An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Mormon-Lite

I’ve attended the annual Sunstone Symposium for nearly 20 years. In the past, attendees have generally been split between two groups: 1) those who have left the Church because of discomfort over Church policies and history, and 2) those who remain but struggle to reconcile personal beliefs with official dogma. This year I was struck by the number of speakers who remain committed members, but on their own terms.

Carol Lynn Pearson publicly defined her religion as, “God is love.” Suzanne, an acquaintance, told me that after leaving the Church for a time, she returned—informing her bishop that her Mormon doctrine is loving others—all the rest is extra which she doesn’t really need. From the ward grapevine, Suzanne learned the high priest group leadership discussed her situation and questioned whether loving others was enough to qualify her as a participating Mormon. Apparently her bishop and stake president agreed that the Church has room for Suzanne.

Many things have changed in the past 20 years. I suspect current Mormon leaders, who have been burned by mainline Christian exclusivity, are now more open-minded to members with broader views of Mormonism than were past leaders. Big-tent Mormonism will probably be healthier for the Church than driving away less orthodox believers.

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