02 September 2013

Cultural Mormonism

Cultural Mormonism... I hate it. I walk around Salt Lake City everyday, and everyday I hear about another horror story about people's interpretation of doctrine, and their attempts to be that perfect Mormon.

I hear stories about people who won't eat pork, because the Old Testament tells them not to. We've internalized the idea that the sight of women's shoulders and knees will unhinge every single man in the Church, and will cause them to revert to their primal sexual instincts. Or that if a young man wears anything other than a crisp, white shirt with a tie, they cannot participate in the sacred ordinance of passing the Sacrament. Or having more than one set of earrings, wearing sandals to Church, getting a tattoo... I could do this all day.

Every single one of these situations are textbook examples of culturally accepted beliefs in Mormonism that are more bulletproof than some of the most basic, established doctrines in this Church. None of these examples are cannonized doctrine. And last I checked, Christ came and fulfilled the law... meaning that we don't have to follow the Law of Moses anymore. Except for those two convienent verses in Leviticus... those are obviously valid.

There is a fantastic quote from Hugh Nibley, that perfectly addresses the "culture disguised as doctrine" in this Church, "The worst sinners, acording to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistance on proper dress, and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism."

I firmly believe that the obsession with how long your skirt should be, or how many earrings you can wear, is directly akin to the ancient obsession with how many steps you can take on the Sabbath. It detracts us from what is really important. When we obsess over the woman breastfeeding her child in Sacrament meeting, we forget about the miracles of Christ. We forget how Christ refused to condemn a woman caught in adultry. We forget that Christ was happier with Mary of Bethany sitting at His feet listening to Him teach, than with Martha slaving away in the kitchen. We forget that Christ tells us to love one another, as He has loved us.

We're human. We're in our earthly state of probation. We are not yet resurrected to our perfect, celestial bodies. We are therefore imperfect. How frustrating that must be for our Heavenly Parents! Judge not. Focus on what's really important. Treat others how you want to be treated. Take care of you're own imperfections before focusing on others. It'll make the world a better, happier place!


  1. While I agree with your post, I do want to point out (because its important to me in a way) that everything that could be called "cultural mormonism" is not bad. Yes, the obsession with dress and grooming is silly. And ye many other cultural elements are equally silly or bad.

    But culture exists whenever a group of people get together for an extended time. Its not just dress, but songs, books, ways we express ourselves. It will exist no matter what we do, and some of it will be bad and some will be good.

    Lets not throw the good out with the bad.

    1. I agree that all things that fit the bill for "Mormon Culture" are not bad. Completely agree. I'm just worried that culture is slowly creeping towards doctrine. As much as I love funeral potatoes and jello salad, I don't want them to turn into the endorsed starch and dessert of the Church ;)

      (That was a joke in case anyone was unsure!)

  2. Agree and would add to the list of non-doctrinal "Mormon Culture," that not only drives me crazy but almost drove me away (and did in fact drive away many friends and relatives), Republican/right-wing politics, anti-unionism, anti-environmentalism, laissez-faire capitalism (sp?), clean-shaven male faces, etc., etc.

    1. I can't believe that I didn't think of that... what is wrong with me??

      I don't have to revoke my feminist/liberal card, do I?