In this article, Zelph on a Shelf responds to the recent discussion of New Mormonism, including my post here. New Mormonism or New Order Mormonism or Sacramental Paradigm Mormonism is the idea that one ignores (this is not to say that it opposes the literalness) the historicity of the Book of Mormon and other restoration events (or Bible literalness such as Garden of Eden or even divinity of historical figure Jesus) and focuses on the truth and beauty of the LDS church in its current state. If the Christ-centered-LDS life helps you connect with God and enables you to commune and serve with the Body of Christ in a way that enriches your life, then it is true.
Zelph on a shelf makes five points. These are the points with my counters.
1. The church makes no attempts to de-literalize its teachings or scriptures.
This is a good point, but the church doesn’t always spell everything out. I believe the church is a big tent with members holding a wide range of doctrinal beliefs. This is not a bad thing. Joseph Smith said
I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.
Ask a dozen LDS what they believe about Adam and Eve and creation and evolution, you’ll likely get a dozen different answers including a couple that view Adam and Eve completely metaphorically. It’s not a bad thing that we’re not taught exactly what to believe on every single issue. I’m hopeful the church will be a bit more vocal on this subject, making comments that will expressly allow room for this view, so I’m acting on it now. We’ll see.
2. It’s not fair to literal believing members to appeal to both literal and metaphorical believers simultaneously.
They don’t think it’s fair to others to perpetuate a church if all members of the church don’t have the exact same views on the literalness of the historical origins of the religion. I think they would like to see the end of all religion in the world. Religion’s not a bad thing. We’re in a period of change in the church. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, go ahead and leave the church. If it means something to you, be patient and let’s see how the church evolves. Be a part of that progress.
3. People are suffering in the church.
I agree the church might not work for everyone. I don’t agree that the church is as toxic or damaging as some make it out to be. Kate Kelley just said women in the church are suffering because they don’t hold the priesthood. The women in the church can answer that for themselves, but I think that’s a little dramatic. They mention the suffering of intellectuals. Is this 1993 or 2015? Where are the intellectuals being persecuted by the church? I just don’t see it. I agree, the church has a really tough issue right now with those in the LGBT community. If you’re LGBT or have a close loved one, I wouldn’t judge you for taking a time out or leaving the LDS church. Again, I’m hopeful for positive change in the future. I think we have fundamental origins, but we have a strong, central leadership that uniquely enables our church to respond on these issues. We have a better chance at positive change than many other churches. I define the truth in the LDS church in how it works in a member’s life in its current state. If it’s not working for you, then I understand why someone would leave. But is it not working for you, or have you been convinced it’s not working for someone else, based on the noise by the Ex-Mormon crowd?
4. I cannot support people continuing to chain themselves to the church because the possibility of walking away from it is too painful.
Why is walking away painful? We shouldn’t presume to know why it’s painful to walk away from the church for all people. For me, it was too painful to walk away because I recognized so much truth and beauty in it, despite losing a belief in the literalness of historical origins. It was too painful, because it wasn’t the right thing for me to do. I picture this point a little bit like a teenage girl with a starry eyed concept of marriage talking to her big sister who’s been married for five years and has two kids. The big sister is blowing off steam and tells the little sister how she just got in a fight with her husband and he said some rude things to her. The little sister overreacts and tells her she absolutely shouldn’t stand for that and needs to leave him. The big sister tries to explain how much she loves her husband and that he loves her, and that he apologized for saying those rude things, and he provides for her, is a good father, a good husband, she loves her life with him and leaving him would be a terrible mistake.
5. I believe in truth.
So do I. Marcus Borg, one of the leaders in the Progressive Christianity community, tells the following story of a Christian who wanted to argue with him on the literalness of the resurrection of Christ. I make no stand on that historical issue, but this example explains my position on truth.
He told me, “The reason I know for sure that Jesus has been raised from the dead, is that I walk with Jesus everyday.” I answered him, “Let me say first I accept absolutely the truth of your statement, that you walk with Jesus everyday. But I don’t imagine that if I followed you around I could get a photograph of the two of you. I think your statement is really true but I don’t think for a moment it is literally true.“
A quote from Adam Miller.
Given my careful, decades-long cultivation for doubt and skepticism, still even in that context it would be dishonest and in bad faith to say that regardless of how unlikely some of these beliefs are something very real and powerful and real is happening to me in the pew on Sunday when I bring myself back again. When I come back, again. When I kneel down, again. When I read the Book of Mormon, again. Regardless of all my skepticism of all the different kinds of questions we could raise, something is happening to me in a substantial, first person way that I can’t deny regardless of what doubts I have of these peripheral, historical third person questions. The pull for that is sufficiently strong that there’s no place else for me to go.
My question is what is more real than that?