Mormon People Versus Mormon Church

By: Andrew S
April 18, 2012

Most of us have heard the expression, “The Church is perfect, but the people are not.” Or some variation thereof that dichotomizes “the church” or “the gospel” and “the people.”

But what if we flipped this arrangement around?

I’m not saying that we should consider people perfect. But to paraphrase (heavily) something John Larsen said in a Mormon Expression podcast episode, maybe we could say that the people are progressing, but the church isn’t.

Kevin Kloosterman

Kevin Kloosterman

A CNN Belief Blog post by Dan Merica, entitled “Gay rights activists see Mormons softening attitudes toward their community, inspired this post. The post goes over several events that stirred the Mormon internet community when they occurred. To summarize the article, here are some of the events discussed:

  1. Former Bishop Kevin Kloosterman’s apology to GLBT people at the Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference.
  2. The BYU “Understanding Same-Gender Attraction” Group’s “It Gets Better” video (which also was the topic of my last article at Wheat & Tares).
  3. Openly gay Mitch Mayne’s calling as executive secretary, which was at the time reported in such an ambiguous way that people wondered if he were instead called as Bishop.

One thing you might have noticed…and that I definitely noticed, when the article was recapping and when these various events happened…is that each of the parties involved is just an “average Joe” member of the church. Maybe I’m just not connected in the MoHosphere (actually, that is definitely the case), but it seemed to me that these people weren’t really all that well-known until their moments in the spot light.

But what this article does is privilege the actions and efforts of individual “average Joes” as being representative of Mormonism. In other words, Kevin Kloosterman can be put side by side with Church head of P.R. Michael Purdy when trying to tell a story about the church.

And speaking of Purdy, what is the official church’s response?

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

Purdy wrote, “If members are becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others then this can only be a positive development.”

I find this an intriguing response. The first part is quite expected…obviously, Purdy is not going to say that church members or the church is changing the stance toward gay and lesbian issues. And of course, Purdy has to make the statement that Mormons follow Jesus too, and as a result, Mormons show love and compassion (whatever that means) toward all of God’s children.

But it’s the second part that’s really interesting. If members are becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others then this can only be a positive development.

Stated like this, this appears to be a implied rehashing of that old line: the church is perfect, but the people are not. In the church, imperfect people strive to follow Jesus, but sometimes we mess up. But if members are finally becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others, then good for the members!

With a statement like this, Purdy could easily classify every “negative” action toward anyone (gays, feminists, whomever) as being the members’ failure to be loving and Christ-like. But every “positive” action can be classified as members getting with the program, so to speak.

But whatever the case is, I’d imagine that the church still probably takes a harder line position than many of these people. As the article continues:

But church officials pushed back against the perception that the Proposition 8 backlash has provoked a Mormon softening on gay and lesbian issues.

“Many positive relationships have come from the Church’s experience in supporting traditional marriage in California,” Purdy, the church spokesman, said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.

Purdy draws a distinction between being against same-sex marriage and against equality for gays and lesbians.

He reiterated that the church was “strongly on the record as supporting traditional marriage,” but he said its stance should never be used as justification for violence or unkindness.

“The Church’s doctrine has not changed but we certainly believe you can be Christ-like, loving and civil, while advocating a strongly held moral position such as supporting traditional marriage,” Purdy wrote in an e-mail message.

“We do not believe that strong support of traditional marriage is anti-gay,” he wrote. “We love and cherish our brothers and sisters who experience same gender attraction. They are children of God.”

If there’s one thing that many thoughtful, blogging liberal Mormons could agree upon that Purdy cannot, it would probably be that right or wrong, the church’s efforts in promoting Prop 8 were a PR nightmare. Or worse, as Mitch Mayne is quoted in the article:

Mayne said he believes the challenge is to convince church leaders that they don’t ever have to excommunicate gay members.

And he said the Proposition 8 campaign was the “least Christ-like thing we have ever done as a church.”

“Not only did we alienate gays and lesbians, but we alienated their parents, their friends, those who support them  the ripple effect went way beyond the gay community, and I don’t think we were prepared for such a negative fallout,” Mayne said. “I think the church deserved the black eye they received.”

Mitch Mayne

Mitch Mayne

Notice what Mayne does in his statements. Again, he sharply divides members from the Church. He is trying to convince church leaders that they don’t have to excommunicate gay members, and he talks about the harm that Prop 8 did to people (gays and lesbians, families, friends, etc.,)…but he separates this pain from the “black eye” that the church received (that he says it deserved.)

One thing that problematizes everything, though, is the fact that the members don’t move in lock step with one another. While we can point out members will progressive attitudes who are acting on those attitudes, we can also point to members who very much believe in the church’s current stance and who have far more traditional views. From last week’s discussion the It Gets Better video, Douglas made a comment in particular:

I am utterly revolted that the Church’s stance on homosexuality could be perceived as “evolving” towards acceptance as a legitimate alternative. Pernicious nonsense.
It’s one thing to be sensitive to the struggles that LGBT members go through in dealing with their sexual desires (re: “pre-versions” as the fictional Col. “Bat” Guano put it in “Dr. Strangelove”). I see no problem with differentiating between the inclination (which is a challenge, not a sin of itself) versus the (mis)behavior.
Methinks, though, at some point faithful members have to make a choice between being popular versus doing the right thing. Or as the hymn sez it, “Who is on the LORD’s side, WHO?”

The thing is, Douglas isn’t alone in thinking this. So as we move forward, we can’t neatly divide “the Church” from “the members,” because members themselves have different positions on these issues. So, keeping all of this in mind, here are the

Questions for Today

  1. What do you think of dichotomies like “the people” vs “the church” or “the gospel”? In what ways are those accurate ways of describing two different things?
  2. Should “ordinary” members be the primary representatives for the church when it comes to news articles?
  3. As a continuation of question 2, do you think it is problematic for the press to draw conclusions based on “exceptional” ordinary members? That is, those “average Joe” members who nevertheless are unorthodox in their approach or beliefs?

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41 Responses to Mormon People Versus Mormon Church

  1. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

    What do you think of dichotomies like “the people” vs “the church” [...] ? In what ways are those accurate ways of describing two different things?

    Most LDS speak about and relate to “the church” as this entity that exists outside of them or separate from their selves. But there is no such thing as a group without the context of the individual people.

    You cannot have a body without all the parts that make it up, all together. A group is the sum-total of the individual units that make up that group. The whole is the parts as they are arranged.

    Thus, each person is the church — so long as they remain in the church, their views are representative of what the church believes. Each person is Mormonism — as it is lived out or as it is taken literally by them.

    The only time that ceases to be true is when they cease to identify as a member of the church.

    That’s why I would never advocate someone leaving the church. The group is [hands-down] always better served if everyone who’s ever left over this-or-that doctrinal/history/etc. issue didn’t leave – but rather stayed and lived out their own story in the community.

    What do you think of dichotomies like [...] “the church” [vs] “the gospel”? In what ways are those accurate ways of describing two different things?

    Being of this-or-that religion, practicing this-or-that model of worship, conforming to this-or-that belief system ["the church"] – none of that gives any indication about whether a person has experienced Jesus or not ["the gospel"]. And therefore doesn’t matter.

    The only standard for determining that a person is a true believer in Christ is the presence of the miraculous works of the Father, or signs that follow them that believe [D&C 84:64-72], in their life. Anything else is not a righteous judgment [John 7:24] – but is a judgment based on the outward appearance or the works of men.

    Telling me you read the scriptures, participate in the rituals, are active in the church, etc. – tells me nothing about the experiences you’ve had with Jesus. Those things are just the retelling or reenactment of someone else’s story.

    It is all pointless and vain unless it is pursuant to you having the same experience — seeing eye-to-eye with the seers who have laid down those stories before you. Their stories will not save you. Reenacting events from their stories as a ritual will not generate Joy in you. Such things are meant to motivate you to get on the same pathway, to receive a similar connection with God, and to see eye-to-eye with them.

    I don’t want to hear anything about what system of stories a person believes in their brain to be “true”. Whether those stories “happened” or not is completely irrelevant to me – because what matters is what “happens”, right now – in you. I don’t care if a person believes in the stories about Adam or Abraham or Moses or Lehi or Joseph Smith having real experiences with the Father – I care if they’ve had them.

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  2. Steven on April 18, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    I like Justin’s response to Question 1. I think ordinary members are fine to interview, but they should disclaim that they do not in fact “represent” the church in any official capacity. Even the best of intentions and clear positions on doctrine can be lost between the interview and the editing table. The only problem I see with the press drawing conclusions is that it might perpetuate myths and misunderstandings. If anyone thinks the church is changing it’s basic feeling about homosexuality, they need to read Handbook 2 and the section on moral issues. I’ve never heard a church leader who hasn’t said “hate the sin love the sinner” and that has applied across the board, from those with SSA to adulterers and everyone in between. Members do think independently, but I wonder if we’re becoming like so many Catholics I taught while serving a mission in Italy. “The Pope speake for God as long as I agree with what he says!” Do we have 15 prophets, seers and revelators, or don’t we?

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  3. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    I think ordinary members are fine to interview, but they should disclaim that they do not in fact “represent” the church in any official capacity.

    I think this gets at the point that one would need to define who exactly the interviews are supposed to “represent”.

    If the interview’s goal is to get at how the men at Salt Lake interpret/teach things — then, in that case, it’s best to interview official representatives of their organization and refer to any material they have officially published [which can be searched out pretty easily at http://www.lds.org

    If the goal would be getting at our doctrine and what Mormons believe and how Mormons live out their doctrines -- then one should search through scriptures.lds.org [which contains our canon that all LDS have covenanted to obey] and interview members of the church.

    Also — I like this idea from the OP too:

    Most of us have heard the expression, “The Church is perfect, but the people are not.” Or some variation thereof that dichotomizes “the church” or “the gospel” and “the people.”

    But what if we flipped this arrangement around?

    Because in my experience that’s been the case. I’ve found that I generally like the people — but don’t much care the capital-C “Church” [as some papacy in Salt Lake].

    Non-members have expressed similar sentiment to me as well. They’ll say, “Well, I like this-or-that person who is Mormon, but I just don’t much care for Mormonism.”

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  4. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    #1:Justin,
    I believe you can have a Church/Mormonism without members in the same way we have an ancient Rome or an ancient Greece without people.
    It’s unclear to me how you think someone can have a relationship with Christ without having a knowledge base of Him (a religious doctrine or church background?

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  5. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Bob — are you suggested that there would have been an ancient Rome without ancient Romans?

    Or a Greece without Grecians?

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  6. hawkgrrrl on April 18, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Corporations are people, my friend. Personally, when it comes to the media, I think using a lay member to represent the church is the only way to accurately portray the diversity of the membership. We’re not the Borg, despite what some exMo sites may say. There’s a range of personality in the ranks of the members. Having said that, I like it when the person makes us look good (e.g. Mitch Mayne), not when they make us look bad (e.g. Prof Bott). That’s cuz it’s all about how it affects me.

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  7. NewlyHousewife on April 18, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    I think it was Hinkley who was trying to explain why we don’t have crosses in our temple said something along the lines of a cross doesn’t represent our faith, the people who practice it are.

    So yeah, don’t care for “church” vs “me” statements simply because whether you like it or not you’re not going to be separated until you’re excommunicated. Why else would we have bishop councils to go over members actions? People generally see “church” and “me” as one.

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  8. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    Corporations are people, my friend.

    Ahh — so I guess the issue of the corporation who runs the church versus the church as the sum-total of its constituent members [Mormon people versus Mormon church, to use the OP's language] — is the same debate seen in politics then…

    …like having conservative statists who can say that corporations are persons but then say that the corporate taxes are taxes on the business owners who run the corporation.

    I think we’d need to decide one way or the other — whether a corporation is either the sum of individuals or is [itself] an individual and thus distinct from the sums of individuals that comprise it.

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  9. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    #5:Justin,
    Yes_I believe you can write a play before you pick the actors.
    I believe there was Mormonism, a BoM, a JS before that were any Church members.
    I Believe Rome defined Romans, I don’t believe Romans defined Rome.

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  10. hawkgrrrl on April 18, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    Well, I was just trying to be funny, but I do think there’s a serious discussion to be had on that. As a person working for a large corporation, I took Romney’s remark to mean that corporations don’t exist without people and they employ people and the cultures in corporations are created by those people. When we war with corporations, we war with our own American working population. I think the left took it to mean that corporations have rights like people do in terms of taxation, etc, which seems like a non-starter to me.

    Corporations aren’t really people, but they are comprised of people and therefore can’t exist without them.

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  11. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    #10:Hawkgirrrl,
    “Corporations aren’t really people”. I believe they, by law, have the rights of a person.
    “…can’t exist without them (persons)”. You have me on this one__show me please.

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  12. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    hawkgrrrl

    Well, I was just trying to be funny

    Yes, I figured you were being tongue-in-cheek.

    Bob

    Yes_I believe you can write a play before you pick the actors.

    Yes, but now write me a play without actors.

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  13. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    #12:Justin,
    You can read all about them on Google__No actors.

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  14. lucy on April 18, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    God loves us enough to correct us. The invitation to repent and come unto Christ is an invitation of love.

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  15. Mike S on April 18, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    The difference between the Mormon “people” and the Mormon “church” largely comes about because of the strict hierarchy and the method of advancement in that hierarchy. To advance to a level where an individuals opinions reflect that of the “Church” takes decades. You have to progress through the ranks of bishop, stake president, mission president, seventy, apostle. It takes a long time, and there is a self-selecting process that chooses people who already agree with the people above them. This creates the dichotomy.

    The attitudes of the Mormon “people” are just that. There is a wide diversity of thoughts, geographically, politically, age-wise, etc. You can find people who believe just about anything who consider themselves “Mormon” and are fully engaged.

    The attitudes of the Mormon “Church”, on the other hand, are largely driven by the fact that top leadership who defines that are white, male, Western, and have an average age 1-2 generations above the average age of the Church.

    Change in the church as a body nearly always takes place in the members FIRST. Because they are of a different generation and culture, the leaders generally fight against these changes at first. Then, whether through a change in policy or through more formal revelation, the “Church” mirrors the people in it.

    This happens on many levels:

    - Polygamy was fought against by the society at large. This trickled in to the members. The leadership fought it at first, even teaching that monogamy was of the devil. But they changed.

    - Garments came to wrists and ankles. Prophets taught that this was the only approved way, and that members who were modifying them to accommodate the world’s fashion were in error. But they changed as the leadership moved on.

    - People’s attitudes toward blacks changed before the leadership. Members were censured for pressing for change. But, eventually, the church caught up with the society around it.

    - Women were not allowed to pray in sacrament meeting. Around the time of ERA, members questioned this. The leadership changed its policy.

    - And so on.

    It will be interesting to see how the “Church” changes to follow the ideas of it’s “members” with regards to gay marriage, etc. as time goes forward. If the past is any indicator of the future, it will change as society does. It always has.

    So, to the quip in the OP: the people are progressing, but the church isn’t, I would change it to “The People are progressing, and the Church will eventually get around to it.”

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  16. Rigel Hawthorne on April 18, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    I spent three years in an intensive medical training program and formed close friendships with the people that I worked with–we had our ups and our downs. One woman I was close to went through a bad breakup at the time and I invited her to a couple of YSA activities to keep her busy during the time. She wasn’t interested in the church, but enjoyed the experience and formed a favorable opinion about the people.

    She ended up practicing medicine in the Salt Lake area and, unfortunately, her opinions changed. ‘These people are nothing like you’, she said. She had bizarre experiences of members coming to see her for medical care to get a note for their bishop that they were too sick to go to church. After referring a woman to a domestic violence shelter, she got a call from a bishop threatening her not to interfere between the relationship between a husband and wife. Pretty soon she developed a wall of difference that people learn to put up. With this followed her opinion that the top leadership of the church must be self-serving, exclusionary, and greedy.

    “With a statement like this, Purdy could easily classify every “negative” action toward anyone (gays, feminists, whomever) as being the members’ failure to be loving and Christ-like. But every “positive” action can be classified as members getting with the program, so to speak.”

    She was a witness to two different experiences relating to members. Members can make a difference by being loving and Christ-like. Recent General Conference messages seem directed to encourage members to do so.

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  17. Will on April 18, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    You have the liberal faction of the church that will never be satisfied and will continue to push for their definition of social justice, when the world around them is collapsing. The case and point is the Federal Government. We are crumbling within due to the mental disease know as liberalism. Keep spending even though we are trillions in debt is pure insanity. Like the Jews with Christ, they look beyond the mark.

    I think the liberal arm of the church has done a good job defining a clear problem with the attitude towards those struggling with same gender attraction, but they are wrong it trying to have it accepted as acceptable lifestyle. As I mentioned in the post a week ago, I can’t image a more challenging or difficult conflict than to be a member of the LDS faith and struggle with same gender attraction. However, to me, it is no different than the issue of pornography or any other lustful or addictive desire. There are a lot of young men (and men) in the church that struggle with the desire to look at other (aside from thier wife) women nude, but that doesn’t mean they should act on that desire. Likewise, there are members that struggle and are born with the tendency towards chemical dependency, or a whole host of desires inherent in the natural man. The objective is to overcome the natural man; not for the natural man to overcome you. The objective of those with same gender attraction, like all of us, is to overcome the natural man.

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  18. Mike S on April 18, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    #17 Will: You have the liberal faction of the church that will never be satisfied and will continue to push for …

    …women having the right to pray in sacrament meeting
    …blacks getting the priesthood
    …shortening garments from ankles and wrists
    …expressing discomfort with polygamy
    …etc

    Yep – members push for change as society changes. These are all things pushed for by the “liberal faction of the church”. And guess what, they changed.

    We have a good proxy for what we would be like if the “liberal faction of the church” DIDN’T push for these changes – the fundamentalist LDS congregations. They still practice polygamy, they still don’t let women or blacks participate to the extent we do, they still wear wrist and ankle length clothing, etc. To be honest, I’m actually thankful for the “liberal faction of the church”, because I have no interest in living in a fundamentalist community.

    But they would look at you and me as seriously misguided – perhaps even as misguided as you look at the “liberal faction”.

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  19. Bryce on April 18, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    Will – your logic only works if you presuppose that a same-sex loving, romantic relationship and marriage are inherently evil and sinful, comparable to doing porn, alcohol, drugs, etc. However, there is no doctrine, revelation or scripture that says this. It is only church policy that places a ban on same-sex relationships, which people like you then equate with porn, drugs and other sins.

    I guess this is similar to how members tried to come up with doctrines and explanations for the ban on blacks holding the priesthood. When there is no rational explanation for something like that, people have to make up doctrines to resolve the cognitive dissonance.

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  20. Andrew S on April 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    IS WILL AN ORTHODOX ENOUGH MORMON TO PRACTICE POLYGAMY AND SUPPORT A PRIESTHOOD BAN FOR BLACK FOLKS

    more at 11.

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  21. Mike S on April 18, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    #20 Andrew S:

    While I obviously disagree with Will on various things, I try to never attack someone personally. I might disagree with their ideas, or point out the fallacy of their argument, or whatever, but not the person.

    I know you feel the same way, but I think comment #20 might be interpreted the wrong way… I certainly welcome ideas from people along the whole “Mormon spectrum” and wouldn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, whether they are very conservative or very liberal, or even not even technically members anymore.

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  22. Andrew S on April 18, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    I certainly welcome orthodox, polygamist Mormons, Mike.

    …But you’re right, the snarkasm is unbecoming of me.

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  23. @UtMormonDemoGuy on April 18, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    There seems to be a lot of tension in Mormon internet culture (and perhaps beyond) about “regular” members of the Church “speaking for” or “representing” the LDS Church. But, isn’t it pretty clear that if some is doing a story on what Joe (or Jane) Average Mormon thinks or feels, that the Joe or Jane interviewed is NOT an official spokesperson of the Church, but just a regular person living their life as a Mormon? Trust me, I have NEVER considered Glenn Beck to be “speaking for” or “representing” the Church. But unless someone actually states that they are speaking on behalf of the Church, or is identified as an official spokesperson of the Church, I think few viewers/readers will think that Joe or Jane Average Mormon is speaking in that capacity. Am I wrong?

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  24. @UtMormonDemoGuy on April 18, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    On a separate note, has anyone heard about some Stake President in North Carolina sending out a letter regarding a proposed consitutional amendment on same-sex marriage there in which he recently allegedly told his stake to pray about the matter and vote their conscience? That guy is my hero. I hope he exists.

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  25. Andrew S on April 18, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Responding to some comments:

    re 1:

    Justin,

    Most LDS speak about and relate to “the church” as this entity that exists outside of them or separate from their selves. But there is no such thing as a group without the context of the individual people.

    You cannot have a body without all the parts that make it up, all together. A group is the sum-total of the individual units that make up that group. The whole is the parts as they are arranged.

    I’m interested in what you think about what Mike S wrote in comment 15:

    The difference between the Mormon “people” and the Mormon “church” largely comes about because of the strict hierarchy and the method of advancement in that hierarchy. To advance to a level where an individuals opinions reflect that of the “Church” takes decades. You have to progress through the ranks of bishop, stake president, mission president, seventy, apostle. It takes a long time, and there is a self-selecting process that chooses people who already agree with the people above them. This creates the dichotomy.

    Specifically, is it a problem that there can be a difference between what you describe in comment 3 as being “what the men in Salt Lake interpret/teach” and “what Mormons believe”?

    re 2

    Steven,

    Members do think independently, but I wonder if we’re becoming like so many Catholics I taught while serving a mission in Italy. “The Pope speake for God as long as I agree with what he says!” Do we have 15 prophets, seers and revelators, or don’t we?

    “Becoming like?” Aren’t we already at that point? Especially since we don’t really have clear guidance for when the prophet speaks as a prophet, when GAs speak authoritatively, etc.,

    re 6

    hawkgrrrl,

    In your comment, you had two ideas that could be in conflict. One is highlighting diversity…but the other is showcasing things that make the Mormons look good.

    Do you think it is a problem if the media consistently interviews one side of the spectrum (e.g., only liberal/progressive members OR only conservative/traditional members) because of some ulterior motive that they have (either emphasizing the progressiveness of the church or trying to highlight “weirdness”? Or whatever may be the case.)

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  26. Andrew S on April 18, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    re 14,

    lucy,

    Sorry, can you spell out the connection of what you wrote in your comment to the topic of the post for me?

    re 23,

    UtMormonDemoGuy,

    I guess what I’m trying to get at is that even if none of the people quoted consider themselves to be official spokepeople of the church, the various media articles that quote them elevate their opinions pretty highly. For example, the CNN Religion blog post article is titled, Gay rights activists see Mormons softening attitudes toward their community.

    I don’t think that it would be unreasonable to believe that a non-negligible group of people who read this article are going to read “Mormons” as being a reference to something more official. So they are going to think that Mormons (e.g., the Mormon church) is softening attitudes toward gay folks.

    But really, it’s just some individuals.

    re 24,

    Haven’t heard of that North Carolina stake president.

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  27. Justin on April 18, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Specifically, is it a problem that there can be a difference between what you describe in comment 3 as being “what the men in Salt Lake interpret/teach” and “what Mormons believe”?

    Short Answer: No.

    Long Answer: This culture of being “A Mormon” — like it’s a brand-name or a product — is sending too many good people running for the hills. We say things like “The Church is the same everywhere you go” — like it would even be a good thing if it were.

    Talking with others online — I’ve learned that it’s really not anyway. We might participate in role-played discussions with pre-perscribed responses, but the impression of uniformity among Mormons is just a facade of being built on a solid foundation of uniformity.

    But the diversity is there among Mormons already — it’s just everyone knows what to do/say to keep up the appearance of uniformity, so that it doesn’t really ever manifest outwardly.

    Any time we’ve gotten closer with other members and talked openly about the church with them — we’ve always been surprised at how similar our views actually are with them — once we’ve gotten to know each other.

    Within Mormonism, there is a wide-range of possibility for diversity in belief and practice. We should not be ashamed to display a bit of a bell-curve variability with respect to what a Mormon looks like or “ought to be”.

    But institutions patterned after the doctrines and commandments of men [such as corporations] generally dislike such variation — seeking instead to streamline and control what should be naturally variable situations. So, in Mormonism we see things like correlation, the CHI, etc.

    But just because an LDS apostle reviews and approves the material published by the LDS Church [given that's actually what happens] — without that material being canonnized by the common consent of the church, it isn’t any more “official”, “true”, or “binding” than if any other LDS who is not an ordained apostle had approved and published it.

    The title “apostle” can carry no more weight or authority in giving a correct interpretation of doctrine, than does the title of “deacon” or “member”:

    no power
    or influence
    can
    or ought
    to be maintained
    by virtue of the priesthood

    No LDS will be judged by how closely they followed the words of men with impressive titles written in manuals and magazines. All will be judged solely according to the word of God, which is found in our canon.

    The Lord doesn’t care about how closely we follow an interpretation of His word — but how closely we conform our life to the word itself.

    Which means the 1st Pres. [with or without the Quorum of the 12] can publish a letter with an interpretation of doctrine or an expostion on appropriate practice — but this is their interpretation and is not binding [unless, of course, it is canonized, then that would change the situation].

    What church leaders sign their names to is only representative of themselves and the corporate LDS Church.

    Before baptism, no one is presented with all the First Presidency letters ever written and all the Ensigns and General Conference addresses ever published — we present them with the standard works. This is because only the standard works are binding upon members [that's what standard means].

    All things must be done by common consent in the church — and official publications are not voted on by the church. They are just written by a man or groups of men and sent out.

    So, if people wish to follow that counsel and interpretation, then that is their privilege. If they wish to canonize it, then the church is free to do that too. That is what canonization is for — the binding of the saints down to a written word that they have covenanted to obey.

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  28. Geoff-A on April 18, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    There are some interesting points here. A talk on Sat AM of conference explained a difference between the church and the Gospel.

    Many conservative memebers believe that everything they believe is the Gospel whether it is Culture, church or Gospel. For example I believe polygamy, banning anyone who is a worthy member from the P’Hood, discriminating against anyone on grounds of sexual orientation, gender, or race, is either culture or Church but not Gospel.

    My Bishop does not accept that there is a difference. Anything he believes is the Gospel, Hence my difficulty getting a TR (got it now) when I questioned some of the assertions being made about views opposing gay marriage.(which to my bishop are eternal truths and consequently gospel).

    I agree with Mike S sumary of why leadership is so conservative. I think this is even more of a problem in far away areas. All we see of the church comes through our local leaders. We don’t even seem to get GAs to conference any more.

    I would add that the selection process for for Prophet and the fact that Apostles are called for life are also contributors.

    How would you start a campaigm of “Uchtdorf for President”?

    I believe that Blogs like this are a help for people who feel alianated by the church at times, but believe in the Gospel.

    There is something interesting happening at LDS Newsroom too. Things that I think all members believe like “As man is God once was, as God is man amy become”, are being watered down. I don’t think this is a change in church policy or belief, but perhaps lying for God to make us or Mitt seem more normal.

    So if a lay member is asked what do we believe about our eternal potential?

    Could lots of talk on blogs, or emails to ?about “Uchtdorf for president” have any effect?

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  29. hawkgrrrl on April 19, 2012 at 5:20 AM

    Andrew S – Wait . . . the media is biased?? That’s one reason I think diversity is important – representing minority viewpoints helps counter prevailing stereotypes. The stereotypes (that we are Ned Flandersesque John Birch society card-carrying gullible homophobes) seem to have a life of their own.

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  30. ji on April 19, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Geoff-A (no. 28) — You might add “As man is God once was, as God is man amy become” to your listing of things that are “either culture or Church but not Gospel.”

    You see, you believe it; therefore, in your mind all other Mormons should also believe it. But the things you don’t believe, you call culture.

    This is the same thing your bishop does. We all do this to some degree, I suppose. The more I think about it, the more I like Paul’s answer in Romans ch. 14 — Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and let no man put a stumblingblock in front of his brother. Let’s not argue about tenets, but let’s build faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Justin (no. 27) — I appreciate your statement, “Within Mormonism, there is a wide-range of possibility for diversity in belief and practice. We should not be ashamed to display a bit of a bell-curve variability with respect to what a Mormon looks like or “ought to be.”

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  31. ji on April 19, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Justin (no. 27) — I also appreciate your thoughts about doctrine. I much appreciated hearing President Packer stress the teaching from D&C 1 that every man can speak in the name of the Lord and how we don’t have pastors or prelates (or presidents) who do our thinking for us. I was somewhat troubled by an apostle’s talk in the last General Conference saying that only apostles can teach doctrine and that such is their responsibility — but in my mind, an apostle’s duty is to testify of Christ to all the world. I’m trying to better understand what he was trying to teach.

    The Holy Spirit teaches all of us, at different speeds and from different perspectives based on our own situations and circumstances and readiness and also the Lord’s own will. We learn different things at different times. Anything one learns from the Holy Spirit is true, even if that teaching is subject to change or further enlightenment further down the road. There is false doctrine, to be sure, and we need to caution and even preach against it, but there is still tremendous room for differing notions of truth within our community of faith.

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  32. lucy on April 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    re #26 no. It looks like at least 5 people understood. 2 came out in favor of the doctrine of repentance, and 3 were opposed.

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  33. Justin on April 19, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    lucy,

    Better make that “4 people understood” — because I was one of those five, and I down-voted it not because I’m opposed to the doctrine of repentance — but opposed to the general non-understandable-ness of your comment’s nature or what you were trying to say about the post.

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  34. Andrew S on April 19, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    re 29,

    Hawkgrrrl,

    But what I was getting at is that the media can always decide how to portray things and who to portray…so in the article I’m discussing, it’s not that they are showing the diversity of Mormon beliefs. Rather, the implication is that Mormons *in general* are softening on these issues.

    So, I think people are going to get conflicting views about Mormons from the news…but they probably aren’t going to synthesize it and conclude, “Oh, Mormons are diverse.” Rather, it’ll probably be more like, “So who’s telling the truth?”

    re 32.

    lucy,

    It doesn’t seem to me that votes on comments don’t really have much to do with whether the comment is on topic or not. I’m sorry to hear that you cannot explain how your comment relates to the topic.

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  35. Douglas on April 20, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    Thanks, Andrew S, for getting me on the OP! In all my participation on W&T, haven’t known how or been invited to do it for myself, but being quoted will suffice!
    The “reason” that you likely quoted me interests me greatly. As long as “members” have THAT attitude? As in who are you to presume to judge someone’s “attitudes” on various subjects, specifically the acceptance by LDS members and/or the Church hierarchy of homosexuality? “Evolving”? I would disagree, and as another fave fictional character of mine, one Jules Winnfield might put it, allow me to retort…
    The only possible way I see ‘attitudes’ evolving is a great sensitivity expressed by LDS members over the past 33 years that I’ve belonged to the Church, and a lesser tendency to stridently judge or persecute. I recall a mission comp, ca. 1981, when asked about the Church’s view on gays, proclaiming that he liked to beat the hell out of them. Something that then I would have chortled over but today consider to be entirely inappropriate and definitely not funny (not just because I know LGBT people, I eschew violence period as a means to solve problems). Not that I was intimately familiar with how someone having a same-sex attraction “issue” would have been treated 30 years ago, but it’s probably fair to say that then if when interviewing for a TR, I admitted to having homosexual tendencies though never acting on them, that would have been an immediate show-stopper! Whereas folks like Mitch Mayne, as long as they keep the Law of Chastity, can “feel” whatever they darned well please. The emPHAsis (not on the wrong SYLlable) is on actual behavior and not necessarily inclinations. But not every PH leader got that memo (they were too busy filling out TPS reports). A good lady friend who has “struggled” with bisexuality went back and forth with her SP over getting her TR for a year, even though her bishop supported her efforts. I’m assuming that this woman had actually remained morally clean, but supposedly the issue was over her continued friendship with her former “partner” (who herself is also LDS, ironically, and was a major influence in gaining a testimony, can you believe that…). Was the SP “inspired” (he would say so), or did he simply have the willies about allowing a woman into the temple who admitted that she’d always have this inclination? It’s not necessarily my place to substitute my judgement for the man that has to fill that role in Zion, but cripes, if the member is refraining from conduct, that should alone suffice. After all, though mine own inclinations are decidedly heterosexual, I do have things that “tempt” or “beckon”. Should I therefore be excluded from the temple on the basis of what is a potential stumbling block, or am I ok as long as I don’t give in?

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  36. Andrew S on April 20, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    re 35,

    Douglas,

    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying in your comment, but I’ll give it a guess.

    s in who are you to presume to judge someone’s “attitudes” on various subjects, specifically the acceptance by LDS members and/or the Church hierarchy of homosexuality?

    This post is about an article that looks into a few anecdotes and then makes the conclusion that Mormon attitudes are softening. We can contrast these anecdotal positions taken with positions that other people take to get a picture that there is difference of opinion on the subjects in question.

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  37. Douglas on April 20, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    #36 – if you mean that we don’t respond to those that “struggle” with homosexuality but nevertheless have a desire and make a sincere effort to live the Gospel with persecution and derision so much anymore, you may be right. I’ve seen this in myself over the years (see previous post), but some of that may be due to getting older and have more of a “live and let live” attitude, and not giving a damn anymore what others think.
    However, if you think that this “softening” of attitudes of the LDS folk, especially the younger generation, will have any effect on the Church’s teaching about PRACTISING homosexuality, like any other violation of the law of Chastity, then you’re deluded.

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  38. Bob on April 20, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    #36:Douglas,
    I can remember when Gays holding hands was considered breaking the Law of Chastity. That has softened over the years.

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  39. Andrew S. on April 20, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    re 37,

    Douglas,

    What do you think my post was about?

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  40. [...] In addition to the fMh group, I know of a Facebook group for “Bloggernacle Friends,” and then Facebook groups for Mormon Stories (both a general group AND different groups for the various local communities of support) and Mormon Expression as well. I know there must doubtlessly be others, but as I said, I haven’t been paying too much attention to the Mormon Facebook communities. UPDATE: I missed a recent Zelophehad’s Daughters discussing Facebook vs. blogs. [...]

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  41. [...] After that post, which was really well-received, and was shared and re-shared, linked and re-linked across several sources, I actually felt like everything was over. That there didn’t need to be anything else said. That post seemed (and still seems) like the magnum opus of what could be said on the issue of Mormonism and homosexuality. Like, where do you go from there? But it’s not my move anymore. It’s not members’ moves anymore (even though members certainly continue to move. And because the media either chooses not to or is unable to recognize the distinction between members and institution, people on both sides of the belief aisle are confused about what these members’ actions says about the church’s position. As I predicted). [...]

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