Mormonisms March Toward the Mainstream

I found this article written by a Post-Mormon and felt it contained a great deal of truth to it. I thought of rewriting to take the biting sarcasm out of it, but decided to let it all stand. You can read through it and decided how much of it is truthful and how much is formed out of resentment he might have toward the LDS church. If on principle, you don’t read anything by apostates, you’ve been given due warning.

Essentially, every move Mormonism has made has been a move toward mainstream Christianity and not away. There’s no reason not to think the trend will continue and Mormonism will eventually embrace Christian Orthodoxy.


The good news for people sick of Mormonism – and can wait around for a hundred years – is that many of the most bizarre, repulsive aspects of Mormonism have been in the process of being softened or eradicated for many decades – and there is every reason to suspect this “mainstreaming” process will continue indefinitely.


After all, the number one impulse for organizations, secular and religious, is “survive and grow”. Exceptions to that rule are rare – for every Heaven’s Gate, there are a thousand organizations who immediately start compromising their “values” whenever they begin to threaten survival and growth. And this is Mormonism’s heritage, at least since Wilford Woodruff did the unthinkable – effectively renounce a practice which he and all his predecessors had claimed was as necessary for exaltation as baptism: “celestial (plural) marriage”.


Since then at least, it has been one long slide toward normalcy for the Mormons. And if you’re wondering why they’re still so weird….well, that’s just because they started so far away from normal that it’s going to take a while.


Think about it: Mormon prophets once sounded like KKK leaders on the topic of blacks, even when I was a little kid; now they come out and say (as 70 Alexander B. Morrison did in the “Ensign”) that they abhor racism. They’ve dropped all the penalties from the endowment session. They’ve normalized the washings and anointings. They’ve cleaned up the BOM in edition after edition, replacing “white” with “pure”, trying to make it seem more “Christ-centered”, etc. They’ve been backing away from JS’s pronouncements on the identity of the Lamanites for decades. Its leaders no longer make any prophecies. Gordon B. Hinckley wouldn’t even admit he was a “prophet” in a couple of interviews.


The demand to have lots of children has softened, as has the demand that women not work outside the home. Leaders no longer insist that birth control is a sin. Mormon prophets back away from the (previously) core doctrine of eternal progression by refusing to admit that God was once a man. Women run church businesses and teach as professors at church universities. Leaders no longer demand that member families keep two years worth of food in their basements. Increasingly, Mormon leaders try to make common cause with evangelical leaders rather than making an issue out of the Mormon belief that all other religious creeds are “an abomination”.


160 years ago, Mormon leaders were, to a man, fascist, totalitarian theocrats. Even in the sixties they were sending detailed policy papers to LDS Congressmen. Now for the most part, Mormon leaders have backed away from political endeavors – gay marriage and gambling being exceptions. Old-time evangelical hymns like “How Great Thou Art” are increasingly being adopted into the church’s religious canon. Church leaders no longer talk about the origins of The Book of Abraham anymore. Temple garments have been mainstreamed several times. Leaders delete references to Mormon polygamy from church manuals, so that men like Brigham Young come across like ordinary, everyday monogamists. Conspiracy theories are now rarely heard from GC pulpits, as they were even as late as the sixties. Meeting demands, while still onerous, have been lessened for years. Curriculum manuals are increasingly bereft of any uniquely Mormon doctrine – just another way of saying that “Mormon doctrine” is vanishing, and focus more on big, mainstream Christian doctrines like forgiveness, charity, etc.


Stick around for another hundred years (or two), and Mormonism will have completed the job of eradicating Mormonism better than any anti-Mormon could have done. Mormons probably won’t wear garments except in the temple – if even there….handshakes will probably have been dropped, if they even still have endowment ceremonies…church leaders will probably refuse to categorically characterize the BOM as “non-fiction”, adopting a “Van Hale”-style “it defies categorization!” approach…women might be officiating…missions might be far more optional and humanitarian…atonement doctrines will focus more on “the blood” of Jesus, rather than on us earning salvation…


Joseph Smith’s Mormonism was a Big Bang, the product of his explosive imagination; but since then, all the exotic, or crazy, doctrinal and behavioral pieces of confetti have been settling, more and more….and the law of entropy being what it is, you can expect that to continue just as long as Mormonism’s survival and growth require it.

credit to Tal Bachman

Rethinking Tal Bachman

In thinking about Tal’s comments this weekend. I think his quote on the documentary may have missed the mark. If his intention was to scare non-LDS away and make them assume that Mormons are one notch shy of religious fanaticism, then mission accomplished. If his intent was to encourage current LDS to think through the origins of their faith and the reason they devote so much to the church, he failed. It only encouraged Mormons to think that he was a bitter crackpot that they have no good reason to listen to. I think that’s a shame, because he’s a very eloquent guy and I think he has a lot of good things to say (though I disagree with him on a great deal as well).

On the other hand his quote: “it could be the best thing invented, but if it’s invented it’s not worth dying for” is right on the money. I absolutely agree. And I’m not just talking about Mormonism. I think that is so true about Christianity as well. It pragmatically works very well in my life, but if it’s not true, it would be stupid to die for a fraud.

Tal brought to light this dilemna:
1) If it wasn’t true, would you want to know?
2) What sort of things would you need to look at to know if it is true.

For my own Christian faith, my answer to #1 is YES absolutely I would want to know. For #2, it is all about the historical reliability of the Resurrection. If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then he is not who he claimed to be, and there is no reason to worship him. The sort of things that I would look for to refute the resurrection would be something either like the bones of Jesus or a historical document with the same level of reliability as our earliest manuscripts of I Corinthians (the first historical mention of the resurrection).

What about you? How would you answer these two questions?

“I’d Blow Myself Up For the Gospel”

In the PBS documentary “The Mormons”, Tal Bachman had perhaps the most memorable line in the entire program. He said that while he was a missionary he was so amped up that if his Mission President had told him to strap a bomb on himself and blow some people up for the Lord, he would have done it. This obviously is a sensational remark and puts the worst sort of fears into people about who Mormons are.

If you are unaware of who Tal is, he is a pop singer who had a big record called “She’s So High”. I believe it came out in 1999. He’s the son of famous Rock and Roller, Randy Bachman, of Bachman Turner Overdrive (Takin’ Care of Business). Several years ago Tal started investigating LDS History and decided that the church wasn’t what it says it is.

Today online, he defended his suicide bomber remarks and didn’t back away from them. He states:

Just a few quick comments if you don’t mind. I hope people will take the time to read and think over my response carefully, though it is long.

First, I should say I haven’t seen the show, and in a way, I don’t even want to. (But that’s another story altogether).

About the suicide bombing.

I suggest with all respect, that any devout believer, if they think about this, will realize that my comments were not meant to be hyperbolic at all; and I even think that to suggest such a thing betrays a lack of thought about Mormon (and religious) claims about faith, “the spirit”, sacrifice, devotion, etc.

Think about it:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on earth” (D&C 1)

“The prophet cannot lead you astray” (WW’s canonized comments post-manifesto in the D&C)

“I have taken a vow of consecration in the temple, which includes – as James E. Talmage mentioned publicly – consecrating your life, to ‘the church'”, etc.

What else could you possibly get when you add all that up, than that when asked by a voice you deem authoritative – whether from prophet, scripture, or “personal revelation” – you would lay down your life for “the gospel”? Continue reading