“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently been experiencing a “growing pains” of sorts as a growing body of scholarship has presented evidence which many have interpreted to represent a challenge to the literalness or historicity of some of the religion’s foundational truth narratives. The Church’s reactions so far have been mixed, ranging from excommunicating prominent members who have publicly challenged the Church’s authority based on these issues to releasing its own set of online essays that seek to present some of this scholarly historical evidence in a faith-promoting context.
While the LDS Church has yet to settle on a firm strategy, a growing number of Mormons continue to find, and are then forced to come to terms with, information that challenges some of the basic precepts of their religious worldview. (It is important to note that, unlike decades past, most of this information no longer comes primarily from sensationalist antagonists but rather from well-documented scholarly research produced by both Mormons and non-Mormons alike.) This is not usually a positive experience for these individuals, especially as they often find that their efforts to seek out further information are met with suspicion or even downright hostility by friends and family members who are not as familiar with these issues. Thus, they instead turn to the internet to try to help make sense of things. A new website, MormonSpectrum.org, seeks to be a resource for individuals finding themselves in this increasingly-common situation.
MormonSpectrum.org is essentially an online resource aggregator. According to a press release, its purpose is “to link Mormons of various perspectives to resources and communities across the world. The site will provide categorized links to Mormon Facebook groups, websites, organizations, blogs, and most importantly a global map directory of in-person regional communities for a broad spectrum of Mormons.”
The website offers links to an impressive number of online resources and communities. Each resource is presented and grouped by category (blog, forum, Facebook group, etc.), often accompanied by a short description of the resource’s mission and intended audience. The goal is for Mormons of a variety of backgrounds and theological positions to be able to “find what works for you” and connect with online communities where they can associate with others of similar views and experiences.
For non-Mormons, this website may be of interest in the way it defines and categorizes different types of Mormons according to a spectrum of belief orthodoxy. The website describes four different types of Mormons along the belief orthodoxy spectrum: “orthodox,” “exploring,” “unorthodox,” and “post & ex.” Some may quibble about the nuances between each group and the way they are defined, but for someone with little background knowledge of the Mormon community these represent a good starting place. Also, while these group categories are of course not unique to the Mormon experience, the extent to which the group definitions are based on adherence to literal and historical theological truth claims and deference to institutional authority are perhaps more influential determinants of group status than is the case in other faith traditions.
It is also important to note that even though MormonSpectrum.org gives roughly equal space on its website to each of these four belief categories, “orthodox” Mormons comprise the vast majority of the faith tradition at this point in time, by some estimates between 85%-90% of all self-identified Mormons (in the United States, at least). That being said, the intended audience of this website is not for traditional, orthodox Mormons but rather those at other points along the belief spectrum who often struggle to find like-minded friends in their local congregations or social circles.
All in all, this website is a useful resource for both Mormons and non-Mormons alike who are seeking to better understand the diversity of approaches to Mormonism among its membership, as well as for those looking for online communities of Mormons from a variety of theological persuasions.”
Originally posted in HuffPost By Benjamin Knoll