Friday, May 27, 2011
Mormonism: it's (un)Complicated
I have discussed the variants of Latter-day Saint excommunicated groups such as the FLDS and RLDS in my alphabet soup post.
However, there is also disparity within the faith. Recently, the LDS blogosphere has gone wild over presidential hopeful John Huntsman telling Time's Melinda Henneberger when asked whether he was Mormon, "That's tough to define."
Matthew Bowman and Joanna Brooks, both apparent unconventional breeds of Latter-day Saints, have attempted to explain away Huntsman's complicated relationship to my faith by attributing it to a generation gap and diversification as the faith grows and responds to modern culture.
I disagree with both. Variants of faithfulness have always existed, and are of no recent vintage (to use a very non-Mormon analogy). Enter Morris Udall in his presidential bid, circa 1975. In a letter an Oxford don showed me to decipher Mormon jargon, a would-be supporter writes to Udall and asks whether he is a "Mormon," whether he "honors his Priesthood," and goes to church and holds a position in it. Udall replies by saying:
"Rather than respond categorically, let me set forth the plain facts and perhaps you can help me determine the kind of answer to give other concerned LDS members who raise questions of the kind contained in your letter."
He then goes on to say he has a long lineage of Mormon pioneer heritage, was baptized at 8, and was ordained as an elder in high school. He takes pride in his LDS heritage, but rarely attends LDS services since he enrolled in the army at 20. He did not join any other church, and believe his name was still carried on the rolls of the church.
Sound familiar to Huntsman's ho-humming?
When someone tells me they know a Mormon, I cringe, waiting for them to tell me about whether they are what I would call a "good Mormon." Such an appellation is defined quite simply as one who believes
1) Jesus Christ atoned for their sins
2) God is their spiritual father
3) Joseph Smith was a prophet (meaning he was called of God to be a conduit for the restoration of Christ's primitive Church)
4) The Book of Mormon is revealed scripture (which implies that one accepts the Bible - can't accept the former without the latter)
5) That the current president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now Thomas S. Monson, is a prophet
and then lives as if they believe it, following commandments old and new.
There has always been a spectrum of those who fall somewhere between a "good" Mormon and one who is merely kept on the records of the Church. It's only complicated if somewhere along the way you have lost the faith to keep living it.