Friday, February 08, 2008

Where do Mormons go from Here?

It has been a very eventful few weeks for Mormons. The beloved prophet Pres. Gordon B. Hinkley died with lots of sorrow and promise for the future. A new First Presidency was called with Pres. Monson taking the mantle. Then Romney suspended his U.S. Presidential run with some fanfair. Perhaps things will return closer to normal, but not without deep changes.

There is so much that was learned, even if it was already an intuitive understanding of the situation. Probably the worst and largest lesson is that Mormons are generally a hated minority. Many who are not Mormon (or Mormons who hold a more positive outlook on people) say this is mostly a persecution complex. A few non-Mormons and many Mormons believe the bias is large and active.

Although Mr. Romney’s withdrawal from the race is likely to quiet the controversy for now, many church members believe the turmoil of the past year will have lasting effects.

“There will be a long-term consequence in the Mormon church,” says Mr. [Armand] Mauss, the Mormon sociologist. “I think there is going to be a wholesale reconsideration with how Mormons should deal with the latent and overt anti-Mormon propaganda. I don’t think the Mormons are ever again going to sorrowfully turn away and close the door and just keep out of the fray.”

The question is, how are Mormons going to stay in the fray? There is no political side Mormons can go to in order to get some respect. Regardless what Democrat Mormons have said, the attacks have come from both the Left and the Right with about the same arguments. Frankly, the negative views on Mormonism are the only thing both sides agree with. If you look at the arguments from both sides you can't tell them apart, other than one side quotes the Bible sometimes. Mormons are alone and don't, like blacks and Jews, have immunity because of powerful political correctness standards.

It is perhaps for this reason my blog has become so inactive lately. Enthusiasm for doing more than commenting on other blogs has softened. One of my goals, beyond a defense of "Orthodox" Mormonism, is trying articulate Mormonism for those who aren't a part of the religion. Not only have I recognized my blog has pretty much gotten ignored by that demographic, but news reports have basically misrepresented and distorted the faith. Nobody really cares to change what they already think and believe. The recent call for members to get more active in blogging came too late. That is a business I have been in for years with little positive to show for the effort.

There is one thing that I have noticed and would like to pass along. It is something that is very difficult to do because stereotypes are easier to digest. The saying goes that the more you learn about Mormonism then the more disturbing it becomes. That is the complete opposite of the usual education about a topic. However, my experience has shown that to be true if the person doesn't seek to understand how Mormons understand Mormonism. Once I have gotten past the "what" of Mormon beliefs and gotten to the "why" and "how" then viewpoints have changed. At least, for those who are more open minded and less quick to judge. They become fascinated by the complexity, richness, and even liberality of the theology.

The problem is that I have found few people willing enough to open themselves to such discussions. It is easier to read about the history and theology of the most unusual kind and dismiss it without question. For the Conservative Christian it is too heretical. For the Liberal it is too religious and literal. Perhaps Mormons must come to the conclusion that they will not be liked or understood because its message is "a curse on both your houses." Not an idea that makes friends easy.

So, should Mormons somehow accept their radicalism? Should they accept the outsider role they have been given? And if they should, what does that mean and how should it look? Maybe Mormons should continue to close the door and keep out of the fray. This time living our lives as we always have and accept, conditionally, second class citizenship and a mediocrity of irrelavancy. Mormons have a work to do and it isn't becoming popular and getting someone elected to the office of U.S. President.


SilverRain said...

I think this is the most useful commentary on LDS current events I've seen so far. It brings it straight from politics and publicity to "how does it affect our personal lives?" Thank you for that.

Also, I think you make an excellent point. Our job is not to be popular nor is it to be president. I can't say that Romney was wrong for running, because he could have - and has - done some good with it. Most of us, however, need to focus on our microcosm, on the things we personally can affect, and realize that doing what is right isn't always doing what will be rewarded.

James Smith said...

Now that Romney is out, see what other Mormons are saying about the 2008 presidential race.