Are Mormons in a Time Warp?

Guest post by Eric.

In a period of rapid social change and tumult in the United States, 1968 has become emblematic: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Hundreds of American troops and thousands of Vietnamese were being killed in battle each week. A sitting president was forced to drop out of his re-election campaign. And student protests sometimes turned violent as parts of society seemed to be veering out of control.

But my family and I, like most Americans in those days, found a refuge each Sunday morning morning in church. At the evangelical church my family attended, one in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, worship services were a simple affair. We’d sing a few traditional hymns to the strains of an organ or piano. People would come to church in their Sunday best, women in dresses and men wearing white shirts and ties. And like nearly all other evangelicals at the time (unlike some of the mainline denominations), our Bible of choice was the King James Version, and God was addressed in prayer as “thou.”

Meanwhile, that afternoon, the few Mormons in town would meet as well. Although we viewed them as a cult, they did things much the same way as we did, even singing some of the same hymns to piano or organ and dressing up in the same way. They read the same Bible and talked to God in the same way, even if they may have folded their arms rather than their hands in prayer.

Fast-forward some 44 years and, my, how things have changed. The successor to the church I once attended now hides its denominational name. Gone are the traditional hymns, replaced by a “praise team” performing and leading soft-rock tunes (or perhaps even with rock not so soft), none of it using lyrics older than I am. And Sunday dress? That might be a T-shirt and shorts or jeans. And nobody would notice if the youth pastor had a beard and stylishly long hair (or, for that matter, were female). And the King James Bibles have long been replaced by the New International Version or even its successor. Gone too are prayers with “thees” and “thous,” replaced by “you” and spoken in a decidedly casual tone.

Meanwhile, at least in outward appearance, little seems different at the LDS ward, where the most radical thing that has changed is that members now meet in a three-hour block rather than making two trips to the church on Sundays. They’re still singing the same traditional hymns to piano and/or organ, and the missionaries they send out aren’t dressed or groomed much differently than 1960s business attire, and the male leadership is expected to dress the same. By and large, people still come to church dressed in their Sunday best, and for women that still means dresses or skirts, even though some styles of slacks can be seen as dressy enough for a White House state dinner. And people still carry their King James Bibles and pray in its type of language.

I call this the Mormon time warp. It’s as if the church culture, or at least some manifestations of it, got frozen in the 1960s, perhaps as a way of reacting to society’s cultural upheaval during that time. Meanwhile, evangelicalism has progressed much differently, often adapting from the culture.

The reactions of Mormonism and evangelicalism to the upheavals of the 1960s and accompanying social changes weren’t always that much different. It wasn’t uncommon during the early part of that era to hear about evangelical pastors (stereotypically, often from the South) denouncing rock music and creeping hippiedom. Leaders in popular culture such as the Beatles were denounced from evangelical pulpits. Most tellingly, during the late 1960s and early 1970s a Wheaton College graduate named Bill Gothard was filling up stadiums and arenas with crowds of 15,000 or more evangelical youth of many denominations to warn them of the dangers not only of premarital sex but also rock music, women’s lib and modern fashions. (His influence waned with changes in evangelical culture, and a 1980s sex scandal involving his subordinates along with criticisms of his prooftext-based doctrines ultimately put him on the far fringes of evangelicalism.)

But, despite objections from some quarters, attempts to hold back the cultural tide against evangelical traditions failed to stick.

(As an aside, the different approaches to culture have occurred even though evangelicalism and Mormonism have followed similar paths politically. Through the early 1960s, it wasn’t uncommon for Mormons or evangelicals to vote Democratic; in fact, Lyndon Johnson carried Utah in 1964, the last time a Democrat won there. But since then, probably spurred by social issues, Mormons and white evangelicals have become overwhelmingly Republican.)

At least since I joined the LDS church in the 1990s, I have wondered about the reasons for the Mormon time warp or cultural freeze or whatever you wish to call it. Why the different paths for the two great religious traditions?

If I had written this blog post even two weeks ago, I might have ended right there and asked why, as I did recently in this comment. But spurred in part by a comment from Katie L and my reading of an article in Slate (a good critique of that article can be found beginning here), I believe I have a big part of the answer: correlation, the process begun by then apostle (and later church president) Harold B. Lee in 1960, to centralize the production of curricular materials, a process that came along with increasing centralization in general.

Here are some of the other factors gave Mormons, but not evangelicals, a time warp:

  • Brigham Young University has played a huge role in training future LDS leaders; there’s nothing comparable in the evangelical world. When BYU, which operates under direct church authority, reacted to the 1960s upheavals by banning facial hair on men and otherwise pushing back against cultural changes, it set a cultural tone for the church.
  • The church’s missionary program has become a rite of passage for LDS males (and not a few females). By not following fashion trends, the church has sent out an implicit endorsement of traditional attire.
  • The highest level of church leadership is a gerontocracy, and most midlevel church leaders and the church’s bureaucracy are based in a small geographic area, creating a bubble of insularity for those with the most direct influence on the church. Because what may seem different or even downright weird in other parts of the country is ordinary within the LDS bubble, changes come about quite slowly.
  • Evangelicalism is a movement in Protestant Christianity, not an organization. Being as every bit decentralized as Mormonism has become centralized, churches have been freer to experiment with worship styles. Whatever worship style you prefer, you can find it somewhere in evangelicalism.
  • Megachurches became a driving force in evangelicalism beginning in the 1970s. A key to the megachurch movement was to make church as inviting as possible to nonmembers, and that often involved adopting the trappings of the culture when there was no doctrinal reason to do otherwise.

It should be noted that there are pockets of evangelicalism that have followed a Mormon-like path in cultural matters and promoted a conservative approach to cultural change. Liberty University (founded by Jerry Falwell), for example, has a dress and behavior code very similar to that of BYU. And Bob Jones University, on the fundamentalist fringe of evangelicalism, has a dress and behavior code much stricter than that at BYU; under most circumstances, students can’t watch movies with a rating harsher than a G, although they can watch PG films with a faculty member and then discuss the objectionable elements. There also are some smaller denominations, generally on the fundamentalist fringe, that use the KJV exclusively and pray in KJV style.

My comments on the slowness of cultural change in the LDS church here should be seen more as observation than as criticism (although there certainly things I would like to see change more quickly than they have). And while there are ways in which I admire the ability of evangelicals to separate culture from doctrine, I also see some areas where they have compromised their doctrines as a result and/or been uncritical of the dominant culture, and I wouldn’t want to see my church follow that path.

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71 thoughts on “Are Mormons in a Time Warp?

  1. My question for Mormons is “how is innovation possible in the LDS church?” Forget new styles of music or customs for dress. If a lay member in Georgia wrote a hymn that by all Mormon standards is excellent; how could that song be discovered and incorporated into a Mormon worship service? If a father in Maine developed an excellent program for discipling 12 year olds, how could it be put in action?

  2. Great reflections! The curious thing is that the uniformity of LDS culture, such as the norms for dress and behavior at Sacrament meeting, are not rooted in any way that I can discern in Church doctrine or scripture, yet they function with such a strong de facto authority. Try showing up in shorts one Sunday! And these same standards are applied worldwide, by and large, regardless of indigenous cultural norms. So the issue is not only how Mormonism relates to the changing American culture, but to host cultures in general. I wonder if some of the success – and failure – of Mormonism in foreign countries is precisely because it is so closely linked to a particular expression of American cultural life.

  3. I respect what Tim has said about Mormons in a time warp. The way I look at it so many people come to church dressed for a picnic, but not in the LDS church. I feel dressing appropriatley shows respect for God and His Son Jesus Christ. It shows respect for the building as a house of worship not a community center wheren we recreate. Also using thee and thou to address our Heavenly Father in prayer also shows respect for Him and His son, dont we need more respect in our world today not less? Mary B.

  4. To be clear, we are absolutely not talking about “culture” in general. We are talking about a pretty small subset of cultural trends out of many possible interrelated aspects of culture. And its not even all really from the 60’s either–I think a significant bulk of Mormon hymns are still from the 19th century.

  5. Good observations Eric, and I agree yours is not a criticism but more an observation. I’m 56, a “lifer”, and know exactly the time-warp concept you’re discussing. Your observations of the sociological milieu you describe is spot on. My only slight tangential disagreement is that I’m not seeing the link so much with “correlation” as the main sociological culprit. Correlation dealt more with uniformity of doctrines as its main goal. Uniformity of manuals. Uniformity of the buildings architecture. It dealt with uniformity of schedule, and organization. In the sense that “policies” were correlated, yes, a certain degree of conformity, as a mental construct, was also institutionalized. But nothing in correlation technically dictated how we dress, or the length of our hair, or the white-shirt tradition, or women in dresses, per se. If so, it was more accidental than intentional in my opinion. Correlation was perhaps the “corporatization” of the various wards and stakes. (And largely no different than why all McDonalds, or Staples, or K-Marts did the same thing–it’s cheaper!) Having a SINGLE standard supplier for building the hundreds of new chapels, and a SINGLE manual for all classes, and a SINGLE curriculum of study church wide–just simply cuts costs and guarantees a uniformity to instruction and costs. There is also the advantage of avoiding false doctrines creeping into a curriculum that is NOT thus uniformly administered.

    If anything the “stuck-in-the-sixties” phenomenon you’re observing was an accidental after-effect where perhaps the church members became accommodated to giving up observable diversity for the benefits of unity. The reason this did not happen in evangelical circles is because they have no real central HQ in the first place. A mega church in Dallas has no connection with a mega church in Oklahoma, so why would they need to correlate their architecture, manuals and curricula? Autonomy does not breed uniformity. Mormon churches are not autonomous and have never claimed to be.

    If anything, I think the real single cause for the “stuck-in-the-sixties” modus operandi of the Mormons is mainly due to the fact that we have life-time, elderly leaders. With their wisdom, also comes their generational morays and normative expectations. It is human nature to have a certain “comfort-zone”, which really doesn’t evolve much over a single man’s lifetime. Therefore, the reason Mormons still fit the 1960’s mode is largely because most of our leaders today were called into their apostleships around 1960! I really think it’s just as simple as that. And here’s the proof–if in the next two general conferences, if even 10% of the general authorities came to the pulpit in a blue shirt (shock), or…God forgive my blasphemy…with an open collar…(without the condemnation of the church leadership), the taboos would be broken OVERNIGHT! It would not take a generation to pick up on the tacit approval nod, even if the General Authorities never even commented on it from the pulpit. It would just evaporate like a mist of breath on a mirror. Not that it wouldn’t be commented on, as of course it would. But my point is you wouldn’t need a new “correlation” effort to make it socially acceptable. It would just happen because human nature is to go with the flow. And, by the way, I suspect the same thing would happen among the Amish if shaved their beards and removed their bonnets. But to me a larger point, is–why would I want the Amish to shave their beards or remove their bonnets? Likewise, I’m not too concerned that the Mormons are in a social time-warp. Yes we are. But it doesn’t personally bother me unless we start to assign “righteousness” based on that criteria. When that happens, the Mormons err as did the Pharisees in Christ’s day.

  6. Garth, before we have too much fun throwing around the perjorative of “Pharisees” – let’s keep something in mind.

    The Pharisees were not really stuck in a time warp for their day. They were actually reformers – people trying to draw upon the past in new ways to make Judaism relevant to their modern time period. You could just as easily compare them to pious hipster interns in blue jeans at Focus on the Family as suit-and-tie wearing Mormon bishops.

  7. If anything the “stuck-in-the-sixties” phenomenon you’re observing was an accidental after-effect where perhaps the church members became accommodated to giving up observable diversity for the benefits of unity.

    Uniformity means standardization, and the cultural artifacts that were standardized were largely the ones in place when the standardization happened. That’s almost not even interesting.

  8. I feel dressing appropriatley shows respect for God and His Son Jesus Christ. It shows respect for the building as a house of worship not a community center wheren we recreate.

    What is it about conservative business dress that makes it more respectful to God and His Son Jesus Christ, and to the building?

    Also using thee and thou to address our Heavenly Father in prayer also shows respect for Him and His son,

    No. Using “thee” and “thou” shows intimacy and familiarity, not formal respect.

  9. Seth R: My point about the pharisees was not if they were traditionalists (they were) or avant garde (they weren’t.) It was that they were sometimes overly pious without understanding the spirit of the law. They judged by outward obedience and conformity to strict performances based on appearance. So, the point is that IF anyone (Mormons too) were to judge someone BASED on their white shirt and tie, or the length of their hair, or their status in leadership, they would be guilty of acting out of harmony with the gospel. I think most Mormons know that and make a conscious effort to remember God’s warning to Samuel: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

  10. Garth, actually the Pharisees were not traditionalists.

    They created their own version of the traditions, and then advocated for them.

    And the judging by appearances cuts both ways.

    Such as judging a group as judgmental, shallow, and obsessed with appearance merely because they have a certain uniform way of dressing. If anything, I’ve found the standardized clothing at LDS worship services makes me LESS concerned with dress and appearance, not more. We’re all wearing the same stuff anyway, so what’s the point of comparing ourselves to each other.

    Whereas, the comparisons could be easily and readily made at an Evangelical service.

    Keep in mind, I’m not saying Evangelicals are more judgmental than Mormons. I’m merely saying that the existence of a dress code is not even remotely proof of such judgmentalism.

    And I believe I heard Tim himself mention before that Evangelical churches certainly do often have their own dress codes. It’s just a dress code that looks more casual, but is every bit as enforced as any LDS version.

    As long as clothing is a form of communication (and it always will be) – there will be people trying to interpret the message you are sending.

  11. Being stuck is both good and bad for the church. Requiring some degree of conformity has institutional as well as ritual benefits. Expecting men to dress nice at church is like expecting an attorney to wear a suit and tie in court. More formal dress creates a different atmosphere than informal dress. Wearing a tie or skirt to church is a sign of submission, which has ritual benefits in worship. It also creates institutional pride and acknowledgment of separateness. The Church want’s to be seen as different (i.e. a better class of people), even as it strives to be accepted.

    The missionary dress code is obviously a uniform of sorts, and it has the same sort of benefits as a uniform, allowing easy recognition to others and solidifying a corps mentality among missionaries.

    However, the cling to a certain uneasy conformity creates problems for those who are interested in God but not in human social conformity, and those who do not see the principled difference in worshiping in a skirt and in jeans.

  12. My point was that judgment of appearance is a human problem. And getting rid of suits, ties, and dresses won’t change that problem one jot.

  13. I agree, Even complete uniformity would not do it, unless you made a rule against shining shoes and pressing shirts.

  14. Tim

    My guess is that getting a new hymn in the LDS Hymnal would be quite a long-term undertaking because a new edition has not been brought out in decades.For a new edition of the hymnal, millions of copies have to be printed, in more than 50 languages, and distributed in 167 (I think) countries. Heck, a ward adjacent to mine has 120 members who speak Chinese, Vietnamese or Khemer (Cambodian) and are not too fluent in English. I think that bringing out a new edition of any Church publication must cost a lot of money and, of course, there are many competing monetary needs. I know that “correlation” started for the purposes of doctrinal consistency, but I think that it continues as a matter of sheer practical necessity. Once the Church both added so many members and expanded to so many different nations, language groups and cultures, the Church simply could not deliver instructional materials and other programs to everyone without transitioning to an organizational model of bureaucratic efficiency.

    As to a new idea for discipling 12 year olds, at least where I live, in the Washington DC metro area, that sort of thing just happens. Those who work with youth usually start with their predecessor’s program, but most eventually find the ways that work best for them. This sort of thing can be “correlated” to a certain extent, such as the Duty to God booklet, but specifically what happens necessarily varies with local circumstances. When my ward’s boundaries (and thus our mission field) were changed to add a large public housing project, with immigrants from three continents, to what previously had been a ward entirely of affluent suburbanites, some things had to be said and done somewhat differently. Success or failure is nearly 100% determined by local effort and adopting to the backgrounds and needs of those served.

    Eric

    I agree with your “time warp” observation. I do not think that correlation itself has anything to do with the customs and practices that you discuss, because correlation focuses on doctrinal publications. However, your other suggestions for explanation of the time warp all look at least plausible. Also, I have never seen anyone else attempt such explanations. Good work.

    I think that the time warp is great and I hope that it never goes away. (Of course, darn near everything goes away eventually.) There might be some things that would be better changed, but those are vastly outnumbered by the things better left as is. Thus, avoiding the process of change altogether is overwhelmingly a net positive. Starting in the 1960s, the myth developed that change is synonymous with improvement. This was usually based on willful ignorance. People should learn: “Before you tear up a fence, understand why it was built in the first place.”

    A thought that I have had that is somewhat analogous to your ideas is that today’s Mormon cultural mores are a time capsule of mid-19th Century middle class American respectability.

    Murdock

  15. I agree with Murdock. And to Tim’s question about “how is innovation possible in the LDS church?” I would point out I don’t think it is really innovation that is the issue. Our Ward councils have the same kind of creative minds, and outside-of-the-box people like those that fill the deacon boards at most other churches. Most Mormons are happy to look for ways to get a job done better, and maybe more so, since we’re running our own congregations with no professional paid staff. The Mormons were suckled on innovation which got us across the plains, built homes in a desert, created businesses and challenged old religion with revolutionary new concepts. If all that isn’t “innovation” I don’t know what is. I’ve not heard us fairly charged with lacking “innovation.”

    I perceive you’re maybe really asking “how is “evolution” possible in the LDS church?” Even the topic of the Mormons being caught in a time warp somewhat presumes that’s a bad thing. Frankly, as Murdock pointed out too, the sweeter, innocent time of the naive early 60’s is arguably not a bad thing at all. Being “peculiar” has not been something the Mormons have denied. Granted, it can get out of hand when one seeks peculiarity without purpose. But I don’t think that’s a problem for most LDS. Those on the periphery of the church who may be pushing for abortion, or gay marriage recognition, or ordaining women are certainly chaffing under the “non-evolving” LDS Church. Some will not be reconciled if they’re waiting for the church to “evolve.” But that’s a doctrinal issue and one could argue that evolution is what the Mormons would feel brought about a need for a restoration in the first place. I doubt the church will ever “evolve” in that context. But we innovate, adapt, adjust, rethink better ways all the time. We even have abundant non-hymnal songs performed in our meetings. And LDS bookstore are filled to the brim with parenting books full of ideas about raising 12 year-olds, ripe for the picking. Stuff like that flows like a stream through LDS communities without requiring publication from the church. I don’t think the Church views it as its job to put an official imprimatur on any of that stuff. I think all churches accept the constraints of their “norms”, which is why we wouldn’t have midget mud wrestling in the chapel, or pole-dancing lessons for the Beehives. But just because LDS are more traditionally constrained than the Unitarians, is not a sign of lacking innovation IMO.

  16. I just thought I would mention that the General Authorities have, on more than one occassion, given a dress code for the members to follow, both in and out of church. It is a standard of the church that no man who is not wearing a white shirt and tie be allowed to officiate in the Sacrament Ordinance. Long hair, earings, and other cultural fads also prevent such.
    This standard is not something that is simply mimiced from the leaders of the church, but is an enforced standard, with concequences to not complying with it.

    KULLERVO

    To a large extent clothing affects our dispostion and actions. A person in formal dress is more likely to act in a reverant and subdued manner, more appropriate to church, than is a person in shorts and a t-shirt. It is a psychological effect, but it is still very much there.

    As to ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’ while it is true that originally they were a familier form, ever since this form has been dropped from common use in the English language these terms have become more associated with the scriptures, and have thus taken on a more respectful tone than they once had. I still think they have some familiarity to them, but it is underscored by respect. Thus they become more like the language one would use with their father, which is the language apropriate to praying to our Heavenly Father.

  17. I looked up the official church handbook of instructions, Book 2, 20.4.1 reference. This is the only place I’m aware of that talks about white shirts and ties and is addressing the ordinance of the sacrament. “Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church.”

    I understand why shematwater might get the impression it is more than that, but it really shouldn’t be. When I was a bishop, I felt our members were focusing too much on outward appearances. I asked my counselors to come on Christmas day–which fell on a Sunday–in colored shirts. I wore scarlet red. My counselors wore green and blue as I recall. We sat on the podium throughout the entire service and conducted all meetings as normal. Believe it or not, no one actually made any comments about it. Didn’t seem to phase them in the least, or if it did none of us ever heard of it. Yes, I really think it is more mimicry than you realize. Or tradition, habit, desire to obey “in all things”, etc. But it is social imprinting, and subject to change.

  18. Tim: Re the questions in your opening comment — Some innovation is allowed and even encouraged at the local level. For something to become done throughout the church (or a new hymn to be sung) would require, first of all, that the powers that be know about it. In recent years, the church’s curricular materials have invited comments, and it wouldn’t be inappropriate to contact one of the centralized committees with possibilities. I haven’t been involved in the church’s youth programs, but I’ve been told that some of their elements have originated at the congregational level.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the next hymnal includes some new hymns (but nothing radical in terms of music styles or anything like that). Friend magazine has at times printed some new songs written by members, and there are a few songs produced outside official church channels that have become popular with members by composers such as Michael McLean and Janice Kapp Perry that could end up in the hymnal.

    Garth: Good comments. One thing you said:

    Likewise, I’m not too concerned that the Mormons are in a social time-warp. Yes we are. But it doesn’t personally bother me unless we start to assign “righteousness” based on that criteria.

    I agree. Although I miss the contemporary music styles I enjoyed in worship before becoming LDS, the things I wrote about don’t particularly bother me; I mostly just find it interesting that we do some things differently, and that’s OK.

    But I think we do sometimes become self-righteous about some of those. If we call our Protestant sisters irreverent because they wear pants to church — and, yes, I have heard that said more than once — we’re being judgmental. And some of the things we lump under modesty (which I agree is a virtue) don’t have anything to do with modest. I do think most members try not to judge others by such things, but all of us fall short in some way.

  19. In my experience the main problem with the LDS church being in a time warp is that is actively sabotages the LDS church’s missionary efforts. This is dumbfounding given how much effort, time, and money the LDS church spends on missionary work.

    I don’t think many LDS members have an idea of how off-putting the average LDS church service is to the average investigator. LDS services are long and boring. They are often at really inconvenient times, no sane church holds services from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., it is death to parents and small children. Often just to investigate the LDS church requires a new set of clothes because the average American simply doesn’t own or wear more formal clothes anymore.

    I also think the general unwillingness to accommodate local needs stunts church growth. As just one example on my mission there was a town where everyone worked in the sugar cane fields. EVERYONE. The schedule for working in the cane fields was 6 months of working 7days per week and 12 hours a day. Then for six months they didn’t work at all. The problem was that the LDS church insists that church be 3 hours long on Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon. The end result was predictable, any missionary work done during the off season was obliterated as the entire branch went inactive during the cane season, then the branch had to rebuild during the off season. Most members of course never came back, so the branch perpetually consisted of recent converts. Something as simple as allowing church to be an hour long in the evening during the cane season would have really helped that branch. But, since church was a Sunday Morning affair in the U.S. in the 1950’s, that was the way it was going to be in a town that couldn’t possibly keep that schedule.

  20. As to ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’ while it is true that originally they were a familier form, ever since this form has been dropped from common use in the English language these terms have become more associated with the scriptures, and have thus taken on a more respectful tone than they once had.

    No. This is commonly asserted by English-speaking Mormons, but nobody outside of Mormonism thinks this.

    I still think they have some familiarity to them, but it is underscored by respect. Thus they become more like the language one would use with their father, which is the language apropriate to praying to our Heavenly Father.

    No. Only English-speaking Mormons think or claim this, and its twisted-around-backward. “Thee” and “thou,” as used in the King James Bible, in Shakespeare, in other early modern English literature, and by Quakers and related religious groups who still use the Plain Speech, are intimate and familiar forms. That is why they are appropriate to use when speaking to God: you are supposed to address God with the familiar pronoun, like you would a close family member. It’s not about showing deference to and respect for God, but about showing intimacy with God. In the KJV Bible, when people say “thee” and “thou” to God, they are not doing it out of respect, but out of familiarity, closeness and intimacy.

    Let me say that again, because for some weird reason, it never sinks in: in the scriptures, “thee” and “thou” are not used as formal, respectful pronouns, even when people in the scriptures are talking to God. In the scriptures, people use “thee” and “thou” in a familiar and intimate sense, even when talking to God.

    This is why in every single modern language that still uses a formal/informal pronoun delineation, people pray using the informal form. Modern Spanish and French speakers, even Spanish- and French-speaking Mormons, use the familiar “tu” to address God. modern German speakers, even German-speaking Mormons use the familiar “du” to address God. “Tu” and “du” are analogues to “thou.”

  21. To a large extent clothing affects our dispostion and actions. A person in formal dress is more likely to act in a reverant and subdued manner, more appropriate to church, than is a person in shorts and a t-shirt. It is a psychological effect, but it is still very much there.

    i don’t disagree.

    But is there anything doctrinal that would raise this to the normative intensity that it takes inside Mormonism? I don’t know of anything in the scriptures that says God’s people should dress formally to help them act more reverently.

  22. Starting in the 1960s, the myth developed that change is synonymous with improvement.

    That’s absolutely ignorant nonsense.

  23. Re: Thee/thou. It’s also stupid because ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, has no formal/informal distinction. Any need to address God formally is something the writers of the New Testament would have found foreign.

    Modern Greek does have a formal/informal distinction, so I just looked up to see if Modern Greek Bibles converted to the informal address when talking to God. Nope, still informal.

  24. Good point David and Eric. @David– maybe local leaders on your mission should have remembered that In Israel and other mid-east countries, where members gather, they meet on Saturday, not Sunday at all. Flexibility needs to be encouraged. Not sure what to do about the 3 hours, other than make them less boring. Better teachers? BTW, when I was serving, we still had trumpets when the choir director did “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. That’s not church policy, but I figured if it’s good enough for the Mormon Tabs, it’s good enough for us. I doubt the Holy Ghost consults Manuals 1 and 2 very often. Guidelines are important, but should never trump inspiration and local needs to adapt to a particular circumstance. Apostle Bednar has made this a theme–talking about do we pay more attention to the “pearl” or the box that the pearl is housed in?

  25. Garth,
    To shift my question from “innovation” to “evolution” shows that you didn’t understand what I was asking. For instance, it’s my understanding that the Single’s Ward began in a local congregation and when the success became well known and established it was implemented everywhere. If for some reason it became advantageous to completely dissolve the Single’s Wards or to group them with young married couples on Saturday nights; that kind of radical shift in a program wouldn’t be allowed.

  26. BTW, when I was serving, we still had trumpets when the choir director did “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

    I always refused to take part in singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

  27. Tim,
    Thanks for the clarification. I think I was focusing on the charge of lack of innovation–as such– is not a valid charge in my opinion. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were masters of innovation. But to your point about maybe the limitations of local control of spontaneity and policies, I grant that we are not built to be totally autonomous wards and stakes. Our structure is heirarchical which by definition requires input from above. You’re right that movement also can sometimes come from below. Sunday School and Church Welfare began that way, but I’ve not heard that singles wards began from the grass roots. Could be.

    As for local implementations–your example of completely dissolving all Single’s Wards or grouping them, etc., could not be just a local decision if your asking for a church-wide policy decision. How could it be otherwise? But, actually for a Stake to dissolve or create a unit is 99% a local decision. The central church is primarily involved just so they can support the local decision. Wards are under Aaronic authority with Bishops and are generally managed at no higher than the Stake level, practically speaking. Though Stakes are totally under HQ creation. A stake cannot replicate itself by definition of our structure as it is under Melchizedek authority. And the head of that line of authority resides with the apostles. That’s why GA come out to organize Stakes, but have no functional role in organizing Wards. Also, since tithing, budgets, missionary funds, are all “equalized” through church HQ, of course local decisions on a massive scale, like dissolving entire units or deleting programs, would naturally be more central decisions. Is that an issue of innovation though? But your thought about how does a song or an idea get absorbed, I don’t think is any different than it would find acceptance in any other basic organization. People try it. People see it works. It gets attention and if worthy, gets incorporated at whatever level it fills the need.

  28. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were masters of innovation.

    This is a favorite rhetorical device of yours and it’s completely shallow. I agree with you. Smith and Young were masters of innovation. No argument from me at all. What’s that have to do with the current day church? Pointing to something the church did over 150 years ago is irrelevant to how the church behaves today. You don’t have Smith around to innovate new ways of engaging the culture. Would you say Thomas Monson is a master innovator?

    Let’s take David’s mission example. Could local leaders change the ward meeting time to 1.5 hours on a Friday night (the actual Sabbath)? Could this lead to a 50% activity rate? No one will ever know because no one can try it.

    As the church starts to expand into predominately Muslim countries, could church meetings be moved to Thursday or Friday to accommodate the different weekend schedule in those countries? Could African wards use drums instead of a piano?

    I’m not suggesting that a local Bishop be allowed to make a change for the entire religion. What I’m saying is that a local Bishop might have a great idea that the entire church could benefit from, but there’s no room for experimentation. There’s no place to discover new practices, there’s no place to refine them. The heirarchical nature of correlation is cutting out from the LDS church what used to be Smith’s greatest strength.

    You might be glad the church is stuck in the 1960’s. In the not to distant future that will be as quaint as Amish culture was to those in the mid 20th Century.

  29. Garth, Murdock,

    I think you’re underestimating the role that correlation has played in the time warp. Correlation did more than create uniformity of doctrine. It created uniformity of culture by insisting that the process of correlation itself is doctrinal. In fact, it was initially called the Priesthood Correlation Program, transforming what might otherwise have been seen as mere administrative policies into a de facto conduit for God’s will.

    The impact this has had on our culture is huge. You can’t dismiss it as “just some manuals.”

  30. Let’s take David’s mission example. Could local leaders change the ward meeting time to 1.5 hours on a Friday night (the actual Sabbath)? Could this lead to a 50% activity rate? No one will ever know because no one can try it.

    I actually think the Church could do this institutionally, i.e. the church allows quite a bit of flexibility when a need arises. However the culture is generally too conservative, there was probably one leader at some level that did not want to innovate.

  31. Ultimately, the problem with stagnation lies in the fact that most all of the upper leadership is two generations removed from the average member. This, coupled with a culture of deference for superiors, makes innovation less likely. I think the church is actually bouncing back from a reactionary period. I expect more innovation in the future.

  32. I actually take the RCC as a success story in this regard. I don’t totally understand the nuts and bolts of the hierarchy, but the services I’ve attended from Manhattan to Virginia to small town Nevada have all been vastly different in appearance and flavor (music, dress) and yet the teaching was consistent. Again, I can’t give an educated analysis of why this is, but to say that giving local leaders freedom and autonomy to make adjustments will spell the down fall of the LDS Church, is misguided. Maybe its not an equivalent example (a trained/paid ministry may be the big difference), but seeing how a population of 1 billion manages itself, is worthwhile. .

  33. As the church starts to expand into predominately Muslim countries, could church meetings be moved to Thursday or Friday to accommodate the different weekend schedule in those countries?

    Church is held on Friday in Muslim countries.

  34. I actually think the Church could do this institutionally, i.e. the church allows quite a bit of flexibility when a need arises. However the culture is generally too conservative, there was probably one leader at some level that did not want to innovate.

    At the time there were no stakes in Nicaragua at all. Everything came under the management of the mission president. I made sure the mission president was aware of this problem. The previous mission president may also have been aware of the problem, but I can’t speak to that. My point is that this situation was as bureaucracy free as you are going to get in the LDS church, but no change was made.

  35. My point is that this situation was as bureaucracy free as you are going to get in the LDS church, but no change was

    This is interesting David. Please clarify: why do you think no change was made, in spite of the lack of bureaucracy?

  36. I actually take the RCC as a success story in this regard….is worthwhile.

    The other thing that the RCC has going for it is an established catechism. This is one area where apologetic arguments to the effect that the LDS church has no official doctrine is harming the church. If you want everything to be similar at a certain level, but deny official doctrine , the only thing you have left to do is to control local congregations administratively.

  37. This is interesting David. Please clarify: why do you think no change was made, in spite of the lack of bureaucracy?

    My only guess is that no one even considered moving church services to a more convenient time and length for the members during the sugar cane season. Probably nobody thought it was an option. At the time, I didn’t consider it an option, and even if I did I probably would not have brought it up out of deference to church leaders. When I presented the problem to my mission president, I only told him why the branch was in an impossible situation. Only with hindsight did I realize that a simply change would have made a big difference.

  38. Ultimately, the problem with stagnation lies in the fact that most all of the upper leadership is two generations removed from the average member. This, coupled with a culture of deference for superiors, makes innovation less likely.

    This is significant. I think a lot of lack of innovation happens at the individual level: people in the Church often assume you cannot innovate new policies, so they don’t bother advocating for them. And even if they do, they will have to get through a level or two of local leadership that is also paralyzed by the same phenomenon.

    Because the line in Mormonism between doctrine, policy, and revelation is blurry, I think people at every level are nearly as hesitant to suggest alternative policies as they would be to suggest alternative doctrines.

    Sometimes though, you get a perfect storm–towards the end of my mission, I was a district leader, and I had a good relationship with my zone leader, the APs, and the mission president, all of whom had surprisingly flexible approaches to policy. I was able to suggest and implement all kinds of deviations from mission policy just because I bothered to ask if we could do it.

    It was a weird situation in which it was actually way better to ask for permission than for forgiveness; just most missionaries assumed the answer would be “no,” so they either broke the rules or adherec to them rigidly, instead of asking for non-doctrinal rules to be changed or varied.

  39. My only guess is that no one even considered moving church services to a more convenient time and length for the members during the sugar cane season. Probably nobody thought it was an option. At the time, I didn’t consider it an option, and even if I did I probably would not have brought it up out of deference to church leaders. When I presented the problem to my mission president, I only told him why the branch was in an impossible situation. Only with hindsight did I realize that a simply change would have made a big difference.

    See? This. I think this is what prevents policy innovation in the Church.

  40. Mormons dress the way they do because they like it. 8 years latter my parents cannot help but mention the dress code at my church after my daughters baptism, that and the assumption that I had to pay the pastor a tip for the baptism. The only difference between my father and brother is a short and long sleeve shirt. No drama, dress the way you want but if you think wearing a white shirt makes you more reverent you should probably get out some more. I’ve worshiped in everything from PT gear to body armor and if my kit affected my worship it is my fault not the clothes

    Kullervo,

    I agree about the Battle Hymn of the Republic, if that song or the National Anthem was sung at my congregation, the chances are good I would find a new place to worship.

  41. Katie; I’m not sure I read as much into that as you seem to take from the churchwide “Priesthood Correlation” program as I do. Maybe you’re right. But, my impression is that it was more a meat and potatoes attempt to deal with a church that had boomed into a worldwide entity and the need to manage so many threads. As I mentioned it wasn’t just manuals, but architecture, purchasing, building funds, budgets, meeting plans, handbooks of operation, etc. The church just necessitated going “corporate” for mere organizational effect. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m a little unsure of how one divorces a “policy decision” from your view that “transforming what might otherwise have been seen as mere administrative policies into a de facto conduit for God’s will.” If that were true as you perceive it, why were most of these decisions turned over to correlation committee’s? That’s not a “thus sayeth the Lord” move, but a corporate “what’s the best way to get something done” move, I suspect. And why did policies evolve and change and morph over the many years? For example, correlation brought us In the 70’s, missionary lessons which were rote and memorized word for word. Then along came the Preach My Gospel design using just outlines and principles but teaching missionaries to avoid rote memorization. This hardly necessitated any “God’s Will” issues. It was just a better way. New directions. No need to find “Godly Conduit” fault as we simply migrate from correlation A to correlation B. Surprisingly, wikipedia actually has an entry on this, and at least my recall would be more along the lines they describe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priesthood_Correlation_Program

    Where I do see your point is more along the lines of members, who maybe said; “Well the church handbook says we HAVE to do it this way, so it MUST be God’s way.” Kinda like the white shirt and tie concept, which was mentioned above in which the comment was made that “consequences would follow” if not obeyed to the letter. But the actual church manual says just the opposite. Therefore, do we as members, presuming that “a” way is “the” way create our own taboos and perfunctory obedience? I have no doubt that happens, but more as a secondary effect of it being easier to live life in sound bites, instead of by effort and introspection.

    Again, I really think this was not a plan to squelch innovation, but more the same reason that any organization writes handbooks, issues memos, establishes procedures and protocols. I’ve seen this same pattern in other entities with a hierarchical design. I guess it doesn’t seem so foreign to me cuz I’ve seen it in most organizations I’ve worked with like the Boy Scouts of America, the World Health Organization, Universities. One could argue if the corporate model is good or bad for a church. But I’m also not sure how to avoid the model in any large organization that needs to stay ahead of potential problems inherent in their size and spread.

  42. I think it’s far from clear that being in a “time warp” is a bad thing.

    A while back, I heard a story that adults who leave religion and find their way back tend to prefer older and more traditional services. And all this blithe assumption floating around here that people prefer contemporary language, casual Friday dress, guitars, and hipness is starting to stink up the place a bit.

    On a sort of related note, I just had this recent study brought to my attention:

    http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/diversity-rising-census-shows-mormons-nondenominational-churches-muslims-spreading-out-across-u-s/

  43. Tim; I cited JS and BY to address the concept that innovation is an inherent fact of our cultural heritage. It’s hardwired into LDS doctrines which are by definition innovative and challenging of the “norm.” You’re taking my reference of these two leaders into a literalism and “must-apply-across-the-board” that I was not intending. My point is Mormons are known as fairly rugged individualists. High percentage of entrepreneurs. High ratio of successful achievers. Some critics even say driven to excess to succeed. JS and BY were cited by me as an example of where that trait maybe came from. I have no idea if T. S. Monson is as bold an innovator as was J.S.. Is his mission to forge new ground or hold to ground being lost because of too much accommodation with the decadent world? Has it not occurred to you that different eras require different outcomes? In the era of JS, the status quo of Christendom was what we were fighting against, hence lots of revolutionary innovation. In the era of now, the status quo of laissez-faire “build-a-God” may be what we’re fighting against now, as the world spirals into too much changing values. Hence, less accommodation to trendism. Maybe Monson is inspired to urge against blue jeans in church, and against tatoos, and against multiple piercings, and against commonality in prayers, because all those “innovations” would actually take the church in the wrong direction. If that is true then unintended negative consequences to innovate towards what the world considers “normal”, is likely what a prophet is here to correct. Even if that seems anti-innovation doesn’t mean it’s not the best course for the church. I frankly have seen the church do a great job at adaptation in lots of ways. Where adaptation and innovation merge and depart is a judgment call I guess. I’ve never felt we need to many hands to steady the ark if I trust the hands that are ordained to be carrying it.

  44. Seth,

    I don’t assume that Utah Mormons would prefer contemporary language, casual Friday dress, guitars, and hipness. I actually assume the opposite, I think most of them like things the way they are.

  45. I also wonder which is the more “adaptable.”

    A here-today, gone tomorrow accommodating sort of church that goes with whatever the people around it want, and then vanishes within a few years?

    Or a church that doesn’t alter it’s ways much, but instead sticks to them, but is still doing well decades later?

    Which is the real “adaptable” church?

  46. I would argue that holding on to, yes, celebrating a historic form of worship is a good thing. Matins, Vespers, Compline – all of these forms of worship provide a rich context for worship and connect the Christian with the Church through the centuries – the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, who rejoice in the presence of God the Father along with the believers here on earth. All Saints Day is a beautiful worship experience – especially as the congregation notes those who have gone to be with Jesus. Much of our worship service dates from the 1500s and much earlier in many cases as we sign the Te Deum or recite the Apostles Creed, however, hymns from every century are also part of our worship. There is diversity in dress – many wear suit and tie, dresses – while others wear jeans and a nice polo or button-up shirt. Our clothing reflects the diversity of the people who worship together, and kneel at the altar rail to receive communion, the body and blood of Christ, side by side with no distinction of person. Going with the latest fad is just as empty and arbitrary as freezing your Church in the 1960s. I find the historic faith and liturgy expressed at our Church to be real and genuine – the worship of the Triune God is actually occuring there – and that’s why the entire family is to be in the sanctuary (not off in children’s church or youth group) because God is actually present in the service as He promised, forgiving our sins, and granting us faith. Why would you want your children to miss out on that?

  47. Eric, there just seems to be a lot of things involved . . . a fundamentalist mindset fixed on orthopraxy . . . an external separation from certain elements of culture in order to be sanctified . . . ecclesiastical pride . . . fear to not rock the boat . . . the deep desire to inherit the appearance of the solid, stable American Protestant Christian family but not take on the alleged dysfunction of their ecclesiology. But when it comes down to pragmatism and financial business, the LDS are not in time warp.

  48. Eric —

    First of all, excellent post. I didn’t want to refocus this thread early on before it settled on where others were going to go; and evidentially it is dress / practice. What I did want to comment on was your contention regarding Gothard fading, because I think Gothard’s theology of an umbrella of covering had a great deal of influence among the right most 20% of evangelicals and you see it in Mormon theology today.

    Essentially what Gothard argued was indirect children got God from their parents, wives from their husbands, husbands from the church lower officials in the church from the higher. That God does not and will not work with individuals but rather with institutions. This sort of belief in absolute hierarchy was popularized during the reformation and age of enlightenment and I’d argue is part of the core political / religious philosophy (though generally not in this extreme a form) of conservatism. The problem is that America is a revolutionary country whose founding institutions formed in the age of Romanticism in opposition to that sort of philosophy. So there is no way to meaningfully be an American Conservative Monarchist.

    Gothard himself mainly wanted to influence Reformed Christianity but his primary influence was on the Shepherding movement (Charismatic / Pentecostals). Groups like SGM which combine Reformed theology with Shepherding practice and lite Charismatic culture are his legacy and are very much still around and still active.

    But, these issues wouldn’t apply to Mormons. It is possible within the LDS church because there is an absolute hierarchy led by a single individual with a closer relationship to God then any of the other members to get the full blown 16th century version of Gothard. I’m wondering if your idea about the LDS church having a Gothard feel is not just a 1960s thing but rather goes much deeper, an idealogical affinity for the core message.

  49. The next issue I wanted to hit was this one…

    Megachurches became a driving force in evangelicalism beginning in the 1970s. A key to the megachurch movement was to make church as inviting as possible to nonmembers, and that often involved adopting the trappings of the culture when there was no doctrinal reason to do otherwise.

    The importance about megachurches was the church growth movement. Evangelical churches compete with each other for members, aggressively and actively. The situation is much more similar to say restaurants in town. Mega-churches create a focus on not on experimentation but on bringing in regular and semi-regular attenders who are not part of the church culture.

    I mention SGM above so I’ll use them. They have two tiers in their church:

    — A professional staff which leads an inner core who is heavily invested in their culture. Culture conformity is maintained very effectively through de-motivational management.

    — Regular to semi-regular attenders who do not engage with the church culture. They don’t have friends at the church they simply go on Sunday and leave.

    Evangelical churches can’t have serious problems with disciplining semi-involved persons because they can easily leave and move to another church. You can create surface level conformity but mainly you do so via. attraction with the semi-involved. The LDS church chases away the regular attenders who don’t want to be part of the culture. So they don’t exist. At the same time, unlike SGM there is a multi-generational aspect to the LDS church so ties are stronger even without (as harsh) discipline.

    I agree with you the megachurches are a major factor in the cultural difference but I think it has to do with semi-regulars much more than experimentation. The large ones offer excellent children’s programs, a variety of classes and special interest groups, connections with high profile intense events a few times a year, modern versions of the public interest clubs…. They don’t need to and can’t go after niche communities. But because they exist, the small evangelical churches do need to go after niche communities and are often quite experimental.

  50. Seth —

    And all this blithe assumption floating around here that people prefer contemporary language, casual Friday dress, guitars, and hipness is starting to stink up the place a bit.

    Those aren’t blithe assumptions they are well formulated principles based on market analysis as done by the church growth movement.

    According to the latest data 46.7% of moderate to rapidly growing churches have innovative styles and contemporary music. 17.4% of moderate to rapidly growing churches have neither. 30% of Christians picked their current church because of overall worship experience, just slightly behind sermon quality and friendliness of congregation.

    This gets even worse when you look at the internals. Long term growth of a congregation comes from the percentage of younger (under age 60 members). A high percentage of elderly drive away young marrieds. So for example over 57% of all growing congregations have less 10% of their membership 60 or older while congregations that are growing have 59% of their membership under age 35.

    Another example of hipness is the audience making noise.
    49% of growing congregations have noisy worship;
    5% of growing congregations have quiet respectful worship

    62% of people who belong to growing congregations describe their worship service as not at all or only slightly reverent
    31% of people who belong to growing congregations describe their worship service as revenant.

    58% of growing congregations use drums and other percussion always
    23% never

    I could keep going. We can have a subtle discussion about whether running church like a rock concert is a good thing for Christianity or not. But the data is crystal clear on which people prefer.

  51. I don’t think the “time warp” is necessarily a bad thing in the United States and some other Western countries. I don’t like it when it crosses from “wanting to look our best for church” into judgementalism towards those who aren’t dressed in exactly the manner proscribed. I also think the discouragement of beards, pants for women, and colored shirts for men crosses the line between “aspiring to wear Sunday best” to “keeping silly and pointless rules.” But I see absolutely nothing wrong with churches that encourage their members to dress up on Sunday, and I sometimes wish evangelical culture were a little less casual.

    I do think the “time warp” is a bad thing in that largely American standards of dress are expected and encouraged all over the world. People in other countries would be much happier worshiping in their own cultural attire with their own styles of music. I can’t imagine lots of men in America would be all that thrilled to attend a church that requires that they wear something like this every single Sunday.

  52. Seth said:

    I think it’s far from clear that being in a “time warp” is a bad thing.

    On some matters, I agree. For example, I like the fact that we dress up on Sundays; it says that the sacrament and corporate worship is something important. I do wish, though, that we shouldn’t be so rigid about it.

    And while we’ve concentrated in this discussion on Mormonism (don’t we always?), I certainly could point to areas where changes in evangelicalism haven’t been positive. Evangelicalism is harder to pigeonhole, however, because it’s such a diverse movement. In fact, if you want to find LDS-style worship in evangelicalism, you can find it somewhere.

  53. Jack — Those outfits look comfortable to me!

    CD — I’ll comment later about Gothard. But your other comments remind me of another factor I hadn’t thought of before. The fact that our congregations, with a few exceptions, are by design made to include all the members who live in geographical area would seem to be an inhibitor for some types of change. One evangelical friend told me a few years back that the biggest split in his church was over music — young adults wanted one kind, and the older folks wanted something else. Rather than, in effect, telling people that if they don’t like the music they can go to a different church, they ended up having two services — same sermon but different music styles. For some good reasons, we generally don’t do niche programming like that.

  54. Garth,

    Where I do see your point is more along the lines of members, who maybe said; “Well the church handbook says we HAVE to do it this way, so it MUST be God’s way.”

    You got it, that’s my point exactly. I’m not saying correlation is God’s way. I’m saying that our culture assumes that it is. Of course, it doesn’t help that correlation itself has been presented as doctrinal.

    One could argue if the corporate model is good or bad for a church. But I’m also not sure how to avoid the model in any large organization that needs to stay ahead of potential problems inherent in their size and spread.

    I agree with this, Garth. I don’t love all the effects of correlation, but I think it’s kept us together. I have some fun ideas for using internet technology to allow for both correlation AND local innovation in the church…but, oddly enough, no one’s ever asked me for my input. ;)

  55. Rather than, in effect, telling people that if they don’t like the music they can go to a different church, they ended up having two services — same sermon but different music styles. For some good reasons, we generally don’t do niche programming like that.

    Yes, this is quite common. It’s a survival strategy. The traditional service is there to make sure today’s bills can be paid. The modern service is there to make sure tomorrow’s bills are paid.

  56. Again, I really think this was not a plan to squelch innovation, but more the same reason that any organization writes handbooks, issues memos, establishes procedures and protocols. I’ve seen this same pattern in other entities with a hierarchical design. I guess it doesn’t seem so foreign to me cuz I’ve seen it in most organizations I’ve worked with like the Boy Scouts of America, the World Health Organization, Universities. One could argue if the corporate model is good or bad for a church. But I’m also not sure how to avoid the model in any large organization that needs to stay ahead of potential problems inherent in their size and spread.

    “The corporate model” means something very different from writing handbooks, issuing memos, and establishing procedures and protocols.

  57. CD-Host, there’s an old adage in marketing that something like only 25% of your marketing is actually effective – you just don’t know which 25% it is.

  58. Yes, this is quite common. It’s a survival strategy. The traditional service is there to make sure today’s bills can be paid. The modern service is there to make sure tomorrow’s bills are paid.

    Exactly, a very good strategy as long as the two groups agree on most other stuff.

  59. Much of American Evangelicalism is built on the revivalists of early American history. This same movement was one of the key influences on the BOM, and by extension Mormonism. It was a theological philosophy which rejected some elements of the historic foundation of the Church while embracing emotionalism and methods which were new and different. Mormons have decided they want to hold on to some tradition now, so they have picked a look and a structure of worship and decided to stay there, not based on much at all really – no real theological foundation. Meanwhile, Evangelicalism continues to re-invent itself and pursue the latest trends and fashions in pop culture, psychology, and business – all without much sense of the historic Church, hymns, creeds, and confessions. Both positions are flip sides of the same coin in a lot of ways. Rather than embracing the historic creeds, confessions, and liturgy of the Church – and incorporating culturally relevant hymns and style of dress – Evangelicals have primarily decided that the Church is basically an expression of modern culture, rather than being it’s own thing, Church is merely a reflection of the world around it. Mormons likewise reflect a particular time period that is emblematic of the clean-cut image they project, a simpler time when Americans all dressed a certain way when they went to Church. A time when American culture and society peaked – it may be partially symptomatic of the Mormon identification as a uniquely American religion. If people begin to really seek the authentic both religious traditions are going to struggle to maintain those looking for more.

  60. CD-Host said:

    What I did want to comment on was your contention regarding Gothard fading, because I think Gothard’s theology of an umbrella of covering had a great deal of influence among the right most 20% of evangelicals and you see it in Mormon theology today.

    Because he’s in many ways such an obscure figure, it’s easy to underestimate the influence that Gothard has had. In his heyday, he’d regularly fill stadiums and arenas, and well over 2 million people have attended his basic seminar (we’re talking about a 25-hour lecture here, one that costs money to attend). He was huge at one time, and I’d venture to say that on the fundamentalist right a majority of pastors age 50 and up have attended Gothard’s seminar or had other connections with his sprawling ministry. And I don’t know how popular they are now, but at one time he was the leading publisher of curricular materials for evangelical home-schoolers.

    Although Gothard’s organization is still around, and he did receive a bit of attention in 2008 because of some loose ties with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, he personally isn’t all that influential as he once was. There are various reasons for that that I won’t get into now, but you’re right that his teachings continue to hold sway in some circles (I’m not talking about mainstream evangelicalism here, but part of the fundamentalist wing). His views on courtship and marriage — which basically say that a girl is under the authority of her father until he hands her over to her husband, who then rules over her — have had influence on the “purity pledge” movement, for example. He’s also a hero of sorts in the fundamentalist home-school movement.

    Gothard himself mainly wanted to influence Reformed Christianity but his primary influence was on the Shepherding movement (Charismatic / Pentecostals).

    I think his goals went far beyond that, but, yeah, I can see how his teaching would tie in with the shepherding movement. I know nothing about where that movement is today, but I once had a distant relative who was in a shepherding fellowship who about 20 years ago couldn’t get married without her religious leader’s OK. It struck me as strange at best.

    I’m wondering if your idea about the LDS church having a Gothard feel is not just a 1960s thing but rather goes much deeper, an idealogical affinity for the core message.

    I’m not sure I’d say we have a “Gothard feel,” but that’s because I don’t like Gothard but do like the LDS church despite all its quirks. But I agree that there is some of that “umbrella of protection” teaching in the church; it comes across mostly in teachings on obedience. I’m not against obedience by any means, but I do think that the way it is taught sometimes is in conflict with our teaching about the need to seek personal revelation.

    I think that one issue is that there’s lot of deference to church leaders even on nonspiritual matters. To pick one notorious example, I don’t think that, in general, God could care less how many rings a person wears on his or her ears. I simply have a hard time believing that President Hinckley was speaking as a prophet when he gave an admonition about earrings in a talk to youth. Yet, following his advice has become nearly a doctrinal test of obedience. To tell the truth, I don’t really understand that perspective, yet it’s a big deal for a lot of people.

    As to your question, I don’t know. Our culture is certainly more individualistic and less hierarchical than it once was, while in some ways the Church has become more hierarchical. But the Catholic Church is also a hierarchy that isn’t dealing with some of these same issues.

  61. In the “Recent Comments” sidebar of the home page of this blog, this post keepts getting abbreviated as “Are Mormons in a Time War…”

    I leave that to you without further comment.

  62. I simply have a hard time believing that President Hinckley was speaking as a prophet when he gave an admonition about earrings in a talk to youth. Yet, following his advice has become nearly a doctrinal test of obedience. To tell the truth, I don’t really understand that perspective, yet it’s a big deal for a lot of people.

    I know, David Bednar would never to that.

  63. As to your question, I don’t know. Our culture is certainly more individualistic and less hierarchical than it once was, while in some ways the Church has become more hierarchical. But the Catholic Church is also a hierarchy that isn’t dealing with some of these same issues.

    I remember a leader in the PCUSA during the homosexual ministers dispute looking over at the battles regarding blogging in the SBA and saying something like, “I only wish we agreed on the fundamentals enough that we could be fighting about blogging.” The Vatican would love to be fighting about earrings with their American membership. :)

    For the LDS church is fundamentally and deeply American. The Catholic Church is about 1900 years old and operates in about 100 countries. The cultural ties the Catholic Church has are to the European culture that emerged as the empire collapsed. Their culture assumptions are there but they in some sense “the soul of the West”. Their cultural battles feel so deep, that even the secular are even torn and often agree with them. Vatican II was the Catholic Church coming to terms with the French Revolution.

    But this western stuff for the Catholic Church has cultural problems in places like Asia and to a lesser extent in America. I kinda mentioned this above that the American right doesn’t have monarchists sympathies while the European right does, and certainly did 100 years ago. So anyway, this is an area where the LDS by virtue of size, age and scope just can’t really compare. The Catholic church’s cultural wars are fighting really deep battles about what are the nature of government and society.

  64. Coming here from a link on Segullah. I don’t know if you’ll read comments on a post this old. I thought you might be interested to hear that Singles Wards have recently been dissolved and folded back into standard wards (except for at BYU, etc., where they are all young and single). Leaving aside most of the other complexities and issues at hand, there is one example of the Mormon Church innovating/evolving/devolving.

    My grandfather worked in the LDS Church Office Building in the building department. It was a job, for pay, although it involved a heavy dose of consecration. The bureaucracy there is unfathomable. For instance, when it was requested by local members that their building include a bell in their bell tower for their church being built, he said that he had to deny it because of the long-reaching costs: if members in Provo, Utah got a bell, then members in Quito, Ecuador should also get a bell. This way of thinking is prevalent at the COB. Cutting costs, spending the widow’s mite responsibly: these are values that are equated with righteous stewardship and, in my mind, severely hamper risky (possibly costly) innovations.

  65. I thought you might be interested to hear that Singles Wards have recently been dissolved and folded back into standard wards (except for at BYU, etc., where they are all young and single).

    In my experience, this merely leads to de facto singles wards.

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