Living Into Middle Way Mormonism
I was listening to a vintage Mormon Matters podcast episode (85-86 on “Middle-Way Mormonism” with Andrew Ainsworth, Scott Holley, Dan Wotherspoon, and Jared Anderson).
After I got over the initial pang of disappointment over realizing that I had actually listened to this podcast before, I realized that in the months since I first listened to it, there were a lot of different things that I picked up on this time.
So, the term “middle way Mormonism” is problematic. Originally, when I had listened to the podcast, I probably agreed a lot more with Jared’s thoughts on the problematic nature of the term (and indeed, I still think Jared was on fire through much of the episodes here). To summarize: “Middle Way” Mormonism as a concept gives legitimacy to supposed boundaries of Mormonism, when in actuality, we could argue two things: 1) everyone is a cafeteria Mormon, and/or 2) in some ways, “middle way” Mormons, rather than being on the fringe, are just as or more “true” to Mormon sensibilities than any other kind.
OK, but this time listening, I paid a little more attention to what Dan said. One of the things Dan raised is that people talk about “middle way Mormonism” as a strategy…like, “do this, and you can be a middle-way Mormon.” “Do that and you can “stayLDS”.” (For whatever it’s worth, I know that on stayLDS, many people would also say that it’s not a “strategy”.)
Like, Dan was saying that how he lives Mormonism isn’t a “strategy”…it isn’t something he has to think through…it’s just how he lives. (and many times in Mormon Matters podcasts, he emphasizes “living into” things, or ‘feeling/heart’ vs. ‘thinking/brain’)
So, in this sense, the approach that middle way Mormonism is a strategy or a path that has to be “practiced” misses the mark.
nevertheless…notwithstanding the problems with the concept of “middle way Mormonism,” we can still recognize that some folks think/feel/live different with respect to the church, Mormonism, etc., So, the question is: how did they “live into” that?
It doesn’t seem like “practice makes perfect,” because there really isn’t anything to “practice”.