Your introductory paragraph today is brought to you by Aaron Rodgers, the stellar quarterback who, after spending the first 18 years of his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers, was just traded to the New York Jets. Residents of Wisconsin and the Big Apple are welcome to weigh in on the merits of this trade in the comments, but I’m going to reference one thing that comes up with every player trade: What number will he take on the new team? That number on the uniform is a really big deal for some players. Players come to identify with their number: It’s an identity thing. Rodgers wore number 12 at Green Bay. Every Jets jersey with number 12 on it has the name Namath on the back, so whether Rodgers would angle to wear 12 with the Jets was a topic of some conversation this week. Joe Namath graciously weighed in that he was fine with Rodgers wearing number 12 if he wanted to. Rodgers has (reportedly) been equally gracious in deciding to wear number 8, which he wore in college when playing for the California Golden Bears (that’s UC Berkeley if you focus on academics, not football).
If, like football players, we can get deeply attached to something as innocuous and as ephemeral as a number (phone number, license plate number, SSN), how much more we get attached to other features that define our identity: our given name, our family name, our birth city, our car, our favorite color, our awards or accomplishments, degrees, affiliations, and so forth. What about Mormon identity? For Mormons, the “Mormon” part is a pretty big piece of one’s identity, generally a positive part. For edge dwellers and Exmos, it’s still a significant part of one’s identity, maybe a more neutral or even a negative part of that identity. So let’s talk about that.
That Word: Mormon
The first current issue with Mormon identity is self-inflicted: members of the Church are not supposed to call themselves “Mormon” or call the Church “the Mormon Church” anymore. It’s been a few years now, but it’s still a puzzling initiative. It’s hard to see what the positive payoff is for this initiative. It has caused problems for those in the media and publishing, trying not to offend Mormons (who don’t want to be called Mormons anymore) while still using practical references to the Church and its members that the rest of the world understands.
But what about the members themselves? I think there is some degree of confusion and perhaps regret. And frustration. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a new and longer name (only used in full in General Conference and by the Deseret News, as far as I can tell). Isn’t it fun to slip and use the word Mormon on Sunday and get corrected by two or three church ladies? Do any of you fiesty readers do that on purpose, just to stir things up a little with your more politically correct (in the Mormon sense) churchgoers? In a deeper identity sense, does this strangely pointless, even counterproductive, change mess with the average Mormon psyche? Are some Mormons less happy about being members of the Church because they aren’t allowed to consider themselves Mormon or call themselves Mormon anymore?
My personal take is less about identity than about leadership. The whole episode just raises another question about the quality and competence of LDS senior leadership. It shows the problems with giving the President unfettered discretion in pursuing not just rational and reasonable policies but also ones that are hardly more than personal peeves. Like no one else in leadership could make objections to a difficult and expensive initiative that produces little positive result, if any? There is longstanding tradition, there are other supposedly authoritative quorums, there are counselors to the President, but none of that seems to matter anymore. Once the senior apostle assumes the Presidency, the Church becomes his sandbox. Even apart from the age problem, the whole leadership culture of maximal deference to the President just doesn’t work very well. Do you think any business school in the country teaches that leadership or management model as a good one? But I digress. Let’s get back to the identity problem.
An Identity Vacuum?
For the first twenty years, Mormon identity was the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. For the balance of the 19th century, it was polygamy (which still persists as part of the Mormon identity, if not the primary aspect). During the 20th century, it was American patriotism, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the oh-so-visible missionaries, and Mormon celebrities like Donny and Marie or Dale Murphy or Steve Young.
As we move into and through the 21st century, what is the Mormon identity? For outsiders, it’s probably regressive conservative politics and anti-LGBT policies. That’s not a great label for your religious brand, particularly for a proselyting religion with seventy thousand proselyting missionaries out there. The progressive/liberal half of the country doesn’t want to talk to missionaries because of Mormon politics and the conservative half of the country, largely Evangelical, doesn’t want to talk to missionaries because of Mormon doctrine and theology. If it’s not conservative anti-LGBT politics and policies that define the Church for outsiders, what does? Is there another concept or label that non-LDS colleagues or neighbors attach to you as a Mormon or the Church as a church?
For insiders … well, that’s the Mormon identity vacuum. If you’re a good Mormon, you can’t even use the term “Mormon identity,” which sort of illustrates the problem. A few years ago, the Church proudly endorsed the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, which did its best to associate a lot of positive and diverse values and life paths with Mormon identity. Having repudiated the “I’m a Mormon” phrase and even the use of the term “Mormon,” what’s left? What fills that vacuum? What’s the Church about these days? As far as I can tell, it’s families and temples. That’s what they talk about in Conference. They don’t talk about the Hundred Billiion Dollar Fund (or SEC sanctions) or any of the negative stuff. That’s certainly not what the leadership wants members to include in their sense of Mormon identity. What else besides family and temples gets poured into the Mormon identity bucket these days? That’s a fairly bland package. Lots of churches support and promote families. Temples are a strange concept for most people and sort of rub the average Christian the wrong way.
So here’s a few issues to kick around in the comments.
- Do you have any sense that the average Mormon, or the Mormons in your circle, are having trouble specifying their Mormon identity these days? Or am I just off base here and it’s no big deal?
- Do you think the “we aren’t Mormons anymore” initiative has confused or even frustrated the average Mormon, or is it, for most Mormons, just one more annoying thing Mormons have to put up with?
- If you ask the average Mormon these days, “What does it mean for you to be a member of the LDS Church?” what do they say? How is it different from what they would have said ten or thirty or fifty years ago?
- Another President Hinckley slogan was “stand for something.” What do Mormons or the LDS Church stand for in 2023?
- What is your Mormon identity? Is that a positive, a neutral, or a negative thing for you?
How many of us think less of someone when we find out they are a Jehovah Witness or Scientologist? We try not to judge but we secretly think “that guy must be a little off”. I know that i’ve always viewed these folks with a degree of suspicion. Which is truly ironic because that’s exactly the way people look at us (Mormons).
And it gets worse. Back in the post-war era until the early 2000s, Mormons were seen as patriotic and family oriented. But that image has been replaced by an image of right-wingers who are anti-LGBTQ. We all live in glass houses.
“Once the senior apostle assumes the Presidency, the Church becomes his sandbox. Even apart from the age problem, the whole leadership culture of maximal deference to the President just doesn’t work very well.”
Amen. What a mess. When what’s left is “ultra-rightwing antiLGBT Republicans who claim they worship Jesus” you really don’t have a church any more, you have a rabble. I had a friend years ago who described herself as “Mormon-like.” That’s also an apt description for the state of the Church today.
I get Nelson’s point about focusing on Christ in our name. Other prophets have made the same point, but without being so controlling about it. All my life I have said “Yes, I am a Mormon, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” because I want people to hear the official name, the nickname, and most especially the connection to Christ.
I do use Mormon in meetings and my life (I am a member of MWEG). I like reminding people that there are other churches that use the Book of Mormon and that being Mormon can also be considered a sort of culture or ethnicity we are part of, even if we aren’t active LDS (I also use LDS freely, get over it).
I appreciate many things Nelson has done to bring positive changes in the church. I see the negatives too. They are both there.
I think one of the biggest problems in the church today that affects identity is engaging in all or nothing thinking. All or nothing thinking doesn’t match reality and is inherently divisive rather than unifying. It’s also a mark of spiritual immaturity.
I prefer the word and instead of but. Two contrasting things can be true at the same time. Unfortunately we feel compelled to pick one side for ease of thinking instead of seeing the wider reality of in-between in everything.
Right now the church is stuck in a hard place between LGBTQ advocates and those who want to focus on a narrow definition of family and purity excluding all else. The extreme focus on the temple and sealings heightens this divide.
I would like to see the focus broaden and soften becoming more inclusive of people in every situation, more Christ centered and less conventional conservative family centered. I would like to see less focus on an ideal family that naturally is shaming and exclusive of those who do not meet that ideal.
This ideal of the man presiding over a woman and children excludes so many people today, and often affects those it doesn’t exclude negatively. It’s unfortunate that it has become central to our culture and theology, affecting identity and dividing and making in groups and out groups throughout our church.
I personally believe this focus detracts from our unity and focus in following Jesus Christ. It has forced conservative politics and LGBTQ exclusion into the spotlight of the identity of the church. It’s sad that we have allowed that as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Latter-day Saints take upon themselves the name of Christ. That in and of itself should fill the vacuum of identity that some may be feeling. Even so, my guess is that a lot of folks experience the change as the peeling away of an unnecessary layer of an onion–I know I do. I love the change.
Great thoughts. I’ll respond to your final question about what my Mormon identity means to me.
On my best days: My Mormon identity centers on 1) an expansive appreciation and inclusion of all good, praiseworthy things, 2) an understanding and a seeking of truth wherever it be found, 3) an all-encompassing love of the beauty that flows throughout multiple faith paths, and 4) an acknowledgement of divine mysteries and divine power, and the importance of feeding my connection to the divine through both repetitive rituals and practical “get-your-hands-dirty” practice of my Christian principles. My Mormon identity powers this search and this journeying. To borrow some ideas from Thomas McKonkie, what better way to honor my Mormon pioneer ancestors and their legacy than to leave what is comfortable and safe in search of something new and better?
On my worst days: My Mormon identity feels narrow, confining, choking. I feel constrained to a very concrete, small definition of God, of scripture, of commandments, of what it takes to get to heaven, and of what “being active” or walking “the covenant path” should look and feel like. My Mormon identity can at times make me feel like conformity, compliance, exclusion, demonization of “the other”, keeping safe/secure from the evil “world”, etc are more important than love, service, growth, learning, healing, and transformation of both self and society. To be honest, I cannot wear my BYU clothing in public anymore because of what I feel our public-facing actions have come to represent. Using the name “Mormon” is not a victory for Satan. Perpetuating patriarchy, dishonesty in all its forms, unrighteous dominion in all its forms, lack of kindness in all its forms, etc. are victories for Satan. People can know SO much more about us as followers of Christ by our actions and priorities, rather than our words, labels, logos, and PR campaigns.
I’m not sure a Mormon identity was ever something I felt comfortable about growing up. It was always weird here in the UK. And as it wasn’t separately listed on surveys or census questions, then Christian was always the religious identity checked off. Just that we were members of a rather small and peculiar Christian sect.
It was rather upsetting in my later teens to then encounter evangelical Christians who insisted that we weren’t Christian. And it wasn’t as if we sat out school morning assemblies with the prayers and hymns as the JW kids had to do.
My parents were teen converts in the 60s, and met at church. Neither had conformist backgrounds. My maternal grandfather was interested in all kinds of philosophies, and later settled on the teachings of Krishna Murthy, whilst my paternal grandparents were interested in spiritualism, and were members of the Rosicrucian organisation. (My research indicates both sides are headquartered in California). Anyway, I’ve come to view my parents membership of the church as being a bit more mainstream than their parents, with enough weird esotericism to maintain interest..
But yeah, I never really embraced the Mormon label. I specifically did not create an I’m a Mormon profile. So on this one I am firmly with RMN. Apart from I stick with Christian. The name of the church is way too much of a mouthful.
When you take the time to pull pack all of the layers of an onion, do you know what you have? A handful of empty space and lots of tears.
According to the sublime mind of Robert Kirby, there are five types of Mormons; Liberal Mormons, Genuine Mormons, Conservative Mormons, Orthodox Mormons and Nazi Mormons. Unfortunately, there are too many of the latter in my church life.
My Mormon identity is just cultural anymore. I can still speak Mormoneese and understand the culture, and can’t get all the way out, but don’t believe in any of it. All of my ancestors of the pioneer generation were pioneers, coming to Utah in wagons and handcarts, so it is a bit hard family wise to ditch that cultural identity. I think I would if I could, but I really don’t want the exMormon label and prefer “raised Mormon” as it feel more distant and not angry like the exMo label often does. But I am not proud bragging about those pioneer ancestors either, more feeling that some of them were gullible or even stupid as some were with those last handcart companies that got snowed on and had to be rescued, or at best spent their life savings getting to Utah and ended up destitute in a desert for years. But seeing as I have family still in, I have to pretend not to be ashamed of my heritage.
I still use the word Mormon and until somebody comes up with a good replacement I will continue to do so. Last person why tried to correct me, I just replied, “yes, the Brighamite branch of Mormonism,” and gave them a look that asked if they wanted to argue further.
“When you take the time to pull pack all of the layers of an onion, do you know what you have? A handful of empty space and lots of tears.”
True on both counts.
Even so, that outer layer has gotta come off if we want to put the onion to its highest and best use. We won’t carry the name “Mormon” with us forever. It will eventually come off like so many other titles that have no eternal significance. But the Savior’s name will always be part and parcel of who and what we are.
“Even apart from the age problem, the whole leadership culture of maximal deference to the President just doesn’t work very well. Do you think any business school in the country teaches that leadership or management model as a good one?”
There are certainly good things that maybe learned from they way other organizations are run. But we have to remember that the president of the church stands at the head of the organization as a high priest–not a business executive. That alone is a significant departure from the way most other organizations. Plus, the deference that you speak of doesn’t mean that the voices of other leaders aren’t heard. My understanding is that there must be unanimous agreement on the part of all in the highest councils before big decisions are made.
I’m about where Anna is. Although I was a convert and the only member in my family, I identify with her situation regarding still being able to speak Mormon, but not believing any of it. I never really entirely bought into the Mormon thing; I always felt that, although I found some nice friendships in the church, people were mostly only nice to me because I was a potential convert. So the whole Mormon identity/community thing meant a lot less to me than it might have to others.
As to the question about whether folks are having difficulty with their Mormon identity, it’s my experience that the more devout a believer is, the less trouble they have with identity issues. It’s only the folks who are able to see what’s actually going on within the church who really start questioning themselves, their identity and their place. E.g.: I spoke to about ten people at church about the SEC fine and the wrongdoing the church committed; 9 people hadn’t heard of it and 1 had. And the 9 who hadn’t heard of it were essentially TBMs. I don’t think we can talk about Mormon identity without talking about how members think of the church itself; there’s a continuum that runs from “the church can do no wrong” to “the church is based on lies”. Where one is on that continuum seems to determine how much of a Mormon identity crisis one experiences.
I’ll just say, that I find it very of that a culture that is politically conservative and has long ridiculed the supposed “political correctness” of the left is now imposing a sort of political correctness with the term Mormon. In just a short span of a few years it has gone from full embrace of Mormon identity in Thomas S. Monson’s 2005 “I’m a Mormon boy” talk, in the “and I’m a Mormon campaign”, and in the church-sponsored “Meet the Mormons” movie, to a more defensive position about the term Mormon in the wake of Nelson’s don’t say Mormon policy. How many believers have I seen get in a tizzy over someone saying Mormon in recent years? I mean, Mormon was fully embraced not long ago.
In studying the history of the WofW, I’ve read several people say that they think that it was no coincident that the WofW became mandatory after the demise of Polygamy (1910’s to 1920’s) The church needed an Identity, and with Polygamy now a dirty word, the Wof W became a good marker for true Mormons. That identity persists to this day.
Jack, I think I have to call you on something. You wrote: “My understanding is that there must be unanimous agreement on the part of all in the highest councils before big decisions are made.” Is that so? Remember when in April one year then Elder Nelson (Q12) gave a talk about the name of the Church and about the word Mormon, and then in October six months later then President Hinckley (FP) pretty much reversed almost everything that Nelson had said? And we still did the We’re the Mormons campaign and didn’t change the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Then the junior became senior, and now there’s unanimity? One has to wonder if there is unanimity because the senior said so, and the juniors agreed. Maybe it depends on what is a big decision–when is a decision big enough to require unanimity? It appears that the FP did what they did with Ensign Peak without the Q12 knowing anything about it. Was the decision to create the 12 or 14 or whatever number smaller LLCs for the SEC not a big enough decision? Maybe it wasn’t. Once the FP got a green light to invest funds (is that a Q12 matter?), maybe they had their clearance and the Q12 was no longer informed. Fact is that we don’t know what decisions are made by the FP and Q12 and what decisions are made exclusively by the FP (or by the FP and Presiding Bishopric, to the exclusion of the 12). I imagine, but don’t know, that even in the 12 they’re on committees and have assignments, and things are divided and stovepiped until crucial decision making points–but what are those points and who is involved? Maybe as Q12 member on some committee makes his recommendation, as assigned, to the FP who then acts, and the Q12 is not involved as a whole. I really don’t know how things work up there.
I think that sometimes there is not unanimity in the Q15. There certainly was not unanimity on the Blacks and the Priesthood issue before 1978. They got to unanimity in 1978 in part because President Kimball had turned Elder McConkie by giving him an assignment and giving him full access to the vaults to fulfill his assignment, and to his credit Elder McConkie changed his mind when he ascertained that there was no revelation to BY banning Blacks from having the priesthood. They also got to unanimity in key part, I believe, because two members were away, one in the hospital and one in South America. These two, like McConkie, had been fairly vocal against on the issue. When the decision was reached in unanimity, those two were informed, one by a visit to his hospital bedside and one by phone, that the FP and Q12 (with 10, which was a quorum) had reached the decision and they were asked to support it, which to their credit they did. Had they been present, there might not have been unanimity in their hearts. What is unanimity? Is it when all are united and in agreement, all are one, as Jesus in the sacerdotal prayer asked for his disciples to be one and He and the Father were one. Is it unanimity when the juniors agree out loud with the seniors because to voice a different opinion would be viewed as challenging? I think that the unanimity card is sometimes overplayed. Rather than saying that they brethren are always unanimous before they act, I might posit that unaminity is an aspirational objective that sometimes isn’t reached, but they try. Back to 1978. The counselors in the FP and the 10 in the Q12 joined the president in mighty prayer and they (those in the room) were united and of one heart, and they all wanted the same answer, and they became one, and the Lord answered their united and unanimous prayer. That’s the scriptural pattern. I wish that it could have happened sooner, and I think that it likely could have had there been unanimity among those men, but some were passionate in their no on that question.
I don’t know that we need to know which decisions are made by the FP and Q12 together in unanimity, and which ones are made by the FP alone, or any other combination. I’m not asking for that. My point is that the statement that all major decisions are made in unanimity leave a lot to be desired when major decisions are undefined, and when unanimity is undefined. Some leaders welcome discussion and different points of view, and some do not, and some might welcome it on some issues and not on others. I can’t imagine a member of the Q12 saying anything supportive of Monson’s or Hinckley’s positions on the word Mormon after the new President of the Church said that the word Mormon is a victory for Satan. The FP and Q12 sit in Moses’ seat and we follow their guidance; to add that big decisions (term undefined) are always unanimous (term undefined) is an assertion that might be true, but we simply do not know and enough doubt exists. Were all of the FP and Q12 100% pro scouting, until one day when all of them weren’t? I think some or many were anti-scouting while Monson was still pro-scouting.
Sorry for the length, and one more example and I’m out. I’m not sure that all of the FP and Q12 were in unanimity when President Woodruff issued the manifesto banning polygamy. Didn’t some members of the FP and Q12 continue to perform plural marriages despite the manifesto? Not trying to throw stones, but I don’t think that all big decisions are unanimous, but I think this is a goal. I think the polygamy manifesto was a big decision in anyone’s vernacular.
When I was an active member I internalized the “Mormon means more good” message from Pres. Gordon B. Hinkley, and to be honest- having served my mission in the ‘American South’, I didn’t especially even *want* my fellow Canadians to confuse me for an Evangelical-Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, etc Christian.
Better to be that weird thing that people disassociated from the rest, and whose Christian identity was possible to explain than be perceived too as similar to the same religious movements that were so deeply associated with so many negative constructs and outcomes here and elsewhere in the world.
Of course this was well before I really understood our own history and harms, and I admittedly realized even then that ‘not all Christians x, y, zed.’ But I definitely was one of those that prided myself in our perceived uniqueness and self-professed special destiny.
Nowadays I can better appreciate the pockets of resistance existing within most faiths, though I admittedly still feel a bit nervous towards my (previously) fellow Christians- including Mormons if I get the sense that they’re trying to force us all to practice their *exact same values and beliefs.
Don’t like drag? Don’t go.
Don’t want your kids learning in school about the existence of people who are different than y’all, or how engage in reciprocal graciousness?
Too bad. The state has a public interest in teaching people norms of pluralism and tolerance.
Think that the above constitutes ‘intolerance’ on my part? See Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance.
Just a reminder for those who choose to engage Jack that your facts have absolutely no impact on his perspective. He has his own facts and yours don’t matter. Your historical data points don’t matter. You will not get him to respond in any thoughtful way to what you ask or what you say. You won’t ‘win.’ This public service message is brought to you by Citizens for Responsible Online Commentary.
Sorry, I should have said Jack has his own “facts.”
This post reminds me of when the musician Prince changed his “name” to a cosmic, mystic looking symbol thingy. He even had a guitar designed in the shape. The problem was the symbol did not have a name, or sound associated with it. People didn’t know what to say when referring to him, so he became known as “the artist formerly known as Prince”. It became so confusing and silly that he went back to calling himself Prince, or as I called him, “The artist formerly known as the artist formerly know as Prince”.
I’m surprised how media have made real efforts to call the church by its full name, especially in a day when we love to abbreviate everything. *
Even with real effort made by media, I have heard more than one reporter, or podcaster refer to the church as “the church formerly known as Mormon”. I secretly hope the full name of the church will not catch on just so I can hear someone say, “the church formerly known as the church formerly known as Mormon.”
* If you want a acronym treat, YouTube the old Allen Sherman song “Harvey and Sheila”.
Timely post, and spot on. I was actually just having a conversation about this yesterday before I read this post.
(Questions 1 &2) I would have been happy to continue identifying myself as Mormon. (I’ve got pioneer heritage, I was raised culturally Mormon, I still go to church, even if my beliefs don’t line up with the correlated doctrine taught at church, I’m a Mormon).
When the directive came to no longer call ourselves Mormons, and refer to ourselves as membersofthechurchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints, I thought, “That doesn’t describe me or my beliefs. I’ll just tell people I’m Christian.” But upon any further questioning, that quickly gets tied back to “Oh, so you’re Mormon.”
(Questions 3 &4) I’m hesitant to declare myself as a member of either major US political party because I don’t believe in everything the republicans believe in, and I don’t believe in everything the democrats believe in. I declare myself an independent, although I reliably vote with one of the political parties more than the other (although depending on the candidate I have voted for people from both parties). Likewise, I’m hesitant to identify myself as being a memberofthechurchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaints, because I don’t believe in everything that that implies, even though I reliably attend that congregation.
I’d like to declare myself an independent religious believer because I do follow my own moral code rather than following an external authority, and I do have my own set of beliefs that are different than what anyone else believes. My belief system includes many beliefs from other world religions, that are not found within Mormonism. But I haven’t found the right words to express myself. Any suggestions?
M Lars, you gave me a great idea. ExMormons can be formerly known as members of that church formerly known as Mormon. Inactives can be former attenders of that church formerly known as Mormon. If we make “formerly known as Mormon” popular enough and use it in enough creative ways, we can irritate Rusty Nelson into reclaiming the name Mormon.
It should be simple, right? I am a Latter-day saint who attends the church of Jesus Christ. A Latter-day saint is a person who believes and follows the teachings the of that church. The label “Mormon” is a substitute for the label “Latter-day saint”.
There has never been a Mormon church, just as there is no LDS church. The official name of the church is the whole nine words. No one wants to say this mouthful repetitively, and they shouldn’t need to. So there will be a shorthand. The best being “The Church of Jesus Christ”.
But saying LDS church or Mormon church is not a victory for Satan. That RMN said that so trivializes what Satan represents it is inexplicable. And it creates the impossible mess of explaining why previous church presidents were promoting Satan’s agenda!
Lastly, short labels are used and are helpful to convey elaborate meaning. To say one is a Catholic means much more than what church one attends or what God one believes. Many Catholics do not attend church often, but they identify with the Catholic faith. Saying “I am Mormon” conveys a lot of meaningful information to others. Saying I am Latter-day saint? Not so much. Saying I am LDS means nothing except for those who are LDS or who remember the joke in one of the old Star Trek movies. And saying “I am a member of TCOJCOLDS” is exhausting and very narrowly defining.
What we need is a promotion to “Meet the Latter-day saints”!
It’s members like Jack that have helped me not want to have any Mormon Identity at all. My ward is full of “Jacks”. They know all the answers and never listen to anyone else.
Georgis, I agree that it’s difficult to nail down exactly which decisions may require unanimity on the part of all of the apostles. Even so, this little article from Book of Mormon Central (IMO) helps us to get a feel for what the unanimity looks like when it’s required:
I especially like this paragraph and the quote that follows:
“President Henry B. Eyring witnessed this process unfold during his first time participating in a meeting with members of the Frist Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and other general authorities. Approaching the meeting with a Harvard Business School background, he said people were disagreeing with “an openness that I had never seen in business … [the discussion] was more open than anything I had ever seen in the groups I had ever studied in business.” President Eyring said that as the discussion ensued, he witnessed a miracle.”
And then it quotes Elder Eyring directly:
“Then after a while the conversation cycled around, and they began to agree. And I saw the most incredible thing. Here are these very strong, very bright people, all with different opinions; suddenly the opinions began to line-up. And I thought “I’ve seen a miracle. I’ve seen unity come out of this wonderful, open kind of exchange that I’d never seen in all my studies of government or business or anywhere else.”
I’ll just say one thing. When I think back on my 30 years as a Mormon, I always felt like the church and God (the same in Mormonism) were highly legalistic. Grace was mentioned in talks but it was not something I ever experienced with leaders. In other words, in my darkest days of spiritual/emotional struggles, I was met with more stress because obedience, not love (grace) was most important. I never met Christ through the leaders with claimed authority to speak for Christ. If one claims authority for Christ, I would think they should show that authority through their attempts to listen, understand, help to heal (make whole), not just judge and punish. The fact that obedience, punishment, and threats thereof are so dominant tells its own story. When I think of Mormon identity, I think of Mafia – kind smiles, great talk, but don’t ever, ever cross us. All true for me.
The Eyring story related by Jack goes along with the coldness of church leaders experienced by docjohn51. It may very well be that the Q15 have heartfelt disagreements and debates. But by them placing a premium on presenting externally a unified front they are telling a lie to the world and to the members. The Q15 believe this is a good lie, that by pretending to be unified they are strengthening the church. Yet at the same time, the charade creates distance and distrust between church leaders and the members.
Consider that members have various real concerns. For some it is LGBTQ, with members having strong feeling for and against the church being more accommodating. For some it is worldliness, with members with strong feelings for and against the church aligning itself more closely with world institutions. For some it is Covid policies, with members having strong feelings for and against the policies the church supported.
There are many real and substantive issues. The response of church leaders is to pretend they are unified with whatever the current policy is. But then the policy changes! Why would the policy change if everyone was unified? It is because the unity was fake! That alone is a problem. An additional problem is the fake unity pushed by church leadership discredits the real feelings of the members. This causes members to feel ever more distant from the leadership, which eventually leads members to decide it is not worth their time and energy to fully commit to the church. The church is weakened as the trust members have in the church leadership weakens.
Healthy institutions invite debate and discussion. The church has steadily removed debate and discussion from the church environment. Now it is only Ward councils that quote “counsel”. But this limits awareness of what is discussed and reality is ward leadership is hamstrung on decisions it makes. And note that there is ZERO mechanism for members to have concerns openly conveyed to higher leadership. Private discussions with a stake president are just that – private. And so we see that by privatizing all concerns and eliminating the fielding of public concerns, the church leadership assumes total control over the narrative of “unity”.
So what happens? As I already mentions members come to realize the church doesn’t care what the members feel. Members must either suppress their disagreements or suppress their participation. And what do we see? Declining participation.
Inasmuch as unanimity is said to be required for decisions by the First Presidency and the Twelve (meaning that every participant holds an absolute veto power?), I have sometimes wondered why that requirement isn’t flowed down to stake high councils, stake councils, ward councils, and so forth.
I hope the unanimity is freely arrived at, at both general and local levels of the church, with gentleness, persuasion, and brotherly kindness (see D&C 121) — I hope it is never with any force, pressure, guilt, or other manner of unrighteous dominion. Although my experiences on ward councils have always been with good people, I think some degree of this has crept in sometimes — but at ward council (and other local levels), I don’t think there is an expectation of unanimity in arriving at a decision — there may be an expectation of unanimity in sustaining the decision afterwards, but not in arriving at the decision on the first place.
Unanimity is mentioned a lot in our leaders talks and in articles written by them.
I remember well the story told by Elder Eyring that Jack posted above.
How Elder Eyring was in a meeting where a solution for a situation needed to be designed.
The elders attending talked, gave their opinons and possible solution and most of held very different ideas as to how the situation should be handled.
Elder Eyring watched and time passes and and the converstaions cycled around the opinons began to change and people began to agree.
Eyring deemed it a miracle.
One thing in this story left out was that every one eventually came around to agree with the opinon of the Prophet.
Like they always seem to do.
Many of us wonder why do they need so many meetings and councils.
Just let the one guy (Prophet) in charge tell every one else what they are suppose to do and they will do it..
This would save a lot of time.
They are going to do it his way anyway, so why pretend to “discuss the matter” and respect any one elses thoughts or feelings on the problem.
The Church Formerly Known As Mormons. (No, not you, CoC’ers) What do normal people associate with it?
Being nice and polite, kind of like desert Canadians
Jesus and Satan being brothers or something
That musical. (No, not “Saturday’s Warrior”)
Doing weird archeology back when the History Channel was still doing history! (“I’m not saying it was Nephites, but it was probably Nephites.”)
At least part of this decision came from confusion/ambiguity about the word “Mormon” in an international sense. Here’s a funny example: When I was a missionary in a French-speaking country, almost nobody had ever heard the full name of the church…then we’d follow up with “Mormon.” Almost invariably we’d get questions about why we didn’t use electricity or cars…this was because in the French translation of the Harrison Ford movie “Witness” the word “Amish” had been mistranslated to “Mormon.”
Across the world “Mormon” has become associated with all sorts of things that often have nothing to do with the church at all. It’s probably not the only reason, but it’s at least partially an attempt to consolidate identification of the religion globally.
Always a pragmatist, I’ll probably use “Mormon” forever. It’s two syllables, and basically everyone within at least 1000 mile radius of me knows what it actually means. The only syllabically shorter option is “church” which works here but is kind of annoyingly presumptuous. (Plus, it’s also kinda fun to see who tries to correct you…and how many times they’ll try)
Here’s some food for thought. I was just recently talking with a friend of mine who is “Jewish” about this very topic. The topic came up after my own mother rudely corrected my use of the word Mormon.”
He said “you know what bugs me? People calling me Jewish.”
He proceeds to say that there is no other religion in the world that gets an “ish” on the end. He is Jew. Just like Christians are not “Christianish” or Muslims not “Muslimish”, “Hinduish”, “Buddhistis”, “Baptistish” and so on. He is not Jewish.
But then he says, “While it’s annoying to be called “Jewish” it would be stupid to correct the term. Stupid because I know it is not being used derogatorily, it’s not like someone is calling me a “kike” (yes, he said this) and so Mormons need to get over themselves with this “Mormon” is derogatory business. It’s not and no one on the planet means it rudely. It’s more rude to correct someone.”
So mom, Mormon, Mormon, Mormon. Sorry, not sorry. This Edge Dweller prefers it. Thank you very much.
Word Press needs an edit button. Just saying.