I was listening to a book discussion about Jane Austen’s novel Sense & Sensibility. One of the podcasters provides historical context for these weekly discussions. She was talking about the scene when the dastardly Willoughby seeks forgiveness from Elinor, whose sister he has wronged. While he wants her to forgive him, the podcaster points out that he really hasn’t done any of the hard work to change himself that a real apology would require. He’s sorry because he couldn’t marry her sister (the winsome Kate Winslet in Ang Lee’s version); he’s not sorry for harming people with his selfish behavior throughout the preceding events of the novel. He claims his current loveless marriage is a sort of penance without recognizing that he’s harming his new wife in still carrying a torch for someone else and in referring to his new wife, his current victim, in derogatory terms. He was participating in a Christian ritualized confession without holding any of the Christian ideals it embodies and without the interior work that Jesus preached.
The podcaster who made these observations explained that she was raised in a conservative religious family, attending Catholic school, and that as an adult she does not affiliate with any religious tradition. She further observed the historical religious environments in the novel vs. the cultural assumptions we make in the contemporary United States, which is a much more outwardly religious country than England. In the wake of the reformation, the Church of England became the state-sponsored religion, but it was less intrusive into the interior lives of its congregants. As Queen Elizabeth I was quoted “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.” Everyone belonged to the same Church, but they could feel differently about it, and the Church didn’t demand much beyond milestone events like marrying and burying. Being a C&E Christian was acceptable.
By contrast, the US was colonized by religious exiles who wanted to create a more dominant religious environment, one with more structure and rules, to create the “city on a hill,” an idealized Christian community. External devotion was required, and people chose their church based on an alignment with its mission and vision. American Churches had high expectations and demands. Religion wasn’t dictated by the state eventually, although it was usually privileged; it comprised of rules, sacrifice, duty, and devotion. Belonging to a Church required an outward observance of its rules, public displays of devotion. Because of these high demand requirements, boundary maintenance took the place of private feeling. So long as you followed the rules of the leaders, it didn’t matter whether you were a good person or not. If you publicly performed your religion’s requirements, you were considered a “good Christian,” regardless of the content of your character or whether the gospel made you a more moral person or not.
So, building on her thoughts, there were a few observations about “higher demand” religions that are popular in the US and the downstream impacts of those types of worship vs. a state-sponsored “lower demand” religion like Anglicanism.
- These religious movements (perhaps ironically) sprang from a desire to make religion more accessible to individuals (e.g. publishing the Bible in English), and reducing the power the Church and the clergy had over its parishioners.
- Anglicanism was perceived as secular with low requirements for compliance and attendance. Sounds like heaven, right?
- One of the key corruptions that had crept in was that priests and curates were chosen by elite families with a “living” in their possession to “bestow” on whomever they chose, including second sons who could not inherit family titles and lands. They had to achieve the requisite education, but nobody cared what their beliefs were or their ability to provide pastoral care.  
- While the US was set up as a place of “religious freedom” what that meant in practical terms was a place where higher demanding religions that had emerged in protest to the lax & corrupt Anglican Church could hold sway and have political power denied to them in England which had a state-run Church. “Religious freedom” really meant giving these religious movements preference and political power; it wasn’t on the whole designed to be a pluralistic secular nation (Rhode Island came closest to a pluralistic society, and many who found Massachussetts’ religious fervor overbearing fled to that colony, even though the clam chowder was miles better in Massachussetts).
- These high demand religions were focused on creating a “Christian nation,” one with their views holding political power and dictating the behavior of citizens.
- Although individual piety was expected, outward performance of that piety was how individuals were judged and their behavior kept in line with required norms by those religions in power (see also every Nathaniel Hawthorne story ever written).
- Any deviance from performative norms was viewed with black & white superstition and a need to control; hyperbole was used to shame behaviors that might be normal, but were considered sinful and therefore threats to the patriarchal order that was established (e.g. slaves, wives or children disobeying their head of household whose word was supreme; anyone using medicinal herbs that could be recast as “white magic” to heal the sick).
- Using public shaming rather than private conscience as a tool for reform and repentance, applying penalties that were visible to all in the community so that those undesired behaviors would not be tolerated (which likely just drove them underground, creating incentives to lie and hide things, tale as old as time ).
Taking these historical observations to their logical psychological conclusions, we also see the following “fruits,” and as Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Here are some of the downsides to the types of high demand religions that founded the United States and that still predominate here:
- The more you prescribe how devotion must be done, the less emphasis there can be on an individual’s quest for devotion and/or spirituality. This is one of the foundational questions that drove Joseph Smith who sought his own salvation and didn’t like the enthusiastic prescriptions of the preachers during the Second Great Awakening, or in his words “It feels good not to be trammelled.”
- Hand in hand with the first observation, the more a religion requires performative (public) behavior, the less energy there is for internal work and introspection.
- Seeking the approval of human authorities and social groups is, according to scripture, the opposite of seeking divine approval. “The Lord looketh on the heart.” Humans don’t and can’t.
- Instead of self-knowledge attained through reflection, group rules and approval enforce self-deception and only superficial introspection. Complying with group norms is a completely different type of activity than discipleship and self-improvement. You can become a “good Mormon” (as gauged by outward, visible behaviors) while internally being a terrible disciple and Christian.
- When Church rules and norms are the focus, the idea emerges that without Church rules and norms, individuals would devolve into hedonism and go “off the deep end.” This idea becomes deeply engrained in the culture as well as within individuals.
Let’s explore that last one a bit. I have a good friend who told me about a family member who had become an atheist after years in the Church, and as the friend explained (as if this were an inevitability), this person then cheated on his wife because “why not.” Once you leave the Church or quit believing in God, what constraints would there be on your behavior? I disagreed completely with this view and pointed out that you don’t have to believe in God or attend a Church to avoid harming others through your selfish and reckless actions. You can be a good person without belonging to a Church or without a belief in God. As missionaries, didn’t we deliberately seek out people like that, people without a religion (or a weak tie to religion) who wanted to be good people and do good things? Clearly, it’s not attending Church that makes people be good.
But the notion that being “unchurched” (an antiquated word I love for its simplicity) equals behaving immorally or recklessly is so ingrained into us (indoctrinated, some would say), that it’s totally common to hear a person claim in a testimony meeting that they are grateful they are in the Church because they are convinced that without it, they would have succumbed to addiction, self-sabotage, or other reckless behaviors that would have resulted in an unhappy life. Who’s to say? Maybe that is true for some, maybe not. We can’t know what other influences may have occurred in their life. It also seems that someone who chose to be a moral person with the Church’s influence may have also done the same without it. After all, you can be outwardly religious and inwardly not moral, like one of Uchtdorf’s Potemkin Villages, and so the reverse can be true.
I would posit that the more a religion demands in outward performative behaviors, the less likely a person is to develop an inward, self-reflective moral compass, for the same reason Jesus gives:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.Matthew 6:5
When you focus your attention on the approval of men (quite literally in a patriarchal culture), you have your reward; you don’t need to do the internal moral work that truly creates a good person.
What do you think?
- Does being in a high demand religion hinder individual morality or teach it like training-wheels on a bicycle or bumpers on a bowling lane (which many believe hold back the development of these skills rather than assisting)?
- Do you see an inevitable arc in this historical view of the US vs. England or do you think things could have (or did) happen differently?
- Does the cycle of church corruption > individual devotion > new, higher religious standards > church power & control > church corruption constantly repeat because power corrupts? Do you see this differently?
 Christmas & Easter or as the podcaster said they called them in her family “Cheasters.”
 Unlike BYU’s religion department which doesn’t care a whit about having appropriate educational credentials, but solely focuses on perceived orthodoxy and charisma.
 Jane Austen fans may recall that the dastardly Wickham opines that he would have enjoyed his life as a priest if Darcy hadn’t denied him the living. Then he is revealed to be a sexual predator of young heiresses, so basically yes, he would have loved being a priest. Wink, wink.
 See also BYU’s Ecclesiastical Endorsement process and *SPOILER ALERT* the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter.
Let me give you two solid examples of what you are talking about: First, because active LDS members pay so much money (10%+) in tithing and fast offerings, they feel no need (or have no ability) to donate to charitable organizations outside of the Church. In this sense, our non-LDS friends are often more charitible with their funds because they are able and willing in ways we are not. Second, because active LDS members are often engaged in Church callings or temple activity, they have less time (and maybe willingness) to spend time in the community. In this sense, our non-LDS friends are often more engaged with greater society.
In my two examples above, the fact that our high-demand religion requires our money and time, we are less able to contribute to greater society. We come close to worshiping the institution (COJCOLDS) as a substitute for engaging in charitable Christian service in terms of time and money. Meanwhile, $130b and counting. 20 more temples and counting.
Can we not refer to the talented actress Kate Winslet as luscious, (pleasing to the taste or smell?)
Emily: Changed to winsome. Back to the topic.
Good and complex post. I think it’s also important to remember that religion and its moral coding was used (and still is used) as a tool of colonizers the world over. That having been said, I can only answer for my own experience:
I have noticed over the years that the less orthodox my thinking, the more likely I am to improve as a person. YMMV, but I do think we make a mistake in thinking that all of the rituals, callings, etc. we perform actually do what they’re supposed to do. When I go to the temple, I’m a lot more likely to be thinking “what does all of this stuff mean? Nobody will tell me.” rather than thinking “I’m so edified, I want to go end world hunger immediately.” Same with a lot of the other things we do. I think, to one of your points above, that we do associate all of the “busy work” of church callings, rituals, etc. with moral improvement. That’s actually a fairly effective strategy to get folks to buy into the religion in the first place. But I have found that because my wife and I haven’t been attending church due to COVID, Sundays are more relaxed and we have more time to talk to each other and connect with one another. I find that I have more time to listen and to do the real inner work of becoming a better partner and a better person.
Related to my first point, over the past year, I have found that my mind is less cluttered; less occupied with thinking “oh no, I should be doing X, Y or Z thing to be a member in good standing” and I therefore have more time to really think about what improvements I need to make and to really spend time observing how my words and behavior affect people. Of course, a TBM would say that if I checked all of the busy work boxes, and spent time in prayer and devotion to Christ, I’d be an even better person. Fair enough, I suppose, but I just haven’t found that to be the case. I feel like I have at least an idea of how Christ would want me to treat others, so now I just try to really focus my thoughts and energy on doing so. And not attending church (or the temple recently) has actually helped me focus.
And to another point you make above, in the past 14 months of not attending church, I haven’t all of a sudden found my appetite for whiskey or cocaine or bank robbery or hookers greatly increasing. I haven’t missed church at all, in part because I haven’t had to perform the mental gymnastics required for listening to talks and lessons that are based on either provably false claims or a vastly oversimplified view of the gospel. In other words, I don’t have to “perform” my beliefs at all, even if “performing” mainly involves trying to avoid rolling my eyes. Frankly, I’m not excited about going back.
I loved reading this post. Thank you.
As to your astute observation that one can be a good Mormon outwardly, and be a terrible Christian on the inside, I learned long ago, at considerable cost to myself, that those who qualify for a temple recommend and who go to the temple, are not always very good Christians. Often they are. But often they are not.
I have known a lot of evangelical Christians over the years. Many of them asked me, “Are Mormons Christian?” I would answer them, “Some are. Some are not. Just like Evangelicals.” Many of them , but not all, appreciated the point I was making.
As to the seeming inevitability of the cycle you describe involving devotion, high church standards, and corruption. Yes, power corrupts—despite our best efforts. Eugene England wrote of his realization that he would inevitably be exercising unrighteousness dominion, when he was called to Church leadership positions. It is unavoidable. This is why Christ’s atonement is essential. The more decisions we have to make, the more we will do wrong. The issue is, I think, how to balance the needs of running a Church that can do a lot of good things, with the need to maintain personal discipleship and decency and autonomy.
I don’t think we will ever find a fully satisfactory answer. In the meantime, as a believing Church member who tries to be observant, I try very hard to make sure that I am the one in charge of what I do. I try to sustain my leaders (sometimes that is a challenge), but I am the one who decides what I do. That sometimes requires a thick hide and a willingness to be the odd man out. The more we need the approval of our tribal group, the harder this balancing act will be.
On atheism and lack of morals. Morals are informed by cultural norms, which run deeper than religious commitment. In fact, I’ve often been surprised at how many ex-Mormons continue to adhere to political conservative values and philosophies in spite of rejecting Mormonism. There are a large variety of cultures in the US, all of them with value systems. I don’t think that individuals can fully and consciously detach themselves from culture. An individual may reject one culture in favor of another. But humans inevitably seek a value system and some way to evaluate right and wrong actions. Unable to formulate a completely unique value system of their own, individuals are inherently reliant on each to inform their value systems. I’ve encountered some people who consider themselves “above the fray” and fully independent thinking, only to find distinct patterns of value-systems (often libertarian or conspiracist) informing their beliefs, which they are either too stubborn to admit or simply painfully unaware of. Suffice it to say, though, understanding how culture takes shape and manifests itself is like tackling a wild beast that is constantly on the move and trying to escape. We know culture and cultures exist, but we inevitably commit all sorts of category errors and generalizations in trying to understand and unpack them.
On the difference between religion in the UK and the US, a couple of points: 1) the collective historical memory of the religion in the UK is fraught with all sorts of religious conflict. A deep history of conflict as well as harsh state imposition of religion, it seems, has driven many people in Western Europe away from religion. 2) Enlightenment values, which drastically influenced and shaped the emergence of the many different European nation-states, created a sort of new religion of nationalism which came to replace traditional religion. There are notable exceptions to the rule, such as Poland which is deeply Catholic, but most European countries have a strong current of irreligion and religious apathy in their societies. In the US, by contrast, many came seeking religious freedom. But in the American British Colonies, there were all sorts of religious experiments besides the Puritan/Congregationalist experiments of Massachusetts. Pennsylvania was created as a home to Quakers. Maryland as a home to Catholics. By the time of the American Revolution, Americans had too many different religious affiliations and influences for the founders to acknowledge a predominant state religion. Religious freedom was largely a product of circumstance and convenience. A united thirteen colonies, which most leading Americans favored in the late 1700s, was deemed preferable to a disparate group of colonies. By trying to push the supremacy of one church or the other on what would become the US, the founders risked fracturing a delicately-held-together patchwork of states, which were already in competition with each other for a variety of other reasons. Anglicanism had been popular in the South, but grew out of favor since it became associated with the British crown. George Whitefield and other firebrand evangelists gradually led the South and other parts of the US away from traditional Anglicanism to give Christianity in the US its own distinct flair.
(1) It’s always good to be reminded that some of the things that drive me nuts about Mormonism are part of American culture, not uniquely us. I need to be gentler.
(2) I do think that focusing on outward appearances and performing Christianity can contribute to being less Christian inwardly (because we check the box and think we’re good). I’m sometimes troubled by how much time certain types of service may take away from more meaningful service in our communities. That said, as an introvert and generally selfish person, I have to admit that participating in my Church community forces me to think about and serve other people and, if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t know how much of that I’d do otherwise. I do wish we’d channel that outside our bubble and into the larger community, although I’ve seen some people really effectively marshall their Church congregations to that end if they put their minds to it.
Does high demand religion individual morality? Yes! The first example that came to mind is modesty / law of chastity. We’ve managed to sexualize women’s shoulders and bodies far more than if we had just taught self respect as the moral goal. Time intensive Sundays that serve the institution, and ineffective missions are other examples.
My TBM wife who served a mission in England would counter that at least high demand religions believe in *something* but I would respond that perhaps both are equally off the mark, albeit in different directions. Her experience was that the average Englishman was essentially agnostic, and perhaps the US is only a generation or two behind England.
Too many these days demand a religion that requires no effort. No time, no contributions, and no attendance requirements. Essentially, they want to be praised, without lifting a finger.
True religion requires effort to serve others. Sitting around in sweatpants and crocs watching hot dog eating contests on television may be more attractive to the masses, but this effortless existence does no good.
Society can only prosper if it’s members spend time and effort to care for one another. That is irrefutable fact.
Mr. Charity: Thou doth protest too much. Admit it: you’re really into sitting around watching hotdog eating contests.
High-demand religion hinders individual morality because those groups tend to be heavy on fear-based teaching (LDS Church is no exception) rather than a faith-based approach (voluntary, respecting individual agency). Things like “sad heaven”, modesty doctrine, temple recommends, referring to tithing as “fire insurance”, and a myriad of other explicit and implicit threats of exclusion, both temporal and eternal–these are all hallmarks of a high-demand faith.
One of the fundamental, unspoken assumptions of Elders Quorum is that Church activity is the only thing stopping men from committing adultery, gambling away their savings, taking up drinking, looking at porn constantly, and beating/neglecting/abandoning their children–that all men are predisposed to such behavior, but for the stabilizing force of the priesthood in their lives. This seems to be the underlying (but seldom mentioned out loud) premise of just about every priesthood meeting I’ve ever been to. It’s ridiculous, but it’s there. Yes, there are men out there who need to go to church every week to be reminded not to cheat on their wives. This was the case with a former bishopric counselor in my ward (when church meetings shut down last year due to COVID, he and his wife got divorced not long after). For such men, church attendance is indeed performative. That, or they have personal problems so extensive that no amount of religion can fix them–there is no individual morality to begin with. The unfortunate flip side is that there are many men in the Church who are fundamentally good, but believe they are predisposed to vicious behavior, and continue to stay involved in the Church (performatively) while going crazy trying to hustle for worthiness.
Jack Hughes, that’s an unspoken assumption? Around these parts, people are very upfront about it.
Jack Hughes. It seems you and I have attended very different priesthood meetings. Mine have included no such fundamental assumption, unspoken or not. What can be done about experiences like yours?
A very thought provoking article. I think there will always be a tension between the outward performance and inward devotion. A great discussion on this is Elder Andersons talk https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2015/04/the-music-of-the-gospel?lang=eng Without inward devotion we are dancing without hearing the music. Is our inner devotion driving alms, or are we doing our alms to be praised of the world.
I would challenge the comment that members of the Church are not involved in volunteering and donating to the community. Every ward I have lived in (all outside of the mountain west) has been VERY involved in the communities charitable organizations. Either individually and frequently as an organization too.
It is impossible to know if the service was for praise or due to inner devotion, but I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Out here in the mission field, it feels like there is no one really to perform for since most of your friends and 99.9% of your coworkers are not church members.
Jack Hughes: That feels like a very astute observation to me. I have been saying for years that the purpose of an all-male PH was to “domesticate” men, which it seems to do very well, particularly in very macho cultures like where I served my mission, and probably like post-WW2 USA which may have been a fairly similar macho environment. For example, when we were hanging out with some ward members a few years ago, included someone I baptized, the ward leaders talked about how the women were going to cook for the next few hours, so they as the men were going to do manly stuff. What they were really doing was ward visits, but they framed it as a macho activity that they were responsible to do. By contrast, as everyone knew, the usual thing the men did while the women cooked was head to the bar to hang out with friends, drink, and watch sports.
You’ve expanded on that idea in a way I hadn’t considered, that the laying on of guilt is a way to sell the idea that without the Church’s steadying influence “there be dragons,” even though the majority of the US is no longer that macho/ toxic masculinity environment that it was when the current apostles were coming of age. At least among the professional class, gender role socialization separation is not such a big thing here as it was in Spain.
Thank you, Angela. It may be slightly off topic, but I definitely see certain “manly” behaviors in Church contexts as being performative. I’ve probably been guilty of it myself in the past. Like when men try to “out-righteous” each other, bear “super spiritual” testimonies punctuated with on-command tears, or try to carry the most folding chairs at once (and be seen doing it). I don’t know if there is a female corollary to this, perhaps someone else can answer.
True, there isn’t as much gender role separation in the US now than there was 70 years ago, but it is alive and well in the Church, and the rise of Trumpism saw a re-awakening of a particularly nasty brand of toxic masculinity that will yet take some time to get rid of.
Jack Hughes, great comment. A big factor keeping many men in the church indeed seems to be the fear that if they are not performing the expected duties (calling, attending the temple, performing a baptism, attending a temple sealing, etc.) that family and friends will begin to suspect if they have a problem with porn, a substance, or some other unresolved embarrassing secret in their life about which the bishop found out and thereby put them on some sort of probation. By not performing a child’s baptism at the age of eight, that means that you are guilty of secretive disgraceful behavior. You must be pitied. Not directly of course. Only passively aggressively. And your spouse is to bear the brunt of the pityings from “concerned” family members. “I feel so sorry for your family, let me know what I can do to help.” “This too will pass.” For when a male does not attend a temple sealing or baptize a child, then the ceremony ceases to actually be about the couple getting married or the child being baptized and becomes about the likely porn habit and lack of self-control of the male not fulfilling his expected role.
I remember my wife’s aunt, whose husband was a stake president, remarking judgmentally while at a wedding reception for my cousin why she thinks so many men aren’t getting higher leadership callings. According to her it was because they had problems with porn (nevermind that in Utah there seems to be a correlation between having wealth and getting called to higher-up callings in the church, her husband is a radiologist). My wife and I were aghast upon hearing that.
Now of course, many men who leave the church do look at porn and drink alcohol. The difference is that they don’t feel bad about it and are often not secretive about it. For the bishops and stake presidents also look at porn (you can’t tell me that they don’t at least look at it on occasion, even if they then immediately feel guilty afterwards, wash that guilt away with a quick prayer of repentance, and then pretend it never happened, because, hey, we don’t talk about past sins) but say they don’t.
I have no problem with the Church being a “high demand” religion. It is the nature of the demands that is concerning. I like tithing, for instance. For everyone who can afford to pay it, it is a great principle. The problem I have with the Church’s application of the principle, is the Church’s allocation of tithing money. For example, I’m not thrilled with obsessing over the dead and the continual construction of new temples. I would prefer the money be spent on the global poor. Thus, I do my own allocation of my tithing monies.
The “high demand” requirements need to be tied to the teachings of Christ. Coffee and tea don’t fit the bill. I have no problem with a real health code, but the WoW doesn’t fit that bill. Christ message was simple. Why complicate it?
Does Christianity require boring 2-hr meetings? The sacrament is important. It commits us to Christ and his example. But what was Christ message? For me, it was loving God by loving your neighbor. Helping the widow and the homeless. Assisting the global poor. This is the true message of Christ for me. He was a rebel against the Romans and the Jewish bureaucracy. A man of action.
The Church has the financial and human resources to make the world a better place. The leadership needs to commit to that Christ-centered goal.
@rogerdhansen your comment made me think about why the Church focuses more on saving the dead than feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Is it because it’s an easier problem to solve? Or because it’s what sets us apart from other Christian churches and we want to maintain our distinctiveness? Or because the Church wants everyone sufficiently motivated to qualify for a TR (and therefore following the rules and meeting with leaders)?
@jack Hughes excellent insight. That’s one of the downsides of patriarchy. While it puts men in charge, it also seems to assert that men are pigs and women are angels. Neither true nor useful. I’ve heard that excuse (men need priesthood and leadership to keep them in line) many times explicitly and underlying many other messages implicitly.
Really interesting post, Hawkgrrrl. I think you make an excellent point that a high-demand religion like the LDS Church may stunt the moral development of its members by teaching only obedience to its many demands. Connecting this with Jack Hughes’s point, then, it seems like this is an instance where the Church is creating the very problem it is purporting to solve. You all, it says, in effect, would live depraved lives without the Church to guide you. Now don’t worry about moral principles! We have a thousand rules to cover every possible situation you might face!
I also really like your point, rogerdhansen, about the question really being what the demands *are*. Like sure, as John Charity Spring would remind us, a religion should ask something of us. But when what it asks/demands is so often either trivial (don’t have more than one earring per ear) or actively harmful (shame those gay people enough and they’ll go back in the closet), it really makes the Church look dumb and mean.
Yes great observations
I have just been called to teach the Elders Quorum.
There is another aspect which troubles me. Is the Church Culture so insecure about us all that we are to teach from the latest Conference talks ( I know the women do too) but we see Conference we read the publish text and now we teach it!!!!
I’m so irritated by this I asked my EQP can I teach all aspects of the Plan of Salvation over a number of weeks. I think this stupid idea of multiple reruns may be cultural. Remember the endless meetings, the long Leadership training …for hours!!!
I thought the idea was more “ you stupid lot (especially the men ) don’t you get it”! No. So we will keep repeating it endlessly…. in exhaustion many left the Church…literally Heaven Help Us please!!
Kangaroo, Good luck! The best teaching I’ve experienced since we got on this kick of rehashing GC talks (because no one took the time to plan a real curriculum), has been from teachers who made some references to and quotes from the assigned talk but spent most of the time taking off on a related subject. The relationship doesn’t have to be close! It worked well — a planned version of the old Toastmaster’s Club instruction on extemporaneous speaking on an assigned topic you don’t know or care about: Start with something about the topic, wander quickly off into something you do know or care about, return to the topic at the end. They’ll think you filled the assignment. Whadd’ya think?
Kangaroo: I like to imagine that by rehashing the GC talks, we are also getting a chance to rebut them.
I listened to an episode of “A Thoughtful Faith” recently (I apologize for not knowing which one – in the car). Gina Colvin’s guest mentioned a recent study in which religious organizations were grouped by the performative markers that members need to exhibit to be in good standing.
The religions that required the most prescribed behaviors were those that also want to be seen as apart from the rest of the world: Mennonites, Hasidic Jews, prairie dress polygamists, extreme Islamic sects, etc.
The guest had supposed the Catholic church would fall into the second group, but they were actually in the third.
Mormons were squarely in the second group.
I am closing in on four years since I decided to stop practicing Mormonism. Still, not a day goes by when I don’t bump up against a formerly required performance – something that goes beyond choosing to be a good and moral person but is a marker of being a good Mormon.
Wondering … thanks
I’ve taken a similar direction and interpretation with using quotes on topics from a few recent talks and in my last lesson from a wonderful 1990 Ensign article when the magazine actually had a few decent articles.
Angela C I would love too … there are some terrible talks but I have a very annoying and power freak High Councillor who is asking why I am not using current Conference Talks.. my answer was go to your car and read a few talks and stop annoying me !!! Or go home and watch them on TV….. I thought it was good advice ?
I know that I am late to the party but it took a few days for the following to percolate. Like any normal business, the Church rewards high performance especially from its males. The high performers get called into leadership. The highest performers rise to the top of the leadership and naturally give high performance sermons while implementing high performance standards These standards begin to slowly replace or obscure Christian ideals. I’m oversimplifying the last 60 years but eventually you are left with a religion that only caters to high performers and despises and punishes low performers, outliers, and anyone that dares question the high performance paradigm. The Church then wonders why everyone but the high performers are constantly offended and voting with their feet.