Cafeteria Mormonism vs. Cafeteria Spirituality

Jana Riess did an oft shared post this week on “cafeteria spirituality.” This in turn generated a lot of discussion. I just wanted to make a few comments. First I think we should distinguish between what some have called cafeteria Mormonism from cafeteria spirituality. I don’t think they’re really the same although Jana conflates them somewhat. Cafeteria Mormonism usually means simply picking and choosing what teachings one accepts. Cafeteria spirituality I think is largely about supplementing ones practices beyond Church, church activities, and suggested practices. They seem rather different.

I think most members have more of a problem with cafeteria Mormonism. Certainly there have been defenders. BCC did a post defending it a few years ago as did Patrick Mason. Jana’s is just the latest. The usual defense is that almost everyone has some doctrine or teaching in Mormon history one doesn’t accept. Often over time the Church finally gets around to acknowledging these things as problems (such as particular theories as for why there was a priesthood ban). The idea is that if people reject even one doctrine taught in a General Conference talk or lesson manual that one is a cafeteria Mormon. Thus cafeteria Mormonism isn’t a big deal.

The problem with this defense is that I think it only works by making no difference in value over teachings. It’s hard to see the importance of say, “don’t murder” as equal to someone’s theory of priesthood ban. Yes both had been taught at some time in history. Surely we can make distinctions between their value.[1]

I think those who see so-called cafeteria Mormonism as problematic do so over more core beliefs. Some members simply don’t think sex before marriage is a big deal for instance. They would love to end worthiness interviews that ask questions about such things. Others want to make scriptures wholly fictional. It seems that it is these issues and not how one interprets say Genesis 2 that are of large concern. It seems somewhat problematic that what gets accepted or rejected seems so tied to ones pre-existing political beliefs (whether right wing such as recently with the Bundy family or more left wing beliefs). I think that ultimately the concern over cafeteria Mormonism is really about the concern over when and how our political and associated ethical beliefs trump prophetic warnings. It seems clear that the brethren are not infallible so some things may be wrong. However the reasons people reject prophetic counsel often seem weak – tied to emotional reaction or personal preference. While prophets may be wrong on a point, I think the burden of proof for judging them wrong should be quite high.

Cafeteria spirituality by contrast seems simply to be finding needs loosely tied to spirituality that aren’t met at Church. I think that’s healthy, within reason. For instance I find my spirituality is deeply affected by how much exercise I do and what I eat. Church doesn’t provide that. Likewise I find a lot of the lessons at Church doesn’t really speak to me too well. So I read a lot beyond what gets discussed at Church and even have discussions (like this one) online. Even meditation, which Jana mentions, depending upon how taught, seems fine. I used to do a lot of Zen meditation which helped quiet my thinking that in turn helps me listen for answers to prayers better and not become so stressed about life. There are dangers of course since often many meditation practices are wrapped up in particular religions and religious claims. (I liked Zen since it tended to not adopt the various metaphysical claims of other forms of Buddhism)

Probably one of the most important spiritual practices one should do outside of church is friendship. While of course we should help and serve those in our wards, sometimes they just aren’t the people you might want to hang out with in your free time. Again, we have to be careful, just as we see with our children, peers can have a lot of influence on our own thinking and what we value.

Overall those we’re commanded to be doing more spiritually than just what happens in our three hour meetings. So long as our practices aren’t turning us away from God and the Church, there’s no problem whatsoever. It more in the arena of rejecting teachings that I think the problems arise.

1. Jana does towards the end of her article bring up Fowler’s Stages of Faith theory. (Although she doesn’t mention it by name) In one sense Fowler’s theory is just the idea that some religious beliefs are more valuable than others and the “highest” faith is to just adopt some ethical principles. I confess Fowler’s stage theory makes me cringe for a wide range of reasons. (It seems far more pseudo-science than science, despite being influence by Piaget’s developmental theory which is science) It’s not surprising that those who embrace cafeteria Mormonism the most usually end up also embracing Fowler as a defense.

35 comments for “Cafeteria Mormonism vs. Cafeteria Spirituality

  1. August 2, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    The whole idea of cafeteria anything is not found in scripture as a way to follow Christ. The cafeteria doctrine to following Christ is a metaphor for hardening ones heart. Something the Book of Mormon warns against.

    The vision of the tree of life speaks of a “mist of darkness”.

    17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 12:17)

    Much of what is presented in the bloggernacle qualifies as “mist of darkness”.

    I’m sorry if this offends anyone.

  2. Autumn
    August 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Since you brought up sex, which is considered a high-value belief, I think this is a topic worth looking at in light of your post. If you were to read everything that the leaders of the Church have written over the last several decades about masturbation, homosexuality, birth control, what happens in the bedroom between husband and wife, pornography, and rape, you would quickly realize that without those so-called “cafeteria Mormons, ” the Church would be very small indeed. Where exactly do we draw the line?

  3. Clark
    August 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Autumn, by sex I meant what most would call fornication. I wasn’t addressing those other topics. I find sex interesting as it’s an issue besetting most conservative religions in the United States the past few years. There’s been some major movements to reconstitute Evangelicalism in a fashion that simply takes for granted most young people aren’t married and are sexually active. Other forces within Evangelicalism oppose that. It’s an interesting rift that a lot has been written about. Of course in more liberal protestantism such things haven’t been a big concern in decades.

    For birth control I don’t think it’s really an issue. It’s been policy for decades that it’s something to be prayerfully considered between spouses and God. So while there was harsher rhetoric from the mid-20th century I don’t see that as an issue. Certainly there are other issues. Originally I had something in my post about how the current apostles and especially President trump older ones – that is what people said in the Joseph Fielding Smith or Bruce R. McConkie era ought have far less weight today compared to what contemporary figures are saying. I was going to quote Pres. Benson on that point. However the post was already too long.

    So to me the issue isn’t whether anything that’s ever been said by a GA entails being a cafeteria Mormonism. I think that’s a disingenuous criteria by people attempting to justify major deviations from contemporary Mormon norms. Rather the issue is what are the key things being taught and do we simply reject them without good cause. My feeling is that what I judge to be problematic cafeteria Mormons are those who simply privilege the values of their peers over the prophets without real cause.

  4. Autumn
    August 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Clark, who exactly decides what is a “major deviation”? Or “good cause”? The issue of homosexuality is one that has changed quite a bit for the Church in the last decade, and I’m pretty sure it will change some more. So again I ask, where do we draw the line? And why do we feel like it’s even our place to judge other people this way?

  5. August 2, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Autumn-

    I hope you don’t mind if I add a thought. I’ve lived on both side of the divide; living after way of the world and the way of Christ. The “mist of darkness” is real and is all around us, as is the “enticings of the Holy Spirit”.

    The problem many are experiencing in our day is attempting to stand over the divide, one foot in the world and the other in the church. This creates stress and will eventually be resolved, either in favor of the world or church.

    24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 13:24)

    Autumn asked, “where do we draw the line?”. Answer: The scriptures and living prophets are Heavenly Fathers gift to those who choose to follow Him. The answers are there.

    God doesn’t change. Homosexual sex is a sin, just as it has always been. Sex outside of marriage is a sin, just as it has always been. In our day, the church has evolved in its willingness to extend a hand of fellowship to homosexuals.

  6. Clark
    August 2, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Autumn, don’t the Apostles decide what is or isn’t important? I guess I’m confused as to what the issue is here. You’re certainly right that on say homosexuality the Church has changed a fair bit. You have Oaks apparently pushing for major changes back in the 90’s and getting an article in the Ensign distinguishing inclination from practice. Whereas before that it was largely seen as just a mental deviancy that could be changed for all people. So in that regard the Church was more or less a decade or two behind psychology consensus. Since then they then emphasized against normalizing homosexuality even while making concerted efforts to nurture homosexuals. Understandably most homosexuals don’t think that’s enough. However through it all I confess I don’t see a lot of change in the doctrine which is fornication is a grievous sin and marriage is between a man and a woman. What am I missing?

  7. Autumn
    August 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Clark – yes, the apostles WERE a decade or two behind in viewing homosexuality as a deviancy that could be changed. Plenty of “cafeteria Mormons” were way ahead of them in that regard. Are you saying we don’t have an obligation as individuals to try to follow the Spirit and decide what is or isn’t important? That we need to always defer to the Apostles who may or may not be decades behind?

    And as for changes in the last decade, you may recall that there was a big push for members of the Church to support Prop 8 in California ten years ago. That kind of stuff isn’t happening anymore. Instead we have the mormonandgay website helping us to develop compassion and understanding toward gay members of the church. We have the Church openly supporting the LoveLoud festival. And we have Elder Ballard’s words last fall: “I want anyone who is a member of the church who is gay or lesbian to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do. We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.” He goes on and talks about civil rights for gay people. These are big changes! And we will probably see more.

  8. sc
    August 2, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    We all make mistakes, of both belief and behavior. If members continue participating in the community by compromising on what others might regard as “core beliefs,” we should be happy to have them.

  9. ji
    August 2, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    I wonder — I’m a good Mormon by all objective and observable standards, but I simply do not believe every belief that has been or is taught by every other Mormon — one Mormon’s doctrine is another Mormon’s folklore. For example, I do not embrace teachings that go far beyond the scriptures in dictating the domestic arrangements in the postmortal world, even such teachings by apostles — and I don’t embrace teachings that that go far beyond the scriptures in dictating about heavenly mothers, even such teachings by apostles. I admit that these are part of the tapestry of Mormon thought, but I don’t accept them as doctrine. So in that regard, am I a cafeteria Mormon for styling as folklore that which some others proclaim as doctrine?

  10. Clark
    August 2, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Autumn, far from it. That’s why I raised fallibility and was careful to qualify my statements. Towards the top of my post I wrong, “while prophets may be wrong on a point, I think the burden of proof for judging them wrong should be quite high.”

    I think the question then becomes how careful are people being with the spirit. After all we in seeking and interpreting revelation can be wrong. If we are going against what a prophet says, I think we need to have correspondingly stronger evidence that a personal revelation is really a revelation and we’ve interpreted it correctly. My sense, perhaps unfair, is that most people (on both sides of the political isle) tend to get “revelation” that simply confirms their political priors. It tends to make me rather skeptical of most people’s ability to get trustworthy revelation. But of course we’re not suppose to just trust other people’s revelations but find out for ourselves. I just think that confirmation bias tends to affect what people judge as revelation. Again I’m not in the least saying it doesn’t happen. Just that we have to be careful and a bit skeptical when we contradict the brethren.

    JI, I think it’d depend upon the nature of the teachings. I feel no particular obligation to say something taught by Heber C. Kimball that no one else taught and that seems to contradict a lot. I’d say the way to see what’s central is whether it has been consistently taught, whether it’s been emphasized as important by contemporary prophets, and what the strength of evidence against it is. There’s no clear way to balance those three but I think by considering them we can decide what’s important. Outside of that I tend to think it’s much more of a free for all even if I might believe the traditional teachings.

    So, to give an example, I’m pretty skeptical of an universal flood that covered Mt. Everest. Yet in that belief I don’t think I’m being a cafeteria Mormon since one can reconcile the scripture with a local flood. (Bill Hamblin’s close reading of the text being one of the better known, although Nibley’s spectator model is also well known) It’s impossible to reconcile with science (there’s no evidence of water in caves that would have flooded). There’s also obvious ways to reconcile historically. (Joseph apparently said Noah lived in the Carolinas and it could be explained as a large hurricane that transported Noah) There are also important GAs like John Widstoe who didn’t hold to a flood that covered all the mountains (he thought it would suffice to rain everywhere). Given all that it seems safe to say that while an universal flood is a common normative Mormon belief, it’s not something you’d be a cafeteria Mormon to reject.

    In the same way Jonathan Stapley has noted that there’s no doctrine of spirit birth in Nauvoo when Joseph was alive. It appears to have appeared after his death with no clear revelation on the subject. While I think there are hints of it, I have to concede there’s no revelation for it, major GAs have disbelieved in it (apparently including Joseph), and it’s not something taught contemporarily as important. Now I believe it. But I’d not accuse someone who believes in spirit adoption rather than spirit birth of being a cafeteria Mormon.

  11. Daniel C
    August 3, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    “Some members simply don’t think sex before marriage is a big deal for instance. They would love to end worthiness interviews that ask questions about such things.”

    Could you please provide an example of someone, just one person, who wants to end worthiness interviews for the specific reason that they think that premarital teen sex is OK? Maybe some do incidentally, but this is not the reason that people are calling for an end to worthiness interviews for teens. Sam Young, former LDS bishop, is in his sixth day of hunger strike across the street from Temple Square protesting worthiness interviews over how inappropriate and shame-inducing they are. I can’t help but feel that this is a veiled swipe at him and the people who support his petition. Go on his website, http://protectldschildren.org/, and read the stories. You’ve created a ridiculous and dishonest strawman, and you need to rectify this, Clark. Change the OP.

  12. Clark
    August 3, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    The lead singer of Imagine Dragons has suggested things in that direction. I’ve certainly met acquaintances who’ve taken that position. There was a Keli Byers BYU student, Keli Byers, a few years ago who was an activist on this. But she’s hardly the only one who has pushed this. (I suspect most pushing this sort of thing end up leaving the Church)

    I wasn’t referring to Sam Young whom I know almost nothing about other than the likely pointless hunger strike.

  13. Roger Hansen
    August 3, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Mormon theology is frequently vague or sketchy which leaves a lot of room for cafeterianism. For example, what does “flesh and blood” mean? Do I have to believe in BoM historicity? Can I believe in evolution, including human? Before 1978, did I have to believe in the priesthood ban (we were told it was doctrine)? Do I have to believe in discrimination against the LBGTQ+ community? How much is God stirring the pot? Just to name a few. We are all cafeteria Mormons because we all have unique beliefs.

  14. August 3, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    I don’t agree that Mormon theology is vague or sketchy. The doctrine of Christ is taught clearly in the standard works. When a church member decides to be a true follower of Christ they will have manifestations of the Spirit to build their faith. As faith grows the true follower of Christ isn’t blown away when opposition comes (Helaman 5:12). The “mists of darkness” doesn’t cause them to let go of the iron rod. They hang on and go the distance.

    Those who have been active in the church, but somehow failed to be active in the gospel to the extend that they receive the manifestations of the Spirit will drift into cafeteria Mormonism or worse. The Book of Mormon explains the different levels of gospel commitment church members fall into (2 Nephi 28).

  15. ji
    August 3, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    So, am I a cafeteria Mormon for styling as folklore that which some others proclaim as doctrine?

    We have no creed. I think we’re all cafeteria Mormons. It’s a feast, with all sorts of offerings, maybe like a potluck (since we don’t have a creed or a comprehensive, systematic theology, and I thank God for that!). I choose not to partake of offerings that some bring to the feast, like heavenly mothers and speculations on postmortal domestic arrangements (these had to have been brought by fellow pilgrims, because clearly our Host didn’t bring them). I feast on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and Him resurrected, and in the restoration in the dispensation of the fullness of times, and a few other offerings. If a neighbor at the banquet offers me a serving of heavenly mothers, I decline — and if he or she insists that I must partake to be a good Mormon, I still decline — he or she may think me to be a bad (cafeteria) Mormon, but that would be untrue and unChristian.

    Here, I’m talking of themes that are part of the tapestry that is Mormon thought (if you will all me to mix metaphors). I’m not talking about sin.

  16. Daniel C
    August 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Clark, I have heard neither Dan Reynolds nor Keli Byers call for an end to worthiness interviews because they think premarital sex is OK. I cannot imagine anyone, after reading what Byers and Reynolds had to say, deducing that they must want an end to worthiness interviews based on what they say about premarital sex. The current most publicized (has been for months) push against worthiness interviews has little to do with legitimizing premarital sex in the LDS church, but inappropriate sexual questions asked of teens during one-on-one worthiness interviews. Given how closely you follow current events related to Mormonism and the ex-Mormon subreddit (I know you do, since you recently wrote a post quoting a post from John Dehlin’s post on the ex-Mormon subreddit) I find it very hard to believe that you haven’t heard of Sam Young, or that you didn’t have him in mind when you made your quip about ending worthiness interviews. You constantly use motte and bailey tactics (see here https://debunkingdenialism.com/2016/10/06/the-dishonest-motte-and-bailey-technique/) to take subtle, and often dishonest, swipes and jabs at your opponents (most often critics of current LDS teachings and policy). And then when someone points out a flaw in your critique of your opponents, you engage in a mealymouthed retreat, accuse them of misreading you and declare victory. You’re a dastardly little weasel, aren’t you? If anything it just shows that you don’t have the stones to engage many well-articulated critiques head-on.

  17. Clark
    August 3, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    Daniel honestly and truthfully the first I’d heard of Sam Young was a few days ago in a Mormon Dialog thread and a few tweets from people I follow. I’d never heard of him before that. I’ll fully confess my foibles and maybe I’m misinterpreting these people, but it sure sounds to me like they don’t want worthiness interviews on sex questions. Do you have something from them clearly indicating the opposite? It seems to me it’d be hard to think promiscuity is fine but asking about doing it as unworthy as also fine. But maybe you can square that circle for me. I can’t figure that out.

    Also I didn’t quote Dehlin but a Wheat & Tares blog post that quoted from him. I honestly haven’t listened to Mormon Stories nor followed him in years and years, although I did interview him way back when he was getting started.

    Roger, some doctrines are pretty vague and some have far less grounding than people assume. It doesn’t follow that all are like that though. That’s more or less the distinction I was getting at.

    JI, I’m not sure we are all cafeteria Mormons, but again, it depends upon how you define it. As you are defining it you’re right, but that only works if one doesn’t make a distinction between beliefs based upon how focused upon they are or how well grounded they are.

  18. GEOFF -AUS
    August 4, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Ji and Jared, my personal revelation told me that “be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect” should be taken in context, that the verses before it are about loving our fellow man.
    You will live your life very differently if you believe you should love perfectly, than if you believe you should keep rules perfectly. So some of us could be putting a lot of our lives into going in the wrong direction.
    Jared, I believe gays, and women should be treated equally, because that is what God wants. I can pick scriptures that support that, and I think it is more loving (see above) to believe that.
    The prophets and apostles have been wrong on social issues over the years that they have lost credibility.

  19. ji
    August 4, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Goeff -Aus, Perhaps you made a mistake in addressing your comment to me? I have never said anything about keeping rules perfectly. I try to live my own life, and avoid judging others.

  20. August 4, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    GEOFF-AUS

    I agree with much of what you wrote above.

    I invite you to read my testimony, then you’ll understand why I commented as I did.

    https://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com/jareds-my-experience-with-the-savior/

  21. fbisti
    August 5, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    Clark Goble: But, how can one respect the intelligence or discrimination of a person that doesn’t reject at least some of the personal opinions, personal beliefs, and teachings of the numerous GAs we have had disseminating their personal speculations as “doctrine” over these many years? “Mormonism” has very few actual doctrines but at least hundreds of doctrine-like pronouncements from its leaders.

  22. Maxwell
    August 5, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Clark… I have to agree with you last comments on Fowler Stages being pseudo-science. I have read some of his research and it seems to me just the experience of faith and religion to a narrow sample academic-minded people. There is no substantive peer review to validate what seems to be pretty sketchy research.

    It’s a problem that Fowler cited a lot by people with no actual understanding of the research because of the hierarchical framing of the stages, with the highest stages being those most enlightened. So for those that buy into the “research”, it’s any easy leap to get to cafeteria selection, in the name of enlightenment. And there is a dangerous arrogance in a conclusion that cafeteria selection is synonymous with the highest enlightenment because some of the simplest rituals, stories, and practices of religion are the glue that hold religious communities together. Lose that (iron rod), and you risk losing everything.

  23. Mike
    August 5, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Let me give you a more comprehensive example of a cafeteria Mormon.

    In 1988 my wife of 2 years, married in the Salt Lake temple and from one of the blue-blood church families, experienced a life changing epiphany wherein she became a born-again Christian. At that time I was made aware of the embarrassing lack of emphasis, often even mention of Christ at our ward meetings. We brought Protestant friends to church and they left convinced by what they experienced that we are not Christian in the least.

    For over 15 years and 4 moves we tried to turn our wards just a little bit more towards Christ. It was said above that the doctrine of Christ was clearly taught. It wasn’t to us. Tell that to my wife and she will laugh in your face.Seriously. We experienced ubiquitous conflict when we deviated even slightly from what seemed like a drum beat of orthodoxy. I am maybe too in-you-face but my wife is very diplomatic. It didn’t matter. We were thick-skinned in the face of persecution from within the LDS church for Christ’s sake. But when they started abusing our children and trying to rescue them from us, my wife snapped.

    She took the children and began attending another church. But our children did not follow. Their teen years passed almost idyllically except for constant conflict over religion. My daughter is not active, does not like religious conflict and thinks sermons etc. should be limited to 5 minutes tops,and that the rest should be music. She is a professional musician and typically is paid $300 to $500 to play her violin in churches on a given Sunday morning. She married a wonderful guy who has never been affiliated with any religion since about age 2 or 3. My son is active and flies below the radar.

    I am sort of a Mormon heretic. I think polygamy was rank wickedness even though I am descended on 5 lines from them, that the Book of Abraham is a 19th century confabulation and the jury is still out as to the Book of Mormon being a similar production. I probably don’t reject more than 10% of the typical list of LDS beliefs but not by much.

    We are coming up on about another 15 years since she left. She attends Sacrament meeting in whichever ward meets at 9:00 am and I attend her service at 10:30 am.This socially isolates us. I have tried to swallow Protestantism but can’t choke down the idea of the trinity (even though it is taught as clearly in the Book of Mormon as any where else), sola scriptorum, infant baptism and more than half of a typical list of beliefs.

    I think Protestant music in the US is light-years better than ours. I think professional ministers give better sermons than we hear in sacrament meetings, 19 out of 20 times. I think their youth programs are far better. Most importantly, they far exceed us bringing a patron of their services to a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ.You can’t argue convincingly against my 15 years of weekly comparisons.

    Paul wrote to the Ephesians, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Twenty centuries of Christianity have made nothing short of rank mockery of this teaching. Everybody thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong. I suffer the results every week, only mildly, I admit. But millions of others have also over the centuries and often severely.The only thing my wife and I fight over is religion and this is not right. I would like to hear a workable solution to the conflict between Paul’s teaching and the reality of Christianity today. Cafeteria style worship might be a tiny step in that direction: for all of us to admit that we really don’t know what we are talking about; prophet, member, and sinner alike.

    We all see through a glass darkly.

  24. Clark
    August 6, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    fbisti, not quite understanding you here. Sorry. I think the OP was all about why when we reject some things it’s different from when we reject others. But I certainly agree that anyone with a coherent belief system will reject some teachings since the GAs are not all in agreement on every belief. Just in the core doctrines. So some level of disagreement is inherent in taking a stance.

    Mike, I definitely think that for an audience frequently having professionally trained speakers and musicians makes the services better in that sense. To your details, not having been in the wards you visited I can’t say much. It’s just been in every ward I’ve been in when someone would say we didn’t talk about Christ enough I felt like nothing else was being talked about. (Heck the sacrament is the key part of Church and is totally about Christ)

    Not sure I’d buy the Trinity in the Book of Mormon. Usually critics try to foist Mosiah 15 as modalism, not trinitarianism. I don’t think that accurate either. But from what I can tell nothing in the Book of Mormon gets into the nature of the unity of the Father and Son ontologically speaking. Which is the core of the Trinity. I tend to see the Book of Mormon pushing an adoption view tied to deification. The whole “becoming” part in Mosiah 15 is very much at odds with traditional Trinitarianism. Maybe this is me just focused on the nuances of the doctrine though.

    I do think we see through a lens darkly. My point about cafeteria Mormonism is more that we distinguish what we know – and what’s taught consistently as a key teaching – and what’s more speculative and on the edges. I just don’t see differing beliefs on the latter as cafeteria Mormonism.

    Sorry about the stresses with your wife. Wish there was something I could do to help.

  25. Mike
    August 6, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Clark:

    i hope you consider being referred to as a “dastardly little weasel” as a back-handed complement. I am jealous- that nobody ever paid me that level of respect. Another reason for cafeteria Mormonism is that many wards are different in spite of numerous first Sunday testimonies to the contrary. Perhaps if we had lived in your wards my wife would have found enough emphasis on Christ to not starve to death spiritually and our attempts to “evangelize” the ward would have been welcomed; not lead to exclusion, false gossip and abuse of our children.

    Mormons do need to be more familiar with our Protestant brothers and sisters to understand what I mean. For the first 100 to 200 times I attended their services I was comparing comfortable (Mormonism) with unfamiliar (Protestantism). The home team always won. Especially I focused on externalities like we dress up better, more modesty of women, and trivial triggers like the cross and passing the basket for money. But eventually I came to a point where I had to admit that on a week by week comparison, the Protestant meetings consistently brought me closer to Christ. It seemed like the difference between talking about Mitt Romney and his quest to become a senator to actually meeting Mitt Romney and shaking his hand and feeling of his charisma and hearing first hand his concern for me as a citizen.

    I don’t see this as on the edge and I do wish my ward did better. From time to time I have encountered others who share my perspective but none in my ward comes to mind at this time. One item on the menu in the cafeteria of Mormonism I wish to select is a deeper worship and encounter with Christ as I have experienced elsewhere. This makes me a heretic in my ward.

    As to my comment on the trinity; you have a far more refined understanding between subtle differences of related concepts about Father Son and Holy Ghost which are beyond me and all but very theologically grounded Protestants. The Passage in Mosiah you cite does sound like the trinity to most lay Protestants. An even better example is the exchange between Amulek and Zeezrom in Alma 11, verses about 26 to near verse 40 as i recall. Flipping “Son of God” back to “God” in 1 Nephi and his vision of Christ as originally published is another somewhat less obvious example. Creating a complex system of classification of ideas and then applying it to a passage and getting an answer somewhat mildly different than trinity doesn’t really help a comparison with what lay Mormons think of God as described in the First Vision and what lay Protestants think of the trinity- when both discuss Alma 11. A minister once used parts of Alma in one of his sermons on the trinity. An interesting mind-reading question is based on what was published when did Joseph Smith reject the belief in the trinity? Perhaps he wasn’t paying that close attention during the First Vision wrote it into the Book of Mormon text?.

    I don’t know that referring to someone as a dastardly little weasel as being on the path to one Lord, one faith, one baptism; unless you take it with a big smile- you dastardly little weasel.

  26. August 6, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Mike, as I’ve read your words, I can’t help but think of you as an adolescent. An adult approach to the circumstances you’ve described would probably yield a different outcome.

    I hope you and your wife can manage the problems you’ve experience, instead of the problems managing you. For example, Lehi and his family fleeing Jerusalem provide a faithful account of how to face problems and deal with adversity. They managed their problems with faith and determination by apply the teaching of Jesus Christ.

  27. Clark
    August 7, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Jared, that’s very unkind and uncharitable.

    Mike, most lay Protestants in my experience are pretty confused over what the Trinity is and usually end up believing a heresy like modalism. Although to be completely fair a lot of lay Mormons have some odd doctrinal beliefs at times too. Admittedly the Trinity isn’t exactly easy to understand. I should note that I don’t think Mosiah 15 is teaching modalism. Further modalism is contradicted by when Jesus appears to the Nephites and God the Father speaks from the heavens in 3 Nephi. But I can completely understand why it’s confusing for some people.

    The trinity is really one theory among many of how God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are one. Typically most tend to treat Mormon conceptions as what is called social trinitarianism. That is there’s a social unity but not an ontological unity. Although within the history of Mormonism some thinkers like Orson Pratt held to a deeper unity.

  28. ji
    August 7, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Mike’s story reminds me that everyone has to play with the cards they are dealt. We are not all dealt the same cards.

  29. August 7, 2018 at 7:42 am

    Clark, I agree I should have toned it down some.

  30. Mike
    August 7, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    Jared:

    True confession. i am a 13 year old- trapped in a 60+ year old body with 50+ years of pranking experience. Ask my wife.
    I am much too young to be this d—-d old. I consider being called an.adolescent a complement. Most of them are brutally honest and have a low tolerance for BS and are far more capable than adults think. Better than senile.

    Show me a man who is managing serious problems “like an adult” and i will show you a man who is more hat than cattle. Life is hard and we are described as children of God for more than one reason. You are delusional if you think you are in charge of your life for very long. Pretty soon something terrible comes along and manages you. As for Lehi and his family-look at the results-1000 years of fratricidal civil war. I think we did pretty good with our children, easily better than Lehi. Both far exceeded our expectations and they love each other. Neither are as self-righteous and arrogant as Nephi nor as mean and hard-hearted as the L&L twins.

    Of the alternatives I face each Sunday morning, going to church together with my wife, once to my church and once to her church seems like the best alternative. Adolescent or not, what is your option for me?

    Other’s include: doing what my bishop told me 15 years ago- threaten to divorce her- that will snap her testimony back in shape; letting religion divide us for half of the one day of the week i don’t work; pretending to believe in a decent religion to keep her happy and tell the Mormons sayonara; avoid conflict by avoiding activities like religion that lead to it. Enlighten me.

    Me thinks that when ad homenim attacks appear I am cutting deep- past the skin and fat and muscle and down to the bone. You know in your heart that i am at least partially right. It makes you uncomfortable, you get defensive and lash out, not really lash but snark out. We do, fellow Mormon brothers and sisters, need to step up our game when it comes to how we worship and follow Christ. If “Come Follow Me” is adolescent then so be it.

    While you managing adults are at it, any suggestions on how to implement the teaching of Paul to the Ephesians- one Lord, one faith, one baptism? Show me an “adult’ chapter in the history of Christianity and it will be x rated. How can i bring my struggling ward into oneness with my wife’s vibrant congregation? Clark’s definitions are confusing enough that they just might work on my adolescent level on that one issue.

  31. August 7, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Mike-in my 70+ years I’ve seen a lot too. We could probably agree on many things. If you are interested in my story, click my name and and see the link on my site titled Jared–My Experience with the Savior.

  32. mike
    August 8, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Very interesting. It does sound much like my unwritten story in some parallel universe with different details.

  33. HumblePie
    August 16, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Mike – what state do you live in? I ask only as it sound like Utah, but I’m usually wrong.

    I stumbled upon this site a few years ago and stop by every few wks/mos. I find the articles fascinating, but sometimes go beyond the Mark.

    I think every Ward/Stake/congregation is full of people, individuals, who are on various timelines, paths, and have had varied experiences. Some of those experiences are shared by others, and one can find empathy in them.

    My wife and I have no children for various reasons, none of which was an explicit choice. We are fish out of water in this church, but love the Lord, the gospel and all that it entails. The ward we moved to a few years ago has several members that are similar to our situation, but aren’t a couple we’d hang out with. It’s not to say that we don’t like them, but another member of our ward mentioned that “they are just like you” – nothing could be further from the truth…they are nothing like us, only in child-status only. We still love our ward and know there are “personalities” and always will be…take any group of people and you’re going to have challenges.

    I hope you and your wife figure it out, but know that you need to figure it out for you and your circumstances. I have also found that “progress” in every sense (spiritual, emotional, etc.), happens only at the pace you allow it to. I find individuals “stuck in a moment” and haven’t progressed beyond it for a myriad of reasons. There was some event that stopped them and they haven’t found a way to get passed it, whether it’s some kind of abuse, some forgiveness/repentance process, or many other things that can damn our way, large and small. Btw, I grew up in Utah, but left many moons ago, and haven’t looked back. We still visit family there, but have no desire to live there – such an odd culture on every side now that I can see it from a distance. We did almost move back a few years ago, but hindsight being 20/20, kept us away, and I’m thankful for it and felt like the Lord had many plans for us here (which he did).

    Interesting conversation and blog.

  34. Mike
    August 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Humble Pie
    Would rather not say, not that many members here. It is in the heart of the Bible belt and >2000 miles from Utah.
    Protestant churches here are strong and much better operated.
    They are centered on Christ in ways we are not and and put us to shame.
    Progress would be i nice. Just surviving and not getting worse is probably more plausible.

  35. HumblePie
    August 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Mike…no worries, I get it.

    Lots of well run churches in the PNW, but doesn’t mean much. I’ve attended a few of them and, while they are quite a spectacle, I didn’t feel any spirit there or enough of it that would change a person. I also know very honest, sincere, well-meaning people that attend the churches you describe and I’d want them in my fox-hole, but it also doesn’t mean they’ve completely found what they’re looking for or could change and discover something better.

    If you have paid “pros” then, it ought to be run well, or I’d find another church that was. I think the “shame” is how people live their lives in public and private. Only God knows whether we’re living up to our proclaimed set of values. Many want to ding Mormons for not being “perfect’, but the scriptural meaning of “perfection” is “completeness”. We’ve been given a few things to try out in a short time-frame to see what we do and how we’ll act. Hopefully we’ll be our best ‘selves in every situation, but I’ve got a ways to go still.

    It’s all a very individual thing, which is the way it was intended and should be. My wife and I worship differently at the same church, but both get the what we need and have been served and provided services. God connects with each of us in such different ways.

    My uncle lives in the south end of the bible belt and took an escape route years ago which has changed his life, he’d say for the better, but “escape” has it’s limitations.

    Hang in there…the BOM was written for you, for me and this generation. Study it and find all the parallels in our day and a few personal ones that will help you.

    In our house, we say “adulting” is hard”. Truly.

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