Friday, July 31, 2015

Holding On and Letting Go: Mormonism Is Unique, but Not As Unique As Many People Think

I have heard a lot of Mormons bemoan what they see as the abandonment of some unique aspects of Mormon theology and history that they believe and cherish.  I share that general concern that we not lose our uniqueness and become just another Protestant denomination, but I disagree that we have abandoned our uniqueness in an attempt to become more mainstream.  I believe we have abandoned some of the unique aspects of our historical interpretations of doctrine that I have come to see as "the incorrect traditions of our own fathers".

To frame this around missionary work and the message that is presented currently to people who are investigating the LDS Church, let me mention a few areas of improvement I see now compared to when I served a mission:

Improvement #1) My daughter served a mission in Germany just last year – and she taught most of the things most people mention loving so much. She didn’t teaching a new, watered down version of Mormonism, different than I taught almost 30 years ago. She taught the same concepts and principles – but she could dig in and tailor what she said to each person in a way I couldn't when I served.

Improvement #2) I don’t want our “folklore” taught by the missionaries, and it isn't being taught. I don’t want much of our current culture taught by the missionaries, and it isn't supposed to be taught. I want them to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including the unique aspects of Mormon theology – and they are. I have no quibble whatsoever with the missionary discussions that are in Preach My Gospel – and I absolutely am a bit envious that my kids get to teach in a very different way than I had to when I served and said the same memorized words, in the same order, to every. single. person. I. taught. My daughter gets to rely on the Holy Ghost to help her teach individuals about the Gospel and the Restoration in different ways, not teach the exact same lessons to widely diverse people.

Improvement #3) I want all of the unique gems of our theology to be taught in ways that make as much sense as possible to those who are listening – and, often, that can be done better by using Biblical passages they already say they accept than to focus exclusively on the Book of Mormon. Our relationship to our Heavenly Parents is a perfect example. It is rich in the Bible and, essentially, non-existent in the Book of Mormon. Teaching it from the Bible through passages Christians supposedly already accept (even if they don’t understand them) isn’t sacrificing our teachings in any way. In fact, I see it as strengthening and emphasizing those teachings much more than I used to be able to do.

Improvement #4) There is a lot of stuff from our past that I and many people who read here don’t want taught. We’ve moved on from much of it, and we celebrate and thank God for that. Being unique and being similar (and, in some cases, exactly alike) are not mutually exclusive – and I believe it’s worth letting go of some “uniqueness” if, in fact, I believe that those unique things are not eternal and, in some cases, even are damaging and not of God. I don’t mind at all much of what we have jettisoned in my lifetime, even as I share the concern that we not jettison what I see as the wonderful aspects of our peculiarity.

That’s not an easy balance to strike, and it never will be accepted unanimously by our membership, since we all see things slightly (and even radically) differently - but I really like the fact that I see the Church leadership making an honest effort to strike that balance of both holding on and letting go.

1 comment:

ji said...

I wonder if you can see that you slipped into Mormon folklore yourself with a reference to heavenly parents? Was that intentional?