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Is Mormonism complacent? What about the rest of conservative Christianity?

July 24, 2009

Is the LDS Church becoming complacent? Does Mormonism need a revival or a reformation?

The trouble with the “cultural conservative” view in Mormonism is not that they take religion too seriously. The problem is that their religious beliefs are false. The problem is not that they advocate for strong morals. The problem is that they really did nothing to earn those morals.

…The modern generation of Mormons rest on laurels they have not earned, tout morals that are not truly theirs, and pray to a God that they cannot know – because their preconceptions keep getting in the way.

It appears Seth R posts more on my blog than on his (oh ho ho ho!), and he had a rather lengthy comment on a previous article of mine (please read it to get everything in context; I copy/pasted only a part). Today, I’m just going to pick at one part here.

I discussed this comment with others (non-LDS on a different site), and what people seemed to overwhelmingly agree with is that conservative/orthodox/fundamentalist (not to be confused with the polygamists) Mormonism, and in turn conservative Christianity in general, seem to have lost their ways for similar reasons. They agreed that conservative religions do not err in taking religion too seriously (because religion ought to be taken seriously), but that they have false beliefs.

Some commenters here got the wrong impression of Seth when he called people out for having false beliefs. They asked, “So what are we supposed to do?” or “Is Mormonism wrong?”

Guys, Seth is not an apostate. But indeed, what many people I talked to (not Mormon) pointed out in their experiences with other denominations is that other denominations seem to care more about models of thinking about Jesus, rather than Jesus.

As one wrote:

…the conservative trap is to make systems, propositions, and descriptions of God the object of theology rather than God. Essentially, this is the failure of fundamentalism. This is the kind of position that is threatened by higher criticism, that requires footholds of political power to thrive. This is theology that cannot accept an interacting God, and therefore simply ascribes the name God to a metaphysical system of right vs. wrong beliefs and the places that those beliefs might send one in some kind of eternity.

So, whereas liberals fail because they aren’t willing to stand up for a Jesus that performed miracles (because they defer to fears about what science might reveal in the future or what it has revealed in the past), conservatives fail because they stand up for things like Biblical inerrancy or literalism, and marginalize themselves defending that. Or for standing up for 1950 AD morality (or, if they are REALLY traditional, 150 AD morality).

“This is theology that cannot accept an interacting God…” Doesn’t Mormonism then sidestep that issue with continuing revelation? But note the commenters’ concluding remarks about clinging so hard to a “metaphysical system of right vs. wrong beliefs” (rather than the interactive God)…and then let’s turn to another thing Seth had said:

I never slept with any woman before my wedding night. But, while I am grateful for that, I take no moral self-satisfaction from it. The truth is, I didn’t have sex with girls before then because I was raised not to. And frankly, I was too shy as a teenager to ever get to the point with a girl where sex was even a possibility. I earned no right to feel smug about my “purity” as opposed to the drunk frat boys I kept hearing about. What did I earn? What basis for pride on the issue did I ever have?

But modern Mormon culture takes exactly this position. The modern generation of Mormons rest on laurels they have not earned, tout morals that are not truly theirs, and pray to a God that they cannot know – because their preconceptions keep getting in the way.

(Emphasis added.)

So, perhaps a problem of Mormonism is that it is cultural, and this culture supersedes some of the religiosity. Tradition is tradition, when it should be that pervading truth is true because every person scrutinizes and finds that to be the case, instead of it just being passed from generation to generation.

The only question — which I’ve tried to ask — is how do you fix it? Seth supposes we need someone bold enough to chart a new course — a new Jeremiah. Or at least a new prophet who is truly prophetic. My other non-LDS commenters have supposed that there simply needs to be enough of a shock to the system that deemphasizes the “model” and reemphasizes Christ. That de-emphasizes the Bible and reemphasizes the Incarnate Word. etc.,

As a side effect, what happens to the liberal religions? Everyone notes that they fall away. My non-LDS commenters note that the liberal Christian denominations, being “afraid” to be proud of theism, naturally fall from it. For the religious, this is a sad state of affairs. This doesn’t bother me, of course. More on that later.


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  1. Wow, y’all have been keeping busy over here. Just finished reading that monster “What kind of person stays Mormon?” thread. Regardless of where we’ve ended up, I still enjoy reading accounts like Seth R.’s, even if mostly because they reassure me that I haven’t embellished some of my more surprising/frustrating/disappointing interactions with the LDS leadership simply as a way to justify my later choices. Anyways, nothing of import to add as usual, just dropping by to comment on the engaging crowd and their worthy comments in that thread.

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