Nowadays, we constantly hear about how polarized politics are. The Republicans will agree with Republicans, even if they don’t agree — for the sake of the party. And Democrats will agree with Democrats, even if they don’t agree — for the sake of the party. And then there are those moderate ideas that everyone likes, but then when we get a moderate candidate, no one votes for him or her. So what are we to do?
In Mormon culture we might be able to see a little bit of this polarization within the culture. One extreme leads to self-deprecation and the other leads to arrogance. If you don’t know what that means, think of the member who’s amazing who’s always saying things like, “Oh no, I’m not actually that great” and the member with the “holier than thou” air.
Where does all of this come from? Why can’t we just be like, “Yeah, I’m awesome, but so is that other person”?
Mormonism in general will also have a tricky time navigating a type of balance as society changes. We hear all the time that there was a time when the values of the world were closer to those of the church, but as time goes on, they grow further apart.
It’s important to remember that Mormon culture is stronger in some places than it is in others, for example, “Mormon culture” as I’ve been referring to it refers mostly to an American Mormon culture.
Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, said one of the possible challenges of Mormonism will be to navigate finding a balance between individualism and community since America is becoming more individualistic, or more concerned about the needs of an individual over the needs of a community.
“On the one hand, Mormonism won’t thrive if it is seen as totally counter-cultural … as not giving individual rights or individual voices any room at all,” he said. “People will just opt out because of the culture that they live in, and they’ll see Mormonism as oppressive.”
He says on the other side, if the Mormon culture assimilates too much and adopts too much of America’s push for individualism, “it loses is distinctiveness,” which then leads to people not wanting to follow the hierarchy of listening to bishops, for example.
So the extremes for Mormonism could end up being too much individualism or too much repression. So how will Mormonism find its middle ground? That’s a hard question to answer —that everyone’s probably unsure about. But it’s a good thing to at least take note of. How will our individuals actions stay moderate?
While you can’t stand up in every congregation and say, “Culture, be chill and moderate,” you can start with your actions.
Own what you believe and love it, but also remember to let other people own their beliefs.
Love people in your community even when you disagree with them.
some questions to consider
- How am I living the culture? With self-deprecation, arrogance, or a balance?
- How can I become more balanced?
- Am I making Mormon culture all about what I want or making it feel oppressive? How can I change how I act toward others to reach a balance?