The Modern LDS Church has not officially practiced polygamy for 130 years. However, Lindsay Hansen Park says polygamy continues to shape the modern Mormons. Why does she say that?
Lindsay: This is very common in the historical community. They’re like, “Yeah, yeah, fundamentalism is interesting, but it’s not Mormonism.” No, no, no. It absolutely is. It’s irresponsible and frankly, unsophisticated, I think, to look at LDS Mormonism as a static religion that’s not impacted by these groups, because it is. Now, of course, it’s so hard to track. Like I said, there’s always like two guys at an altar in a living room all the time. But these people are influencing our policies. They’re influencing how we view ourselves. They’re influencing how we market ourselves and brand ourselves. A lot of the marketing and branding of the LDS Church has been an attempt to distance ourselves from this. Scholars are so entrenched in that narrative, they’re still so loyal to the institution of Mormonism. It’s only non-Mormon scholars who are able to [admit,] “Of course, this is all the same thing.” But we have so much generational propaganda and campaigns to distance ourselves that scholars fall into this trap all the time. We’re uncomfortable with it.
I was also surprised to hear her critique of ex-Mormons.
Lindsay: Here’s the thing. This is back to my critique with ex-Mormons. I always say, guys. Ex-Mormons watch conference more religiously than faithful Mormons do. They’ll watch it, and they’ll give you a play by play. They’ll be like, “Can you believe that Elder Holland said this?” And then they’ll all rant about it. I’m like, “Guys, you’re still sustaining the brethren. You just don’t agree with them. That’s the difference. You’re still upholding their authority. They still matter to you.”
That’s okay. We need to stop being ashamed of that. Of course, they impact our lives. Of course, things that they say are going to affect you and your family. Why are we so afraid to admit that? That’s the hierarchy’s narrative that you’re with us or against us. They created that because that’s what they do to consolidate their power so they can maintain leadership. It makes sense. But ex-Mormons give the Mormon Church power every time that they validate the authority of the brethren, even if they don’t believe in the divinity of them.
GT: You’ll see these memes [like] Heard on Sunday where they usually put a meme of some general authority, which is highly out of context, but just for shock value. So you’re saying they’re still sustaining the brethren?
Lindsay: Of course they are because here’s what I’ve learned. This is the gift that Mormon fundamentalists have given me. This is why they’re so dangerous. This is why all the policies in the LDS Church reflect being afraid of them, instead of the John Dehlin types, right? The [leaders] actually don’t care that much about liberal Mormons. [For example when] they get excommunicated Kate Kelly, the movement dies down, right? I mean, that’s not what happens. But it’s an easier thing than fundamentalism, because fundamentalism is a harder thing to root out.
Lindsay has made a huge effort to get orthodox scholars to attend Sunstone.
GT: I know, especially with your work here at Sunstone, that you’ve actually gone out of your way to try to [invite orthodox scholars.] Because I know Sunstone has been marginalized for a long time. I know you’ve really tried to bring in BYU professors and Church employees.
Lindsay: Oh, I played that game for a long time because people were [saying,] “Oh, Lindsay, Sunstone is just too anti-Mormon, so you need to bring them in.” I [agreed,] “Oh, you’re right. We’ll solve that. We’ll just invite more faithful Mormon voices.” They all told me no. I was like, wait a minute…
GT: So, when people complain that Sunstone is too one-sided, come.
Lindsay: No, here’s the thing. You can complain all day that Sunstone’s too fringe, and I say, “Yes, exactly. But at least we’re honest.” Because here’s the thing. Every Mormon knows how to perform Mormonism. We all know how to go to Sunday and put on the costume, the outfit, the white shirt and tie and say the right things. We perform Mormonism, and then we go home. We think whatever we think, and we do whatever we do. Listen, in my job, I hear everyone’s secrets. So all y’all are into some weird stuff and you all have your secrets. And that’s okay. That’s called being human. But the difference is [with] Sunstone we stop running away from that. People are [saying,] “Oh, you’re fringe.” I [said,] “Yes, and so are you.” But we’re not ashamed of it here. That’s how I got around from that, the toxic faith politics that I’ve seen destroy families. It has destroyed my own my own family.
GT: Faith politics.
Lindsay: Faith politics, where we have to pretend and perform our loyalty to the institution. Because in Mormonism, proximity to power is how we gain our own power, because there can only be one guy. There’s only one prophet. So your power and your credibility and your worth is in proximity to that one guy. So we all organize around that in different ways. It’s damaging. It’s cankering to the soul, because what we are saying is we are giving someone else the authority over our worth, our worthiness, our Heaven, our God, our connection, our interaction with the divine. I’m not going to do it anymore. I did that for years. I believed that was the way to go. I can’t with integrity do that anymore. I love Mormonism. I have such affection to it. Honestly, for better for worse, I actually don’t like this about myself, I am loyal to it through and through, obviously, as my work is a testament to. I’m loyal to it. But I am loyal to it collectively. I will never give my own personal authority to any dude, again. It’s too complicated. It’s too messy. There’s too much paperwork, too many stories. There’s no value in that.
That’s just some of the jewels in this episode. This episode is available to subscribers of our free newsletter. Subscribe to GospelTangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link to the conclusion of our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Lindsay.