Two Changes Facing the Mormon Church

Two thorny problems are facing Mormonism, and I am certain that eventually we will see the LDS Church resculpt its message in order to continue its strategy of growth through recruitment.

You have to be able to sell your ideas, and if they are anathema to the populations you proselytize, you lose the numbers game.

If the LDS Church seeks to be seen as a mainstream religion, it will have to tweak the beliefs that are seen as peculiar.   Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency is placing Mormonism under a microscope, sometimes allowing a view of the delicate 19th Century foundation on which the church was built.

The first challenge the church faces today is cultural and much of it comes from within: Homosexuality.

The gay Mormon community will continue to exert pressure and will be aided by public opinion on national and international levels.  It will also be supported by many of the straight families of gay members.  They feel their children are entitled to fully dimensional lives.

Currently the LDS Church is telling gays, “When you have those feelings, don’t act on them.”   The gays I talk to view this as an unacceptable response.  Many don’t want to leave the church, yet fear the consequences of resisting from within.  Many others have fled and are looking for alternative  spiritual homes.

If you are a gay Mormon, tell me how you are dealing with it and what you think the future holds for Mormonism vis a vis homosexuals.

California has already moved to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” long derided by the majority of professional psychologists and psychiatrists. For an account of what it did to one young Mormon see the “Scott Burton” chapter in my book, Leaving the Fold: Candid Conversations With Inactive Mormons (you can get it free by going to http://signaturebooks.com/category/book-families/out-of-print/page/6/. Look for his name in the list of chapters). Dogs should not be disciplined using the  electro-shock methods Scott’s Mormon therapist used.

The second problem that will be difficult for the LDS Church to surmount is one of science—DNA, to be specific. The Book of Mormon tells the tale of how Jews from the Middle East sailed in what were  submersible craft to land on Mexico’s Atlantic Coast in the 6th Century BCE. The Book of Mormon says that from these original mariners descended native Americans, the people who populated the Americas. DNA research is consistently and relentlessly disclosing that native Americans came from Asia.

A noted Mormon DNA scientist, Ugo A. Perego, admits (with some twisted semantics), that native American DNA is from Asian origins. : http://signaturebooks.com/2012/09/mormon-scientist-concedes-native-american-origins/

My timetable for change?  Don’t expect the glacier to start calving soon.  Your thoughts?

Regards,

Jim

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Two Changes Facing the Mormon Church

  1. I’ll bite.

    First, I agree that Mormon Church culture will have to change in order to allow full participation for its LGBT members. I say “culture” in order to differentiate between social practice and written doctrine. As you may or may not already know, Mormon Church doctrine holds that, in the world to come, God’s children will live in any one (or all) of three heavenly kingdoms: the telestial, terrestrial, or celestial kingdoms. (Actually, six kingdoms, if you consider that there are three separate kingdoms in the celestial kingdom itself.) And given that Mormons don’t believe in an eternal “hell,” as the mainstream Christian world has it, and given that those in the telestial kingdom will consist of, more or less, purgatorially purified murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, liars, etc., I’ve got to believe that there’s doctrinal room in the terrestrial or three celestial kingdoms for righteous gay marriages. Anyway, that’s the future I see Mormonism holding for its righteous LGBT members.

    One quick note regarding your usage (above) of the word ‘gays’ as a noun, and it’s really only a semantic quibble, a niggling point, perhaps (but one on which at least this commentator is inclined to niggle), yet a usage error (as I see it) that, I believe, discloses a speaker’s or writer’s subtle or not-so-subtle biases: “The words gay, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and so forth are all adjectives. Incorrect: ‘Stan is a homosexual.’ Correct: ‘Stan is homosexual.’ Lesbian is different, though, as it was originally a noun that was later adopted as an adjective. Use it as a noun. Gay should generally not be used as a noun except for effect or, when plural, as part of an official name (PFLAG: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Wherever possible, say ‘gay men’ instead of ‘gays.'” (http://www.themorningnews.org/styleguide/)

    To be fair, you also use the word ‘gay’ adjectively; so I’m not suggesting that you harbor crypto LGBT-hostilities. (But what am I suggesting? To be perfectly accurate, I’m suggesting that your use of ‘gay’ as a noun is a manifestation of a cultural (as opposed to personal) bias. This is analogous, say, to the cultural anti-feminist bias evident in, say, the phrase “screamed like a girl,” which phrase many feminist-leaning men utter without giving it a second’s thought, but which subtly pejorative phrase betrays a belief in the inherent and abject weakness of little girls.)

    Second, regarding Book of Mormon DNA claims, I really only want to make sure that you understand that the Book of Mormon is primarily (and secondarily, etc.) a spiritual work. Admittedly, the book does (or at least, until a few years ago, did) make a genetic claim in its foreword. But the book itself, if read and comprehended, says nothing about Jews being the sole ancestral source of our Native American peoples. The book’s as it were raison, in fact, is to show the tragic folly of redirected aggression, and Christ’s solution to it (q.v., http://chronicle.com/article/The-Targets-of-Aggression/26001).

    In fact, you betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the book’s narrative when you state that 6th-century Jews sailed to the American continent in “submersibles,” when in fact they (i.e., the 6th-century Jews, Lehi’s family) sailed to America in a ship with like sails and a mast, which Nephi, Lehi’s persecuted (and perhaps red-headed) middle kid, was famously lashed to. The people who, what’s the verb I want to use, “moved through the water” in submersibles were called “Jaredites,” and they came to the continent around 2,000 B.C. (Interesting point, the Jaredites themselves couldn’t be considered racial Jews; for Jewish ancestry traces back to only about 1800 B.C.. Therefore, the Book of Mormon’s foreword’s former DNA claim doesn’t hold true even by the book’s as it were own lights)

    My point, then, is that to apply a scientific argument against a spiritual work is to make a fundamental attribution error. It’s the same attribution error those make who seek to explain jokes using linguistic tools. In other words, the diagnostic tool kills the subject. If my spouse sought to “understand” me in the same way that a vivisectionist “understands” its object-frog by means of the scalpel, there would be no “me” left to understand, at least not in the spiritual, narrative, “personality” sense. But you are far from the only person to make this kind of attribution error. In fact, you stand in good company (e.g., Richard Dawkins, whom I admire, foremost among that good company).

    So the “DNA problem” that the church will have to “deal” with is one that I think will simply vanish once our cultural present and fadish “scientificizing” of literally everything shifts to something else.

    As for when that fad will pass … I agree with you that that glacier hasn’t yet begun to calve. (Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote eloquently about this exact attribution problem in his wonderful “Eye and Mind” in the early 1960s.)

    • jimure

      I like your “scientism vs. spirituality” thesis. However, if you believe the Book of Mormon to be a latter-day accounting of tribes in America then you must accept it on either faith or science. I’m going with science, as I have no faith in the “science” on which Joseph Smith was alleged to have used in founding Mormonism. Apologies for not responding much sooner.

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