One thing I’ve noticed a lot is people creating simple divisions of people within the church. I’m sure you’ve heard many of them. Liahona Members vs. Iron Rod Members. Chapel Mormons vs. Internet Mormons. Intellectuals vs. Fundamentalists. I’m sure there’s some out there that I somehow missed. I’ll confess these have always bothered me for a lot of reasons.
First off it just seems unreasonable to try and explicate a large diverse group of people with only two categories. Even five or six categories would likely be misleading. But two?
Second off, even if the taxonomies have some explanatory power, what I notice happening is that one of the categories gets treated as the “good one” while the other categories is less authentic, less representative, or just intellectually or morally suspect. So for instance most of the people I see raising the Internet vs. Chapel Mormon category sees Chapel Mormonism as real Mormonism. Further as used it all too often is a way of dismissing the arguments or beliefs of those who don’t believe what they think they ought to believe.
While a lot more people defend the Liahona vs. Iron Rod distinction as a matter of faith versus commitment to clear ideas, the problem is that this breaks down when you look at the metaphors. The Liahona gave a pretty overwhelmingly clear direction of travel and even had some sort of printout at times when you exercised faith. So the answers seemed just as clear as they were with the Iron Rod, undermining the distinction. The iron rod worked because you couldn’t see what was coming or even most of what was going on around you. The holding or not holding was the act of faith and had as immediate consequences as the Liahona did.
Again though my biggest problem, even ignoring the problem of the chosen metaphor, was that people weren’t in one side or the other but were almost always a mixture of both. Some rules, assertions or related things I follow in a fairly clear fashion. Some things I admit doubts on and I follow by faith, trusting on the basis of what I do know that things will work out. I can’t imagine I’m alone.
Mostly though, when I hear these categories I always think to 4 Nephi 1:17.
neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
While not everyone using these divisions is doing so for polemic reasons, I think many are. Yet ultimately such divisions hurt far more than help.