I've been watching the reactions among the LDS blogging community, and I'm encouraged a little by the results of the Super Tuesday primaries. I certainly don't wish Mitt Romney any ill will, nor have I really hoped he would lose. But the momentum took a turn for the worse, and he suspended his campaign today.
From the beginning, as I've watched Romney court the religious right for their vote, I've hoped that this will result in a wake up call to those in our community who try to identify with the Christian Right, and to those who hold to the belief that to be Mormon means you must identify with the Grand Ole Party.
From some of the reactions, that may just be happening.
We are a predominantly conservative people, but not exclusively so. Despite the numerous statements of political neutrality there remain those who insist upon affiliation with the Republican party as a mark of faith. These extremists are easily dismissed.
What is more worrisome to me is our willingness to graft into evangelical protestant circles, displaying our almost overriding need to be accepted and be just like them ?¢Ç¨Äú as if to be considered Christian, we must be like the Christian Right. Now that we have seen a rejection of a candidate based, at least partly, on his 'Mormonness', I hope we see a more reasoned course. At the very least, one would hope that we approach our politics informed by our faith, and not try to identify with the politics of another faith, no matter how loud or powerful they may appear.
Our doctrines are fairly fluid, we’ve seen core doctrines change over the years, and we’ve seen doctrinal emphasis fluctuate. There is strength in that ability to adapt, and there is peril. What will our response be to this latest cultural force? Will we, as a people and as an institution, try to become even more like our distant cousins? That potential is hinted at in Noah Feldman's NY Times piece, where he observes that
The general pattern of Mormon history is one of growth leading to external pressure being brought to bear on the church. Internal resistance eventually gives way to change sanctioned by new revelation, followed in turn by new growth and success.
He goes on to write:
For conservatives to reject a Mormon because he is a Mormon would be an especially harsh setback for a faith that has accomplished such extraordinary public success in overcoming a history of painful discrimination.
If Mormonism were to keep Romney from the nomination, the Mormon Church hierarchy may through continuing revelation and guidance respond by shifting its theology and practices even further in the direction of mainstream Christianity and thereby minimizing its outlier status in the culture. Voices within the LDS fold have for some time sought to minimize the authority of some of Joseph Smith's more creative and surprising theological messages, like the teaching that God and Jesus were once men. You could imagine Mormonism coming to look more like mainline Protestantism?¢Ç¨¬¶
Change is inevitable, and I doubt there are many who would lament the changes we've seen in the past 170 years that moderate our more radical beginnings or extreme teachings. But in those beginnings we also have some unique and inspiring doctrines.
What will, or should, change now? And what do you think is at the core of Mormonism, such that changing it will result in a serious loss of our unique identity? Are we on an inevitable course from sect to denomination?