Friday, September 23, 2011

"Us Against Them" Is Bad Enough, but "Us Against Us" Is Worse

I loved being raised in Utah, but I would struggle a bit if I had to move back now.

ANY organization that becomes dominant and isolated tends toward totalitarianism. Power corrupts, even in the Church - as D&C 121 says very clearly. I believe strongly that the Church simply had to flee to the wilderness in order to survive the early years of the restoration, but I also feel just as strongly that part of the pruning of the vineyard described in Jacob 5 (the elimination of the bitter fruit) is the need to shed the bad effects of that isolation.

A minority population can express its uniqueness by juxtaposing that uniqueness against the majority culture. In other words, Mormons here in Missouri can "rebel" against the cultural norm by being Mormon. In Utah, however, Mormonism was the cultural norm for many decades (and still is in lots of areas) - so those who aren't comfortable following the cultural norm find expression for their "rebellion" by challenging that norm (in this case, Mormonism). The worst part, however, is that for years (and still in many areas) the only such "rebellion" possible was by Mormons (since there were or are almost no non-Mormons) - which means that the natural reaction of the "faithful majority" was to draw even tighter conditions around "conformity" and move more and more away from the "rebellion" they saw happening within the Church. This caused polarization - where suddenly "pure Mormonism" (which is incredibly moderate and tolerant and flexible, imo) began to be seen almost as "rebellion".

I generally don't like "us against them" views, but even worse is "us against us".
Isolated entrenchment under attack tends to do that, and for decades the Church was isolated and entrenched and under attack - perceived and in reality. Thankfully, the world-wide growth of the Church has begun to mitigate against that former movement, and I really believe we are beginning to swing back toward what I see as pure Mormonism.


Senile Old Fart said...

From this non-Utah vantage point, I see an increased retrenchment. I don't see moderation.

Papa D said...

SOF, you don't see any moderation from the culture of the 60's and 70's? Wow; I really do.

We had President Hinckley for quite a while, and we have Pres. Uchtdorf - just to name two extremely easy examples.

Elder Packer is a lightning rod on some issues, but, outside of sexual morality, he actually is quite moderate compared to Elder McConkie and some of his contemporaries. If I were to focus on something like gay marriage and Prop. 8 in CA, that might be one thing - but even in the general arena of homosexuality the Church's stance is much more moderate than it was only a couple of decades ago.

Gwennaƫlle said...

I agree with Senile Old Fart.
The problem is never the top because we don't live with them, we live with the base and I definitely see things going worse and worse.
What I believe is that for 25 years the church had missionaries teach the gospel a certain way. It was a way made for American minds and other culture don't work the same way. So I have really experienced that you either had to have some kind of really bad issue or to be extra-super-mega spiritual to get along with what you were taught THE WAY IT WAS TAUGHT. I have never met personally the last kind but I am sure it happened.

Then those people arrived in an environment where, for members who had been there for a little longer, Utah is the holly land and Utahns are God sent angels on Earth, therefor you do and obey whatever you are implicitly told to do.

Now you're right on one point. Being a "mormon" is a way for many to break away from the general trend and the problem is that outside the US you get the Utahn mormon version of the vision.

I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE YOU Americans. I served you (or tried to), I lived with you, I know you. but I love you in your own country and I don't want those horrible things that I have witnessed in the mormon world to happen here.
Yet I think that my wish is pointless cause I see it happening already (last sunday was a typical example of it and I still have a hard time emotionally recovering from it and writing about it).

So if there should be any improvement I really believe I won't see it happening outside the US before a few decades (and not during my life time) because we will always be in the "Utah is God's second mansion" attitude. Why "always"? Because I think it is human nature.

Anonymous said...

Papa D, can you please explain what you mean by Presiden Hinckley and Pres Uchtdorf? I didn't quite cath the idea.

Thanks for your updates and insights. It's great to read your opinions

Embarrased he didn't understand

Papa D said...

President Hinckley regularly preached acceptance and tolerance and inclusion in many ways - and Pres. Uchtdorf has given some extremely progressive talks since he was called as an apostle. (Two that come to mind immediately are "Faith of Our Fathers" [where he talked about his own religious heritage and praised the Protestant reformers and the foundation he received prior to his conversion] and the one where he talked directly about how we tend to build hedges about the law [can't think of the title].)

I have heard a fair number of similar messages over the past 10 years - certainly more than during the years of my youth and early adulthood.

Anonymous said...

Durind the last CES Fireside, Elder Oaks also gave a great talk about truth and tolerance.

ji said...

I had a lesson in Sunday School the day before yesterday quoting Joseph Fielding Smith when he wrote of those millions of God's children who sinned in their first estate and yet were not cast out with Satan, and are unfit for exaltation, but can still have some portion of God's glory -- and they are sent to live in the poor parts of the earth. And we're so special because we were born in Utah (I wasn't, but the teacher was -- and we live a long way from the center place (but he just moved here within a year ago from the center place)). And all this was presented as REVELATION, not just the attempt of a one man to understand the world as he saw it in his time. I tried to say it was one old man's teaching, but the teacher insisted it was REVELATION because he was a prophet -- he wasn't a prophet when he wrote the book, I said -- but God wouldn't have let him become a prophet if he didn't teach correct principles, and what a prophet says is REVELATION. I had to leave the class.

Yes, I agree we are making progress -- but I agree with others here that we need to do more -- the Utah culturalisms need to be washed out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so that the Church represents only the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please, no cultural imperialism -- just the pure and precious Gospel of Jesus Christ.