What Makes Mormonism Unique – A Sense of Community?

The Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University, is the creator of the blog “Ask Mormon Girl” and author of “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith”. Her blog is an interesting one, and her opinions ones that I often agree with (as if that somehow gives them greater credence), but she also drifts from what I would consider doctrinal sensibility (in Meridian Magazine’s articles here or here her perspective is referred to as “Mormon Lite”).

For example, at “Camp Courage”, Brooks gives what a Meridian Magazine author called a fair synopsis of “The Book of Mormon Girl”. Quoting from the latter article above,

My name is Joanna, I say. And I am a straight Mormon feminist.

(Cheers. The crowd cheers.)

I grew up in the orange groves of Republican Orange County. I was raised to believe in a loving, kind, and powerful God. …

In 1993, one of the leaders of my church declared feminists, intellectuals, and gays and lesbians enemies.

I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

In 1997, my church started giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the anti-gay marriage initiatives.

I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

…But I went back to church so that my daughters could know the same loving, kind, and powerful God I was raised to believe in.

Just a few months later, my Church mobilized a huge campaign for Proposition 8.

And again I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

I did what I could. It wasn’t enough. But I am a Mormon. And I am not giving up.

I’m not sure this is the kind of person I want speaking for my faith. She tends to reinterpret Mormonism to fit a personal agenda.

As an aside, my microscopic popularity assuages any fears I have of being seen myself as speaking for my faith.

As a further aside, those who really speak for my faith will be speaking this very weekend! How awesome is that?!

A Sense of Community

I felt that background important going into the rest of this post.

The BYU newspaper “The Daily Universe” wrote an article about Brooks recently. She visited UVU (a university nearby BYU) and did a reading from her book. She also had the opportunity to tell a part of her story. She says,

“I’ve never stopped thinking of myself as Mormon, and I don’t consider myself as ever having left the church. But there was a time for about eight years where I did not attend church. I was going through what I would call a faith transition and a re-evaluating of my relationship with the Church because of excommunicated feminist intellectuals and the church’s stance on same-sex marriage.”

Her reactivation in the Church came because of her two young daughters. Singing primary hymns with them, she realized

“that I could, by myself, teach them the doctrine, but I couldn’t give them that sense of how to belong to a community and to this crazy, beautiful thing called Mormonism. They helped me be brave enough to go back and be with other Mormons.”

So, the most vital thing, the most essential thing, the most important thing, that her daughters needed out of Mormonism when simple doctrine would not suffice was a “sense of how to belong to a community,” or, more specifically, the “crazy, beautiful” community of Mormonism.

That’s silly.

“Our Most Distinguishing Feature”

Recently at Harvard Law School, Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on a sort Mormonism 101. Towards the end of his presentation, he said,

“For today, we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called “our most distinguishing feature.” That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization.  It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth.  Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God.  This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential, but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.  Breaking ecclesiastically with his more famous brother John over the latter’s decision to ordain without any divine authority to do so, Charles Wesley wrote:

“How easily are bishops made
By man or woman’s whim:
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?

“In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself.  The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.”

His question and answer portion (found here) also included a question, and fantastic answer, on the same subject.

It comes as no surprise that Brooks considers the deficit of her “home-church Mormonism” a loss of a sense of community, and not this most distinguishing feature. It is this feature, the keys of power of the priesthood that Church leaders hold, and their subsequent authority to speak and act for God, that are primarily behind my own support of the Church’s position on Proposition 8. Who knows but that we feel the same about this issue; the difference is that I sustain Church leaders as prophets.

It is this uniqueness, this most distinguishing feature, that influences practically everything that makes Mormonism what is it, including the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).

What do you think is the most important feature of the true church?

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