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Out of the Box Mormons (Part 4 of 6)

There has been a slowdown in growth for the LDS Church recently.  I asked Dr. Jana Riess what the Church can do to halt the slide, and I was a bit surprised at her answer.  Is there a problem with “out of the box” Mormons?

GT : Is there anything in your book that you think that leaders can use to keep people in?

Jana:  Yes, and no. {Chuckling} So that’s my wishy-washy answer. The Yes, part is yes, there are things. For example, backing away on LGBT issues can only help. It certainly would help if the church did a better job of incorporating more Millennials into things that they care about, rather than indexing genealogy or things that the church cares about, but that are not necessarily driving attendance for people in their 20’s. There are a lot of things like that.  We could have better architecture. I have a whole list of those things.

Jana:  But the no side, which I think is just as important, and I’m speaking here as a historian. When we look at the bigger picture of what’s going on in American religion, more generally, Mormons and ex-Mormons are so tunnel-focused on what the Church is, or is not doing, that is driving this problem that they miss the bigger picture that Mormonism is not an island. We have, throughout our history, been buffeted by the tides of whatever is going on in American religion. In the 1950s and 60s, when religion was thriving in the United States, we were also thriving. And in the 70s, and 80s, when conservative religions, in particular, were thriving the United States, we were thriving.  Now we’re in a period where everyone is suffering, we are also suffering. So in that context, particularly because we are less than 2% of the population, there’s not a lot we can do.

Mormonism is really good for nuclear families, but it can be a tough place for singles, divorced, LGBT, widowed, or other members who may not have the ideal Mormon family.  In our next conversation with Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll, we’ll talk about non-traditional families, and how we can make church culture better for others.

Jana: There is one area where I see church leaders really trying to change this outcome. And it’s in the hammering of marriage and having children. Recent talks by certain church leaders have emphasized this. And that’s not to say it hasn’t been an emphasis all along, but the stakes are much higher. We’re looking at a scenario where married church members, according to the church’s own leaked statistics, married church members in their 20s are twice as likely to be active, as single church members in their 20s of the same age. So, the Church says, “Well, let’s just get everybody married,” right? And the people who are most active in the church are the people who have children of school age and are in those programs right now. “Well, let’s get people to have children,” right?  And of course, that plays into the eternal message of the gospel, that marriage and children are part of your exaltation forever. So, it’s not like this is just a cynical, sociological move that we need to up our activity rates. They truly, I think, earnestly believe that this is also contributing to people’s eternal salvation, but they have got to be worried about marriage among Millennials as a whole in this nation. Millennials are delaying marriage Millennials are having fewer children or not having children at all. And in terms of religiosity that is a concern, not just for Mormons, but for all organized religions. Because those young parents are the mainstay. They are the bread and butter of religious activity and tithing and programs, the success of the programs. So that’s where you’re going to see them trying to change that narrative.

GT:  To be more friendly to singles, is that what you’re saying?

Jana:  No. I’m afraid not.

GT:  That’s too bad.

Jana:  To be telling singles, “Just get married already,” which seems to be the message that comes up again and again.

Do you agree?  Check out our conversation….

What can LDS Leaders do to encourage “out of the box” Mormons to stop leaving the Church?

Don’t miss out other conversations with Jana and Ben!

298: Comparing Mormons by Generations

297: Surprising Mormon Response

296: How to Randomly Sample Mormons

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Legal, Science, and Social Issues on LGBT (Part 4 of 4)

What are some of the legal, science, and social reasons the LDS Church may have removed the Policy of Exclusion?  Greg Prince answers these questions.

GT:  I know in our last interview, one of the things that, what’s the word? The people that disagreed with you the most, I guess we’ll put it that way. Previously, we had talked, and I know it came up again last night, where you had said that it was a straw man, where people think that the government will now force gay marriages.  You’d given an example, has a rabbi ever been forced to marry a Jew and Gentile and things like that? So, I know there are still some people, if you look at my comments, I have a few people from lawyers that say that your argument is a straw man.

Greg:  I base my argument on two bits of data. One is that when the Hawaii decision was handed down, that invalidated the law, the Hawaii Supreme Court made it explicit, that under no circumstances would the LDS Church or any church be required by the state to perform any kind of marriage, that the authority to perform marriages resided in the state. It could be given to churches, and give them the privilege of performing marriages that would be legal, but there was no obligation that extended with that privilege. In other words, the state could not say, “Here’s how you have to do it. Here’s who you have to perform ceremonies for.”  It was made explicit in that.  The other data point is lengthy conversations with Bill Eskridge, who is a professor of law at Yale, is considered the top legal expert in the country on LGBTQ law.

And on the science front….

Greg:  Decades ago, researchers started looking at twins to see if that gave them clues as to the cause of homosexuality. If it were strictly genetic, then identical twins would always be the same. If one were gay, the other would be gay, if one were straight, the other would be straight.  Fraternal twins, because they don’t share the same genetic makeup would be expected to be different, like maybe not concordant at all.  It turned out that it was a mixture of the two, that with identical twins, the concordance would be in the neighborhood of 50 to 60%–one twin is gay, then it would be likely that the other also would be gay, but not essential. Whereas with fraternal twins, it was maybe around 20%. So what that really said, although we didn’t realize the ramifications of it at that time was, genetics is part of it, but there’s something else that’s part of it, and we didn’t know what to call that yet. Eventually, that came to be known as epigenetics, which are factors that work on how the genes function, but they’re not the genes themselves.

We also talk about the recent policy change that allows Americans to get married civilly one day and sealed later without a one-year wait. The conclusion is only available to subscribers of our FREE newsletter.  Just sign up at GospelTangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a free link to watch the conclusion!

Greg Prince discusses legal, social, and science aspects of LGBT policies.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Greg!

285 – Revelatory Whiplash

284 – The Christian Right & LGBT Fight

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight

 

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The Christian Right & LGBT Fight (Part 2 of 4)

It’s not just the LDS Church that has had a difficult time dealing with gay rights.  The Christian right is struggling with the issue as well.  Dr. Greg Prince serves on the Board of Directors for a Methodist seminary near Washington, D.C.

https://youtu.be/FmaaUqUBHw4

Greg:  The Methodists have a heap of trouble on this. In February of this year, they had what is termed a Called General Conference. They normally have general conferences once every four years. But they can have a special conference, and they did it for one issue, and that was LGBTQ. There were really three elements that they were considering during this conference. One is how do we deal with religious talk about gays? Do we brand them as apostates? Do we brand them as sinners? The second was, will we allow the ordination of gay clergy, and the third was, will we allow the performing of gay marriages?

The Conservatives prevailed, and that was primarily because of Africa. Forty-five percent of the delegates to the conference were from Africa, and that vote which was strongly homophobic, combined with the delegates from the American South prevailed, and it put the Methodist Church in a more homophobic stance than they had been prior to the conference. The other alternative that was put forward and voted down, was called the One Church proposal, and that was written primarily by the head of our Board of Governors. So, he was front and center in the debate, and he and other delegates from Wesley were just devastated with the outcome. It puts them in a much more difficult position, organizationally, than the LDS Church right now, because there’s a very real possibility of permanent schism, that the United Methodist Church might not wind up being very united anymore. They’re trying to work out some kind of a compromise that can avoid that, and when I went to the board meeting earlier this week, Tom looked at me and he said, “I never thought I’d see the day when the Methodists would make the Mormons look progressive.”

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about how the Christian Right deals with gay rights, and specifically discuss what happened in the Prop 8 battle in California.

GT:  Okay, so, by November, the church with a coalition of the Catholic Church and some other organizations–now, one of the things that I found interesting last night was you said that that the Mormon Church combined with the Catholic Church and some evangelical organizations for some sort of a front organization, and then you said that they all said, “Well, we’re behind you,” but they weren’t.

Greg:  This went back to 2000, and it was reminiscent of Lucy and the football.

GT:  Okay.

Greg:  I won’t lift up the football this time. And every time Charlie Brown fell for it, and every time she lifted up the football and he wound up on his back. So in 2000, the other churches said, “We’re in this together,” but the LDS Church wound up carrying all the water.  In 2008, they said, “No, this time, we’re really in this together,” and the LDS Church wound up carrying most of the water. Because the money was given to a front organization, it’s very difficult to figure out how large a role church members played in financing Prop 8.  The best estimates are at least 50% of the $40 million, that the Yes on 8 Movement collected came from Latter-day Saints. It could have been substantially more than 50%, but we know that much just from reverse engineering because the donors’ contributions were registered with the California Secretary of State, and a group of innovative church members looked at that list and started disseminating it to their network throughout the state, and identifying church members and then tabulating the amount of money collectively that hadn’t been given by them.

Check out our conversation….

The Christian Right is also struggling with gay marriage. Greg Prince tells interesting story about the Methodist Church.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Greg!

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight