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In the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles there are no factions, lobbying, or power centers, said Elder Neil L. Andersen. There are “differing opinions,” but “there are no egos.”
This is an interesting question and one that I believe is important to have especially in the current climate that we are in right now. For some reason, we as humans want to take sides on everything. Democrat vs Republican, Liberal vs Conservative. We live in crazy times right now and it's easy to lump all members of the LDS Church into the conservative and Republican group but that just isn't so. There have been several leaders of the LDS faith who have been Democrats. President James E. Faust was a self-described liberal and served in the House of Representatives as a Democrat.
But still, can you be LDS and a liberal? To begin with, we must first define what the word "liberal" means.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word "liberal" means: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
In a talk given at General Conference in 1971, Harold B. Lee said: "A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony." He continues this statement stating that the reason why "liberal" members struggle with their testimonies is because they have too many questions and are unable to accept that some answers need to had by "faith" not "evidence."
But that isn't a fair statement to say that liberal members are ones who do "not have a testimony." It is not fair to say that one doesn't have a testimony or is a good member because they question certain doctrines and teachings of the church.
The official church website has a section called "Is it OK to have doubts about the gospel?" where the following statement can be found:
Pondering your unanswered questions can often be healthy if it motivates you to sincerely seek greater knowledge and truth. In addition, such questions are often part of “the trial of [our] faith” that is required before we receive a witness from God (Ether 12:6). However, doubt is a dreary destination, so it should never be a goal in itself.
So clearly the organization of the Church deem it fine to question doctrine and to "sincerely seek greater knowledge and truth." However, what the Church does want us to seek those answers in a certain way. In 2014 when the Ordain Women organization started to arise because of the excommunication of Kate Kelly, the Church's current spokeswoman Jessica Moody stated:
"LDS Church leaders have cause for concern when personal motives drive conversations beyond discussion and those asking the questions organize groups or begin recruiting to insist on change in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled."
So according to the Church, it is alright to question the Church as we do and don't do the following:
DO: seek out answers through prayer and the scriptures sincerely
DON'T: create organized groups, stage public events, create contradicting literature
So with that being said, is it okay to be a liberal Mormon? One who questions the doctrine and the Gospel? Absolutely. In fact we all should be doing that to strengthen our testimony and we are taught to! We shouldn't follow blindly. Gaining a testimony on any doctrine requires action, and part of that action means questioning.
But a "liberal Mormon", as Harold B. Lee called them, can also be referred to in a political sense. Can one be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints AND be a liberal or affiliate with the Democratic party?
Of course they can!
In an awesome piece written by James McGraw for the UVU Review, he states:
The best way to conclude this article is to state two things: (1) Yes, one can be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and be a liberal and (2) It is okay to question doctrinal beliefs of the Church. In a blog post written by Laurie Campbell on the Church's website, she states:
"The desire to ask questions and seek further knowledge is a divine attribute. It’s what led a young boy into a grove of trees to ask about which church was right. And as we search for answers, it’s important to remember the eternal truths we have already gained testimony of.
I’m sure more questions will arise for me. I am becoming equally certain that if I wrestle long enough, I’ll find the answers. If not in this life, then the next."
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments!