If Reform Mormons ever form a Mormon Congregation in this area, I’ll go.
The comparative below includes quotes from the Reform Mormonism website
LDS narrative tends to teach and utilize scripture in a literal way that is not that different from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy beloved of most Evangelical Literalists. The Church encourages members to take a literal approach to scripture, religious history, sociology, and theological concepts.
Reform Mormonism does not take a literal approach to scripture, myth, or theological concepts. Our belief is that literalism tends to make continued exploration more difficult, thereby slowing progression. We examine scripture, myth and theological concepts for knowledge that can enhance our progression through life, and understanding of our lives.”
LDS narrative insists that authority is necessary, sanctioned by Heavenly Father and instituted by Jesus Christ. Authority is something that must be passed on formally by calling, ordination and setting apart. In addition, “keys” are connected to authority and separately defined as an additional complexity in the authority structure system of the Church. Keys seem to be one of the principal echelon-separation concepts that creates hierarchy within the Church.
Reform Mormonism take a more Gnostic approach to authority; that authority already rests within the individual, and that authority as it is instituted in the hierarchies of religious organizations is for the purposes of the organization, not the purposes of God. In Reform Mormonism, ordination is used as a ritual to aide in mutual understanding of a role. No one ‘gives’ you authority from God – you already have it. Reform Mormons tend to be skeptical of people who claim they have more authority than another. ”
LDS narrative functions with obedience as the “first law of the gospel.” God and Christ are emotionally portrayed and perceived not unlike “Masters and Commanders” who equate obedience to righteousness as realities.
The narrative functions entirely on an equation that looks like this:
Obedience + Worthiness = LDS Spirituality and leads to —–> blessings.
This sort of obedience is typical of the notion of performance-based religion.
Obedience literally is tied to specific laws, policies and ritually-driven covenants/promises. Rewards (blessings) are predicated on obedience and the LDS version of Divinity makes no bones about having no promise if obedience is lacking. Obedience includes an unquestioning fealty to the declarations made by Church leaders (see Authority)
Reform Mormonism does not accept the concept that God has instituted or administers a law/reward system, and views the existing systems as man-made attempts to guide people into better ways of living (although, in many cases, the arbitrary nature of the selected laws can create living conditions much worse than intended or would have naturally resulted.) In most cases where laws, rules, sin, and absolution are involved in religious teachings, we often find that the purpose is to create followers and maintain a power structure.”
Regarding Morality and Accountability
LDS narrative seems obsessed on “morality” and has come up with its own definition of things its members should do in order to be seen within the Church and by Divinity as “righteous” (another word for “moral.”)
More rashly and invasively, the LDS seem to see morality as including a rigid and judgmental sexual more with its own specific “laws,” procedures and policies regarding what is to be done about broken sexual mores.
How good (moral) must LDS members be?
Reform Mormonism believe in living moral and accountable lives, but does not subscribe to the idea of “morality” as merely a sexual code. To Reform Mormons, moral behavior is when an individual acts in harmony with their moral construct; the building of one’s moral construct is one of the purposes of life, and is different for each individual, based upon their progression. Reform Mormons also believe in living accountably; that is, we accept the consequences of our actions. We don’t believe in offloading the consequences of our behaviors on other people.”
LDS narrative proposes a God who reveals stuff to Church and members. Lip service is given to personal revelation from God via the Holy Ghost (and based mostly on personal worthiness as a prerequisite) directly to an individual. God only talks to worthy mortals based on each mortal’s life. In addition, if the mortal has accepted a calling within true-churchiness there is a promise of personal revelation specifically limited to the individual’s areas of responsibility as defined by True-Churchiness.
Then there is revelation from The Lord Jesus Christ to the authority-validated leadership of the Church. This is the revelation that is more implied than actually occurs, is seen or publicized. In the olden days, the Lord Jesus Christ was perceived as essentially in constant revelatory and commanding contact with Joseph Smith. Nowadays there is not too much prophesying, seeing and revelating. The standard as proposed and propounded by the True-Church Hierarchy is that revelation to Church and members is mostly a matter of warm or positive feelings that contrast with a stupor of thought that might be a sign of the Adversary’s influence.
Another way to express the chain of spiritual connection between an individual member and God is implied to look like this:
Reform Mormonism believes in revelation as the opportunity to commune with God, and for most Reform Mormons, this is an internal endeavor. It can occur in a variety of ways. It is highly personal, and is initiated, understood, and improved throughout one’s life by the knowledge one acquires by making decisions and dealing with the consequences. Revelation is not limited or restricted based on a hierarchy or concepts such as “worthiness.” The goal of this communion is increased wisdom. ”
On History and Tradition
LDS narratives lay claim to its modern history and offers a narrative consistent with the literal-mindedness of its true-church claim. True-Churchiness then quite casually co-opts membership historical narratives and personal stories as emblematic of the true-churchiness-of-it-all. Anyone who has visited, for example, Martin’s Cove, will be presented with an official Church version of an actual historical event – complete with all the faith-born implications. There is a pointed avoidance of any sense of leadership revelation and decision-making as contributory to human suffering and tragedy.
The more famous LDS tragedies in Missouri and Illinois are treated in a proprietary way that tolerates very little objective research and assessment of all that happened. The narratives almost by definition must support the true-church claims even in the face of recorded and journaled history. True-churchiness proposes the idea that intellectual/academic inquiry ought to be discouraged in that it may be “non-faith affirming” activity which lies outside the purview of control or how it might be managed “Authority.”
Reform Mormonism shares the modern history of Mormonism. Though not as socially structured as the LDS church, we have our own routines and myths. Our rituals are designed for personal edification and progression, built upon Mormon tradition, and are not compulsory or viewed as required insofar as God or our progression are concerned. We view all historical and intellectual inquiry as desirable and welcome. We believe faith is enhanced by a full exploration of truths from all sources. We believe that all facts and theories are valuable, and deserving of examination.”
Regarding Salvation and Exaltation
Theology is more or less mortal speculation about imagined realities and natural events that are based on nothing but imaginative interpretation of physical and mystical manifestations.
LDS narratives insists on literal acceptance of its theology, claiming, for example that God has instituted a grand design – a Plan of Salvation, if you will. The plan is a concoction of vague ideas and notions that have little basis in reality and a lot of basis in imaginative mortal guesswork. By its own vagueness, the Plan of Salvation is as complex as one would like it to be; full of ecclesiastical and theological guesswork in order to create a useable platform for the array of shallow platitudes presented in the Church’s correlated lesson manuals.
As the Reform Mormon website puts it,
“The Plan (of Salvation) includes the concept of eternal progression, which is the idea that there is a part of human beings that has always existed and will continue to exist forever (beyond time.) Most LDS adherence to laws is based upon the concept that while ‘salvation’ (existence beyond this life) is granted to everyone, ‘exaltation’ (the opportunity to become as God is now) is granted only to those who have obeyed a variety of laws. Ultimately, there are six different places one could wind up in the afterlife.”
Reform Mormonism believes in the concepts of eternity (beyond time) and eternal progression (we have always existed, and we will always exist.) We believe that there are several purposes for existence on this earth, and that one of the primary purposes is to gain knowledge; we value the idea of knowledge acquisition because we believe it enhances our current experience and our attempts to progress, and that the process of learning is training ground for further progression after this life. We believe that many people squander their opportunity to gather knowledge in this life, to their detriment. We believe that progression is an unstoppable force, but that many things in life can slow it down, so we try to avoid those things. We don’t believe in convoluted progression systems with multiple heavens, viewing the various ones that exist as people’s attempts to reconcile a variety of scripture taken too literally.”
LDS narratives have formally and publicly come out in support of the fundamentalist and politically right wing American religious view. The formal alignment is portrayed in the true church’s Proclamation on the Family.
Families are prioritized and valued in the true church, but with fundamentalist definitions rigidly implied as being the only way God respects family relationship. In addition, true-churchiness does not hesitate to propose that efforts to promote feminism, homosexuality and gay marriage are not appreciated or valued highly by God because the are considered destructive to the ideal true-church family.
Church narrative reveal as little as possible to talk about expending church funds on political processes designed to oppose family relationships that fall outside the “divine” injunction of the Proclamation on the Family.
In addition LDS authorities insist that all the families created but who lack the promise and covenant of eternal marriage as sealed by Authority, will not endure beyond mortal life. This circumstance is in fact considered to be the way God wants it: no eternally authorized marriage = no surviving relationship after death. That’s all there is.
Reform Mormonism considers the family to be the basic building-block of society. We view non-traditional families with the same importance as traditional ones, and within our rituals consecrate a wide variety of familiar structures. We do not view feminism and homosexuality as anathema to families; indeed, most families already contain these elements, and failure to recognize this creates hatred and animosity where none need exist. We view political activity by religious institutions valid insofar as their attempts to remain viable and legitimate within society are concerned; we do not condone or support Church-based political activity designed to influence laws outside of this concern. We view most political activity of the LDS church designed to influence discrimination against women and homosexuals as extremely misguided and damaging to families and society.”
“Truth” is the founding fatherhood of true-churchiness.
LDS narratives teach or implies that “We have ALL the truth. We are the one true church on the face of the Earth. Every other church has some truth and good people therein but they don’t have ALL the truth which we alone have.”
Frequently (on a monthly basis in Testimony meeting) with an almost unconscious casualness, you will hear a well-meaning soul stand and publicly express feeling sorry for those in other churches (or merely other humans unchurched or otherwise) who do not have the truth that exists in the true church. Awareness of the ignorant arrogance of such a statement (which I’ve heard repeatedly made in the presence of non-members and/or “investigators”) seems to be beyond the sensitivity of the earnest bearer of testimony in that moment.
The true-church calling of God to carry that truth throughout the world assumes that eventually the entire world and the entire dead world will have heard of the true-church Plan of Salvation and that once accomplished, everything will be “fair and balanced.” Then Jesus can come back to judge the righteous and the wicked – dead or alive.
Reform Mormonism considers truth to be an assessment of things as they are at a given moment in time. Truth is individually understood, not provided from a Church, and as such, declaration of another individual’s religious pursuits as invalid, incomplete, or untrue, is ridiculous. Diversity within religious pursuit offers a variety of individual progression opportunities (new knowledge) that exist only due to that diversity; conversion of all individuals to a singular religious view and approach would suggest the ultimate destruction or elimination of other views, and as such, acts as a barrier to knowledge acquisition.
We value all of the religions of the world, including the LDS, and seek to explore and learn from the mysteries and knowledge they each contain, but we do not view any one church as completely true or more true than another. We do not seek the conversion of everyone to our point of view. Therefore, we do not conduct proxy ordinances for the deceased (although we do repeat ritual in the interest of the personal edification of the living.) We tend to be skeptical of anyone or anything that claims to have a greater understanding of the truth than anyone else.”
Regarding Membership in Good Standing
LDS narratives do not separate theology, doctrine and ordinance as superior to policy and procedure. That is to say, the true church does not contain within its walls the true gospel. The true church IS part and parcel of the true gospel. They are not separate in any important sense. Fealty to the true church is the same as obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Non-fealty to the true church is the same as disobedience to God in the form of not living the gospel.
In that regard with all that hierarchy of command, control and correlation, there can be little toleration in the true church of dissent, disagreement and conflict in any public venue. Such are punishable offenses. Disciplinary action is possible whenever public discourse is offered about doctrines or theology not approved by the true church. Speaker-outers are at risk for some form of rebuke or censure that revolves mostly around the temporary suspension of disfellowshipment or the castigation of being purged or cast out through excommunication.
Church discipline is the sword held over the heads of members as a principal part of micro-management of church-perceived errant member behavior or out and out threats to church integrity and narrative. The emotional reaction to drastic discipline may very well be internal trauma about being cut-off from not only the Church, but from exaltation, and connection to God.
Reform Mormonism views the Church as an entity distinct from one’s philosophy and theology. While the LDS organization is very “top-down,” similar to a business organizational chart, the Reform Mormon approach is “bottom-up,” with no controlling hierarchy. We believe any church organization should be organized for the specific purpose of supporting the individual in their quest for progression enhancement; as such, Reform Mormonism does not posses the ability (or desire) to conduct disciplinary actions. One leaves Reform Mormonism when one chooses to leave it; it is not up to the Church to make this decision. One’s connection to God is influenced by each individual’s progression; separation from God is illusory; control of one’s destiny is not in the hands of an organization, and we encourage everyone to resist mentally handing it over to an organization of any kind.”
LDS narratives emphasize a spoken or implied proselyting challenge:
“Once you have heard our message, we challenge you to pray and ask God if it is true. God will make the truth known to you and you will feel it inside.”
Not a bad challenge if limited to the single act described above. However, True-Churchiness takes the position that if you prayed to God and God made you to know something other than the truth the true-church espouses, then you didn’t receive it from God, but from some other source. In other words, the true church has the only truth that God will reveal to anybody.
As I grew older and began to dissent, one of the admonishments I received was that I should refrain from questioning the true church version of the gospel of Christ. By questioning, I might be influencing others of less spiritual strength and causing them to lose their faith.
This never made sense to me as my own spiritual strength was something given me from God, not loaned to me by someone else inside or outside any church. It is also important that I do not portray myself as a wiser authority on God than anyone else.
The idea that I have power in and of myself to overrule God’s influence in the life of someone else belittles God. As persons of faith, perhaps our faith is most tested when we are tempted to not trust God’s processes.
Like overbearing and over-protective parents, do we hover around someone else thinking we know more about what is spiritually best for them than God?
Are we then failing to trust that God is at the helm?
This is not license to move about testing God by presuming to speak for Him and insert ourselves in between God and another soul. It also is not license to willfully decry the spirituality of anyone else as not equal to our own – AND – if we are not persons of faith, it is not license to go about tearing down religious attitudes in others.
For if we are not persons of faith, then why would we struggle to attack something we ourselves do not believe exists?
There are many Christians who are quite content to live in the simplest arenas of belief – who feel no need for deeper spiritual and mystical experience and have no hunger to come any closer to God than they are right now.
There are others who are so secure and established in a fixed and unchanging spiritual mode, that they truly are afraid of really exploring and testing what they really believe. In some cases, people like this will be critical if they encounter explorers, questioners and testers who are on a quest to come to know God as God knows them – in a highly personal and spiritual context.
Traditional formulas full of shoulds and should-nots are like paved roads.
There is much to see from the road, but you never know what meadows and mountains exist if you do not step off the road and make your own trail into a wilderness of opportunity.
Call me a Reform Mormon