LDS and Progressive: Not a Contradiction

The Church is founded in the progressive idea that the leadership of the Church receives continual guidance rather than locked into an unchanging doctrine. From its start the Church and its people are engineered to be progressive. 

Bishop_Storehouse.jpgThe idea of being progressive isn’t an ideology but an attitude and acceptance of growth. At its core being progressive is tied to values. For Mormon progressives those values are faith, family, responsibility, fairness and agency.

Faith

Our faith is one of action. “Faith is much more than passive belief. We express our faith through action—by the way we live.” We are taught that our faith is exhibited through our actions including ordinances. To be progressive is to hold that our outward expressions exhibit our inward commitment to our faith.

Family

How we think about the family is at the core of what it means to be LDS. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" outlines not only an ideal pattern but also a specific action: “WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” While the concept of family is outlined in relation to an ideal in the Proclamation, the call to action is one to promote policies that are designed to maintain and strengthen the family. A progressive can read that as any family and not just the ideal family described in the Proclamation.

Responsibility

The Church’s welfare system is built around the idea of self-reliance-- “the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family” (Thomas S. Monson, Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of Leader’s Guide to Welfare Booklet, 2009). Being progressive is not an abdication of responsibility and relying on a “nanny state.” To a Mormon progressive self-reliance also includes a responsibility to our fellow man. (See Romans 12:9-21).

Fairness

The principle of fairness is a very broad term but it an important one to Mormons. At its foundation, the idea that everyone has the ability to complete ordinances is the best expression of our sense of fairness. Regardless of anything everyone has the same opportunity based solely on their actions.

The Brethren recently waded into the issue of fairness with their support of nondiscrimination. Elder Oaks said: “Because we are frequently asked for our position on these matters, the Church asserts the following principles based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and on fairness for all, including people of faith…We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation.”

Agency

Closely aligned with fairness is the concept of agency. “Agency is essential in the plan of salvation.” This essential concept of the LDS faith is tied to the idea that individuals have the choice to choose one path over another. At the heart of being progressive is the concept that an individual’s position and their understanding should be respected as long as it does not remove the agency of another.

Being a progressive is not antithetical to LDS ideals and teachings -- far from it. As a Mormon progressive, our individual action--and by extension the actions of our government--can be a reflection of faith in action. To care for our fellow man, protecting all families while respecting their agency and offering an element of fairness, should not be foreign to a person of faith. 

Showing 5 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • posted about this on Facebook 2015-02-25 10:59:26 -0800
    LDS and Progressive, Not a Contradiction.
  • commented 2015-02-25 09:16:20 -0800
    Of note: Loran has added me to her FB Group and posted the below to that group. I hope that we can engage in an open, honest and productive discussion.

    -glynn

    Loran Blood, thank you for the link and your comments on my article. In looking through the group Alas, Babylon: Defending the faith the in the Civitas Terena there are some interesting thoughts. I wanted to provide a response to your thoughts on my article.
    You make the point that my premise that as a church we are geared to except change and promise, you offer “Precisely the obverse is the case, in fact. Continuing revelation adds to and clarifies existing doctrine, but never alters or contravenes it” I would be interested in your thoughts on the Manifesto and Extending the priesthood to all worthy males. We are taught that the true and everlasting covenant is instituted by god and is unchanging and I support that concept as a doctrinal principal. Your supposition is that there is a standard and we as a people through prophets and apostles receive continued revelation to grow into an everlasting principal, I can accept that principal. To do this we as a religion continue to grow (progress) into it through change. That change is in the form of doctrinal revelation of those in authority. I think the difference you and I have is a path verses a presentation perspective. I view the churches journey as a path towards the ideal that is progressed with change. I can surmise that you view it as a presentation of an idea and we as a people and religion are presented pieces towards perspective. I can agree and understand your perspective on how the church grows towards perfection.
    The term Progressive sadly is not “a code term [f]or “the Left” of “socialist” broadly speaking” and frankly is not “itself highly ideological as a linguistic tool” Like in many parts of rhetoric (and frankly apologetics) words are given meaning by proposing and opposing views. Frank Luntz makes the point beautifully that words can be made to mean what we want them to be (paraphrased). I think that this is illustrated here. So while you hold a different view of what these words mean many people don’t. From an adjective perspective being progressive is “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement or reform as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, especially in political matters.” The noun is a person who is progressive or who favors progress or reform” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/progressive, 2-24-2015) by your response you make the point “continuing revelation adds to and clarifies existing doctrine, but never alters or contravenes it.” By your point the church reforms itself through continuing revelation to clarify existing doctrine. While the word progressive may be tainted by the intonation placed on it by others from a definitional standpoint the church progresses because things simply do not stay the same. Had they, neither the Manifesto nor the extension of the priesthood would have happened. Moreover the idea that we as a people cannot or do not progress to clarify existing doctrine is self limiting. While the viewpoints are different the point is still the same, we as a religion either progress towards perfection or we stay set in imperfection; frankly is one or the other.
    You use the term leftism point out “Leftism is widely recognized by a number of the most prescient and distinguished thinkers of the 20th century as an ideology in the modern sense of that term, in all of its major aspects, at least when it becomes directly political in nature, and there is, precisely, little if anything about progressivism as a world-view and philosophy that is not political or politicizing and which does not seek to colonize virtually all aspects of human life in a political sense.” Please cite these “most prescient and distinguished thinkers of the 20th century”. The word itself seems to be a political construct used to demonize or minimize those who are perceived to profess it. I’m curious as to breadth of these “most prescient and distinguished thinkers of the 20th century” because a simple Google search fails to provide any academic citations, literary or scholarly citations. Please provide some citations so I can look into that point of view, I am curious of it.
    I am glad that you agree with me that being progressive is tied to values. We progressives actually do try to tie what we advocate for to a deeply held set of values.
    There is no “disingenuity” [sic.] that Mormon progressives hold the Values of faith, family responsibility fairness and agency.
    I am unclear as to what you mean that “philosophically speaking, bland, and presents no distinction whatsoever between the faith of leftist, conservative or libertarian members.” The LDS faith is one of action. I can only surmise that it is bland and presents no distinction because we agree?
    I read your comment; I am a reader of yours so I would like to answer your question for comments about the family section. The concept of Family is essential to the plan of salvation. The linking through an unbroken chain from Adam to me is truly important to the faith. The proclamation (which is an example of continued revelation) outlines an Ideal version of that unbroken chain. The specific call to action is to promote those measures to maintain and strengthen the family; while some may not subscribe to the ideal the concept of family is still held dear by many. Families come in many shapes and sizes and while them may not fit the ideal that is not mean that to they are no less important than mine. From a secular perspective an intact family of any shape or size is better than no family; and while it may not conform to my ideal their nobility is no less important.
    Thank you for your complement about being clever in describing responsibility?
    You asked for clarification about the description of fairness. I did note in your citation (and I haven’t checked the source document) the section looks to have a transcription or editorial error, it should read “the principal of fairness if a very broad term but it [is] an important one to Mormons. At its foundation, the idea that everyone has the ability to complete ordinances is the best expression of our sense of fairness”
    Please let me help you in clarifying this. To our shared faith the idea of Fairness is very important. We believe that everyone should have access to the saving and exalting ordnances either in this life or the next. We assist those that have passed on before access to these ordnances through continued temple work above our own. We as a faith profess a profound commitment to providing fair access to these ordnances. To participate in these ordinances we are granted access based on our actions and not our being, meaning one that may be gay or black are not prohibited in obtaining these ordnances based on who they are but rather what they do ( that is what is meant in “regardless of anything everyone has the same opportunity based solely on their actions.”) I hope that clarifies it for you.
    In the next comment you offer the very complex sentence “Just more of the continuing progressive sexual revolution in its manifestation as ideological homophilia disguised as support for the limited and highly circumscribed legal non-discrimination law the Brethren have recently supported… we will never be accepted by the Left nor the gay lobby, and hence, will more than likely end up a moot point.”
    First of all, wow. Second of all that statement will take some unpacking; the term Homophilia is defined by Urban dictionary as the avocation of homosexuality, in any form. There are no other definitions offered in the in the Oxford English Dictonary (OED) or any of the other reference source. There is a Wikipedia entry that outlines that the word homophile generally has disappeared from common usage but it’s lacking an entry into the cannon of the English language (namely the OED) it’s not a word in common usage. So I will try to follow your point by assuming you mean homosexual. The non-discrimination policy that the church offered its support by saying:
    “ We claim for everyone the God-given and Constitutional right to live their faith according to the dictates of their own conscience, without harming the health or safety of others.
    We acknowledge that the same freedom of conscience must apply to men and women everywhere to follow the religious faith of their choice, or none at all if they so choose.
    We believe laws ought to be framed to achieve a balance in protecting the freedoms of all people while respecting those with differing values.
    We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation.”
    At its core the element of fairness is stressed. Primarily that the one should not face persecution and retaliation of any kind including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation. What you call the “Left” largely subscribes to the above statement. That one should not be persecuted for who they are but for what they do. IF one were to engage in discrimination because of who someone IS, someone on the “left” may find that repugnant as would a majority of others. The idea that one should be discriminated because of their status is generally rejected by those of reason.
    I am curious as to what example s you have that it is not the “historic or traditional position of the Left, collectively speaking, at any time or among any of its salient movements.”; In relation to Agency. You critique of my “intellectual patrimony” is interesting. The concept of agency is fairly extensively written about in the church. It has been touted as the corner stone of faith; Eve exercised her agency in the garden. So I’m unclear as to your point and would ask that you expound.
    You outline 2 points in responding to my point that being progressive is not antithetical to LDS ideals and teachings.
    1. You point out that Progressivism is utterly and irreconcilable antithetical to the gospel, across the entire spectrum…” please expound. You make a broad sweeping statement but fail to make any specific refutations to my thesis.
    2. “The central government is not and has nothing to do with the doing of “good works” taking care of its citizens, providing for them, feeding them, clothing them, raising their children….” This viewpoint can be generally interpreted as an extension of the Ayn Rand philosophy of Objectivism. Some understand the idea that we can help others while others excoriate the idea of helping others. The idea that helping others in any form is antithetical to Christian charity.
    You raise the “doctrinal and spiritual veracity” of my point that “To care for our fellow man, protecting all families while respecting their agency and offering an element of fairness should not be foreign to a person of faith” I would be curious to see your points on this. The church and its leaders have been very clear on these points. We provide service to those in need, we assist those who need it, we seek to protect families and respect agency. I would truly be interested in how our presumably shared faith does not do these things because it is my experience that we do.
  • commented 2015-02-24 09:27:44 -0800
    Are these philosophically and doctrinally substantive arguments? Let’s scrutinize these claims for their internal logical coherence and consistency, not to “cast out” any LDS leftists from the church, but to provide some idea of which way they are facing, to paraphrase Elder Robbins.

    “The Church is founded in the progressive idea that the leadership of the Church receives continual guidance rather than locked into an unchanging doctrine. From its start the Church and its people are engineered to be progressive.”

    At the outset, I have no idea what this means. The idea that known, revealed, established church doctrine is not unchanging and settled, and is somehow plastic, malleable, and in flux, is, well, not LDS doctrine. Precisely the obverse is the case, in fact. Continuing revelation adds to and clarifies existing doctrine, but never alters or contravenes it.

    Secondly, the term “progressive” (a code term or “the Left” or “socialism” broadly speaking) is itself highly ideological as a linguistic tool. It self-defines its own doctrines and teachings as involving human “progress,” but both history and philosophical critique pose serious barriers to taking such a claim much beyond a grain of salt.

    “The idea of being progressive isn’t an ideology but an attitude and acceptance of growth.”

    This is highly questionable. Leftism is widely recognized by a number of the most prescient and distinguished thinkers of the 20th century as an ideology in the modern sense of that term, in all of its major aspects, at least when it becomes directly political in nature, and there is, precisely, little if anything about progressivism as a world-view and philosophy that is not political or politicizing and which does not seek to colonize virtually all aspects of human life in a political sense.

    “At its core being progressive is tied to values.”

    Most certainly true.

    “For Mormon progressives those values are faith, family, responsibility, fairness and agency.”

    I detect either disingenuity here or, perhaps something much more extensive, but I will forbear for the time being.

    “Faith

    Our faith is one of action. “Faith is much more than passive belief. We express our faith through action—by the way we live.” We are taught that our faith is exhibited through our actions including ordinances. To be progressive is to hold that our outward expressions exhibit our inward commitment to our faith."

    This is, philosophically speaking, bland, and presents no distinction whatsoever between the faith of leftist, conservative, or libertarian members.

    “Family

    How we think about the family is at the core of what it means to be LDS. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” outlines not only an ideal pattern but also a specific action: “WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” While the concept of family is outlined in relation to an ideal in the Proclamation, the call to action is one to promote policies that are designed to maintain and strengthen the family. A progressive can read that as any family and not just the ideal family described in the Proclamation."

    A progressive most certainly can, which is why, among a number of other reasons, progressivism, contra the author, utterly incompatible with the restored gospel.

    “Responsibility

    The Church’s welfare system is built around the idea of self-reliance— “the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family” (Thomas S. Monson, Providing in the Lord’s Way: Summary of Leader’s Guide to Welfare Booklet, 2009). Being progressive is not an abdication of responsibility and relying on a “nanny state.” To a Mormon progressive self-reliance also includes a responsibility to our fellow man. (See Romans 12:9-21)."
    Clever, very clever, I’ll give it that.

    “Fairness

    The principle of fairness is a very broad term but it an important one to Mormons. At its foundation, the idea that everyone has the ability to complete ordinances is the best expression of our sense of fairness."

    If anyone here has any idea what this means, please provide it here.
    “Regardless of anything everyone has the same opportunity based solely on their actions.”

    Not clear on this either.

    “The Brethren recently waded into the issue of fairness with their support of nondiscrimination. Elder Oaks said: “Because we are frequently asked for our position on these matters, the Church asserts the following principles based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, and on fairness for all, including people of faith…We reject persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief, economic circumstances or differences in gender or sexual orientation.”

    Just more of the continuing progressive sexual revolution in its manifestation as ideological homophilia disguised as support for the limited and highly circumscribed legal non-discrimination law the Brethren have recently supported. The caveat – clear and strong protections for religious and speech freedoms – placed on the table by the Brethren as the price of support, however, will never be accepted by the Left nor the gay lobby, and hence, will more than likely end as a moot point.

    “Agency

    Closely aligned with fairness is the concept of agency. “Agency is essential in the plan of salvation.” This essential concept of the LDS faith is tied to the idea that individuals have the choice to choose one path over another. At the heart of being progressive is the concept that an individual’s position and their understanding should be respected as long as it does not remove the agency of another."
    This may be a position held by some fraction or sub-set of progressives in the West. It IS NOT, however the historic or traditional position of the Left, collectively speaking, at any time or among any of its salient movements. Whether this is an active attempt at wool-pulling by the author, of whether the author is simply ignorant or perhaps delusional regarding his own intellectual patrimony, I have no idea.

    “Being a progressive is not antithetical to LDS ideals and teachings - far from it. As a Mormon progressive, our individual action-and by extension the actions of our government—can be a reflection of faith in action.”

    1. I disagree. Progressivism is utterly and irreconcilable antithetical to the gospel, across the entire spectrum of its beliefs, core values, and policy prescriptions.

    2. The central government is not and has nothing to do with the doing of “good works,” taking care of its citizens, providing for them, feeding them, clothing them, raising their children, educating them, picking economic or social winners and losers from among them, determining how much money they can make or how it must be spent; giving of alms, or providing charity to the “least of these.” The constitution, which the Church understands and teaches is a divinely inspired document, makes no provision in its concept of legitimate government for any such activities.

    There is no “by extension” in the gospel here. Caesar has no place or role in the giving of alms and the provision of charity, either in the church or in the constitution. Nor is he, as we know by long and monotonous historical experience, particularly competent to provide it. Nor can we, as His saints, shift, shirk, and transfer our responsibility to care for the poor and needy as individuals and as a community of saints to distant, nameless bureaucrats and vote-seeking politicians who’s incentives and motives lie far afield of those that motivate real charity among real people within local communities.

    “To care for our fellow man, protecting all families while respecting their agency and offering an element of fairness, should not be foreign to a person of faith.”
    Whatever this actually means, I an dubious as to its doctrinal and spiritual veracity.
  • published this page in Blog 2015-02-22 02:56:24 -0800
  • published this page in Blog 2015-02-19 09:54:53 -0800

Subscribe Share

connect

get updates