Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Mormon Thing

Strange doings are happening in the Mormon kingdom. I remain fascinated by the Mormon tradition, and am still part of it. I belong to a gay Mormon group, Affirmation, and I recently joined a Yahoo group, Reform Mormonism Discussion Group (see their web site). None of this is to say that I want to go back to church, but I'm very curious about some winds that are sweeping the Mormon landscape.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has policies that limit the participation of members who are attracted to the same gender or are gender variant. Affirmation was formed to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the LDS Church resolve the spiritual conflict that many such members felt in the church. The group offers support, fellowship, education, and sanity in the midst of personal crises created by a church and its teachings that demand individual perfection and strict adherence to church teachings.

Reform Mormonism began in 2002 to reform the LDS and FLDS (fundamentalist) branches of Mormonism. The reformers appear to be reacting to the increasingly patriarchal line of the other two churches, and the reformers are also going back to many of the early teaching of the founding prophet, Joseph Smith. The Reform Mormons are a home church. They are also a creedless church, and cast an exceedingly wide doctrinal net, hewing to the traditions and teachings, but radically reinterpreting the teachings, structure, and prophetic teachings of Joseph Smith.

Finally, the other major strand of Mormon thought is the Community of Christ. The Community of Christ was formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). Like the LDS and FLDS churches, the C of C, has prophets, apostles, seventies - a priesthood structure. Unlike the other churches, the priesthood is open to women. Also, the church is governed as much by consensus as it is by direct revelation from the prophet.

The Community of Christ is undergoing a deep doctrinal rethinking in light of its revelation, the Doctrine and Covenants, section 163. The revelation was received in 2007 by President Veazey, and is beginning to have a large impact in the thinking of the church. The church's world conference in April of this year is expected to provide consensus and guidance on a number of social issues including same-sex marriage, and acceptance into membership without a C of C baptism.

You may wonder why I am interested in any of this. Although I do not follow the Mormon faith, it has a deep hold on my culturally. My own spiritual life is a little vague, and reading and discovering these changes within the Mormon tradition is heartening. I have hope for my brothers and sisters in the faith. I have hope that their leaders will find the means to heal the deep wounds that various churches within the Mormon tradition have inflicted on women, on lesbian and gay people, and on gender variant people.

The LDS church continues to turn a blind eye to its members' needs. The suicides among lesbian and gay members in that church are blood that stains the doctrines, practices, and attitudes of many members of that church. Affirmation will continue to bear witness to the plight of LDS church members in need. I don't believe in God, but I do believe in hope. I believe in thoughtful reflection, in prayerful communication, in witness for change and truth.

I've said many times in the past that you can kick the boy out of the church, but you can't kick the church out of the boy. And that's about as spiritual as I can get.