Can Mormons see Grey? Dealing with Difference Part II

Roughly speaking we can talk of two different ways of conceptualizing a world imbued with morality—as black-and-white or as shades of grey. In regards to our religion, I see faithful members of the Church in both camps. Those that see in black-and-white, view the Spirit as a power that is either present, or is not. Any given thing is either of God or of the devil. A church is either the church of the Lamb or the church of the devil (1Ne. 14:10). Those that see in grey emphasize parts of the gospel that talk about the good in all things—growth line upon line, and improvement grace by grace. And sometimes of course we fluctuate back and forth between these positions.

To give a more practical example:
The black-and-whites would say that one scene in a movie (be it sexually explicit, violent, or otherwise) warrants not seeing the movie altogether. The greys on the other hand, would say that the one scene, while not good, does not ruin the other enlightening parts of it.

The questions that I’m interested in are as follows:

Is it really the case that Mormonism allows for two different world views? If so, then how should the black-and-whites relate to the greys? Is there something else that holds us together as Mormons besides a common world view (or other parts of a world view larger than what I’ve described)?

Is there a progression involved? In other words, have those that see in grey “evolved” beyond seeing in black-and-white? Or have they simply made a choice to use a different lens with which to view the world—a different, yet equally valid lens?

I certainly have a lot to say, but I’d like to know that there are others out there who are interested in discussing the issue. So please provide some of your preliminary thoughts.

New Blog Team Member: diahman

We’ve just added the newest member to team Urban Mormonism. Diahman is an anonymous bloggernacle veteran and an amazing conversation partner. I look forward to working more closely with this amazing contributor!

Dealing with Difference: A Taxonomy

How do we as Latter-day Saints reconcile differences? At this point I would like to keep the definition of “differences” purposefully broad. It could refer to opposing opinions of faithful members within the church, historical and scriptural discrepancies, inter-faith relations (hostile or non-hostile), or a host of other scenarios where we are faced with the challenge of dealing intellectually, socially, or culturally with something that stretches our current system of beliefs. In short this is a post about confronting the “other”.

I would like to put forth a few possibilities, and then to discuss the possibility of more possibilities; but more importantly, I would like to hear your thoughts on the ramifications of each option:

Eclecticism: The selective adoption or rejection of specific concepts to the de-emphasis and overemphasis of others. E.g., We have become the “Book of Mormon generation” where the BoM is employed much more frequently than the Bible. In the Bible we emphasis certain portions and downplay others. The Gospels compared with the epistles, for instance.

Ecumenicism: An exercise of faith where God’s omniscience is trusted to somehow tie the differences together into “one great whole”. E.g., Different Mormons can have differing opinions as to God’s relationship with the world he has created. How much does he intervene? How do we explain evil? The scripture mastery verse in Isaiah is usually implied with Ecumenicism: “His ways are greater than our ways.” (pardon my paraphrasing)

Compartmentalism: Different circumstances call for different responses. E.g., In Polynesia, many males wear the traditional lavalava to church rather than slacks. Comparmentalism is also used to explain how early members of the church (or even individuals in the scriptures) did things differently because they were of a different time (drinking of wine for instance). We often employ Compartmentalism with the phrase, “It’s the Spirit that matters.”

Inclusivism: The reworking of the concepts of the “other” in a shared terminology (or often purely in our own terminology). E.g., Most people believe in a supreme being, but we call him by different names.

This list of course may not be comprehensive. It is also somewhat oversimplified, because in reality many of these theories overlap, and may even be used by the same person for the same explanation. Allowing for this leeway, here are some questions on my mind:

What are the inherent strengths and weakness of each approach? For instance, the ecumenical approach opens our religion to all individuals—you do not need any philosophical/theological training to be a Mormon. A garbage man could be a bishop. On the other hand does this lead us to be too dismissive of intellectual endeavors? Does this contribute to the anti-intellectual undercurrent some people feel?

Are there other approaches you can think of? Or some that should be eliminated?

Is the attempt to create a taxonomy built on a false assumption of “systemization” which is antithetical to Mormonism from the get go? In other words is our religion not susceptible to these types of attempts to systematize? Am I missing something by trying this?

Why another Mormon blog?

Look, I know that there is a glut of blogs on Mormonism. However, I have also grown bored by most of them, and I have thoughts too! Why should I have to wait for someone to say what is on my mind so that I can comment when I can just post something myself!