McKay Coppins is LDS (Mormon) and active. I separated myself from the Church after my LDS mission. But my name is still on the Church membership records.
In a recent article “The Most American Religion” in The Atlantic, Coppins writes about his church in a lengthy 9,000-word article. The article left me disappointed. McKay had a chance to write something of substance, instead he takes the easy route. He chooses to rehash well worn subjects.
The article bifurcates into two homogenized segments. The first is background information on the Church’s past, present, and future. The second is his personal relationship with the Church. The mix of the two is uncomfortable, and Coppins is unable to pull it off. He is an excellent writer, but he cuts the Church too much slack and he fails to reveal much about his personal faith.
The subject of the article is the Church’s uneasy attempt at assimilation with American culture, or perhaps its attempt to curry favor with the Christian right. This subject has been discussed in detail by Mormon sociologist Armand Mauss. Yet Armand’s work of is not mentioned or hinted at in the article. The exhaustive work of Jana Riess is also largely ignored. Instead he takes the easy route, and interviews and discusses the candidacy and beliefs of Mitt Romney, whose presidential campaign he covered as a journalist. Yawn.
When it comes to Mormon history, Coppins gives a sanitized version which is truly unfortunate. Mormon history in the last few decades has matured greatly. His attempt to let Mormons off the hook for Trumpism is filled with selective stats. As is his implication that the Church still has a rapidly expanding membership (in reality, it is stalled in developed countries, and expanding in developing countries). Plus there is a problem with Mormon youth leaving the Church.
McKay briefly mentions his mission, but provides few impressions of what the experience brought to his life. Was it a defining factor? From a personal perspective, how productive was it? How could the mission experience be improve? This was a opportunity lost.
Coppins does make a couple of suggestions: (1) that the Church apologize for its historic racism and (2) that the Church not give up too much of uniqueness in its efforts to assimilate. The first placates progressive Mormons and the second should make conservatives happy. A nice balance I guess.
There were two segments in the article I did find truly revealing, one an interchange with Elder Ballard and a second with President Nelson. The latter an introspective moment for the 96-yr-old leader.
One Internet commenter pointed out that the article would be appropriate material for the Deseret News, a LDS organ. I doubt this opinion was meant as a compliment. The article is also referred to in the ezine Meridian Magazine, which has a conservative Mormon list.