We all know there is a difference between the Gospel, and church culture. They are not always in line with each other. Certain trends can be blinding and contrary to the Gospel. Other trends are more social and cultural.
So what's trending in Mormonism? I would say the "I am a Mormon" add campaign is trending. Everyday people taking upon themselves the name of Mormon and posting about it to the world.
During this last General Conference I noticed I noticed a few trends. They are these:
There was more mention of the President of The Church and his keys than Jesus Christ. There was more mention of this during Priesthood session and some day sessions as well. This is almost a weekly occurrence in my home ward, but it's now more common in General conference too. There is an increasing emphasis on keys, which seems to give a sense of pride and what some would call arrogance. A cult of personality has formed around the President of the Church.
Also trending now is the emphasis on priesthood keys. Speakers quote scriptures about Christ being the one we look to for a remission of sins, and his teachings are used and quoted. On many occasions as much or more time is spent on how important it is that there is a man over the church to whom the keys of priesthood belong. I'm not sure that is even a correct statement as I don't recall Christ ever relinquishing over total ownership of them, nor given up his own right to use them Himself. But we don't teach that. Which again, is a complete shame.
The keys after all ultimately belong to Christ, even if servants are allowed to use them. So technically The President of The Church is not the only man alive with all the keys. That is an incorrect statement as Christ is a living being who has stewardship over the earth. But if you leave that out, in many ways it leaves Christ out of his own work, and we end up pointing to men, instead of to the Savior. Which for some could be an odd thought, because we are so frequently taught about the importance of the current President. Some folks don't picture Christ as being personally involved much with anyone except the President of the Church or quorum of the 12. Which of course is going to mislead, and pervert the Gospel.
Other trends are President Monson's increasing attention and status. I agree it would be odd to have the President of the Church be someone others could point to for a good example. He does set a great example of service, and I agree his example of service is a good. My point here is the trend that goes way further than pointing out his Christlike attributes. He was prayed for and honored in almost every prayer, he was taught as having more authority, and more special spiritual endowments than anyone else, and his position is gaining increasing focus by other General Authorities. A world icon almost. I sustain him when we are invited to do so. I listen to him. These are just trends I notice while paying attention. I wondered today if the focus continues to grow, if over time the primary song "I'm trying to be like Jesus" develops an alternate meaning of "I'm trying to be like the Prophet".
Another trend it is that all of the General Authorities refer to President of the Church as a Prophet. Yet I have never heard the President, current or past in my life refer to himself as a Prophet. Ever. Which itself is an interesting thing. I'm not suggesting anything about anyone. Only pointing out observations that are interesting.
One last one. Often speakers will say "Angels and angelic messengers have returned in our day" This is most often referring to the restoration of Priesthood power by angels from heaven to Joseph Smith. I hear the "again in our day" phrase again and again. The phrase hardly ever actually means "our" day. It always references Joseph Smith's day. Which is not really our day anymore. No leader that I've ever heard or known of has made any mention to anything like an angelic visit in 50 years. But it appears that if enough speakers say "our day" we can piggyback on the spiritual experiences of early church days and appear equal to them, when we may in fact not be having the same types of experiences. So instead we chant "follow the prophet" and assure ourselves that we won't be lead astray. Are angles conversing with our leaders? Why do they not tell us so? In Joseph Smith's time it was crystal clear, candid open acknowledgment of such things. He was never shy about it. The whole world knows the claim, both non believer, and believer alike.
I wonder if some or all of the leaders "in our day" would actually be afraid to say such things if they happened. Maybe they do happen but everyone has taken a covert and vague approach to saying so due to fear of either the world, or fear of the correlation committee. Although such declarations are common in scripture, sometimes even to "heathen" or non believers, our day seems much more reserved and public relations and public opinion wary.
Interesting trends. Again just pointing out observations. You may disagree, and that's fine. My testimony is not affected by these kinds of trends. I sustain the leaders and do not envy the task they have. I remain a member who is happy to do what I'm called to do. I love the Gospel. The families I home teach have become my friends and I find joy in visiting them. The Church does so many things so incredibly well. In all this I do however find my own testimony based on my own experiences with God is more and more critical. It's what I rely on, and what provides light.
On a good note: I enjoyed these things in particular about the recent Conference. Elder Hallstrom's talk where he pointed out that the Church does not equal the Gospel. Elder Christofferson's talk where he quoted Joseph Smith that a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such, which should hopefully disabuse the notion that a prophet is one 24x7x365. Elder Larry Y. Wilson made some great points about Section 121 and how those are the only tools by which Priesthood power can or should be maintained.
If Christ still holds all Priesthood keys, which obviously he does, than why not look to Him and point to Him? We're supposed to come to Christ, not come unto Christ's servants aren't we? Or have we inadvertently fallen to the prediction of Nephi found here (2 Nephi 28:5). The Lord's authorized servants of course are important, without any doubt, otherwise God wouldn't have called them. But at some point, you must admit we need to actual apply the scripture and actually come to Christ. Not just point each other to his servants. Christ is the keeper of the gate.
I've concluded that pointing is enough, the gesture is so simple anyone can get the message.