I have a few questions about boundaries and numbers that I would like to put before the group for your collective insight. While the questions are related, they are not building any particular argument.
1. If the Church excommunicated everyone who quietly disbelieves any or all of the core doctrines that John Dehlin has rejected, how many people would we lose?
2. If the Church dropped from its rolls all those people who have slipped or stomped out of activity, those who opt out of meetings and callings and the home and visiting teaching programs, how big would be the fold of the Lamb of God?
3. Can people remain “Mormon” without belief and/or activity? Has our church been around long enough to have secular Mormons? What does it mean to be a Mormon?
4. John Dehlin has said that he will continue to call himself a Mormon, but “Mormon” is trademarked. Is the Mormon Stories Podcast vulnerable to legal action?
5. I can understand the rationale for excommunicating Dehlin. Moves to make the tent bigger could also been seen as undermining and destabilizing the existing tent. And this excommunication vindicates the position of both those in Dehlin’s camp and those who are very concerned about boundary maintenance in the Church.
But there are people in the middle, how many, it’s hard to say, who are troubled, people who want to remain in the community but are still struggling through doubts and questions. If matters of faith and membership are conflated and polarized, we deny people the time and space to work out their salvation before God (an individual struggle) within the support of our community. Group statements of certainty (we all know…) alienate those who are trying to build up the faith to overcome reasonable doubt. While Mormon Stories may have sought to create that space in the past, I’m not sure that it could do that anymore.
So what will all of this look like in one year, in five years, in ten? Is this a tempest in the bloggernacle teapot, or do you think we will see significant and lasting change? (I tend to think that the loss of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show will have more of an effect on my life than the excommunication of John Dehlin, but I’ll survive even that.)