric commented to me prior to the Stake’s boundary realignment announcement that if he were re-districted out of the Ward he would sell his home (very expensive new construction) and build a new home within the new Ward boundaries.
Since I have moved out on my own and started my own family we have moved a lot. Never once did it cross my mind to visit the local wards to determine where I should rent my next apartment. I always figured that I would work and serve wherever we landed, but it seems that mindset may be changing. People seem to view their local ward less as an extended family or tight-knit community which they can learn to love and serve, and more as a commodity or asset they can buy into if they deem it attractive enough.
This is not how things operate in Mexico, where we currently live. The ward culture here is much more like the Mormon culture of the 70’s and 80’s described in the OP and some of the comments. We don’t have road shows, but the Ward building is the center of the active LDS community, and members enthusiastically attend their (many) Ward activities; the activities last for hours! This high degree of community has been my observations in wards across Mexico. My current ward isn’t status conscious, because most families were converts and the ward is almost uniformly the same socio-economic class. I have seen wards in Central Mexico that are highly status conscious when it comes to length of family history in the Church; in one area, several prominent LDS families were not on good terms because each claimed that their ancestors were the first to join the Church in that area.
“People seem to view their local ward less as an extended family or tight-knit community which they can learn to love and serve, and more as a commodity or asset they can buy into if they deem it attractive enough. ”
Ward shopping has been around for a long time and for some people should be done more often. The quoted statement may be true of some shoppers, but far from all. There are those families whose teenagers desperately need to be in a ward with peer support and not in one in which they are practically the only teenagers. There are those who cannot find a way to love and serve in a ward that rudely rejects them because they don’t subscribe to the vocally prominent political ideas of the outspoken majority. There are those who cannot tolerate listening to a pipe organ that is so badly designed and voiced that it is constantly obnoxious and even a minimally musical old electronic is better. I once did what I might call anti-ward shopping within my own stake. We were finally ready to buy a home and I instructed my realtor friend that I would not even consider a home in a certain ward with a bishop I had seen blow up and chastise the stake presidency in public, who insisted that no one from his ward was to be asked to serve in a stake position, and that the stake was there to serve his ward. There was then no way I could imagine enduring another meeting with that self-centered, rude, jerk let alone one in which he was in charge.
Don’t be too hasty to criticize ward shopping generally, even if for some it may be prompted by social status or some other less than charitable concern. It is not always so (even if I was not then capable of being more charitable to a jerk than I was concerned with my mental and spiritual health).
Wondering, all great points. Thanks for sharing your experience. I apologize for being too harsh on ward shopping in general, and you are correct that there are many cases where it is absolutely desirable for the mental, spiritual, and physical health of those involved to shop wards. Based on your comments I can tell you definitely avoided a bad situation by anti-ward shopping in your stake!
My critique is of the cases that I was aware of, and in those cases they made it clear they were looking for a large youth program (flat out told the Bishop and youth leaders). We’re talking a difference of circa 75 youth vs 20-25; socio-economically and politically the wards were equal, and both had good Bishops. Unfortunately number of youth isn’t always a good indicator of quality though, since the larger ward (to which I belonged for a while) had some bullying issues and cliques, which the smaller ward did not have. It is this shopping for a certain degree of status that I found to be a change from the “Mormon” culture and ethos described in the OP, but I am young so maybe I just haven’t had enough experience to know that this has been happening for a long time.
I was also disheartened about those things but I realized the prophet can’t not welcome whomever the U.S. president happens to be. The Choir will also not refuse to sing at any inauguration with the same reasoning. We are to love our fellowmen and extend our hand and good influence if possible. If I’m correct, I did notice Trump is the only president the Church has not presented with his genealogy and if so I’d say that speaks volumes. We saw the photo of Trump getting introduced to Christ and a lesson about Him from Pres. Eyring and gifted with small replica of our famous statue of Christ.
Trump looks perplexed as to why he should have any interest in this Christ as this is someone who got crucified and he prefers heroes who don’t get crucified. But gotta give credit to Eyring and the Church for putting on a good face, doing their job and trying with him anyway.
I also think it’s a positive for women that Wendy Nelson feels fine about publicly speaking to people. She’s really the first president’s wife we hear from.
The change of direction in the comment thread toward the issue of ward shopping is interesting.
If you want to stay in the Church, you learn to stack the deck of playing cards in your favor as much as you can.
I lived in Maryland for 30-plus years. In a matter of three years, our Ward went from having an average Sacrament Service attendance of 225, the highest in the Stake and the S.P. saying that the Ward would soon split, down to 150. Why such a precipitate drop? In my opinion, the decline was largely caused by a rigid man who did not want to be Bishop— because he did not like to deal with people and their problems—and who would publicly humiliate people when they said things that he disliked. He also used publicly words like “evil” to characterize people who disagreed with a Ward policy.
Word about these kind of things gets out pretty quickly, and I was approached by several Church members at my place of work, about what they were hearing about our Ward. The message had spread: do not move into the boundaries of Ward X.
The problem was exacerbated by committed Church members in our Ward seizing on employment opportunities, that would cause them to have to move outside our Ward boundaries. I have known of many people over the years who found Ward and Stake leadership to be so intolerable, that they solved the problem by moving.
Our earlier Bishop had been released, and after the difficult Bishop was installed, had then become our Stake President, and was well-liked and respected. He shared his frustration with me that, when he asked Bishop Rigid about declining attendance, that Bishop Rigid simply said that some people were unfaithful, and cited the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. There was no concern about reaching out to keep people in Church.
Fortunately, our old Maryland Ward now has a down-to-earth Bishop, well-liked and respected.
I don’t envy SPs who have to try to manage difficult Bishops. ( Of course, I have also known SPs get rid of Bishops whom they thought were too independent.)
We need to write a manual on how to survive a toxic Bishop. I sympathize with Bishops who struggle with difficult Ward members, and who have a tremendous burden, but believe me, it is a two-way Street.
Also there is no being “Mormon” in the Celestial Kingdom. It’s the Church of the Firstborn. The early day Saints don’t identify themselves with being “Mormon” because they never were. They’re Saints. We’re all Saints. I’m all for a tightly knit, loving extended community of Saints from all cultures.
Taiwan Missionary, it baffles and frustrates me that such leaders are not released. I have seen other ward leaders released over offending people but it seems that no matter how destructive a Bishop or SP is (short of being arrested for a felony) they are never released until they have served their 5 or 10 years.
Mez, Nope. I remember hearing from Sister McKay, Sister Smith (Joseph Fielding), Sister Kimball, and Sister Hinckley, most of them with appreciation. Many could do with hearing a great deal less from Sister Nelson and a great deal more from those women who actually have general church leadership callings. Being married to a Church president is not such a calling and does not make one a prophetess. Are those seagulls still on the way? “THE SEAGULLS ARE ON THEIR WAY AS WE CONTINUE TO PRAY!” WWN, April 2, 2020.
The disappearance of cultural Mormonism is sad, but not all bad. I know college student from Syria who found a more “pure” or “true” form if Islam in the diverse mosque in our U..S. college town. What she had at home seemed a little too cultural, but here she was able to really appreciate Islamic teachings that transcend cultures and nationalities. Church members can experience something similar this by connecting to Christianity. Go forth, share and partake!
Also, the trends you describe are being accelerated by the coronavirus. The church is well positioned to handle the virus relative to some other churches, like the one I attend. A church that just needs the family and the internet can do fine under lockdown.
I agree, the social aspects of Mormonism have changed dramatically. I’m 75, I was a teenager in the 1950’s. My preteens were spent in Illinois, my teenage years in Michigan. In Illinois, I remember my father working on the new Ward chapel. In the 60’s there were Gold and Green Balls, roadshows, Boy Scouts, three hour spit sessions of Church (priesthood and SS in the morning, home and visiting teaching, SM in the evening), interesting discussions in priesthood meeting and Sunday School). I remember our Michigan ward being somewhat progressive. I certainly don’t remember any political issues mentioned in SM.
I left on my mission in 1963. Boy was I in for a shock. First, a temple ceremony which didn’t seem consistent with my personal beliefs. The dialogue was problematic, and I was skeptical of secret initiation rite. Next, I was introduced to the craziness of BRM, Joseph Fielding Smith., and Dyer. And finally, the sales routines used to proselytize were dumb and not useful in France. And I had no explanation for the Black priesthood ban.
The Church of my youth was a fiction. Parts of it exist today in blogs. I’ve in Utah County now for about 40 years. Today, I don’t recognize any of Mormonism. The Republican politics, obsession with the Last Days, the anti-science elements, etc. And much of the social cohesion is gone.
The Church leadership is deemphasizing church participation in lieu of home churching. With correlation, Church meeting devolved into boring affairs. We now have 2 hour meetings on Sunday. With the corona virus, many members are starting to wonder about the necessity of formal church meetings. Our Ward chapels seem like dinosaurs. With the $100B, some members wonder about the tithing commandment. Is it being allocated appropriately? Is official tithing too tied to the prosperity gospel.
One good thing about the current social environment: since the institutional church has decided to disengage with members, members have more time to engage with the world around them. Be more outward thinking and less inward. With modern technology, the members have an almost unlimited potential to engage anywhere in the world. Since the Church is financially set, we can allocate our tithing money anywhere we want. We are living in a great time. President Monson added a 4th mission of the Church: help the poor. Since the institutional church has been slow to react to this mission, we as members can on our own.
Roger, “The Church of my youth was a fiction.” What does this mean?
Stephen R Marsh, “Geoff—you are making the point strongly that your political affiliation trumps religious identity. Thank you for supporting that point.”
I don’t see it that way. I see Geoff-Aus as having politics that are informed by his moral view of the world. They are in line with so much that is taught in the Book of Mormon, where all are alike unto God and inequality is condemned. Some more recent church leaders (and by more recent I mean some who have led over the last 5-7 decades) have injected a different brand of politics into church culture but Geoff’s politics align with the teachings of so many beloved scriptures and church leaders.
Wondering, I suspect that the Michigan Ward I attended was somewhat atypical. It was comfortably removed from Church headquarters. Our Stake President was George Romney who had an expansive view of Mormonism (for example, he was active in the civil rights movement). It was a brief flowering. MSU graduate students were our teachers, and we had freewheeling discussions in Priesthood and SM. Learn from the best books meant just that. For a time, it was a progressive Ward in a conservative Church.
There was no temple prep courses back then, so on the downside, I had no idea what to expect when I got to SLC and the mission home. The temple ceremony was a shock. In other words, my church wasn”t always on the same page with that of leadership.
After I left Michigan, the new Bishop was much more stern and conservative. And I suspect the Ward evolved (or devolved) into something more like the Utah model. In the mission field, most of the missionaries had views and belief quite different from mine, as did the MP.
Thanks Trying, for you defence. You are correct I was trying to say that the church should equal the gospel, which equals morality. Our discrimination against women, and gays, is not gospel, but driven by conservative culture. So members adopt much more of that conservative culture, which is in direct opposition to the gospel. They are so far away from the gospel they would vote for Trump.
Roger, I lived in a ward like that, without the Romney influence, where conservatism was removed from the church. We had a bishop who went to night school to learn hebrew, so he could understand the old testament, another brother was qualified as a rabbi. Imagine the discussions. Our chior leader liked gregorian chants, so the chior did them.
It was an enlivening and uplifting time. I was first councilor on the bishopric during this time.
We then moved to the area my family came from, not realising it was much more conservative, where it seemed a bishop/branch pres. was chosen because he was the most conservative male. We had a discussion about abortion and euthanasis, on the way back from a leadership meeting, and a couple of days later he summoned me to a court where my membership would be tried. Since then I have been refused TR by two conservative bishops, because I would not agree that obedience is the first law of heaven. I believe the saviour said love is.
So you might understand why I have problems with conservative culture being equated with the church.
I too was on a mission in the 60s, in Ireland. We taught all our discussions to Bro. Brown. Not that we taught that many.
The church has lost a lot, and followed the Republican party to the right. Nelson is just the extension of that. Much that is trivial, and irrelavent.
If I had a Bishop who tried to pin me down in a temple recommend interview about whether obedience is the first law of heaven, I would quote him Mark 12:28-34 and all of First Corinthians 13. I would also state that obedience to God’s commandments demonstrates our sincerity in loving Him (John 14:15), but that obedience should be the result of love, not fear. I would then ask why he was veering off script, since Bishops and SPS are supposed to ask only the TR questions , as they are written.
Honestly, Geoff-Aus, your experiences sound like they came from a time warp. How long ago did they happen? Two years ago, or (hopefully) 50 years ago? You have mentioned them several times over the past few years. Goodness knows I have my issues about the overly conservative political personalities who seem to lurk in many chapel corridors, but I was fortunate enough that when I pushed back, they went looking for easier prey. I also have also occasionally been harangued by politically liberal members, but they are much rarer. I have fortunately never been assaulted the way Geoff-Aus was in his TR interviews. (I once had a SP accuse me of immorality when I was 26, but I pinned his ears back, and chewed him out, and he backed off, and that was the last I heard of THAT.)
It takes a thick hide to be a church member. I have also found Church members in Utah to be more liberal than members in Maryland, a Blue State, where I lived for years. The mission field feels a need to be more Catholic than the Pope, I guess.
But ultimately, Christ‘s Kingdom, as he told Pilate, who viewed issues through political lenses, is not if this world.
From Ambrose Bierce‘s Devil‘s Dictionary: A conservative believes in existing evils. A liberal wishes to replace existing evils with new ones.
I am sure the politically liberal contributors to W and T will forgive me if I show them the same skepticism I have shown over 46 years of Church membership, to our Church‘s conservative members.
From George Orwell: if freedom means anything at all, it is the right to tell other people what they don‘t want to hear. I might wish that Geoff-Aus could occasionally not rant about Republicans and Trump, and say more about the many interesting Things that have happened in his life, but I will always defend his right to be a thorn in the side of overly-political conservative Church leaders.
I am very curious where in Maryland you lived, Taiwan Missionary. I was born and raised a Marylander.
I also appreciate your skepticism of liberalism. Christianity is neither conservative nor progressive. It is something else entirely, and if one ever finds oneself as a Christian comfortable within any political environment, one is doing something wrong as a Christian. The Son of Man had no place to lay his head.
The National Cathedral livestreamed a sermon a few weeks ago about ” white soul work.” I was disappointed to say the least. Christianity already has a perfectly good phrase to describe “white soul work.” It is called “being born again,” and we all have to do it, regardless of race.
When I lost my Mormon identity by leaving the church, I finally felt like I had been grafted into Christianity. I still feel that way, even after formally associating with another denomination. It is hard as an exMormon though. My natural instinct is to find identity in my new group, but time and again I realize there is no denomination that can give that to me.
Geoff-Aus — nicely said.
Everyone, thank you for adding to the coversation.
Tiwan, the attempt at excommunication was 24 years ago. A few years after that we moved to another ward. My wife was called as RS president, and I was HP group leader. We then had boundary changes, and a new bishop, and we were released. When I next went for a TR interview we had the first refusal because of obedience being the first law of heaven. I did point out the scriptures you did, plus john 15:11+12, which is the same talk as 14:15 but explains that the commandment he wants obeyed is to love our fellows. I went to the SP who told the bishop to give me the recommend. We then had a change of SP so the bishop tried it again, next a new bishop no problems, then a new bishop who is the son in law of the problem bishop. This is 3 years ago. Refused to ask the questions, went on a fishing expedition for an hour, then made an appointment next week and did the same. I told him I was there for a TR, and he was required to ask me the questions, he was not allowed to take advice from anyone else, which he obviously had. So back to SP, bishop asked the questions, and gave me the recommend. He then told me that as long as he is bishop I will not give a talk or teach a class. Last TR time no problem.
I’m afraid in the present world most everything is political, particularly in America. Christ taught us to love our fellow men, and particularly to care for the poor and downtrodden. I see no effort from the right of politics to do this whereas I do see an effort from the left.
I am aware of a need from those not of the left to make out that either party will do, as neither lines up perfectly with the gospel. And some who don’t think your vote should be affected, by Christs teachings. I can not understand how that works.
Perhaps there should be a post where we each give more details about ourselves, so we can know more about each other.
Tiwan asked for some of that.
I live in a house my wife and I designed, and which we then built. The walls are built of ecoblocks, the back half of the house (the bedrooms) has a concrete roof, it is dug into a sandstone hill two bedrooms have light/ventilation ducts. (It was going to be earth covered, but is concrete, less maintanence) The front half has a roof made of 250mm thick bondor cool room panels. The house is about 360 square meters. This is not conventional house construction. We bought another house on half an acre and subdivided 2 blocks off it. Our house is on one of these blocks. The house and land cost about $400,000 and would sell for $1 million. The house is superinsulated, and a wonderful place to live with views.
At present we drive a Jaguar xf but I have been working on converting a 2006 mercedes S class(which we drove for a few years), into a plug in hybrid, which will hopefully retain the smoothness, quietness, and ride (air suspension) while adding 4WD, and reducing the fuel consumption by 3/4. It will also have the extras a 2016 mercedes has, and the mechanicals have only done 25,000 kilometers. It will ride about 70mm higher than normal, and be able able to rise up another 70mm. Mercedes do an S class with the same mechanicals as mine (less the 4WD) but in Aus it costs $320,000.
I do not do conventional houses or cars. I do exceptional, but less expensive.
Dr. Rieux- I’m really curious which ward/stake in Nova you’re referring to. We’ve lived there off /on for a couple of decades and when we recently moved homes, we ended up right back in the same ward we started, in part because the new boundary change made the ward we’d been in more compact geographically (it had previously been sprawling), and with a youth program largely going to the same school. So yeah, I guess we ward shopped. The boundary change made a certain segment of the previous boundaries (less than a half mile from the chapel) a non starter for us simply because it mapped to a chapel another 20 min away. Ain’t nobody got time for that at the end of a long commute on a Wednesday.
Your experience in Nova Scotia, in which your redesigned ward boundaries meant going to a chapel 20 miles away, rather than the one a half-mile from your home, makes me suspect that some local Church leaders were anxious to create new wards. That cannot be done unless there is a certain level of Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the area. I have seen some pretty creative gerrymandering done to meet that requirement.
Was this the case for you?
Sorry, I wasn’t clear. Nova=Northern Virginia in this case. 20 minutes away (but only something like eight miles).
But yes, I think there was an attempt to create a new ward. It got carved out of our stake and put into the neighboring stake.
All I can think to say is, “Seagulls, stop it now!”
Latam girl– guess I should have asked about wards in the Winchester, VA area.
[I say that because I’m moving there. The information would be useful to me personally as to that part of Northern Virginia.]