LDS Church leaders have the right to decide where the Church membership boundaries should be. They have the right to take the Church in any direction that they want it to go. They can turn it into a commercial enterprise. They can spend tithing and other monies anyway they want. They can discriminate against anyone. They can turn the Church into just another conservative Christian religion. That is their right in a top-down organization.
LDS Church leaders have been trying hard to prove that Mormonism is a truly Christian religion. But is the Church really demonstrating Christ-like attitudes? According to Peter Laarman, a United Church of Christ minister, commenting on a book by Frank Schaeffer:
Schaeffer cannot resist observing that, in an odd and largely unrecognized way, Jesus values are slowly prevailing–albeit not so much among the Jesus followers as among the secular saints working for human rights and for the full inclusion of the very kinds of people Jesus liked to hang out with: the outcasts and the reprobates, the broken in body and the wounded in spirit.
[Schaeffer] notes that Jesus violated every religious taboo of his time and place: touching dead people, touching lepers, touching women and letting women touch him. [Schaeffer] does a lot with the figure of Jesus as the only lens through which to grasp what God might be like.
If LDS Church leaders want to prove that Mormons are Christians, are they doing it in the right fashion? Is hanging up images of Christ in hallways and classrooms enough? Is talking about Him in sermons enough? Or does the LDS Church need to demonstrate it in the way it acts? If “secular saints” are truly leading the way, what does that say about religionists?
The conservative devolution in the Mormon Church over the last 50 years is personified by the difference between George Romney and his son Mitt. George was willing to stand up for what he believed in. For example, he was an active participant in the civil rights movement (despite the objections of some LDS Church leaders). Mitt, on the other hand, comes across as a corporate type, with few feelings for those in real need. Can you image Mitt walking with the LGBT community, or supporting a feminist cause? There seems to be an aching among the LDS Church membership for a truer engagement with the outside world. And this longing is very much in line with the example set by Christ.
In 1983, Hugh Nibley gave a commencement address at BYU titled: “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift.” At the time it was delivered, it was so controversial that when an abridged version was published in BYU’s alumni magazine, one of the editors was fired. And it still is controversial.
In his address, Nibley bifurcated managers from leaders, and was clearly not impressed with the managers of his day:
Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. Managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment.
‘If you love me,’ said the greatest of all leaders, ‘you will keep my commandments.’ ‘If you know what is good for you,’ says the manager, ‘you will keep my commandments and not make waves.’ That is why the rise of management always marks the decline, alas, of culture.
Implied in Nibley’s speech was a criticism of Church leaders. They couldn’t sack the popular and respected Prof. Nibley, so they did the next best thing, they axed an editor.