I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

But Should We?

Since this is my blog, I moderate comments and determine whether I allow them to be published or not. Truthfully, I allow nearly everything. The only comments I've disallowed are ones which tend to be inflammatory and consist mostly of personal, emotionally based, attacks. If there is enough substance to react to, I'll react to the comments on the basis of merit and ignore the personal attacks.


There were a couple of strong reactions to the following posts:
Sgt. Calvin Gibbs: How Mormon Is He?
Response to "Thoughtful Christian" Concerning Sgt. Calvin Gibbs 10/05/10



A few took issue with my examining how "Mormon" someone was, in this case, Calvin Gibbs. This initially puzzled me because these examinations are rather commonplace in Mormondom.


We often examine how Mormon someone is by looking at indicators. This is very similar to how you might evaluate whether someone is a good student in school. You might look at attendance, enthusiasm, participation, grades, etc.


Mormons tend to look at whether someone is actively attending, holds callings (volunteer church positions), temple-worthy, etc.


Although I didn't feel I could allow these comments to be published on this blog the question of whether we Mormons should be evaluating fellow Mormons in this manner is certainly worth examining.


This examination has to be done by our lay church leaders for a number of good reasons. Lay church leaders hold positions only temporarily. We all tend to cycle in and out of these positions. I'm thinking this is where the tendency to examine fellow Mormons comes from.


I'd have to say though, that this tendency probably isn't healthy for Mormons. Reactions from those outside the Church suggests it can be deeply offensive.


Perhaps it is time to rethink this practice . . .

7 comments:

  1. Looking at the comparison between "Mormon" and good student, I guess the question is...does a student become MORE of a student because of his performance, enthusiasm, etc.? It seems to me that a student does Not Become MORE of a student just because they are a more exemplary student...they become a *better* or *more exemplary* student, but not *more* student.

    Does Mormonism work the same way, then?

    I would like to say that the student model isn't that great, but I would also like to think that how Mormon someone is depends on what they believe...but even this is tough, because different Mormons can believe very different things and both believe they have legitimate, Mormon beliefs.

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  2. Thanks for commenting Andrew S.

    It's not unusual to refer to someone as a "good Mormon" at all.

    No, my student analogy isn't perfect. But, I think it is fair to say that Mormons are cohesive and unified in their fundamental beliefs, more so than other religions from what I can tell.

    Mormons occasionally believe different things but only on things that are peripheral, not things central to our religion. If the scriptures do not cover something and church leaders have provided no guidance then you may find some differing views on fringe issues.

    You cannot hold fundamentally different beliefs from our documented, taught truths and remain Mormon. It isn't possible.

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  3. I was going to leave a comment, but blogspot kinda ate it. Maybe that's a sign I should write less?

    What I was going to say is two things. Firstly, I agree that Mormon difference usually is in peripheral areas. But I would have to say that MOST Mormon beliefs are peripheral. If you want to look for definitive, central beliefs, you aren't really going to go too deeply into the Mormon religion. Consider Temple Recommend interview questions or the Articles of Faith -- most of them don't go all that detailed into really deep, unique Mormon beliefs. Even when the question seems to do so, it may allow a LOT of leeway and personal interpretation. (What does it mean to believe the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, for example?)

    Secondly, I'd argue that it's very easy to hold fundamentally different beliefs EVEN from documented taught truths and remain Mormon. Since Mormons do not have to regularly affirm a creed of their beliefs, what will get them "caught" is their ACTIONS -- are they openly PREACHING doctrine that disagrees with the church? It is this preaching ACTION that is considered apostasy, not the holding of other beliefs.

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  4. Hi Andrew.

    Outsiders often infer more "leeway and personal interpretation" than there is in reality.

    You are correct in stating that actions are what gets Mormons "caught" rather than their beliefs. Mormons that are on their way out start with differing beliefs and end with their actions getting them formally separated from the faith.

    You seem to have had more experience with the Mormon fringes than the faithful. I believe the Mormon faithful are remarkably united and cohesive and they are the vast majority -- I'd say over 90 percent.

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  5. I guess what I'd have to say is that I have plenty of experience with Mormon faithful who might be called by some other members as "fringe". Their continued membership (and they certainly consider themselves faithful members) is dependent on the facts that central Mormon beliefs are narrow in scope, most beliefs are non-essential to Mormonism, and what matters far more is their actions. They are not "on their way out."

    I guess the begged question (which is my point -- that there is a begged question) is...we can both use the term "Mormon faithful" and be talking about groups that vary quite a bit in size. There aren't a lot of tell-tale systems to decisively narrow down how large the group of "Mormon faithful" should be, or by what criteria we should admit people into such a group.

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  6. Being a "member" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint is not a vague feeling of identification or affiliation. It is an actual membership record. You either have it or you don't. There is no gray area.

    The Church is led by a prophet of God who receives revelation directly from Heavenly Father. He either is a prophet or he is not. You cannot say, "He is a prophet, but he's wrong on this issue." There is no gray area.

    Being a faithful Mormon requires certain beliefs and certain actions. If you do not have these beliefs or have not taken these actions then you are not a faithful Mormon for purposes of this earth and membership in good standing in the Church. They would include:

    Baptism
    Repentance
    Constant Sunday Church attendance
    Belief and compliance with the Temple questions.
    Belief and compliance with the commandments as contained in scripture and as defined by current Apostles and Prophets.
    Temple Worthy (Hold a Current "Recommend")
    Other requirements that are well understood and clearly defined.

    As I pointed out in my original posting, the indicators suggest Gibbs isn't doing these things.

    Final judgment is left up to Heavenly Father in the next life. He is the only one that knows our hearts. For purposes of this life, certain criteria hold sway, the ones I've mentioned.

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  7. It is an actual membership record. You either have it or you don't. There is no gray area.

    If you want to use this as a criteria (that's fine), then this makes things easy. Then I can easily say there is a WIDE range of beliefs among members (i.e., all people who are actually members on record.)

    The Church is led by a prophet of God who receives revelation directly from Heavenly Father. He either is a prophet or he is not. You cannot say, "He is a prophet, but he's wrong on this issue." There is no gray area.

    There's plenty of area to disagree -- and the thing is, you can still sustain your priesthood leaders, be a member on record, have a temple recommend, and fully participate in the church -- precisely because of this.

    Baptism
    Repentance
    Constant Sunday Church attendance
    Belief and compliance with the Temple questions.
    Belief and compliance with the commandments as contained in scripture and as defined by current Apostles and Prophets.
    Temple Worthy (Hold a Current "Recommend")
    Other requirements that are well understood and clearly defined.


    While I would say that you can be a member on record without having constant Sunday school attendance (there are estimates that around 80% of the 14 million members of the church aren't "active"), I would point out that these requirements that you have listed -- which I think are reasonable and which I think many members would agree with -- are VERY minimal and offer great room for leeway.

    So, even among the people you would see every Sunday at church (or even more regularly), who are active temple recommend-holding members, I think you would be surprised to discover that they can be active and they can be worthy to attend the temple without believing the same things that you do.

    As I pointed out in my original posting, the indicators suggest Gibbs isn't doing these things.


    I apologize. I haven't been speaking about Gibbs at all this entire time. I don't know about Gibbs (even though, I suppose, that's who this post references.)

    Final judgment is left up to Heavenly Father in the next life. He is the only one that knows our hearts. For purposes of this life, certain criteria hold sway, the ones I've mentioned.

    No complaints here.

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