A New Mormonism that Celebrates Woke Diversity?
Americans have often been hostile to the Church of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or Mormons. Mormons were expelled from various cities for their practice of polygamy. Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS Church, and his brother, were lynched in 1844. The Mormons were subsequently chased out of the Midwest and landed in Utah. Utah could not join the American union until Mormons changed core church teachings in the late 1800s.
But since then, Mormons have won a more than grudging respect from the American people. They present wholesome images right out of a Norman Rockwell painting—happy families, successful employment, faithful church attendance, community-minded service and sobriety. Mormons have come to love the country that has, at times, shut them out.
But changes are afoot in the LDS Church. As McKay Coppins, a journalist and a Mormon, argued in a 2021 Atlantic article, Mormons “spent 200 years assimilating to a certain national ideal—only to find their country in an identity crisis.”
As America changes into a woke oligarchy, Mormons and the LDS Church are changing with it. Signs of the Mormon turn occurred when prominent LDS politicians joined the Left in condemning Pres. Donald Trump, who, they said, had undermined the decency and high-mindedness of America’s public discourse. In reality, new Mormons tolerate Democrat indecency while condemning Trumpian rhetoric. This indicates how Mormons are embracing a new understanding of decency as defined by the Left. Middle class ways of life are increasingly disparaged. Whiteness is condemned, but Black Lives Matter celebrated. Diversity is celebrated, while marriage and parenthood are stigmatized.
While the Church officially still teaches transgenderism, homosexuality, and abortion are wrong, it is compromising politically on each of them. Utah sees itself as leading the way in civil rights for gays. The “Utah Compromise” extends all civil rights laws to gays, but carves out a religious exemption for the LDS Church so it will not have to adhere to those laws.
Prominent Mormons are pushing the LDS Church toward an embrace of the new diversity order. Utah’s Mormon governor is telling school children his pronouns and vetoing a law barring men from participating in women’s sports. Buzzfeed is writing about how most viral pro-choice Instagram content is coming from Mormon bloggers and influencers.
Call it the Mormon gambit. Mormons adopt the politics of diversity, while hoping the Church and her practices are not overly affected by the new ideology.
Why have Mormons adopted this gambit?
According to Coppins, Mormons long tolerated slights from the American majority. The LDS Church hardly complained about the insulting, anti-Mormon Book of Mormon musical. For Coppins, Mormon niceness in this face of such ridicule revealed niceness as “a coping mechanism, born of a pulsing, sweaty desperation to be liked.”
Coppins thinks that Mormons are becoming advocates for minority groups and diversity in order to make the humiliation stop. If Mormons stand up for gays or Black Lives Matter or Third World refugees, minority groups will allow Mormons to become part of the new rainbow coalition, or the “coalition of the fringes” (as one blogger calls it).
Minorities in this coalition help each other out. Mormon-owned businesses like Marriot International fund LGBTQ+ groups. The LDS Church can support new civil rights laws. Its politicians like Evan McMullin can denounce the pro-life position he once held. Through this, new American elites show a strange new respect to Mormons. Mormons can gain power within the new system, but also become its creatures. This would mean that Mormons are no longer socially conservative in any meaningful sense. Certainly this is where Coppins thinks the Mormon reformation must go--and is going.
While such a revolution seems to be underway, there is no way of knowing if a majority of practicing Mormons embrace the Mormon gambit. Abandoning an old way for a new one leaves many feeling disgruntled.
When mainline Protestant churches have adopted the new American order, they splintered and shrank. Catholics often just dismiss their church's teachings. Mormons, in contrast, defer to their Church’s teachings and do not splinter, so a revolution in Church teaching tends to take.
What effects will such a revolution in Mormonism have on Idaho politics? Stay tuned.