UPDATE – I recently wrote a book based on this blog post in case you are interested: You can find The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism book on Amazon if you’re interested.
I’ve had many experiences lately with people online and offline that lead me to believe that there’s a coming revolution that will be taking place inside of Mormonism. This revolution will not be against the prophets and apostles. It won’t be against history or doctrine. And it won’t undermine the foundational principles upon which this church was initially built upon. No… this revolution will be against culture… and everything that entails. This revolution will be against those that judge, those that hate, and those that refuse to see past their narrow, regurgitated, cliche point of views. This revolution will be a revolution of love.
Do you remember what was happening in Israel right about the time that Christ came on to the scene? Israel had started to live by their own set of oral laws and traditions, or what we might refer to today as “culture?” The “culture” in Israel when Christ showed up was one of the most judgemental and hypocritical cultures the world had ever seen. It was a very isolated and unaccepting culture. But Christ showed up and cast a net over all types of people. The Greeks, the Romans, The Samaritans, and every other nation across the globe. His net covered even the worst of repentant sinners. The only people that were excluded or damned were the unrepentant elite… the “scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites” who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” It was Christ who brought with him a revolution of love, empathy, and compassion. He built a culture that was geared toward the lowly of heart and revolted against those that spent their lives pointing out the flaws in others. “For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matt 23) The bulk of Israel was living according to their culture and their superstition. This has been the bane of each and every covenant society, which caused Joseph Smith to say: “What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.” (History of the Church, 4:445 (7 November 1841) The doctrine of this church doesn’t lose people. It’s the culture and superstition that causes unnecessary strife.
I can imagine a time not too far off where a gay man, a straight man, a biker with full body tats, a woman who smokes, a man who reeks of liquor, a recently married couple who is having trouble with tithing, a recently re-baptized excommunicated member, a man with a full beard and jeans, and a returned missionary who is addicted to porn sitting in the same congregation together, who make it through all three hours of church without someone dressing them down with their eyes or their words. It’ll be a time where the stalwart multi-generational Mormon honors the saying that is on each of the signs that represent our church… “Visitors Welcome.” Not the sinless visitor, because Jesus said that the “whole need not a physician”, but the visitor who comes with every last bit of weakness that they have. It’ll be a time where the families in that congregation recognize how hard it is for people to set foot inside a church once they feel like they’ve strayed too far.
I’ll never forget walking into a Michigan trailer park and knocking on the door of a woman who was on the records of the church but hadn’t been active in over 25 years. She had a husband now, and a couple of kids. I still remember her sitting in a rocking chair, skin and bones, and tearful welcoming us in to sit with her and her husband. You could see that she had been ravaged by the years of drug use. When we asked her if she’d come to church with us, I’ll never forget her response:
“I’ll never set foot in church again. I’ve done too much. God doesn’t want me in his house ever again.”
I quickly opened up Alma 36, read a few passages from a prophet who had been to the depths of hell and back, and then assured her that she had not “done too much.” We sat there… as she began to cry uncontrollably. She rehearsed a life of sin unlike anything I had heard before… and said emphatically: “GOD DOES NOT WANT ME IN HIS HOUSE EVER AGAIN.” It’s not easy for people to come to church who have lived a life of mental torment and anguish because of their past choices. They know that what they’ve been doing was wrong. They don’t need someone else to remind them about it. When they do finally take that step forward, there’s a good chance that this is the feeling of their hearts as they make their way through those chapel doors:
“I’m here because I need the help of the Savior… and I need your help. I’m here because I have no hope, no happiness, no family, and no friends. I’m here because I’ve hit rock bottom, and I’m here because the merciful hand of the Savior guided me this way through the power of the Holy Ghost. I’m here because the light that is within me has not been completely extinguished and I hope and pray that you will put some kindling on that fire and not extinguish it with your disdain for me.”
I believe this revolution will produce an environment in which people always feel comfortable when they step inside a church building. It’ll feel like home. They’ll never have to feel like they’ve got to watch their back. They’ll never have to worry about what sister so and so thinks about her outfit, or what brother such and such thinks about the fact that he returned home early from his mission. Those that have gone astray from the church in their younger years will feel welcome when they come back to mend their wounds. They won’t have to suffer the indignation of others based on times that have long since passed and sins that have long since been atoned for. The past history of a person will mean nothing to this new generation of saints. “Who are you now?!” is what we’ll ask. Not “who were you then?”
I wonder if people looked at the Sons of Mosiah and said… “Who do they think they are? How can they be missionaries? How can they represent Christ? How can they give advice in church when they were the vilest of sinners?” I wonder if those great missionaries were made to pay for their sins by their contemporaries even though those sins had already been paid for? Because of these repentant boys ability to overcome their past, they may have been the only Nephites alive who were willing and able to make an impact with those wretched Lamanites. People who have lived through massive challenges in life or made major mistakes and have been willing to make themselves vulnerable enough to empathize with others are able to reach people like those hostile Lamanites who we thought might have never been reached. And all of this revolves around love. Love that is passed from person to person to person. An extended hand, an arm around a shoulder, or a fervent prayer on behalf of an individual who has been through the ringer in life. Our culture needs a reboot. We need to pull for each other instead of being like the whiners in the parable Jesus gave about the workers in the vineyard.
One of the most influential senior missionaries I served with during my mission once told me that he loved the smell of alcohol and tobacco at church. He said, “It’s the smell of change.” There’s someone sitting in that pew… trying to kick a habit, learning of Christ, and hoping for a friend to help take their mind off of that addiction… and yet some of us will move to the furthest pew and simultaneously say things that throw it right back in their face. This is bad! This is wrong! How can people do this or that! Slam! Whack! Bam! And the shame begins all over again for that struggling soul as they make their way back to their lonely apartment.
I see a place where people have study groups again to provide support for those that need friends to talk to about the things they hear on the internet and social media. I see a place where people support one another, ask questions, resolve concerns, and speak honestly about the things that give them trouble in life and in the church. I see a time where “home-teaching” is just referred to as “ministering” and more lessons will revolve around love and not quotas. I see a time where “fellowshipping” will be replaced by “friendshipping” and where pure love is a stronger motivator than guilt.
I think this revolution will produce a people who don’t make a checklist of things they can and cannot do on the sabbath… and then hold others to their own standard and checklist. I think we’ll see a time where programmatic meetings are cut by 50% and where the efficiency of those meetings are increased by 50%. We’ll spend less time behind closed doors meeting about all the stuff we should be doing, and more time ministering to the proverbial fatherless and the widows. We’ll get back to true religion and root out any programmatic religion.
Members will increase their personal studying of the scriptures again. Missionaries will actually start memorizing scriptures again so that there will be water in their well. And callings won’t be looked at as promotions where congratulations are in order. Any form of pageantry will die with this revolution during the uprising of the greatest generation of saints this world has ever seen.
I hope this revolution happens fast… because this world is in need of love… and that love will need to go out from Zion.