Bringing back Liberal Mormonism


Hello, MSP Community. I am Chris H. I am a permablogger at Faith-Promoting Rumor. I teach political science at Casper College. Thanks to Chino Blanco and chanson for the chance to share a few posts over here.

Growing up in Maryland, I always found Judiasm to be very interesting. Not so much the details of Jewish theology, but the nuances of Jewish culture.

Within Judiasm, as I understand it, there are Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, and Reform Jews. What I have longed wondered has been whether there could be similar categories within Mormonism. I know that there are categories like New Order Mormons, but this seems a bit narrow to me.

In particular, I am curious as to whether the category of liberal Mormon could be better developed and more excepted within Mormonism, in the way the Reform Judaism has. This does not mean that Orthodox and the Conservatives do not disagree with Reform Jews of many things, but the Reform Jew is still a Jew.

Within Mormonism, to be a religious liberal put one in the position of having your Mormonism challenged. But, what is liberal Mormonism? For now, I will argue that it centers on two things. While a Mormon liberal loves the scriptures, she does not take them to be literal. It is this interpretive approach to scripture (and this could include church history) that makes it fun. Additionally, liberal Mormons, following the example and thought of Lowell Bennion, place doing good and loving your fellow human beings above the importance of believing correctly.

Now, the likes of Harold B. Lee and Bryce Hammond would say that there is no room for religious liberals within Mormonism. They are not a minority voice on this. However, I think that this requires the liberal Mormon to stand up and claim a place within their beloved religious tradition. I am ready for that fight.

I have more to say on this, but I am curious about your initial thoughts and questions.

102 thoughts on “Bringing back Liberal Mormonism

  1. I think it’s a great idea, and it might work when the the new generation starts to take over leadership. I think right now though, the focus on exact obedience would make it difficult, and I think in places like Utah, where the line between Mormon Culture and Religion are blurred, it would be exceptionally difficult. As it is, the word Liberal can’t even really be uttered in Church without the speak scrunching their face up in disgust.

  2. In Mormonism, there is not a shared culture that is separate from the religion. Additionally, the vast majority of go-to-church Mormons live in the intermountain west, and do not tend to separate the culture and the religion. Difference is not celebrated.

    A Jew is a Jew if their mother was a Jew, I believe. A Mormon is only a Mormon if they don’t appear to publicly disagree with the local majority of Mormons. More conservative (religiously) is one thing; more liberal in a way different from the local majority is bad.

    I, personally, do not believe there will ever be a Reform or Liberal Mormonism as long as there is a central location where “Mormon Truth” emanates. A “Reform” bishop would quickly be replaced by an “Orthodox” visiting GA, if his tendencies were discovered. The Mormon church’s policies itself very well when it comes to a loose standard of orthodoxy. The other name for a religiously liberal Mormon who publicly disagrees with orthodox leadership, and refuses to be silent? Excommunicate.

  3. Urban Koda,

    The term liberal, one of the great terms of the modern era, has really been damaged…but it still has meaning. Most likely, any liberal religious movement within Mormonism would have a different label. I just do not think New Order Liberal will be it.

  4. I would venture that Mormonism is simply too young as a religion for this to be possible. Schisms are the province of older religions that carry the layers of relative culture and nuance, which can only develop over many generations. “New Order Mormons” are not recognized by Church authority. Neither are “fundamentalist” Mormons, though I believe they belong squarely under the LDS heading. “Liberal” Mormon is, at this time, an oxymoron. If introduced to Church leadership, I’ve no doubt that these labels would be lumped, and dumped, as heretical.

    Qualifying your brand of Mormonism might work on a personal basis, but within the greater Church? Not a chance. Especially as long as obedience is the first law and all that jazz.

  5. Goldarn,

    I do think that Mormon culture is more narrow because it is newer and more geographically limited. That said, I recently went to Martin’s Cove (an hour away from my new home here in Casper). I very much love and connect with pioneer stories, much more than I do with the lessons in the manual on Sunday. I think the Church is part of a larger culture. Of course, I like some aspect of the Church more than I do the larger culture.

  6. When you say “bringing back liberal Mormonism,” was there a time when Mormonism was liberal?

    Harold Lee:

    the moment that clerics become more worldly, the world goes to hades the faster.

    When you say “liberal,” I think “liberation.” Liberation theology is more grounded and would vehemently disagree with the Lee quote above. Religious leaders should be worldly, because then they can better do their jobs. Scriptures should be interpreted as best suits the world we live in and the underserved. It should get at those who are left out because of literal interpretations. In fact, there’s no such thing as a “literal interpretation,” because an interpretation is always about who is doing the interpreting and who has the power to say that their interpretation is right. Obviously, this would make a hierarchy more difficult, but it also makes leadership based around charisma and wisdom. I’m not saying that the current system doesn’t produce charismatic or wise leaders, but, I don’t know…maybe someone can fill in the blank here.

    In terms of liberal and/or radical Mormons, they gather at Sunstone Symposiums and write in Sunstone and Dialogue (which are spaces for conservative voices, too). There is The Mormon Worker, which I haven’t looked much into but has evolved over the years (someone at Sunstone told me there was a similar publication when they were a kid). These venues/publications are outlets for frustration from the norm, but they are also spaces of shared culture.

    I also think that the writing of history in Mormonism is so tied up with maintaining the hierarchy, that it has trouble being produced, making these alternative venues very important. I have no doubt that when church leaders are caught in a theological/historiographical bind, they venture quietly into the fringe to find a quick solution.

  7. “…was there a time when Mormonism was liberal?”

    Nope, but there one was a rather large group of Mormon liberals (in both the religious and political sense). These people included J.D. WIlliams and Lowell Bennion. They one held a place within even the CES. Harold B. Lee was part of the purge against such figures. I am not looking to make Mormonism liberal, but make a space for the liberal Mormon within Mormonism.

    Beyond Sunstone, much of the Bloggernacle is religiously liberal. I very much think that By Common Consent, would be view this way. Dialogue, too.

  8. “Beyond Sunstone, much of the Bloggernacle is religiously liberal. I very much think that By Common Consent, would be view this way. Dialogue, too.”

    The problem is that Sunstone, By Common Consent and others are viewed by the main stream Church as being just a step away from apostasy.

    There have already be rumblings amongst the leadership about these things, and I would suspect if a ‘liberal’ movement started up, it would quickly be squished by the leadership.

    I’d love to see it, but I can’t see it happening, at least now in the centers of Mormon strength.

    Of course when I lived in New Zealand, the membership were more liberal, and less scared of apostasy amongst themselves, but a lot of that came down to decent leadership, and a lack of fundamentalist type members. So I could see it happening in places like that…

  9. I don’t think liberal mormonism has ever existed, so I agree with Alan (#6).

    Liberal mormonism would be great. I know lots of liberal Catholics, so it follows that liberal mormons could exist as well. I’m sure being a Democrat is seen as being a liberal mormon (I wonder if Harry Reid would agree with that…)

    There is a great deal of focus on external signs in the mormon community. There is a tendency towards being black and white in thinking. If we have 75 + comment threads here about proxy baptism or whether or not caffeinated soda is okay…there are controversies within the LDS community that are not visible to their own members. Maybe that’s changing with the bloggernacle.

    Finally – excommunicating liberal members or disfellowshipping them so they can’t talk is probably not going to help anyone. Telling people to stay away from “anti-mormon literature” (which I’m sure MSP is a part) and history is not helpful to anyone.

    So, the leadership has no reason to foster a liberal mormon community or to tolerate it. They have every reason to oppose it, because it impacts their bottom line.

    I personally am supportive of moderates in all facets of society and religion(s), and would love to see more liberal mormons if they were able to exist.

  10. Of course there are liberal Mormons. But is there a Liberal Mormonism, as a subheading? Clearly not. Is that what you’re asking for here? An accepted, defined, and recognized group within Mormonism that is radical/Leftist/Reform/New Order, etc.? Or just greater acceptance of liberal Mormons?

  11. We have differing definitions of “clearly.”

    I am not looking for a club with a newsletter and a membership list. More a greater acceptance of liberal Mormons, and hence liberal Mormonism. While I think the group is less pronounced now, it was at one time. I guess I am looking for that space.

  12. Perhaps this is more of an apples to oranges type thing…

    From my very, very limited understanding of Judaism, it’s more like a blanket term for a group of religions, much like Christianity or Islam. Within Judaism, you have different schools of thought from extremely orthodox to the more liberal secular Jews.

    In Christianity, you have the more orthodox groups, like Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses and others, and then the more liberal groups, like the Unitarians.

    Liberal Mormons would be kind of like expecting to see Secular Orthodox Jews.

    I’m not denying that they exist, but I suspect most of them likely leave mainstream Mormonism and go elsewhere.

    Or hide in the shadows…

  13. I think we’re misunderstanding each other.

    When you refer to Reform Jews, as far as I understand it, you’re talking about a specific group of Jewish people, a defined subset within Judaism. You’re not just talking about liberal Jews. You’re talking about the Reform Movement within Judaism.

    In my “clearly” statement, I was pointing out that there are no such movements or separatist groups within mainline Mormonism. Undoubtedly there are liberal Mormons. To some extent they are tolerated. But there are no ACCEPTED VARIANTS of Mormonism. (Sorry to use caps; I don’t know how to italicize.)

    So what I’m trying to understand is whether you are asking for greater acceptance of liberal Mormons (little “l”) or the creation of a Liberal Mormonism, as a specific variant of this religion. (Which goes back to my first statement that Mormonism is too young and fundamentalist to be fracturing into such groups.)

    From your last comment, I’d guess you’re just looking for greater tolerance of liberal Mormons, and you don’t feel that Liberal Mormonism (capital “L”) should become comparable to Reform Judaism, with its own rituals, wards, interpretation of scripture, and so forth, apart from the mainline sect. But from the OP, it seems that you are hoping to delineate such a specific category.

    I apologize if I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be. I’m not trying to be obtuse; I genuinely don’t understand whether you’re seeking a schismatic, individualistic group or an assimilation of sorts by the SLC church for Mormons who happen to be liberal.

  14. I agree with Chandelle that there are variations among members. That is the very point of Richard Poll’s “People Like Me” essay of some years back. But there certainly isn’t a “liberal Mormonism,” unless you considered the Community of Christ Church a liberal variant (they certainly don’t require a specific version of Church History, as does the LDS Church to support church governance). As far as I can see Mormonism, or at least the LDS version is defined by General Authorities, and they determine orthodoxy and that orthodoxy includes accepting their version of truth. And that, as far as I can see, includes well defined patterns of what is appropriate overt behavior for members.

  15. And my sense of Mormonism is that “behaving correctly” counts far more than “believing correctly” in ways that render Chris H.’s project a real uphill battle.

    I’d hold out this recent FPR post as an example of that:

    “What counts as ‘Anti-Mormon’ today?”

    Apparently, what mostly counts is how we (hyphenated Mormons) comport ourselves.

    That said, I think the bigger challenge for Chris H. will be rescuing “liberal” from (what I think we all agree is inexcusable and ignorant) current usage.

    Still, it’s heartening to read a faithful LDS poster here declaring that “I am ready for that fight.” And when he writes:

    “I guess I am looking for that space.”

    I hope he’ll continue utilizing this place to expand that space. Welcome!

  16. I am a Mormon and am politically liberal, and I don’t like your idea of Liberal Mormonism. There are certainly stories in the scriptures that are literal. Not everything is up for interpretation. I believe in strict obedience to God’s law and believe strongly that the better one’s understanding of the scriptures, the closer he will be to understanding God’s will for him.

    If you were to speak in more general terms, i.e, political, then I would be fine with that. If you were even to adjust the definition to those that are sometimes called “Liahonas,” then I can agree with that as well. But I do not believe there is value in believing that everything is up for interpretation or that scriptural understanding is less important.

    Personally, I like the existing classifications of Iron Rods and Liahonas.

  17. Based on my encounters with certain people in the Bloggernacle, I think the reason we cannot have liberal Mormonism (again?) is because Mormonism, no matter how much we want to believe it (and no matter how much this IS the case) is not a cultural thing like Judaism. I do NOT mean this in the same way Goldarn elaborated in comment 2, because I think there is “Mormon culture” (that relates to ORTHOPRAXY in the church), and I think there is “Utah culture,” and I think there is some mix but certainly, Utah culture isn’t Mormon culture. Nevertheless, there is something that we could say makes someone culturally Mormon.

    What I mean is that to many members, you aren’t Mormon first, with beliefs and actions second.

    Rather, your beliefs and actions *determine* whether you are Mormon or not.

    So, in accordance with this paradigm, I have read many comments that essentially say, “If you don’t believe x, then how can you even consider yourself a Mormon?” And if you try to argue that Mormonism is something more than x belief, and can be more of a cultural identity first, then they’ll say, “Our pioneer ancestors did not buy religion as a culture. They left their families’ “cultural religions” to seek after truth in the church. So if you don’t believe x belief of the church, you need to seek elsewhere or get with the program.”

    Interestingly enough, this suggests a kind of creedal system. Profess this — or else. I admit that the creeds are far looser (there’s far more variety, folk doctrine, undecided or uncertain things), but I think there are areas that many members would be uncomfortable going beyond and that the liberal Mormon would have issues expressing in the ward. And I think there are certain cores of Mormonism that, whatever they are, if you don’t believe in them, then many members are going to think you’re less of a Mormon.

  18. Ryan @ 18:

    If you were to speak in more general terms, i.e, political, then I would be fine with that. […] But I do not believe there is value in believing that everything is up for interpretation.

    There comes a point in which the scriptural blends with the political. The easiest example I can think of is the Church and gay marriage. One can read the scriptures, have personal revelation and find themselves out of tune with the GAs. Liberal Mormons, I think, would be more open to personal revelation on several matters, while conservative types would expect you to fall in line. So, I don’t think liberalism here is merely a question of “politics.”

    Now, does the liberal Mormon actively promote his or her worldview, or simply hold it? If the latter, then there are probably a lot of liberal Mormons out there, and they probably put their efforts into a single issue or two, because that’s all they have the energy for under the duress of the Mormon monolith.

  19. Someone, I forget who, said, “there are no facts, only interpretations.” What seems to happen in religion and politics is for some to agree, to one degree of intensity or another, that a particular interpretation is in fact, a fact. For example, “There are certainly stories in the scriptures that are literal” (#18). That is similar, perhaps contextually the same, as the Article of Faith that says the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly. The question is, who gets to say which story is literal or which parts are mistranslated?

  20. Real quick, I now get want Chandelle was saying. I am slow. There will never be, nor am I looking for liberal congregations like the Reform Jews have. I am making a loose connection with them. Parker mentions the CoC. I think they would be the closest thing to that…and that will be the focus of an upcoming post. Off to use Madison to show why the Tea Party is not about the Constitution, but that the Constitution protects us from the tea party. Love this job.

  21. Alan @ #20:

    The easiest example I can think of is the Church and gay marriage. One can read the scriptures, have personal revelation and find themselves out of tune with the GAs.

    I guess I’m not a liberal Mormon, because I don’t believe the above statement to be true. I think there is an abundance of scripture and modern day revelation stating the exact opposite. Of course, individuals can and sometimes should disagree with a GA’s opinion, but to disagree with an official church doctrine is to disagree with modern revelation and the Lord’s will, which doesn’t seem very Mormon to me. I think we can generally agree that anything spoken in General Conference is accepted doctrine, while books and BYU speeches are not, but that’s beside the point.

    I am in favor of free education, socialized health care, and many other progressive policies. However, if the prophet said tomorrow that those are wrong and that we should not support them, I would reverse my opinion 100%. I simply don’t get how you can believe in a Prophet but not believe the Prophet at the same time.

    Parker @ #21:

    The question is, who gets to say which story is literal or which parts are mistranslated?

    This conundrum is not exclusive to liberal Mormonism. This week’s gospel doctrine lesson included Hosea’s wife, a great example of controversy over a literal vs. figurative story in mainstream Mormonism (the Institute manual details the controversy). My point is that these sort of answers can only be determined through prayerful study, accompanied with obedience in order to have the accompaniment of the Spirit.

  22. I am in favor of free education, socialized health care, and many other progressive policies. However, if the prophet said tomorrow that those are wrong and that we should not support them, I would reverse my opinion 100%.

    The absolute value placed on free agency in the Church means that human beings learn from experience, and strive to overcome failings, before they hear and follow the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Thus, it is not true that the Holy Ghost compensates for personal limitation of the GAs, but GAs must overcome this themselves first. For example, the Quorum of the Twelve consists of all white men; it is impossible for them to know all ways of knowing for each racial group, or the discourses of other countries or cultures. So, what if they were to say at General Conference that interracial marriage is bad, which they did say a few decades ago? How would you distinguish between opinion and fact?

    I think we can generally agree that anything spoken in General Conference is accepted doctrine, while books and BYU speeches are not, but thats beside the point.

    I think this is very much the point. Certain venues are for “doctrine” and other venues are for “opinion.” One definition I’ve read of “liberal Mormons” is that they like to point out the humanness of General Authorities. I don’t identify as Mormon, but as an outsider watching Mormonism in the midst of America at large. So, a General Conference to me is like “100% concentrated Mormon opinion,” while a BYU speech is “a glass of Oaks” or “a glass of Packer.”

  23. what if they were to say at General Conference that interracial marriage is bad, which they did say a few decades ago?

    Actually, they just said it’s not “recommended” as there can be cultural difficulties. That was the specific reason given. In fact Kimball said “Successful marriage is most likely to occur when the participants are of generally similar backgrounds.” So it wasn’t ever “bad” in that sense.

    Of course, they would’t say that, considering there are plenty of interracial couples that are sealed to each other. The plan of salvation doesn’t include divorce. So that messgae wouldn’t be any different from any other apostate scenario.

    Well, if the point of this discussion is to determine the difference between opinion and fact, then I stand by my earlier assessment. I also subscribe to the “humanness of GA’s” belief and agree with your “gass” metaphor. Conference talks receive special review by the First Presidency, so I take those as doctrine. Generally, the debate is more about the local levels, however.

  24. Actually Ryan, a review of Church History, particularly the period after the saints arrived in the valley, will reveal that the Church used to view the mixing of race through marriage as a great abomination and was punishable by death. I’d be happy to provide references for you, but it’s kind of off topic for this discussion.

    It’s not so much about specific issues, but the attitude of members towards any issue.

    If I may though, I think you your responses here indicate the problem which Chris H. faces when looking for Liberal Mormonism, and I don’t mean that with any measure of disrespect… I think you represent the average member of the Church with respect to doctrinal views and that kind of thing very well.

    I think you are to be commended for even visiting this site and engaging in the conversation, which actually might make you the antithesis of the average member.

    I’m not sure exactly how to quote, but I think your paragraph, 2 comments above holds the key to the the problem…

    I am in favor of free education, socialized health care, and many other progressive policies. However, if the prophet said tomorrow that those are wrong and that we should not support them, I would reverse my opinion 100%. I simply dont get how you can believe in a Prophet but not believe the Prophet at the same time.

    Being politically liberal and religiously liberal are two separate things. It appears that you are politically liberal and religiously conservative. I have some friends who are politically conservative and religiously liberal. It makes for interesting conversations, that’s for sure.

    The thing is… Being a liberal Mormon requires the person to be able to ask questions, and accept beliefs which may be contrary to the status quo of the GA’s. And the idea held by most Church members is that this is simply unacceptable. It’s why I think there was a great deal of concern with Romney’s presidential bid.

    I had it out with a relative a few years ago. After the initial problem arose, she was offended when I stated that I was going to make up my own mind on the issue, and not practice blind obedience to the leaders. She stated that she could think for herself and that she could exercise her free agency. The thing is that after I completely wiped out all her arguments, all she could come back with was that I had made covenants in the temple and was obligated to be obedient.

    That obligation to be obedient and the hold it has on the general membership make being a liberal member of the Church, in the religious perspective incredibly difficult, and is why a liberal movement will never (in my opinion at least) garner a significant following.

    I’m not a follower of Chris’ blog – at least not up to this point, but when Chino Blanco made the comment that he was a faithful member, it shocked me a little. Simply because his approach to the religion is just not very common at all.

  25. “…but when Chino Blanco made the comment that he was a faithful member, it shocked me a little.”

    This is even shocks those people who go to Church with me.


    You are a political liberal, but not a religious liberal. That is fine with me. I am not arguing that anyone has to be a religious liberal or should be. I just am.

    As a political philosopher, I am much more familiar with political liberalism (a term which the great John Rawls himself claims). I know a lot of religious liberals who are politically more conservative (usually not right-wing, but classical conservatives and European conservatives).

    ” am in favor of free education, socialized health care, and many other progressive policies. However, if the prophet said tomorrow that those are wrong and that we should not support them, I would reverse my opinion 100%. ”


  26. This is enlightening for me. I admit I’ve never really been very interested in Sunstone and the like. As you say, I am surely a religious conservative.

    What is the consensus with regards to Liahonas and Iron Rods? Are Liahonas religious liberals and Iron Rods religious conservatives? All this time, I thought I identified myself as a Liahona, but in light of this new understanding, perhaps I really am not.

  27. I like the symbolism of the Iron Rod and Liahona. I think it’s useful here.

    From a Mormon historian:

    Those who need “true” answers and see religious authority as a reliable source of such answers are Iron Rods. Those who see truth as elusive and all authority-based answers as liable to scrutiny are Liahonas. The Iron Rods pray for confirmation of answers which they have received, and frequently it comes. The Liahonas pray for strength to cope with uncertainty, and it also frequently comes.

    Obviously, this is a duality, so most Mormons are somewhere in between. I don’t think this overlays onto “conservative” and “liberal” exactly, but it’s more about how people process truth — whether they look to others for truth, or look within themselves. Most of us do both. It becomes confusing when a person says “If you look within yourself you’ll find that what the GAs say is true”… this is weird to me. I find it to be rhetoric used by Iron Rods to subdue Liahona thinking.

    I am not prone to look to others as holding absolute spiritual truth, which is how most Mormons uphold their prophets. As a Buddhist (the faith that I personally relate most to) I look to others to teach the truths they have learned and I teach them the truths I have learned. My biggest problem with the Mormon hierarchy is just that: it’s a hierarchy, where truth is top-down, and I just don’t think truth works that way. Mormon leaders set off too many red flags for me; they make my Liahona spin.

  28. For Ryan: A Mormon (religious) conservative is one who believe God talks to the Bishop and the Bishop then relays the message to the member. The member can seek confirmation for what the Bishop has told him or her. If confirmation is not received it is because the member is not in the Spirit.

  29. A lot of people have touched on what I think is the biggest obstacle to a “Liberal Mormonism.” The CoJCoL-dS has a strict and rigid hierarchy; one that is very intent on deciding who is “Mormon” and who isn’t. The vast majority of people who are actively engaged in Mormonism accept the CoJCoL-dS as the ultimate authority on this question.

  30. I feel like it’s not really a possibility. As long as there is the tight local control over things like temple recommends and the ability to disfellowship or excommunicate based on beliefs in official teachings, it will be difficult for liberal Mormons to climb the ranks and get into positions of power where they could lighten up the authoritarian power structure. Because Mormonism places so much emphasis on “membership,” on having your name recorded in a file in Salt Lake City, I think it’s difficult for anyone who is not a “member” to retain the label of Mormonism, and therefore difficult for people with very liberal views, whether theological or social, to be allowed a voice speaking as a Mormon (and not an apostate who doesn’t “deserve” the title Mormon), when it’s so likely that they’ll be kicked out for those views.

    With other religions that don’t place so much emphasis on membership, such as Judaism, Catholicism, etc it’s easier to say you are one of them even if you reject a lot of what is taught and don’t practice they way that’s expected of you. As someone else said above, “In Mormonism, there is not a shared culture that is separate from the religion.”

  31. After reading the comments, I have a few questions for Chris:

    1. It seems like you’re saying you want this to happen within the specific organization “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” — as opposed to wanting to see space and recognition for Mormons who don’t want to be affiliated with (or subject to) that particular corporation. Am I reading you right?

    2. If so, why? Why not, for example, just join the Community of Christ, or try to help organize an alternate Mormon church/organization?

    IMHO, if you assume “it’s not really Mormon unless it’s the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” you’re bolstering the corporation’s claim that they get to decide who’s Mormon and who’s not. (One reason the Jews are able to have vastly different communities is that each given subgroup doesn’t recognize another subgroup’s authority to declare who is and isn’t Jewish.)

  32. @chanson – I know the question isn’t directed at me, but it reminds me of how in other religions you can definitely have “sects” that are still within the official institution, but who defy official teachings – for instance: – whereas I would think the people at probably have to work harder to protect their anonymity so the local leadership can’t take disciplinary action against them.

    I don’t know. What do you think?

  33. Judaism is a religion of laws. Mormonism is a religion of authority. That’s why there can’t be a liberal Mormonism.

    People who explore the ambiguity of the law and the law’s application, vigorously disagree with one another. People who have to demonstrate their obedience will only conform.

    I will correct myself. All that isn’t really true of Mormonism but it is certainly true of Brighamism. There is a liberal Mormonism just like there is a liberal Judaism.

    It’s the Community of Christ.

  34. Carla — Of all the other religions, Catholicism has some of the closest parallels with Mormonism, hence the differences are most interesting.

    Catholicism isn’t just a set of beliefs and traditions — it’s governed by a (hierarchical) organization, like the CoJCoL-dS. Catholicism, actually, goes one step farther: In Mormonism’s case, it’s reasonable to call yourself “Mormon” and/or “LDS” and not be affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS. Correct me if I’m wrong, but, I gather it doesn’t make sense to identify as Catholic, but be talking about some other Catholic tradition (not the organization with headquarters in Rome).

    You point out that it’s possible to have Catholic sects that are still within the official institution, but who defy official teachings. I think part of the reason for that is that — not only is Catholicism a lot older, but — for most of its history there has been no possibility of rapid communication. So the top leaders might have wanted to reign in the local units with tighter controls, but (for practical reasons) it was impossible. Then, once you have a centuries-old precedent that Catholics are allowed to form their own organizations within the Catholic church, the top leaders can’t just suddenly revoke that tradition.

    Another point is that in many times and places throughout history, Catholicism has been the official (state) religion, and/or the only religion that people of a given region are aware of. So you get a situation where people disagree with the leaders, but of course they’re still Catholic because they have no tradition of leaving Catholicism for another religion. Again, this leads to a tradition/precedent of forming their own ideological organizations within Catholicism.

  35. Chanson,

    No, it makes absolutely no sense at all to call yourself a Mormon and not be affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS. The term Mormon unequivicollly means that you are a member of that church. Period.

  36. JJL9,

    I fear you may not quite understand what the term “unequivocally” means. Since there are clearly people who have different ideas of what the word means, then the meaning isn’t unambiguous or unequivocal at all.

  37. I could tell you that I am Andrew S. I might even believe it, but that doesn’t change the fact that “unequivocally” I am not.

  38. Ask as many people as you like who actually have any idea what they are talking about, you’ll always get the same answer.

    Ask a bunch of idiots who have no idea what they’re talking about, and they might tell you that I am Andrew S., but they would be wrong. Unequivocally wrong.

    Can you even provide a reference to a person who refers to him/her-self as a Mormon that is not a member of the CoJCoLd-S? I don’t mean some anecdotal tale. I mean a link to a real person that would make this claim?

  39. XD,

    lemme guess, JJL9, the people whom you consider to “actually have any idea what they are talking about” are people who agree with you?

    And the people whom you consider to be “a bunch of idiots” would disagree with you?

    Go to New Order Mormon. Go to StayLDS. Hell, go to John Gustav-Wrathall’s blog (Young Stranger.) Look throughout John Dehlin’s various involvements (“uncorrelated Mormons,” etc.,)

    You will find people who have resigned or who have been excommunicated but who identify as Mormon, because they recognize that Mormonism is more than and different from membership in a church.

  40. Well, I checked out the New Order Mormons and it says that they are people that ARE affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS.

    StayLDS (as the name implies) is the same thing. People who are affiliated with the CoJCoL-dS and want to remail affiliated, and thus “stay LDS.”

    Any way, that is all beside the point. Words have a meaning and they mean what the person conveying the message and the person receiving the message interpret them to mean. The word Mormon has a meaning. Just one legitimate meaning.

    If someone asked you if you were Mormon and you said yes, and in fact you were not a member of the LDS Church, then you would simply be deceiving them. If you that person happens to be a member of your club in which you have created your own code and assigned a different meaning to the word, then I guess between the two of you the word can mean anything you want, but it would be extremely disingenuous to pretend like your code was somehow legitimate outside of your little clubhouse.

    I could make up my own code language and assign different meanings to every word in the English dictionary and then you and I could argue over the meaning of the word. That would be just about as stupid as this conversation.

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