There is an Atlantic article you need to go read: The Evangelical Church Is Breaking Apart. The text on my browser tab reads “Trump Is Tearing Apart the Evangelical Church,” which may be an earlier and more descriptive title for the piece. Evangelicals and Mormons are close cousins in many ways. In particular, they share an affinity for conservative politics, and lately both have given unwavering support, even devotion, to Donald Trump and his amoral approach to politics and everything else. So what Mormons ought to get from a reading of this article is *not* glee that a religious competitor is having a hard time hanging together as a faith community or even staying Christian in the face of Covid and Trump. No, what Mormons ought to get from reading the article is deep concern that the LDS Church and the large majority of its members are in the same boat. What’s wrong with the Evangelicals is pretty much what’s wrong with Mormons at the moment. Let’s review the article, then liken it unto ourselves. Our churches have caught the same disease, a virulent form of political theology. Is there a cure or is the disease fatal?
I’m just going to pull a few quotes from the article, followed by a paragraph of commentary. A lot of Evangelical ministers and pastors are quoted in the article. They are all unhappy.
“Nearly everyone tells me there is at the very least a small group in nearly every evangelical church complaining and agitating against teaching or policies that aren’t sufficiently conservative or anti-woke,” a pastor and prominent figure within the evangelical world told me. (Like others with whom I spoke about this topic, he requested anonymity in order to speak candidly.) “It’s everywhere.”
I suspect that in the Mormon Corridor there is a very *large* group in almost every LDS ward that thinks this way. It may be different elsewhere. LDS bishops are not set apart from the laity or trained for the ministry in the same way as Evangelical and Protestant pastors are, so plenty of LDS bishops, drawn from the members in the pews just a year or two or three ago, think the same way as their flock. But I know of two LDS bishops who are frustrated that more members don’t voluntarily wear masks as encouraged by LDS leadership and who are unhappy that direction from senior LDS leadership doesn’t just come out and say “masks required.” So at least two LDS bishops in my small circle share a degree of unhappiness with their Evangelical peers.
The aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving mindset that characterizes so much of our politics has found a home in many American churches.
Aggressive and unforgiving. Sounds like the new wave of LDS apologists, or maybe online DezNats. To what extent has “aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving” now become the norm in LDS wards? The suspension of in-person church makes it hard to judge, but maybe we’ll find out as in-person meetings resume and members start attending Sunday School and Priesthood/RS classes again. I’ll bet that, at the least, there will be more sharp exchanges than in years past.
But there’s more to the fractures than just COVID-19. After all, many of the forces that are splitting churches were in motion well before the pandemic hit. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated weaknesses and vulnerabilities, habits of mind and heart, that already existed. The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics. When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized.
I won’t try to summarize the roots of the Evangelical “weaknesses and vulnerabilities,” but for Mormons it goes back to Ezra Taft Benson. He championed conspiracy theories and fringe politics, which over time became part of mainstream Mormon thinking for a good chunk of the membership. That, I think, is the root of Mormon weakness and vulnerability. Others in LDS leadership were unhappy with Benson’s views and the degree to which he preached his political views in Conference and in other LDS venues. But they never repudiated those views directly, so they took root and are still with us. Grievances, tribal identities, fears being nurtured … sound familiar?
One more quotation, introducing what the article later terms “the idolatry of politics”:
The historian George Marsden told me that political loyalties can sometimes be so strong that they create a religiouslike faith that overrides or even transforms a more traditional religious faith. The United States has largely avoided the most virulent expressions of such political religions. None has succeeded for very long—at least, until now.
This is not a new observation. For many years, American religious identity tended to be primary and many Americans chose their politics and political views in light of their religious beliefs and commitments. But sociologists have noted that in recent decades this has flipped. Political beliefs have become primary, and Americans increasingly choose their churches to conform to their politics. For most Evangelicals, it’s not hard at all to switch denominations or churches. For Mormons, its different. Yes, you could move to a part of town, or to a different state, that is bluer or redder to match your politics. Institutionally, the problem is that frustrated progressive Mormons may, in fact, leave for another church or just go inactive, while uber-conservative Mormons are much more likely to stay. The median Mormon is more conservative not just because large chunks of the membership have become radicalized to the Right. It’s also because the progressives get pushed out of the Church or out of activity. To put it gently, in the Church, all are welcome, but some are more welcome than others.
Okay, one more quote.
Many Christians, though, are disinclined to heed calls for civility. They feel that everything they value is under assault, and that they need to fight to protect it.
It is equally true that “many Mormons, though, are disinclined to heed calls for civility.” LDS leaders certainly sense the problem and regularly issue pleas for more gentleness and meekness and less aggressive and unforgiving rhetoric. The problem is those pleas are too general and too unfocused. As other W&T contributors have noted in similar discussions, no one thinks they are a racist. Well, no one thinks they are being uncivil either, certainly not Mormons trained to think anger is bad (that’s when other people are upset) but righteous anger is good (that’s when I’m upset). Growing incivility isn’t the only problem and isn’t the biggest problem. But if LDS leadership can’t even get members to tone down the rhetoric, good luck with solving bigger challenges.
There is plenty more in the article to talk about, but this is just a blog post, so let’s wind this up. Yes, there are still lots of good Latter-day Saints doing nice things and saying nice things, supporting those in need of friendship and love, mourning with those who mourn. But between Covid and overheated, polarizing politics, the fellowship and good feelings that often defined LDS wards have been strained. Some wards are breaking apart, or at least losing a few families who chose to attend elsewhere or simply not attend. Your experience, dear reader, no doubt depends on where you live and the make-up of your particular ward. Tell me what you think.
- Are the problems and tensions and divisions described in the article just an Evangelical problem or is it a Mormon problem as well?
- Has your LDS ward (or your Christian congregation) experienced any recent conflict and division? Is it politics or Covid that is the problem? Or both?
- Has social media exacerbated the problem?
- Do you think this is a short-term problem or is this a long-term shift? Once upon a time we thought vaccines would beat this thing and Covid would sort of go away. Nope, not gonna happen. Covid is here to stay, possibly for decades. And if you thought Trump would go away after losing by a landslide in the 2020 election … same thing. He might be around for decades.
“Aggressive and unforgiving. Sounds like the new wave of LDS apologists, or maybe online DezNats.”
“Aggressive and unforgiving” can also describe groups on the other side of the political divide, such as Ordain Women. It’s a problem of the extremes, not just of one side.
I read the article (thanks to the comments on this blog). I’ve also read quite a few books & articles from disaffected evangelicals lately so am familiar with some of the issues facing that faith community. While I definitely see some parallels to my Covid & Trump experience within Mormonism & have learned from other evangelicals in faith crisis, I think there are some significant differences.
(1) The article pointed out that Evangelicals no longer do “catechisms” so there is not really a shared belief system and they are getting indoctrinated more by politics & news cycles than by Church. I don’t think we’re there yet as Mormons. We still have a pretty strong, shared, peculiar belief system & history. This may be shifting somewhat, but not yet. I do think this binds us together more strongly than Evangelicals, but is probably fraying as truth & historical claims are being diluted. Perhaps this is why the FP is emphasizing the temple so much. If nothing else, it certainly binds us as a culture / community (as do related things like garment wearing, WoW, etc.).
(2) There was a lot of talk of “Elders” bullying and essentially firing pastors. Well, that’s because the Elders are paying the bills and have control in councils where people get to vote on things. In our Church congregation, members don’t have that control – *except* at institutions like BYU. I think that’s why we’re seeing these battles play at at places like BYU (enter Jeff Holland’s speech and references to donors), but not so much in our congregations where (a) we have no control over who gets what callings and people rotate every few years anyway, (b) we have a lay, unpaid ministry, and (c) we are stuck together geographically and don’t get to choose to go to pastors whose politics we like better.
(3) Although I realized during Trump and Covid that Mormon anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theorists are stronger strains than I had once believed, I think we still have a stronger pro-science, pro-independent thinking, pro-rationalism, pro-pluralism strain than Evangelicals. We don’t believe in Biblical literalism or infallibility (heck, Joseph Smith was re-translating the Bible and we only believe in it “as far as it was translated correctly”). We still do have some prominent Democrats in our history and pro-pluralistic statements in our canon.
I thought the article was interesting and I’ve mentioned here before that my relationship with Mormonism & my community was *never* more strained than during Trump & Covid. But I still think there are some key differences between Mormons and Evangelicals that give us a bit of an edge here. RMN would do well to learn from this and stop throwing his hat in with them. They hate us, and they are not doing well, so for the love of all that is holy, stop trying to please them – they’ll only drag us down with them and they aren’t doing us any favors. It was a huge, huge mistake to turn conservative issues like abortion and gay marriage into religious ones and to team up with evangelicals in doing so and we should do everything we can do unwind that.
I haven’t read the Atlantic article yet, but I certainly will. In the mean time, I wonder if the structure of the LDS church makes this conflict look different.
The LDS church is very participatory. Even the sacrament meeting talks (roughly equivalent to sermons, in other faiths) are given by regular members, not by the same church leader each week. All the Sunday school classes are somewhat Socratic in nature, involving a dialog between teacher and the class. (I don’t know if there is a comparable class structure for evangelicals). This structure means the local leaders do not easily control the narrative.
If the Atlantic article says many evangelicals want their congregations to be more conservative or anti-woke, well in the LDS church if anyone wants that they just bring it up in Sunday school, or in their sacrament prayer or talk. Mormons can directly influence the political tilt of their local congregations. And in my experience, people who push the tent to the right are supported, and people who push the tent to the left are hushed.
@observer, please include some quotes / citations for the “aggressive and unforgiving” tactics and quotes from OW. Otherwise that comes across as a super gendered attack. From my recollection, it’s also unfair and inaccurate. And off topic.
I don’t disagree that both sides can be polarized but I think that was a poor example to use.
Dave B: “The text on my browser tab reads “Trump Is Tearing Apart the Evangelical Church,” which may be an earlier and more descriptive title for the piece.” That browser text title is call a slug, and it’s a lot of fun to create a slug that’s an alternate title. My favorite one was a post I did called The Faith Crisis Biz with the slug “Passing the Heavenly Grift,” a nod to Denver Snuffer’s enterprise. Not quite as good was my post “Loyalty is a Tricky Virtue” with the slug “Pull Your Heads Out Nutters.”
I agree with both Elisa and Rockwell about the Mormon parallel being less strong than I initially feared when I saw the title and read the OP at the Atlantic. I think there’s a cultural belief in the Church that discussing politics openly is verboten, even though as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the Church itself has watered this down considerably to its own peril and also is hip deep in some GOP garbage with its “religious freedom” push and it’s anti-LGBT focus. Most of this politicization is driven by Oaks, and Nelson does not seem to mind one bit. Elisa is right that we need to quit partnering with a group that hates us and is foundering.
Social media is bringing these divisions forward more, and connecting like-minded Church members together more than before, making them more willing to be open about their views. I’ve lost all respect for several Church members from previous wards who insist on sharing their incredibly stupid ideas far & wide for all to see, and equally lost respect for those who are supporting them. It’s all team politics with some of these people, and they are fully on team Trump. They literally think he’s a godly good leader, a champion of Christianity, not a serial sexual predator and racketeering grifter who is willing to incite an insurrection to retain power. I can’t do anything but look on in horror at this level of self-delusion. I have nothing to say to these people. If they believe these things, I don’t see how we can share a set of religious beliefs–it’s an indictment of their judgment that reflects badly on everything they believe. They are extremely gullible and willfully blind, and yes, nursing prejudices and grievances that don’t reflect the gospel.
At Church, people are mostly not being open about their politics, but they still reveal them inadvertently when they talk about their fear of a changing world or their anti-LGBT sentiments (usually thinly veiled) or their patriarchal view of the family. I probably wouldn’t enjoy being in a Church that was openly liberal either, although a break from visiting Trump World weekly would be welcome. The gospel should transcend politics, but for most people it doesn’t, and politics has long been the lens through which they view the gospel, not the other way around. Trump revealed the worst part of people, and the thing is, they think it’s their best part.
To be honest I did not see the same patterns happening in my ward (when I attended) that are described here. My ward (E. Sandy bench area) members are generally nice and loving people and politics is, for the most part, in the distant background. I really can’t relate to the complaints mentioned above. That’s just my experience.
However, there was one major exception to this. Did you guys read about or hear about the anti-LGBT letter that went around to a couple of neighborhoods in Sandy about a year ago? That’s my barrio. So yes, there’s some poison out there. But I want to defend my ward members. They are kind and loving for the most part. It’s not their fault that the truth claims and history don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Please note: if your experience mirrors what is described in the piece about, I am not trying to be dismissive or minimize your experience. I’m just pointing out that at the local level, my Church experience was great. It’s the high level stuff that killed me.
My example is absolutely not a gendered attack. OW is probably the highest profile example from the left/liberal side of “aggressive and unforgiving” tactics in the past decade. Their entire approach was that of direct action to pressure the Church into changing. Everything from their Priesthood Session protests to their “OW Conversations” are extremely aggressive and uncompromising actions pushing a viewpoint that is at least as radical as anything from DezNats. (Radical in this context meaning outside of the mainstream of LDS beliefs.)
Similar, but lower profile examples, from the left would include the supporters of Sam Young or John Dehlin. I could have used them, but Ordain Women pushed the most to be high profile for a longer period through their actions.
It is absolutely an issue from both sides pulling against the middle.
The thing about Mormons is that we are taught from such an early age that reverence=not talking and that contention=devil’s work. So we learn to clamp down our feelings. It wasn’t until I watched the Pixar movie “Inside Out” as an adult that it finally dawned on me that ALL emotions play a role. My Mormon upbringing taught me different.
So to the OP: Mormons play nice at church. We don’t disagree with people when they say something we don’t like in class, we simply march into the Bishop’s office after church and demand they be released for teaching false doctrine. We don’t raise our hand to be opposed to someone’s calling, we merely gossip and undermine them behind their back. We don’t talk politics, but we assume we can make veiled reference to things with a wind a nod and everyone gets that it’s Code for GOP-speak. But to Angela’s point, social media has exposed that the division is there. Don’t believe me, read the comments in the Deseret News website.
I can sense it in my own stake. Our SP told us all in stake conference to get vaccinated, and several members have been quite vocal that he needs to stay in his lane, whatever that means.
So yes I do believe the division is real, and getting bigger. But my guess is that it will play out in a way very different from mainstream Christianity.
Observer, while OW is definitely outside the mainstream of church membership, the actions involved are nothing like the violent and aggressive nature of DezNat posts and propaganda. To me at least, your posts recently have revealed that perhaps you’re less of an observer and more a provocateur that I had previously thought. This is not about both sides pulling against the middle in some equal manner. It’s about the conservative, mainstream, traditionally reliable membership going off the rails (with, as has been discussed, much support and pruning over the years by leadership). Not the same thing at all.
@observer, Ordain Women and DezNat don’t belong in the same sentence.
One group threatens violence against individual members of the Church it deems insufficently doctrinally pure / conservative and routinely engages in foul, anonymous, ad hominem attacks against individuals. One doesn’t. The end.
I read Kate Kelly’s speeches. I read the Ordain Women discussions. I watched them seek admission to the Priesthood sessions. Yes, they advocated for doctrinal changes. But I’ll maintain that characterizing them as “aggressive” and “unforgiving” is a gendered attack on women who were peacefully but persistently seeking institutional change. Reading those discussions compared to reading DezNat tweets or watching Ordain Women’s peaceful protest compared to watching the footage of that BYU student washing chalk rainbows off the sidewalks while declaring “faggots go to hell” is night and day and it is insulting to put the two in the same category. Your definitions of “aggressive”, “unforgiving,” and “radical” are not from any dictionary I’m familiar with and if you have to completely redefine a term to prove a point I’m not sure the original point holds up.
The “bothsidesisms” arguments are tiring. Do both sides do dumb things? Yes. Was one side worse here? Yep. Yep. Yep.
(And to be clear, the Atlantic article, if you read it, is very much about the tone of disagreement – not just the existence of it – which is why the difference between Ordain Women & DezNat is so relevant here and the comparison so strange. I think that’s generally how a lot of people are feeling right now – not just that we have political differences, but that the emotion behind it is so strong and the discourse so hateful because Trump came around and normalized bullying.)
I’ve never seen the relationships more strained in my area. “Conservatives” calling out “liberal” members for simply asking why wards are refusing to follow First Presidency counsel regarding masks. Conflicts have taken to social media. The dialogue is venomous. Friendships have dissolved. I honestly fear the next temple recommend interview. How does one sustain the First Presidency while also sustaining local leaders who ignore or even disparage the First Presidency?
Observer, that you can name Kate Kelly, Sam Young, and John Dehlin says that at least they have the courage of their convictions, for which they deserve credit, even if you disagree with their objectives. Absent celebrity status, publicly opposing the brethren gets you excommunicated from the Mormon church, and Sam, John, and Kate knew that was a risk. DezNats have risked nothing, but boy are they faithful. Amiright?
The two definitely are comparable.
I moved out of the Oakton Stake not too long before Kate Kelly’s excommunication. I knew (and still know) many of the people involved on both sides. I saw and heard (both online and in person) the attacks on members of the Stake Presidency that came from OW supporters. It was just as polarizing there as many of the Covid-related complaints are now. In fact, the similarities in the comments are eerie at times. I have personally seen the effects of both left-wing and right-wing agitation within the Church and within my own family. This isn’t a matter of “bothsidesism”. It absolutely is and has been happening for years, if not decades, at both extremes relative to the general membership of the Church.
Dave B. pointed to Ezra Taft Benson as a source for “conspiracy theories and fringe politics”, but it goes back much farther than that. There were elements of it surrounding the Manifesto (both on the pro- and anti-polygamy sides). There were elements surrounding evolution, civil rights, and more issues that have been hot button political topics of their day.
It’s the polarization that is at the root of it. The specific cause of that polarization changes over the years, but the effects of polarization are surprisingly constant.
Observer, while you may have valid points (and that doesn’t mean, whatsoever that the two situations/methods/rhetoric are equally comparable), your missing the main one, which is that the political ‘left’ has for a good generation now been obviously outside the mainstream, but the right has not. Thus, the persistent complaints/antagonisms/whatever from the left and the more recent complaints/antagonisms/whatever from the right are NOT the same in their effect upon the church as an institution, which, again, is what this discussion is about.
Great topic, great comments thus far. This blog community is simply excellent!
Quick takes on the OP listed questions:
1. I agree with Elisa, Rockwell, and Angela C. and their examples of significant differences between the LDS and Evangelical organizations which make it less likely to have a “breaking up” of the church, at least not anytime real soon. We are very trained as a general membership to take cues from the Q15. If they aren’t barking at an issue, neither is the general membership, but when the hounds start growling, the membership feels license (a duty?) to raise the issue in Sunday services or on their social media accounts.
2. I am not aware of any significant or division in my local Ward. But we tend to keep to ourselves and not have many interactions with Ward members. After the FP letter admonishing vaccines and mask wearing came out, only about half of the membership were wearing masks. I think folks have mostly decided to not address the wearing/not wearing contentiously with each other. Heaven only knows what is said after people go home.
3. Social media. I don’t post or respond, just have a few to follow for news, education, or entertainment. Just not my thing to be active or share myself openly. My wife however frequently mentions that she is appalled at the posts or comments many people have made on their social media. For her, it has become a significant source of identifying who not to discuss certain issues with and who holds or supports extreme views. It has also become a source of extreme disappointment for her to realize otherwise wonderful people are closed-minded, bigoted, judgmental, or mere lemmings.
4, This is definitely a long-term shift in my opinion. I think that the older generations of the LDS Church still have this mindset or approach that we are somehow “hidden” from the world, gathered together to flee “Babylon,” and don’t have as strong a desire to mix it up with “outsiders.” There is still this belief that Jesus is coming real soon, so they are content to have hunkered down and wait, having less desire to inspire or demand change within the institution. I perceive younger generations less “isolated” from the world, ideas, causes, and therefore combined with their constant access to online information and communication, they are more likely to engage, to speak their minds, to challenge authority, etc. While many of those younger individuals will leave the church, some will stick around, and will have the ability to “disrupt” the status quo within LDS culture.
Final thought: I wish the Church would overhaul the Sunday services. Get rid of the opportunity to argue or have conflict altogether in that venue. We have very few true “worship” opportunities at Church. We have (mostly boring) meetings. We have duties and callings (mostly unappreciated and mere time-filling). We are so damn busy being busy, that we have lost sight of true worship, meditation, reflection, etc. This is why COVID church shutdown was so illuminating for me and my family.
I don’t see the types of divisions written about in the article in my ward in its current configuration. Far from politics, far from anger. Basically very kind people.
One interesting thread in these comments is that several people state that they don’t see the division AT CHURCH, but then mention that they both see the division online and the repercussions of the divisions on themselves and their families.
That one cannot see the difference between well-dressed women showing up in Sunday best to attend a church meeting (one I might add that no longer exists, so perhaps they had a point all along), and left after they were denied entry to a violent assault on our nation’s capitol by none other than a Captain Moroni wannabe, means we do truly live in different worlds. I don’t even know where to begin to bridge the chasm.
FWIW, I like my life. I would invite those who can’t see the distinction to try a worldview that doesn’t involve seeing everything and everyone as out to get you. It’s quite refreshing, actually.
This is why I only post cat videos on my facebook page.
For a decade or so, I was a regular at the Genesis Group meetings (an official church organization for Black members – just celebrated its 50th anniversary). The testimony meeting after Trump won in 2016 was full of sadness, fear, and disgust. Having an openly racist president was deeply unsettling. The fact that 45% of Utahans voted for Trump was worrisome at another level: one brother said that, statistically, if he needed a priesthood blessing from his home teachers – one of them did not have his best interests at heart. If the bishopric set him apart for a calling – one or two of them had racist inclinations. He felt like half of the people in the pews were hiding some animus behind their church smiles. Lots of Amens from the congregation.
Here in Utah county you see Trump/Stop the Steal/Don’t Tread on Me signs and flags every day. That is frightening to my gay son and Black daughter. Public verbal attacks on them has increased dramatically over the last five years. Some members, have taken license to ignore the (somewhat) more moderate voices of the brethren.
Contrast that to a bag of goodies found on our doorstep with this note: “Love to see your pride flag. We’re neighborhood allies too.” My son is a grown man – but I would catch him just touching that note from time to time. It meant so much too him that there was somebody out there that could “see” him – even if they never met. He never got that at church.
An adjacent thought: when I was growing up I often heard the phrase “our Judeo-Christian roots/values”. I observe that the current far right folks are talking about, and even drafting legislation, focused on “Christian Traditions” – code for white nationalist and anti-LGBT+. Dropped the “Judeo” bit and some are openly anti-Sematic.
At W&T there are often comments of how the endless meetings, callings, and activities get in the way of worship and spiritual growth.
Yep – but they do help the church to own every aspect of your existence. If you are “doing it right”, you really don’t have time and energy to give much attention to the rest of the world, which is just a scary place ruled by Satan and waiting to envelop you in wickedness.
I just read the Atlantic article just before I saw this post. It is a truly fascinating read. The LDS church is a quite different from evangelical churches since leaders aren’t elected. However, I feel divisions deep in the culture. Divisions that just weren’t there before, or may have been but were not pushed front and center. In the Spanish ward that I attend, the divisions aren’t as pronounced. But in the white wards, they are most certainly there. Consider that everyone in the Spanish ward wears a mask to church. The white wards that use the same building largely do not wear the mask. Already a point of division.
I can’t say if the church is breaking apart like the Evangelical church.
I can remember, about 20 yrs ago in our ward on the east coast, a ward member sharing his concern with the 2nd counselor in our bishopric about what they were going to do with the car in the church parking lot with “Kerry for President,” bumper sticker. (Needless to say, the bishopric counselor’s father was the chairman of the local Democratic Party—but it was not his car).
In a different ward, years before that, while ETB was a member of the 12, nearly every Fast and Testimony Sunday a couple of ward members would share politically conservative viewpoints. At first it annoyed me, then it became a source of entertainment.
Lastly, some of the politically conservative members in our current ward made derogatory comments to me and my son about the university he chose to attend—one of the highest rated in the U.S. for his particular major, (instead of BYU).
It is hard though, to imagine younger generations will continue to participate in a religious organization where women are second class—without equal authority as men.
But then, maybe that is why the COJCOLDS survives—because men remain more engaged because they are the ones in authoritative positions.
During the past few decades in the United States, the broadcasting arm of the institution that manages the wealth of the congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ, decided to invest the into promoting “conservative” values over radio waves. The cultural Mormon corridor was showered by radio talk shows (Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, etc.), who grew audiences by attacking anything “liberal.” National media followed suit. So for more than a generation, the institution has indirectly poisoned the congregation with contentious polemic in the name of conservative values. The agenda-makers somewhere in the middle-administration of the institution that manages the congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ, sought to employ state-department-like tactics [radio free model] fueled by conservative rhetoric to better align with the nutball evangelical right wing Christian prosperity gospel. We sell blessings like they sell prosperity. The institution sowed conflict and division in our field by co-branding “conservative values,” without understanding the deeper agenda. Makes me think of Boy Scouts. As a consequence of riding upon the saddle of secular politic, we are effectively being “handled” by some faction through an intermediary of political conservatism.
The pollution of politic is so pervasive that many LDS in the United States today can no longer see, hear, taste, touch, or speak, outside of a “conservative vs liberal lens.” It seems the Gospel in the United States has been made to fit the politic, when it should be our politic that is shaped and made to fit the Gospel.
“Aggressive and unforgiving. Sounds like the new wave of LDS apologists.”
Have you not read Lou Midgley?
Not one damn word about violent video games, crocs, sweats or honky tonks – so frankly I don’t feel the relevance here. Get real, people.
I follow The Millennial Star, and Meridian Magazine, to understand how conservative members see things, because conservative members in Australia tell me these are sites they follow.
This is response to an article on the Millennial Star, that I found revealing.
Recently our oldest son was telling me how many of his peers, returned missionaries, church attending, educated at BYU, do not see the connection between what is happening now and what happened in ancient America. Too many don’t believe there are secret combinations, or that socialism is evil. They trust the government and don’t believe it is filled with those who want to destroy the constitution and enslave us. It reminds me of the words of Mormon: “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord!” And the words of Jacob: “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” As the prophets have said, we need to awaken from our spiritual slumber and get to work to preserve our nation.
I hadn’t realised the BOM said socialism was evil.
That it was bad to trust the government.
That democrats want to destroy the constitution and enslave the population.
That liberals were foolishly ignoring the prophets
I see hatred from members toward Biden. This comment seems to think liberals have been deluded. I think the trumpers are deluded. I cannot understand why conservative members do not see jan 6th as an attack on the constitution, but have somehow been convinced the left are attacking the constitution.
The church doesn’t seem be doing anything to say whhich is correct. RMN talked about pure truth, but didn’t deliver.
What a mess.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Nice comments and discussion.
Perhaps my choice of the term “breaking apart” in the title (pulled from the Atlantic article) sounds too dramatic. Maybe “splitting into different camps” would be a milder term that is closer to what is going on in some or most LDS wards. There are people who wear masks at church and want everyone else to do so as well. There are people who don’t wear masks at church, think mask-wearers are a little overheated about the whole issue, and want mask wearing to be strictly voluntary. And then there are people who just aren’t coming to church anymore, either because they think it’s just still too risky or because they have. Just. Had. Enough.
Observer, thanks for weighing in. I don’t quite agree (well, I don’t agree at all), but I suspect many active LDS see things your way.
Angela C: “I think there’s a cultural belief in the Church that discussing politics openly is verboten, even though as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the Church itself has watered this down considerably to its own peril and also is hip deep in some GOP garbage with its “religious freedom” push and it’s anti-LGBT focus.” Yes, it seems like the leadership has counseled “don’t talk about politics,” while on the other hand doing a lot of talking about politics, then claiming “hey, it’s a moral issue, not a political one.” Now they find they can’t put the political genie back in the bottle. And it’s now a mean and nasty genie.
Old Man: “I’ve never seen the relationships more strained in my area. “Conservatives” calling out “liberal” members for simply asking why wards are refusing to follow First Presidency counsel regarding masks. … Friendships have dissolved.” Yes, that is the fear, that “the unity of the Saints” is replaced by verbally warring camps who think the worst of each other. The leadership should have addressed this serious problem more directly and more frequently in General Conference.
Counselor, welcome to the blog. Stick around.
Dave b says “Maybe ‘splitting into different camps’ would be a milder term that is closer to what is going on in some or most LDS wards.”
Yeah, I maybe should have recognized that aspect in the original post.
When the last letter from the FP came out encouraging masks, or bishop read it to the congregation and turn added in his own words that wearing a mask should not be seen as virtue signaling and not wearing a mask should not be seen as disobedience; it would be a personal choice. He also urged members not to discuss their choice to wear or not wear a mask with each other.
Never in my life have I seen a church leader of any kind undercut a message from the first presidency in that way. It was astounding. But clearly he was more worried about the divisions and contention surrounding the issue than he was about the pandemic itself.
Do yes, I certainly do see divisions arising around the mask issue. I think there are also political divisions, but they are harder to see because where I live the “lefties” are so thoroughly outnumbered that we/they don’t say much.
Naught to worry about
Leads to doubt
I’m playing Fortnite
On my parents’ couch
In sweat pants and crocs
Toward Bethlehem we slouch.
“—unlike Jesus’s barrier-breaking encounters with prostitutes and Roman collaborators, with the lowly and despised, with the unclean and those on the wrong side of the “holiness code,” with the wounded souls whom he healed on the Sabbath—many Christians today see the world divided between us and them, the children of light and the children of darkness. Blessed are the politically powerful, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are the culture warriors, for they will be called children of God.”
Personally, I think people are fleeing organized religion (less out of political strife) and more out of a growing disgust over “religious caste systems”; which seem to propagate organically over time. I think one of the best things the LDS Church could do is get rid of the “red velvet Cardinal chairs” on the dais in the Conference Center (which elevate a few over others); sit, converse and associate freely with the “unclean”. Additionally, diminish the reprehensible hoarding of wealth and public displays of obscene opulence and do away with the “us versus them” narrative; which seems to have taken full root within the cultural DNA of Mormonism.