Activity in the Mormon church seems to be declining – particularly in the West – and Thomas McConkie is witnessing what he calls a “faith crisis.”
Many people are questioning the stories being passed down to them, especially Millennials, who are effortlessly modern or even postmodern. Gold plates with Egyptian writing on them? Lost tribes of Israel in the Americas? Where is the proof? (And what about the sexism, racism and homophobia?)
Thomas, who was born and raised in the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City and comes from pioneer ancestors, left the church at thirteen. This was unprecedented in his family at the time – a major transgression.
When he returned to the Mormon church twenty years later, he brought an awareness of Buddhism, integral theory and adult development with him. It became clear that this faith crisis was systemic, and not just isolated to the individual. He was moved to find a way to re-integrate his Mormonism, perhaps providing a bridge for a new generation of Latter-day Saints to authentic worship.
As a Mormon I’m interested in honoring the full spectrum [of development], and I’m interested in really preserving the potency of the divine…that which is most good and most true, that which is purifying and dignifying to us all. –Thomas McConkie
“A faith crisis might just be a developmental shift gone unrecognized,” he tells Jeff. “I hope that we can normalize this process of falling apart and coming back together again as new beings that see and experience the world in a new way.”
The Mormon church has a strong amber (traditional) base, but developmentally, a lot of orange, modern consciousness has emerged and is looking for evidence of the religion’s supernatural claims. Is there a way of going through this stage without completely leaving your religion behind? It’s unclear. Why do some people stay and some people go?
I don’t believe the mythic stories anymore, but there is a truth beyond accuracy, a Truth with a capital ‘T’ that is mysterious but real. –Jeff Salzman
“Someone who has more of an atheistic bent, how can we honor their Mormonism?” Thomas asks. “What does a ‘strategist’ or a teal Mormonism look like? Someone who’s into turquoise, indigo and beyond, what is that experience – to relate to this tradition from those levels?”
Some of the things Thomas and Jeff discuss include:
- The center of gravity of Mormon culture, and how to honor those who are different
- The Mormon practice of “ongoing revelation”—receiving inspiration from God
- The Mormon doctrine of “eternal progression” as an early evolutionary viewpoint
- What happens after we die. Does any part of us go on?
- Allowing a faith crisis to be an opportunity
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