I have, for the past day or so been following a drama unfolding between John Dehlin, a self-proclaimed liberal Mormon (liberal as in liberal Protestant…), and more theologically conservative or traditional Mormon “apologists” at both Mormon Discussions and Mormon Dialogue and Discussion. I wish I could say I’m surprised at the rancorous tenor of the conversation with barbs of accusation flying in both directions but sadly, this type of discussion seems par-for-the-course, as it were.
I certainly don’t have clean hands when it comes to internet discussions regarding Mormonism. Back in 2008/09 I was pretty aggressive in stating my opposition the LDS Churchs’ stance on actively opposing gay marriage in California. I regret the tone I often employed as, upon reflection, I realized that my tone could be, and probably was, hurtful to others with a different view. This realization had a tremendous impact on me and since that point I have tried to ensure my written words match my “real-life” temperament where I generally try to be respectful and in search of meaningful dialogue which leads to mutual enrichment even when significant disagreement exists.
It seems to me that all of this bickering is counterproductive at best, and harmful at worst. It is my sincere hope that both liberal Mormons (myself included) and conservative Mormons can come together as brothers and sisters. We are all in this life together and questions of faith are difficult. A crisis of faith can be very painful as can perceived attacks on an orthodoxy deeply revered.
I am reminded of a statement made by one of my heroes, Jeffery R. Holland, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve:
“… If someone can find something in the Book of Mormon, anything that they love or respond to or find dear, I applaud that and say more power to you. That’s what I find, too. And that should not in any way discount somebody’s liking a passage here or a passage there or the whole idea of the book, but not agreeing to its origin, its divinity. …
“I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to its origins, who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” … We really don’t want to sound smug. We don’t want to seem uncompromising and insensitive”.