Is the LDS Church Case Sensitive?

Recently, in her Religious News Service column, “Flunking Sainthood,” Jana Riess suggests there is a divide within Mormonism between the “big-C Church” and the “little-c church.”

According to Riess, “big-C Church” is code for the suits working in the Church Office Building. Specifically, the Mormon PR team that issued a whiney statement rebutting the Associated Press story on the failure of the LDS Bishops’ sexual abuse helpline.

Conversely, Riess’s “little-c church” is made up of the rank and file faithful who go about their days in selfless service. She specifically cites an inspirational funeral for LDS historian, Kate Holbrook, and a service project performed by Riess’s home stake in Cincinnati.

Riess’s distinction between the two “C’s” is stark and well-put. I don’t entirely disagree with her. The sense of community is one of the most compelling things about the faith, and heaven knows the rank and file are generous with their time, talents, and resources. The suits in the COB–not so much.

However, in a faith as rigid as Mormonism, the divide between the “big-C” and the “little-c” only stretches so far. Sure, local wards are free to lend each other support with cookies, casseroles, and the loan of a pickup truck. But when the unthinkable happens, “Big-C Church” can loom large in “little-c church.” For example, when a child is raped and her/his local bishop’s only recourse is a central church helpline. Moreover, because the helpline is only available to bishops and stake presidents, the situation is more problematic if the abuser happens to be the child’s bishop or stake president. I could go on, but there’s too much fodder for a single blog post.

All this being said, I think Riess’s column is worth a read, especially by those suits in the COB. Years ago, when I was one of those “little-c church” members, I remember hearing, “The gospel is perfect, the people aren’t.” Now I’m inclined to see it the other way around. The people aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty darned great. The gospel–not so much.

Top image: By Dmm1169 at the English-language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Donna Banta

My novels, "Seer Stone," "Mormon Erotica," "False Prophet" and "The Girls From Fourth Ward," are available on Amazon.

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3 Responses

  1. Monya Baker says:

    I know this feeling exactly – I found the Mormons harder to leave than the Church.
    I’ve also heard another distinction ‘liahona’ Mormons (doing their best in the wilderness versus ‘iron rod’ Mormons, who insist on one way through
    Great post

  2. Holly says:

    If the little c-church disappeared, would the big-C church still exist? And vice versa?

    The little c-church pays the tithing that keeps the big-C church running along. And if they work hard enough, they can drag the big-C church into the 21st century, kicking and screaming the whole way.

    But the little-c church is shrinking, and I don’t think they have the stomach for dealing with the big-C church.

  3. Donna Banta says:

    @Monya-liahona vs. iron rod. I’d forgotten about that, but yes, I’ve known both types. It’s the liahonas that are pretty great. 🙂

    @Holly-Mormonism is awfully hard to change from within, and life is short!

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