Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cultural mormonism

A couple of posts have got me thinking about the hold mormonism has on people long after they stop believing. There are a lot of people who are nominal mormons at best and many more who are lapsed completely. Why do they retain their connection to mormonism when they stopped believing a long time ago?

The first was from Gloria at Musings on Mormonism in her post Religion vs. Relationship with Jesus. The second was from Andrew, a former mormon who retains his cultural ties to mormonism with a post linked to Gloria's called Religion vs. relationship.

What it stems from is the veneer of religiosity. Mormonism does a great job at creating a sense of community that is founded in a belief that they, unlike anyone else, have the "true church" and that they share a common sense of persecution. Ironically, mormon "persecution" looks a lot like the proselytizing that they do to other religions. Persecution can look pretty different depending on what side of the fence you are standing on. Even more than basic doctrines, mormonism is concerned with imprinting on the lifelong member and new convert alike a shared sense of history, being a part of the story of mormonism. It is easier to tell people a story and then surround them with other people who affirm that same story, even if the average mormon is woefully ignorant of the actual history of their church and what their basics beliefs are. Doctrine takes a back seat to feelings, history is preeminent over theology. When your basic evangelism tool is to ask people to pray for a warm feeling about a book penned by a shyster in the 19th century, you certainly want to rely on feelings and not pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Mormon teaching, whether fast and testimony Sundays or General Conference talks or teaching in Elders Quorum is all about reaffirming the belief in the mormon story. If you are a former mormon, think about the talks you get at General Conference from "apostles". What is the general theme over and over, year after year? It is that mormonism is the "true church". You don't get deep teaching, you get stories. You don't get Scriptural exposition, you get anecdotes. So even when people completely abandon the teachings of mormonism, they still cling to the church because they still buy into the story even if they don't buy into what that story means.

The same is true of Roman Catholicism and other religious organizations that have deep cultural ties and family linkages. Many Catholics are simply Catholics because that is what they were born. They might never go to Mass, might not believe in the doctrines, but Catholic is how they were born and Catholic is how they will die. Similarly, many mormons flat out will not leave mormonism because they have so much invested into it that they cannot bear to walk away even after they stop believing.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A new blog you should check out!

Musings on Mormonism: Response to a comment from an LDS reader

Gloria, who like me was saved out of mormonism and like me has a big family (even bigger than ours!), has been writing some excellent thoughts on mormonism at her new blog, Musings on Mormonism. You should check it out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Haven't posted much recently. My thoughts have been heavily on church matters, on politics, on conferences and reformation societies. But we are finally getting more or less settled in to our new house, and a new house in a new area means it is time to request a free copy of the Book of Mormon! I hope to get one delivered by a couple of sincere, nice young men in the next few weeks and have the opportunity to explore the Word of God with them...