Martin Thielen has authored a book called What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? While I haven’t read Thielen’s book, I am interested in applying his “least” idea to Mormonism—but, since Mormonism is an action-centered religion, I will include “do” as well as “believe.”
Temple recommend interviews begin with key Mormon doctrine: Believing in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, acknowledging Joseph Smith and Thomas Monson as prophets, and accepting the Book of Mormon as scripture. A negative answer on any of those puts a person on the gentile side of the ledger. Answering “no” to the Word of Wisdom question won’t get you a recommend, but neither will it jeopardize membership—unless the drinking involves other transgressions.
Obvious violations of the moral (and criminal) code such as spouse abuse, child molesting, and bilking thy neighbor are definite grounds for being ousted from membership. Unfortunately, many perpetrators are able to hide these behaviors for years before being caught.
But back to doctrinal issues. Besides recommend questions I think it would be tough to be considered a good Mormon, at least by fellow Saints, without a belief in the efficacy of priesthood ordinances, the celestial kingdom, and eternal families.
Cultural measurements of orthodoxy is a longer list which includes:
- Meeting attendance—it’s easy to get away with skipping Stake Conference and not listening to General Conference, but consistently missing Sunday services will cause ward members to question your commitment. Spending part of the 3-hour block in the hall or foyer, while not condoned, is not totally condemned.
- Sabbath day observance—No shopping, movies, or sports on Sunday. TV is okay.
- Callings—It’s okay to turn down something you’d really hate doing, such as Cub Scouts, but refusing to do anything at all makes you look like a slacker at best.
- Home teaching and visiting teaching—Refusing to participate is grounds for having Priesthood or Relief Society leaders snub you.
- Not taking the Lord’s name in vain—Eccentrics like J. Golden Kimball can get away with “damn” or “hell,” but any phrases referring to deity should only be uttered with bowed head and folded arms.
- Garments—Sports exempt you, but lawn mowing in a swim suit is suspect.
- Supporting Church leaders and policies—there is no such thing as constructive criticism of any decision made by the leadership—ward, stake, or general.