The Mormon Compromise

The Mormon Compromise

Theological Starting Points

Terryl Givens’ recently wrote about the American compromise with Mormonism, whereby Mormons agreed not to be so radical as to entirely alienate themselves from American society (i.e., ditch polygamy and our lovely Deseret) in exchange for the U.S. ceasing its explicit campaign to eradicate us. He describes the unwritten contours of that compromise as consisting in a willingness to accept and even promote the various cultural achievements of Mormonism (e.g., our choir, football, family focus), while agreeing to shelve any serious engagement with our theology.

One can hear the variation on a popular LDS General Conference theme when he writes: “In opting to emphasize Mormon culture over Mormon theology, Mormons have too often left the media and ministers free to select the most esoteric and idiosyncratic for ridicule. . . . But members of a faith community should recognize themselves in any fair depiction.” The upshot is that Mormons themselves need to help define their public image now that Presidential politics have disturbed our great compromise and open season’s been declared on our theology.

While the Mormon church has adopted 13 Articles of Faith that describe its theolgical believes, Givens has narrowed that down to five theological starting point for any serious engagement:

  1. God is a personal entity, having a heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain.
  1. Men and women existed as spiritual beings in the presence of God before progressing to this mortal life.
  1. Adam and Eve were noble progenitors of the human family, and their fall made possible human life in this realm. Men and women are born pure and innocent, with no taint of original sin. (We find plenty on our own).
  1. God has the desire and the power to save, through his son Jesus Christ, the entire human family in a kingdom of heaven, and except for the most perversely unwilling, that will be our destiny.
  1. Heaven will principally consist in the eternal duration of those relationships that matter most to us now: spouses, children, and friends.

There is not one of these of these beliefs that are relevant to a political candidate’s fitness for office. However, they are a starting point for any serious attempt to get at the core of Mormon belief.  While there is much in Mormon history that represents compromise, using these five areas as a jumping off point should not be.