An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Archive for February, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the LDS Church?

Emeritus General Authority, Marlin Jensen’s candid remarks about the significant loss of active membership in the Mormon Church have been picked up by the media and are creating a maelstrom among Mormons and their critics. I hope Elder Jensen will not be chastised by the brethren for letting the cat out of the bag. General Conference addresses last October hinted broadly at the problem. The too prevalent attitude that “not all things that are true are useful” fails to serve the Church well in the age of Internet.  

George and I stopped attending church regularly a few years ago. The reaction from ward members was to ask us what was wrong, to fellowship us. When we moved into a new ward, the hand of fellowship was extended. We were cordial, but didn’t commit to attending. Visiting teachers peered around our house as if looking for cigarettes butts or beer bottles—evidence that my sins kept me from church. How do you politely tell Mormons that the boring, repetitious talks and lessons drove you out rather than sin or lack of friends?

I doubt any action the Church takes will bring back former members who have found other sources of guidance and inspiration in their lives. But, perhaps dealing honestly with Church history and not promoting an either/or dichotomy of belief will prevent other questioning members from leaving.

The Roman Catholic Church has also experienced loss of members in recent decades. Of course, they have many more to spare than the Mormons—and no one is predicting the demise of Catholicism any time soon. One advantage the Catholic Church has in dealing with corruption and problems of the past and present is that the Catholic Church is seen as the body of Christ. No person or group can corrupt the Body of Christ, no matter how flawed their behavior.

Like the Mormon Church, the Catholic body is governed by elderly men with rigid interpretations of Church policy. Apparently, Catholics who follow their own conscience on personal decisions and beliefs can still fully participate in Church life. Modern American Catholics may no longer have the unwavering belief that their priest or even the Pope is always right, but many remain active members.

Can Mormon Church leaders lighten up on the black and white beliefs required of active Mormons  or will Church membership continue to decline? Time will tell.

Enriching Enrichment

This week I attended our ward enrichment meeting because the theme was “Be good to yourself” and Corena, our neighborhood yoga teacher, taught yoga and relaxation techniques. Corena led us through some gentle stretches and a guided meditation. At the conclusion, she asked how we felt. “Terrific!” was the unanimous answer. “Nothing in this room has changed,” she said. “The change in how you feel has come from within yourself.”

What a great message. I took my “changed within” self home to tackle a project without waiting for the second part of the meeting, “Lifelong Learning.” The sister presenting that part of the meeting had arranged a table display featuring an Ensign, a Book of Mormon Quest game, a copy of Mormon Doctrine (Yes, I know Deseret Book has stopped publishing it), a book about Jesus by an LDS author, and a cookbook of Mormon recipes. Looked more like Lifelong Limitation than Lifelong Learning.

When will Mormons rediscover what Joseph Smith taught 170 years ago? God loves and inspires all his children. We can learn much from sources outside our own faith.*

On the bright side—my ward did invite a yoga teacher to teach an enrichment class—and KBYU airs a yoga class weekday mornings. Maybe we’re on our way to seeking beyond our own borders—at least in caring for our physical bodies.

*“One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976. p313.

Worth Checking Out

Recent offerings from the Bloggernacle:

From Wheat and Tares Hawkgirl lists and reflects upon Church policies (not doctrine) that Mormon women question. An interesting piece about Austrialian Simon Southerton and his struggle to reconcile belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon with DNA research.

“Report from Camelot.”  A summary of historian, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s presentation of the new RS manual, Daughters in My Kingdom in a joint PH/RS meeting in her home ward.

A brief synopsis of ten popular books of Mormon History.


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