The Future of the Church: Evolve… or Burn?

By: Guest
February 22, 2012

The archeological dig site of the Sican people, with their pottery photoshopped in (pre temple burning, and post).

Today’s guest post is by Alice, who blogs at The Life I am Choosing. She is also an all-star commenter (alliegator) on FMH.

The Sican, or Lambayeque people lived in the area of Lambayeque Peru between 750 and 1375 AD. The artifacts left today paint a picture of a deeply religious culture, dominated by a deity represented by a masked face with upturned eyes. Sometimes the deity is depicted with avian features related to Naylamp, the key figure in Sican mythology. Naylamp was said to be the founder of the first dynasty of kings in the La Leche and Lambayeque valleys. When Naylamp died, he sprouted wings and flew to another world.

Lambayeque is a costal area of Peru, and the Sican deity was closely tied to the ocean and water. Around 1029 AD there was a drought which lasted 30 years. The drought was linked to a failure of the Sican deity to mediate nature for the people. From archeological evidence it appears that when their deity failed them, the people burned the temples and replaced the iconography with representations of their relationships with nature.

******

Jospeh Campbell described four fuctions of myth (and by myth, he’s not passing judgment on whether it’s true or false, after all, as he said, “Myth is what we call other people’s religion”… we should find what works for us, and “Follow [our] bliss”).

Here is the Cliffs notes version of the four functions of myth:

  • The Metaphysical Function: Myth reconciles waking consciousness and the mystery of being.
  • The Cosmological Function: Myth explains the shape of the universe.
  • The Sociological Function: Myth validates and supports the existing social order.
  • The Psychological Function: Myth guides us through the stages of life.

******

Campbell believed that to fulfill these functions, myth must continually evolve or it will be unable to address the realities and complexities of modern life, as the Sican people discovered the when their deity failed to protect them from severe drought.  In response, they abandoned their deity and replaced it with something new. I left the country just as the news articles about the current wave of members leaving the church, and the Why Mormons Leave survey results were made public, so I’m a bit late to the party. However, I think that it is important to learn from history if we can. From the survey, some of the big reasons people lose their faith are issues with Joseph Smith, church history, doctrine, prop 8, and womens’ issues.

These (among others) are issues where the church is failing to address the realities and complexities of modern life for many of its members.

  • Is it possible to address these issues without changing fundamental teachings of the gospel?
  • What do you think the church could do to avoid (at least symbolically) going the way of the Sican temple and Diety?

***Thanks to my dad, George Fisher, for his help with this post***

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38 Responses to The Future of the Church: Evolve… or Burn?

  1. shenpa warrior on February 22, 2012 at 5:14 AM

    I’m wondering about resistance to the church evolving. Not from orthodox members per se (the obvious place to look), but from those who are disaffected. I have felt a somewhat subtle but very strong influence from some in the DAMU that things must NOT change – in fact, it seems like some people leave the church PRECISELY because it HAS evolved… or people argue about what constitutes a changing a “fundamental teaching” of the gospel.

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  2. Jake on February 22, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    I agree with Shenpa, many cite the fact that there is very little, if any thing at all, that has not changed at some point in Mormon doctrine and history. This is often cited as evidence that the church simply adapts to society in order to preserve itself.

    In fact the very universal gospel idea is resistant to change and evolution. If the principles of the gospel are eternal and unchanging then it would imply that its not possible to evolve or change. So to adapt and change is to suggest that the principles of the gospel are not as universal and unchanging, but far more relative and dynamic then we thought.

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  3. Michael on February 22, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    While I know there are a myriad of reasons why people leave the church, I often question whether the church leaders fully comprehend the issues or see the church’s role in hastening the exodus.

    The church is separate from the Restored Gospel. The church delivers a product to its members. In recent decades the product it delivers has been unnecessarily simplified (correlation), sanitized (straight, hetero patriarchal families), politicized (Prop. 8 and immigration), and bastardized (worship services are boring & non-nourishing).

    There is a limit to how much a church member can be guilted into activity when there is no discernible benefit to the activity. Especially for those persons who are not tied to Mormon culture through family or workplace pressure (i.e. converts).

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  4. Andrew S. on February 22, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    I guess the first question we would need to address is: what are the fundamental teachings of the gospel?

    The reason we need to ask this is because, for whatever reason, the fact that people are leaving over things re: Joseph Smith, church history, doctrine, etc., suggests that these things are part of the perceived fundamental teachings of the gospel.

    The church can’t change history or past teachings, unfortunately. They exist and will always exist in history.

    I don’t yet have an answer for the second, but perhaps it would be in getting people to see the church in a mythological way to begin with?

    *EDIT: what I mean is…if you view things as mythic, then for it to change and evolve isn’t a problem. If you view things as a literal, real, historical truth, then for the story to change over time is NOT going to be taken well. I think previous commenters have alluded to this. The church changing certain narratives doesn’t help, because it positions these narratives as things that shouldn’t change.

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  5. Howard on February 22, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    The church has allowed itself to be overrun by science, technology and secular enlightenment. It’s controversial history and doctrine are no longer neatly tucked away in dusty old archives, they are now as easily available as pornography by mouse click. Knowledge is power, the internet decentralizes power and the genie can never be put back in the bottle. How can science and religion be at odds? Wouldn’t God work through natural laws? Is the church still waiting for religion to disprove science? If so why? Maybe because it’s leaders are old and less prophets than men. They cling to the old ways as the the world changes and becomes enlightened around them. Is the BoM really a history book or might it be inspired or revealed fiction? What of significance has been revealed since the D&C was published, not much except OD1 and OD2 and both were lagging responses to the world around them! Christ led the world with his teachings and so did Joseph. Where is our divine proactive leadership? The world changed with regard to blacks and re actively we were given OD2. The world is changing with regard to women and gays what is our response? So far more of the same with added lip service to both but how much longer can this continue? Can we wait as long with the ban on women and the ban on gays as we did with the ban on blacks? When the significant health problems with tobacco became known the WoW was praised as divine. Has anyone in charge noticed that alcohol in moderation and green tea provide significant health benefits? Burn? No languish as we’ve been doing. But even languishing the church is incredibly profitable 90% or so of your tithing dollar leaves your ward never to return most of it is used to build buildings and as the cash flow exceeds the need for meetinghouses and temples a $3+Billion mall and other urban renewal projects are built while third world residents do without much needed water and sanitation projects! Is this immense cash flow lost on the brethren? Are they unaware of their celebrity status among their TBM base particularly at general conference surrounded by 21,000 a session? No their view must be a very different one than mine.

    shenpa warrior what changes are you referring to?

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  6. Michael on February 22, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Andrew brings up a very good point. What defines the Restored Gospel? What is authoritative and what is opinion or conjecture? Our church has no body of persons or no mechanism to actually answer these questions.

    We take pride in continuing revelation and the lack of fixed dogma in our church but we have gone to the opposite extreme in refusing to state with certainty what is or what is not doctrine. Two perfect examples are the priesthood ban or the principle of polygamy. Be honest about their place in the Restored Gospel. The proclamation on the family states that gender is eternal. Where did this statement come from? Was a revelation received that was not announced to the membership? It is conjecture based upon the Book of Abraham? Or is it something reasoned out by a committee of Seventies?

    If the current Brethren are merely caretakers of the historical traditions of Joseph and Brigham then they need to be transparent about that fact. The issue of “leader worship” has become an impediment to a realistic re-assessment of the place of the Church and its leadership in delivering the Restored Gospel and Priesthood authority to the human race.

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  7. Justin on February 22, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I think part of Joseph Campbell’s point is that modern “religions” don’t have shamans anymore — the people actually having transcendent experiences and bringing them back and interpreting them in a concrete way for their community.

    There aren’t people having their own prophetic and revelatory experiences — men and women going “somewhere” that I haven’t and who come back to the community to explain it to me.

    The key to discernment is that a true messenger speaks from his own experience and speaks with power and authority — while a false messenger just speaks the stories of someone else, appealing to “tradition” and “authority”, but having no power.

    In the church, we have [as Michael #6 put it] — the current Brethren being merely caretakers of the historical traditions of Joseph and Brigham. They just administer the forms of a story that they inherited.

    Religion, myth, stories, ritual, etc. — it’s about the experience. It all begins as an attempt to tell stories about a person’s connection with God.

    Religion is the “religare” — the connecting bonds of ligaments and tendons that knit us together. When ligaments remain fluid, then we relate to God as a continuous experience, as a state of Supreme Being. We don’t prescribe ethical or moral codes that must objectively transcend space, time, and culture — but act out of expediency and charity.

    When they atrophy — instead of knitting us together, religion binds us down. God becomes the This-Thing that must be related to in That-One-True-Way.

    So, I’d say “the fundamental teachings of the gospel” is people having a transcendent experience of God — one that experiences God as a continuous happening that we are all a part of.

    The gospel of Jesus Christ is fluid. It’s meant to be lived by every human who’s ever lived on the whole earth. As such, it must be adaptable to the variety of conditions that exist among people.

    And I think that’s what Campbell meant by pointing out a need for “reinventing our myths”. Our current way of relating to each other and the world is based on ancient Hebrew culture and cosmology — and simply no longer accords with the world we live in.

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  8. Jeff Spector on February 22, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    I have seen many changes in the Church in the 30 years since I joined. I too have changed my own perception of things and some of my personal beliefs. I still adhere to the fundamentals of the Gospel that qualifies me for a Temple Recommend. As the song goes, “I am trying to be like Jesus” and use my agency and my learning to best achieve that. I still fall way short, but that is my goal.

    What I find interesting in the typical narrative of the disaffected and the critic are that they are pretty similar. they insist that their version and view of the Church is the correct one and those of us who participate are wrong.

    Here are three examples:

    1. History – “The Church is hiding history.” Really, that’s funny, when a subject interested me, I went and learned all I could about it, whether it was plural marriage, MMM, the Blacks and the Priesthood, whatever. I realized in a 40 or 50 min discussion, I wasn’t going to get the full details.
    2. The Manuals – “You MUST only teach out of the manuals.” Well, the manuals are atrocious and out of date for the most part, so why would I do that? I have taught using the manuals and adding and subtracting as necessary to make the point of the lesson. I don’t go wild with all kinds of speculative materials, but I’ve also never been challenged of criticized for my use of materials. I don’t like a quote or a question in the lesson material, i don’t use it.

    3. Fallibility/Infallibility – “Even though it is not said, members MUST follow everything the Prophet and Apostles say all the time.” Again, really? Where doe it say that. I choose what messages I incorporate via the Holy Ghost and my own agency. That’s is what those gifts are for. Anyone who just accepts what is taught is committing a sin, IMO.

    I realize that people just see things differently. I accept that. I just don’t follow that those people tell me what I see and believe.

    The Church will continue to change and evlove, maybe not like some people want, but it will roll on.

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  9. NoCoolName_Tom on February 22, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    As a former Mormon, I was struck recently when talking to my wife about why we still attend that I had no reason, other than the love of my family and friends in the ward, to keep attending. None; my tithing goes to Salt Lake for who knows what, my humanitarian aid contributions languish in interest-generating accounts for years before helping anyone, and now even my fast offerings go to Salt Lake to generate some extra spending money before going to help people. I can shovel sidewalks, help people move, and do other local things that help me feel fulfilled socially, but there’s nothing left for the institution as a whole that excites me and makes me want to participate.

    And I think it’s because, as an organization, we lack a purpose in the modern world that excites people. For a long time the rallying cry was “Family!” but not that cry is seen by many as divisive. Another rallying cry has been “certainty and revelation” but with the advent of the Internet that cry too has diminished in effectiveness as the sins of the past are more readily apparent.

    I may not believe, but if you want me to continue to support then there needs to be something more immediate and real that I can believe in. Look at the Salvation Army: they’ve got some odd beliefs and I’m not sure if their charities are entirely “on the level”, so to speak, *but* they are well-known by everyone as a charitable organization that helps the poor (some people don’t even know that they’re a church).

    The Church doesn’t actually need a *new* mission or a new attitude—they’ve got one in the four-fold mission: redeem the dead (personally, I’m not too interested in this one and I think with the dozens upon dozens of temples already built they’ve got this one covered), proclaim the gospel (again, with the thousands of missionaries this is probably receives more than enough attention), perfecting the saints (now we’re getting into some interesting territory: currently this means “teach them good Sunday School lessons” and “give them callings that will stretch them”. What else could it mean? Education? Scholarships? Employment? All of these receive some attention, to be sure, but what if they received so much attention that the rest of the world paid attention?), and helping the poor (um, yeah, this one is recent, so perhaps they haven’t really gotten the hang of it; but imagine the good that could be accomplished by a Church that did so much, and spent so much, especially to resolve issues of real poverty among people that do not belong to the Church and possible will never belong to the Church, that everyone around the world was aware that this actually is part of the “mission” of the Church).

    Meanwhile, what are the issues we wrestle with in regards to the institutional Church and culture? Issues of emphasis of 19th and 20th Century gender roles (where does that fit into the four-fold mission?). Issues of politics (again, where?). Issues of expenditures (once again, where?). And issues of intellectual honesty (should this come under the heading of “perfecting the Saints”?).

    I’d predict that if the Church Office Building fully followed each fold of the existing four-fold mission to such an extent that any random person in the world could conceivably rebuild that list of objectives when asked about the Church we’d see growth, we’d see excitement among the ranks about Church, we’d see more involvement in communities and less insular behavior, and we’d see non-believers like myself happy and proud to continue to participate because even from a non-believing perspective the Church is doing good in the world.

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  10. question on February 22, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    church members themselves believe it is not possible for the church to fall apart. its built into the doctrine. so unlike netflix or something, the LDS leadership don’t feel an obligation to evolve or stay modern. so it will probably go away, but it will take a very very long time.

    or maybe a prophet will emerge, that will see the error of that way of thinking. maybe an outsider in the tradition of the book of mormon.

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  11. ji on February 22, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    I’m with Jeff (no. 8) — the Church has evolved and will continue to evolve — for some, it does so too fast; for others, too slow. But the work will roll on.

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  12. Howard on February 22, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    NoCoolName_Tom great #9 comment. perfecting the saints (now we’re getting into some interesting territory… Yes I agree it is interesting territory. What else could it mean? I would like it to mean moving away from the Old Testament model of sin avoidance to the New Testament beatitude model of love and enlightenment. Isn’t it time?

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  13. Howard on February 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    Justin wrote: I think part of Joseph Campbell’s point is that modern “religions” don’t have shamans anymore… If you view Joseph Smith as a shaman which I do his story makes much more sense and we also begin to realize why seniority succession produces lessor prophets than Joseph was.

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  14. Justin on February 22, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    If you view Joseph Smith as a shaman which I do

    And I as well.

    I think “shaman”, in the context used by Campbell, would be equivalent to our term “seer” — and I think Joseph did indeed see things and tried to get the Gentile church of God to see what he saw, behold the same visions, see the same angels, and to receive the same endowment.

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  15. Michael on February 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Joseph did what most true prophets do – he tried to bring his people to directly experience God as he had done. To bring heaven down to earth. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Buddha, Mohammed, Elijah. Even the Saviour came to bring the Kingdom to humanity. The Incarnation was the revelation of God the Father to us through His Son.

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  16. Mike S on February 22, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I like this post – thank you. From the OP: Campbell believed that to fulfill these functions, myth must continually evolve or it will be unable to address the realities and complexities of modern life

    I think this is the primary issue affecting the Church today. The older generations are pretty much set. I think much of the problem is in the younger generation. Church leaders have conflated fashion preferences, various tastes, etc. into the organization to the point where if you don’t agree with a Church leader’s opinion, you aren’t “Following the prophet…”

    Ultimately, I think the answer lies in separating the gospel from the Church and jettisoning non-gospel things. Unfortunately, this would involve not talking about sacred cows such as little girls keeping their shoulders covered to bikinis to Coke to number of earrings to Scouting to whatever. I don’t ever see this happening unless/until a critical mass of young people vote with their feet AND we get a leader who understands this process.

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  17. Justin on February 22, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    I don’t ever see this happening unless/until a critical mass of young people vote with their feet AND we get a leader who understands this process.

    Why vote with our feet? Can’t the people vote with their hands — every week, every six months? Doesn’t leaving just keep the “older generations” in their set ways — not seeing any dissension b/c all the dissenters have left the room?

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  18. Alice (alliegator) on February 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Going back to Campbell’s functions of myth- it seems to me that it’s the Sociological Function that is really breaking down. At least for me, the other functions work for the most part. The sociological function of the church isn’t- because it supports a social order that I personally find hurtful and un-christlike a good portion of the time. I don’t think this is what our Heavenly Parents had in mind, but I’m not sure what can be done differently. They (you know “they”) often accuse feminists of wanting to have it all- to take over men’s jobs. For me, I don’t know what I want. I just want my Heavenly Parents to fix it. :)

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  19. Alice (alliegator) on February 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Tom (#9) I really like this:
    “I’d predict that if the Church Office Building fully followed each fold of the existing four-fold mission to such an extent that any random person in the world could conceivably rebuild that list of objectives when asked about the Church we’d see growth, we’d see excitement among the ranks about Church, we’d see more involvement in communities and less insular behavior, and we’d see non-believers like myself happy and proud to continue to participate because even from a non-believing perspective the Church is doing good in the world.”

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  20. kjd on February 22, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    “In fact the very universal gospel idea is resistant to change and evolution. If the principles of the gospel are eternal and unchanging then it would imply that its not possible to evolve or change. So to adapt and change is to suggest that the principles of the gospel are not as universal and unchanging, but far more relative and dynamic then we thought.”
    I disagree, but I think a lot of people think like that which leads them to either be very conservative and treat everything ever said by a GA as gospel or become disillusioned because things change all the time.
    The reason I disagree is that a view the fundamentals of the Gospel kind of like the laws of science. They are constant but how they are applied differs greatly according to the environment. A simple dumb example: If it is cold outside I put a coat on to keep warm. If it is hot I wear as little as possible. The laws of of biology and physics haven’t changed between these two situations, but how to apply them has. Likewise, I think that how things are done or taught in the church have and should change to adapt to the situation. With every way of teaching things there is some rhetorical baggage that comes along, what we need to do when studying past history is distinguish between what was just rhetorical baggage to get a point across or to help people live a principle and what are the true underlying unchanging principles.

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  21. Heber13 on February 22, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Something NoCoolName_Tom said struck me, and that is it needs to excite us. If the myth doesn’t resonate with us, or move us to action, it just becomes a story, but not a part of our vision that we live by.

    Many times, as a member, I feel I try to hold on to church beliefs because that is how I was raised. But attending on Sunday does not always enlighten me to why it still applies to my daily life. And the more I learn on the Internet, the less “special” the church teachings are from oth myths out there.

    The church may not need to change, but it must find ways to connect to the hearts, minds, and spirits of people to be relevant.

    I’m confident it can and will. It will not be burned down like the Sican’s myth.

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  22. aerin on February 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Two clear examples of changing and evolving are polygamy and the priesthood ban. An organization can embrace and implement change effectively. But the underlying doctrine was never really addressed. I’ve heard it will be addressed in “the fullness of times”, but that doesn’t really clarify who is married to whom in the celestial kingdom. There are ways to admit and clarify doctrine (and apologize if needed). The leadership does not clarify, perhaps for the reason in the prior comments, members are asked to try for a spiritual witness.

    In terms of the DAMU being upset about change, I can’t speak for anyone else. But there were things before budgets were sent back to Salt Lake that increased community. Girls camp (for my stake) changed from an ideal (more expensive) site to a cheaper location. I’ve heard it’s now fewer days. Road shows, dances, fundraisers are rare…most activities need a spiritual purpose.

    My point is that these parts of LDS church culture were fun for many. Janitorial work was a good occupation for members down on their luck. These types of decisions have impacted daily/weekly ward life for many, and make it less palatable to overlook things like polygamy and past racism. The things that I was hoping the church would clarify and address have not changed, the things that were a silver lining aren’t there.

    Maybe other DAMU members can explain what they are unhappy with that the church has changed.

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  23. Howard on February 22, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    If the principles of the gospel are eternal and unchanging then it would imply that its not possible to evolve or change. Yes it would, but they are not at least not very many of them and those that are may only be unchanging for a given level of enlightenment. In my view we are not knowledgeable enough to understand God’s own view of the gospel so in order to increase our understanding He gave us the OT followed by the NT followed by the BoM to be followed by the sealed portion. Thus in a series of metaphorical stair step paradigms He teaches us the gospel. They needn’t be added together to get there they can also be superseded.

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  24. george fisher on February 22, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Speaking about the need for evolution, I take this from Bill Moyers’ and Joe Campbell’s interviews in the book, “The Power of Myth.” Campbell came to Salt Lake, at least once, and observed: “If you go to Salt Lake City, you see the whole thing illustrated right in front of your face, (the evolution of spiritual principals that inform society), First the temple was built, right in the center of the city from which everything flows in all directions. Then the political building, the capitol, was built beside it, and it’s taller than the temple. And now the tallest thing is the office building that takes care of the affairs of both the temple and the political building. That’s the history of western civilization. From the Gothic though the princely periods of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to this economic world we’re in now.”

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  25. Glass Ceiling on February 22, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    The Church is going to have to make big changes to the way single people meet each other…both the YSA and older singles. If not, the concept of the eternal family will take more of a back seat in the Church. This problem is, IMHO, the biggest problem the Church faces today. And what’s really being done about it?

    Not much. Trust me. Oh, unless you consider millions of singles leaving the Church “doing something about it.”

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  26. Jake on February 22, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    The point is that the church runs the risk of boring people to death more then it is a failure of their myths to engage with them. The fact that most people see going to church as a chore and a duty rather then an enjoyment and something they look forward to attending is telling. I look at my siblings and they all hate going to church, for the simple fact its dull.

    If people enjoyed church then I think they would be more willing to overlook the problems in it. I think part of the reason its less fun, is everyone takes it all so seriously.

    I agree with glass ceiling that the singles are the greatest challenge the church has. I can see it first hand amongst my peers of singles becoming cynical, and leaving, the church becomes harder to be involved with and more irrelevant the longer someone is single. A lot of my friends lose faith after 5-10 years of doing everything the church tells them to do to get married as a YSA and they are still single and unhappy, and they just ask what’s the point in sticking with the church when I’m doing everything right and I am not happy or married.

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  27. alice on February 22, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    #6 Andrew brings up a very good point. What defines the Restored Gospel? What is authoritative and what is opinion or conjecture? Our church has no body of persons or no mechanism to actually answer these questions.

    And, alas!, we are specifically forbidden to write to The Brethren to ask for such clarifications.

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  28. sw on February 22, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    @Jake – some good points. Until the last 4-5 months, I was pretty bored as well (story for another day, haha). You’re right though, if something is a duty it’s generally not going to be enjoyable. It is a little amusing to me (perhaps it’s schadenfreude, in which case, I need to repent) when a more “orthodox” member can’t stand church and sees it as a chore, when I go for my own reasons and really enjoy it.

    “…and they are still single and unhappy, and they just ask what’s the point in sticking with the church when I’m doing everything right and I am not happy or married.”

    That’s part of the problem right there – they are expecting to feel good, to have all these “blessings” etc. Many of them are setting themselves up to be disappointed or disaffected. Then again, if there is no other purpose for the religion than to feel better and be rewarded, it seems inevitable.

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  29. Chino Blanco on February 22, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Love this post. And many of the comments. Almost as much as I love this comic:

    http://i.imgur.com/vcBZ8.jpg

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  30. Brian on February 22, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Never quit posting on the many places you do Chino Blanco.

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  31. Alice (alliegator) on February 22, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    MikeS- I missed your comment #16, and agree, that was what I was trying to say (maybe not as effectively in my comment #18).

    I don’t think that leaving is the answer to fix things. The way leadership in our church is set up makes it really hard to “air grievances”. Working within the system we have, I think the best way is to talk to people (ward members, bishops, RS presidents, stake presidents, sunday school classes) around you, in a kind and faithful way, and hope that there are enough other people out there doing the same thing that it’s getting noticed. Trying to make a change outside of the framework of the current system just makes people stop listening because they get to write you off as “apostate”. Even doing it the way I try to do it is dangerous in that way.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on February 22, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    Great post! I hope the first of many.

    Joseph Campbell would actually say Mormonism is in a slightly better position because of its newness than other faiths whose myths are all thousands of years old. But of course, we haven’t really escaped some of those outdated myths either, and technology changes life so quickly that constant change is required. I would add that Gen Conf is a place where our myths are updated with more current stories, but this works better for some types of myths than others (and to illustrate gospel principles).

    •The Metaphysical Function: Myth reconciles waking consciousness and the mystery of being. (This one can be updated pretty easily)
    •The Cosmological Function: Myth explains the shape of the universe. (This one isn’t getting updated generally)
    •The Sociological Function: Myth validates and supports the existing social order. (This one often falls flat on its face, because our social order is evolving faster than we can recreate our myths to match it).
    •The Psychological Function: Myth guides us through the stages of life (This one continues to be updated).

    The social order is the vulnerable area where our efforts to update myth feel like we are defending something that is changing faster than we can reinforce it. That’s why so many stories about social construct in Gen Conf feel like they are about 20-30 years out of date. They seem quaint and old-timey.

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  33. Alice (alliegator) on February 22, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    hawkgrrrl- with the cosmological function- it’s not getting updated- but are there problems from the lack of updates? I can’t think of any (but I may be tired and suffering from fried-brain tonight…).

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  34. Winterbuzz on February 22, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    Not much to add to the amazing comments but wanted to say this was a great post Allie! Wonderful job!

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  35. hawkgrrrl on February 22, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    Actually back to the Cosmological and it not getting updated, I think it’s only a problem insofar as it contradicts science; come to think of it, Mormonism updates Christianity pretty well on this front. Here are the myths that seem related to how the universe works (note that they are all from POGP and the temple):
    - Kolob and that God lives on another planet somewhere
    - that intelligences have existed forever
    - that matter is organized, not created
    - that worlds are populated in more or less the same manner over and over

    So maybe it has been updated, just not since JS’s day. Well, except maybe Adam-God theory and teaching men on the moon.

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  36. brjones on February 23, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    Great post. Thanks, Alice.

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  37. Alice (alliegator) on February 23, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    I agree Hawkgrrrl- The cosmological doesn’t seem to need to be updated as often. (Does the church still teach that God lives on a planet somewhere?)

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  38. FireTag on February 23, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Hawkgrrrl and Alice:

    You know I wasn’t going to miss pointing out that the cosmological myth does need updating; Book of Moses is parallel universes, not planets. God did tell Moses to focus on this earth — probably because He knew the cosmology was stranger than even a nineteenth century prophet could imagine. :D

    What I really want to comment about, however, is the evolve or burn topic itself. There is a NT metaphor of the Bride of Christ reappearing as a harlot, something that Christ could not accept as faithful to be the mother of the kingdom.

    The church DOES evolve. If you’ve been married to someone for thirty or more years and your spouse still looks and acts the same, beware, for you have married an android.

    The question, then, is not whether the church can evolve, but whether it is evolving into something that preserves and enhances (or, at least, maintains) the original covenant, or is becoming — to borrow a term Andrew S. has frequently used on other threads — a “deal-breaker”.

    Deal-breakers are very much in the eye of the beholder, because they are at heart a freely-chosen agreement between the church (claiming to represent Jesus/God through a myth-structure) and an individual who READS the myth through a language and world-view different from every other individual. Thus, there can be some myth-updates that may be very comfortable, but others that will require reconsideration and reaffirmation of the covenant, and still others that will be deal-breakers.

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