Monday, November 12, 2012

Being a Mormon and a Liberal

Obviously, I have not posted in awhile - for various reasons, but mainly because the social aspects of religion have been beyond frustrating. I have quite a few drafts written up, and have considered publishing them - but at the end of the day, had decided against it - for fear that rather provoking interesting conversation, it would only ignite hot headed debates.

So I leave my theological ponderings to discussions with my best friend, who with a more fundamental Christian upbringing, always adds the best perspectives and thoughts to our discussions.

A few evenings ago, we were discussing politics and religion - I know, the evil two you should never discuss should one want to keep their friends, yet we can do this and not kill one another in the process. We each were discussing our younger selves and how haughty we had been within our religion - I had laughed and said, "I was LDS and if you didn't like it, I didn't care. And I was actually appalled when members of my ward were not Democrats!" This gave her pause and she asked me why on Earth I would feel that Mormons would be liberals (something - my LDS readers - I still strongly believe).

From an outsiders perspective - Mormonism is one of the most conservative religions of the Christian religion (if you don't like that I consider them Christians get over yourself - I don't care, nor will I debate that with anyone). But you have to remember, what is conservative is the culture of Mormonism, not the fundamental theology of the Church itself.

1. Agency: The very basic foundation of the LDS church is the concept of agency. For those unfamiliar with either LDS theology I will explain. There are three levels of existence - the pre-existence in which we all resided with Heavenly Father (God), we were all children of God - brothers and sisters. Yes, this is where the theology that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers comes into play. From there, we have the state we are in now - living here on Earth, and then comes after - in heaven. Heavenly Father had gathered us around and shared that we would move to the next level of existence - each level is to learn and grow, and that in the pre-existence, we had learned all that we could. Yet, He knew that we would fall and that we would need a way to return to Him. Lucifer stepped forward and explained that he would make us all return to Heavenly Father, that we would not be able to fall, and therefor could return. Jesus stepped forward and said that he would live and die for us, allowing us a way back to the Father through him. Jesus' plan was accepted, Lucifer's was rejected. Lucifer and a third of the hosts of heaven fell - and were no longer considered children of God (hence - NOT Jesus' brother anymore).

Agency - the freedom to choose. This is the core foundation of the LDS church. Heavenly Father lost His children because agency was so important to Him, Jesus died for us so we may have agency - free will. The core of any Democrat or liberal ideals are free will - that we have the ability to choose for ourselves and not have others make our choices for us. Heavenly Father did not draw a line in the sand and say, "Free will except on these issues". This includes things we may not like or deem fair. So many people were angry when the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the "God Hates Fags" protests - I don't like them either - but we do not get to pick and choose who is protected by the 1st Amendment and who is not, based solely upon their message.

2. Polygamy: Yes - I know it hasn't been practiced in what - 120 years? I'm not saying that the LDS church practices polygamy. Simmer down. What I am going to say is that the early LDS church was not known for it's conservative practices. Everything about the founding of the Church is progressive and liberal. A young boy - uneducated in theology - goes into the woods and asks God which church to choose is then visited by God Himself and His Son - Jesus. This boy was later visited by the Angel Moroni. There were plenty of educated theologians, already wise and experienced who could have been selected. Even today, you won't see someone Joseph Smith's age leading the LDS church will you? Everyone moved to one area to be together (granted some of this was to escape persecution) - selling all they had, packing what they could carry, and moving away from the homes they knew, their friends, and their family. The Church started their own bank in which all their members invested. The Church began polygamy - to protect the women and children who had lost their husbands and fathers to the mobs that chased and killed them. The early church, in comparison to the Mainstream Christian churches and even the culture of that days - was progressive, it was liberal - it was not the norm - nor was it meant to be. Joseph Smith bestowed the priesthood upon African Americans - treated them as equals, again another liberal thought. Why? Because Smith understood the value of each person as a person - not by the color of their skin, their beliefs, or anything else - but rather the individual they were and valued that. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't hold Brigham Young as a prophet - who really changed the culture and the theology of the church itself.

3. Jesus and the Early Church: Jesus - the most liberal of them all. Jesus, the one who kept company with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the poor. Jesus, who did not care for social faux paus and allowed a prostitute to wash his feet during a meal. Jesus who forgave a woman of adultery - a crime punishable by death. Jesus, who accepted women as leaders within His ministry; who worked on the Sabbath; who loved and served people just where they were, and not where He required them to be. Let's not forget, the Original Apostles who carried on His ministry after the Resurrection, who engaged in a socialist society and those who did not adhere - by selling all they had and giving it to the apostles - were instantly struck down by God. Jesus and His apostles were liberals who served people, not were served by people.

For me, on a basic theological level - Christians, especially LDS, should be liberals. Unfortunately, "church culture" has so many people confused and blinded to the basic foundations of belief. And that saddens me. For years, I never understood why people disliked "organized religion" - the body of Christ is needed to lift up one another and sharpen one another. But I get it. It's a mob mentality. I can remember when my husband came home from our block meetings and shared that the President and Prophet of our Church had sent a letter to be read in every ward - to vote against same sex marriage and if it wasn't on our ballots to call our state legislature and representatives and express our views on it. I can remember when visiting a Non-Denominational Evangelical church when I was in high-school and outside they had people gathering names for a petition to keep same sex marriage off the ballots that year - I was livid and gave them an earful. When I heard about that announcement, I couldn't stop myself from being reminded of that Non-Denominational church or how their members were outraged that I'd stand up for those "gays going to hell".

Years later, while my testimony keeps me grounded in the faith I have and the theology I believe, it is the mob mentality that keeps me away from churches. I won't go - and I've raised my kids to always ask WHY people believe what they believe and expect a well thought out answer. Culture has become tradition and tradition has replaced the foundational truths found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon: God loved us so much, He not only gave His Son for us, but He lost a third of His children as well. He loved us so much - He allowed us agency - the freedom to choose. I imagine His great disappointment as those who have the most truth, who know of the great cost of agency, still work diligently to take it away from others.

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