Grace & Middle Way Mormonism

A lot has been written of late on so-called “middle way Mormons.” There’s not really much consistency what people mean by the term. The idea seems close to what in prior decades some disparaged as cafeteria Mormons or jack Mormons. (I don’t think that a good thing to say, mind you) That is people who still have ties to the Church and often even attend services but typically don’t follow major observable practices. When I was young the usual culprit was Word of Wisdom. By my 20’s I found there were those who still had a loose testimony but weren’t following the law of chastity, paying tithing, or other such things. Many of those people eventually just completely fell away but some, especially after they started having children, made efforts to come back. The question becomes whether middle way Mormonism is a new phenomena or just a new name for a common long term phenomena.

The focus I commonly hear today is that many of these people are more focused on practical social justice. They think too much focus on chastity, wearing garments, attending the temple, or following exactly the Word of Wisdom actual distracts from the core of the gospel which is charity. LGBT and feminist issues often are a particular concern for these people. Somewhat different from the past, middle way Mormonism is often a self-designated term. That is it’s not an unfortunate pejorative by overly judgmental members. It’s also not usually seen as a failing but just a completely valid choice that should be respected.

My own view is that we really are seeing a significant change in part driven by the changing demographics of marriage. I think it actually started when I was young. I was late to marriage and the difference between being single in my early 20’s versus later was quite pronounced. Part of that was due to having singles wards but part of it also was just the broader social connections. Once you don’t have that social engagement, the pressures to move into what I’d call more worldly society is extremely high.

It appears, although I may be wrong, that this has just grown since the late 90’s when I saw the demographic change as accelerating. This in turn is, I think, moving many of the rising generation into being more akin to what I see in many forms of Protestantism. More uniquely it now isn’t just something commonly seen among over 25 singles but across a wider swath including younger singles and married people.

The question becomes how to react to this phenomena. If Jana Reiss’ statistics are to be believed, on average about 1/4 of people attending Church each week are these “middle way Mormons.” While I’m not sure, I have a sneaking suspicion a reflection of these changing social norms is that the recent push to focus on our religion in terms of a Grace that takes all people where they are is. The actual theology of Grace hasn’t changed in the Church that I can see. However what people want from Grace has. My sense is that the younger generations want our religion to be quite different.

When I was growing up the focus was on learning and knowing the truth. Once you knew the Church was true, then that imposed upon you duties to build up the kingdom in practical ways. Both in terms of covenants that restrict ourselves (in ways that we saw as ultimately beneficial to us) but also in terms of callings and sacrifices where we help other people.

It’s hard not to notice discussions and interviews with people propounding the “middle way” that restrictions that don’t provide immediate benefits or callings that seem like hassles get dismissed. Likewise practices that are part of broader national social norms get prioritized. I don’t want to say those are always wrong. Often I agree with them. However socially within the Church it seems like the emphasis is that the Church should adapt to me and not my adapting to the Church. This in turn reflects a shift from seeing the Church in terms of duties to seeing the Church in terms of how it is fulfilling me.

This isn’t unique to younger members in the Church. You can see this as a broader social shift in the United States. Arguably the rise of the so-called “me generation” (the baby boomers in the 1970’s) was the start of this shift. All social organizations became judged the way we judge a movie or any other activity. Gratification rather than duty became the focus. While I think the size of this effect was exaggerated, I think the phenomena definitely was there. Further I think it’s expanded since then. It’s worth noting that the broad popular media judgment was that the “me generation” shifted into the outright selfishness of the 80’s epitomized by Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” cry in the film Wall Street. All these generational labels are usually unfair and far too broad. But there is a sense that there’s been a trajectory since the late 60’s that judges everything in terms of the individual. Even ethics has shifted along those lines.

Is this broad trajectory behind the rise of middle way Mormons? Is it a bigger problem today, then when I was young in the early 90’s? It’s hard for me to know. I just hit my 50’s. I live in Utah County in a married ward. I’m probably among the least able to make a judgment on this. If the movement is broad and growing – a middle ground between traditional Mormonism and the rise of the disengaged Nones – then perhaps we should ask what we should do about it. I’ll confess though that while focusing more on what the Church does pragmatically for people is important, I also fear this shift to seeing religion as just an other consumer good. I truly think that even as we adapt the part of our church structure that don’t work, we also have to do a much better job explaining why truth and duty matter. Church simply isn’t a consumer good. The consumerist view of religion is, in my view, a deep and problematic change in our culture.[1]

  1. I discovered after writing the above that I’d actually made a similar critique of consumerist religion a year or two ago in “Religion as Consumerism.”

54 comments for “Grace & Middle Way Mormonism

  1. Kristine A
    November 21, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Hi, Self proclaimed middle-way mormon here! Nearing forty and I see almost none of your insights applying to me. Post faith crisis I had to make a determination whether I believed everything to be true or none of it. I rejected the binary, rebuilt my testimony on the gospel of Jesus Christ and not the church, and that allows me flexibility to stay in when, for example, I struggle w polygamy or leader worship or a 2015 policy that—had I not had a flexible foundation, would have pushed me out of the church. I’m 100% orthoprax and practicing. Anything you do as an orthodox member, I do too. The only thing that makes me middle way is that I sit in Sunday school listening to fellow saints say that people like me are stoning the prophets for disagreeing on a policy. Like I said, if I have to be all in on stuff like that—then I’m out. For the most part I can tell there’s a fair group of leaders and fellow members that want me out. Too bad for them.

  2. Clark Goble
    November 21, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    Out of curiosity though (and feel free to not respond if you feel it too personal) do you still do the “outward practices” so closely associated with Mormons? That is Word of Wisdom adherence, garment wearing, limited swearing (I’ll confess I’ll let out an explicative when I get hurt), and so forth? It seems to me that’s the more interesting angle to the middle way Mormons rather than skepticism towards controversial doctrines like LGBT marriage or D&C 132. I think people having difficulties with some teachings was always true. However this breaking with practices seen as so important seems quite new.

  3. Brian
    November 21, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    I’ll not answer for Kristine, but the middle-way Mormons in my ward (I know several) still follow of those guidelines. They still have, however, those skepticisms. I also know many recently returned missionaries (nephew, sibling) that have those skepticisms, but are still orthoprax. Range from upbringings and experiences all over the US. They won’t, for example, have anything to do with Elder Oaks’ pronouncements on gender. But they still have a deep love the gospel and, despite what they see as deep, deep flaws in policy, etc., they still remain temple worthy–though no necessarily anxious to enter the temple (especially those who believe in a view of gender equality not compatible with the temple).

  4. John W
    November 21, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    Good points. There are lots of definitions about the middle path means, indeed. I see it as someone who doesn’t fully behave (i.e., drinks) or believes (i.e., Book of Mormon isn’t historical) but tries to belong or at least identify as Mormon in some capacity. That said, the Middle Pathers aren’t orthodox.

  5. Brian
    November 21, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Anyway, I know that Trib article points to evidence of more ‘lax’ commandment-keeping middle-wayers out there, but, as suggested by others making sense of it (W&T, BCC), there’s plenty of variance within the practices of those who identify with the very broad term of Middle-way Mormon.

  6. James Stone
    November 21, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I don’t know if it’s a bigger problem today than it was when I was young–it just has a different name. Read the new Saints book and you’ll find middle way Mormons back in the time of Joseph Smith. I think the big difference today is that “middle way” Mormons (or whatever you choose to call them) have the Internet and have taken over just about every LDS-themed blog out there and are doing an excellent job of amplifying their message and justifying their decisions.

    It’s been my observation over the years (I’m in my mid-40s) that middle way Mormons eventually have to make a choice. One can’t sit on the fence forever. Eventually over the years, they either embrace the gospel more fully or leave the church altogether. The amount of pressure LDS members are going to feel to conform to the world’s views on gender, sexualtiy, family, etc. is only going to increase as the Second Coming draws closer. There is less and less room to pick and choose what one is going to follow. (Along the same vein, you’re going to see even more sifting as the new study at home program takes hold–a topic this blog post didn’t address.)

    As someone who is currently serving in a bishopric in Utah County, I’m happy when anyone (investigator, inactive member, middle way member, orthodox member, etc.) comes to sacrament meeting and worships. It is my hope that wherever they are in the covenant path, they can feel the spirit and make whatever changes they need to make in their life to return to live with their Father in Heaven. In the end everyone is responsible for their own salvation. If someone has deceived themselves into thinking they can make it to the highest degree of glory by picking and choosing what to believe, I hope they come to their senses before it’s too late.

  7. Kristine A
    November 21, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Yes, Clark, I fully keep the WoW and all other outward commandments. I mean there was a moment in my twin pregnancy where all garments nearly strangled me to death, and the new release of redesigned garments helped me return back….but, yes, even including that. That’s what I meant by orthoprax: I’m orthodox in practice, unorthodox in belief.

    And I fully agree with other commenters that the middle way is fairly narrow. Post-faith crisis almost no one returns to orthodoxy (I’ve never seen nor heard of it), so you’re either pushed or pulled out. And a lot of w&t discussion was on how there are plenty of people w more middle way belief that arrived without a faith crisis…but that’s just rehashing other discussions elsewhere.

  8. Jeremy
    November 21, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Clark, I’m interested in an enlargement of the discussion of grace in your post. You stated:

    “…The actual theology of Grace hasn’t changed in the Church that I can see. However what people want from Grace has. My sense is that the younger generations want our religion to be quite different.

    When I was growing up the focus was on learning and knowing the truth. Once you knew the Church was true, then that imposed upon you duties to build up the kingdom in practical ways. Both in terms of covenants that restrict ourselves (in ways that we saw as ultimately beneficial to us) but also in terms of callings and sacrifices where we help other people.”

    I believe that I only want to be a member of the church and do those things because of the Grace of Christ which saves me. The church actually doesn’t do any of the saving and plenty of people who haven’t done anything to build the church in practical ways, or who haven’t lived the word of wisdom, or ever gone to the temple/worn garments have been saved by that same grace. We do the work for them every time we go to the temple, we don’t save them. My work and obedience are a result of God’s grace, not an effort to earn it. Your focus on obedience to policies and principles taught by the church in your comment above to Kristine rather than than your focus on her faith in Christ as a “middle-way Mormon” speaks volumes.

  9. Ben
    November 21, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Clark, Another middle way commenter here. I believe that a faith transition or crisis is fairly integral in creating a middle way Mormon. There may be other ways to arrive, but for most I’ve known, it’s part of the journey. They reject the binary approach as the first poster said, and come up with a less literal way to think about Mormonism. Whether they are also a cafeteria or jack Mormon, is, I believe, a separate issue.

  10. ji
    November 21, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    I tend to agree that we approach religion in a much more consumerist perspective than in the past, and that that different perspective results in less loyalty to the church and those sustained as leaders in the church. And it seems that more members today want to change the church rather than changing themselves.

    I think part of this is that many among us seem to have a lessening respect for principles such as taught in Matthew 10:40 and D&C 112:20 (and elsewhere, but these suffice). We are less willing to receive, less willing to sustain, less willing to hearken to counsel from men of the priesthood. We seem to want a church according to our designs and desires.

  11. Brian
    November 21, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    ji, the problem with your comment is that it assumes middle-way members (members!) aren’t actively engaged or wrestling or getting inspiration. That they are just lazy.

    Sure, some might be. But others aren’t. Sure, some are trying to “change the church,” but most aren’t. Most have sincere reservations about things going on. Some of those reservations are even based on revelation. Revelation, for example, that they can support same-sex marriage even though the church doesn’t. Revelation, for instance, that much of what occurs in the temple is wrong. You (and many others) want to dismiss these people as weak or unfaithful or something like that. Far from it. Most of the middle-wayers I know were hook-line-and-sinker in the church. Very black/white thinkers (encouraged by church culture). They had a faith crisis NOT because they were lazy, quite the opposite. Because they searched and wrestled and realized much more was going on than was told to them. And they were told to just get in line (by people like you). Ends up, many of their concerns (once considered anti-mormon propaganda) are now accepted or acknowledged (race and the priesthood, for example; filthy parts of polygamy, for example).

    As has been pointed out, some people, (like you, it seems) want to focus and then judge on outward stuff, rather than inward stuff. Sure it’s easy to dismiss people who have different views–especially when your views are what is reinforced by the leadership, but to imply (or state) they don’t want to change themselves into loving, Christ-like people is just garbage.

    Same to James. You write that these people don’t “embrace the gospel,” which is hogwash. They may not embrace the church as much as you, but to imply they don’t embrace the gospel is myopic and certainly not something Christ would say. Actually, he said the opposite quite a bit.

  12. Jeremy Manning
    November 21, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    ji, you should read the rest of the Matthew chapter you threw at us. It explains my concern with your self-righteous comment above. Some members of our church worship God. Others appear to worship his prophets.

  13. ji
    November 21, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Brian,

    “ji, the problem with your comment is that it assumes middle-way members (members!) aren’t actively engaged or wrestling or getting inspiration. That they are just lazy.”

    My comment made no such assumption.

    “but to imply (or state) they don’t want to change themselves into loving, Christ-like people is just garbage.”

    My comment made no such implication or statement.

    You directed your comment to me, but I cannot respond to your points because nothing in my comment could have prompted your response. Clearly, you feel passionately about this matter. If you can make a rational response to what I actually wrote, we might be able to have a meaningful conversation.

    Jeremy,

    “Some members of our church worship God. Others appear to worship his prophets.”

    I don’t think that’s true. I suppose you really don’t, either.

    As with Brian, nothing in my comment could have prompted your response. Clearly, you feel unkindness towards other members of the church, and you seem to be projecting your feelings onto me.

    Why don’t we both re-read Matthew someday soon?

    I hope all readers in the U.S. have a happy Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow!

  14. James Stone
    November 21, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    Brian,

    Refusing to follow the words of modern prophets is refusing to embrace the gospel. If your politics/personal views put you at odds with the church and/or the prophets, it’s time to acknowledge which God you really follow.

    James

  15. Brian
    November 21, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    James, Jesus said what his gospel is. Many people of other faiths follow it without prophets.

  16. Brian
    November 21, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    Ji, my reading comprehension isn’t that bad.

  17. James Stone
    November 21, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    Brian,

    So you don’t think we need latter-day prophets?

  18. queuno
    November 21, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    If it’s true that 1/4 are middle-way, then it’s not an equal distribution across the US.

  19. Autumn
    November 21, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    I suppose I’m a middle-way Mormon. I joke with my husband that I’m heterodox and orthoprax, while he’s orthodox and heteroprax, so we’re covered! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel like I need to again say that I don’t understand why we have to make these labels and then try to exclude people or push them out because of them. Maybe that was not the intent of the post, but some of these comments remind me that there are people who don’t believe my journey toward God is valid.

    Unrelated question: What is a “married ward”?

  20. Clark Goble
    November 22, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Wow didn’t expect this much feedback.

    Autumn. I’m showing my provincial Provo status. Remnants of my days in singles wards where we called non-singles wards married wards.

    Regarding the purpose of this post, that certainly wasn’t my intent. More just trying to understand the movement that the Trib and a few other blogs have discussed. From the comments it sounds like this is just a new name for an old phenomena. If those old polls from the 60’s that Rodney Stark quotes are to be believed wards were far less orthodox theologically in those days.

    I was more interested in it because the Trib suggested this was a mainstreaming of unorthodox practice. But the comments here suggest it’s just theological qualms which have been with us since the beginning of the Church (IMO). While I think he goes a bit too far, I’ll admit to being somewhat persuaded by Jim Faulconer’s thesis that the Church is largely about orthopraxis and not orthodoxy. He’s spoken and written on this in a variety of places but his best known paper is probably “Why a Mormon Won’t Drink Coffee but Might Have a Coke: The Atheological Character of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Where I differ from him somewhat is that I think theology actually is fairly important so I think calling the Church atheological is problematic. However I do agree that theology isn’t nearly as important to us as it was with many forms of traditional Christianity. There’s a sense that even if people believe incorrect things if their heart is on Christ eventually they’ll learn the right thing. I don’t think anyone particularly cares what people believe at Church so long as they’re not teaching it.

    Ben, that’s probably a whole other topic. I’m not even sure what to make of “faith transition” or “faith crisis.” Again I think those are ambiguous terms. In one sense everyone has conflicts. That’s how you learn. If there wasn’t some conflict or stress you’d not particularly even ask the questions to get answers. Now it’s probably true that there are people who disagree or at least struggle with some topics. I’m curious if that’s the actual driver of all this or not. While I didn’t mention it in the post, I do think that people with a certain intellectual interests tend to see everything in terms of that approach to life. My guess is that while such people are overrepresented in blogs or discussion forums they probably make up a minority of those fitting into this group under discussion. So I think it can be a bit distorting.

    Jeremy, I think you are likely misreading me. I think grace is a broad topic or at least term. But there seems a divide in what aspects of it are focused on. But when I say focus, it doesn’t mean the other aspects don’t matter to people. Just that one gets the main focus. That focus is how grace transforms us. We can see it as transformational in that we feel fine as we are or we can focus on it as transformational in that we change who we are as people. That’s what I’m getting at. I think that gets at the orthopraxis vs. orthodoxy a great deal since transformation of self tends not to deal with theory as much as practice. That’s why I’m curious as to whether people see this as primarily about practice or theory.

    It seems like the main blog crowds see it primarily as about theory, not practice. However I am rather curious about the Trib story which focused on both aspects. Even if commenters here prefer to take the term middle way Mormons as primarily about theory, I wonder if there isn’t an other group – especially among 18-35 year olds – who see it primarily about practice. Maybe we need a different name to keep the groups and their focus straight.

  21. Kristine A
    November 22, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I think part of the problem w the discussion is that there are a thousand ways to be middle way mormons. There certainly is a generational difference that you’re trying to tease out in the OP. Sorry to tangent your whole discussion w my first comment.

    I share some of your concerns that younger millennials and Generation Y (z?) are just not fitting into this paradigm we grew up w:

    “the focus was on learning and knowing the truth. Once you knew the Church was true, then that imposed upon you duties to build up the kingdom in practical ways. Both in terms of covenants that restrict ourselves (in ways that we saw as ultimately beneficial to us) but also in terms of callings and sacrifices where we help other people”

    And they’re into grace more than earlier generations were. I’m not sure if it’s societal (“worldly”) forces or what. I think it must be the cogdis they face early on when rhetoric at church doesn’t match what they empirically can see in their own lives (for example, as opposed to our generation growing up thinking lgbtq was gross etc we weren’t getting as many competing messages).

    I’m on LDS Twitter a lot and see a lot of young liberal leaners leave. I’d prefer if we could find a way to make everyone welcome wherever they are at on the scale of belief or practice, but we have too much fear for that to be plausible.

  22. Jeffrey Walsh
    November 22, 2018 at 2:19 am

    Whenever I read posts like this I am reminded of words from 2 Nephi 28:-

    “And there shall be many which shall say: “Eat drink and be merry, nevertheless fear God he will justify in committing a little sin…….and if it so be that we are guilty , God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” or in other words we shall all eventually be saved by the Grace of God.

    Later Nephi says:-

    “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say “all is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well , and thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell”. After which Elder Ezra Taft Benson wryly said, “Or in other word don’t shake them you might awake them”.

  23. Ben
    November 22, 2018 at 2:39 am

    I hadn’t really read the Tribune article. I see where you are coming from. The blog articles that I have read were referring more to the post-faith crisis/transition folks, so that’s why I had jumped on that label.

    Aside from this discussion, I think most of us who say we’ve gone through a faith crisis/transition are saying we came to a point where we could no longer believe the church was true in the way that is commonly professed. At this point many people leave, but some transition to a much less literal point of view. You said that we all have to deal with conflicts, but I think the severity of conflict forces you to completely recreate your worldview in a faith crisis/transition.

  24. Robert Osborn
    November 22, 2018 at 3:25 am

    In a wuestion and answer session at a training with M Russell Ballard, it was asked by someone in the audience how we are to or can, support members who want to be a part of church but do not sustain church leadership. The response from President Ballard was interesting. He was baffled by it, said it made no sense whatsoever. He basically asked the question of how is it possible to embrace the doctrine unique to our religion and yet reject the prophets. He was truly baffled. And I don’t blame him. I’m baffled too. I think it completely bizzare that some members want to be a part of the fold while rejecting a lot of the principles counseled to us by the Lord’s annointed prophets and apostles.

  25. Brian
    November 22, 2018 at 9:30 am

    @ Jeff Walsh, You are misrepresenting many middle-way Mormons. @ Rob Osborn, be baffled. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. That’s one of the very large parts of this discussion.

    @ Everyone who is equating difficulty supporting policies or decisions with outright rejection of prophets–those aren’t the same thing. Exhibit A: Elder Nelson doesn’t agree with the Pres. Hinckley about using the word ‘Mormon.’ Is he rejecting Pres. Hinckley? Observe disagreements between politics among them, evolution, etc. I get it, we’ve correlated ourselves out of nuance. But it’s entirely possible to sustain someone and agree with them.

  26. Xenophon
    November 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

    Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

  27. Xenophon
    November 22, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    “At President Nelson’s invitation, I spoke briefly at the devotional about the principle of being ‘all in.’ ‘All in’ is a short, simple statement that denotes deep commitment and a strong willingness to be involved.

    Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for over 22 years, once related a story about a little boy who fell out of bed and came crying to his mother’s bedside. To her question, ‘Why did you fall out of bed?’ the boy replied, ‘I fell out because I wasn’t in far enough.”’Apparently, the little boy was not ‘all in’ his bed.

    The principles of sacrifice and consecration provide the essential foundation for becoming ‘all in’ disciples of the Lord. Sacrifice is a commitment to offer anything and everything we possess for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Living the principle of sacrifice increases our desires to obey God’s commandments and for the ‘things righteousness.’

    Consecration encompasses sacrifice and much more—even a commitment to become dedicated to and developed for holy purposes. We pledge to make ourselves fit for use and fully available in accomplishing the work of the Lord. Living the principle of consecration increases our desires to serve, bless, and love others.

    I invite all of us to ask ourselves this important question: Am I ‘all in’ as a disciple of Jesus Christ?” – Elder David A. Bednar

  28. JR
    November 22, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Interestingly, there appears to be nothing in Xenophon’s quotation from Elder Bednar that requires being “all in” as a member of the church to be “all in” as a disciple of Jesus Christ. “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people…. ” (Elder Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1928, p.59, also quoted in “Civic Standards For the Faithful Saints,” Ensign, July 1972, p.59)

  29. Jeffrey Walsh
    November 22, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Brian, you say I am misrepresenting middle-way Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in what way.? We are either for the Saviour and the Church he is directing through his Leaders or against Him.. I am sure you know what His attitude is to those who sit on the fence.

  30. Brian
    November 22, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    @ Jeffrey Walsh, you misrepresent because your are attempting to connect scriptures to them that don’t apply to them. That’s why. Simple. Those scriptures might apply to some middle-wayers, but most likely at a similar rate to non middle-wayers. I think you’ve done this with a misconception of middle-wayers, several of whom have posted here and refuted the attributes you assign to them with those scriptures. But, frankly, I think I’m done responding to commenters who know nearly nothing about the vast realm that is middle-wayers, but pass judgement on them. Mostly, when people do this, it’s really them passing judgement on themselves, because they can’t imagine that someone else’s motivations for actions might be different from their own, eg. “If I struggled with my faith in that way, I would go out and sin,” or at least ” . . . do what those scriptures say.” That’s basically what those who pass such judgements are saying. Fine, maybe they would do those things, but that doesn’t mean those they are judging do. Basically, we tend assign our own motivation to others. In this case, though, your understanding is lacking, so your judgment is lacking.

    Also, your understanding of the scriptures is lacking, to be blunt. People can be against the church by still be for Christ. I know, difficult to believe. But, here’s the kicker, many, many, many Christians don’t like us or our teachings, but they are still for Christ. Sorry, if such a fact is hard to swallow, but there it is. And Christ will accept them. Because he’s Christ. Not Jeffrey Walsh or Brian or Clark or anyone else. Middle-wayers know this. They need it to be so. And it is so.

  31. Brian
    November 22, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    I just wrote above that middle-wayers know that Christ will still accept them even if they struggle with their faith. In doing so, I fell in the same oversight that so many other commenters here did. Many of them, in fact, do not know this. Many struggle with their faith, and are not so certain anymore. That’s me imposing my own motivations on them. Darn human flaws.

    Sorry, middle-wayers, for the blanket statement.

  32. Jeffrey Walsh
    November 22, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    So Brian are you saying that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not the Kingdom of God on the earth today but rather there is a universal Church of Jesus Christ to which anyone can be part of. If so where do these other churches get their authority from to speak for Jesus Christ. What part of the name of the Church do you not understand with the emphasis on the word THE.

  33. Jeffrey Walsh
    November 22, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    Oh and by the way Brian, I am not among the group who know nothing about the members of the Church who are having a struggle or having a faith crisis I have spent years researching into anti-Mormon web sites and trying to combat their false teachings and urging those affected to look at the sources of their attacks against the Church. It is no wonder that President Nelson is urging us to keep on the covenant path, and not to listen to the nay sayers.

  34. Brian
    November 22, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    @ Jeffrey Walsh. And no, I’m not saying anything of the like. I understand what a definitive article is quite well. Wow, these comments have devolved.

    That you clump anti-mormons with people who struggle with faith tells me all I need to know about your understanding of the matter. Almost zilch. I’ll engage with you again when you’ve have more experience people’s sincere desire to wrestle with and find faith. I’m done with responding to your naive, attacking, judgmental, and frankly self-righteous comments. They speak for themselves. They as a witness against your understanding. Though perhaps not your sincerity. Which counts. So good for you on that.

  35. Brian
    November 22, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    LOL. I know what a ‘definite’ article is. Though I don’t know always check my typing!

  36. Jeffrey Walsh
    November 23, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Brian, as I have said before on this blog it is always difficult to have a conversation with anyone because of the time difference between the UK and the US. We all have to sleep.

    “I’m done with responding to your naive, attacking, judgmental, and frankly self-righteous comments. They speak for themselves. They as a witness against your understanding. ”

    That is quite a list of accusations. Let me try again to see if I can change your understanding of my motives.
    Over lots of years I have seen friends of mine after many years of loyal faithful service “turn and walk no more” with the Saviour. In different callings I come into contact with many members who struggle with their once sincere faith. This is especially sad when our youth, and occasionally returned missionaries, come into contact at college or university with people who question them about their faith, using the false information found on social media.

    Just yesterday whilst participating in an endowment session, I raised my arm to the square to agree to live covenants entered into. One of these is to defend our Church against the adversaries influences. From the dawn of creation The main weapon that Satan uses is to whisper in our ears “believe it not”, which causes some to let go of the iron rod. As we seek to work out our salvation we all come across questions that challenge our understanding of the gospel. I liken this to a jig-saw puzzle, when we start there are pieces which we do not know where they fit. So what do we do? do we give up and throw the puzzle away, of course not, we put the piece to one side and get on with the puzzle. Eventually of course we find where the piece fits and that it is a vital part of the whole picture. It is the same with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is nothing wrong with having questions we all have them, but if we allow the adversary to cause us to doubt the truthfulness of the gospel then he counts it as a great victory especially if this causes once faithful members to leave the Church.

    So Brian is it naive, attacking, judgemental or self righteous to point out that we need to be aware of who is behind the sustained war that Satan is waging against the truths of the gospel. This war began even in the
    preexistence and has been continuing ever since. I believe that we need to be aware of the sources where these attacks against the Church originate, mainly they come from once active members who have been seduced into joining the ranks of the arch-deceiver. We need to be aware of the Dehlin’s, Quinn’s, Howe’s, Hurlbut’s, Hoffmans etc of this world and the motives behind their publications, broadcasts etc.

    We all need to become Ministers to try and help those amongst us who are being seduced, and I believe that we should help them to realise who the enemy is. and that it is certainly not the anointed leaders of the Lord’s Church. This said if you no longer wish to discuss this I bid you a fond farewell my friend.

  37. queuno
    November 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Sometimes the doctrine is true but the programs aren’t.

    My son is getting ready to put in his mission papers; the YM program just about destroyed his testimony but early morning seminary saved him, mostly because the seminary teachers (unpaid callings, not professionals) were willing to engage his questions.

  38. Clark Goble
    November 23, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Folks let’s be charitable in our comments or else some comments will start to be edited.

  39. GEOFF -AUS
    November 24, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    I don’t like the term middle way mormon. I think there are people with differen personality types, who understand how to live the gospel differently. I of course believe my way is correct but concede that for people who value obedience, with a little reeducation they may become celestial beings.
    The original blog says our understanding of grace has not changed. A couple of conferences ago Uchtdorf defined who could be a member as someone who believe, or even hope to believe, and who through grace grows in love and understanding until they become celestial. In the same conference Oaks defined members as people who know the church is true, ……., and that we struggle to obey but ultimately fail, and that grace will make up for our failure. Different understandings of grace and different understandings of what members need to believe.

    Difference in understanding of what the gospel is about. Someone above says once you gain the understanding you dont go back. It is progress.
    Faith v knowledge
    Love v obedience
    Gospel v church

    I do not want the church to change to my design, I see where it is not yet in harmony with the Gospel, and hoping it can get there.

    I find the assumption that I am not putting in the work of the church. I have been on missions for 10 years, I have served on bishoprics for 15 or 20 years. I am an active member. Admittedly I moved to an area where the church is more conservative, and have not had a calling that did not involve cleaning for 8 years. The other members loss, and leaders choice, not my choice.

  40. Cccc
    November 25, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    What am I supposed to go when I’ve had very dramatic revelation that’s too sacred to share, but puts me firmly in the Oaks, Packer, Mcconkie camp — to rattle off some of the names people stress over. Really I’m in the same camp with all the Brethren past and current.

    I’m not taking about nice feelings, or impressions, or reading the scriptures and history and coming to a conclusion. All that certainly operates as various cornerstones.

    But for me, I’m taking about very specific questions asked about the plan of salvation as it relates to eternal destiny of God’s children and having veil parting revelation.

    It’s not my place to share. It’s for me and it was clear at the time. I recorded it in my journal and the end result is I can comfortably square the words and teachings of past and present prophets and apostles on so many “issues”.

    For me to accept the middle way members suggestions at tempering more “conservative” serving aspects of our faith would be no different than Joseph nodding his head and steering with the preacher who said the heavens are closed.

    How can I deny what I’ve received from God directly?

    I cannot accept someone telling me that God revealed to them President Oaks is wrong on the marriage or gender issues. Indeed, to make such a claim is immediately disqualify.

    And generally, especially– the vast majority of the middle way members claims are simply honest admissions of having no revelation on the matter. But are grounded in misapplied compassion mixed with revisionist perspectives on history.

  41. Kenzo
    November 25, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    “I cannot accept someone telling me that God revealed to them President Oaks is wrong on the marriage or gender issues. Indeed, to make such a claim is immediately disqualify.”

    Well, at least you understand how others must immediately feel about your “revelations” then.

  42. Laura
    November 26, 2018 at 1:16 am

    I don’t really like the term “middle way mormon” but I admit I probably am one. I also exercise more faith now than I ever did back when I thought I knew everything so the idea that middle-wayers just really want to be loosy goosey with everything is offensive to me. While I struggle with believing a lot of the truth claims of the church, I still love it very much. I love the people. I love my heritage. I love the wholesome lifestyles of the members. I love stories in the scriptures that make me want to be a better person even if I see them non-literally. I loved the sacred spaces. I love that last week I got to sign up to feed a poor old man that just had surgery that I wouldn’t have known without the church. I don’t really have a testimony of gospel events but I have a testimony of the fruits of the gospel. Consequently, the thing that connects me to the church most is my behavior. I observe the word of wisdom, law of chastity, pay my tithing, wear garments etc. etc. etc. I admit this post rubbed me the wrong way, and I only commented because I wanted to give another glimpse into a middle way Mormon. My ancestors crossed the plains, I’ve devoted my whole life to the church, served a mission, married in the temple, and pay attention to people at church that many others forget. The church went from practicing polygamy to making their mission all about heterosexual, monogamous families in a relatively short period of time. Why shouldn’t I hold out hope that one day there will be a legitimate space for people like me?

  43. Laura
    November 26, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Also, if any of you black and white Mormons are interested in understanding why people stay who went through an LDS faith crisis, this is the most well done podcast I’ve seen on the subject. Her questions were different than mine, but her personality and the way she copes are very similar. She is not a “jack” Mormon and neither am I. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/about-progress/id1173416233?mt=2&i=1000423372081

  44. Clark Goble
    November 26, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Laura, just to be clear, the “Jack Mormon” label was more about the Trib story which combined those who have doctrinal issues from those who have behavioral objections. It sounds like from most here that they object to that combination. As such honestly this just doesn’t sound any different from what’s been part of the Church since day one. I think people have always struggled with polygamy and while LGBT issues really are largely just of the last 10 years, there have also been people who doubted many doctrines that were mainstream. Including even historicity.

    So I think people’s objections are more to the Trib story. I was largely just following that. I wish there were some chiming in who objected to the behavior issues more though. That seems to me to be the more interesting trend if it actually is a trend.

    I’d note that in the Trib podcast, Mormonland, Sam Brunson from BCC defined Middle Way Mormonism as just accepting the fallibility of the Church. But that’s a problematic definition since fallibilism is the orthodox teaching of the Church.

  45. John J
    November 26, 2018 at 2:08 pm

    I am as orthopraxic as they come! I have been a bishop or branch pres 3 times! I am a card-carrying Mormon, practicing in every way. But I am definitely not a 100% true believer. I believe that Joseph Smith in many regards was profoundly inspired, but I do not believe he was 100% inspired all the time. The Book of Mormon clearly has sublime and inspiring parts, and I treasure those parts. But is the BOM a factual account of preConquest America. Probably not (but I hedge my bet with that “probably”).

    Mormons are my true blue peeps. There is no escaping that, and I feel comfortable with my people. I sustain my leaders, recognizing they also see through a mirror darkly. I am not bound to accept everything that flows out of Salt Lake or from my Stake. Most of the time this is not a major problem, although the apostasy and gays policy is deeply troubling.

    I focus on what I perceive to be the critical issues in the gospel. The call to complete transformation speaks to me. The broken heart and contrite spirit, being born again, having the image of Christ on our countenances, etc —this is the core. WoW is pretty irrelevant, and I do wish sometimes for the camaraderie that comes with sharing a beer, but I follow the WoW anyway. So many things unfortunately emphasized that are not critical. How many lessons do we have on charity? Not too many. But it is there in the scriptures. I can seek after these things and teach them without violating my beliefs in any way. And I never come across as anything but orthodox (pretty much anyway!). I dont need to rail against those things that are irrelevant and perhaps even distractions.

    We are just about to enter our 3rd century as a church. Why should we be surprised to see a drift from the plain and precious? Even so, this is still the best game in town for me.

  46. Clark Goble
    November 26, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Geoff, I don’t think those are different understandings of grace but rather the same. The idea is that grace over time transforms us. So I confess I just don’t see the difference between Oaks and Uchtdorf here. The point is that for both it’s a spiritual transformative gift that shifts our capabilities and choices if we let it. That’s always been the idea of grace even if we don’t always use the rhetoric with the word “grace.”

    What I was opposing is what some in the Protestant tradition follow. Not just cheap grace but a grace that isn’t transformative. The idea that I don’t need to change but something just happens making me completely Celestial. I think the doctrine is clear that God will transform us, but only to the degree we let him and that it’s a process and not just a snap of the fingers. The idea that right here and now I don’t need to change seems much more tied to cheap grace. However the reality that both Oaks and Uchtdorf get at is that as humans we’re flawed people. God will transform us but because it’s a process rather than an event we’ll still fall and screw up. We just know that so long as we fully accept Christ, the end result will be our full transfiguration to be like he is.

    Getting back to the original post, my point was more about the Trib use of Middle Way Mormon as those who don’t keep significant practices of the Church. (Not really the doctrinal sense which is what most commenters have focused on) The question then becomes if they are unwilling to even try to keep the commandments, are they really allowing grace to work on themselves? It appears much more that they’re actually rejecting the grace God is already pouring out to them.

    Now some might argue that applies to doctrine as well. It certainly could but I’d hope that most of us who have doctrinal disagreements are united in seeking truth. In other words while we disagree, we’re still open to personal revelation which is that intellectual bestowal of grace. As such I have faith in time we’ll come to agreement. While I definitely think there are elements of doctrine that are key (such as the basic historical existence of key figures like the Nephites) I’m not going to get too hung up on it. If people are open to God they’ll discover the truth eventually. But certainly it’s quite possible and perhaps even common that some people don’t even seek to know what is doctrine. They have their perhaps political perspectives and refuse to even consider what opposes them. If people do that then they’re cutting off inquiry and thus grace, limiting what God can do with them. I’d argue that likely happened in the early Utah church where prejudice limited people hearing what God was telling them. But I think it happens today as well. It’s just that everyone with deep political views always thinks it’s only their political opponents that are doing this.

  47. Laura
    November 27, 2018 at 12:15 am

    Clark, I very much agree with Sam Brunson that middle way Mormons view fallibility differently than orthodox mormons. I know that various prophets have pointed out the fallibility of prophets, but if you suggest a church leader made a mistake that wasn’t 100 years ago, it’s easy to be blacklisted from callings or to be viewed differently. The leadership of the modern day church REALLY values obedience. Middle way Mormons may value authenticity over obedience like the trib article says, but I think the majority also value charity over obedience. I value charity more than authenticity. While I make the choice to be obedient to most things, I do view my sleeve length and drink choices as minor in comparison to whether I’m behaving in a Christ like way towards others. I’ve had to let go of a lot of rigid beliefs about prophets and my worship has become more about Jesus.

    I think I resent being labeled as a “jack” Mormon or someone who just wants to sin or relax my observance of certain things, because I didn’t get to where I’m at by caring too little. I went down the rabbit hole of church history and have had existential questions about things like human suffering. The bottom line is, is that I care very much. I think a lot of black and white Mormons assume that relaxing on rules often precedes a faith crisis but I’ve found the reverse is usually true. It’s just not acceptable to verbalize doubt so people are often caught on the tale end of a faith crisis.

  48. GEOFF -AUS
    November 27, 2018 at 4:01 am

    I don’t agree that Oaks and Uchtdorf have similar views about grace. The effect of their different understanding is that Oaks believes that you are not going in the right direction unless you are OBEDIENT to every little thing that comes from SLC. You will read “Be ye therefore perfect”, and think it requires perfect obedience. Failing at perfect obedience you will be saved by grace.
    The other point is that we are here to learn to love as God does, with the grace of God to help us all the way. The verses before Matt 5:48 are talking about loving your neighbours. We are here to learn to love our fellows as God does.
    You may not see it, but on a day to day basis you have a totally different purpose. For example.
    Elder Oaks has a view that we should be obedient in being sexist, and homophobic.
    If one is motivated by loving our fellows, it is obvious that loving as God does, does not allow discriminationg on any basis, except perhaps worthiness.
    Does this explain that there are totally different views of grace, and in fact life?

  49. Clark Goble
    November 27, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Geoff, first off I think conceptions about fallibility don’t entail different conceptions about grace. However I also think you’re wrong about Oaks and Uchtdorf having different conceptions of fallibility. Clearly Oaks believes that what the apostles are preaching is inspired. It’s hardly surprising that he thinks people should be obedient to what he truly thinks comes from God. However just this year and the One Conference he talked about feeling the priesthood ban was uninspired when it was still being taught. A relatively famous talk (although frequently misunderstood) from when he was a junior apostle presupposes that leaders are wrong sometimes. What Oaks argues for is that how we respond when leaders are wrong matters a great deal.

    Our Father in Heaven has not compelled us to think the same way on every subject or procedure. As we seek to accomplish our life’s purposes, we will inevitably have differences with those around us—including some of those we sustain as our leaders. The question is not whether we have such differences, but how we manage them. What the Lord has said on another subject is also true of the management of differences with his leaders: “It must needs be done in mine own way.” (D&C 104:16.) We should conduct ourselves in such a way that our thoughts and actions do not cause us to lose the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord.

    Likewise while Uchtdorf definitely has emphasized fallibilism, he’s also famous for his directive to “doubt our doubts.” I think both see leaders as fallible and even long standing policies as potentially uninspired. Both also accept doubting and differences.

    Laura, I think Sam’s conception of “middle way” is a bit incoherent. Again though let me reemphasize that I was not calling self-designated middle way Mormons jack Mormons. I was asking if the position is what some disparaged inappropriately by that term. I was quite explicit in saying we shouldn’t use that term. But back when the term was possible it was not a term typically seen on doctrinal differences but about behavior – especially Word of Wisdom.

    To your claim about mistakes, I just disagree. To give an example I’ve found evolution true and thought so and said so even when it was unfortunately a bit more controversial back when I was young. (I did a recent post on this) I never felt even a modicum of pushback even if I was disagreeing with Elder McConkie on the matter. Likewise believing in limited geographic Book of Mormon context back when the hemisphere model was popular I felt no major pushback. Of course when the apostles think something is important, constantly preach about it, and most Mormons think it important, then people will act differently. So if one rejects say Book of Mormon historicity you’re probably going to get far more reaction.

    This issue isn’t a pushed blind obedience but rather what people think are crucial beliefs. So, for instance, if someone spoke up in Sunday School saying blacks are inferior you’d get a lot of pushback against them and probably some leaders questioning whether such a person ought be teaching classes. Understandably so because their differing belief is seen by many as key issue. What’s going on right now is that on LGBT issues some think a doctrine of eternal gender is incorrect while others think it a key revelation. It’s unsurprising there would be conflict over that just as it’s unsurprising there’d be conflict over Book of Mormon historicity. Both of those are seen as much more important than beliefs about evolution or many other issues. This is why it’s so wrought a topic. We have a rising group who simply disagree on key doctrines.

    But let’s at least be clear as to what’s going on. It’s not about obedience for obedience’s sake but what’s key important teachings. Even those who disagree on those two issues (fictitious key scripture, spiritual gender) have their own beliefs about doctrines that are unassailable. I rather doubt those chaffing at obedience think “anything goes” ought be the standard on doctrine. I should add that although I didn’t address it in the post I also think this is why the discourse about “middle way Mormons” is misleading – either the Trib take on it or Sam’s. It’s really not about fallibilism at all so much as it is debate over these two doctrines. (Again the Trib portrayed it as also about the law of chastity and Word of Wisdom – but no one in the comments appears to agree with them on that)

  50. GEOFF -AUS
    November 28, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Clark, I didn’t compare Oaks and Uchtdorf of fallability, I said they have very different understandings of grace, and that caused them to have different understanding of what this life is all about, and how to become a celestial being.
    I don’t think you can become a celestial being by following Oaks plan, but grace may cover the gap.

  51. Clark Goble
    November 28, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    I must be misunderstanding. I took your argument as arguing that their views on obedience/fallibilism entailed a differing view of grace. My argument was they didn’t vary on that that I could see and thus appear to not have differing views of grace.

  52. GEOFF -AUS
    November 30, 2018 at 3:36 am

    Clark,
    Because of their view on grace, one says our purpose here on earth is to learn to be perfectly obedient.
    The other says we are here to become people who love perfectly, with the grace of God to help us.

    I see that as completely different, producing completely different lives, because of different understanding of how grace works.

    Do you see these as completely different understandings of grace?

  53. Clark Goble
    November 30, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I don’t think you’ve clarified that they actually have different views on grace. That’s more or less my point. Because you’ve not established that I just don’t buy this reasoning. My argument was that they can have the same view on grace yet emphasize these different points.

  54. GEOFF -AUS
    November 30, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    I give up

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