“New Mormonism” or “New Order Mormonism” is (typically) the idea that Mormonism is true because of the beauty and enlightenment it brings to one’s life, rather than because it is literally and historically true. Now that historical evidence against Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, prophets after Joseph, and other things is readily available to people (lots of it even admitted by the church itself, thanks to craftily-worded Gospel Topics Essays), many formerly devout members must adopt a more nuanced approach to Mormonism in order to make it work.
The Godfather of this ideology (not my label creation) is Terryl Givens. (Making the GodMOTHER of it Fiona Givens, his wife. I thought she was too sacred to mention outside of parentheses.) Two of the few intellectually honest LDS apologists (IMO), Terryl and Fiona have penned such resources as “Letter to a Doubter“, and the bestselling Deseret Book book, (Book book?!) “The Crucible of Doubt”.
A supreme deity would no more gift us with intellect and expect us to forsake it in moments of bafflement, than He would fashion us eyes to see and bid us shut them to the stars” ― Terryl L. Givens
It’s no surprise that some members of the LDS church are slowly transitioning away from more literal interpretations of things — we’ve seen things declared by prophets as definitive thrown out before. Most religions must eventually become more metaphorical as science begins proving their doctrines wrong. (The great flood, for example.)
While I appreciate church members opening up their minds more to a certain degree, I also cannot support the ideas of “New Mormonism”, just as I can’t support the ideas of the church in its early days or now (two very different sets of ideas!) Here’s why:
The church makes no attempts to de-literalize its teachings or scriptures. (Unless it suits them, aka polygamy/racism/sexism etc.)
Each of us has to face the matter — either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” — President Gordon B. Hinckley
Those who no longer view the Book of Mormon as a literal historical record (a pretty obvious conclusion to reach once you take the time to study its inconsistencies with historical evidence/consistencies with the version of the Bible Joseph owned/total lack of archeological evidence) are not supported by the church. To believe the Book of Mormon is not historical is akin to apostasy in the mind of most devout Mormons and Mormon leaders. For now, that is. I believe we will eventually see a greater migration of church members’ beliefs toward a figurative interpretation of “the most correct of any book on earth”.
It’s not fair to others.
Those who have experienced the pain of a faith transition (including “New Order Mormons”) or have dealt with big questions tend to go one of two ways. They either develop increased compassion toward those who are doubting and going through a faith crisis, or they become more irritated and attacking of those who choose to leave the church (Dan Peterson).
I cringe thinking that I could have potentially raised children in the church. Things are already being shown for what they really are, so by the time my kids are grown up, they’ll have to be even more brainwashed to stay in a church that is so provably false. That is not healthy, and I am SO grateful I don’t have to subject my children to that. No one deserves to go through the pain of having their worldview crushed and exposed as a lie, and certainly no one deserves to be treated like it’s their fault/made to feel guilty.
I don’t believe anyone should continue activity in a church that they know is false (however they may warp the words “true” and “false” to make it work for them). It perpetuates the existence of a church that is a.) not true, b.) harms people and c.) requires more mental gymnastics to believe with every passing generation. Not to mention the fact that it’s taking 10 freaking percent of people’s income every year (a scale of fraud we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss).
As President Hinckley said, the church is either true or a fraud. If it is a fraud, thousands have suffered and continue to suffer because of something that is not true.
We don’t need to say a whole lot about LGBT members of the church. They’re suffering — that’s clear. Polygamous wives of church leaders also suffered. Intellectuals suffer. Those with doubts or disbelief who are married to spouses who hang on the brethren’s every word suffer. Feminists suffer. Pretty much anyone who doesn’t fit the ideal mould of a church member suffers.
As a girl I had been proud that my father and mother had obeyed the highest principle in the Church… I was aware now that my mother’s early married life must have been humiliating and joyless on many occasions because of her position as a second wife.” – Annie Clark Tanner, A Mormon Mother, 1969, p. 133
If she [Emma Smith] will not abide this commandment [polygamy] she shall be destroyed.” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:54
I cannot support people continuing to chain themselves to the church because the possibility of walking away from it is too painful.
I do not believe continuing to remain in the church after learning that its fundamental claims are false is healthy. I think it may seem like the better option when you’re in that situation (I certainly considered it when I realized I was living a lie), but I don’t think it’s conducive to long-term happiness or growth as a human being. It’s a testament to how well the church brainwashes people that they are willing to stay even when they no longer believe it’s true.
(Please note: I understand that family and other situations can make it impossible for some people to “just leave”. I have every sympathy for them. I simply list my thoughts on this as a principle, that isn’t necessarily universally applicable right now.)
I believe in truth.
Truth matters. I believe in standing up for it, even when it’s hard. Isn’t that what we were taught to do at church for all those years? Did that principle stop becoming important to us once there stopped being an authority telling us to live it? My moral compass points firmly toward sticking up for truth. I don’t care how many “good things” are in the church — I’m glad they’re there, but they can be found outside the church, without dogma and hurt.
I totally understand how hard it is for people to leave the church. As I said, I have only sympathy for those whose situations make it practically impossible for them to leave, and I understand that there is often a need to take things at your own pace for the sake of your family and livelihood. But ultimately, if someone knows the church is fundamentally false and is in a position to leave, I believe they should. Without our morals, what do we have? What’s our anchor? It may be easier to stay, but I believe that if you zoom out and look at the situation with a “for the greater good” mindset, walking away from Mormonism, consequences and all, is the right thing to do.
Stop trying to make excuses for something that is false.