If I Were In Charge: Expand the Meaning of “I’m A Mormon”

By: Mike S
June 22, 2011

Lately, there has been a lot of use of the slogan “I’m A Mormon”.  Yesterday, ABC did a news story about the “very savvy branding campaign” the Church just started in NYC with the “I’m A Mormon” campaign.  In the ever-growing presidential campaign coverage, we hear about Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman and what Mormonism means for them.  There have been a number of recent posts and comments on various blogs about what “being a Mormon” entails.   So what does “I’m A Mormon” really mean?  Who can be a Mormon?

There are 2 different ways of answering this question, an inclusive way and an exclusive way.  Many groups are inclusive in their definition.  Consider Judaism.  There is orthodox Judaism, conservative Judaism, reform Judaism, as well as a number of other subgroups.  There are people born into Judaism, people who converted to Judaism, and people who might just attend a synagogue.  While they may quibble about various points, they are all seen as “Jews” by the majority of the world.

It is similar in Buddhism.  There are three main branches of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.  Within these there are many different subgroups.  But, the various branches of Buddhism are accepted as different ways individuals approach the same ultimate goal.  As one Buddhist monk taught, “Ultimately, you could say that there are as many ways as there have been individual Buddhists throught the history of Buddhism, because ultimately going for refuge is an individual decision that each individual has to figure out how to put into practice in his or her life. We can think of the individual Buddhists as the leaves on the tree. Leaves grow on twigs attached to limbs that grow out of branches out of the main trunk.”

Before considering individuals within the LDS Church, look at how the inclusive vs exclusive nature also affects us as a institutional Church.  Consider Christianity.  There are many different groups that, while differing in details, all consider themselves Christian because of their belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  And many of them do NOT consider Mormons Christian.  We, however, want to be included.  We want them to expand their definition of Christian to include us.  We change the logo of the Church to emphasize Jesus Christ.  We claim that, while different, our beliefs are enough.

So, now let’s consider the Church.  What does “I’m A Mormon” actually mean?  The ads running around the country suggest that being a Mormon is a very inclusive thing.  They suggest that someone can come from all walks of life and still be a Mormon.  But, when it comes down to it, do we follow an inclusive definition or an exclusive definition?

Various lists have been made of “types” of Mormons.  Some of these include True Believing Mormon (TBM), orthodox Mormon, Utah-Mormon, California-Mormon, New Order Mormon (NOM), Jack-Mormon, Anti-Mormon, Inactive-Mormon, Cultural Mormon, BIC Mormon, Liberal Mormon, apostate, fundamentalist Mormon, intellectual Mormon, ultra-Mormon, etc.  Robert Kirby has listed Five Kinds of Mormons.  These have all been used to describe various types of people.

A recent post entitled “I Am A Mormon” on a different site started out very encouraging.  I quote:

I am a Mormon and I reject all adjectives and sub-categorizations. I have no respect for attempts to conventionalize them. Regardless of what individual members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, how they approach scripture, history or politics, they are my people, my fellow-citizens and my kin.

I really liked that paragraph.  It is one of the more inclusive definitions I have seen.  But, it isn’t as clear cut as it first appears.  In a comment to the post, the author excludes groups OUT of his Mormon category.  Even though they believe in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, prophets and apostles, and continued revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Community of Christ (former RLDS) is OUT.  So are all of the other “Mormon” groups that are not the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Further subgroups are then also cast OUT.  After a bunch of virtual high-fives in the comments to the post about how nice it would be to get rid of the acronyms and categories, a few people started to question whether the post was really as inclusive as it purported to be.   It quickly became clear that anyone who didn’t agree with the post was not welcomed.  Because some people didn’t appreciate comments that questioned or disagreed, by the middle of the comments, there was a complaint that they were “NOM bombed”.

It also became clear that an inclusive Mormonism is NOT the ultimate goal and in fact, very loaded words were used against the concept.  ”Inclusive Mormonism” is equated by the author with “apostasy porn” in one of the comments.  I can’t really think of 2 more loaded words in Mormonism than “apostasy” or “porn”, and here they are combined in a phrase (which I admit was cleverly unique) which suggests the true intent of the post.

So, something that starts out talking about rejecting all “adjectives and sub-categorizations” quickly introduces them to exclude people.  Other denominations stemming from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are rejected.  Categorizations like NOM are used to denigrate people who might question.  Phrases like “apostasy porn” are tossed out to condemn people who might argue for a more inclusive Mormonism.  And, eventually, the comments were closed.  End of discussion.

This is just a single post and is merely used as an example.  J Stapley has a number of other really good posts which I’d encourage you to read. The bigger question is whether we do this in the Church.  In spite of glitzy ad campaigns suggesting diversity, is there really one correct way to think and still be a “Mormon”?  Is Mormonism an exclusive word?  Are people who do not “fit the mold” labeled with things like “intellectual”, or “inactive”, or “apostate”, or anything else?  Are people cast out of the Church if they don’t think the correct way, either informally in a ward or formally through Church discipline?  Do sites like New Order Mormon exist because there is no room for at least discussing problematic issues within an official Church construct?  Is there room for diversity of thought in Mormonism, or are comments closed and the discussion shut down?

An interesting insight is seen from a post yesterday on the Mormon Philosophy website, which discusses a quote from an interview with President Hinckley:

RB: There does seem to be though an uncritical acceptance of a conformist style?

GBH: Uncritical? No. Not uncritical. People think in a very critical way before they come into this Church. When they come into this Church they’re expected to conform. And they find happiness in that conformity.

So, despite the ads, we are “expected to conform”.  Because of this,  it seems that the meaning of the phrase “I’m A Mormon” has been contracted over the past few decades, which has led to the exclusion of many, many wonderful people.

——-

For some people, the meaning of “I’m A Mormon” is a sacred molehill.  I would expand it.

I would return to times of old in the Church.  I quote again from the “I Am A Mormon” post I quoted from before:

One hundred and fifty years ago, two of the largest personalities in Church leadership were Brigham Young and Orson Pratt. They were each powerful and influential and had each taken Joseph Smith’s teachings in dramatically different directions. At one point Young was so frustrated with Pratt that the First Presidency and Twelve held council over him. Pratt offered to resign his membership in the Quorum. And yet, despite their erstwhile antagonism, when Young had a job that needed intellectual finesse, it was frequently Pratt that he called.

To me, this says volumes.  Brigham Young and Orson Pratt disagreed strongly in many ways, yet each had something to offer.  Great arguments were had between B.H.Roberts, who taught that death occurred for millions of years before Adam and that pre-Adamites lived on the earth, and Joseph Fielding Smith, who disagreed with both of those ideas.  Yet both men had much to offer and found a role in the Church.

I believe that we are all unique, and that Mormonism is just a tool to help us get back to God.  Because of our different backgrounds, we all approach Mormonism differently, we all get something different out of Mormonism, yet we all have something unique to offer Mormonism.  By excluding people, we are cutting off what they have to offer.  So, I would EXPAND what “I’m A Mormon” means.

In addition to the “typical” Mormon (if there is such a thing), I would include as “Mormon”:

  • The 6th generation Mormon who hasn’t set foot in a chapel since he went to Primary
  • The convert who thinks a glass of wine with dinner is fine
  • The presidential candidate who doesn’t really go to the LDS Church that often and who is raising a child in the Hindu faith
  • The woman who read accounts of early pioneer women giving blessings and who feels prompted to do the same today
  • The gay man who loves the gospel, who stays celibate so he can take one week of vacation a year and spend it in the temple
  • The historian who is troubled by Joseph Smith marrying other men’s wives, but who still loves the people in his ward and is the first to volunteer to help
  • The bishop who doesn’t necessarily believe in the literal nature of the Book of Mormon but who dedicates dozens of hours each week to serving his fellow ward members
  • The girl raised in YW who has been with the same female partner for a decade and is raising a family with her
  • The people in the Church of Christ who combined forces with people in the LDS Church to explore common historical background
  • The woman who has no real desire to be a mother but feels her contribution to the world is through her career
  • The missionary who doesn’t know if the Church is true but is willing to keep working on her mission
  • The alcoholic member who would give the shirt off his back to someone in need
  • The tattooed musician with jet-black hair and a pierced nose
  • The LDS anarchist who expounds theories I don’t even understand but which cause me to think
  • The man who no longer believes in God, yet is willing to follow the faith of his fathers to keep his family together
  • The feminist who has a hard time with the patriarchal nature of the Church  but shows up each week anyway
  • The man who felt compelled to follow his heart where it lead him even though he was excommunicated for his beliefs
  • The descendants of early Church members who didn’t go West with Brigham Young
  • Etc

I would consider ALL of these people Mormon.  I would be honored to call any of them brother or sister.  And I would love to sit down with any of them and have a true heart-felt discussion of what the Church is doing for them, and what it could do better for them.  I wouldn’t judge them for what they thought or said or questioned or believed.  I wouldn’t judge them for what they wore or drank or had tattooed on their body.  I would just accept them as they were.

I would love to introduce the concept of the Eastern greeting Namaste into Mormonism.  Among other translations, it means, “The divine in me recognizes the divine in you”.  We all have a divine nature.  We all have a great deal to offer.  Like the post I referenced, we talk a lot about accepting everyone into Mormonism.  We represent diversity in our advertisements.  But are our actions on a general and local level that accepting?  Or do we draw circles to keep people out?  Do we exclude people who don’t fit some mold, overtly or subtly?

So, instead of me defining what “I’m A Mormon” means, I would go the opposite way.  I would consider ANYONE who felt ANY connection with Mormonism to be Mormon.  I would welcome them into the tribe.  If I were in charge, I would expand the meaning of “I’m A Mormon”.  And if this is “apostasy porn”, so be it.

Questions:

  • Does the “brand” Mormon need to be protected, and would making Mormonism so inclusive dilute the word “Mormon”?
  • Can someone or some group define “Mormon”, or is the process more organic?
  • Can someone be a “cultural Mormon” yet be a non-believer?
  • For “non-orthodox Mormons”, is there a mechanism to discuss “non-faith-promoting” things in the Church?  And if not, where should they be discussed?  Or should they just be ignored completely?
  • Can someone be a “Mormon” yet drink a glass of wine with dinner?  Be gay?  Not pay tithing?  Not attend church?
  • What is the MINIMUM someone can do/believe/say/be and still call themselves “Mormon”?
  • Are all of the labels misleading and dividing?  Or do they serve some purpose?

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107 Responses to If I Were In Charge: Expand the Meaning of “I’m A Mormon”

  1. jacobhalford on June 22, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    This is a really good post. You raise some great points that Mormon is far broader then what we think. I don’t think we can ever quantify exactly what a Mormon is, or be prescriptive over how the term is used. It is a too prominent term and too contested for there ever to be an agreement on it and what it really means.

    But, I don’t think that we should even really try and define it though. As soon as you articulate the parameters of what a Mormon is, you have a standard which you can judge others by, and enforce them to live by what you, or an certain group think it means to be Mormon. More interesting is the dual process that goes on in labelling. That in calling yourself a Mormon and restricting its use, you are defining yourself against a non-mormon, or an anti-mormon. The term is essentially divisive and works against its opposite. I tried to explore this in a post on the use of the term anti-mormon http://mormonphilosophy.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/anti-mormon-literature/ I think then that the terms are essentially used to distinguish the ‘other’ from ourselves. Mormon is only meaningful in contrast to other classifications, and think this then either alienates us, or others by our difference instead of working to see what we all have in common.

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  2. Course Correction on June 22, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Does your “etc” category of Mormons include those who still practise polygamy?

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  3. LDS Anarchist on June 22, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    I say we go back to the terms Mormonite, Mormonist and, for the females, Mormoness.

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  4. jacobhalford on June 22, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    LDS anarchist, how would using those terms be any different then our current use of Mormon?

    I wonder if there is a distinction between those who call themselves a latter-day saint and Mormon. You don’t really hear the phrase ‘I am a latter-day saint’ much anymore, even less do we refer to each other as ‘saints’ even if the name of the church is ‘of Latter-day Saints’ inferring that the church belongs to or of them, or is made up of them.

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  5. Past Intrigue on June 22, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    You might want to fix this part:
    “Even though they believe in Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, prophets and apostles, and continued revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Church of Christ (former FLDS) is OUT.”
    Should be former RLDS, not former FLDS.

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  6. joe on June 22, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    i think we should refer to all dead people as mormons. you know, because they’ve been baptised.

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  7. Justin on June 22, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    The LDS anarchist who expounds theories I don’t even understand but which cause me to think

    Lol

    The problem arose when our church branded itself as another religion of creeds — instead of a separate people-group of covenants.

    The leadership seems to care more for uniformity of thought than making actual tribal connections between members — so as to reestablish the Church of Jesus Christ as the tribes of Israel.

    All these “Five Kinds of Mormons”, NOM, and all that — appear to be just the first stage in the break-up of the church, an internal stage. Its appearance is right on schedule, prophetically speaking. And next on the horizon will be an external break-up. At which point these distinctions will be made more evident.

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  8. Will on June 22, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Mike,

    As usual, good post.

    The purpose of the Church should be to bring people to Christ. Period. With that said, the true gospel of Christ will separate the wheat from the tares. The whole purpose of our existence is to test us and to distribute the souls of men based on how we lives our life. As for those that came to earth, some will be Celestial, some will be
    cast out and most will fall somewhere in the middle.

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  9. John Mansfield on June 22, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    If that is the direction you’re aiming for, we already have the word human.

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  10. Aaron R. on June 22, 2011 at 7:49 AM

    The problem with using the concept of namaste is that their is no boundary here. Admittedly this is difficult but I am someone who prefers the richness of a bounded community. Certainly the way that boundaries are managed in Mormonism can be improved but I still value a concept of Mormonism that distinguishes it from other religions and peoples. Moreover, I am not sure that we can legitimately base this type of ‘Mormon’ on a model of ethnicity which seems to be part of the direction this is moving in. Moreover, I do not claim to know how to draw that boundary but I know that I want one.

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  11. Jared on June 22, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    I think it is wonderful to be inclusive. We should accept one another and extend the hand of fellowship to all.

    However, there is a question that comes to mind. In the quest to be welcoming how do we deal with what it means to be a Mormon?

    I would be interested to know Mike S’s thoughts about the following scripture:

    24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.

    25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;

    26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 112:24 – 26)

    What does the Lord mean “who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house”.

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  12. Troth Everyman on June 22, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    I had a wonderful conversation with a self proclaimed “cultural jack mormon”. We discussed similar concepts regarding the inclusivity and exclusivity of what it means to be mormon. I’m all for setting the tent stakes wider. The more like her that we can call our own the better. We are depriving ourselves of much beauty when we become to exclusive.

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  13. Eric on June 22, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    I’m all for setting the stakes of the LDS tent wider. I find it a bit discomfiting, for example, that three of the people pictured in the billboard above would not be allowed to attend a Church-sponsored university without first altering their appearance. There are just too many people who would be unfairly judged if they visited one of our sacrament meetings, and that’s not right.

    On the other hand, while I favor a bigger tent, I’m not willing to say there should be no tent, which seems to be very close to what the original post seems to be advocating.

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  14. Jeff Spector on June 22, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Well, the fact that the world recognizes Jews of all kinds and with any amount of Jewish blood has more to do with antisemitism than inclusiveness.

    Within Judaism, there is no recognition of liberal branches by the Orthodox branches. Sound familiar?

    Personally, anyone who chooses to identify themselves as Mormon is welcome to it. I have no problem with it.

    Except, of course, when they use it as an excuse to attack us.

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  15. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    #5 Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed it.

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  16. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    #1 jacobhalford / #10 Aaron R:

    I actually agree with Aaron on this. I understand the point of #1, where calling oneself a “Mormon” necessarily implies a “not-Mormonness” to people outside that boundary. However, I do think it is necessary to at least have some delineation.

    As humans, we categorize and group. It’s how we make sense of the world around us. And the groupings are very societal based. We might group an helicopter, a car and a bicycle together as “means of transportation”, but someone from a different culture might leave out the helicopter and include a wheelbarrow as things that have wheels. An interesting grouping is a tribe in Australia who group together “women, fire and dangerous things”.

    Given the fact that people are going to use the grouping “Mormon”, the point of the post is to make that inclusive. Rather than defining people as “not-Mormon” if they don’t fit the orthodox mold, I would expand.

    Ultimately, any one person’s definition is going to fail, so I would actually leave it up to each person. If someone feels a tie to Mormonism, no matter how tenuous, fine, let them be considered “Mormon”. Similarly, if I appreciate what Christ has done for me and if I live my life based on principles that He taught, I feel I can consider myself a “Christian”, despite what a southern Baptist might think.

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  17. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    #7 Justin:

    It will be interesting to see where the trends lead us. Will it cause a “retrenching” and a change in the declining growth rate? Or will the internal “divisions” lead to something external?

    I don’t know that the current trajectory is sustainable.

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  18. joe on June 22, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    i think these distinctions arose out of years of people using the true scotsman fallacy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

    People liked to say “All mormons are ____” and then someone would say “Well so and so isn’t ___ and he’s a mormon” and then the first person would say “Well, so and so isn’t a REAL mormon” and so after some time, people started to exclude what does and doesn’t count as a mormon.

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  19. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    #8 Will:

    I do agree that the purpose of life is to test us. Where we perhaps disagree is that I feel the majority of people will ultimately receive the highest reward (ie. Celestial kingdom) as opposed to being in the middle.

    But maybe that’s just the gospel according to Mike S.

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  20. lol on June 22, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    #13 – it’s 5 people, you forgot to count the two that are black.

    relax people. its a joke.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    To paraphrase Forest Gump, “Mormon is as Mormon does.” I think that’s the usual inclusion marker set by active, participating members. But I do agree that we should include (and do in many ways) those with a Mormon background, those who are “lapsed” or no longer practicing.

    For those who live the religion, it’s tough to accept those who don’t live it as being sufficiently Mormon because we resent the toughness of what we are doing. It’s like an Olympian calling someone who likes to run an athlete. The bar feels high.

    Yet, I agree that we should (like the Catholics) claim all who’ve ever set foot in a Mormon church.

    Bloggers disavowing the unfaithful are doing it, IMO, for a very different reason – to maintain influence by disassociating from the “bad” critics of the church. If they make it clear they are insider critics, they can still have influence. Defining that line bolsters the blogger’s cred, plain and simple. But my own view is that it is unnecessary. I think the church does listen to feedback, even when it doesn’t know what to do with the feedback or chooses not to act. I don’t think we have to be so cautious. I have more trust in the church than that.

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  22. jacobhalford on June 22, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    #16 Mike S/ #10 Aaron R I think you are both right in saying that boundaries are needed in order to distinguish our religion. However, I don’t think there can be any literal boundary but rather a fuzzy blurry parameter around a cluster of points that make a dynamic nucleaus. The nucleus is made up of many points that people could use as a core of what a Mormon is, but there are many so people can pick and chose which core value they want. If you have a boundary then you start drawing upon container metaphors which limit, and are more often not very accurate, as per #18′s point about the True Scotsman fallacy.

    I think my issue with any form of catagorisation is the danger that people may think it represents some ontological reality. That there is something intrinsic that defines the essential characteristics of what a Mormon, rather then seeing it as a socially constructed category that is useful pragmatically, but has no correspondence to a real essence per se. Like the linguist George Lakoff makes the point in his book about ‘Women, fire, and dangerous things’ that the way the tribe groups the three things is not an valid ontological category but a pragmatic way of ordering the world.

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  23. Irony on June 22, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Mike:

    I’m not sure if you’ve read the following, but it relates nicely to what you’ve written, even if touching it at a different angle. It’s something I’ve been mulling over and perhaps might be of benefit to this discussion:

    ===========

    One of the very substantial differences in the way we are currently evolving is almost unnoticed. I’ve tried to capture the difference in what I’ve written by using the terms “movement” in contrast to “institution.” Those terms help to explain the notion, but it is really something more than that. I’m going to use a different way to explain it in this post, and see if I can get a little closer to the real underlying process which is now underway.

    The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths. It was not just a new religion. It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of “Peoplehood.” It was radical. Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People. They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood. No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family. Status was defined not be virtue of what you believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants you have assumed.

    What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith. It was instead the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People. This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into direct contract with God. It did not matter what they believed. It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant.

    Once inside the new People, there was a new culture where ancient ties returned to bind the hearts together. There was a dietary regimen where the People were reminded at every meal that they were distinct and apart from the world. There was the gift of sacred clothing, in which they were reminded of their separateness by the things put upon their skin. There were financial sacrifice of tithes, gathered from the People to help the People. The fortunes of all were intertwined with each other by the gathering of tithes and offerings into the Bishop’s storehouse to help the poor and needy among the People. It was NOT a religion. It was a People. It was to become The People. And The People were required to extend to all others the same equal opportunity to become also part of the covenant.

    This is different from a religion. It was cultural, personal, and as distinct as a Jew views himself to be from a Christian. To a Jew, religion is a part of the equation. They share blood with other Jews, and therefore even if a Jew is not attending weekly synagogue meetings, they retain their status as one of the Jews.

    Religion on the other hand is merely a brand name for a sentiment. One can be a Presbyterian or a Lutheran and still belong to the same Elks Lodge. There is nothing really distinct between the two, other than where they meet for an hour or two on Sundays. Apart from that, they identify culturally as “Protestants” and brothers. There is no great distinction, and the theological differences which separate them are so trivial that a doctrinal disagreement between them is unlikely.

    Mormonism has taken a direct course-change where the original elements of separate Peoplehood are now viewed as an impediment to wider acceptance. The distinctions are being minimized in order to undo the conflicts that marred the relationship between Mormonism and the larger American society. The lessons learned from those conflicts have led to the idea that we must become more actively engaged in public relations. Our commitment to the public relations process has informed us that we have to become less distinct to get along with others. We need to drop our misunderstood and offensive claims to distinctions that claim superiority, and urge instead the things that we share with the Presbyterians and Lutherans. The ultimate end of that process is to make it just as meaningless and controversial a thing for a Mormon to belong to and fellowship with the Elks Lodge as it is for the Presbyterian and Lutheran. This is one of the great goals of the Correlation process and the public relations effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The outreach at present is merely an attempt to get people to accept the church as another form of Historic Christianity, claiming equality among peers, without any desire to confront or cause conflict. The notion of Peoplehood is being suppressed. Any claims of superiority of the faith are suppressed.

    Enthusiastic scholarship is working alongside the larger public relations effort. The work of Robinson at BYU, for example, in his reconciliatory book, (co-authored with a member of the Evangelical-based Denver Theological Seminary faculty) “How Wide the Divide,” made an attempt to discuss Evangelical Protestant notions alongside Mormon notions and to minimize any differences. The underlying presumption is that we are both merely religions. As fellow religions we share an attempt to come to God through teachings we believe in and scriptural texts we share.

    Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal. Joseph’s restoration was not a church. It was not a religion. It was not a bundle of beliefs. By trying to reach a common footing among other mainstream Christian faiths we have to first abandon the very different footing upon which Joseph established the Restoration.

    The original Restoration could never be like any of “them.” They were churches. Joseph restored Peoplehood. To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity, nor a return to Jewish antecedents. We are something quite different from either. We are an Hebraic resurrection of God’s People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.

    When we view ourselves as a Christian faith, we deconstruct the very foundation upon which we began. We aren’t that. We can never be part of Historic Christianity. And yet that has been our front-and-center effort through the focus on public relations and the scientific study of what words we should use to advance our acceptance in the world.

    Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves. They were building a separate People. They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant holders.

    To rid ourselves of that tradition, we need to assume the elements of a typical religion. Rather than defining ourselves as a separate People, we turn to defining a set of beliefs. Establishing an orthodoxy and then insisting upon uniformity of belief to belong to the orthodox religion is the way of the Catholics and Protestants. They are bound together NOT by their peoplehood but instead by their confessions of faith. So as you de-emphasize our Peoplehood, you must then begin to emphasize and control an orthodox statement or confession of faith.

    These dynamics are worth very careful thought. There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed. A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level. The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don’t even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.

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  24. SteveS on June 22, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I think self-identification is the only criterium. The term “Mormon” means a lot of different things to different people, and carries both positive and negative connotations. We’re not going to get around those conceptions by defining the term narrowly, or claiming the term only for members of the LDS Church in SLC.

    I’m dismayed by the Church’s attempts to get the media to stop calling the polygamist groups in Utah “Mormons”, and claiming that there is no such thing as a “fundamentalist Mormon”. To use their terms, it is a misstatement to claim that there aren’t self-identified Mormon fundamentalists, and it is a fact that the Church (TM) doesn’t own the term “Mormon”, and cannot decide how the media or anyone else uses it. The Church’s attempts to control the term gives license to its members to exclude anyone they feel does not fit the pattern for membership in the Church.

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  25. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    #10 Aaron R: The problem with using the concept of namaste is that their is no boundary here. Admittedly this is difficult but I am someone who prefers the richness of a bounded community.

    I actually really like the concept of Namaste. I truly do try to see the divine in every person with whom I come in contact. I try to see this in every patient I see at work. I try to see this in people around me. And it truly does change how I see the world.

    Also, to me, a person’s “goodness” or “divineness” is independent of their membership in the Church. I obviously enjoy the companionship of all the great people I know in the Church. But there are members who I wouldn’t trust with $10 or who are fairly ego-centric. And there are absolute gems of friends outside the Church who are the most Christ-like people I know.

    So, while membership in a defined group has its role, I do think looking for the divine in everyone makes a difference. And the “group” with whom my soul resonates has much more to do with a person’s character than their membership in any given denomination.

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  26. Will on June 22, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Mike S,

    “But maybe that’s just the gospel according to Mike S.”

    It is the gospel according to Mike S. The 76th and 88th sections of the D&C tell a whole different story. They describe a distribution of the souls of men that seems to follow a curve putting most somewhere in the middle. I do agree the Savior can and will fix that curve; however, it goes to my original point.

    My view of things after contemplating these sections is some type of distribution. A distribution that is exclusionary. So, if the plan of salvation is exclusionary, then can’t the church be. It should follow the Plan of Salvation and exclude those that do not fall in line with it’s tenants. It should be able to tie privileges with worthiness. It should be able to define those that can be baptized, partake of the sacrament, pay tithes, attend the temple and advance in the priesthood based on personal worthiness.

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  27. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    I know it’s only 2 dislikes on my comment (so far), but there are so many possible reasons to dislike what I said. Can someone clarify? Was it:
    - that Mormons often draw the line at behavioral markers
    - that being a practicing Mormon is hard
    - that bloggers feel the need to maintain influence within the church by defining themselves as insiders and others as outsiders
    - that I believe the church does listen to feedback from the ‘nacle

    Anyone want to engage on the point of disagreement?

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  28. Justin on June 22, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Hawkgrrrl #27:

    Lol — good luck.

    I got 21 dislikes and 17 likes on my comment on the Negotiating your identity post — then got 7 likes on my follow-up comment that wondered out-loud why no one responded to what they disliked.

    Anyone want to engage on the point of disagreement?

    I’ve found here that anyone who wants to engage a point of disagreement will engage — while the rest are just drive-by voters.

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  29. Will on June 22, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Hawk,

    It wasn’t me that did the thumbs down ( my iPhone won’t allow me to), but I did find objection to one if your comments.

    “Yet, I agree that we should (like the Catholics) claim all who’ve ever set foot in a Mormon church”

    I disagree with this largely due to the sentiment I have seen that have left the church. I known this next line will put me in dog house, but I find it to be true “some can leave the church, but they can’t leave it alone” . In short, a lot that leave turn bitter and it is not good for either side to keep the name association.

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  30. Will on June 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    Justin,

    I am the King of thumbs down. I can usually rack up more on one comment than you and hawk will combined for the whole post.

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  31. gibson on June 22, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    I share the story of a LDS man whose clothes smelled of tobacco and no one would sit near him in sacrament service.

    He acknowledged this fault during a testimony service and said “If every sin carried an odor, no one would be able to stay in the chapel”

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  32. LDS Anarchist on June 22, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    jacobhalford #4 asked:

    LDS anarchist, how would using those terms be any different then our current use of Mormon?

    If I’m talking to someone and I say, “I’m a Mormon,” the person I’m talking with, being already familiar with the term, will have a pre-conceived idea of what a Mormon is, and will assign that definition to me, even if it doesn’t fit me.

    But if I say, “I’m a Mormonite,” he or she, being unfamiliar with the term, will inevitably say, “What the hell is that?” at which point I can define the term for him or her, as it applies to me.

    The term Mormon creates a false understanding leading to confusion. The terms Mormonite, Mormonist and Mormoness create confusion leading to understanding.

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  33. Austin on June 22, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Many are called…

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  34. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Will – I suppose your line then would be at seld-identification, which is logical and I like it too. But here’s the one challenge to that thinking. If someone who disavows their Mormonism in order to align with external critics is found to be a former, lapsed or “raised by” Mormons (somehow that sounds like raised by wolves), we would all hasten to point out – that guy’s not a (whatever the claim is); he was a Mormon!

    So it’s all relative based on what the person’s intent is in using the label or in not using it.

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  35. Andrew S on June 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    I loved Irony’s link and comment in number 23.

    I wanted to say that instead of just “drive by voting.”

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  36. Will on June 22, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Hawk,

    Self identification I think is tied to exclusion and the plan of salvation. The older I get (45 now, ugh) the more I realize and accept the plan of salvation. It will be exclusionary, but I honestly feel it will take us to a place that is merciful and just for us. I honestly feel it will take us to a place that WE want to be and that WE agree is a just and fair solution for us. Just as some people are miserable in Church, some would be miserable if they were placed in the wrong kingdom. Ultimately, I have faith in Christ. I have faith he will judge me even more merciful and fair then I judge myself. Likewise, some that are excluded choose to be excluded. This does not be we should not open our arms of fellowship, it simply means if they want out give them their freedom.

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  37. FireTag on June 22, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    I’m a little confused as to who the “Church of Christ (former RLDS)” is. Is the typo “R” instead of “F”? Or is it “Community” instead of “Church”?

    Anyway, I thought this was an excellent, inclusive post. I wondered, however, if the more meaningful boundary issue is instead about who the church will allow to leave without antagonism toward them than about who they will include.

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  38. FireTag on June 22, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Will: #30

    Beware the sin of pride, brother. :D

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  39. Stephen Marsh on June 22, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    Namaste makes me think of Umami and neti neti.

    the Church’s attempts to get the media to stop calling the polygamist groups in Utah “Mormons”, and claiming that there is no such thing as a “fundamentalist Mormon” relate around the meaning people put on fundamentalist — as in core, true, or real. The term pre-empts the field, and the identity. I completely understand the Church’s approach to attempting to claim their own identity.

    Hawk — that bloggers feel the need to maintain influence within the church by defining themselves as insiders and others as outsiders is what I suspect has irritated some readers. I can’t imagine bloggers having any significant influence in the Church, so that sounds off putting to me, though I gave your post a “like” so who knows.

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  40. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    FireTag:

    My bad. I was tired when I typed the final version last PM.

    All:

    It’s been a crazy day and I haven’t had time to respond to comments as much as I’d like. There are some areas for very interesting discussions which I’d like to explore further. But thank you for the comments so far.

    Heading out to get some kids from various things. I’ll edit post and respond to comments in an hour or two.

    Cheers.

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  41. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    #11 Jared asked I would be interested to know Mike S’s thoughts about the following scripture …(D&C 112) … What does the Lord mean “who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house”

    To be honest, I’m not sure what you are asking. I assume that you are suggesting that making the Church more inviting to those who don’t fit the “orthodox mold” is somehow blasphemy.

    If you are interpreting this scripture to mean that people falling in the examples I gave truly do have no place in the Church, then I disagree with your interpretation. If you do NOT have this interpretation, then I don’t see the correlation with this post.

    Please explain.

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  42. Rigel Hawthorne on June 22, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    “Are all of the labels misleading and dividing? Or do they serve some purpose?”

    Our Area Authority at stake conference made the comment to us at leadership meeting (leading up to his talk about shepherding aaronic priesthood towards melchizedek priesthood) that the church can only grow as fast as the priesthood grows. (And by extension the Ward Council which would include the leadership of the women’s auxiliaries). Some of the ‘labels’ do seem vital to develop a committed cadre of lay persons (male and female) to run the church in the future. I’m not that concerned about whether they are in white shirt, clean shaven, tatoo-free, or 100% alcohol abstinent, but there is a consecration of time and talent that is required to shepherd in the next generation of leadership. A graph was drawn in this meeting showing the shorter and shorter bars of what percentage of young men make it to each priesthood rank–going from 90something percent as deacon, to ten-something percent to Elder.

    So I laud the message of the post at widening the tent. I was delighted to walk through our recent ward summer potluck in the cultural hall and smell attendees with tobacco scent on them. If conformity with the labels/steps of progression in the Priesthood is relaxed any further, then lay leadership in outlying units will progressively fall on the STP (same 10 people) until they, perhaps, burn out. And I’m not talking about conformity in wearing a white shirt and tie, but in Aaronic Priesthood learning to ‘teach, warn, exhort, expound’,and exercise the privilege of performing ordinances.

    Mike S. challenges thought that growth would be faster if conformity was de-emphasized, and I’m open to accepting that as the evidence supporting it unfolds. We might (in our ward) still have one brother attending if a beer abstinence requirement didn’t hold him up from getting his endowments with his wife. Our bishop’s suggestion that he switch to non-alcoholic beer wasn’t helpful for him. On the other hand, he could have been milking his difficulty quitting beer as a simple out from being asked to consecrate time to callings such as those within the ward council…I don’t know and I don’t judge. I’m happy to call him brother and his children (now mostly ‘cultural’ Mormons) are good people, but his grandchildren will likely have only a remote knowledge of Mormon culture.

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  43. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    #21 hawkgrrl stated: I think that’s the usual inclusion marker set by active, participating members. But I do agree that we should include (and do in many ways) those with a Mormon background, those who are “lapsed” or no longer practicing.

    I think this is a big key. In my opinion, the sharpest definitions are by the more “orthodox” members trying to keep other people “out”. This is evidenced in many ways.

    The missionary program “raised the bar”. This led to a decrease in the number of missionaries, a decrease in the number of baptisms, and a likely (as I don’t have exact numbers for this) increase in young people turned off to the Church who otherwise might have turned things around and be contributing members. What was really gained by “raising the bar”?

    And the same with other things. The recommendation from the latest CHI (2010 version) is that a man cannot confirm his son/daughter a member of the Church if he is not temple recommend worthy. If he drinks a beer now and then – nope. If he isn’t up to a full 10% – nope. Again, what have we gained by this.

    A whole class of intellectuals are marginalized in the Church. History is done on egg shells. People who don’t fit the mold are joining sites like NOM, StayLDS, or just voting with their feet. The young adult statistics are in the 10-15% activity rate, even along the Wasatch Front.

    The “sharply drawn circle” of the orthodox isn’t working.

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  44. jacobhalford on June 22, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    Hawkgrrl,

    I think you are right that because for many being a member is hard, they don’t want to let others be classed as the same, as they’ve worked long and hard to be a Mormon. However, I don’t think that is the primary reason for the use and debate over what a Mormon is. I can’t see people saying well I pay more tithing then you so I am more Mormon then you. Although it does massage an ego and feed self-righteousness to be able to establish yourself as a mormon in contrast to a non-mormon/heathen

    I am not sure if I agree about the rise in the discourse about what constitutes a Mormon is driven by a need for bloggers to distance themselves from certain fringe Mormons that have negative associations by some in order to be seen as insiders. I could be wrong in giving bloggers the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t think that it is about manipulating their perception in order to gain influence or reputation. I just don’t think they are that egotistical to have such Machiavellian motives behind it, and even if they were by advocating a more inclusive definition of Mormon it is more likely to have them dismissed as being too liberal and being influenced by the standards of the world in letting such a diverse group be classed as Mormon. Which, would undermine their influence as we all know that liberal and tolerant are dirty words.

    I guess leadership could be influenced by the bloggernacle, however seeing as most members are ignorant of it and not influenced, I am not so convinced that it is likely to be that big. I just can’t see President Monson and Boyd K. Packer sitting down for a couple of hours browsing By Common Consent.

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  45. Will on June 22, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    “What was really gained by “raising the bar”

    Separates the wheat from the tares. As for your last comment, it is working. It is working as illustrated in various parables taught by the Savior.

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  46. Will on June 22, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Sorry hit post on accident.

    …he also used direct statements such as “straight is the way and narrow the gate and FEW be there that find it.,,

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  47. Dan on June 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    “What was really gained by “raising the bar”

    Separates the wheat from the tares

    Yep, if you don’t go on a mission, you’re a tare, just biding time until Jesus plucks your little ass out from among the wheat.

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  48. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    Irony (#23):

    Great comment. I didn’t just want to “Like” it, but wanted a minute to read it and think about it.

    I do think you are correct. Mormonism today is much different from Mormonism of “yesteryear”. In the past, it didn’t matter as much what you believed (as even apostles frequently and openly disagreed with each other). It didn’t matter as much what you did (as some people still drank and used tobacco after the WofW, yet still held church office). A common sense of purpose through covenants was the primary thing.

    I think part of this was facilitated by the “gathering to Zion” mentality. People could literally leave the world and gather with their tribe. A wider set of beliefs and practices was tolerated.

    Contrast that with today. The bold teachings of earlier prophets is being watered down. In my opinion, one of the most profound teachings of Mormonism is that God was once like us and that we can be like God. In an oft-quoted interview, President Hinckley said that he didn’t really know that we taught that. It is a much different level of boldness from historical prophets.

    And people aren’t gathering to Zion, but are encouraged to integrate into their communities. In order to do this, you have to at least appear somewhat “normal”. Hence the current focus on outward appearances – white shirts, no tattoos, earrings, etc – and on outward actions – ie. not a drop, etc.

    This places us in an awkward hybrid. We want to be “normal” and show “cool” people in our ads skateboarding and doing normal things, yet we are to be a peculiar people.

    I think the current model is non-sustainable.

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  49. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Will: Just FYI, I haven’t given you any “thumbs down” this post. :-)

    My attitude differs from yours. Your comments represent a fairly exclusionary process, but to be honest, I think they represent the mainstream of the Church. If someone is to be a “king” or “queen” in the next life, that implies there is someone over whom to “rule”. Maybe that’s our offspring. Maybe that’s other people on earth who didn’t measure up. I honestly don’t know.

    On a personal level, however, I really don’t like this. I don’t want to be part of an “elite”. I don’t want to rule over anyone.

    The philosophy which appeals the most to be is that of being a Bodhisattva. This is someone in Mahayana Buddhism who has achieved the final reward, or in LDS terms, the Celestial Kingdom. But a bodhisattva agrees to forgo his or her eternal reward until EVERYONE on earth achieves the same reward. For people who don’t make the “highest” reward, they get another chance to work at it again until they, too, reach that level.

    This is profound. This is selfless. Would you be willing to forgo the Celestial Kingdom until EVERYONE else also had a chance of joining you there? Would you be willing to tary on earth?

    To me, this is a much higher goal than “making it” on my own. While aspects of this are obviously incompatible with some LDS teachings, the change in outlook is profound. It changes how I approach each person around me – LDS or not. It makes a difference.

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  50. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    jacobhalford: “I don’t think that it is about manipulating their perception in order to gain influence or reputation. I just don’t think they are that egotistical to have such Machiavellian motives behind it” Wishing to maintain influence isn’t necessarily Machiavellian or manipulative. It may simply be diplomacy.

    “even if they were by advocating a more inclusive definition of Mormon it is more likely to have them dismissed as being too liberal and being influenced by the standards of the world in letting such a diverse group be classed as Mormon. Which, would undermine their influence as we all know that liberal and tolerant are dirty words.” You’re actually making my point that this is a motivation for bloggers. I’m not sure I even think it’s conscious. We do this naturally all the time to increase our influence. You just make it clear you are an insider.

    “I guess leadership could be influenced by the bloggernacle, however seeing as most members are ignorant of it and not influenced, I am not so convinced that it is likely to be that big. I just can’t see President Monson and Boyd K. Packer sitting down for a couple of hours browsing By Common Consent.” I agree that BKP and TSM are unlikely to read blogs, but others in the Q12 seem at least passingly familiar with these hot topics. It doesn’t have to be everyone, just one or two who are on the lookout for what the membership thinks.

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  51. LDS Anarchist on June 22, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    btw, #3 and #32 were jokes, but i’ll probably start using these terms anyway…

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  52. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    jacobhalford: I guess leadership could be influenced by the bloggernacle, however seeing as most members are ignorant of it and not influenced, I am not so convinced that it is likely to be that big.

    There was a recent post a few months back on here trying to estimate how many people are actually on the Bloggernacle (for lack of a better term). As a percentage of Church membership, it is admittedly small.

    However, as a percentage of US members it is higher (& folks like Aaron R – who I am glad is poking his head in – he’s always had great comments and posts). And as a percentage of the internet-savvy US membership, it’s even higher.

    Additionally, while not everyone who feels this way is here, it is likely representative of a bigger trend. Perhaps there is some marketer out there who can give better data, but for everyone who takes the time to comment on a product (or Church or whatever), there is a multiple of that who feel the same way.

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  53. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Anarchist: #32:

    Whether the terms were meant to be jokes or not, I think the IDEA is a good one. When someone says “Mormon”, a certain preconceived set of concepts naturally come to mind – good for some people – bad for other people.

    Using an unfamiliar term forces someone to evaluate something on its own merit, and not necessarily the merit of what has happened in the past.

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  54. Mike S on June 22, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    #42 Rigel: … there is a consecration of time and talent that is required to shepherd in the next generation of leadership.

    I agree absolutely. And this is where I think we are shooting ourselves in the collective foot.

    For someone to be willing to invest the time and talent, they have to feel like they are a valued part of the organization. Much like Orson Pratt in the post above – if he was kicked out of the Church by Brigham Young – think of all the things he WOULDN’T have done.

    My concern is that we are doing the same today. Are there amazingly talented people alienated because they have a tattoo? Or because the have an earring? Or because they might question the literacy of the Book of Mormon translation but still value the content? Or any of a hundred little things that serve to divide?

    It reminds me of a comment made by Ross the Intern on Chelsea Lately this last month. The topic was the fundamentalist Christian group who hired a plane to the tune of $10k to fly a banner around Disney World during Pride Day there – in protest of the gays.

    Ross’s response was that without gays, there likely wouldn’t have been a choreographed parade that they all watched, as much music as they listened to, people dressed like Ducks or Aladdin or whatever, etc. The Disney experience was enhanced by the same people they were protesting.

    We have young people and older people who are caring, who are devoted to causes, who are willing to put in the time and effort for things they feel worthwhile. But if we alienate them with our ever shrinking circles, WE are the ones missing out.

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  55. Will on June 22, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    Dan,

    Woa, loosen the love beads.

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  56. Troth Everyman on June 22, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    54 … wish I could like it multiple times.

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  57. hawkgrrrl on June 22, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    On the raising the bar comment, as a missionary I absolutely saw more success among prodigal missionaries than the sheltered righteous ones. People could relate more to the former than the latter.

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  58. MH on June 22, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    I was hoping someone would tackle the term “apostasy porn.” It’s a catchy phrase, but what exactly does it mean?

    I guess there are some things that are clear cut. For example, there are those on the NOM boards that say you can pay tithing to a charity if you don’t want to pay it to the church. There was a catchy “Mormon Nudists” post over at Mormon Matters that could safely be classified as “apostasy porn” (in more ways than one.)

    But what about other things? If one advocates that women should be ordained, is that apostasy porn? Was it apostasy porn when people advocated that blacks should receive the priesthood prior to 1978? Is advocating Civil Unions apostasy porn? In 1889, was it apostasy porn to advocate for monogamy? In 1891 was it apostasy porn to advocate for polygamy?

    Catchy phrase, but I don’t know what it means. Anyone have a definition?

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  59. Andrew S on June 22, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    re 58:

    I am vaguely aware that there was a discussion behind the scenes at BCC to really hash out the definition of apostasy porn, so I’m sure there is a pretty clear definition for it, but since most of us here weren’t privy to that discussion, we (and especially I) can only guess as to the meaning.

    Which I have no problem with doing:

    I think that the idea of “apostasy porn” is an idea of using controversial issues of the church to kind of draw people in. In the guise of having an “informed discussion” about certain issues, one actually slants toward an apostate/nonfaithful/critical viewpoint.

    I guess an example I’ve heard (I don’t have any idea if this has any relation to the apostasy porn concept) is interviewing well-known critics of the church and then throwing softball questions at them. So, on the one hand, you can say, “Well, I challenged so n’ so.” But there’s still a slant there.

    It’s not so much in what one advocates, but in how they advocate for it.

    (of course, that’s just my guess.)

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  60. anon on June 22, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    IMO being Mormon is a religion. And it is a religion that requires some commitment.
    If you are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints you are a Mormon. If you don’t go to church or attempt to follow its teachings you are an inactive Mormon, but still a Mormon.
    Random other people who have brushes with the church or its history or read about its teachings really aren’t Mormons and I am surprised that they want to be called such if they don’t want to be baptized into the church.

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  61. george on June 23, 2011 at 12:10 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but NO one gets baptized “into a church”. You get baptized to witness your devotion to Christ (per the Scriptures), not your devotion to an institution.

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  62. jacobhalford on June 23, 2011 at 1:54 AM

    Hawkgrrrl: “I’m not sure I even think it’s conscious. We do this naturally all the time to increase our influence. You just make it clear you are an insider.”

    Is it a bit like the saviours metaphor of false prophets being wolves in sheep clothing? In making it clear that they are an insider they are saying that they are really sheep, not a wolf dressed up as a sheep. I know a few who are wary of blogs, as they often think that they are dangerous because they think its people who claim to be Mormon but aren’t really. I winder if bloggers in trying to reaffirm their insider status could be seen simply as just trying to show how authentic their sheep costume is because it looks just like all the many different sheep in the fold rather then showing that they are not inwardly wolves.

    Thinking about it, influence doesn’t have to in a direct way through the leadership. The reality is that often the things active bloggers and those who keep a look out on them, will distil through into the church through word of mouth. Its through informal discussions that are informed by the bloggernacle that it has influence. I know in my lessons I have drawn upon wisdom gleaned from the bloggernacle, so indirectly all in my gospel doctrine have been influenced by it.

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  63. jacobhalford on June 23, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    Mike S: “This places us in an awkward hybrid. We want to be “normal” and show “cool” people in our ads skateboarding and doing normal things, yet we are to be a peculiar people.”

    I think this hits the nail on the head. On the one hand the church wants to show diversity and that it does have cool people, but on the other it seems to want that diversity within parameters that would destroy that diversity and make them lose their coolness. I guess this tension can be seen when the cool skateboarder with long hair, beard, sloppy clothes, and slightly rebelous attitude attends their local ward and are stigmatised and told to get a hair cut and smarten up, then conform to the cultural norms. A question that was raised at EFY in a question session that highlighted this when one of the youth asked ‘why is it if Jesus was here today he would be banned from attending EFY?’ I think the reason for this comes from the fact that on the macro level we want to be inclusive, but when this mapped onto the micro level of wards and policy it fails to be so inclusive. I think of Brandon Flowers from the killers, everyone loves the fact he is Mormon and wants to use him to show how cool the church is, but if he turned up to church before he was famous or even now as most wouldn’t know him if they saw him, with his beard and rock and roll lifestyle he would most likely not experience the same from many members.

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  64. Aaron R. on June 23, 2011 at 2:55 AM

    Mike S, I should clarify that I love the concept of ‘namaste’ and think there is a profound truth about how we should relate to each other. My concern with the concept is when it comes to be a foundation for Mormonism as a group. Because I believe ‘namaste’ applies to everyone it cannot serve Mormons as a marker of this sub-group. However, I do believe that as Mormons we should be able to approach others with that sensibility.

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  65. Chino Blanco on June 23, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    Folks who coin phrases like “apostasy porn” always know it when they see it (emphasis on “when”). Back in the early seventies, they were fingering the pornographers agitating to lift the priesthood ban. A few decades later, the same crew was tsk-tsking any members who let the brown paper wrapping slip off the cover of their latest issue of Heavenly Mother porn. Not sure what projects they’re spending most of their time on these days, but I’ve heard their current methods include guarding gated Mormon communities with something called a bannination stick that’s used to whack any equality pornomaniacs.

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  66. Justin on June 23, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    a bannination stick

    They can’t hear you from their echo chamber waste-land.

    Words have meaning. “Mormon” means certain things to most people. Saying you’re “Mormon” without any qualifier [if you require one] will open things up to misunderstanding.

    The same is true with Hawkgrrrl’s observations on “patriarchy” — there is what the word means and there is what the leaders mean when they use the word.

    I would advocate either using different words to describe yourself [a la LDSA's #3 and #32] — or just using the “Mormon” even though it won’t generally apply and cause misunderstanding.

    I favor the latter mainly b/c that would be the way the meaning of the word could be changed. If “unorthodox” apostasy pornographers drop the term — then it is by defaulted forfeited to the banninators to do with as they please.

    In my mind, it’s not their term — it’s everyone’s term, just like it’s not their church it’s our church. Dropping everything b/c of the idiots just concentrates the idiots — IMO.

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  67. hawkgrrrl on June 23, 2011 at 9:05 AM

    Apostasy porn is an interesting analogy. I think it’s valid to observe that anti-faith discussions have an allure and can suck you in. They can become an obsession for people. Of course the converse can be true as well or we would not have converts.

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  68. Irony on June 23, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    To me, apostasy porn is this: Material/information that causes an individual to sin.

    I entirely disagree with the notion, especially within the context of this discussion and the one over at BCC where all the comment editing was going on, but that’s what it is. Information and/or ideas that orthodoxy defines as “porn” in that it will inevitably dull the spirit, adulterate the mind and otherwise degenerate the soul. Yay, verily.

    I love Mike’s addition of the Bodhisattva. Most of us grow up assuming that if we reach the CK, even sans some of our family, so be it. We deserve the reward because we’ve worked so d@mn hard, even if some fall by the wayside and “get the Kingdom they deserve.” The more I think about it, though, the more I align with the Bodhisattva mentality: why not wait it out and help others on the way until all arrive, hand-in-hand, at the ultimate destination. That is assuming I want to be there with them. ;)

    Mormonism teaches – by default, almost – that there is an upper crust of society (the “Elect”), a middle crust and a lower crust, with varying milieus in between. It’s our duty to be the Elect, all while relegating most other people (especially non-Mormons) to roles as lower class citizens in not-so-subtle ways.

    That said, the reason I posted the discussion on “Peoplehood” is because I think there’s a lot of merit to that discussion. If Mormonism was to be a path where people came together to make individual covenants (the unity professed to be in Zion), and not a one-belief-fits-all mentality we adhere to today, I think we’d see some serious amelioration in Mormondom.

    I queried the author, originally, and his thoughts were that what Joseph was originally trying to establish (and that’s up for debate) was one where I, for example, could come from some walk of life and decide to make a covenant with the Lord. I come to make the covenants, but then am free to depart and live those covenants as I see fit (after all, the covenant is between me and the Lord only, free from all intermediaries). No need for a religion (though people would naturally be inclined to worship in communities). No need for a multi-billion dollar hierarchical structure.

    That mentality appeals to me. A free-flowing structure where individuals are allowed to worship as they see fit, working out their own salvation, walking their own path, serving others as they see fit… not the institutionally defined means and ways we see today.

    I may have bumbled that up, but that’s what I see in life. It doesn’t fit an orthodoxy, but I recognize the need some have for orthodoxy (having needed that at some time myself).

    Move upward and onward.

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  69. Irony on June 23, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    @ #63

    A question that was raised at EFY in a question session that highlighted this when one of the youth asked ‘why is it if Jesus was here today he would be banned from attending EFY?’

    I’m curious, what was the answer given in response to that poignant question?

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  70. SteveS on June 23, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    “‘Inclusive Mormonism’ is equated by the author with ‘apostasy porn’”

    So if I understand J Stapley and his cronies over at BCC correctly (who most of the time I find simultaneously insightful and smug, and particularly vicious against people who don’t share their own opinions), efforts to define Mormonism more broadly, and having a willingness to be accepting and tolerant of other people’s perspectives and lifestyles is something akin to how the Church perceives pornography, and that that line of thinking is “apostate”? For such, pornography is a threat, the latest representation of the evil Other in a long line of evil Others (c.f. communism, non-whites, Catholics) intent on destroying God’s Kingdom and leading God’s children and society as a whole to utter destruction. To me it seems that Stapley et al. are proclaiming inclusiveness an evil that threatens the very heart of Mormonism, and which if pursued would destroy the community we have with great effort built for ourselves.

    In a sense, I agree that inclusiveness would drastically change the community we have built for ourselves. But will it rock the foundation to the core and scatter the flock? I truly worry about people whose conception of Mormonism is so narrow that it cannot accommodate the growing number of perspectives that come as membership numbers rise, and as non-Western and non-Anglo-American cultures come to sit at the table. I would venture to say that excessive conservatism is a form of apostasy, and that those who are seduced by utopian visions of “pure” and “one-minded” Mormon communities fall prey to error and hinder the work of the Kingdom of God.

    Another difficulty is the word “pornography”, which has too much power given to it in LDS culture and the evangelical Christian world as a whole, imo. The word doesn’t mean the same thing to tons of other groups, and if statistics from different studies are to be believed, millions of people within Mormonism have themselves an uneasy relationship with sexual media. Giving more power to the term by coupling it with another powerful word in Mormon culture, apostasy, may be a clever way of getting one’s point across, but it ultimately harms the community more. These words becomes weapons used against the marginalized, in opposition those who think or act differently, and as mufflers those whose voices the group wishes to silence.

    The only way to diminish the power of terms like apostasy and pornography is to face and overcome the fears we have as a community toward them, seeing them for what they really are. Much like the Anthony Weiner scandal distracts the legislature and the nation from governing and tackling big issues in the economy, foreign relations, education, and human rights, so too obsessive focus on “apostasy” and “pornography” turn us Mormons collectively away from focusing on the true work of the Kingdom: binding up the broken, reaching out to the sick, the lonely, the depressed, the weary, the hated, the broken, the dying.

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  71. SteveS on June 23, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    I just wrote: “I would venture to say that excessive conservatism is a form of apostasy”

    I should have written: “I would venture to say that excessive conservatism is a form of straying from the Path”

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  72. The Other Clark on June 23, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    #60 hit the nail on the head. If you’re baptized into the LDS (Brighamite) church, you’re a Mormon. If your name isn’t on the records of the Church, you’re not.

    That definition seems pretty broad to me, and would cover most of the categories Mike S lists in the OP.

    I might be convinced, though, to broaden the definition further to include all baptised members of all churches that trace their origens to Joseph Smith…

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  73. Brian on June 23, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    ditto #72. The church proudly announces its growing 14 million members in GC. Whatever definition they use to come up with the number of burgers served, needs to be the official definition of a member.

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  74. hawkgrrrl on June 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Problem with the church’s number is that there are people in it who wouldn’t claim to be Mormon, and there are people not in it who would claim Mormonism.

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  75. Troth Everyman on June 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    SteveS,

    I would also add “the poor” to your list at the bottom.

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  76. Will on June 23, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Mike S/irony;

    The problem with “Bodhisattva”, is that it is more consistent with Nehor than Jesus. In fact, it is one on the main tenants of Nehor. The concept of universal salvation — not salvation in terms of universal ressurection but actually reaching the top. In contrast, the Savior taught only a few would reach the top.

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  77. Chino Blanco on June 23, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    Just for fun, which of these would *you* characterize as “apostasy porn”?

    A) Lorenzo Snow Cones
    B) George Romney pallin’ around with Civil Rights leaders
    C) Carol Lynn Pearson calling for “No More Us vs. Them”

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  78. Irony on June 23, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Will:

    The problem with “Bodhisattva”, is that it is more consistent with Nehor than Jesus. In fact, it is one on the main tenants of Nehor. The concept of universal salvation — not salvation in terms of universal ressurection but actually reaching the top. In contrast, the Savior taught only a few would reach the top.

    You’re going to have to broaden your horizon to understand what Mike is suggesting, and what I might advocate. It may start with the definition that Mike gave, but it doesn’t end with that… as such, your Nehoresque comment falls incredibly short.

    I might suggest starting here and – while a discussion apart from Bodhisattva – it certainly broadens your perspective.

    Then again, perhaps you’d call Nephi an apostasy pornographer because (2 Ne. 33:12 – “…if not all…”).

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  79. Irony on June 23, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Ahh…

    Forgot the link. Here it is. Just a short video that Mormanity might have trouble explaining with our current understandings/doctrinal statements.

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  80. Bishop Rick on June 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    George #61 hit the nail on the head.
    Why do we even need an institution?
    Why do we need saving ordinances?
    Why do we need the “Mormon” brand?
    Why can’t we just be human?

    “I am Mormon” means I’m something you are not.
    That’s exclusionary.

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  81. Chino Blanco on June 24, 2011 at 12:03 AM

    By the way (last tangential comment, I promise), this NPR radio discussion was kinda interesting in the context of this post. Seems like we’re not gonna have to wait for Mike S to be in charge. When you’re in the middle of a Mormon Moment, suddenly Walter Kirn and Bengt Washburn are just as Mormon as Emily Lewis, and I’d guess this expansive effect will probably continue, leaving naclerite border skirmishes looking sillier and more solipsistic than ever.

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  82. Will on June 24, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    Irony,

    I caught the jist of it from Mike’s commentary and to me that is sufficient. My reasoning is chiefly due to the fact when I find something that contradicts what I know to be true, it spoils my interest. To me it is in direct conflict with the plan of salvation I understand to be true; it is in direct conflict with the 76th and 88th sections of the D&C;and, is the exact opposite of the Saviors words that I quoted above “…straight is the way and narrow the gate and FEW be there that find it..”

    I know I received numerous thumbs down on these statements which suggest people (possibly you) think I am reading these sections wrong and more importantly the Saviors words. If so would someone please explain what I am missing. That is an honest and sincere request.

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  83. Will on June 24, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Irony,

    By the way, I totally agree with Mike’s commentary about people in and out if the LDS faith. Mike I would take objection to the amount, I would even trust some with $10. I could buy some new golf balls with that.

    In short, the few are not isolated to the LDS faith, and the broad includes a lot of our neighbors.

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  84. Dan on June 24, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    Will,

    straight is the way and narrow the gate and FEW be there that find it..”

    yeah, you’re one of those few aren’t you? You’re a wheat amongst tares.

    As for why you receive thumbs down it probably has to do with the general insensitivity you display toward those who don’t fit your worldview. In this case here, the gate may be narrow, and the path may be straight, and few find it, that doesn’t mean that those who make it to the gate or are on that path don’t do work for those who happened to not have found that path (for whatever reason). That’s the whole point of temple work. In the grand history of the world, how frequent has “the gate” been available to man? If we are to go by the Mormon theology (of which I am a proponent), then “the gate” has not been available to but an extremely small number of people in their actual lives. This is not to indicate that everyone who did not find the gate or the path are on a path to hell as you seem to proscribe, but that they simply did not find the path or the gate. So someone who is living in Botswana or Bangladesh who happened to have never heard of this “straight and narrow” path is not going to be held accountable for never having even heard of the possibility of a straight and narrow path to some gate. So yes, you do show that you do not understand the Savior’s words very well and apply the scriptures to limit the amount of people that will possibly end up in the Celestial Kingdom. The fewer people there, the better, for you.

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  85. Dan on June 24, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    Consider this, Will. Jesus’s own mission in 30AD was to a very, very small group of people. If Jesus was the Creator of the entire planet, and be a Judge over everyone who ever lived, judging them on how they followed His Gospel, then it doesn’t make sense that he only spend those three years among a very small group, an exclusionary group at that. Jews thought they were the chosen ones and everyone else was not to be saved. His whole Gospel wouldn’t make sense if only those who actually got on the straight path to the gate were saved. Why would God create so many billions of souls only to have to lose 99% of them?

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  86. Will on June 24, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Dan,

    You have again missed the point. I understand and agree with the plan of salvation. Moreover, as stated above I agree the “few” are not isolated to the LDS faith. If that were the case it would be pretty pointless to have a missionary program or redemption of the dead.

    Jesus was referring to the Kingdom of Heaven we he said few would make it. All told, I am rejecting the notion we can all be saved if we just help each other and take more time with others. If this were the case, why have an infinite number of kingdoms as indicated in D&C 88. Furthermore, as indicated in D&C 88, some cant abide the celestial law and will not receive celestial glory. Same with Terrestial and Telestial. With the latter, if you cannot live the lowest law you will not receive ANY glory and will be sent to one of the infinite number of kingdoms spoken of on this section. As said, where there is space there is a kingdom.

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  87. Dan on June 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Will,

    All told, I am rejecting the notion we can all be saved if we just help each other and take more time with others. If this were the case, why have an infinite number of kingdoms as indicated in D&C 88.

    Because there aren’t an “infinite number of kingdoms” indicated in D&C 88. There are “many kingdoms.” Not infinite. If God intended for us to think that “many” equaled “infinite” he would have said “infinite” because many does not equal infinite. If you read the entire part:

    36 All kingdoms have a law given;

    37And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

    38And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

    39All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

    This section does not refer to the afterlife, but in general that each space has a kingdom, and there are many kingdoms to fill all space. This does not indicate that there are “infinite kingdoms” for those 99% who don’t accept the “straight and narrow path” to the gate. You gotta understand Will, D&C 88 is all over the place when it comes to defining the word “kingdom.”

    51Behold, I will liken these kingdoms unto a man having a field, and he sent forth his servants into the field to dig in the field.

    61Therefore, unto this parable I will liken all these kingdoms, and the inhabitants thereof—every kingdom in its hour, and in its time, and in its season, even according to the decree which God hath made.

    That’s like the word “smurf.”

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  88. Will on June 24, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Dan,

    Thanks. I actually understand those versus better with your commentary. I have been trying to reconcile that portion for a while. I had leaned that way, the end 24 throws me off:

    “..therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.”

    The point of this section, supported by your commentary, is that there is a distribution. I don’t know what that will be, but the 76th section denoted a cluster in the middle; and, the Saviors statement points to a thin top.

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  89. hawkgrrrl on June 24, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    I just have to comment here – this is a great thread for me because there are many comments here where I feel Will is in near agreement with the majority and not operating as some uber-orthodox stereotype, but people are so accustomed to hating on Will that he’s still garnering thumbs down. People are missing that this is a kinder, gentler Will (not to imply that he’s changed, but on this topic, his view is not aggressively out of step with others).

    Welcome, Will.

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  90. Mike S on June 24, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    #76 Will: The problem with “Bodhisattva”, is that it is more consistent with Nehor than Jesus. In fact, it is one on the main tenants of Nehor. The concept of universal salvation — not salvation in terms of universal ressurection but actually reaching the top. In contrast, the Savior taught only a few would reach the top.

    Perhaps I wasn’t very clear about the concept, and for that I apologize. The concept of Bodhisattva is NOTHING like what Nehor taught. From what I understand, the essence of Nehor’s teachings is that there is no need for repentance (Alma 15:15) and that all mankind will be saved anyway (Alma 1:4 for example). Essentially the concept is to do whatever you want and you’ll automatically get the highest reward.

    In the Bodhisattva concept, achieving the “highest reward” is extremely hard (probably even harder than LDS concept). In fact, in explaining how important it is to make the most of this life, Buddha taught that being born into a situation where you understand truth and have the opportunity to improve yourself is as difficult as a blind turtle surfacing in an ocean as big as the world, and finding himself in a simple ring floating on the surface. It truly creates an urgency in making every moment count.

    The appealing concept is that for those who don’t achieve the “highest reward”, instead of being consigned to somewhere lower for eternity, they get another chance. This is a race with truly no losers. For some people, it may take an eon, but at the end of it all, everyone gets a chance to succeed. This is completely different from Nehor – who taught that what you did doesn’t matter. What you do DOES matter – but if you’re not “good enough”, instead of being NOT a part of the select few, you get a replay.

    And this is where the Bodhisattva concept comes in. For the select few who achieve the ultimate reward, instead of saying “whew, I made it”, they are willing to instead postpone this reward and help others along the way. And they are willing to do this, not for a few hundred years or even a few thousand, but literally as long as it takes.

    To me this is profound. It is completely selfless. It is the exact OPPOSITE of Nehor’s philosophy. And it is actually much more selfless than trying to be a part of an elite few.

    And for what it’s worth, it is a concept supported in our faith as well. In 3 Nephi, to the Three Nephites who also wished to postpone their ultimate reward, the Savior said:

    And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me. Therefore, more blessed are ye…

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  91. Mike S on June 24, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Also, I agree with hawkgrrl. I do think that Will’s thoughts DO represent the majority of those in any given ward of the Church on a Sunday. And, for what it’s worth, I haven’t given you a thumbs down either.

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  92. Mike S on June 24, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    #86 Will: Moreover, as stated above I agree the “few” are not isolated to the LDS faith.

    I agree with this comment. I suppose our biggest disagreement is in how far we are willing to go beyond the LDS faith for the “few”.

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  93. Mike S on June 24, 2011 at 2:28 PM

    Here are a few questions for all related to this:

    Do people think that our “kingdom” in the next life is or isn’t “fixed”?

    If someone lives in such a way as to be in the Terrestial Kingdom while on earth, can they continue to improve in the next life to the extent that they can be in the Celestial Kingdom? And if someone can improve on what they did IN this life AFTER this life, doesn’t that theoretically allow for EVERYONE to ultimately reach the Celestial Kingdom?

    Given that only around 0.1% of the earth’s population is active LDS, is it more important to be LDS in this life or to be a good person regardless of your faith?

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  94. Dan on June 24, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Mike,

    Given that only around 0.1% of the earth’s population is active LDS, is it more important to be LDS in this life or to be a good person regardless of your faith?

    You’re being highly generous there. That’s more like 0.002% of the earth’s population…

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  95. Dan on June 24, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    oops, i’m off on my math…sorry

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  96. Mike S on June 24, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    No problem. I just used rounded numbers – nothing exact:

    6-7 million active members
    6-7 billion world population

    1:1000 ratio

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  97. Will on June 24, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Mike S.

    Can we move between kingdoms? I don’t think so. I remember somewhere in my reading several salient points on this discussion: 1) The ressurrection is on a different time frame for everyone. The righteous are resurrected first and those that weren’t as valiant in this life are given more time to change. 2) it is more difficult to change without a body. 3) it is my understanding the resurrection is permanent. The body we receive will never change again. 4) A celestial body is different than a terrestrial or telestial body. Our body will be restored to a PROPER frame: Alma discussed thisas follows:

    “8 Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.
    9 And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.
    10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
    11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.
    12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
    13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.”

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  98. Troth Everyman on June 24, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    Will,

    I gave you a thumbs down, but only because you seemed to like it (Joking with you).

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  99. LDS Anarchist on June 25, 2011 at 5:05 AM

    Mike S #93 asked:

    If someone lives in such a way as to be in the Terrestial Kingdom while on earth, can they continue to improve in the next life to the extent that they can be in the Celestial Kingdom?

    “Improve in the next life”? There are only two places to go to in the next life: hell or paradise. I’m curious, where do you think that those who live a Terrestrial Kingdom-type life go to?

    And if someone can improve on what they did IN this life AFTER this life, doesn’t that theoretically allow for EVERYONE to ultimately reach the Celestial Kingdom?

    The resurrection locks everyone in to the kingdom their body is quickened for. There is no progression upwards after the judgment and resurrection. And all judgment is according to men in the flesh, so it is not any “improvements” made in the next life that determine which of the three kingdoms we receive, but the improvements of our thoughts, words, works and the intents of our hearts of this life. This is the only probationary and preparatory state we have. This life is also our only opportunity to “improve our time.” After this life, there can be no more work that can be done, or no more “improvements.” (See Alma 12 and Alma 34.)

    It is true that we are granted a space to repent, and that includes this life and the next life (the spirit world), but impovements pertain only to this life.

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  100. Mike S on June 25, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    Will / LDS Anarchist:

    I have to disagree with both of you. I think there actually IS progression between kingdoms in the next life. The ironic thing is that there ISN’T an official Church doctrine on the matter. And as described in D&C 19 when discussing endless and eternal punishment, our understanding of the language God uses is limited.

    Some people have been quite emphatic about the fact that there is NO progression. For example, Elder McConkie uses D&C 76 and D&C 132 to suggest the following:

    They neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.

    He goes so far as to say that anyone teaching this is teaching heresy and that it lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, “God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?” However, Elder McConkie is just one man. Sometimes his opinions and teachings were right, and other times his teachings were wrong.

    Examining what other leaders have said about the subject:

    Brigham Young taught that progress IS possible, although slow:

    None would inherit this earth when it became celestial and translated into the presence of God but those who would be crowned as Gods – all others would have to inherit another kingdom – they would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy and advancing to a celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process [progress?].

    Joseph F Smith taught both, saying that people CAN’T pass between glories (unless they are “especially gifted and faithful” – although if they are especially faithful, wouldn’t they be in the Celestial Kingdom to start?):

    Once a person enters these glories there will be eternal progress in the line of each of these particular glories, but the privilege of passing from one to another (though this may be possible for especially gifted and faithful characters) is not provided for.

    J Ruben Clark seems to suggest that we will certainly be assigned to a kingdom based upon our works here, but that we can eventually attain ALL the blessings equal to everyone else:

    I am not a strict constructionalist, believing that we seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that God will save all of His children that he can: and while, if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed to those eternities that are to come.

    James E Talmage taught that progression between kingdoms WAS possible:

    It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.

    So, no one really knows. There are quotes on BOTH sides of the argument. My own personal feelings are based on the following:

    1) Vicarious work only makes sense if progression was possible. People can change in the hereafter, accept something they may have rejected, accept baptism, etc. Since these are prerequisites for various kingdoms, it only makes sense to do these if there is the potential for it to make a difference to someone’s eternal reward.

    2) Families are forever. Every single family I know has a wide range of “spirituality” in their own members. Even prophets and apostles have children and cousins and others who might rejects some things here on earth. The Celestial Kingdom will be a truly sad place if you can’t enjoy it will ALL of your family members – at least someday.

    3) God is successful. While there may be few that find the strait gate in mortality, I believe that God’s ultimate goal – of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man – will be reached. We are certainly much better off if we learn the lessons while here, but I feel we will all eventually learn them. I think God can ultimately have ALL His children back with Him in the Celestial Kingdom.

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  101. Mike S on June 25, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Regarding my own comment #100:

    Although this is presented in contrast to the opinion of Will and LDS Anarchist, I actually DO think that their viewpoint is the most prevalent in the Church today.

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  102. LDS Anarchist on June 25, 2011 at 3:42 PM

    Mike S,

    I’m actually glad that you brought this topic up. And I appreciate you quoting those authorities. This topic, in my understanding, deals with the doctrine of the resurrection, something I had always wanted to blog on, but never got around to, and then I forgot all about it until you just now brought it up again. Now that I’ve been reminded, I suppose I ought to take this topic up in detail on my own blog, but I’ll probably just put it off like I did before.

    Fwiw, I didn’t arrive at this view from listening to the general authorities, but from studying the scriptures. Admittedly, my understanding may be off, but I have yet to find evidence of eternal progression from one kingdom to the next, whereas there appears to me to be plenty of evidence that there is no such progression. I cannot list all the evidences here in a comment, it would require an essay, so we’ll just have to leave it that. But thanks for asking those questions.

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