Thursday, February 11, 2010

Identifying a debate

Having written about Mormon culture and its practice the last couple posts, it occurs to me that a lot of the contention between Mormons about little pieces of Mormonism (you know, stuff like whether one may drink caffeinated soft drinks, whether it’s okay to for an endowed member to wear one’s swimsuit during the drive to the beach or not, and so on) comes down to one question: Which is more important in Mormonism—orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

(Of course, this simplifies the picture a bit—for example, there’s a small number of Mormons who wish current doctrine and practice were done away with or at least radically changed. I’m limiting this discussion to those who Mormons who approve of the Mormon church as it now is, though.)

I’d suggest that Mormons as a whole, by what seems to me to be a slim majority, seem to view the practice of religion as more important than the belief of religion. I’m very firmly on the other side—i tend to view belief as much, much more important than action. (There are deeper things that these different points of view lead to, as well—for example, do works lead more naturally to faith or does faith lead more naturally to works?)

To someone who views orthopraxy as more important than orthodoxy, certain issues of behavior are central—for example, the question of whether or not one gets tattoos is a vital part of the religion, and that’s precisely the issue to be addressed: Should one get tattooed or not? To someone like me who views orthodoxy as more important than orthopraxy, the question is quite different: Why would one get a tattoo, and is that an acceptable reason?

I strongly suspect that one of the hidden but huge fault lines within Mormon culture is this orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy thing.


Heather the Mama Duk said...

Practice is important, though. Belief alone isn't enough. If it was, we'd be Protestants.

David B said...

Many smiles, even a giggle out loud (a GOL?)—but yeah, the Methodists certainly have strayed from their roots, haven’t they?