After researching religions and Mormonism for many, many hours, and with what I think is a relatively good understanding of contemporary Mormonism, here are some of my predictions for what may happen with the LDS church over the next 100 years.
These are, of course, speculative, but I think I have good ground to stand on when making these predictions. You could call these my “prophecies”, made by the powers of reason, historical evidence and logic 🙂 (certainly not from god!)
Prediction 1: Slow and eventual acceptance of homosexuality
For this prediction, let me set the scene with two quotes from prominent LDS members of different times.
John Taylor on Polygamy
In 1886, John Taylor, plagued by the constant pressure from the outside society to abandon polygamy, entered into the true order of prayer to seek the will of God in the matter:
“My son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people. Thus saith the Lord All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant. For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; they stand forever. Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet I have borne with them these many years and this because of their weakness because of the perilous times. And furthermore it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not. And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph all those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law nor will I for it is everlasting and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof, even so Amen.” (Unpublished Revelations of the Prophets and Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, 3rd Enlarged Edition; (Unpublished Revelations, Volume 1)
Boyd K. Packer on Homosexuality
“If they think we will move on these issues, they do not know us. Never will we budge. If they think we will they know very little about us.”
We DO know you!
The irony of the Packer quote is that it is precisely wrong. We DO know the LDS church, it is clear from several historical examples that when the pressure from society mounts and increases, the doctrines will change, two prominent examples are the abandonment of polygamy, and the acceptance of blacks for the priesthood. The funny part is that modern, contemporary LDS people will approach life as if these two things never happened. Imagine Brigham Young or John Taylor knew that the worldwide church doesn’t practice polygamy and blacks have the priesthood! They’d be spinning in their graves. This sentence from Packer clearly indicates a Fowler’s stage 3 belief (“stuck in a box”, “can’t see beyond oneself”).
The way change happens is certain leaders with very particular views pass away. Their influence and power wanes over time, and eventually the new generations of leadership whitewash / correlate / retrofit their statements to their own contemporary views.
So I predict the following:
So my first prediction is this: Eventually the LDS church will soften on homosexuality, and the early signs are there even right now (see their new website on the subject). A few steps we can expect are:
- They will accept that homosexuality is an innate trait and not a choice (already happening)
- Gays can stay in the church, if they don’t practice (already happening)
- Eventually we’ll get to the point where gay marriage is accepted
- And then eventually we’ll have openly gay leaders
Prediction 2: The Book of Mormon will be reinterpreted into a non-literal, but “inspired” book
“As the LDS church now is, the Community of Christ once was: as the Community of Christ now is, the LDS church may be”
This is happening beneath our very eyes. The amount of focus on the historical aspects of the Book of Mormon is decreasing. I have an entire article just on this subject here.
Elder Nelson said the following at a new mission president seminar:
“There are some things the Book of Mormon is not,” President Nelson said. “It is not a textbook of history, although some history is found within its pages. It is not a definitive work on ancient American agriculture or politics. It is not a record of all former inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, but only of particular groups of people.”
So I predict the following:
- The Book of Mormon will not be completely disavowed by the LDS church. But it will be reinterpreted as a non-literal and “inspired” book. Difficult to deal with passages (scalps being cut off, heads being cut off, people being slaughtered for not joining the army) will be glossed over (even more than they are now) and potentially removed / reworked in later editions.
- The doctrines of the book will slowly become less literal and more metaphorical. They will be seen as stories designed to help us learn God’s will. (Like Adam and Eve or Noah’s flood in many contemporary Christian religions)
- But I don’t foresee the book disappearing entirely.
- The modern narrative of the Book of Abraham is both an example of this transition and evidence of its future possibility
Prediction 3: Women will gain further prominence, eventually getting the priesthood and leadership
This one’s an interesting one because Joseph Smith actually sanctioned women laying hands on people and healing the sick (LDS.org essay on the topic) — so we went backwards first, in this sense Joseph was a bit more progressive.
Based on the pressure from society, I predict the following:
- Women will increasingly be allowed into top leadership meetings (already happening)
- Women will increasingly pray in conference and give talks (already happening)
- Eventually women will be allowed to give blessings
- And eventually women will be given the priesthood, to be able to bless the sacrament, ordain others, bless their children, etc.
- And then eventually we will have female top leaders.
Prediction 4: Scientific acceptance will grow
This is happening to religions all over the world. The understand and acceptance of evolution (for instance) and science generally is growing.
- The 6 000 year old model of the earth will slowly be abandoned and information retrofitted / correlated. Mormons will understand the more accurate models of the age of the earth and universe. (already happening in more progressive circles)
- The literal flood will be abandoned and re-interpreted as metaphorical.
- It’s possible even Adam and Eve will be reinterpreted as metaphorical, but I think it’s more likely that they will be re-interpreted as beings who crossed a “threshold” of sorts in the evolution of man.
Prediction 5: “Apostasy” will be further watered-down
“A cult is any organisation that doesn’t let you leave with your dignity intact.”
The church will likely eventually get over the power trips of excommunicating folks for “apostasy” and grow up. People will eventually be able openly doubt / disbelieve the fundamental tenets of Mormonism and still be accepted as part of the church, but not the leadership.
Though I don’t predict this within the next 100 years, if I were to predict the next 1000 years I would say eventually openly atheist people could even serve as bishops and other leaders. When we look at the world’s older religions like Judaism we see this eventually materialising.
Prediction 6: God, Jesus and Joseph will still be literally believed
This prediction is a bit of a “tempering” prediction. That is, within the next 100 years I still think most mainstream, “orthodox” LDS folks will still believe in the anthropomorphic God (“Heavenly Father” / “Elohim”), Jesus Christ as the saviour and the Atonement doctrine, and Joseph Smith as a prophet.
Prediction 7: Financial investments, decreasing revenue but stable
I also predict tithing funds will decrease (there is evidence of this already), and the doctrine of tithing might actually be re-interpreted to an earlier understanding (and here) (increase (after expenses), not income) (this is less likely, because tithing is a huge cash cow). But the vast assets the church owns will definitely give it a reliable income stream so it will not be going anywhere.
Conclusion: Things change over time
“Sands do not shift overnight, but they do shift”
Some of these may sound silly or arrogant from a believing LDS perspective, but time does shift. Older leaders are replaced by newer ones. Old legacies are honoured, but reinterpreted by newer legacies. And eventually changes happen. I stand by my predictions, let’s see what happens.
EDIT: if you don’t think this is possible, just read this article: http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/4584556-155/lds-church-retires-mormon-apostles-little — ideas are dying / being retired right before our eyes.