New Order Mormonism


I was recently introduced to the term “new order” Mormons (or is it new order Mormonism).

This is apparently not a new term, but nonetheless new to me. Do any of our erudite FPR readers have an interpretation of the label “new order” as it relates to Mormonism? What are its origins? Does anyone still use it to describe themselves?

Since thinking about what it means to be a “new order” Mormon, I have not been able to get the song “Blue Monday” by the 1980s band New Order out of my head. I have decided to share it.



Maybe this is a song about Family Home Evening in the homes of liberal Mormon intellectuals.

41 Replies to “New Order Mormonism”

  1. “New Order Mormons are those who no longer believe some (or much) of the dogma or doctrines of the LDS Church, but who want to maintain membership for cultural, social, or even spiritual reasons. New Order Mormons recognize both good and bad in the Church, and have determined that the Church does not have to be perfect in order to remain useful. New Order Mormons seek the middle way to be Mormon.”

    Source: New Order Mormon website

  2. Maybe it’s related to United Order. (Like yourself, I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head, for like, DAYS now.)

    Do NOMs (nom nom nom) look at splinter groups to see if they fit their needs better? Just curious.

  3. I have always found it interesting how Jews fall into different categories like orthodox, conservative, or reformed. Are New Order Mormons, our version of reformed jews?

    Thanks for the definition. I do not know many Mormons (and living in Rexburg I only really know Mormons) who do not somehow fall into that category, either in their thought or practice.

  4. The term was coined as a parallel to the New Order and Old Order Amish. The description of how the name came about was omitted when the web page was redesigned and moved in 2003 (?) because it seemed tangential to the purpose of the site and the discussion board.

    We really need to get that description updated to add “family” as one of the reasons for staying. I’m pretty sure its omission was inadvertent.

    There are people both in and out of the church who contend that the New Order Mormon perspective is not tenable over the long haul. It’s been about six years for me, and my level of engagement has fluctuated a lot in that time. I guess the long-term viability of the New Order Mormon perspective depends on how you define “long haul.”

    John Hamer has suggested the Community of Christ as a viable option for New Order Mormons, but because family is often a significant reason for sticking around, looking for another faith community is usually not something we NOMs are able to negotiate. Which is kind of a bummer, because I’m a pretty crappy Mormon, but I might be able to be a decent Christian.

  5. I agree with #3: I know very few Mormons that label wouldn’t fit very well on. The problem I have with any kind of Mormon label is that, if you decide one describes you best, the rest of its context comes piling onto you – first externally (if you make it known), and then internally.

    I’d prefer it if we all called ourselves “Saints,” and without a hint of irony. “Made holy and set apart for God’s work” carries exactly the right connotations.

  6. Thanks for the post, Chris H.! I too stumbled on the term this past week, and I too had never heard it before, and I too totally thought of New Order! heh.

    The ultraprimitive computer graphics in that video (0:15 to 0:20) are priceless.

  7. Ann, that is an interesting story, and I wish you the best in your journey. I wonder if the so-called unsustainability of NOM is the result of external pressure and resistance to such a revision, rather than anything inherent about the idea itself. When I read accounts of former Mormons, I invariably find that the so-called defenders of the faith who take ultra-conservative stances on prophetic authority, social issues, etc., are one of the principle causes for people leaving the church. This breaks my heart to see those who in their zeal for the church function as one of the greatest hindrances to its growth and nourishment of God’s children. In my limited experience, I have never seen anyone say that they left the church because their bishop, HTer, SS teacher, etc was “too liberal.”

  8. TT, there are thousands of people who leave the Church because the leaders are too liberal. We call them fundamentalists. And I would think twice before accepting exit narratives at face value. Which is not to doubt the sincerity of those who construct such narratives, it’s just that an objective observer should clue in to the fact that just about any exit narrative is going to take that form. If conservative leaders really push liberals out of the Church, there wouldn’t be any left.

  9. Dave,

    You have said repeatedly on at least three blogs now that one should not accept exit narratives at face value. You have yet to give one reason why you shouldn’t, nor have you given any clues as to how one should interpret exit narratives.

    In fact, I can give you one really good reason for interpreting them at face value. Exiting a faith community, especially an all encompassing one like evangelical Christianity or Mormonism is a life changing event and people tend to think long and hard before voluntarily undergoing life changing events. I would take at face value people’s reasons for changing jobs, marrying someone, going to college, etc. First, again, people tend to put a lot of thought into these things as they are life changing events. Second, it is charitable and respectful to let people tell their own stories unless you have a compelling reason not to. Third, from what source are you going to get the information to construct an alternative narrative? Warm fuzzies? Vague innuendo? Ouija boards?

    I do agree that conservative leaders don’t push liberals out of the church. Most liberals just learn to shut their mouths and “go along to get along” while deriving social and familial benefits from church membership. Also, many hope for a day when their views will be tolerated, if not appreciated.

    However, those who switch teams from conservative to liberal do feel more alienated, and those are the ones I think tend to leave. If you stay in one camp your whole life it’s hard to feel more alienated later in life, which means it’s less likely you suddenly decide to just leave.

  10. Re #3: “I have always found it interesting how Jews fall into different categories like orthodox, conservative, or reformed. Are New Order Mormons, our version of reformed jews?”

    Apparently, our version of reformed Jews are “Reform Mormons”:

  11. Dave, you’re suggesting, of course, that we should always be suspicious about others’ stated reasons for leaving the LDS church. After all, anyone who chooses to exit the LDS church MUST be dishonest by nature, right? Or is it that they’re just not bright enough to know their “real reasons,” so you need to figure it out for them? Regardless of the value (or lack thereof) of LDS faith claims, your suspicions are a common way of dealing with cognitive dissonance. You see people who leave as a threat to your own faith, so you characterize them as having some fatal flaw, thus allowing you to comfortably disregard any otherwise valid points they may make.

    What you’re doing, Dave, is no different than early critics of Mormonism, who claimed that only the poor and woefully ignorant members of society were joining that church—a claim which was demonstrably false. It’s about as valid and reasonable as me claiming that the only reason most active LDS members remain in the LDS church is that they secretly add mind-altering drugs to the water supply at all LDS-owned buildings! 🙂

  12. Kat, the problem for me is that these movement, whether NOM or Reform Mormons are more or less websites and not recognized movements, or really movements at all.

    Every one,

    This is getting way too serious.

    I think that NOM is interesting to the extent that is involves staying within the fold. I am political liberal (okay, socialist) and a religious liberal. I see no problem with me fitting in the mainstream of the Church. There are plenty, as we have seen on the bloggernacle lately, who say that I am not welcome. I stay to tick them off. Oh, and I believe that it is true.

    Since I do not know Ann, I have no reason to not believe her narrative. Heck, I am not even sure what my narrative is.

  13. For the record, I do know Ann, and most Sundays she can be found in the pews at her ward. She serves in callings and she serves her brothers and sisters, and she does both of those tasks well. I admire her for that effort. Belief come more easily for me than it does for her, and that makes her contrributions all the more remarkable, in my opinion. I’ll attend church with folks like her anyday.

  14. People who say “if you don’t believe why don’t you just leave?” piss me off. Over twenty years ago, I threw in my lot with the Mormons. Some of the most wonderful people I know are Mormons. I’m married to one of those wonderful people. These are my people. I don’t have any plans to go anywhere.

    I haven’t told my exit story here, because (as Mark says) I haven’t left. The hard part of staying, IMO, isn’t the conservative/liberal dichotomy, TT, because as Chris says, liberal thinkers and believers who believe can feel like they fit right in. It’s the lack of belief that makes it hard to stay.

    I don’t know what exactly Dave meant by not taking exit stories at face value, but I agree in one respect: the stories we tell ourselves are about our perceptions, and to some extent we are all capable of deluding ourselves, especially when different facets of our lives are in great conflict. I think it’s a charitable take to treat people’s stories as their truths unless you are a shrink or a sociologist. My public story, were I to leave, would probably focus on loss of faith, because that would be the precipitating event. However, there would surely be other components, such as Too Many Republicans, a desire to more regularly and publicly consume Chili’s El Presidente margaritas, and boredom.

    Elder Holland’s interview for the PBS documentary had a quote in it that I have reflected on a number of times:

    I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to [The Book of Mormon’s] origins, who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” …

    The whole point of the New Order Mormon discussion board and web site is to help people who want to stay when they don’t believe any more. The level of supportiveness on the discussion board comes and goes.

  15. David C. (#9), maybe I keep repeating it because people keep using sources as if they are oracles. Sources have biases; ignorance of that fact does not cure the problem. This is not an unsophisticated audience at FPR. Those with some background in history should be familiar with the fact that bias in sources needs to be acknowledged in order to give proper weight and interpretation to them. Those with some background in sociology should be aware that it is general knowledge that ex-members of religious movements are not generally considered reliable sources of information on those movements. Do some reading.

    Nick (#12), whenever the term “cognitive dissonance” shows up in someone’s explanation it’s a sure sign they’re just regurgitating half-digested ideas from the latest Dissenter’s Book of the Month Club offering. Seriously, I know you’re bright enough to respond to my point without mangling it first. My central point was that exit narratives can’t be taken at face value. Do you agree or not? Are you saying you do take exit narratives at face value? How about conversion narratives, a similar personal narrative that recounts a change of belief? Skepticism is the primary scholarly approach to any source until some degree of credibility is determined, isn’t it? Why would you privilege exit narratives?

    And just where do you get off suggesting I said anyone who exits is “dishonest by nature” or that I see anyone who exits as posing a threat to me? Have I ever speculated about what you think or cast aspersions on your character?

    Nitsav (#13), thanks for the link.

  16. David C., as to the balance of your comment, I do agree that some with liberal religious views can feel uncomfortable with the conservative views that are often heard from the pulpit or in the classroom. And I agree that it is unfortunate if that sense of discomfort makes some LDS go inactive or terminate their membership.

    It is doubly unfortunate if an overly conservative leader helps push them out the door. While that may happen, I suspect it is much rarer than exit narratives would lead one to believe. Note that the same narratives that often ascribe that sort of behavior to local LDS leaders also frequently complain that LDS leaders drag their feet on resignation requests or simply refuse to act on them without further interviews or investigation. That’s just the opposite of pushing someone out the door.

  17. David,

    DMI Dave is far from the only one who’s said this. Armand Mauss, who knows the sociological literature as well as anyone, says the same thing regularly.

    Exit narratives are unreliable for a variety of reasons — primarily, they tend to overemphasize sensationlistic aspects of the group, in order to justify the exit. (What is an exit narrative, if not a justification for exit?) Armand is the expert, much more than I am — he refers to a variety of studies of Catholic exit narratives in the early twentieth century, which have been done my different sociologists. According to Armand, it’s pretty much standard policy in the field to take exit narratives with a HUGE grain of salt.

    Seth Payne actually takes a kinder view of recent Mormon exit narratives. He argues that due to conditions — the church is more mainstream now, and so harder to sensationalize — that current Mormon exit narratives are more reliable than might be expected in general. Still, that’s a relatively lukewarm endorsement. And Seth also does a very good job of showing that exit narratives follow a script of their own. Like entry narratives, they are at heart conversion stories — they tend to establish credibility by showing that the speaker was immersed in LDS culture and (sometimes) leadership; to discuss underlying tensions and unhappiness; to have an epiphany or “aha!” moment; and then to testify of greater happiness in the ex-member’s current place.

    Details and conclusion differ, but structurally they follow the exact same arc as LDS conversion narratives.

  18. Those with some background in sociology should be aware that it is general knowledge that ex-members of religious movements are not generally considered reliable sources of information on those movements.

    Fine, but I don’t think that anyone is claiming that exit narratives are good sources of information for the groups they are leaving, I am certainly not. However, that’s not the same as saying the exit narrative itself is not valid, i.e. one can have an honest grasp of the facts and still choose to leave.

    As for taking the exit narratives with a huge rain of salt, fine what’s the salt here? Does one just declare them liars because in general “they are unreliable for a variety of reasons?” Does it just mean don’t count the sensationalistic ones? OK, fine, what do you do with the ones that are not sensationalistic?

    The bottom line is that saying these narratives are unreliable seems to me to just be a lazy way of not having to deal with substance of the claims. If that’s not what is going on here then I’ll move along.

  19. Regarding the exit-narrative debate, I think Dave and the others who are somewhat skeptical about their informativeness regarding the causal history behind an exit decision have solid ground to stand on. We should distinguish between the exit narratives as sincere statements of people’s beliefs and experiences (which I think they almost universally are) and the same narratives as accurate accounts of the conditions without which the narrator would still be a believing member of the LDS church. Beyond whatever other sources of concern we might have, it’s simply true that people in general are very poor judges of causation — in their own lives and in the lives of others.

    That said, I can’t entirely agree with Dave that conservative leaders don’t drive liberal Mormons out of the church. Certainly they don’t drive all liberal Mormons out of the church. But tobacco doesn’t give all smokers lung cancer, either. Causes don’t have to be universally efficacious in order to, nonetheless, be causes.

    On the orthodox/conservative/reform scale, NOMs mostly probably correspond reasonably well to conservative Jews. After all, NOMs maintain a lot of traditional practices and consider connection with the past an affirmative value, as do conservative Jews. Conservative Mormons, of course, correspond much more closely with orthodox Jews, for whom beliefs as well as behaviors (but also careful adherence to behaviors) are more central values. Reform Jews are closer to liberal splinters within Mormonism such as Reform Mormonism, or possibly old-school 1980s-style Sunstone.

  20. I think that’s right J. And I suspect Dave is consistent and distrusts a lot of conversion stories as well. Things where there is a lot of emotion makes me think the typical person has difficulty separating out the emotion from the detailed historical and spiritual events. Which doesn’t make it any less powerful to the individual.

  21. I read Seth’s study pointed at by #13. Fascinating stuff. (Thanks for the link!) It’s more of the same old human behavior: we make a choice, and then try to figure out after we made it why we did. In this case, the choice to exit from a “subversive” group (which the LDS still sort of are) requires justification for why you were in it in the first place, why you left, and why the new group (usually in opposition) is so much better. Much of it is picked up at the new group, though that only explains common details. The overall story arc is required by how we’re put together psychologically.

  22. That said, I can’t entirely agree with Dave that conservative leaders don’t drive liberal Mormons out of the church.

    while people might influence others, i think it’s important to note that no one can drive anyone to do anything. we all have agency, and people who leave make a choice, and it’s theirs and theirs alone. don’t misunderstand…my heart is sad when people choose to leave, and there is a lot in the culture that can improve to help people feel more welcome in their differences, but it is important to recognize it is a choice not something that can be blamed on someone else, even _if_ there is mistreatment that might be real. in the end we each have to answer for our own choices and won’t be able to put our choices off on someone else.

  23. “no one can drive anyone to do anything. we all have agency…”

    That is a pretty simplistic account of human social interaction. I understand what you are saying, but we can no more say that it is entirely an isolated personal choice than we can blame it on everyone else.

  24. yeah, chris, but i acknowledged that already i think. human interaction is complex, but we still have to own our choices and recognize that no one can ‘make’ us do anything.

  25. ananon, that’s certainly one position, although it’s not universal among Mormon leaders or thinkers — some adopt a compatibilist perspective that can accommodate ideas of coercion as well as choice. But those issues are a bit beside the point here. Human choice is entirely compatible with causation; our choices are always caused by all kinds of things that we both are and aren’t aware of. Indeed, choice can sometimes be manipulated extraordinarily well in laboratory experiments. So, while people do choose to leave the church, it may simultaneously be true that there is a causal story behind those decisions. If conservative leaders are a cause of some departures, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that those leaders “drove” people away from the church, even if the people in question chose — but for the leaders’ actions or whatever, the members who left would not have left.

    That said, I certainly can’t say that I know it to be the case that conservative leaders cause some kinds of Mormons to leave the church. My point is simply that Dave’s argument against this position doesn’t go through.

  26. I don’t know whether leaders drive people out of the church, but I do have firsthand knowledge that there is a lot of pressure to conform, conform, conform. As long as there is conformity, no one feels the pressure, but as soon as non-conformity manifests itself even in the minimal amount, both leadership and general membership start pouring on the pressure. This may be what initially causes people to believe they were “driven out of the church.”

    I don’t know that it has anything to do with a leader being conservative or not. The expectation is that when a leader has counseled, agreement and obedience must be the result. To go against what a leader states or to disobey counsel is looked upon as rebellion in my neck of the woods, even for little things. The level of conformity is incredibly high.

    As an anarchist, I don’t see things as liberal/conservative, but as anarchist/statist, which means I lump both liberals and conservatives together. I notice that both liberals and conservative are pressured to conform. It may be simply that conservatives have an easier time conforming than liberals do and hence some liberals get “driven out.” But, I’d also say that some conservatives get “driven out.”

    Simply put, leaders don’t like it when members don’t do what they are told to do, or when members question their authority (jurisdiction) or inspiration. You can tell a lot about a man (leader) when his authority is being questioned. That is when the real, inner man is revealed.

    Mormons, unfortunately, are largely statists, meaning that when they get into positions of power, including ecclesiastical positions of power, they start using it unrighteously by pressuring people under them to conform or using other means of manipulation to force or coerce people to obey their words and wills. Leaders, whether conservative or liberal, are by and large statists members who have demonstrated that they can, do and will conform to the leaders placed above them. In other words, they have shown that they will perpetuate the culture of conformity. The antidote is anarchism which promotes free agency and volunteerism, but as there are very few anarchists in the church, there won’t be any anarchist leaders chosen, as that would tend to erode the centralization of power.

    Surely I am not the only one to see over the years the consolidation and centralization of the reigns of power and control that has been happening in the church. We all see it. The individuality of wards and distinctness of teaching materials has been replaced with standardization. This is the work of statists Mormons who always use these methods. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as many people like this about the church, but of course, these same people are statists themselves.

    So, the problem of people being driven out of the church is not a leadership problem, but a membership problem. We need to return to our anarchist roots and to our anarchic scriptures and hold up free agency and freedom of speech and thought as the banner of heaven hoisted by Jesus at the Grand Council and allow for differences of opinion without getting offended or frightened by “change in the church” and without throwing around labels of unorthodoxy, liberalism or conservatism.

  27. DavidH,

    Bryce thinks that everyone who disagrees with Bryce should be excommunicated. He never opened the comments because he cannot take the heat that my comrades here at FPR have been giving him. That, and because he is probably busy burning witches between FAIR sessions.

    LDS Anarchist,

    As a liberal egalitarian/socialist, I am not sure if I follow the whole anarchy thing. While conformity might be a problem, anarchy is not the answer. Just because community and the public good are wrongly used by some does not make them bad ideas outright. The same might be said about anarchy, though I have never seen a decent philosophical argument for it (Nozick’s argument for the minimalist state comes close but it is far from a call for anarchy).

  28. Chris H.
    By misrepresenting Bryce, you only show your own ignorance.
    Bryce has never advocated “everyone who disagree’s with Bryce should be excommunicated.” To say otherwise is a damm-nable- lie.
    He did write that true members (fully within the covenant) will ahve testimonies and will follow the prophet.
    Whether or not someone is “in the church” really matters little when Christ comes, and will separate the wheat from the tares, those truly in His covenant, and who respect His priesthood authority, and those who worship their own intellect, and mentally stone the living prophets.

  29. NOYDMB,

    It is a matter of interpretation. I have read all of the related posts and that is the impression that I was clearly left with. You agree with him and see no problem with it. Good for you.

    I do not worship my own intellect. I, like Socrates and Nibley before me, recognize that I know nothing. As Nibley says, the only thing we can know is repentance and forgiveness. I am not the one being so sure about everything.

    Mogget seems to think that I should take the high road (the forgiveness part) and not be overly sarcastic. So, I will not tell you what I really thing about your comment.

  30. Smallaxe,
    I’m woking on it, and several other posts together. But, at last count there was some 60 pages of source material. I’ll need some time, especially remembering that listening to all of you quibble isn’t quite as interesting (or important) as what I normally work on. There is a double standard, though, for condemning someone for having an opinion you disagree with, because they disagree with yours.

    In a free exchange of ideas, there is no censorship. You can say, their ideas are bogus, but one will not put words in others mouth, miscontrue sayings, and confuse ideas. Pure and simple. If people on the blogs would read ENTIRE posts before starting their condemnation we’d be a little better off. Knowing known of you personally (and ensuring you cannot) although I may agree with Bryce at times (and not always) my only motive is to make sure that people who’s viewpoint (I happen to agree with) can make it without the liberals condemning them for their beliefs. The fact that the bloggocrats censor others is highly ironic given their screeches against the church of “consoring” them. Why is it bad for the church to censor those who disagree with the church (by x’ing them) and yet it is OK for the god of the BCC (aka, Steve Evans) to ban anyone who would presume to disagree with his socialist views, or condemn him for being an illegal immigrant. Viewpoints are viewpoints. Let them be shared, let them be corrected, even the ones that are offensive. People will either reject them, or accept them, but that is their choice, not yours.

  31. “I’ll need some time, especially remembering that listening to all of you quibble isn’t quite as interesting (or important) as what I normally work on.”

    No one is forcing you to visit.

    “There is a double standard, though, for condemning someone for having an opinion you disagree with, because they disagree with yours.”

    Ok…what are you talking about?

    “If people on the blogs would read ENTIRE posts before starting their condemnation we’d be a little better off.”

    I think that is what smallaxe and I invited you to do above.

    “Knowing known of you personally….”

    Thank goodness.

    (Mogget: it is my post and this as polite as I can be right now)

  32. NOYDMB,

    Allow me to make this a little easier for you. In the one true church thread simply read the posts from Bryce, myself, TT, and Mogget. Then return and report.

  33. NOYDMB, I didn’t know Steve Evans was an illegal, socialist immigrant. Are you sure on this point? Also, I wouldn’t do too much pouting about being banned at BCC, lots of people get banned there, especially the anarchists. You are welcome to post at my blog any time you’d like. I don’t do any banning, unless the comment is spam or, perhaps, from someone who has banned me on their blog…

    smallaxe, I read that post and I, for one, didn’t find you uncharitable.

  34. NOYDMB,

    I’m still waiting….

    It seems that you’ve made your decision about FPR before the SSM thread, so please return here and finish this discussion first.

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