There are two kinds of people—those who want authoritative, definitive answers to life’s questions and those who question anyone’s authority to give those answers. In religious terms, the first group are considered the faithful—those who rely on the authoritative church hierarchy (Roman Catholic, Mormon), or on the inerrancy of the scriptures (evangelicals). The other group, depending on your point-of-view, consists of either devilish doubters on their way to hell or rational humanists who believe that unquestioning followers are in hell.
I realized I was in the second group when I attended 1st Unitarian Church in SLC on Mothers’ Day. The Reverend Tom Goldsmith gave a sermon on women’s issues. He quoted traditional and feminist authors’ opinions on children’s need for nurture versus women’s need for personal fulfillment. He also addressed men’s responsibilities in nurturing and expressed appreciation for the difficulty of individual families attempting the balance. He raised valid questions and provided food for thought but presented no one-size-fits-all solution.
While I enjoyed contemplating the issues Goldsmith raised, I realize most of my Mormon friends and neighbors would be uncomfortable with this kind of open-ended discussion. Knowing God’s will is available to them through the teachings of present and past prophets is an iron rod to steady them in an ever-changing world.
Now, a minority of Mormon’s actually chafe at receiving authoritative guidance for their lives. They grouse about women’s subordinate role, discrimination against gays, and the right-wing political bent of ward members. I’m not quite sure why they stick with a church which apparently irritates rather than uplifts them. Of course, my original premise may be flawed. Maybe there are really three kinds of people: authoritarian, non-authoritarian, and attend-a-church- with-which-I-disagree-and-gripe-about-it kinds.