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Mormon Inquiry

That question has been getting more consideration recently, with the general consensus being, “No, at least not yet.” By Common Consent is posting an academic piece by scholar Walter E. A. van Beek that helps understand the question. He uses the examples of Islam and Roman Catholicism to highlight diversity within the religion as a key indicator of world status.

The diversity mentioned in Islam and Catholicism allows for identification processes of the individual with that religion, that vary widely. People may define themselves as Catholic or Muslim on widely diverging grounds, ranging from full and total commitment (the literal meaning of “Islam”) to identification of a very low intensity.

“Cultural inclusion” matters as well; together, “diversity and cultural inclusion are sufficient to generate a cultural religious identity.” How does he think Mormonism (and the LDS Church in particular, the focus of his inquiry) measure up on diversity and cultural religious identity?

Though characterised as a “do-it-yourself” theology, the mainframe of Mormon theology is remarkably unified. Several processes see to that: the absence of a class of professional theologians, the dominance of management over theology (the main diversity comes from history!), and the propagation of the faith by young, well-trained but non-professional missionaries.

Given how underdeveloped Mormon theology is, I think he is overstating the unity of Mormon doctrine. He continues:

In ritual and other expressions of faith the same standardisation operates. Church services are rite-poor, Protestant in kind in its heavy reliance on preaching (“talks”), listening is the number one activity.

Well, maybe pretending to be listening is the number one activity, but I get his point. Protestant reliance on preaching may be unlike more participatory worship styles in Roman Catholicism and Islam, but I’m not sure that is a strike against the diversity measure or world status. More telling, I think, is the discussion in Part 3 of the series (see link below) about polarization.

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