Where Is Mormonism Headed?

That theme is addressed from many different angles in The Future of Mormonism series at Patheos. It might be the best online event on Mormonism I’ve seen, with contributors drawn from across the Mormon spectrum. Here are a few highlights.

Mormonism in the New Century by Armand Mauss — Mauss sees the retrenchment-assimilation pendulum swinging back toward assimilation as the Church moves into the 21st century. He lists several signs of this “new posture of diplomatic outreach by the church leadership.”

Mormon Publishing, the Internet, and the Democratization of Information by Kristine Haglund — Dialogue’s editor weighs in on “the challenges facing Mormon publishing.” Like blogs, which Haglund rather coyly describes as showing “that people really like to hear themselves talk.” I like her suggestion that the bottom-up efforts of independent journals and blogs may help Mormonism develop a “framework for engaging the ever-broadening discourse about Mormonism in the new media world.”

Partnering with our Friends from Other Faiths by Elder Quentin L. Cook — And it came to pass in the year 2010 the people beheld the first apostolic blog post. Elder Cook sounds an interfaith message, endorsing “a mutual respect for each other’s beliefs and a desire to collaborate on important issues where we find common ground.” He closes with his own hopeful view of what the future holds for us: “The future of Mormonism in the public sphere will, in part, be a shared one as we work with other like-minded faiths to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ in reaching out to our fellow citizens.”

There were a dozen other posts, including entries by heavyweights like Grant Hardy, Philip Barlow, and Steve Evans. Kudos to Patheos for hosting such a fine collection of commentaries.

18 comments for “Where Is Mormonism Headed?

  1. Adam Greenwood
    August 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Heavyweight status is apparently relative, if you compare the Future of Mormonism essays to the Future of Catholicism, Evangelicalism, etc. The charitable explanation is that they just have a lot more folks to draw on.

  2. charlie
    August 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Greenwood: Can you back up the snark with, say, some intelligent reflection, commentary, or suggestion? Are you saying that the Mormonism week feels lightweight to you? What content or which contributors would you have liked to see if you’re dissatisfied with the offering?

  3. Bob
    August 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    IMO- In the future, old Mormomism will no longer be used by the modern Mormon Church. The Mormon Church will become a Jesus dependent church, no longer Works dependent church.

  4. August 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I’m still reading through, but so far, on the negative side, my only disappointment is with Seth Perry’s wishful (and outdated) thinking about growth prospects. Otherwise, not sure what Adam’s going on about. Granted, I haven’t read all the Future of Catholicism essays. If Adam has (in fact, bothered to read them all), I congratulate him for single-handedly doubling the (lay) readership for that particular series (except for that Hugh Hewitt piece, which of course, I’m sure *everybody* took the time to read … hee hee … yawn). On the Evangelical side, I admit that it pains me to see Jim Wallis get invited to weigh in on the Future of Evangelicalism. Oh well. Surely, next year, the LDS can (in the spirit of Adam’s suggestion) meet that challenge by remembering to invite a voice from Main Street Plaza.

  5. Peter
    August 14, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I like most of these–although there’s an assumption of cultural ceterus paribus–which is probably safe. I’m looking for the eschatological essay–one that answers the Mormon millennial vision. The closest I have seen actually came from Salon talking about the possible Vaticanization of the West due to a possible crumbling national cohesiveness.

  6. Bob
    August 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    #5: Go to Google Books____search “Mormon millennial vision”. You will find lots of stuff,( Books, essays), like Shipps’ complete book__FOR FREE!

  7. manaen
    August 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    3. ???
    “…the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts–what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts–what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
    “We qualify [i.e. it is *not* earned by works, but comes as a gift of grace to those who qualify to receive it] for eternal life through a process of conversion. As used here, this word of many meanings signifies not just a convincing but a profound change of nature.
    “The needed conversion by the gospel begins with the introductory experience the scriptures call being “born again” (e.g., Mosiah 27:25; Alma 5:49; John 3:7; 1 Pet. 1:23). In the waters of baptism and by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, we become the spiritual “sons and daughters” of Jesus Christ, “new creatures” who can “inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26).
    “We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason–for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity (see 1 Cor. 13). The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34).”
    — Dallin Oaks, GenCon, 10/2000.

  8. Bob
    August 15, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    #7: You make my case. Had Elder Oaks made that speech in 1950 it would not have been well received by Mormons. No Church leader would use terms like “Grace”, “Born Again”, or even speak of Jesus Christ in the way a way he did in his speech of 2000. I am not saying Elder Oaks was wrong in what he said__only different than what he would have said in 1950. (Read that ” We are Saved by Works, not by Grace”).

  9. Herb
    August 17, 2010 at 6:43 am

    #8 – There certainly is an outreach by modern General Authorities to focus on what we have in common with other faiths, particularly Christian based faiths. Are we all saved by Grace? Yes, we are saved from physical death by grace alone, but to achieve exaltation, we have to become fully converted, as Elder Oaks says, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The motivation for all our daily acts has to be the love of and for Christ, true charity. Then and only then can we open our hearts to receive more divine wisdom and a hope for eternal life.

    I don’t see where that is so different from what previous Church leaders have taught, except that it uses “softer” terms to reach out rather than to appall members and leaders of other churches.

    Our biggest obstacle in missionary work is that all to often we use LDS terms and do not realize they can easily be replaced with vocabulary typically found in the teachings of mainstream Christianity. I find this modern-day diplomatic approach by Church leaders refreshing.

  10. Bob
    August 17, 2010 at 11:12 am

    #9: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”.
    Note__the word may (not are) is used.
    Note__ Saved by not Grace , but by Obedience.
    In the 1950s, the Church taught by “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel”___ a man could Save himself. These Laws and ordinances were Works.

  11. August 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Bob, Do the teachings in the Book of Mormon represent a part of what you call “old Mormonism”?

    Mormon concepts of grace and works has been a complex evolutionary process from day one. You can hardly pin it down to “old” and “new”.


    Also, the words of Elder Oaks in 2000 do not contradict or change the 9th Article of Faith – they expound and clarify it.

  12. August 17, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    That link doesn’t work CJ.

  13. Bob
    August 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    #11 My thinking comes from sitting in 1,000 Sacrament meetings in the 50s & 60s, and a Mission during this time.
    ” Mormon concepts of grace and works has been a complex evolutionary process from day (to this) one”. We agree.

  14. Bob
    August 17, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    When did the Tabernacle Choir first sing Amazing Grace? 1994?

  15. Eduard A. Erdtsieck
    August 21, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Many good ideas, but the future for Mormonism is in Politics. Today Mormons have a dismal record on par with the Christians. I don’t see it happening for another 10 years, when the Joseph Smith Papers Project is completed. By then the academicians will have digested it and most likely a non-Mormon academician will become a catalyst.

    Mormons like to explain things and that is not always convincing. We don’t see the practical aspect of the Gospel of Jesus, Christ in Joseph Smith’s revelation or the Book of Mormon. What we see is the doctrine of Charles Darwin, survival of the fittest.

    Politics is a science to bring ideas to a practical realistic end before the return of our Redeemer.

  16. August 21, 2010 at 7:49 am

    “Politics is a science to bring ideas to a practical realistic end before the return of our Redeemer.”

    Note to self: If that is the case, vote against all Mormons.

  17. Kristine
    August 21, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Bob, Amazing Grace was in a hymnbook Emma Smith compiled. I’m not sure that’s a strong argument for Mormons’acceptance of the principle, though.

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