Monday, February 17, 2014

What's Trending in Mormonism

In social media there's a popular phenomena called "what's trending now".   It takes into account search engine searches, what people are buying online,YouTube hits, tweets, Facebook posts, and viral videos. Collective trends of the online world can be identified as they develop in the moment.  Trends can be really interesting, they happen as much on Facebook as they do in religion.

Before getting into the trends, it's my view that more often than not revelation from God and societal trends are at odds.  Trending has more to do with the collective consciousness, and shifting opinions and interests of a body of people.  While revelation deals with the mind and will of God, it's truth which is timeless.  The Church employs social scientists to follow, track, and look into trends and opinions.

It almost goes without saying, but following trends, is not the same as following revelation.  More often than not people follow trends, not revelation. This is good news for marketers and social scientists.  Yet in a scriptural context the two are typically in direct conflict with each other.

When talking about religious trends it is even possible for them to be interpreted or viewed as a sort of 'divine hand'. In LDS culture sometimes the thinking goes that each change, or business decision, or move made by the organization is evidence of ongoing revelation since the leaders are held up as people who commune with, and act for God.  So the more changes, the more revelation is presumed to be occurring.  Or so the thinking goes.  Trends, policy changes, business decisions can of course be completely void of revelation. This is how businesses typically operate. They don't claim revelation from God, nor do they claim to seek it.  More often than not when scriptures refer to trends they are negative in that they take people away from the light of God.  So trends are no guarantee or indicator of divine guidance.  We know from the scriptures that we are constantly taught to take the Spirit as the guide and indicator, not the alternatives.  

So what's "trending" in Mormonism?

Business, profits, prophets, technology, attempts at "normal", and attempts to tell Mormon history in a way which pacifies the questioners.   More on each below.

Recently the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been spending large amounts of money (we for obvious reasons are not typically privy to how much it cost) in business endeavors.  Just last week the Church bought commercial property in downtown Philadelphia.  The 32 story housing development will be developed by Property Reserve, Inc., the for-profit commercial real estate division of the church corporation. According the Dale Bills, spokesman for PRI, "the development represents an attractive investment opportunity".  The Church has also recently purchased an extensive piece of land in Florida, I think they are among the top land owners in that state.  Also we can't forget the City Creek Shopping center and housing development in down town Salt Lake City that many billions of dollars was invented in.  And now the recent announcement of the expansion of Citi Creek to develop a 24 story office development on Main Street.  The Church is becoming an exceedingly powerful for profit business, not just a religious organization.  The trend is to operate and manage itself as a business and get gain where possible while also being a Church.  I mention only a couple here.  For a more complete list, and explanation of the Church's growing business ventures this is a really good post by a fellow blogger. Link  

Other things trending in Mormonism is an awe, and reverence for the men called to be leaders.  The trend is most identifiable around the current Prophet.  That office has gained cult of personality status.  The trend is to speak about the person holding that office, honor him, pray about, follow, testify of, and focus on him to a greater degree than Christ in many church settings.  I've seen this in General Conference, as well as stake and local meetings.  The air of awe surrounding that office is definitely trending.  The leaders talks and testimonies also focus a lot on the person holding that office.  Keys to act in God's name are also very popular right now as well.  Along those lines there is a trend in what leaders of the Church testify of.  The testimonies trend towards generic statements repeated by others who are also repeating the same generic statements repeated by others in their testimonies.  The Book of Mammon Daymon Smith, 2010 coined the term "generic authority".   

Other things trending in Mormonism are new ways of dealing with unpleasant aspects to Church history.  The internet has made information much more available.  Some have used the term "Google apostasy",  So Mormon history, unpleasant or not, is now available for anyone to look up with a few clicks of a mouse.  Denouncing past beliefs and sometimes even the leaders who spoke them has been some of the response by the organization.  The Church has begun a new online series of articles on LDS.org addressing past racism, plural marriage, and some other hot topics from history.  The new trend is to identify yet sometimes condemn prior teachings which could be bases for present day members to have their faith upset.  The trend in belief is that prior leaders could err, but the current ones don't/can't, so we only need listen to the current ones.

Then we have the "I am am Mormon" add campaign where people from all walks of life post a little profile about themselves and their beliefs having taken upon themselves the name of Mormon.  This is a campaign to portray Mormons as socially acceptable, well adjusted, "normal" people living normal lives.  It's intended to be attractive to people and to show how socially acceptable, everyday modern Mormons are.  Mormon 2.0.  Instead of studying deeply, pondering, and delving into doctrine and mysteries of Godliness as Joseph Smith taught, the current trend is that one liner quotes with a picture in the background are just as good. (pinterest).  Trending is a decrease in doctrine being taught, sold and published.  Instead are increasing feel good stories, good basic principles, and media presentations full of emotion.  What "Mormon Messages" lack in Gospel content, or saving truth, they seem to attempt to make up for in audio visual effects.

Then there's the use of electronic devices in church to "presumably" be looking at the manual, or scriptures during lessons. That's definitely trending.  Technology is being used much much more than it has in the past.  On that note, years ago the First Presidency put out a letter saying for members not to open their scriptures during sacrament meetings.  It was stated that doing so is noisy and disrupts the Spirit of the meeting.  So essentially the scriptures became a sealed, I mean closed, book during sacrament meeting. However now that electronic devices are trending in church there is no worry of the overbearing sound of rustling paper pages turning so I wonder if scriptures will make a comeback during sacrament meeting??  I looked around at Church last Sunday and it appears total boredom is also trending in most meetings I attend.  

There are other trends, some have sings of goodness.  However again, from the context of scripture, social trends and a good portion of "traditions of your fathers" are in conflict with revelation.  Supposedly that book has a message for our day.

What do you see trending in Mormonism?    

2 comments:

  1. I have noticed in the last 5 to 10 years Authors like James Custer, John Pontius Denver Snuffer, have talked a lot about being born again, seeking Zion, seeking to be translated, and a personal interview with Christ all in this life. I hope this small grass roots effort continue to trend higher.

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  2. I think hunger among the saints is trending. And it's not being satisfied by the typical talks and curriculum. Authors like you mentioned are speaking about topics and doctrine that the Saints need to hear and be taught. There does seem to be an online group or small community of folks that are interested in those things. Although almost without exception those I come in contact with at church or in my daily life do not respond positively or with any interest in those topics and what those authors have to say.

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