A good indication that we are not taking ourselves too seriously is that we remain able to laugh at our own shortcomings. When I read the following poem on a Mormon newsgroup on the Internet I found it both funny and sad, because I realized that the author – although obviously antagonistic towards the Church – had correctly observed the different attitudes amongst members towards the abandonment of early Mormon doctrine, which has led to most Latter-day Saints having contradictory opinions on such issues, with each of them firmly believing they have the correct view:
“How many Mormons does it take to change a lightbulb?
At least six: One to change the lightbulb;
One to deny that there was any change made;
One to say that we shouldn’t focus on the change only the need for light;
One to say we don’t teach that the light bulb needed changing in the first place;
One to say that the changer was acting for himself and not as an official changer;
And one to say, ‘Who cares who changed the bulb, don’t you feel the burning of the light?’”
There are difficult issues in Mormon theology that many members are unwilling to face up to, and all too willing to gloss over with such uninformed statements as those illustrated in the above joke. Those trying to avoid study or discussion on deep doctrines with excuses that do not explain the issues at hand, seem to fall perfectly into our comedian’s six stereotypes:
The Concessionary Mormon: There are those who seek to bring the LDS church into the 21st century, and are prepared to jettison whatever gets in that way. Ultimately one wonders what there would be left of Mormonism at all if everything objectionable was removed.
The Ultra-Orthodox: Another type of Latter-day Saint denies that Mormonism has ever changed; any evidence to the contrary must be imperfect, and anyone who suggests otherwise must be suspect.
The Lawyer: This character will try to divert attention away from the issue if it puts them or their beliefs in a negative light, or if it means otherwise facing up to an unpleasant issue. Perhaps they will clothe the doctrine in ambiguity, or say that a person is unfaithful to suppose that a change occurred.
The Apologist: They may claim that whatever has changed was not ever part of the real gospel, or that it still is relevant in principle, although not practiced. If pushed they may go so far as questioning any prophet who said it was true, and claiming this must have just been their opinion. But of course the modern leader’s view is held as divine truth, despite what his predecessors said on the subject.
The Liberal: The liberal is a doctrinal minimalist, there is little he considers necessary or unalterable in his faith, and evidence that the Church has discarded old beliefs is only fuel for his hope that the Church may yet relinquish other beliefs he finds old fashioned in his enlightened mind.
The ‘Emotional’ Mormon: As long as they feel good about something it must be right. They felt they had a ‘spiritual’ witness about one principle in the past, and so everything else they believe must be true. If someone doesn’t feel the same perhaps they (presumably) are unrighteous, or have studied the subject too much, and are in danger of studying themselves out of the Church. (Sadly, a common statement!)