Meadowchik wrote:Hiya. Calling it immoral, though, is no different than calling "the natural man...an enemy to God." Except that the church has built an internal culture of assent, where criticism and dissent are characterised as attacks. This is an unhealthy environment that it has created.
I agree that I am using language that is uncommonplace and unpleasant in the church, but that is due to the church's unhealthy management of criticism.
Elder Oaks' declaration that it is wrong to criticize the leaders even if the criticism is true is one of my least favorite public comments of any. Yes, you are right. The LDS Church does not handle criticism well, and, as a result, those who are flexing their freedom muscles like to criticize the church with gusto. I am a case in point there.
But, I do not agree that the church's unhealthy management of criticism (great writing there, by the way) is the sole reason why critical language is unpleasant and rare in church. It may also have something to do with the fact that other Mormons are happy being Mormons under the terms which the church has established for membership.
It may seem crazy to us, but some people like having an uncomplicated, pleasant experience in church in which they intone the same old lessons every week. Some people like to have strong male leaders who are set up as divine oracles for the people. Some people like to go confess their sins to a paternal leader who will mete out God's punishment and forgiveness. Some people like life in a cis-gender world where dad wears the pants and goes to work, while mom wears a skirt and stays at home.
We may not be those people. But such people exist. I think fewer of them exist than once did, but I would be surprised if they ceased to exist altogether. So, it may be that the LDS Church will continue to shrink over time, but I doubt it will disappear, and I doubt it would be fair to say that the people who lead this Mormon life and those who lead their church are altogether bad people, such that it would be accurate to call the whole thing "immoral."
I think it is important to take account of all of the good things the LDS Church, its leaders, and its people do as well. That list is pretty long, I think. I have a hard time imagining myself as having been a bad person when I was a member of the LDS Church. I have a hard time thinking that my time serving other people was poorly spent. I have a difficult time believing that sitting in meetings and talking about being a good person, so that I could go out during the week and live the life of a good person was an immoral activity. I do not think that it was immoral of me to go on a mission, or immoral for the LDS Church to send me on one. I don't believe my experience in the temple was immoral. I didn't find attending General Conference to be immoral. I did not think that being a leader in Young Men's was immoral, or that serving in Scouts was immoral. I can't think of singing hymns, praying, or partaking of the sacrament as immoral.
That does not mean there is nothing to criticize there. There is plenty to find fault with, sure. And I think there are serious problems. Very serious indeed. I quit going for a reason.
And yet, to look back at my experience as a Mormon and say, "Man, I can't believe I was so immoral," or, "How did I ever involve myself in that immoral organization?," well, that just sounds unreal to me. And, I think it sounds unreal because it is, at the end of the day, simply inaccurate.
I can easily imagine a better LDS Church, but I doubt I will ever participate in one. I think the best thing to do in this situation, however, in which one really has the idea of making a better LDS Church is to go out and make one. I doubt that many of us will commit the time and energy to doing this sort of thing. I know I am unlikely to do so. The other alternatives, including hanging out on this board and venting our spleens, which, by the way, is practically my avocation, are probably not going to achieve that goal.
But, again, I am not against criticism. I am not against trying to nudge the LDS Church in a better direction. In my opinion, however, nurturing and expressing a kind of dark caricature of Mormonism and the LDS Church is probably not the way to bring about positive change. If you tell happy Mormons that they are immoral, or that their church is immoral, they're probably just going to look at you as though you are some kind of nut.