Subdivided Mormonism

73

Label Mormon

If I were to write a post about how inappropriate  it would be for members of Christ’s church to affix labels to fellow saints, it would be one of the shortest posts ever written. It would consist of a perfect quote from President Uchtdorf: “Stop it!.”  (Link here.)

Instead, I would like to look a little more closely at another kind of label – the labels that we pick out and stick to ourselves. Even more specifically, the labels that we stick on ourselves as members of the Church.

Here are a few examples: (Feel free to substitute LDS for Mormon if you so desire.)

Tea-Party Mormon • Liberal Mormon • Conservative Mormon • Progressive Mormon • Orthodox Mormon • Feminist Mormon  • Hipster Mormon • Traditional Mormon • Modern Mormon • Libertarian Mormon • Democrat Mormon • Republican Mormon • Independent Mormon • Pro-Gay Marriage Mormon • Anti-Gay Marriage Mormon • Molly Mormon • Vegan Mormon, Carnivorous Mormon, etc.

You get the idea. There are many, many different adjectives that we tack onto our faith to help better define who we are. It is common practice, and even more so on the internet. We use these “brands” to attract like-minded people. and to stake out our territory.

I’ve done it, too. Sometimes I will slide my “brand” of Mormonism into a conversation to quickly show where I stand on an issue, or to find an ally. (For the record, I chose “middle-aged” because it describes where I am in life, but tells nothing about my personal ideology. I guess I could have gone with Ice-Cream Eating Mormon Man, too.)

Here is my main point, bolded, and italicized for your convenience:

Subdividing our religion with different labels is the antithesis of the concept of Zion.

Zion is meant to be a place of unity. “And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart, and one mind; and dwelt in righteousness…” (Moses 7:18)

So I don’t understand how carving out our own piece of philosophical turf, and mingling it with our religion is promoting the cause of Zion. Separation defies unity. Those very modifiers sometimes become part of our identities, and how we portray ourselves to each other and the world. To many, the label has gone from merely an identifier, to a key part of our self-concept.

Don’t freak out: I am not saying that people should not have ideologies, or opinions, or causes. If you want to be a Gun-toting Pharmacist, or a Liberal Insurance Salesman, knock yourself out! There are surely plenty of Independent Engineers, or Libertarian Nurses out there, and that is just fine. We need to discuss these issues, we don’t all need to be the same in dealing with worldly matters. But why attach a temporal, and temporary, ideology, or political affiliation to something as important as our faith? Doesn’t our faith deserve  better than that? “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint” should be adequate, and all-encompassing, by itself.

The people who have the best claim on modifying the term “Mormon” are those that define themselves as Ex-Mormon, Anti-Mormon, Former Mormon, Fundamentalist Mormon, etc. Because what we see as Zion is not their ultimate goal.

Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186) How do we accomplish this when the first word - the very adjective that we use to describe ourselves and our relationship to our faith highlights our differences, rather than our commonalities.

 

The second concept that deals with the self-labeling affliction is the idea that we only label ourselves when we feel that we are right, or at least more right than the people who don’t wear our label of choice.

If I say I am a “Label” Mormon, I am claiming my ideological turf, and letting you know that I am different than many of you, and thusly, better informed, more enlightened, more charitable, or more educated. etc.

People simply don’t hyphenate to highlight their inferiority.

I have yet to see someone start a serious blog called Misogynist Mormon, or Politically Clueless Mormon. The point of the labels we attach to our religion is to stand out from what we perceive as the masses, so that the masses can know that they’ve got some changin’ to do if they want to catch up.

Which is, in itself, an accusation – a form of judgment. “The great body of the church is not as enlightened as I am, therefore I must let it be known that I am different and offer a better “brand” of Mormonism.”

Isn’t that a perfect example of the type of pride that impedes our progress to become a Zion-like people?

The problem is that whenever we carve out our own brand of Mormonism, we are actually carving it off- because there is only one brand of Mormonism: The brand defined by Christ himself, unmodified by human adjectives and ideologies. There are countless variants of the gospel out there, but they are not actually THE gospel.

As Paul said, there is “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Eph.4:5)

 

Is it possible for all of us to just be “Mormon?” Is it possible to lead with a focus on our common faith, rather than leading with our personal ideologies? It is. It has happened before, and I believe it could happen again.

There was a period of time after the Savior left the “other sheep,” where the people reached a level of righteousness and unity that they put away both the labels that were imposed on them, and the self-affixed labels as well.

“…and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Nephi 1: 16-17)

They did it – they managed to unify to the point that they peeled off the labels they had worn for over seven hundred years. Those same labels that had led generations to hate and to war with each other. They just gave them up, and focused instead on becoming children of Christ. The result? Happiness.

Elder Russell M. Nelson applied this Book of Mormon narrative to our lives. He said, “That lesson from history suggests that we also delete from our personal vocabularies names that segregate and hyphens that separate.” (Link)

(…A brief pause while we process that statement….. alright, moving on…)

If our cause is the building of Zion, maybe we could stop shooting ourselves in the foot by defining ourselves, and our religion, in divisive terms.

Accordingly, I am going to stop referring to my liberal Mormon friends as Liberal Mormons, and my conservative Mormon friends as conservative Mormons – even if that is how they define themselves. Instead, I am just going to call all of you my friends, and fellow Mormons. I am also going to focus on remembering that the elements of our faith that we hold in common are greater, and more numerous, than those few things that divide us.

Wish me luck.

MMM logo small

PS: If any of you adopt the term “Label Mormon” and start using it, then you missed the whole point of this post. Please read it again.

Great talk: Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Children of the Covenant.

73 COMMENTS

  1. Another excellent thought provoking post and very appropriate for the the month of thankfulness and gratitude. Thanks MMM.

  2. I really loved the tag line at the end. It made me laugh.

    I was just reading Sheri Dew’s Book If Life Were Easy It Wouldn’t Be Hard and it made what I read of your post made me think of Charity. Whenever we divide ourselves we aren’t practicing charity and thus we are not following the Savior. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.

  3. Well said. I particularly felt the here and nowness of “no manner of -ites.” It’s always interesting when ancient scripture jumps off the page and takes life in the present day. I feel appropriately called to repentence. Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

  4. Good point! I’ve been studying Zion for the past few days and this has been great food for thought for my studies. Thank you!

  5. Excellent post! I hope now people will STOP calling me Molly Mormon.

    Wait. That never happens.

    Great insight brother – keep up the good work!

  6. I read what you are saying and I agree with most of it, but the part I disagree with I feel the need to not share because I will be judged, so it’s kind of a vicious cycle.

  7. thanks for the thoughtful comments. You always make me re-think my interactions with fellow Saints and I am appreciative.

  8. Good post. I just read the book “Lighten Up” by Chieko Okazaki, first counselor in the General RS Presidency back in the 70s, and this post goes right along with her writing about diversity and focusing on what we have in common instead of our differences. The book was written in 1993 but is probably more needed now than it was back then, in light of all the political divisiveness going on today, even, sadly, in some of the wards and stakes of the church. The Gospel is truly for everyone. I have never been asked my political views/party affiliation in a temple recommend interview, but only how I feel about the Lord Jesus Christ, the leaders of the church and my personal worthiness. As Stephen Covey taught – seek first to understand, then to be understood. I would add a resounding Amen to your comments.

  9. I think it’s instructive how the church has set up the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, where the template is:

    I’m a (blank), I’m a (blank), I’m a (blank), and I’m a Mormon. Not an “I’m a (blank, blank, blank) Mormon. To steal from Elder Bednar, significant but subtle.

    Tom

  10. In my humble opinion, the quickest way to solve the ites or label issue is to become a non-TV-watching person. I stay geo-politically informed, but since I’ve stopped watching TV, I love the peace that comes with simply not caring about things that TV world says I should take a stand on (to be more media agnostic, I’ll throw in there talk/sports radio and internet forum flaming). I choose to not really know about or care how many gay women in pants lined up outside the conference center for priesthood session. It brings me more peace as person and a Mormon.
    Thanks for another good post.

    • A “Non-TV watching Mormon?” I don’t think being unaware of what is happening in the world serves our mandate to be “in the world, but not of it”

      • Agreed, MMM.

        Joel,
        I can appreciate that not watching TV has made an impact on your life. If its helped you draw closer to the Lord, awesome. But I think you missed the heart of the post. Labeling the women as “gay” because they have a different understanding of the gospel that you, or assuming they are gay because they wear pants is giving them unnessecary labels. They are finding their way just as you are. A little bit of charity and empathy goes a long way.

      • Not watching television does not mean being unaware of world events, MMM. It simply means that you don’t allow the Great Blue Eye to tell you what to think. There are a great many other (and more reliable) outlets for understanding world events than television. I think Joel G. makes a good point that should be considered, not merely dismissed by labelling it as “XXXX Mormon” (which you, not Joel, did).

        Other than that, this was a worthwhile and thought-provoking piece. Thanks.

        • My point was that we need to be aware of what is going on. I rarely use the TV or talk radio for my news consumption. My point was that (as Joel stated) if there are “women in pants lined up outside the conference center for priesthood session” we really SHOULD care, and KNOW about it.

          • Thanks Stephen and MMM, i did feel a little misunderstood at first. I can know and care about an issue without getting sucked into the endless and unproductive “dialog” and labeling surrounded a contentious topic in the media. I can form an opinion, discuss it with my spouse or family…and even with the world through tools such add this. I sometimes struggle knowing when to defend/engage my beliefs (stand for truth) publicly and when to let it go.

  11. I’ve been thinking of labels lately as well. Though slightly different labels. Our ward struggles with “filthy Mormon,” “irritating-special-needs-Mormon,” “perfect Mormon,” “no fashion sense Mormon,” “has too many children Mormon” etc. Maybe I should change Mormon to ward member. I know it’s a little different than the point of your blog but it is definitely keeping with the topic of building Zion. Labels can hurt. Even if they are meant as compliments. I’ve been guilty of labeling as well but it’s something I’ve been really working on. I had a very eye opening experience I wish I could share on my own blog but because it involves a ward member and her feelings are more important than me sharing I can’t. Trying to figure out how to share what I’ve learned…

  12. I LOVED this. This is something my hubs and I have talked about -a lot-. It was very noticeable at BYUH, mostly where “Utah Mormons” would identify as such, or others would identify them as such. That was also common with “Orange County Mormons” and “Bay Area Mormons”. That never much bothered me, even though I didn’t find it particularly productive. When I began to realize how often political or ideological labels were attached to “Mormon”, and, what’s more, how often they have become a core part of the identity of many of the individuals who use them, it became a bit of a discouraging point for me. I certainly understand the impulse–I have very strong political ideas and beliefs, and I’m not usually terribly shy about sharing them, but I think there’s a time and a place, and it makes me a little crazy that they are used as modifiers to “Mormon”. My political beliefs do not modify my Mormonism, and if my political beliefs start to color the way I see the Church or the doctrine, rather than the other way around, I hope someone would (kindly) point out the error so that I might rectify it. That’s dangerous territory. The way I see it, I am a child of God first, a disciple of Christ, and a missionary–a “conservative American” is somewhere way down the list.

    But, bringing this back around, it was also at BYUH that I first caught glimpses of what life must’ve been like for the “no manner of -ites” folk. I was a white girl raised on the reservation, and even though there’s been a lot of progress, and even though that particular reservation is about 50% white, I saw lots of painful evidence of the effects of divisive tribalism. At BYUH, there were only about 2300 students when I was there, but those 2000+ kids represented about 63 countries and spoke about 2 dozen different languages. The unity was amazing. I saw kindness, outreach, understanding and patience that reminded me time and time again that when you have the Gospel in common, the differences just don’t matter much, and certainly don’t need to be a source for contention.

  13. You missed Utah Mormon in your list. :)

    If we were of one heart and one mind, then there would not be any labels as a natural result, at least no labels that would relate to a ideology or other beliefs. We would all be on the same page. The however is not the case right now.

    The church itself labels groups: YSA, Single Adults, Youth, Primary etc. It creates an organizational structure that lets the church address the unique needs of those sub-groups.

    Part of the process in reaching that point of being of one heart and one mind is to work out these ideological differences and come to a point of harmony on them, and labels can have some use in structuring those discussion. But it is important that they are only used when it is accurate, are not derogatory, and not used to marginalize somebody.

    • The church does not put ideological labels on groups or individuals that fall outside the gospel. Organization charts have nothing to do with the ideas in this post. People subdividing the church to fit their personal ideology is at issue here.

      • Some people subdivide in order to meet their needs-not support ideology or feel superior. If your opinions don’t match the general opinions of other Mormons around you, or you have unique needs that others truly don’t understand or are able to meet, you may get ostracized even if you’re not given an official label. Then when you find others who have been through the same thing or have similar needs as you do, be they physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, labeling yourselves can be a way of clarifying what you need and want and then meeting those needs and wants.
        I absolutely agree that labels are dangerous when used as dividing lines or places to feel superior. However, Zion doesn’t seek to make everyone the same, just to have the same goals. I feel like what the real challenge is, is to acknowledge all of our differences and instead of ignoring them or casting out the differences we don’t like, USE them for the betterment of Zion, because each different perspective, need and talent will make it a better place for more people. But we need a way to recognize the differences first so we can use them.

        • As I clearly mentioned in the post, variety is important, and everyone does not need to be the same. That said, when we subdivide the whole, in order to find allies and focus on our own “needs & wants” we are still setting ourselves apart and putting personal preferences above the concept of Zion- which reenforces my point.

          • I think you misunderstood what I posted or I didn’t clarify enough. I agree that using dividing lines to put personal preferences above others is wrong. I mentioned it was not good to use divisions to feel superior or support personal ideology, which I think falls into personal preference.
            However, this is different from when people have been legitimately hurt and/or ostracized from the mainstream because there is an unspoken rule of what it means to be “Mormon” at all. Often these sub-groups are created because others have already decided what a “real” Mormon is, and tells someone they aren’t that. So, in order to hang on to their Mormon identity, they have to create a sub-label. “Well…I was told by people in my church I can’t be a real Mormon if I am/believe/did X, Y, or Z, so I must be a [label] Mormon then.”
            It’s sometimes the only way some people hold onto the church because they have been told that “Mormon” is already so narrow a definition that they have to make room for themselves. If we can instead say, [label] Mormons belong under the larger Mormon umbrella and ACTIVELY seek to include them, it will be much easier to get rid of labels, but the truth is that it means we need to have a much broader acceptance of what a Mormon can be, and all of us will have our own personal biases to overcome. I think where these labels can actually help, is in our own self-examination when we think “Wow, I didn’t think you could be a [label] and a good Mormon. I should examine how they see things so I can come to a greater understanding.”
            Sure, in an ideal world no labels would be necessary, but we clearly still have a problem with defining what even a general Mormon is supposed to be, so maybe for now until we are ready for Zion, we can use these labels as gateways for understanding so we can eventually do away with them.

          • Thanks for the clarification. I understand what you are saying, but don’t necessarily agree. I think what a Mormon is supposed to be is quite well-defined but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is when we add earthly labels, concerns, agendas, preferences or ideologies to that pure gospel that things start to get fuzzy. Sub-groups do exist, and often they exist for the very reasons you mention – reasons which wouldn’t even exist if both offense givers and offense takers would practice the very Gospel we are talking about. There is probably a case to be made that sub-divisions are a result of either/both groups not applying/understanding the atonement.

        • Oh, and I should clarify too that I don’t think the way we often use labels is the best way to do this, but there is some value to recognizing the differences we have if we use it for the right reasons.

          • The post isn’t about applying labels to ourselves. It is about attaching modified names for our faith to ourselves.

          • I’m curious why I can’t reply to your other responses, but I’ll have to agree to disagree with the approaches needed to eradicating labels. It’s much easier to say it’s due to people being offended when you aren’t the one who suffers from being ostracized for who you are even though you strive to live the Gospel. Ostracizing isn’t just about egos, it causes real, lasting damage and I think labels are a way to wake us up to what kind of people we are hurting/marginalizing.

          • I mentioned something similar in another comment, but think it is applicable here: People are ostracized, and the pain is very real, although voluntary.
            These subgroups wouldn’t even exist if both offense givers and offense takers would practice the very Gospel we are talking about. There is probably a case to be made that sub-divisions are a result of either/both groups not applying/understanding the atonement.

            “However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.” Elder Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them.”

  14. Thank you for these remarks. It seems to me, that the labels we place on ourselves has a lot to do with confusing Mormon culture (or any cultural aspect) with Mormon doctrine. And I would say that “missing the mark” would be a very apt description of Mormons giving themselves labels. Mormon doctrine doesn’t advise us to be liberal or conservative, it does not advise us to be feminists, or mollies, or hipsters. It does not advise us to homeschool or not, it only advises us to do exactly what it outlines us to do. Anything more or less than that is not doctrine, it is not Mormonism. Even personal revelation is not Doctrine, it is personal revelation. So why should we insist that these labels are somehow linked to our Mormonism? Or that they are neccessary distinguishing markers for our Mormonism?

  15. Read the post earlier today and thought it was great. Caught myself about to refer to someone as a “_______ Mormon” at dinner. Oops. Guess I have some work to do improving my own heart and mind to become more focused on Zion.

  16. You probably mean I have to stop labeling whole wards, too ;)
    Even the Peacock Ward, where they all strut about like peacocks? (They are ‘more blessed’ than than the rest of us because their incomes are so large.)

    I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….. oh, boy is that a big mountain!

    As always (really!) this is a great post. I enjoyed the comments, too. Especially Tom’s, “Not an “I’m a (blank, blank, blank) Mormon”.

  17. I’ve been back reading over your old posts (newbie alert) trying to find something I disagree with (is that bad? I just wanted to see if you fit in with my particular Mormon ideologies..hehe)
    …..anyways, my point is…I can’t. even my husband thinks you make sense…that says a lot cos he doesn’t read blogs let alone agree with them.
    I’m now subscribed. :-)

  18. Putting labels on people or things is a result of finite minds trying to find an identity. But where are your limits really? You can call a tree by its name and then you think you know what it is, but a mere word and the meaning we attach to it could never give a full understanding of the depth or essence of that tree. There is really so much more to it than we could ever describe in a word. Obviously understanding a person is an infinitely deeper voyage especially if we believe we are children of God. Labeling gives us a convenient way to neatly put others in a category so we don’t have to think any further about their motivations, experiences, upbringing, etc. This makes it easier for us to organize our relationships, but also puts limits on their potential.

    When we label ourselves we are placing boundaries around us, and we give others permission to stop looking deeper, to stop considering other possibilities, and we stop looking ourselves. We have eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t hear because we stop at the limits of the box we place around ourselves and others.

    Labels help us to make sense of our world, but please realize that they don’t begin to contain the eternal nature of any of God’s creations. We are infinitely more than our finite language can describe! So yes, labels do serve to divide us. They place a wall between us and others. They separate me from you, but in the beginning it was not so. Do we not all come from the same source. I am a child of God, and so are you!

  19. Another great post. My favorite part of your writing is how you back up everything you say by what prophets and apostles have taught. Our opinions are good, but paying attention to prophets and heeding their counsel is ultimately what brings peace and happiness. Keep up the good writing. Your writing is so entertaining and good!

  20. My son wears a label right now. He’s at the MTC, it’s in a foreign language, but he sent me a picture of it. He’s proud to be a representative of Jesus Christ, which is what we all should be. Maybe a “label” would help me remember every day.
    I agree with your points, we are simply children of God, who loves us. And the way we look at others is a reflection on how we see ourselves. (ouch)

  21. Excellent post! I was going to joke that I am a Zionist Mormon. :)

    I have heard the term Utah Mormon a lot!! It is usually used to signify that something is being done differently than the norm, on either side. I really like the comments that have been made referring to the use of -ites in the Book of Mormon. I have never been able to understand how a society could dissolve into wickedness as fast as it does in the Book of Mormon, yet as I have been reading it through again this year I am seeing so many parallels to our day, right now. It is a scary prospect. Thank you again for your excellent, thought-provoking posts!

  22. This labeling and separating ourselves from the body of mormonism reminds me of Alma 4 where some members of the church who were lifted up in pride “began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure…there began to be great contentions among the people of the church…and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.” Your ideas are very thoughtful. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  23. Well I disagree with some of this. First we do use negative labels on ourselves. I’m a pretty bright guy and master of all things tech. My wife has really gotten excited about SCUBA diving. She reads everything. I don’t even try and compete, I’m SCUBA dumb and ask her any question I have on the subject.
    For all the wonderful pronouncements in 4th Nephi, they all remembered what kind of “ite” they were. In third Nephi, Mormon (one of the 12) 3rd Nephi 5:20 proudly announce “I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi.” and in Mormon 1:5 “And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi”, not one of those other inferior groups.We all have numerous groups and philosophies we identify with. Frankly I think that’s good. Unless you are all perfect in your knowledge and thinking, we are all trying to grow. I learn where my beliefs are weak mostly by talking to people who disagree with me. Talking to people who have the same perspective doesn’t teach me anything. I think what the Lord is telling us about our differences is HOW were see things from another perspective. Are we contending, or are we sharing with an interest in learning and teaching? That is how we learn to come to the unity of the faith.

    • The post isn’t about applying labels to ourselves. It is about attaching modified names for our faith to ourselves. Feel free to call yourself a “Dumb SCUBA Diver.” But would you refer to yourself as a “Dumb SCUBA MORMON?” I doubt it.

      I agree that variety is good, and differing ideologies are good – which is why I wrote an entire paragraph about it.

    • Just a note. Mormon was writing over 100 years after the dissolution of the “no kind of -ites” period of BoM history. He was raised in an era when there definitely were -ites, and he was proud of which one he was. But that wasn’t even the definitive focus of his self-identity. Elsewhere he would declare “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

      On another note, it isn’t the labels or the identification with groups and philosophies that is the problem, it is when we start to label ourselves by our own peculiar brand of philosophies or groups married to Mormonism that we have a problem. This is primarily the case because all of those groups have something that is in conflict with the fundamental or core teachings of the gospel of Christ. A quote from Elder Oaks may be pertinent. It refers explicitly to political or intellectual philosophies, but I think that it applies equally to all the philosophies, groups, and movements under discussion here.

      “Those who govern their thoughts and actions solely by the principles of liberalism or conservatism or intellectualism cannot be expected to agree with all of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As for me, I find some wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth in intellectualism—but I find no salvation in any of them.”

      Dallin H. Oaks – Ensign, Feb. 1987 “Criticism”

  24. 1. Perhaps our first/basic mistake was to accept the label “Mormon”. It is a label (arguably inspired by Satan) that was put upon us by adversaries of the restored Church of Christ, with the intent of differentiating us from “Christians” at large, and confusing them about who we worship. It seems to have served that purpose very well, even amongst ourselves, to some degree. It is not the name we covenant to take upon ourselves when we partake of the Sacrament. It is not the name that King Benjamin (Mosiah 5:8) gave to his people. Noble and righteous as Mormon was, I expect he would be displeased (if not horrified) that we have allowed ourselves to be labelled with his name instead of Christ’s, in our own eyes as well as the world’s. Mormon would be the first to acknowledge that as an exemplar he is a tremendous step down from Christ. Paul’s warning is applicable to this discussion. 1 Cor 1:11-13.
    2. Still, in the way of an apologetic for those who label themselves, it is understandable, (if not unavoidable) that we use our (admittedly limited) personal understanding of the gospel to try to find the right way in politics and society, etc. If we each are willing to acknowledge that to be the case with others as well as ourselves, then we have hope of avoiding the judgemental condemnation that is the problem of labels. Viewed charitably a label may be seen as simply an indicator of perhaps where one is at present, in one’s search for truth and right, not at all a reliable indicator and certainly not proof of
    one’s ultimate objective, nor in any sense a valid scale for comparative judgement of others.

    • #1 makes me smile – Remember a few years ago when the Church made an effort to distance ourselves from the Mormon label? It didn’t work out so well – eventually, I think everyone just threw up their hands and said, “Fine. We are Mormons. Come visit us at http://www.Mormon.org. – But technically, we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.”

      #2 I agree it is understandable – yet there are a lot of people in my ward that I know and love, but have no idea what their political affiliations, or other ideologies are. They are just Brothers and Sisters to me.

  25. 1. “Zion is meant to be a place of unity.”
    Yes, absolutely.

    2. “The problem is that whenever we carve out our own brand of Mormonism, we are actually carving it off- because there is only one brand of Mormonism: The brand defined by Christ himself, unmodified by human adjectives and ideologies”
    Most Mormons across the various belief-groups claim to be aiming at the ideal that Christ established and currently maintains. So who on Earth possesses the full unmodified version? Even the prophet doesn’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t think anyone has all the answers, but some of us probably do have superior knowledge on a particular subject. For example, when a female Mormon claims to have superior knowledge about a particular issue relating to the female Mormon experience, then I listen carefully. That doesn’t mean I presume absolute truth comes from a particular source, but I’m more than OK with groups believing that they possess at least some superior knowledge which the masses do not posses. It’s all part of the plan. We all have different experiences. Then we share our opinions and discern truth together. And then we use that truth to build Zion. We do this over and over again, removing error and replacing it with truth.

    3. “There was a period of time after the Savior left the “other sheep,” where the people reached a level of righteousness and unity that they put away both the labels that were imposed on them, and the self-affixed labels as well.”
    Yes, the labels became less useful because the people had less diversity because… the people were in agreement about the doctrines of Christ. But the labeling of identity-groups isn’t blamed for the lack of agreement. Actually, the agreement is the cause of the lack of labeling. So we shouldn’t freak out and blame labeling for our mistreatment of others. We mistreat others because we are impatient or because we think we can gain social power, etc.

    In conclusion, we should all be trying to broaden our comfort zones. That doesn’t mean we need to stop acknowledging differences between beliefs and belief-groups. That doesn’t mean we need to stop discerning truth. Labels help us make sense of the world and help us communicate the logic to others. We just shouldn’t use the labels for selfish reasons. I’m very optimistic about the future of the LDS Church. Diverse groups within our church can actually help us all to progress toward Zion *IF* we do the work necessary to process the input and forge the foundations of Zion. It’s daunting in some ways, but I’m very optimistic that our church is well positioned to take advantage of the truth found across diverse groups as guided by truth-discerning principles. Globalization is really exciting and scary at the same time, but it is more scary for institutions that can’t handle the internal pressures of group conflict. Maybe we’ll find out that our church organization is better equipped for Zion-making that we currently can imagine because none of us have a clear vision of what Zion looks like.

    • #2: I think you missed the term “Our own brand of Mormonism.” And the whole paragraph about how we need to discuss our different ideologies, and we don’t all have to be the same. The point is that our efforts would be better spent learning what Christ wants for us, rather than entrenching in our own ideologies. Please note the quote by Oaks in the other comment by Samuel.

      #3: This post is about self-labeling – not oppression by labelers. But I agree with your point “Yes, the labels became less useful because the people had less diversity because… the people were in agreement about the doctrines of Christ.” The focus on the doctrine of Christ does diminish the perceived need for labels.

  26. I read the article and comments and while I do agree that adjective labeling as a way to separate ourselves as superior is horrible, I feel like the bigger problem than the adjectives is the term “Mormon” itself. It has become exclusive/defined (owned, perhaps), so that many times those who don’t fit in the tidy box of the cultural definition are made to feel as if they are less worthy of the term. I’m not convinced that all of the individuals who add the adjectives are doing so to feel superior, but rather they do it to feel like they can stay a member of a tribe of people who don’t seem to want them because they don’t fit.

    I have no doubt that many of these same people are not working from a place of being offended, but rather of seeking God and trying to thrive.

    Personally, I gave up the term Mormon in my own self definition ages ago. I see the term as a dividing line between culture and belief, and I can’t handle the square-peg pressure of Mormon culture. I am simply a follower of Jesus Christ (except on census forms and the like).

    • I would agree that the difficulty in the term “Mormon” comes from the cultural aspects, but I would rather work from within to change the “culture” rather than redefine the name.

      • I think both need to happen. We need to become all inclusive so that the term is inherently all inclusive. There is a lot of interesting tensions in the church at the moment that I’m hoping will help it to happen. Discussions such as this one definitely help.

        • Good thoughts. I wonder when the term ceased to be all-inclusive, and why people first felt they needed to carve out subdivisions. I imagine it has existed as long as the church has – it did in Paul’s day.

      • And I just have to add that one of the hardest things for me is that clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ has no culture. So why is it SO important that we as a church do?

  27. I have to disagree with the statement that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has no culture. Perhaps valid to say so in light of the various and radically different cultures of the world, which are how the world sees “culture”. However, I submit that the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to guide us to achieve a particular culture, and that culture is the culture of the Celestial Kingdom. All the world’s “cultures”, are deviations from that standard, though Enoch’s Zion if not absolutely perfect must have been closest.

    • I think we may be defining culture differently. If I were to state a ‘celestial culture’, it would be based on love rather than any specific pattern / trait of speech, behavior (barring the commandments), beliefs (again barring gospel truths), art, appearance, etc. The latter being what defines culture right now.

      Of course the truth of the matter is that we’re both putting human constraints on something that is wildly outside the human experience (for the moment anyway) and are thus both likely wrong. When it comes to defining God himself, I figure we’re shooting peas out into a very large and dark universe.

  28. I grew up in a ward that was very close geographically. I was surrounded by members of the church all day long—rarely did I encounter anyone who was not a member of the church. In this atmosphere, I was constantly striving to find my place among the many different sorts of Mormons I saw around me (from a child and teenage perspective). In order to find a place, I gave myself a number of labels, most of them with that construction: __________ Mormon.

    Then I moved to a place where there are few members of the church. There is no room for a label other than Mormon in this atmosphere. No one would care if I did give myself that label! There simply aren’t enough of us to let ourselves become divided. In my daughter’s young women group, the same is true. There are no cliques—there aren’t enough girls to create them.

    When I go back to the place I grew up, I feel that tension again. People struggling to find their place within the Mormon culture. People comparing themselves to one another instead of trying to find their similarities and common ground. It is constricting at best, debilitating at worst. I am grateful whenever I return to my home now to be free of that feeling. I’m not blaming this on the place I grew up, I know there are people who live there without comparing themselves to others, but for me, there is freedom in being part of a small army banding together to shine a light for our neighbors and friends. I hope I can remain label free no matter where I go.

  29. I don’t know where all of you come from, but may I guess that a lot of you are “Utah-mormons”? I’m from Sweden and I have seen nothing of this here (yet, and I sure hope it will stay that way). The actual labeling thing that is, I’m afraid it does exist in at least some folks minds… Not the political thing though, but in other aspects. Anyway may I suggest that you move to, what I understand a lot of you call “the mission field”, and get to see someting else than your own little pond! By the way we out here in the mission field has had two missionaries in Utah lately and will send two more now (from our ward that is), so I guess you need some new blood there…

    Besides that I think it was a great post MMM, as usual.

    • What prompted this post, and most of my experience with this “labeling thing” is from what I have encountered online and through news reports. I don’t live in Utah, but I am very aware of what is going on in the church in many parts of the world. So, to me, it is less about being in “the mission field” and more about being aware of, and informed about, what is happening in the world around me, especially regarding church issues and trends.

  30. We humans seem to have a natural desire to be like our own little group and different from the rest of everybody — kind of a tribe mentality. And we like to think our group is cooler and more enlightened than the rest of those poor blighters. I think this desire is what’s behind cliques in high school, and explains a lot about rabid sports fans, political discussions, etc.

    This desire can be at least somewhat beneficial when the Church is in minority — we band together with other Church members to stay strong against “the world” (but maybe take it too far and come across as cliquish or stuck-up). But when Church members are a big enough percentage of the population, we start subdividing ourselves into “Asparagus Mormons,” and the “conform or be cast out” mentality creeps in.

    I think this is one of those “natural man” tendencies we need to put off in order to become Zion. But it’s hard.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)