If You Don’t Like The Church, Why Not Just __________?

How one fills in the blank in the title of this post will likely identify you as either a conservative or liberal member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A conservative member may fill in the blank with ‘Leave It’.  They will often view the church as something that has been largely established already.  They realize that additional revelation will come, but this revelation will come from God, through prophets, and will be consistent with previous revelation.  To them, to disagree with a fairly fundamental part of the doctrines or practices of the church, is to largely deny the fundamental truth claims of the church.  Why stay in a demanding church if one does not believe that it is, and has been, lead by Christ himself through revelation?  Suggestions to leave are usually not a mean-spirited way of saying that we do not want you around.  It is partly suggesting that you may actually be happier somewhere else, and partly communicating that being a member of the church is largely about sustaining the church leaders as they communicate the mind and will of God.  Why put yourself in a position to sustain prophets that you do not agree with in fundamental ways?

A liberal member may fill in the blank with ‘Change It’.  They will often view the church as something that is in continual progressive development.  They realize that it is important to sustain the prophets, but additional revelation could change how we view aspects of our current teachings and culture.  To them, to deny the possibility of significant change through revelation, is to fall prey to the traditions a dogma of the past.  Why stick with teachings and culture if additional revelation could bring improvement?  Suggestions to change the church are usually not meant as a lack of loyalty to the church or its leaders.  It is suggesting that revelation may bring about meaningful progress for the church, and you may not get it unless you desire it and seek it.  Why stay with set teachings and culture in a church which has ongoing revelation available?

These two opposing perspectives illustrate a fundamental tension in a church which claims ongoing revelation.  The tension between conservative loyalty to previous revelations, and liberal progression toward possible future revelation.  I believe the solution is already in place.  A small group of authorized leaders who have the responsibility to seek and declare revelation regarding the doctrines and practices of the church.  Some will say that this solution itself is to conservative, but it seems to me that anything more would eventually cease to be a house of order.  With this in place solution, conservatives may need to do some soul searching when new revelation comes, while liberals may need to search their own souls when sought for changes do not come.

4 Responses to “If You Don’t Like The Church, Why Not Just __________?”

  1. 1 Blake March 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Brilliant insight.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson March 8, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks Blake. That is one of the best comments I have had in some time.

  3. 3 Gilgamesh March 9, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Very insightful. What about a third option of “seek a change of heart in yourself”. So often conservative and liberal members get upset with leadership for either changing practice or refusing to. Most of the time true reconciliation relies on letting go of pride, having faith, trying to understand from a different perspective. The Church is true because it challenges us to grow and become more rather than conforming to our will.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson March 10, 2015 at 12:15 am

    Very good Gilgamesh. Seeking how we ought to believe and behave is a great approach.

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