I discovered a couple of resources that highlighted an interesting conversation within Mormonism to me. What does a Mormon have to believe to be a Mormon?
The first was this interview on Mormon Expression Podcast with a Bishop who is currently serving despite experiencing a crisis of faith. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts and think the LDS church would be well served by his leadership. But then I heard him express some rather unconventional theological viewpoints, namely this one quoted from Millennial Mormonism:
You are the golden plates that have been hidden (deep in the mountain side) and are now coming forth. You are being translated correctly and published to the world. You are the most correct book on earth.
The counter-point to Bishop “X” is this article by J Maxwell Wilson (hat tip to Andrew S.). Wilson argues for Mormon orthodoxy to the extent that he thinks those who think orthopraxy is all that is required of Mormons are Pharisees. I think he does an excellent job of making his case and encourage you to read his thoughts for yourself.
I’m not going to weigh in on the debate, lest I be accused of being a critic seeking a definition of “Mormonism” that I can use as a lever against the LDS church. Nonetheless I think the debate is extremely important as Mormonism adapts to the 21st Century.
Many will say that there are no thought-police within Mormonism. Mormons are free to believe any theological position they desire; there is only a problem when a person starts teaching others to join them in their heresy. It’s at that point the Mormon church exercises its prerogative to define itself and discipline the heretic or excommunicate him. I can understand this viewpoint, I’m beginning to wonder though, if recording podcast episodes and writing blog entries might not be “teaching” and wonder how long the LDS church can sustain non-traditional definitions without undermining its centralized authority.
I also wonder why Mormons are upset at orthodox Christians for holding the same standard in defining who is and who is not a “Christian”. To my knowledge there are no thought police in any well known Christian denominations or churches. Members and attendees are free to believe anything they want, there is only a problem when a person starts teaching others to join them in their heresy. Joseph Smith and any who teach his unorthodox style of Christianity are welcome to do so, but they are not allowed to redefine Christianity any more than Mormon heretics are allowed to redefine Mormonism.