An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Church of One

A recent Salt Lake Tribune article described the North America Old Catholic Church (OCC), which has broken from mainstream Catholicism. This group follows Catholic liturgy without guidance from Rome. It emphasizes the traditional Catholic value of social justice. The church opposes abortion but does not lobby for legislation enforcing their religious beliefs. The OCC ordains women and allows priests to marry and divorced persons to take communion. Is it Catholic-lite or is it Catholicism refocusing on Jesus’s core teachings?

Reading this article made me wonder what I would drop and keep were I to form a breakaway group from Mormonism. Deciding what to throw out is easy. I would start with the organs which few members can play with lively enough tempo to keep the congregational singing from sounding like a herd of water buffalo lost in the desert.

On a more serious note, I would de-emphasize obedience to church leaders. Unquestioning obedience stifles individual thinking and growth.

My starter list would also downgrade Word of Wisdom emphasis. It’s increasingly hard to defend the 89th section as a health law when medical research demonstrates benefits from green tea, coffee, and moderate consumption of red wine. Substituting Diet Coke for coffee and tea strikes non-Mormons as bizarre.

Those are my priorities to drop. What would I keep? I would focus on Jesus’s teachings, especially the two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . .Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39) And while we’re quoting the Bible, I would definitely open Bible study to include all translations. Understanding scripture is tough enough without dealing with archaic language.

Emphasizing the two great commandments might even alleviate the need for home and visiting teaching. I think the original purpose of both programs was to serve as training wheels—helping us learn to love and care for our neighbors. Like other programs, they have become crutches—excuses to ignore our neighbors unless assigned. I do enjoy the camaraderie found within wards in which I’ve lived. Could we could retain that by stressing principles rather than programs?

I wonder if emphasizing the first and second commandments might improve missionary work. Service missionaries already focus on helping others instead of prosyletyzing. Would the church make, perhaps fewer, but more permanent conversions if all missionaries focused on service?

Of course, I would keep the concept of James 22:17, which we have shortened to “Faith without works is dead.” However, I would expand James’ wisdom to include grace—the love of God for saints and sinners alike. The kind, loving Heavenly Father we teach about in Primary doesn’t withhold his love on the many occasions we mortals fail to live up to our understanding of the gospel.

I like the contemplative time while the sacrament is being blessed and served. A few minutes of quiet during a busy week is restorative, a time for self-reflection—except for parents of small children. Possibly Primary could be held during Sacrament Meeting and everyone—except Primary workers—would return home refreshed for family togetherness.

Naturally, I would keep—possibly restore is the better word—the Mormon emphasis on learning: “Study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people.” (D&C 90:15) Keeping commandments I enjoy is painless.

 “An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work” is a slogan I’ve heard so often in church that for a long time, I thought it was from the Bible. Work, honesty, and wise stewardship are principles I learned at church and would definitely retain.

That’s what I would keep in my break-away group: Love of God who loves all His children unconditionally. Love and service to others. Contemplation. Family. Learning. Work and provident living.

My list ignores hot-button issues like gay marriage and priesthood for women. Maybe those issues could be addressed in open discussions of how to apply the first and second commandments.

The Old Catholic Church break-off group has a North American membership of about 10,000. I suspect my group would be a Church of One. That’s no big deal. I’m an introvert.

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Comments on: "Church of One" (6)

  1. This is an easy one for me. The Temple. I won’t go further into my feelings about it on your blog but will just say that after looking at the BIG picture that was what tipped me over the edge to submit my resignation.

    • Numi,

      Many members have great spiritual experiences at the temple, but some, like you, have very negative experiences. Temple attendance should not be mandatory as it almost is now for active members. When I was a kid, good Mormons went once to the temple once. Only fanatics made the 50 mile trip to the temple more often.

  2. Will Reger said:

    Definitely, I would drop the three hour block and ward boundaries. I would define wards by leadership core teams and let people enroll in the ward that makes sense to them. Each ward could offer the classes and programs it wishes at times it wishes, so a ward full of intellectual liberal types could have sacrament meeting on Sunday and replace Sunday School with book clubs or philosophy cafe discussions or what have you during the week. More stringent folk could arrange ward meetings according to their needs and desires. This implies that correlation will go out the window. I would furthermore drop All Silliness, starting with ward and stake basketball, father-son campouts, the giving of cheap jewelry to young women for their accomplishments, the wearing of white shirts and ties and dresses (any sort of dress code), the subtitle to the Book of Mormon (as if the careful reader does not get it anyway), cookie cutter church building architecture, and Mormon Intonation (I live in the “mission field” and every missionary sounds the same when he or she speaks publicly–so annoying!). I would deep six the teacher improvement program and all training meetings and executive council meetings, and anything that is unnecessarily secretive such as, for example, when one is “called in” to the bishop’s office–people should be told up front it’s for a calling, a reprimand, or whatever, so they can be mentally prepared and not so nervous or frightened. Finally, I would dump Relief Society and unite men and women in the priesthood meeting, and have its focus be more on the real problems of the families, neighborhoods, society and how the priesthood (male and female) could best serve to solve or ease those problems. Manuals–be gone! Let each ward or branch develop its own manuals or guidelines. Mother church could easily use the internet to allow each unit “bundle” its own materials from a buffet of offerings and let them tailor their materials to fit the people in the ward.

    And that, more or less, is my disgruntled wish list…so far.

  3. Please let me clarify that my experiences in the temple were not necessarily unpleasant, although they were perplexing. Your comment briefly touched on my main frustration, the fact that it is now almost mandatory to attend sessions. When I combined the concepts of genealogy, work for the dead and the requirement of paying a full tithe to be worthy to have a recommend, well, the whole picture got very out of focus for me. And then, sadly, it became very clear.

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