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By Five Solas
As LDS Church membership growth stalls and in some places declines (particularly in urban areas like Seattle), a number of explanations have been offered. There’s been a lot of focus on availability of information via the internet, particularly regarding church history. There’s also been a lot of discussion of Millennials and their preferences, which are often not well aligned with traditional LDS beliefs and culture.
But I wonder if part of the trouble isn’t related to a decline in the traditional candidate pool for LDS conversions. In my experience, LDS converts often came from what I would call liberal Protestantism, mainline denominations many of which have been in steady decline in recent decades. And if my observation is broadly true, then as they have declined the result has been a shrinking pool of promising candidates for LDS missionaries to draw from. Implicit here is that the LDS message doesn’t resonate equally well across different groups (unless the candidate is only marginally engaged therein).
What do folks here think? Does the LDS religion have a uniform appeal across religious backgrounds? Or are some more likely, statistically speaking, to be receptive to the LDS message?
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday
--The Beatles, 1965
In an outstanding rebuttal to Seve Bannon's criticizing Mitt Romney for having served a mission in France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while others "were dying in rice patties" in Vietnam, the atheist-conservative-libertarian known online as Allahpundit writes the following:
Utah GOPers slam Bannon for claiming Romney hid behind his religion to avoid serving in Vietnam
How important should faith be in our society? In our politics? Is serving a full time mission for a church worthy of military deferments?
Yesterday my husband and I attended church services at the First Church Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Salt Lake City.
The minister, Reverend Harold Straughn, related an account of Bishop Krister Stendahl’s "Three Rules for Religious Understanding," which the bishop shared in a 1985 press conference in Sweden, by way of suggestion to non-LDS religious clergy members who originally opposed to the building of an LDS temple there.
Keeping these three rules in mind ultimately resulted in the diverse, non-religious clergy members to arrive at a shared mutual respect large enough to authorize the necessary permits for the construction of the LDS Stockholm temple.
When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion, and not its enemies. Don't compare your best to their worst. Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.) Our UU Minister Rev. Straugh applauded the actions of the Swedish Lutheran clergy who, by keeping the above in mind, arrived at enough shared understanding to overcome their strict objection to the construction of the LDS temple.
He then drew a correlation to the church’s recent policy change by saying, “I couldn’t help but wonder: if the LDS church would have chosen to apply those same three rules for religious understanding to how it dialogues with gay and lesbian parents, would we all be dealing with the same aftermath we’ve been facing now, in the wake of the policy and it’s affect on Utah’s religious landscape?”
That got me thinking about how both religion and LGBT issues are often approached here on the board. I think those rules are definitely a helpful starting point (although not the ending point, either) when beginning to understanding a religion.
I can’t help but think that some haven’t been giving gays and lesbians the same benefit of the doubt, when it comes to how those three rules could be applied:
When you are trying to understand what it means to be gay or lesbian, you should ask gays or lesbians—not our enemies. Don’t compare “the best” heterosexuals with “the worst” homosexuals. Leave room for “holy envy”—be willing to recognize elements in gays and lesbians, and their relationships, that you admire and wish you could, in some way, reflect in your own self or relationships.
Taking a step back from the specific conflicts of gay marriage, gay and atheist scouts, and related topics...
The broader issue of Church and State looms large in these discussions. This board being primarily USA and Canadian Saints have lots of assumptions regarding the role of the state when it comes to religious liberty. The Latter-Day Saints are particularly sensitive in our organizational memory of times when the state stepped in and denied the free exercise of our religion.
I'd like to start a discussion on the broader concept of:
When and where it is appropriate (healthy, moral, right, or other synonyms) for the state to step in and regulate, limit, or require a religious institution to abide by laws that may be contrary to it's own doctrines and practices?
Are these government interventions ever right?
Do they apply equally to religions that reflect a majority population than they do to minority religions or traditionally marginalized groups?
When two minority groups (LDS, LGBT advocates) are in conflict over their rights of free association, who arbitrates or mediates their differences?
Where is the balance between anarchy and tyranny, that still respects individual rights?
If we can step back from our own pet organizations or causes- this broader discussion might shed light on the proper relationship between community standards, individual rights, and the rights of faith based organizations.