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.