The deeper inquiry of the Mormon faith is initiated for any number of reasons. We often find ourselves wrestling with scripture, church policy, “prophetic” utterances of all kinds, local leadership agendas, or the many colorful historical events (often more twisted and confusing than we had thought they ever could be). As one area of frustration is resolved or ignored at a particular time it seems another rears it’s head to prick at our nerves, shake our faith and generally revive our recently settled frustration. The church seems to soothe and frustrate us simultaneously through these struggles and I think it is because we are members of many churches, even though we only have membership records for one. The following list is how I have thought about dissecting the different churches we belong to.
1) The Historical Church: includes all of its successes and failures.
2) The Modern Institutional Church: includes everything from its lesson manuals to its stances on social issues
3) The Local Church: includes the dynamics between members and, sometimes most importantly, the decisions and actions of local leaders
4)The Theology* of Mormonism: drawing on all of the first three churches materials, canonical and extra-canonical.
All of these churches are tied together and are not easy to separate but we can emphasize one over the other if it helps us along the way. My experience has been generally positive with 3-4 and a mixed bag with 1-2 (probably edging on the side of negative depending on what standard I use to judge them by on any given day). I’ve had these thoughts bouncing around my head and I hope they can give you something to ponder but more importantly I am wondering how you think about the different churches our membership has us tied to.
*Theology in Mormonism is tricky to define and really is up to the individual as far as I’m concerned. There is likely overlap between all members to some degree but each theology will be the individual members theology since, like green jello, you can’t nail down Mormon theology with much success.
That's a great way to look at it. I have resigned my membership in 1 & 2.
Church #3 defines your relationship with others who struggle to make #1 and #4 get along with the least cognitive dissonance possible. #4 defines what stone you have written you name on (and in what”language”), and how you wave your palm branch…#4 is more like, “how are we supposed to carry our burdens, pulling or pushing them? ” it mattereth not”, saieth the Lord of Hosts, as long as you get ’em moving!
Local Church leaders can prevent you from entering the temple, for not complying to the policies, but your membership in #4 is what let’s you into God’s presence. I’ll stick with the last one.
#4 is the hardest to define, and yet the thing that keeps me engaged in Mormonism. #2 is the reason it is hard for me to stay engaged in Mormonism.
These are great distinctions, Brian. I really like the way you broke this down.