I’ve now had six friends share Greg Trimble’s “The Coming Revolution Inside Mormonism” article this week. On the whole, I’ve actually appreciated it. I think it shows a greater awareness on the part of the TBM community that something about Mormon culture needs to give. The reason I believe his article needs a response, however, is that arguing that only the culture of the church needs to change ignores that very real problems that exist within Mormon doctrine and make many members feel “less than” in our church.
I share Mr. Trimble’s hope that there is a change coming in Mormonism. I think I’m seeing bits of it, which is why I’ve remained active in the LDS church and devoted to making changes from the inside. But the problem is, a revolution that comes in “bits” isn’t all that revolutionary, and I’m rarely content to live with “bits.”
So, to those who argue that changing Mormon culture is enough, I would ask you to consider this list:
- I’ll start with an obvious one—the LDS church actively excludes women and non-binary members from the highest levels of leadership. Women are still not allowed to hold the LDS Priesthood and, until this changes, Mormonism will be missing half of its members’ voices. Until all women are treated as objectively equal to men in the church handbooks, changing the culture is not enough.
- The LDS church still doesn’t totally accept its LGBTQ members. There has been progress in the form of better rhetoric in its websites and suggesting inclusion in wards, but gay, lesbian, or non-monosexual members are still not allowed to partake in temple ordinances that purportedly required for salvation. Additionally, the baptism ban for same-sex couple’s children is still in place and the LDS church still views same-sex relationships as sinful. Until official LDS attitudes towards the LGBTQ community change, changing the culture is not enough.
- Beyond the issues of cis-straight and cis-queer members, the LDS church still views biological sex and gender as synonymous and teaches that gender is an eternal principle. Until the LDS church accepts that gender and sex are different and exist on a spectrum, changing the culture is not enough.
- Even though African Americans and black people around the world received the priesthood in 1978, the LDS church still has scripture that elevates the righteousness of white people over people of color. Recently, this has lead to a rise of alt-Mormonism that draws upon Mormon scripture to support racism. We also still lack representation for non-US members in the highest church callings. Until Mormonism totally disavows any doctrines that lead to racial discrimination, changing the culture is not enough.
- Because celestial, or temple, marriage is required for entry into the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom, single members are still largely disqualified from full participation in the LDS church. Similarly, the LDS Church’s polygamy, which continues in the temple, allows cis-men to be sealed to multiple cis-women, but will not allow women who are divorced or widowed to be sealed to multiple men until after their death. Until the doctrine around LDS sealings include people of diverse and complicated marital backgrounds, changing the culture is not enough.
- In official church publications, young women (and young men) are told that the way they look, dress, and behave in public actively affects their righteousness. This forces women to doubt their righteousness based on often uncontrollable aspect of their body, encouraging ableism and body shaming. Until the LDS church is accepting of all body types and abilities, changing the culture is not enough.
This list is, obviously, not comprehensive; entire articles could be written on each demographic I mentioned and there are plenty of debates to be had about the specific lines between culture and doctrine. But the POINT is that, as much as cultural change would do wonders for the LDS church, it does not fix the problems that truly concern me.
This weekend, as we watch General Conference and listen to the 15 men who have true power to transform doctrine, I hope we keep our hearts and prayers and hope turned towards a revolution that will benefit those most excluded by the modern LDS church. I would love to see Mr. Trimble’s vision—of a church where every single person is welcomed with open arms—realized, but, in order to achieve that, we need to acknowledge deeper problems than just culture and actively strive to include everyone in our church.
Emma Tueller Stone is a sophomore at Columbia University studying English and Women and Gender Studies. She loves Queer theory in Charlotte Brontë, New York City brunch-culture, and surprising her secular friends with her Scripture Mastery™ superpowers.