Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Traditional, True Believing Mormon

I've begun to sympathize with others who feel unfairly judged by stereotypes. Admittedly, my persecution consists of nothing worse than exasperated disparagement of mine or my friends' intelligence or morality, and not any active harm, but it has had the benefit of making me a little more sensitive to stereotypes, at least. Along side this bit of added empathy, I want to embrace and reclaim the label that is sometimes used disparagingly to describe people who uncritically follow an obviously flawed religious narrative. I am a True Believing Mormon. I am a Traditional Mormon. So to the stereotyper of TBMs:

I'm not denying that the majority of Mormons never critically examine their faith narrative. If my understanding of James Fowler's findings in articulating his stages of faith is correct, then anyone who expects more than 40% of adults in any faith tradition to ever critically evaluate their narrative is not living in reality. What I take issue with is the implication that no one can critically and honestly examine their faith tradition and remain a true believer. Further, within Mormonism, some of us take to heart Joseph Smith's assertion that we must seek out all truth, whatever its source if we want to come out true Mormons. We take to heart the claim that no one can be saved in ignorance. We take to heart that the glory of God is intelligence. We believe the Gospel encompasses ALL truth, and that we should seek out ANYTHING that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy. If the search for ever more light and knowledge is not a core principle of Mormonism, then I probably shouldn't try to claim the label of True Believing. If it is part of Mormonism, then please stop using True Believing to describe people who you claim reject the search for truth. Find some other label. Call them whatever you want--it will show more about you than them--but please quit implying that true believers in truth cannot be true believers in Mormonism.

No, we don't have all truth, whatever a literalistic, narrow reading of some verse of scripture may say. Yes, we claim to know things that will probably be shown to be false. But seeking ever more truth is one of our teachings. However much, and however many, Latter-day Saints may rebel at giving up dearly held "truths" when they are proven false, you cannot be a Latter-day Saint and avoid the message that you have to learn more, that you have to find out for yourself, or that more will be revealed. You can't be a Latter-day Saint and not hear the message that God reveals things to others outside of the LDS church--scientists, great leaders, great humanitarians. However much we may at times try to keep uncomfortable changes under wraps by saying--"You got the wrong answer to your prayer," or "That is the philosophy of men," or "That person is a sinner, so you shouldn't listen to him," or "Homosexuals, Feminists, and Intellectuals are evil," or by limiting what gets discussed in our Sunday School meetings--our history is too well documented, and too many prophets have told us to go out and seek learning for these reactionary forces to ever win in the end. True Believing Mormons will hear the commands to learn, and the LDS church will continue to grow in goodness because of it. I'm a true believer in this. I embrace it. I think it's time I just ignore the stereotype and say, Yes, I'm a TBM. Yes, several generations into the culture, I'm a traditional Mormon. Then maybe, when you get to know me, you'll discover that your stereotype is about as true as any other--and limits your own understanding, just like any other.


  1. I'm a Mormon too, Jonathan, and I believe in Mormonism more than some Mormons are comfortable with.

    1. I know, Lincoln. I sometimes think having stopped the strenuous search for new truths will be one of the truly hardest things to repent of.