Monday I wrote about the idea of Mormons leavening the rest of the country. Today I want to address the issue of Mormons isolating themselves from outside ideas. A nugget of wisdom from a favorite book, Levi Peterson’s The Backslider, states:
Mormons are sellers, not buyers. They don’t import religion. They just export it.
While I agree that Mormons have some worthwhile ideas to share—such as setting aside one night a week to spend with family—I think Mormon leadership could benefit by looking at how other religions handle current issues and importing their good ideas.
Sam Brunson at Times and Seasons has a recent blog discussing the huge difference in the official Mormon statement on politics with the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ statement. The Mormon statement, which we hear read over the pulpit before every election, affirms the church’s neutrality (which nobody really believes) and encourages members to vote. In contrast, the Catholic Bishops’ statement outlines social and political responsibilities for Catholics.
One statement I particularly like is the following:
Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.
This statement is a gem. It outlines members’ responsibility while allowing them agency in choosing how to fulfill it. I don’t recall ever hearing a General Conference sermon giving Mormons a moral obligation to solve social problems and to work on creating a more just, peaceful world that protects the vulnerable and defends human dignity. Mormon sermons tend to focus on obeying leaders and commandments and on missionary work—the assumption being that Church authorities will direct us on taking social action—and that once everyone is a Mormon, social ills will disappear.
Maybe the flat, even negative growth of the Church in the U.S. in recent years will motivate leaders to look outside our own boundaries for ways to motivate Mormons to seek the higher path.