Liberal and Literal Mormons

Apparently there are two types of us Mormons -- literal and liberal.  Who knew?  Well, actually I have for quite a while now -- at least since I've been hanging out on the Internet over these past few years.   I mean, I'm very familiar with the acronym TBM (true blue Mormon or true believing Mormon) referring to what the liberal Mormons consider the either apathetic, unknowing, naive, and/or less intellectual members of the LDS Church, a.k.a. literal Mormons.  I say "us" because I have it on pretty good authority that I am categorized as a TBM.  And I imagine most of the readers of this blog are, too.  After all, I am a strong advocate for traditional marriage, as are the majority of you.

You see, the legalization of gay marriage seems to be one of the divisive issues upon which you can differentiate between a liberal and literal Mormon. And yes, I'm very serious.

There are many other terms to distinguish between these so-called liberal and literal Mormons, such as "Chapel Mormons" and "Internet Mormons".  Internet Mormons tending to be more educated, prideful, rebellious, knowledgeable, oppositional to many Church policies and leaders, etc...   Then we have your generic Chapel Mormons, who sit in Church on Sundays with the "all is well in Zion" approach to their membership, who know the Church is true, confident in their Exaltation -- also known as "clueless" to the Internet/liberal Mormon who knows the "real truth".  Ugh.

I know I'm coming across a bit cynical right now, and I kind of mean to, but not really.  What I mean, is that I'm genuinely saddened to know that there are active LDS members among us who truly feel that because of differences in thought about various doctrines, teachings, church history, etc... of Mormonism, that they must categorize themselves as different from the main fold -- and then turn around and categorize those whom they determine to be the main fold.

I am going to let you in on a little secret...  There was a time when I, too, felt that I didn't fit in with the main flock.  I've moved beyond that trial of my faith, which I will confess was very painful.  My testimony of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the gospel have always been unwavering.  Where I got thrown off guard was in the imperfections of "men".   But that's another blog post for another time.  I am grateful now for my new perspective and the compassion that I feel for others who may feel like misfits -- for one reason or another.

But lets get past the name calling, shall we?  I only bring up my own experience of having felt on the outside, because I kind of know what it feels like -- and let me just say, it's not good.  And because I know how lonely it can be to feel like a misfit amongst people who often describe their relationship with each other as "family", well...  this whole division of what kind of Mormon a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, is pretty disturbing.  I just don't believe that this is what Jesus Christ had in mind for the members of His Church.

Here's the deal...  we ARE all different.   Even though there are many things about our membership in the LDS Church that unify us, and rightfully so, there are going to be things about each one of us that are different from YOU!  Generally, we choose our friends and those we associate with by our commonalities.  It works, and it makes us all very comfortable to be with like-minded individuals.   But even within the Church we should not be surprised to find those that don't quite see or do everything the way that we do.  We should expect this, and even welcome it -- and certainly not be threatened by it.

I found peace when I finally came to the conclusion that a ward, or our church congregation, is pretty much like our individual families.  In the LDS Church, we don't get to pick which ward we will attend, or who the Bishop is, etc...  We have to learn to love everyone regardless of quirks, differences, weaknesses, challenges and so on.  I don't know about your own family, but mine is whack!  Nonetheless, they are mine!

I can honestly say, that through all of the challenges of being married for almost 34 years, having raised my five children and having gone through drama upon drama in doing all of these things -- that I wouldn't trade one of them for anything!  In fact, I couldn't even begin to share with you my love for each and everyone of them -- which has come through learning how to love each one individually and most importantly, unconditionally!  Being a part of a family is the greatest blessing we are given here in this life -- with hopes of a continuation.  Families of all kinds are intended to stretch our capacity to love. That is the great test that each one of us has on this earth -- to ultimately learn to love as He loves us.

Can you think of a better way for us to extend our opportunity to learn how to love as He loves, than through the many differences in people that we find among the body of the saints?  I sure can't!  So lets all try to get along and love a little bit better.  And for heaven's sake -- "literally", can we just lose the labels!

Consider the words of Abraham Lincoln when he said, "that a house divided against itself cannot stand".  LDS members who find themselves either feeling on the outside or thinking that another member is on the outside, cannot seriously believe that they could possibly be considered ONE.

And it was Jesus Christ, Himself, that said --  "if ye are not one, ye are not mine".



  1. I don't think there's anything wrong with using a label to identify for yourself what another person is like. It depends on whether or not you mean those labels negatively. I don't see why pointing out that there are different schools of thought within the LDS church and giving them labels is a bad thing. It is simply identifying the reality of diversity, in language.

  2. As someone who did not grow up in the Church, I cannot agree more with this!
    The missionaries would always say "the church is true, people aren't".
    I really do have a hard time remember this. Some things are perfectly clear to me and some are completely hazy. I tend to get frustrated when something that is clear to me is hazy to another... clearly a flaw of ME and not them!

    Thank you for your great blog and thought provoking cynicism. :)

  3. "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out." Rodney King

  4. "Like." I've also noticed just recently "Mormon" as describing liberal, and "LDS" as describing the "more faithful." I think the divide is rather interesting, and like you say, we should get over it and work with the differences.

  5. @Macha -

    I think I understand what you are saying, but in this case, the "labels" I mention here are meant negatively -- and unfortunately create the kind of divisions that make it difficult for many to feel a part of the whole.

    In my opinion, within the Church, it is better to not label other members IF the intention is to judge them as different from ourselves or even more detrimental, different from "most".

  6. @Jen S.

    Perhaps that is why I, too, am a bit more sensitive than some to this problem. I did not grow up in the Church, either.

    You and I sound a lot alike! What your missionaries taught you, took me 30 years to learn -- through my own experiences;)

  7. @Doghouse -

    I actually thought about that exact phrase and person when I was writing that very sentence. It's a hard one to shake for sure.

  8. @Emily -

    And that's really the problem, isn't it? All members, regardless of our differences, should want to be working toward being unified. That is the purpose of the gospel. Our divisions expose our lack as an entire body.

    I guess recognition in general is the beginning of all change. We can only hope that by our realizing what is happening right now, it will cause us all to take note.

    In some ways, I feel like we are being somewhat manipulated by outside sources to confront this inside division. But it will require all members to pull together to insist on being "one".

  9. Hi Kathryn,

    Very interesting article! I never think in terms of members and labels, but I do know that I tend to be more liberal than the average LDS member. I'm not for gay rights, I'm not for abortion, I'm not for a lot of the common liberal tendency movements. I am however, liberal when it comes to many of the social things we face as people that are often overlooked.

    I'm also conservative in many ways, fiscally speaking especially. I often feel as if as a "tweener" I'm in no man's land among members of the "liberal" or "literal" segment. But honestly, I don't mind at all.

    As @Macha said, I don't see anything wrong with positively labeling someone if it helps paint a picture of understanding. The trouble is all I need to do around most member is used the word liberal and it's like they're ready to start an argument.

    Labels tend to group us and as members we can't afford that. It's not the labels fault, it's ours. Personally, I love hearing people with different opinions and if they present thoughts in the proper spirit we can all learn from each other.

    What I find really interesting is the members, like yourself, whom I've only met online. You can see differences, but feel the common bond of sincerity.

    Keep up the fabulous blogging!


  10. Brilliant post and so right on.

    It really saddens me, as I've become more familiar with the ins and outs of the bloggernacle to see so many people who are in open rebellion to the Church, the leadership, teachings, doctrines etc. I've had several friends literally "think" themselves out of the church. I also have two brothers in law who have left and/or classify themselves as NOMs. If we just do what the LIVING and current prophet has said we will be fine.

    For years I've struggled with where I fit in, in my ward. I still don't really know if there is a "place" for me, but I've made my peace with the things that bother me and I've just tried to make my own way and have tried to include others to be with me, others who might not "fit in". Church is what you make it.

    As for me, I'm true, blue, dyed in the wool, till the day I die.

  11. @Tab -

    Thanks! I didn't either, until I became aware of how many there are, that do! I guess that's why I finally decided to blog about it. I'm thinking that most members if they did get to label themselves, would also use "tweener"? Few of us fit the stereotypical mold -- whatever that is? I hear where you're coming from.

    I don't have a problem with labels in society, in general. I get it, they do have their importance. I mean, I have "conservative" posted for my political beliefs on my Facebook info page. I have my religion posted as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", etc…. You get the point.

    I believe that those who claim to be disciples of Christ have a different standard than society. If within the Church our intent to apply labels such as "literal" or "liberal", etc… are to "paint a picture of understanding" which then declares judgment upon another member, which we believe to be negative -- I don't see anything good coming from it. It simply causes us to focus on our differences, rather than focusing on becoming, individually, like the Savior.

    Just think if He became our focus. If every member just considered how they could be more like Him and treated each other accordingly?

    I also really appreciate hearing the thoughts and opinions of other members who think differently than I do. It broadens my understanding of things and I've often changed my perspective. We need more of this type of exchange in the Church.

    I like your final comment, about members we meet online…. We really do have to "feel" each other to know each other. We also watch each other with what we do online. Again, we come to know each other by our fruits!

    I like that! Thanks. Great comment:)

  12. Kathryn -- I'm in kinda two places with the labeling issue. I don't have a problem with the labels themselves, and find them useful at times, but I don't see the divisions they imply as separating me from other people -- I don't get tribal about them.

    In terms of my belief and practices, I'm in the neighborhood of a slightly-badly-behaved TBM. But I am also Sunstone-friendly and Dialog-friendly, and very sympathetic to people in the Church who are not living the Standard Mormon Life. I like my Mormon History to be historical, not prepackaged to spare my oh-so-tender sensibilities. And I seek out the company of people I disagree with on almost everything so I can benefit from their perspectives which differ from my own.

    Stop laughing, Jen. I see you there.

    In practice, now that I think about them, I don't really use those labels very much, if ever. I have referred to myself as a bit more Eugene England, as contrasted with someone else who's a little more McConkie/Packer, but I don't see that contrast to be important -- just important to understand that it's there.

    Not a few uncorrelated Mormons (another label that's floating around lately) are carrying around some major resentment regarding how they've been treated by more correlated Mormons (which I believe I'm coining right here as a usage), or things they've seen them do or say. And not a few more correlated Mormons feel very threatened by the less correlated Mormons as being potentially apostate, or even actively anti-Mormon. That divide is something I am deeply concerned about, and have been trying to address, but it's so hard to get people to hear what I'm saying when I try. As an example:

    I listen to both the Cricket and Seagull Fireside Chat podcast and the Mormon Stories podcast. Both hosts have said "If you have any suggestions for guests for this show, contact me," so I did. I contacted John Dehlin and suggested that he and Steve Kapp Perry interview each other for their different audiences, as a way of bridging the gap between those audiences, and softening the distrust that goes both ways across that gap. And John did contact Steve about that -- cc'ed me into the email -- and Steve never responded, and so the idea fell flat.

    Word is that there is a huge dust-up coming in a couple north-central Utah counties regarding another label: "Middle Way/Path" Mormons. Some uncorrelated Mormons have referred to trying to find a middle way between a more standard approach and rejecting the Church entirely, which may be where this movement got started, and the more reactionary part of the response to it is "If you can't accept the Church and all its truth claims entirely literally, it would be better for you to lose/give up your membership until you can." Thus far it has led to the release of a EQP, from what I've heard, along with some serious splits between that EQP and the family members who raised the issue with his local leaders.

    This is a rather huge issue, and I don't believe the labels are the problem -- the tribalism underlying them is. Tribalism in this case referring to the sub-tribes of the Greater Mormon Tribe, and the distrust and anger some feel for members of other sub-tribes (you can tell when you've crossed a tribal line when it starts being "us" v "them"). And the problem with that is that it violates three of the four great commandments Jesus gave: Love your neighbor as yourself, Love one another, and Love your enemies. I think anyone considering themselves a disciple of Jesus needs to be working on those commandments at least as much as they work on lesser commandments, like the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom.

    Betcha I overdid the message buffer and have to split this into two or more.

  13. Amen! I loved this post.
    @Emily - I've never heard that before! I grew in in LA and only heard "Mormon" used. When I went to Ricks, everyone used LDS and it was funny at first. But in all that - it all meant we were all on the same team, at least - they weren't doing it to designate more or less faithful members. That's just sad.

  14. So I feel like this is two blog entries. One that addresses the disparity between "Liberal Mormons" and "Literal Mormons" and one that tries to show that we're all different and that we can embrace our faith in ways that are individual. You start out by positing a legitimate division in our faith and then it seems to switch tone and focus to embracing the individual differences rather than really addressing the issue of Liberal vs. Literal. I feel like you could have drawn some sort of conclusion specifically about the two different view points and ended that post and then wrote a post about how even in our differences we can see eye-to-eye. This just doesn't segue smoothly from one subject to the next. The topic is catchy and gets attention but in the end I felt like you didn't fully address the topic implied in the title. At the paragraph starting "But lets get past the name calling, shall we?" I felt like you abruptly switched topics from the differences between Liberal and Literal and moved into a new topic. I know it's being nit-picky and very "English Professor-ish" but it just felt disjointed. I fully support your assertion on both subjects I just with it was more complete on both subjects.
    And because I've already belabored the would have been nice to understand that the differences you were talking about were the differences between Liberal and Literal rather than simply differences. Show me how a Liberal and Literal Mormon can come together in united purpose/faith while still interpreting things so dramatically different. That's what I was expecting.

  15. @Blain -

    Interesting comments. You always make me think! LOL

    I think I understand what you are saying. I could care less if someone labels me as TBM or whatever? I'm totally comfortable with who I am and what I think and believe -- particularly within the realm of LDS thought. So are you. I'm not OK if they are using these labels to identify division that they believe exists -- but mostly they are, I believe.

    I think the problem has to do with those doing the actual labeling, and doing it to point out flaws (they believe) within the Church, that are affecting how they feel they fit in. There seems to be a movement coming from this perspective, to normalize two different kinds of Mormons. We are seeing this with Romney and Huntsman and how the media is contrasting how they are both Mormon, and yet different kinds of Mormons. This is supposed to make everything okay. And as you eluded to a movement as well -- I believe they are currently using this platform to promote their agenda.

    Good luck with bringing John and Steve to the same table. Let me know if you are successful.

    I don't know too much about "tribalism" but apparently this post has entered its realm. I'm very familiar with your description. But I do see this issue as important as the Church moves forward. It can't be good.

    Like you, I believe the answer is to look inward first, to ascertain our discipleship.

  16. @Atomic Mom -

    Thanks! The Internet is brimming with those of which you have described. It is very sad, indeed. I'm sorry to hear about your two brother-in-laws.

    Let me just say, that in my opinion, your testimony and activity in the Church put you exactly where you belong. I'm pretty confident that the Lord would have it no other way!

  17. @Julie - Thanks!

    @Ben Andersson -

    Well, I suppose in some ways you would be correct! However, by introducing my readers to the concept of two types of Mormons, it was never my intention to attempt to reconcile a perceived division. You see, I don't subscribe to a belief that this is generally a two-way problem -- other than when one child suffers, the entire family suffers.

    My purpose in this post was to identify what I see as something that is not good, validate that a problem exists, try to understand it, and finally bring it back to the reality of how things are and could/should be resolved. Granted, I have a pretty simplistic way of going about things.

    Now, I will confess that I did extract an entire paragraph at the point prior to where you feel I completely changed subjects. However, I still don' t feel this would make a difference in your perspective of my post. Much of that content has come out in the comments section through discussion. However, I do feel that I owe it to you to confess that I did so. After all, you are VERY perceptive! LOL

    But let me just say this… I do see your points, very well. This is a complicated topic. I wish I had the exact and specific answer for those who truly do struggle with this type of perception and experience with their Church membership. I still, in my simplistic way, believe that our individual discipleship is ultimately the key.

  18. I feel compelled to post again. Sorry.
    @Kathy well said. Thanks for clearing up my "lostness" with the organization of your post.

    @Blain...I absolutely love your term Correlated and Uncorrelated Mormons. In many ways your comments complete the thought that @Kathryn was trying to make in the first half of her post. I am what is commonly referred to as a displaced-Mormon as opposed to a Utah-Mormon. The interesting thing is that as a displaced-Mormon I am not privy to many of these labels that evolve in the Utah/Idaho territories. As a displaced-Mormon I'm not presented with Sunstone/ Dialog interpretations of our faith and so I'd say I'm anything but a Liberal Mormon. I do find myself, when presented with ideas straining the doctrine, being sympathetic to that thinking and even entertain my own "philosophies" that the most TBM might scrunch their face at. In the end I guess I see this division in a couple of ways. I see it as a faith coming to terms with the challenges of our day. Some are inclined to adapt and change to accommodate the obvious changes in the world. Others are almost fundamentalist in their beliefs. In the end it comes down to following our divinely appointed leaders with the knowledge that we have access to personal revelation. So what does that mean for Liberal vs. Literal...well it means let bygones be bygones and "lift where you stand" whether that be in your own little la la land or in your calling

  19. Kathryn -- I'm not certain that there is a coherent movement of any kind, although there are some folks in that (this?) part of the vineyard who I think would like there to be one. I'm also not certain if I am actually in that part of the vineyard or if I'm just a bit of a fellow traveler.

    Probably the major problem I have with labels is when people skip from "I believe this, so I'm a X" to "I'm a X, so I believe this." When the label becomes a guide, rather than a convenient description, then we have a problem brewing, no matter the label.

    The "tribe" thing is a construct I've been using for a while now to view how groups of people interact. My working definition is that a tribe is a group of people who imagine themselves as a group which can be referred to as "we," and another group of people who can be referred to as "them." It is not necessary that those seen as "them" see themselves as an "us." Tribes come with cultures of their own, usually including a specialized dialect of the common language, and sometimes music, dress and grooming styles.

    The Greater Mormon Tribe includes anybody who considers themselves to be part of the Mormon World, including members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but continuing on to include people who belong to other restorationist churches and groups, and folks like Jeff Needle who have never belonged to one, but have spent part of their lives coming to understand those who are.

    In my comment to my link to this post on FB, I asked some questions (some of which were truncated out), including these: How wide are the divides in the Greater Mormon Community? How wide should they be? Should we keep ourselves in, but not of the world, or has the time come when we should uncircle the wagons and dance with the Indians? Should every member concern themselves with the worthiness of their brothers and sisters, or is that question strictly the territory of Judges in Israel?

    My desire on those questions is to answer in favor of including people where ever possible, and stretching ourselves and our comfort zones in ways that don't lead us away from God, but, rather, lead us closer to him. I don't think we need to defend anything, or worry about people's agendas. I don't recall any commandments about making sure we are fighting the right people, but I do recall several that talk about loving pretty much everybody we know, especially if we don't like them.

  20. Ben -- I didn't coin "uncorrelated Mormon," but you're welcome to it -- it seems to cover the topic reasonably well without the baggage of older terms like "Liahona" v "Iron Rod." In time, I'm sure it will earn its own baggage, but it's still pretty new.

    Hadn't run into the "displaced Mormon" concept. Would that be appropriately applied to anyone who lives in the Mission Field? I might fit the category either way, as I was born in Mesa, AZ, which is pretty close to the southern terminus of the Jell-o Belt, from which I have been displaced for 30 years.

    I haven't told this story here (although Kathryn and Jen have probably already heard it), but I was first introduced to individuals in the Western Washington uncorrelated Mormon community by showing up at a blogger-snacker at the home of one of the permas on BCC, after the NW Sunstone Symposium. He wasn't familiar with me, and was trying to get a sense of where I was coming from, so he asked what kinds of things I'd commented/done around the bloggernacle, and I told him I mostly made people angry. He asked if that was by being too liberal or too conservative, and I told him that, the best I could see, it was for both -- too conservative for the more liberal crowd, and too liberal for the more conservative crowd. To be fair, I can become just as irritated by the same people who would find me annoying by those same standards, and have to take breaks sometimes to get my head straight.

    I think the solution you're talking about is essentially that of Kathryn and myself -- don't let the tribalism get in the way of following Jesus and loving people.

  21. @Blain -

    I actually believe there is a movement. Coherent, meaning well organized, perhaps not right now. However, they have a few strong voices -- and are using various internet resources to be heard.

    Thanks for sharing your definition of "tribalism". It certainly is wide and requires one to extend their horizons as to who should/could be included in a particular community.

    You also present some really interesting questions. I believe that the answers to most of those questions become personal, versus organizational. As you said in your response to @Ben, and noted that we agree -- which is ultimately to follow the Savior and love His people.

  22. When I say that it's not "coherent" yet, I don't mean well organized. There are a number of organizations somewhere around it, and I'm not sure how well organized they are, at that.

    I mean that there are a wide variety of people, with a wide variety of opinions involved in this, and apparent leaders are only so because of their visibility. There are few consensus points in the group, and there is no direction for them to take it. The Church is not a democracy. And you can't really have a movement when there's nothing to move.

    I do think the answers to those questions are personal, rather than organizational, but they exist in a cultural context that doesn't allow for the personal to exist outside the organizational when it comes to matters relating to the organization. Many members, and too many leaders, believe that an individual with a difference of opinion on a matter of doctrine, practice or history with a priesthood leader is necessarily wrong, without regard to the details of the matter. This is when we jump the rails and land in the world of fundamentalism -- when we idolatrously worship not only our beliefs, but our leaders, instead of God. Where orthodoxy becomes Pharisaism, and we step off the path to the Savior to beat people up for not being on that path.

    This is why the tribe we need to be identifying and identifying ourselves with is not the TBMs, the Liberals, the Internet Mormons, the Chapel Mormons, not even the correlated or uncorrelated. We need to be identifying ourselves with the people who love God more than anything else, and each other more than anything that tries to pull us apart. The only tribe that we need to identify ourselves with is the tribe of people God loves. Our differences are nothing when compared to the love God has for us.

  23. Eugene England wrote an essay entitled "why the church is as true as the gospel". It goes along well with the idea that our differences are healthy and helpful in developing in us the exact characteristics that our Heavenly
    Father desires that we have.

  24. That very last paragraph in that very last comment that Blaine made (8:23) is the reason I'm finding such satisfaction in creating relationships, too, with God-fearing people not of the LDS faith. I'm amazed by their devotion to God, and it is inspiring to me. Having grown up in Utah, I kinda missed that.

  25. Love the post and the comments. It's interesting to me that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we pride ourselves in reaching out to others not of our faith, yet when it comes to each other, we find it hard to play nice in the sandbox. I have been attacked on the internet ferociously at times by members of my own faith -- and that is very sad to me. I also feel it gives a very bad impression to those who are not of our faith. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  26. In most wards, particularly women have to find a clique to belong to or they're in the 'outcast group'. The membership (not the Gospel) is hardest on its own, and it's not due to transgression or any measurable criteria of that nature. And that explains why many people choose to find someplace inside of the Church where they are 'wanted'. It's not so much doctrine as it is being 'valued' by at least a segment of the congregation who may also feel outcast.

    Think I'm off base? Ask around.

  27. @Blain -

    Thanks for the clarification.

    No, the Church is not a democracy, much to the dismay of those who have contrary opinions, etc…

    I, too, am a strong advocate of being taught directly by the Spirit and inquiring for my own revelation, and on matters of ecclesiastical revelation. This process is and has been my rock on many occasions. This is the great gift that membership in the Church affords its members. However, I am also an advocate for those who have been called, set apart and granted authority to administer the gospel, throughout the Church -- at every level.

    When and if conflicts arise, in my opinion, it is best to reconcile ourselves to our leaders, which then shows respect to God. I believe that He will honor us as we honor Him and those He has called -- and will ultimately make things right on our behalf. And I'm not saying that the leader is always right. I just feel that we need to be very careful for the ways that the adversary would have us separate ourselves from God. I believe he uses this very thing or process often, and is quite successful at it many many times. Section 84 comes to mind.

    The scriptures are very clear that we are not to rely on the arm of flesh, or look to any man for our salvation -- including our leaders. I understand this might sound blasphemous to some. Of course I don't mean it disrespectfully, and I know that you don't either -- but only to emphasize that the Lord requires us to come unto Him in all things. We definitely agree on this!

  28. @Dallas -

    Thank you for the suggested article. This is a concept that I believe is how we are to "become". It stretches us beyond the "natural man" and requires that we think and act like the Savior.

    @LaurieBee -

    Thank you. Excellent point. Thanks for calling us out!

    @LL -

    Hmmm… I don't know about that? I've never cared for the word "clique". It implies exclusion and that's not what the Savior teaches. Personally, I'm with President Hinckley on this one -- and it is that every member needs a friend. And if they happen to have more than one in the Church, well isn't that a good thing? But definitely, we should have the attitude of opening our circles wide enough for all to be included.

  29. Wards are as different as the people who attend. Some are more inclusive by nature and some are less. It's not a Church policy thing -- more of a random roll of the dice. My comment was directed specifically to the internal requirement of all people to feel value. It's important to have friends. I didn't mean to imply that it isn't.

    However when friendships and "select groupings" create an 'inside'/'outside' situation with fellow congregation members, those on the outside who wish to remain and wish to find their own sense of value within the community often find that identifying themselves with the tags you mentioned is a tool to that end.

    It tends to divide rather than unite and puts the concept of 'a Zion people' to the test. I understand that you are towing the party line on your blog and I'm not a troll. Humans are human. BUT I personally feel that tends to be at the root of the label problem.

  30. (I miss comment numbers)

    Kathryn -- There is a subtle but important difference between your strategy of tending to defer to leadership without the assumption that they are necessarily correct, and the functional belief that they are necessarily correct. I think your strategy is often/usually the best approach, but want to challenge that functional belief so people believing it can dig into that belief a bit to see if it really works for them. For me, it does not, nor does it for you -- we've both seen too much for that to work. The problem comes when people have that belief, and then see a leader do/say something wrong -- then you've got to choose between retaining your belief in the infallibility of your leader, and retaining your belief in the truthfulness of the Church. Too often, people will feel betrayed, and will give up on the Church for failing to live up to their expectations.

    And I believe that the largest split between Liberal Mormons and Conservative Mormons has to do with this expectation that our leaders should be and are/have been infallible. Both tend to believe that they should be, and Conservatives tend to believe that they have been. And I don't fit into either tribe, because I don't believe either, and I don't believe the Church has ever asked me to.

    I think more is to be gained by speaking against the expectations that our leaders can be infallible than in trying to limit the knowledge of the times they've messed up. That bell has been rung, and it can't be unrung.

  31. @LL -

    I didn't feel that you were implying that friendship wasn't important.

    I find it interesting that you would describe some as wanting to be on the "outside" of these "select groups" you describe. Is it because you feel these groups would be less than enthusiastic to include a person who thinks different about themselves or the Church? And are you implying that you believe these types of groups, or "cliques" are not willing to extend their friendship to a different "type" of member? Thus leaving the "outsider" to use labeling to attempt to create their own "clique" or comfortable place?

    Or, are you trying to tell me that those who feel that they are "outsiders" have no interest in fraternizing with the enemy (the clique) and prefer to attempt to find commaraderie with those more like themselves -- thus the use of labeling?

    And my final question -- are you saying both of these things -- therefore the divide? If so, I happen to agree. Learning to reach out to those who are different than ourselves is a choice to live a higher law. It is the beginnings of becoming a Zion people.

    I don't consider you a troll. Your comments and discussion are appreciated and welcome here, anytime.

    Now, if I've got you all wrong -- I'm going to be embarrassed! lol And if you have the energy, please try again:)

  32. Haha @Blain -- Definitely the numbering system helps when a comment section becomes lengthy. Sorry, it's just Blogger here.

    Oh man, I just knew you were going to come back and challenge me on those points! However, I'm going to stand my ground on this one, because I do know. Probably not nearly to the extent that someone like yourself understands, but enough to get it.

    And it does work for me. Personally, I find great peace in knowing that I can maintain a firm testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that this is His Church, and that it is lead by living prophets -- and at the same time accept the fallibilities that are natural to men. I'm grateful for this understanding, which allows me to develop an even closer relationship with God and deeper reliance on the scriptures.

    I believe that this is the way it should be for all members. Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught that this should be so.

    Let me just say, that to the extent that someone believes that a leader has been fallible varies greatly in this discussion. There are lines that when crossed, immediately separate one from the fold. That is their choice. It is a completely different level of divisiveness than simply thinking differently than other members. On point of doctrine, we must be pretty well aligned to be considered part of the body.

    For me personally, there has never been anything or anyone that I would allow to keep me from claiming the blessings of the temple!

  33. No, no, no! I was not challenging your point. I agreed with your strategy in most situations, and challenged the similar-sounding functional belief. So the reasons I was giving were problems with that belief, not with your approach.

    I'm not certain how great a difference there would be between our understandings of leader fallibility, actually. I have specific instances I could name where I'm rather comfortable there has been a failure on the part of a priesthood leader -- most of which happened in a context which was somewhat private, but I'm aware of others that are rather public. And I don't see that failure as any cause for doubt that they were inspired men who were called of God and were good and faithful servants. I suppose we could have a conversation about the nature of inspiration, but that seems to be a bit tangential to the topic enough that we probably shouldn't do that here.

    But, see, that acceptance on my part is a direct outgrowth of my lack of need to believe they are infallible. I don't need to put them up on a pedestal, and I don't think they want to be on one. I think they have respect for their callings, and for their fellow laborers in the field, but don't see themselves as more special than anybody else.

    My opposition here is not in any way directed at Church leaders and Church doctrine. Certainly not at the scant few doctrinal questions relevant to temple worship. It's directed at Mormon Culture and folk doctrine. I wish more members better understood our doctrine, because it would help avoid well-intended problems like leader worship. I think refusing to worship them shows them greater respect, because it honors their actual teachings, and the teachings of God who calls and leads them.

    And yeah, I know. I'm not a huge fan of Blogger, and that's just one of the reasons. But [generic] you go where the content is, and you deal with the interface because it's worth it.

  34. Okay, Blain. It sounds like we're much more on the same page than I originally thought. Sorry for the confusion.

    I must then totally agree with you. I've been concerned about this same thing for quite sometime. Problem is, when you start discussing it with many members they see it as being critical of our leaders and as you well know, this is an absolute no no. Perhaps they are not familiar with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith on the topic of fallibility. Or perhaps they are concerned that if they were to accept that leader worship is not a good thing, this would align them with those who are in opposition to priesthood authority or worse yet, apostates. Not sure why the threat? A serious study of the Book of Mormon will also reveal warnings in this area. So perhaps you are right, a lack of doctrinal background may very well be one of the problems.

    Why do you think it is, that those who consider themselves "liberal", as in the supposed more enlightened member, often find themselves in opposition to leaders, policies, etc... ? If they're supposed to understand doctrine, history, etc.. at a level "above" the "literal" Mormon, then shouldn't they have a better ability to reconcile their conflicts?

    So, getting back to the original post... I still believe that this whole labeling of each other is a divisive activity -- that shouldn't be applied to individual members, regardless of our personal differences. : )

  35. I find it interesting that you would describe some as wanting to be on the "outside" of these "select groups" you describe.

    Select exclusionary internal groups implies that you are not one people. (All pigs are equal but some are more equal than others) Outsiders are free to form other 'factions' as they will and you have a divided house. If people are not accepted, they will find a place internally where they have value or they will leave.

    There are more inactive LDS people than there are active and it's not always because of worthiness issues or factors of that stripe. When I was young, I didn't understand it -- but there is a tedium that comes with not being accepted on equal terms in God's House. And I think you hit on something very importing in this blog post.

    Is it because you feel these groups would be less than enthusiastic to include a person who thinks different about themselves or the Church?

    Sometimes it's based on economics - as I've heard it referred to as 'rich Mormons' vs 'poor Mormons'. And I have seen exclusionary groups based along financial lines. I've seen it based on groups of women who were social friends and controlled what they considered to be desirable callings in the Young Women's organization and kept their friends close and excluded others. Usually not the same in the RS.

    None of this is evil in itself - but the impact of allowing this to exist creates a situation where a Zion people can not exist once it (a) causes people to band together in groups/cliques as a reaction to another group or (b) causes people to leave because they are not wanted.

    prefer to attempt to find commaraderie with those more like themselves -- thus the use of labeling?

    Labeling is an attempt to divide and identify. At times also to quantify. And it's more damaging than most things I've seen. I have seen one group form a prayer circle, for example, where others didn't join. Later on another occasion on Ward Temple Night, the other group does the same thing. How then can we claim to be one people? It's a farce when things go that far.

    Failure to identify these situations constitute a failure of leadership and only very rarely have I seen it addressed in any meaningful way. Therefore, I think your issue has real value for discussion.

  36. @LL -

    What you describe saddens me, because unfortunately I must concede that these things do indeed occur, in varying degrees, throughout the Church. I have seen it, experienced it and can therefore concur that this is a problem that many other members could probably verify.

    I suppose we could continue to discuss, at length, the various kinds of groups that form and why, but I still believe it will always bring us back to what we already know and agree -- that if we are to become a Zion people, this cannot continue.

    I like how @Blain expressed it -- and @Emily agrees also:

    "This is why the tribe we need to be identifying and identifying ourselves with is not the TBMs, the Liberals, the Internet Mormons, the Chapel Mormons, not even the correlated or uncorrelated. We need to be identifying ourselves with the people who love God more than anything else, and each other more than anything that tries to pull us apart. The only tribe that we need to identify ourselves with is the tribe of people God loves. Our differences are nothing when compared to the love God has for us."

    Let me just add, that God loves all -- and for those who love Him back, we show that love by keeping His commandments. In other words, it is in how we choose to follow Him and take on His behaviors and characteristics toward others, that we can then be considered His people -- who are ONE with Him.

    As of late there has been great counsel from our leaders to serve others. We are seeing extraordinary projects worldwide through the humanitarian efforts of the LDS Church. On the local level Mormon Helping Hands is gaining in recognition as a way to serve our communities. There are others. In all of these public efforts of the Church, we are promoting an expression of love for our brothers and sisters worldwide. We need to continue and do more good in the world. Personally, I'm grateful to be a part of these efforts.

    In saying that, perhaps we need to now take some time to turn inward and examine more closely our attitudes and behaviors towards those within our ward,branch/stake family? I'm speaking to myself as well.

    I realize this is getting lengthy and I'm starting to feel a new blog post coming on… LOL But Sister Beck recently spoke at the BYU Women's Conference and did some powerful teaching by the Spirit. Much of what she taught, I believe, could be well applied to this entire conversation.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  37. Kathryn -- I knew we were pretty close, but the words were getting a little in the way. You come to the point we meet from a more conservative-sounding place, while I come from a less conservative-sounding place. I think that means that different people will be better able to hear us without feeling threatened.

    The defensiveness found throughout Mormon Culture is much older than any living member. It goes back to the days before the (first) Manifesto. Daymon Smith Ph.D., a Mormon Anthropologist, wrote his doctoral thesis on the Correlation that covers a great deal of the odd things in the Church that I wasn't ever quite able to put my finger on before, including the defensiveness and less-than-totally-honest treatment of the past. He did two lengthy interviews on this that I'm aware of -- one is an 8 part series on BCC, and the other is a four part series on the Mormon Stories Podcast. It's a lot of reading, or listening, but it really lays down some of the major issues the Church has faced, and some of the emotional scars still found among the people from those events.

    But I can summarize the relevant parts in a few sentences, I think. The defensiveness is a natural tribal response to seeing valued leaders attacked, which Mormons have been seeing since Mormons existed. It's kinda like a kid telling his friend that his dad can beat up the friend's dad -- the dads don't ever fight to decide the matter, but the kids feel the need to represent (as they say) for their own dads. We get so used to anti-Mormons saying bad things about (say) Joseph Smith that we jump to the assumption that everybody who says bad things about Joseph Smith is anti-Mormon.

    And the Brethren are in a tricky place. From what I've seen, they don't like living on the pedestal people put them on, but how exactly can they say "No, really, I'm fallible, and make mistakes all the time" without it sounding like "I'm just another yutz like you, so you can ignore what I say if you don't like it."

    I think your question about why more liberal Mormons aren't accepting of leader fallibility is looking at the wrong portion of that tribe. The ones you're noticing are the ones that are feeling hurt and betrayed by the Church, and are taking steps away from it. Some of them will calm down and come back, at least a bit, while others will leave and stay gone. But not a few of them settle into a place where they accept that their leaders are flawed, but that doesn't preclude them from also being servants of God who have a great deal of wisdom and inspiration to share, which makes them worth listening to. I'm somewhere in that neighborhood, myself.

    LL -- I think you're quite on to something, here. I've recently moved from the ward I spent more than half my life in to a newer, smaller ward, and it's a bit of a struggle to make a comfortable place for myself in it. I need to have people I can talk to about things I hear that bug me, and I don't yet have enough people identified as such, which makes it pretty tough sometimes.

    Kathryn, again -- The name I have for that ultimate tribe of all who God loves is Omega Tribe -- the "us" for which there is no such thing as "them." Some day, I want to write about that idea and promote it around, because it's the best description I have for the way I think of people, and I find that this way of seeing people is far from common.

  38. @Blain -

    I agree that we are pretty much on the same page, just coming from different perspectives -- and with maybe a different approach for attacking it. But in the end, we both want the same thing to happen. I like that and feel that this conversation has been extremely productive for myself, and hopefully others with similar concerns.

    Those are some great links you posted. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate this explanation that you gave as to why many members are uncomfortable with accepting that our leaders are fallible:

    "The defensiveness is a natural tribal response to seeing valued leaders attacked, which Mormons have been seeing since Mormons existed."

    We do value our leaders and have a deep desire to honor and protect them, as we should. You've suggested some very valid reasons that make it difficult for many members to feel that they are being loyal, while at the same time accepting weakness in our leaders. But like you said, and I agree, most of them would likely prefer that we would not put them on a pedestal.

    I'm not sure if I am looking at the wrong group of the tribe, as I believe that the line is very thin going from a tentative level of activity to then walking away. Thus the reason that I find myself so concerned that the whole labeling problem could further separate these members from us, and we end up losing them altogether.

    I like the "Omega Tribe" concept and I hope that you do, someday, write about it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This entire thread has given me a lot to think about.

  39. I just ran into this blog post, and it really gets at some of the things we were saying, but with good quotes to back it up.

  40. @Blain -

    Thank you for posting the link. I'm familiar with all of the quotes posted there -- and many were in my mind throughout this discussion. Very helpful!


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