Friday, May 21, 2010

You Reap What You Sow

Recent news articles like this one in The Arizona Republic have discussed the fallout between the Mormon Church and Latin members, investigators, and potential converts in Arizona. Missionaries are having more doors slammed in their faces, and pews are thinning out because many Latin Americans don't want to be a part of the same Church as Sen. Russell Pearce who sponsored the new Arizona law clamps down on undocumented immigrants. We saw similar fall out two years ago in the wake of proposition 8.

Unless the LDS Church wants to become more politically and socially homogeneous and more narrow in its outreach and its capacity to influence others, it needs to embrace more liberals and liberal ideals. It's not enough anymore to be politically neutral. The Church actually didn't take a stand on the immigration law, but because a prominent Mormon Senator did, the effect is the same. They will need to distance themselves from him to contain the damage or it will get worse.

Beyond this issue in Arizona, I see this trend becoming more of a problem for the Church the closer we get to 2012. I actually think it would be a very bad thing for Mormons if Mitt Romney secures the republican nomination. The bigger Mitt Romney gets, the more the public will associate his republican platform with Mormonism. Not only will it isolate liberal or Democrat Mormons, it will drive away potential converts and limit the outreach of the Church for a very long time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Church has an untapped pool of potential converts. If they want to reach those people, they have got to accept gays, immigrants, liberals, and all those people who are different from the bulk of the membership and who have so much to offer. Perhaps, though, the Church doesn't want to reach out to those people. Maybe they want to be as white, bland, and homogenized as milk.


Craig said...

I think milk is tasty, not bland at all.

But I agree 100%. And in a lot of ways, I see this as a good thing. I don't really want the church to grow. I'd like to see it die out, even though it'd be a long, lingering and painful death.

I think though, that eventually the church will start to become more liberal. As the current hierarchy dies off, and younger, (relatively) more open-minded men replace them, the church will very slowly start to move away from its current trajectory. We have to remember that the church is still being run my men who grew up in the 30s and 40s. Their world-views are a product of their time, and so therefore is the church's.

Of course, in a lot of ways, the church is already more liberal than a lot of its core membership, especially in the Intermountain west. The Rush Limbaugh, Ron Paul, and Glenn Beck Mormons have a lot of say and power in the church, so who knows.

Rob said...

Situations like this present LDS members and leaders with a fascinating conundrum in light of Joseph Smith's statement that "truth will always cut its own way."

If the doctrinal claims of the Church are true, then none of this other stuff should matter--not the political climate, the actions of prominent members who are public figures, the Church's support for particular political causes, none of it should alter the truth of what the Church claims. If they are true, the Church ought to be able to stand on those merits alone come what may.

Yet we have not only a large PR machine within the Church that obviously has some influence, we also have a growing historical record that shows the Church shifting focus, emphasis, and even doctrine in response to cultural and political pressures. And outside of the Scriptures, we look in vain for any single authoritative source of just what constitutes LDS doctrine.

For an organization that likes to present itself as the restored repository of unchanging truth, there seems to be an incredible amount of potential malleability in what the Church is and what it teaches. Is that a strength, or is it a flaw sufficient to call into question the Church's fundamental claims to legitimacy?

Daniel said...

I do not believe the Church is driven by an ultimate Truth. I believe it is like any other Church and has both positive and negative qualities and that its leaders can choose to adopt more positive qualities and forsake negative qualities. I believe there are many things that motivate the Church to make those decisions, and I think missionary work is a big one. In this case, I think it has made some very foolish decisions if it really does want to grow and increase its reach.

I don't believe the Church will flourish on its current trajectory whether I want it to or not. I would like to see it change its path and I think if it did it would benefit from it and so would society at large. I don't think the Church would be more or less true if it became more inclusive, but I do think it would be better.