The Right Wing Breaking Point

A friend shared this Facebook post with me. It was written by a passionate, conservative Mormon who had a number of issues with the recent church statement on race and priesthood. I think it’s fascinating for a number of reasons. For those Mormons who are more invested in the doctrines and the scriptures of the church than the structure and organization you can see what a tenuous position the church is in. The signs of potential apostasy are all around. As the church attempts to move forward with a more open approach to it’s history and more palatable views of its origins, it can not do so too quickly.

It’s been reported that Boyd K Packer mentioned in response to his claim that the greatest threat facing the church are gays, feminist and intellectuals that the true threat comes from the right wing of the church; that the church always must be on the look out for true believers who want to make their own claims to authority. It’s also been reported that a number of active but non-believing members sit on the committee who have been writing these new articles. For those who distrust the priesthood statement these alleged conversations might only see evidence of that in this post.

I have to wonder if the First Presidency will ever put their name on these articles or if they’ll continue to leave the authorship ambiguous, if they’ll do something more than leave an anonymous article buried deep in their website or if they’ll make the some sort of statement in a broader format.

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18 thoughts on “The Right Wing Breaking Point

  1. “It’s been reported that Boyd K Packer mentioned in response to his claim that the greatest threat facing the church are gays, feminist and intellectuals that the true threat comes from the right wing of the church; that the church always must be on the look out for true believers who want to make their own claims to authority.”

    Did you quote that correctly? The way it’s worded is kind of confusing.

  2. I agree that the doctrinally conservative members pose the most imposing obstacle to revising how the church writes “official” history. The church has a persistent problem with small-scale apostasy in the latin world, and some there take the pre-1980s racial theories seriously. Yet, I think those views will be quickly marginalized in the US. Racial equality has proven itself as an idea that is fairly easy to swallow despite previous heart-felt resistance, eg. few today view anti-miscegenation as a moral cause.

  3. A related post showed up here: http://rationalfaiths.com/race-priesthood-lesson-mormon-bishop/

    A Mormon Bishop in Oregon uses the new essay in a lesson on Blacks and the Priesthood.
    I know many LDS that consider anything published by the church as good-enough authority to teach that view authoritatively in church.

    The subdued shift on the website seems to provide the go-ahead for bishops to teach the more liberal view to congregations. In my experience, issue was not regularly brought up in lessons or talks.

  4. Did you quote that correctly? The way it’s worded is kind of confusing.

    No, It’s not a direct quote. I tried briefly to find the link but needed to move on to my work. If I can find it later I will look again.

  5. The basic idea was that no one really pays attention to liberal intellectuals. The people who have real potential to draw others way from the church are people with fundamentalist leanings. (I would think Denver Snuffer would fit this profile which is probably why he’s been excommunicated and John Dehlin has not been).

  6. Yeah, I assumed the way the quote was phrased, Packer was saying conservatives present a much more serious threat than the others. Just grammatically… it didn’t work.

  7. Tim said:

    It’s also been reported that a number of active but non-believing members sit on the committee who have been writing these new articles.

    The link you provided doesn’t support that statement. Perhaps it was made elsewhere. In any case, I’d be surprised if there are nonbelieving members on the committee, unless that means people who can accept that not everything involving history fits into a tidy, neat box like that presented in much church curricular material.

    Tim said parenthetically:

    I would think Denver Snuffer would fit this profile which is probably why he’s been excommunicated and John Dehlin has not been

    It’s not just Dehlin, of course. There are dozens of members many of us here could name who have openly criticized the Church from the left (for lack of a better description) and apparently have faced no official consequences beyond something a bishop might say or do. I do find that interesting, and I am mildly surprised.

    Also:

    I have to wonder if the First Presidency will ever put their name on these articles or if they’ll continue to leave the authorship ambiguous

    I’m not sure why articles such as these would need to be signed by the First Presidency any more than Sunday school manuals and that sort of thing are. I don’t think the purpose of the articles is so much to provide official positions as it is 1) for use in curricular materials as they are updated and 2) to make sure than when people are doing Internet searches for sensitive topics a faith-friendly document appears at or near the top of the results.

    Finally, a question for Tim: How common do you think the disaffection exhibited in that Facebook post is? I don’t hear anything of this sort in my ward, but then again I don’t hear much of anything period (from the right or the left) about the issues that dominate the online LDS world.

  8. Tim, I’m not sure what it is about conservative Mormons that scare the Church. Maybe its because we have real world examples of them breaking away and forming splinter groups – that continue to try to pull people away. Liberals on the other hand mostly leave into oblivion – or follow the Dehlin model – which has a pastoral edge to it (I don’t know).

  9. Liberals wish to transform, conservatives wish to preserve. Thus conservatives are willing to break off if it is the only means of preserving orthodoxy.

  10. Liberals wish to transform, conservatives wish to preserve.

    Good point. There also seems to be dual conservatism at play here. Institutionally conservative Mormons may be very liberal on doctrine (i.e. they may affirmatively disbelieve or rationalize away large portions of church doctrine) but wish preserve the distinctive culture of the church as well. The church is seen as their tribe and nation, which also happens to be the “best church on earth.”

    The institutional conservatives consciously protect the founding narrative through revision in order to preserve the status quo. Doctrinal conservatives (aka radicals, spiritualists, reactionaries, and fundamentalists) and institutional liberals generally oppose such moves as a lack of authenticity or intellectual honesty.

    However what the LDS church is doing is an important strategy for any religious institution, or nation, i.e. having a common historical narrative that politically successfully accommodates messy facts is critical. Just like with national history, you have to have something to put in the textbooks, even if it is putting the best face on some messed-up realities.

  11. “Is this facebook entry a trend?”

    Not that I’ve seen. I know plenty of conservative (whether that be politically, religiously, or socially). My family, for one, hasn’t said anything about it at all online. On another site I frequent, there’s been plenty of discussion about it. But the discussion focuses on the parameters of what can or cannot be taken from it, that’s about it. Nothing to this extent. Personally I read it, and just think the guy’s going of the reservation and already was if he interprets what the website says in a number of ways. (like white privilege didn’t exist/was pervasive during the days of slavery….smart cookie, that one).

    For most it either stated more clearly what was already understood by anybody who did a little digging into this part of history. It gave a convenient tool to turn to remove the idea of folk doctrines and ideas that have remained.

    I had one friend who did believe some of the repudiated ideas. I stated that I didn’t and my own personal beliefs about it. She agreed that it made more sense and that was the end of that. Most I’ve seen have had a similar attitude.

  12. I wonder how many conservative Mormons feel the same way as the guy in the OP but just don’t post it on the Internet? I can only imagine that there’s a negative correlation between conservative Mormons and Mormons who use a lot of social media (and specifically who air their concerns about the Church on social media).

  13. Over Christmas while visiting family I was surprised to see brother Snuffer’s book, So my real question is how many Mormons are thinking like the guy in the OP or brother Snuffer but not telling anyone.

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