I’m an active Mormon, and I care quite a bit about my faith (maybe too much!). As I’ve looked deeply at Mormon history over the last decade, it seems to me that Mormonism has changed doctrine and practice about as fast as the members overwhelmingly desired it (or social pressure required it) —and to me, this seems just as one would hope of a religion that professes to follow ‘the plan of moral agency’ (D&C 101:78; 93:31; Moses 4:3). I believe scriptures supports the idea that divinity gives a lot more leniency for religious leaders to make decisions than those leaders typically dare admit. And looking at the history of Judaism, Mormonism or Catholicism, it seems that major divisions and schisms occur when church leaders do not recognize growing demand for change in the people–or leaders refuse to govern according the agency of the people (or the dictates of the Spirit as given individually to the vast majority).
Thus I offer the following as topics to think about. I don’t say any of these things to be divisive—to the contrary, as I read through LDS blogs and forums, I see way too much division and way too many people leaving the Church with very ill feelings. Its something I’ve given a lot of thought and study to, and as I’ve searched through the scriptures for answers I’ve come up with the following list of divisive traditions and practices which seem to go against our own founding revelations.
In my opinion, basically every major problem in the church boils down to this first two or three Reform Actions. I believe, power which has become too centralized and lofty for the progression of seasoned members, is at the root of every other imbalance mentioned in this article. (autocratic institutionalization can be great for coverts and new areas of the church, but it’s death to the 5th generational central stakes of Zion)
Reform Action #1:
Remove the doctrine of muted prophetic infallibility from our scripture and teachings. Church leaders and members often use the following excerpt from Wilford Woodruff’s Official declaration 1 (which aimed to end the church practice of polygamy) to suggest that God would never allow the church leadership to lead the church contrary to the will of God. Read More>>
Reform Action #2:
Decentralize and pull down the power, which has become too lofty and autocratic for seasoned members. Church hierarchy needs to humble themselves monetarily and authoritatively. Restore the balance of power between Stake and central church priesthood hierarchy, according to the principles delineated in D&C 107, by bolstering stake influence and reducing centralization & institutionalization efforts from SLC for seasoned regions, and expanding the influence of the patriarchal order of the priesthood. D&C 107 describes a perfect balance of power between the Stake government and the central church government, this balance needs to be reestablished. Read More>>
Reform Action #3:
Reform governance in seasoned regions of the church, working to eliminate autocracy/unrighteous dominion and more properly balance agency and consensus rule (common voice). Restore the law of Common Voice where possible in the selection of many congregational-level callings. Do better at respecting difference of opinion and re-instituting the vote as a major form of decision making. (this does not necessarily apply in regions where the church is new). Read More>>
Reform Action #4:
Reform the church’s unscriptural exclusive truth & priesthood claims. Stop promoting false dichotomies in our truth claims. Maintain the multidimensional scriptural metaphors without imposing rigid church-wide interpretations for them. Read More>>
Reform Action #5:
Be completely transparent about church history. (we’re making huge progress on this!) Read More>>
Reform Action #6:
Teach and encourage the practice of economic equality through the Law of Consecration in its proper framework under the United Order (essentially a hybrid form of free-will socialism). Completely ingnoring this law separates the church from the heavenly organizations which helped to found it. Failing to even teach (let alone practice) this system makes the church just another religious faction preaching supposed religiousness but not practicing a system which remedies social inequality—the single largest cause of social instability & collapse. See D&C sections 42, 51, 78, 82, 104. see also Enrichment L.
The Rest is Trivial.
Every other action in this article is trivial. Giving this author or any small group of people control to create “reforms” would be just as ineffective as the current status quo if it comes from an over-centralized bureaucracy. Most the below issues revolve around the institutionalization of the Church which has come as a result of its over centralization and autocratic power structure. They are just random ideas, and not actual dictates of how I think the church should be.
Put a greater emphasis on service, humanitarian work and giving. (I think we’re making progress?!)
LDS Apostles need to stop being dishonest concerning their witness of Jesus Christ. Read More>>
Stop teaching that LDS temple and ordinances are required to make it to the Celestial Kingdom and start emphasizing that these things are important symbols which aid in salvation and eternal union but are not a requirement for it per se.
Stop excommunicating or marginalizing dissidents. Excommunication should conform strictly with the principles delineated in D&C 42:20-28 and D&C 102. Public or private differences of opinion are not grounds for excommunication. Witch-hunts should be avoided at all costs. The church is meant to be a ‘type’ or example of perfect government, there must be effective channels for group secession and re-absorption to and from the ecumenical union.
Reform institutionalized temple worship. The current system of pressuring youth into temple initiation, and covenant making (without even knowing beforehand the full idea of what covenants they will be making) is morally wrong, and highly detrimental.
There are a lot of aspects of temple worship which need to change… Read More>>
Greatly reform the teachings and strictures concerning sexuality, health and substance abuse in the Church. Leave the specifics to the patriarchal order where they belong.
Take steps to decentralize the monetary system and allow stakes far greater latitude in deciding how much money to spend on structures (meeting houses, temples, etc) & programs. Do a better job of separating “for-profit” arms of the Church. The presiding bishopric, not the traveling twelve should be involved in these “temporal matters”.
Create a system of activism and unsolicited volunteerism. Perhaps a system of self appointed callings? (or something to this effect).
Other Possible Points
-do not make the same mistakes concerning pushes for gender equality in the church as were made in regard to the issue of black and the priesthood. (suggesting doctrine supports the idea that God is against it or that it will never happen etc…)
-slowly expand women’s roles until full gender equality is achieved. Start with missionaries (done!), move to Ward Council (equal number of men & women). Then to church wide general auxiliaries. Then to issues of priesthood (see GOHT). Have Bishops/Stake Presidents and General Authorities wives assist in their callings and speak at meetings and General Conferences. Show in word and action that these are shared gender callings… that men are not called, couples who have achieved true oneness are.
-encourage original music and art in more church settings. (Ensign and Deseret Book are doing a good job!) Allow original and faith building modern music in sacrament meetings according to common consent.
-rename “worthiness interviews” to bishop “counsel sessions” or something similar. Do not ask yes/no inquisition-like questions, instead create an outline bishops can follow to rightly judge the ideas of the member’s understanding on certain topics. He can then give counsel and guidance according to their knowledge. Always holding the agency and personal revelation of the individual preeminent.
See also My reformational article dealing with more abstract doctrinal issues here…. http://mormonuniversalism.com/2613/needed-reformation-in-the-lds-church/