What would you do if you ran the Church? What changes would you make to the structures? What would your communication priorities be?
I think we all think about this often. It’s probably one of the things that keeps the bloggernacle chugging along after all these years. The thing is, I would bet all the apostles have thought of it, too. Everyone’s got their list of pet peeves and hobby horses. Oaks has been preaching against the LGBT community for decades. Nelson mocked the big bang in 2015, and went off about the name of the Church in the mid-90s. Monson was always all about the widows and helping the poor, even adding it as a fourth mission of the Church (is that still a thing? It doesn’t feel like it is). Hinckley wanted to manage the Church’s public image, and had some good instincts about that, many of which have been completely undone by current leadership.
Generally speaking, though, most apostles don’t get to actually do the things that have been their priorities unless they are super lucky and make it to either the top chair or at least a like-minded First Presidency. Like the rest of us, they are constrained to just deal with whatever those in charge do, whether we like it or not. Clearly, Pres. Nelson must have been biting his tongue when Pres. Hinckley launched his “I’m a Mormon” PR campaign. Tongue-biting seems to be part of the apostolic mandate, as seen recently when E. Gong told his gay son not to post the photo of them all at dinner on social media lest people “get the wrong idea.” It’s only verboten because the current top dogs are so anti-LGBT, and fealty is the highest order. The king is dead; long live the king.
So what would my regime be like? Here are some preliminary thoughts. I would say “take your vitamins,” but I don’t want to oversell it.
- Abolish worthiness interviews except for personal ordinances. No ecclesiastical endorsements either. Eliminate the Honor Code Office at BYU except for academic cheating (which is generally run by department heads anyway). Restore the REAL Title IX office and expect the university to abide by it without skirting it using “religious exemptions.”
- Mixed gender presidencies for Primary & Sunday School.
- Train every person in Church leadership, top to bottom, to focus on inviting people to Christ, not on weeding out people they don’t like or assessing the orthopraxy and orthodoxy of individuals. Make tattling on fellow ward members socially unacceptable. Teach leaders that enabling tattling on others erodes social trust and community, when that tattling is for beliefs or victimless actions. Require First Presidency approval for excommunication, and almost never grant it. Maybe for unrepentant serial killers.
- All cases of reported abuse should be taken to authorities.
- De-emphasize temple attendance and building. We are swimming in them. We don’t need a bajillion more micro-temples, and time could be better spent on organized humanitarian efforts. Instead of reporting on the number and location of new temples, report on humanitarian results. We truly do have enough temples already for the people who love to attend, so please, if this is you, enjoy. Quit guilting people to attend if that’s not their jam, they have young kids, or they don’t have time.
- Create a program akin to “Feed My Starving Children” that makes the experience of helping the poor tangible and fun, inviting those of other faiths to participate as well. Honestly, bishops’ storehouse and canning could be part of this. Why not make it a fun half hour instead of a grueling four-hours doled out to the semi-retired rather than youth groups?
- Come out publicly against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and repudiate & apologize for the history of these things in the Church, including polygamy. Eliminate all traces of polygamy from current Church policies, practices, and the temple. Replace quotes about miscegenation with apologies for being racists in our manuals. Be honest about how awful polygamy was and what it does to women psychologically and how it harms marriages.
- Eliminate discriminatory practices from all Church hiring. Provide free child care and no-strings health care coverage (including all forms of birth control) with generous parental leave for both sexes. Expect all departments in the Church and at BYU to achieve parity with specific goals and time frames.
- Move the seminary program to strictly online, self-directed with a Zoom meet-up weekly to review workbook results. Rather than making the Zoom meetups from the local congregation, assign groups so that students are from completely different geographic locations.
- Require CES to hire based on academic qualifications, and require the Religious Education department to achieve and maintain accreditation for a core set of classes. Create a time frame for CES teachers to become qualified or move on. Pay for their qualification process.
- Re-explain tithing as paid on “increase” (or surplus) as it states in the D&C. Eliminate tithing interviews annually. Possibly do an interim step of online attestation of “full” or “partial” status.
- If there’s a pandemic, replace in person Church with organized efforts that help those most impacted by the pandemic: the homeless, essential workers, the elderly. Connect our congregations to the community in positive ways, and we don’t have to rely so much on missions for converts.
- Provide university education scholarships to LDS students no matter where they attend if they don’t get into BYU to lower their tuition costs to BYU-levels. It’s unfair that parents whose kids were declined by BYU have literally paid the tuition for kids who took their kid’s space, especially when the application requirements are opaque and subjective. (This scholarship is a program I’d have to think about to figure out the best way to make it work. It’s just a random thought, which puts it on par with quite a few of the changes we’ve endured).
- Completely forbid quoting Church leaders in talks, including General Conference, at least for one year to cleanse the palate. Maybe just do this forever because it is really really gross, but on the flip side, there are some things previous leaders have said that are pithy and bear repeating. Only about 2% of what actually gets quoted is worth hearing again, and a bunch of that stuff should have died a natural death decades ago (looking at you, Fourteen Fundamentals).
- Mandatory apostolic retirement at 72 (or 80?) or after ten years of service in the role, whichever comes first. Let’s keep things fresh with new blood, and people more invested in participating. Obviously there should be women as well as men, but that’s a given since in this scenario, I’m one of them.
- Take some things in the Church to referendum, not just top-down decision-making. If we had asked about two hour church thirty years earlier, that would have been 150 more hours of our lives we’d have had back. Other things that might qualify: temple recommend questions, garments, tithing, word of wisdom.
- Speaking of getting our time back, I would shorten General Conference to just one two-hour session. It’s too long. Waaaay too long. I’d also create parity between men & women speaking immediately.
- Wards would be run by the ward council, not the bishop, and there would be no veto power. To really get people to grasp the change, all Church finances would be handled by women, top to bottom. All decision-making bodies would immediately include at least 30% women, and in time, up to 100% women, chosen by both men & women.
- Allow people to transfer to other wards with less opposition. Why are we trying to force people to attend wards that suck? Fix the bad ones, how about that? Pay attention to wards that people are fleeing. There’s probably a reason.
- Prospective missionaries would be allowed to choose service-only, proselyting-only, or a hybrid as well as provide input on the length of time they want to serve, as little as six months. They would also be able to provide input on where they would serve. I do think you have to keep the magic open for them to feel the calling was inspired, and you have to bear in mind that they don’t have enough life experience usually to know where they want to serve. I would completely eradicate the counting of baptisms, lessons taught, and meetings attended. I don’t think those have anything to do with actual success and they create so much negative downstream garbage that we just have to start over. Both women and men within the mission would be eligible to be district or zone leaders. Rather than doing this through ordaining women, I would detach priesthood from administrative roles like these and restrict priesthood to non-administrative and non-decision-making functions.
- I didn’t specify ordaining women here, but that’s partly because if I’m an apostle, the question is moot. However, I’m more inclined to think we should unordain men than we should ordain women. How can anyone reading about the original twelve apostles as presented in the New Testament not see that hierarchies lead to jockeying for position which is the opposite of what Jesus taught??? We don’t seem to understand this. Our current twelve literally choose chocolates out of a box based on seniority, meaning the least senior are stuck with lemon cremes I suppose. That’s classic male hierarchical thinking, not servant leadership as Jesus taught.
I realize that every solution is a ticket to a new problem, so despite what I might be trying to accomplish, there would doubtless be a downside. My more inclusive Church would probably mean members have a lower commitment level (but let’s be honest, the most committed ones are the scariest!), and there might be some who leave because they hate women, gay people, and think I’m a communist. C’est la vie.
Now it’s your turn. What would your top priorities be? What could possibly go wrong?
I don’t know which chocolates are usually considered to be the best, but citrus flavours and creams are my favourite. Wherever I am in the hierarchy those lemon creams have my name on them folks!
I shall have to give the rest some more thought.
Ms Hawkgrrl, thank you for posting this thought-provoking list. I have no qualms with any item, and would gladly welcome them all. One possible addition – what about the daily wearing of the temple garment?
“The civil-rights movement happened because there was civil disobedience, because people were willing to go to jail, because there were events like Bloody Sunday,” Obama told Stephanopoulos. “But it was also because the leadership of the movement consistently stayed open to the possibility of reconciliation, and sought to understand the views—even views that were appalling to them—of the other side.” Liberalism is a belief in radical change made through practical measures. (New Yorker 2016).
I’m on board with all your changes. A few more ideas:
– End the expectation to wear temple garments 24/7. They are horrible to wear when exercising, working in the yard, or sleeping at night.
– End the garment monopoly. Be permissive in letting people add marks to their own clothes so they can pick their own fabrics and styles. That means camisoles and tanks are ok. Heck, allow marks to be placed on the inside of outer clothes and remove a layer. The knee mark needn’t be over the knee.
– Create a really good yw/ym program that is coed, multi track and achievement based in a positive manner. Most important: KISMIF.
– Create an expansive system of trained and licensed mental health and counseling professionals. Make it available to everyone, non-LDS included without and pressure to join the church.
-Relax or remove the WOW prohibitions. Make it more of an education program. Recognize with futher light and knowledge that green tea is actually really good for you, small amounts of coffee or alcohol have a negligible effect, and that tobacco products are really bad for you. Emphasize veggies and fruits, meat is ok in moderation, and sugary drinks are really bad for you.
-Paid professional janitorial services for all meeting housed. Most meeting houses are dingy and kinda gross. The weekly volunteer cleaning ain’t cutting it.
Lots of good stuff here but my two favorite lines have to be:
“It’s just a random thought, which puts it on par with quite a few of the changes we’ve endured.”
Love all the ideas. There is a huge shortage in the medical fields and I’ve always been disappointed that BYU didn’t have a medical school. Open medical schools at all 3 campuse, throw in dental schools and more nursing as well. The church certainly has the money to do this and what better way to serve humanity.
Great list and very comprehensive of things I have felt over the last 5+ years.
The only thing that comes to mind that wasn’t listed is an overhaul of the Sunday services. We call them meetings and school. How about we inject more worship? And to be clear, I mean worship of the divine and the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Keep it at 1 1/2 hours total. First portion (say up to 40 minutes) is a Worship Service. More music, no general conference talks regurgitated, better love-centered topics assigned. Allow an alternating member of the Ward Council to conduct, give the welcome, sing a hymn. Get some announcements and congregation recognition out of the way, sing a hymn. Have a scripture passage read by a member (youth or adult) with no commentary, just the reading to introduce that day’s topic, then sing a related hymn. Have two members give a talk on the topic at 5-7 minutes each that provides a personal experience related to the topic. Thank the presenters, and ask those administering the sacrament to come up to their spots in the front (we all would be better off if we saw YM/YW one week and mix of adults the next week to bless and pass). Read one of 50 carefully selected scripture passages to read that puts us into the “Sacrament mode,” and sing a hymn. Pass and partake. Final comments from the conductor, closing song, prayer. Done.
Second half (40 minutes) could be similar to a 5th Sunday division based on ages: all adults together, all youth together, all primary together. Spend a few minutes welcoming, spotlighting, building community awareness without drama. Ward Council decides the topics and format, possibly presents themselves.
I’m sure some would find fault with this somehow. But it sure sounds better to me. I’d be interested most weeks!
How about a public financial report.
I already posted this in another thread but I will repost here because I want to agitate for these ideas for reforming our church focus and missionary efforts to be relevant to the 21st century and rising generation:
1. Earth is God’s creation, and we participate in ongoing creation and stewardship. We should create the world’s largest and best funded environmental conservation society. Some missionaries serve missions in this society.
2. The glory of God is intelligence. We should pour massive resources into BYU to create a university at the level of the world’s best RESEARCH universities. People should be dying to go to BYU from all over the world because of its academic prestige, including non-members. We should be leading the world in social, philosophical, aesthetic, political, scientific issues.
3. God is charity. Investment in humanitarian organization. Use our massive real estate for farming to raise food for the hungry. Foreign missions as bases for addressing humanitarian concerns in each area. Some missionaries serve missions in this organization.
4. Youth. Develop a real program complete with a real name and involve our kids in serving their communities. Some missionaries serve in this organization. We have thousands of brilliant and competent people in the church who could contribute to creating this program.
5. Gathering of Israel. All the families of the earth are blessed by massive inclusion movement. We want anybody and everybody of all levels of interest and commitment, even the public critics. All genders and cultures at all levels of authority and activity.
Add “For Everyone Born” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmUlJvzRal4 ) to the hymn book.
Pray to God or to Our Heavenly Parents, so we do not leave out a significant other part of the Deity .
One of Robert Kirbys best columns was how he woke up one day and found out that the quorum of the 12 had selected him as the church president . I am still laughing about it to this day. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the date
Your list of reforms is very thorough and if we experienced even 25% of those changes in the next 20 years I’d be amazed.
Here’s the big problem: we operate in a top down organization in which all major decisions are linked to “authority” so by definition these changes are almost impossible. If you believe that authority is legitimate there’s not a lot of room for complaint. If you believe like I do that the COJCOLDS is just a big US corporation you don’t really expect much change.
I like a lot of these ideas. Some idea’s I might add would be:
1) updating the language of our standard works, we can keep the current ones as references, but the time that passes the greater the impediment to understanding such antiquated English.
2) Make the temple recommend interview questions make sense. I don’t understand why we ask about tithing or the WoW but not about much weightier commandments like loving God and people.
3) Try to adjust the hierarchy to hold people more accountable. There’s really no good way for people to give feedback to church leaders, or make appeals on decision local leaders make, like excommunication.
Now that I am aging and my father is in his mid-80’s, I am very bothered by the way we just put people out to pasture. We are so worried about the youth, we don’t care about the elderly, most of whom are sick, disabled, alone and poor.
1) We need an organization specifically for taking care of our elderly members. People need to be CALLED. We need to work on access to church (more online please), socializing, temporal needs met, etc. “Ministering” just doesn’t cut it. It needs to be more organized. People DO need to be assigned to the work.
2) We need a REAL Protecting the Saints Committee to look into and end abuse by the leaders.
Agree, “For Everyone Born” is a hymn that should be added to our connection. The hymn is beautiful and speaks of “justice and joy” for every human on earth.
It’s relevant to recognize that the word “justice” in the Old Testament, which we frequently interpret as referring to God correcting those who transgress the law, actually is more accurately translated in a way that reflects the use of the word in the phrase “social justice.” That changes so much in how we might interpret concepts presented in the scriptures. The word “justice” has been appropriated to twist the meaning of scriptures to contribute to the oppression of those who are already suffering.
If I ran the church, I am quite certain that it would break apart. For the changes I would want wouldn’t be sustainable nor would they be conducive to continued attendance. I would get rid of almost all the scriptures (keeping only Jesus’s philosophies) and preach secular humanism, which would spell an end to Mormonism itself.
But the changes that could be made where the church could maintain its integrity:
1) Do away with tithing settlement.
2) Do away with temple marriages, make them sealings only.
3) Make all missions more service project-oriented to help the poor. Take notes from Peace Corps.
4) Shorten the temple endowment ceremony considerably. I think that the temple does actually reinforce activity, but clearly the ceremony could undergo significant change and no one would be complaining.
5) Ordaining women would certainly upset the church’s rank and file (again, if it were up to me, I would ordain women and reorganize the church leadership to include considerably more women). But it can’t hurt to restructure wards to include women more. I don’t see why women couldn’t be in charge of a church building. Women should be able to give callings and do interviews.
6) End worthiness interviews of teens. Turn them into wellness interviews.
7) Do away with one-on-one interviews with youth.
8) End early-morning seminary, make seminary a biweekly mutual activity.
9) End ecclesiastical endorsements at BYU.
Just a few. There is lots more that could be done and still keep the church as we know it intact.
Initially my thoughts were some of yours Angela: Get rid of the Honor Code, and take away the current stigma surrounding service missions being for second-class members. You know, make it easier for kids to be kids. And immediately do a 180 on LGBTQ stance. That last item alone is the only chance they have for my oldest two kids. Kids raised outside of UT just will not negotiate with the Church on this.
But as I have given it more thought, I think the most important change I could make would be to listen to the members. Especially those in their 20s and 30s. Even though I consider myself incredibly woke today as a 40 year-old, I’m sure over time I will start to lose touch with current issues. I really really really hope I don’t become my own worst enemy, and I’m able to somehow buck the trend as I age to not completely dismiss the rising generations. I think a willingness for our leaders to listen instead of talk at us would solve many problems.
Also, don’t be afraid to apologize. Choose the right, let the consequence follow.
Michael Austin actually talks about translation of the words “justice” and “judgement” and I’m not quite accurate in my comment above. Austin explains that the KJV translates a Hebrew word as “judgment” and in more accurate translations the word is translated as “justice” and Austin explains that it’s justice in the sense of “social justice.”
Austin’s explanation is worth reading (as are his other writings). We are basing too many of our practices on a misunderstanding of biblical concepts.
Very good ideas.
I’ve given laundry lists in response to posts like this before. Some things I’ve wanted changed actually did happen, but we’ve learned the devil is in the details. Some changes were poorly implemented, like replacing Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts with essentially nothing.
One thing I’d like to see is an end to exclusionary weddings. It’s great that people can now get married civilly and get sealed after, but many people think that is a second class wedding. I think that we should end the custom of performing the legal marriage in the temple. I mean, we could just let everyone in for the sealing, but that might be a bit weird, so just have everyone do a public civil marriage and do the sealing sometime after.
Meh. Some folks won’t like that. Can’t make everyone happy I guess.
Hedgehog: There’s one of you in every crowd! Honestly, though, if we meet up sometime in the future, you would be my perfect match to share a box of chocolates. My husband is also a good match because I love dark chocolate, and he prefers milk. He hates the ones with nuts, and I love them.
Raymond & JLM: If we no longer pushed temple recommends for callings, I suspect WoW and garment wearing would relax naturally (for those who want it to relax). Those who don’t would feel free to continue as is. I have no real personal interest, for example, in switching my diet coke out for coffee, but I also don’t care if others drink coffee or chai tea. I’m not interested in drinking alcohol, but I also don’t think social drinking is a sin. I suppose on both the WoW and garment wearing, encouraging members to follow the dictates of their conscience is always my preference. In the case of garments, I’ve blogged before about how they do not work for women, creating health problems for many (see https://bycommonconsent.com/2013/05/13/female-garments-the-underwear-business/). There have been some improvements since then, but nowhere near enough to make them a neutral for women’s health. I liked the suggestion someone made of replacing them with a piece of jewelry instead like a necklace. I would love the IDIC symbol in a necklace or earrings, personally, but as the Church is today, we don’t value infinite diversity in infinite combinations. But our theology should and has that potential. I would also add that the Church may not choose to relax requirements on these things, but according to the Next Mormons, the membership are already relaxing them.
mati w: Michael Austin is my favorite! He also edited my book. Everything he writes is gold.
“And immediately do a 180 on LGBTQ stance. That last item alone is the only chance they have for my oldest two kids. Kids raised outside of UT just will not negotiate with the Church on this.”
Yup, a complete deal-breaker for educated young adults. Difficult decisions ahead for the Brethren who to this pt have primarily valued obedience clones and don’t want to put up w/ uppity Stanford grads – but understand that brain-drain is disastrous.
To survive, the Church will have to give the priesthood to women, embrace its LGBTQ members and same-sex marriage, and acknowledge, apologize, and accept responsibility for its institutional sins, most notably racism. We really don’t have a choice about any of that. The only question is whether the Q15 realize that in time to stem the tide of disaffection. I’m not optimistic, TBH. It may already be too late.
Still, with those big priorities out of the way, I’d then propose a two-track temple worship system. I’ve never liked the temple – yes, it’s culty and weird, but at this point I find it to be just a colossally boring waste of time. I never understand people who tell me how they get all this wonderful inspiration and answers to prayer in the temple. Does this all happen during the movie? When they’re changing clothes? Seems to me there’s too much distraction to do the kind of contemplation necessary to make that happen. Sure, there’s the celestial room, but by the time I’ve endured the tedium necessary to sit there quietly, I’m so antsy and eager to get on with my day that I don’t have the patience to keep sitting after sitting through an hour-and-a-half movie I’ve seen 7 billion times before.
So here’s the plan. Those going through for their own endowment or those who feel the need to watch the same movie over and over again can continue the temple ceremony as presently constituted. (Although as previous commenters note, that ceremony can still be shortened significantly without losing anything.) Everyone else can go directly to an expanded prayer circle where they could quickly make all necessary covenants by proxy, and then they go straight to the veil. No instructions. Whole thing would take five, ten minutes tops. They can then spend their time in the temple engaged in meditation and prayer in the celestial room, and suddenly the temple becomes the place of tranquility it was always supposed to be.
Temple recommend interviews would also be two-tiered. For those getting their endowment, they would be asked if they would be willing to keep the covenants they will make in the temple, and those covenants would be spelled out in detail beforehand, so nobody feels ambushed they way I did when I made covenants I had no clue about in advance. Renewing the temple recommend would be a one-question process: “Do you keep your temple covenants?” That’s it. No follow-up questions allowed. It’s entirely up to the individual as to how they interpret those covenants and keep them.
Without being explicitly tied to temple worship, tithing then becomes voluntary and flexible. Those who interpret tithing to mean giving money to charity instead of the institutional church would be welcome to do so, hopefully even encouraged to do so.
Also, why can’t we clap in church?
Better music and more of it. Better speaking and less of it.
Agreed that BYU would do well to establish a reputable medical school, but I have to draw the line at dentistry. The world already has way too many Mormon dentists.
Fun post and comments.
I’ll piggyback on Mike Spendlove’s idea, and propose that meditation rooms be built into or designated in all church buildings and temples. Have quiet contemplation or meditation be an option during the 2nd hour of church.
Also, more interfaith collaboration, including inviting leaders of other faiths and religious scholars to give talks and teach truths at General Conference (while also reducing the number of conference sessions).
Day one: Our missionary force would do service–food banks, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, refugee work, etc.– from 9:00-5:00 every day, and then leave the evenings open to teach people in the traditional way.
I really enjoyed this post and agreed with many of the ideas for change. Here’s an addition: Q12 Stop proclaiming yourselves to be and demanding constant recognition as prophets, seers and revelators when there is no prophecy, no revelation and no seeing happening. Claiming a title is meaningless without demonstrating the actual fruits. It is apparent to any thoughtful observer that the changing priorities and constant flip flopping of recent years depends upon on the agenda of the one at the very top. In a way the title of this post reflects the problem (and this isn’t a jab at Hawkgrrrl. What happened to Christ’s platform?). For some time now the senior leadership of the Church are and have been pursuing their own platforms / agendas all the while proclaiming they are doing God’s will on earth. Is anyone up there really asking Christ for His direction? In my own life it is far easier to pursue my own agenda and my own goals than it is to seek to do God’s will. It takes a lot of humility and faith to seek Christ and His direction in my life. Most of the time I fail at it myself but I don’t go around proclaiming to be God’s mouthpiece either. And sometimes when I am humble and sincere I do succeed in some measure in following Christ’s will for me. So while I believe there is still a lot of good that happens in the church, there is also a huge amount that God is probably really unhappy about.
Nice lists everyone. For me:
1) democratic governance at both the local and general level
2) a “theological salvage” initiative to put the better mormon ideas into a unique theology/philosophy compatible with science, while acknowledging and sunsetting harmful teachings.
3) a strong institutional and cultural commitment to build a better human society (charitable works, health initiatives, low cost education, environmental stewardship projects, etc). Mormonism (LDSism?) could be more about doing practical good than being preached at.
I’m not holding my breath.
I like a number of these suggestions. Though I have to disagree with the idea that in order to survive the church MUST embrace women’s ordination and the LGBTQ+ community. I am not opposed to those ideas, but there is no guarantee this would change the trajectory of the church. Nearly all churches, except the Unitarian Universalists, have see precipitous declines in their membership even with the addition of women and LGBTQ+ ordination. Christianity is on a decline across the western world. Both conservative and liberal churches are bleeding members. The message of Jesus is not resonating with our current times.
Gilgamesh, I think the decline in membership among liberal, LGBTQ+ affirming churches is really demonstrative of the inherent weakness of organized religion in general. For too long churches (especially Christian churches, ironically) have been tools to promote tribalism and othering, rather than places for building community and inclusiveness. In the U.S., where the religious marketplace is free and crowded, other institutions (such as social media) have stepped up to fill that void, for better or worse, and now churches everywhere are facing a reckoning for being far too slow to adapt. That, and polarized identity politics overtaking religion in people’s lives. So when a church decides to make itself more welcoming to gay worshipers and appoint gay ministers, while it’s undoubtedly a good thing, it’s often too little, too late. If the COJCOLDS suddenly reversed course and decided to allow same-sex couples to be sealed in temples, I would welcome such a decision, but I doubt it would result in an influx of LGBTQ converts; if anything, a large number of conservative members would probably leave (they are exactly the people who need to leave, but the Q15 probably considers this too high a price). The Church is at the point where it has done too much damage to the LGBTQ community, and it is not soon forgotten.
In addition to the many excellent thoughts already posted:
1. Shift focus from obedience/exact obedience to love for Christ. Personal, meaningful obedience will follow.
2. Lose about 90% of the rules
3. Foster more joy/energy in our church services. Quiet boredom doth not equal reverence.
4. Allow endowed individuals to remember temple covenants in personal way, not mandating 24/7 garment wearing (which, at least for me, loses its reminder power as becomes just part of getting dressed each day). They also remind me of origins related to polygamy and don’t have the desired effect.
5. As John W and Rockwell mentioned, separate marriage and sealing ceremonies. Marriage done civilly, sealing in temple. So many benefits to this.
6. Replace current business model of missionary work (which reduces people to “opportunities” and numbers) with service to community. NO going around approaching people door to door or on the street.
7. Either ordain women to priesthood offices or remove priesthood office requirement for church callings. I mean all the way up.
8. Not only pray to Heavenly Mother also, but include her when talking about God. Stop limiting our discussion, if any, to her glorious motherhood.
Hawkgrrrl, great thoughts. I sustain them all.
So many great ideas have been shared. Here are some I’ll add that I don’t think have been mentioned.
1 – Change to a model of employing professional clergy to lead wards and stakes. Each ward should have a small group of adults who serve as an advisory board and who select the candidate for hire. These would not be CES types. We would move to a more traditional approach to training our clearly in theology, spiritual counseling, leadership, welfare and organizational psychology.
2 – Qualtrics is in our backyard and evidently revolutionizing the way we view “experience.” Awesome, let’s get some experience management going in our church. Why not have a member feedback program that informs the institutional church. Right now there is no process for joe member to access the general church. This is a huge flaw and we miss how the collective wisdom of our members could help the church grow and succeed.
3 – Creating preschools and daycare inside current churches, sponsored by the church with a licensed and trained head administrator and assistants. It could also be organized as a cooperative.
4 – Allowing non-members to attend temple sealings. End worthiness interviews as the basis for a temple recommend.
5 – Lastly, I’ll add an exclamation point to these ideas others have articulated: The end to worthiness interviews and a focus on moral living. Ending the Word of Wisdom as a law of obedience and returning it to its original form as advice for healthy living (which means the prohibition on coffee, tea, beer and wine is dropped and more emphasis is placed on eating healthy food). Education scholarships for members who attend a university other than one of the BYUs–this is a great idea! End-to-end financial transparency. An indefinite commitment–one central to everything we are–to aiding the poor and sick. Massive overhaul to the missionary program away from overt proselytizing. And so many of the other recommendations.
All these lists are great ideas, however the Q15 will only continue to make very small modest changes to appease aspects of the masses. If the institution really wanted change, it would have been done decades ago. They only want power.
They can not even support non controversal topics like feeding starving member children. Members who are anxiously engaged activists have to start their own non sanctioned
Interesting enough the next trib article asks if utahs need their legislature.
Mormons should be asking themselves if they really need the church. All the prior lists indicate problems within the instuition. Like described by Richard Rohr, eventually the instutionaL church served its 1st half of life purpose, and it’s time to go on the second half of life. These lists reflect wanting to transition into 2nd life, while keeping a foot I the fist.
I agree with basically everyone’s lists.
If I had to pick only one change, it would be this: Nobody who isn’t a prophet gets to pretend they are.
DHO admitted the Q15 don’t talk to Jesus face to face (as I was taught and taught others on my mission). They are merely curators of the revelations of nineteenth century mystics and have deployed those various wild ideas to varying degrees of usefulness and disaster. If we can all just admit that they don’t actually talk to God, then no one should be beholden to anything they say. We should all be free to do our Mormon thing on our own terms, follow our own conscience, and reject any piece of sexism, homophobia, racism, or general bad advice that comes from that pulpit. The humility required to admit that would allow us to restructure and reform the way we need to. Said humility is also, sadly, probably beyond what those men are capable of.
Great lists! I would only add one more change that has been alluded to, but not mentioned (at least in this thread): Do away with calling leaders according to the prosperity gospel and/or their professional CVs. Just once I would like to hear of someone called to the 12, or even the seventy, who is a high school janitor or a brick mason, but is also a spiritual giant. I don’t remember reading about Christ choosing his apostles from among the most learned or the highest earners in society, so why is that a prerequisite in today’s church? And I recognize those typically chosen have demonstrated that they are great administrators in their professional pursuits, but we’re the twelve original 12 called as administrators or ministers?
It would be nice to dedicate an entire room in ward buildings and stake centers to a book library. Not a Deseret-Book-racket. A bona fide religious studies library with autonomy from correlation, something managed by the ward and by the stake. The institutional correlated stuff could remain in the double-door closet that currently represents our library.
So many good ideas.
@bigsky, funny you mention Qualtrics. This is a longer story than I can tell right now, but short version is my husband was supposed to create & present our “ward plan” last Sunday. It was difficult because he and I discussed that our ward should be about relationships with each other and Christ, not a “program” and a “checklist”, but then he couldn’t figure out a way to “report” progress against the plan to the stake.
Setting aside for a moment that it’s silly to even require reporting … my suggestion was to design a survey that measures feelings of belonging and inclusion and satisfaction, similar to what a lot of companies do for DEI. Do the survey as your baseline, identify problem points and action items, re-do periodically, measure improvement. So that’s something quantifiable that you can “report” but is not about a checklist but is just about how people are doing and feeling.
He liked the idea but there’s no way the stake would go for it.
The church surveys people all the time but it’s such a black hole. And some of them are very poorly designed, like probably some actual researchers designed it but then some 70 or apostle didn’t like the wording so revised it to something that’s actually poor methodology 🙄.
I like all these ideas. When we all get called into the Q12, I will support everyone one of you.
When I’m speaking regularly at Gen Conf, every talk will be on the topic of economics. First I’ll have to explain how my thoughts are moral issues, not political ones, and I’ll back it up by packing my talk with scriptures rather than quoting Church leaders.
Gen Conf talk: Malachi 3:5. “And I will come near you to judgement, and I will be a swift witness against . . . those that oppress the hireling in his wages.” I’ll convince the Church to endorse a $17 minimum wage bill so the Utah legislature will pass it. I’ll mention the evil that is CEOs making ten thousand times the wages of their average employees. I talk about the working poor.
Gen Conf talk: I’ll dive into the Book of Mormon scriptures about when the society starts to split into classes based on economics. Alma 4:6-13. Verse 6 describes their riches – costly apparel, flocks and herds, and then admits “which they had obtained by their industry.” Alma agrees that the people are rich because they’ve worked hard, and that pride is still causing problems. Then we segue into Mosiah 4, about helping beggars rather than saying they brought their problems upon themselves.
Gen Conf talk: Another pride cycle in the Book of Mormon specifically mentions education. 3 Nephi 6:12: And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning.” I talk about student debt, and the need for better access to education for everyone.
Gen Conf talk: Matt 19:24 – “it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.” I’ll spend the entire talk dismantling that silly idea that “needle” was the name of a gate on the back wall where they had to unload the camel and make it crouch down. Seriously, who would design such a dumb gate? Also, the apostles responded with “who then can be saved??” and not with “oh yeah, just go to the other gate and you’re fine.”
Gen Conf talk: Jacob 2:17-19. This is the scripture that is interpreted to mean it’s okay to get rich after you’ve sought the kingdom of God. I’d spend my time on verse 17: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.” The goal of a rich person should be enriching everyone around them.
I’m still working out how to apply the parable of the Good Samaritan to universal health care, but I’ll get there.
That will be my focus.
When I first heard the “box of chocolates” anecdote, as a believing member it was a true shelf item.
>>Why did these men I regarded as servants who had given up things of the world think it was ok to accept a weekly gift from a local business?
>>Why did they think it was ok to use this gift to reinforce seniority? Why would they not allow the junior most apostle to go first? Senior leaders eating last is a basic principle of servant leadership.
>>How could anyone who claims to speak for God, actually believe milk chocolate is superior to dark chocolate? smh
I would be remiss if I did not add this link with the talk of apostles and chocolate.
First: The leadership (whoever it is) needs to re-imagine G0d. Everyone of the top leadership has been uber-successful in a world governed by scarcity. They have to a man understood that there simply isn’t enough of anything to go around an everything desirable is doled out based on performance.
Having risen to the top of this system they have a created a God and a church after the image of the world.
Instead, imagine a God and an existence where there is no scarcity, not of time, resources, opportunities. Imagine a god who can allow people to “come to themselves” in their own time and in their own way, because there is enough and to spare.
Let this really sink in and infuse itself in their belief, faith and the doctrine.
Then the policies, practices, expectations and attitudes will flow unto us without compulsory means fore3ver and ever.
ushallbcot & mati w:
Just a note that “For Everyone Born” is one of many wonderful hymns related to justice in the Community of Christ hymnal, “Community of Christ Sings” (Herald House, 2013). Perhaps the COJCOLDS could just adopt the hymnal in its entirety.
Great list and pretty dang thorough. I commend you for not leading with ordaining women, and extra for unordaining (at least some) men. And you are correct that this topic is a perennial favorite. Look at all of us chugging out our $.02!
Embark carefully on a restoration of healing blessings by women, and include men as well in the effort to develop this gift among those who seek it. Encourage family blessings for all, especially by parents, regardless of gender.
Support ward and stake choirs, but only where there are people who desire them. It’s the one place where we have historically been equally inclusive, and it can be very inspirational as worship. Even better: expand on all the ways music is worship.
And to manage the overwhelm of biting off more than one can chew, adopt the principle: When you know better, do better. Learn and practice what is a real and true apology. Teach it to all members as essential to move forward.
BYU has had full funding for a medical school offered from outside. The issue is the number of people who would want first dibs on school slots. Which is why they’ve turned down donors in the past.
Having been a victim of BYU misogyny at the University of Utah just a few years ago (you are taking the place of a bread winner, you must have been accepted to help the female numbers, etc), I can’t imagine attending a medical school run by the church.
Facilitate other spiritual “technologies.” We repeat prayer, scripture study, take the sacrament, attend the temple, etc over and over again. How about some alternative approaches to experiencing the divine. This is where the spiritual but not religious crowd excels. Ecstatic dance anyone?
Where and when did DHO say they don’t talk face to face with Him?
1) We become an organization focused on charity, service, and love
1a) The missionary program dedicated itself 9-5 to service, teaches in the evenings.
1b) The church pays for its missionary program. Elsewhere on the bloggernacle, the cost was calculated to be less than 1% of interest of the 100B nest egg.
1c) Create sustainable farming and charitable food-to-table programs, health programs, and other humanitarian programs (beyond Mormon helping hands), allowing people (not just church employees) to lend their intellect and God-given talents.
1d)Expand church health sciences university and certification (CNA, LPN, EMS, etc) programs, starting with BYU nursing. They reject over half of our straight-A second year BYU kids. (Capacity issues. What a tragedy!) .
1e) Resurrect the global literacy initiative Cheiko Okazaki, Eileen Clyde, Elaine Jack and others envisioned. Create a world-class adult and child literacy program, fueled by our army of professional educators and volunteers, our buildings and CES programs. Missionaries can volunteer here too. Literacy lifts standard of living, health and wellness, and enables people to engage with God’s word.
1f) meetinghouses are used during the week for professional day care/coops. (hat tip Big Sky)
2) Administrative Reform
2a) full financial reports and transparency.
2b) the next prophet becomes the LDS “Pope Benedict”, and after a few years sets a new precedent by stepping down as head hancho. Begin releasing the old timers.
2c) reduce the number of wards and potentially stakes to rid ourselves of the bottom quartile (most inept/corrupt) of local leadership. Larger wards can offer better and bigger services/programs.
2d) #OrdainWomen and create gender parity in all the ranks.
2d) local wards are run democratically by a council.
2e) No more GA “stipends”. They can fend for themselves. (None are wanting.) Also, no more GA perks/benefits (cars, free healthcare, etc.) unless they are made available to all members.
2f) Call people from other economic and professional backgrounds to ecclesiastical roles (farmers, artists, k-12 teachers, etc.) not just corporate lawyers and university presidents.
3 Education and Enlightenment
3a) ALL LDS get a stipend to their school (university or trade school) of choice if not attending BYU as an equivalency. (Hat tip Hawkgrrl). Put the PEF on steroids.
3b) expand lds professional
Trade programs and health sciences programs (see 1d).
3c) Start the LDS literacy program (see 1f)
4) Earth Stewardship
4a) environmental conservation, research, and
Stewardship work on LDS owned lands. (Hat tip Your Food Allergy)
4b) LDs hunting preserves (staffed by missionaries for rich game hunters) are immediately disbanded and turned into protected wildlife preserves for research, conservation and tourism (think National Parks).
“Your Food Allergy” , I love and second all your ideas.
4c) doctrinal expansion and explanations for environmental conservation.
4d) LDS farms become sustainable and support a food-to-table charity renewed initiative, staffed in part by educational programs and missionaries. (Hat tip “Your Food Allergy”).
5) Social Justice
5a) We become champions and exemplars of social justice issues. ‘Nuns on a Bus’, pull over and pick us up!
5b) We stop lobbying against LGBT. We stop using all our weight to protect “religious liberty” and instead focus on human rights. Our focus shifts to health equity, welfare, racial and social equity, human rights, and social support programs.
5c) Divorce ourselves form the religious right and extreme R politics.
6 Arts and Culture
6a) reinvest in LDS art forms and styles- our unique artistic perspective. Revive LDS craftsmanship and support unique lds artistic genres. (Discourage copying evangelical music and art). .LDS members are called again to contribute their talents in sacred worship involving their artistic talents (carpentry, upholstery, poetry, painting, music, interior design, etc.) No more pre-fabricated everything from SL.
6b) revive roadshows, talent shows, theatre, recitals, art shows, art training, etc.
6c) remove the art ban or art correlation in meetinghouses.
6d) Return the Minerva Techarts
6e) preserve lds architecture, murals, temple art, etc.
7) Keep Mormonism Weird #KeepMormonismWeird
7a) bring back our millennial vision
7b) Embrace mother in Heaven
7c) retract the 131st section of the D&C, update language in the BOM to be gender and race positive.
There was only one good suggestion on this list, everything else was absurd. And that one good idea was allowing people to attend whatever ward they prefer. If you think things are unequal in the church today, regarding men and women, just wait until the setting in order of the Church. It will turn your world upside down.
The Church needs to divest itself of Deseret News and related media properties. The Church cannot truly claim political neutrality when its own newspaper loudly telescopes the views of those at the top. Just reread the DN Editor in Chief’s May 2020 fawning interview with Newt Gingrich (https://www.deseret.com/opinion/2020/5/6/21249589/newt-gingrich-covid-19-overreacted-rome-italy-speaker-of-the-house). Gingrich laid much of the foundation of the erosion of public discourse in this nation. Last I checked, his “laughing and mocking” style of rhetoric doesn’t get great reviews in the Book of Mormon or our primary song, “Nephi’s Courage.”
Dump the PR organization. Honestly, I don’t know who’s in charge anymore. The videos and the emails and the tweets have to stop. They signal to the membership that we don’t have to do the hard work of mourning with those who mourn (because the Holy Ghost will comfort them) or comfort those who need comfort (repeat last parenthetical). The Church’s PR stance basically absolves us of true engagement in the world and its troubles.
@mez, re: DHO on not seeing the Lord…
There was actually a W&T post about that very topic a few months ago. Bishop Bill sources the quote along with other relevant quotes from other GAs.
Mortimer for President!
Your comments about how “we” already have enough temples is incredibly hurtful, and does a disservice to faithful saints in places on the globe where they cannot ever travel to a temple because of government restrictions. I would hope that if you were an apostle, you would be serving saints wherever they are, and not just in North America. (If you want to preface that statement with a specification of North America, fine.)
Where I served a mission, and I assume in some other countries, the biggest barrier to temple attendance is not a temple recommend, but a passport. And various governments have barriers to getting a passport that may be insurmountable for some, especially older folks who were born in a small village with no record of birth, or women wo have been abandoned by their husbands and don’t have a current “family card” documentation.
Waferer, I blush! Thanks!
Janey, I love your perspective and so did 46 others! Why wait for the calling, I hope you’ll write up your economic perspective in a book or series of essays and that the W&T or BCC Press will publish it. Don’t forget to add Mormon 8, 35-36 (all the churches…all means even us). Need a writing buddy? I volunteer.
Naismith: Yes, you are right that I was being Ameri-centric, at least in my thinking, but I will also say that if people can’t travel to temples due to government restrictions, building more temples may not cure that. Government restrictions gonna restrict. But if there are enough interested patrons in a country (which I assume is the first restriction), and we haven’t already put a temple there, I am surprised because we’ve put one on every block in Utah, or so it seems.
Naismith, I don’t think every country needs a temple building like we are currently building, which brings me to the change I would make that nobody so far has suggested. Have two or three rooms in every stake building that are dedicated as mini temples. Marriages can take place in the room otherwise used as celestial room, and so one room is the initiate/main endowment room, one the celestial/sealing room, and another is for baptisms and confirmations of the dead. Bingo, you have a temple in every location that is large enough to have a stake. Why do we need these embarrassing shows to the church’s wealth! Such as the new temple in Rome. What, are we trying to outdo the Vatican?
As far as all the other suggestions, can we nominate Mortimer for prophet?
^ I’ve heard or read somewhere that the Q15 investigated that concept around the time the Oakland California Temple was built, and it evolved into the Hinckley-era mini temples. I’m not going to take the time to track down a reference for that, but it shouldn’t be hard to find.
All excellent suggestions. I only have a few to add: 1) Any lds employer or business owner whose employee comes to the bishop for financial assistance, should immediately be called to repentance by his or her own Bishop and temple recommend suspended. If you are a Mormon employer and you refuse to pay your employees a living wage and they have to go to their Bishop for help, shame, shame, shame on you. Shame. Btw, This employer could include the church itself, so this could get awkward.
2)In-house grounds and building maintenance crews for all church properties with staff paid generously, with good benefits. No need to contract this stuff out to save money. Obviously, money is not an issue for the church.
3) As others have suggested, make good use of church buildings throughout the week. Other denominations use their buildings for food banks and soup kitchens. We do have kitchens in our buildings. The proper permits can be acquired. We have lots of money and lawyers.
4) Add graduate programs to BYU-Idaho, or don’t call it a “University.” Start with a Masters in nursing and Masters in social work, followed by a law program that focuses on social and environmental justice.
5) Publicly apologize to the appropriate tribal entities for the “Lamanite Program.” Remove any and all negative references to Native Americans or NA as lamanites from church materials.
6) church hq: get your meddling fingers out of academia. Complete academic freedom for all CES faculty and students as well as lds professors and students at non-ces schools.
7)Consult with non-lds professional historians, theologians, archeologists etc. for all sunday lesson or ces material. Institute teachers, as hawkgrrrl suggested, would need to be professionally trained (a theology degree is preferred).
8) Drop unnecessary formal titles within the church building. We can use first names or brother/sister followed by first names. This includes bishop, president etc. My bishop is a volunteer regular person with an MBA. He is not in charge of a diocese in the Catholic church. General Authorities need to immediately stop using their middle initial (see Gordon Monson’s recent column). Are there multiple Russel Nelsons, or Dalin Oaks among the GA’s that we need to use their middle names or we will mix them up? Do they feel church members wouldn’t respect them if they used normal, human style names? They are just retired CEO’s, estate attorneys, and hedge fund managers, not demigods. Yeesh!
9) Let girls pass, bless and prepare the sacrament. Don’t care what kind of priesthood (or not) label you give it.
10) Let’s stop and reverse the Utahfication of the global church. If drumming is considered sacred to a particular culture, encourage that in local sacrament meetings. Whatever dress is formal or sacred (this could include a head covering of some kind) encourage it in meetings. (Btw, what happened to general conference speakers giving their talking in their native language and then translating to English? They tried it once and it went away. I thought it was beautiful.
I won’t pretend to understand Mormonism, but your ideas would give Evangelicals kittens! Especially opposing homophobia and transphobia – a lot of Evangelicals I’ve encountered would hate that. Great post BTW.
1. I would decentralize and debureaucratize. Let Bishops and Stake presidents decide stuff without area authority 70s breathing down their necks and forcing buzzwords and programs onto everybody. No more numerical baptismal goals.
2.I would receive a new revelation on Transparency and then open the Church History archives to all the world. And I would make standardized financial reports twice a year.
3. I would resurrect common consent and phase out notions of Q15 infallibility.
4. I would teach Peter Enns’s view of canonized scripture, that it’s source material for learning wisdom rather than documents faxed to us from Heaven. I would encourage the English-speaking members to explore and use non-KJV translations of the Bible.
5. I would have the church stop sacralizing whatever habits the Morridor engages in or prefers (white shirts, specific sacrament-passing rituals, “Brother and Sister so-and-so,” etc.)
6. I would interpret the Word of Wisdom as a suggestion only to allow coffee and tea.
7. Retirement plan for GA’s. Nobody over 80. New Apostles must be under 55.
8. Retire all dumbed-down, insipid Sunday School materials. Any book that presents the Flood or Babel as literal events will be instantly replaced. I would hire Terryl and Fiona Givens and David Bokovoy to chair a new curriculum committee.
9. Stop being pharasaical.
10. Apologize publicly for stuff.
I should have perhaps been more specific about “government restrictions.” It is obtaining a passport to attend a temple in another country that is the challenge. Building a temple in that country with over 7,500 members, would allow people to attend the temple without needing a passport. So yes, building that one temple would bypass the government issues.
It would also allow the saints to partake in temple ordinances in their own language, consistent with D & C 90:11, “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every person shall hear the fulness of the gospel in their own tongue, and in their own language…” (that’s a back-translation from their version, which uses the word for “person”.) When I took a family to their assigned temple in another country, there were recordings for some things, but no temple workers who spoke their language, so important ordinances were done with them trying to read from a card. And some of the temple workers were condescending to them! “They really don’t know any English?”
Of course there are no youth temple trips, nor opportunities for converts to do baptisms.
Yes, I have visited the smaller temples in NYC, Alaska, Detroit and Columbus OH, and I agree that is a great model for making ordinances available without a big building. Many of our chapels in Indonesia are in industrial parks and strip malls, so the first temple may end up in that kind of setting as well. And being a nation of islands, it really would be a good candidate for the proposed temple ship that one hears about from time to time.
Imagine the thought that a (supposed) Church of Jesus Christ would publicly apologizing when they screw up? Or…..how about the same organization asking the (so called) members their opinions? Instead, what we’re left with is a self-serving, money grubbing, chest thumping, bloviating dumpster fire…..
Erase the Religion department at the BYUs and reorganize them as Institutes of Religion as at other universities.