As I survey the “Bloggernacle”, I see and hear many disparate voices competing for attention. The most strident of these voices are those who seem to have a bone to pick with the Church, whether administratively, constitutionally, or with doctrine or policy. Some of these voices continue to express dismay over the composition of the leading officers of the Church (e.g., not enough persons of color, too old, too many millionaires, not enough women, etc). Some continue to complain that the Church hasn’t issued an apology for its past institutional “sins”. Some argue that it is necessary for grassroots “agitation” in order to get the Church to “change for the better”; a bottom-up agenda as opposed to the current centralized, top-down management of the Church.
This is just a mere summary of the critical nature of many, many sites of the “Bloggernacle”. One could be led to conclude that many, many online Mormons are intensely or at least partially dissatisfied with the Church, whether with its doctrines, practices, composition of the leadership, or its style. This leads me to ask the question: why this intense dissatisfaction? Is loyalty to the Church simply out of the question for the “Bloggernacle” at large?
When people are formally baptized, they gain admission to the Church as a “member”. A record is actually physically created, their names go on the books, and they then become a claimant to the blessings and privileges of membership in the organization. They get the benefits. They get to participate.
Yet membership also implies certain duties and obligations. As a member, I am expected to contribute my time and talents in support of the organization I join. For example, it would be silly to join a national chess federation if I did not plan on playing chess, watching games of chess sponsored by the organization, or pay my dues to support its functions. Likewise, I would not join the organization and then spend the balance of my life telling people how lame the group was, or how insipid, or out of touch the governing board of the federation were.
My point in bringing this up is to illustrate an attribute of membership that doesn’t get a lot of attention or focus. It’s also a word that does not merit a whole lot of respect in our early 21st century culture. This word is an ideal that we humans seek to share with each other in many contexts and situations. The word is Loyalty.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, loyalty is an Old French word. The definitions are as follows:
1.1 Faithful adherence to one’s promise, oath, word of honour, etc.; †conjugal faithfulness, fidelity. †Also in phrase by my loyalty.
2.a Faithful adherence to the sovereign or lawful government; spec. of government employees. Also, in recent use, enthusiastic reverence for the person and family of the sovereign.
2.b attrib. in †loyalty loan; loyalty oath U.S., an oath, usually mandatory, required of a prospective public employee or other person in which he swears to abstain from subversive activities.
In consulting the OED, the world’s foremost authority on English, we are struck by how the word really leaves no room for prevarication or ambivalence: you are either loyal or you are not. No shades of grey or nuance there. It actually requires you to choose.
The LDS ordinance of baptism possesses within itself sacerdotal powers. For example, when one is baptized, one receives a cleansing forgiveness of sins. Numerous scriptures tie baptism with sanctity and describe it as entering a gate towards salvation. Thus, the spiritual benefits are numerous and need no further exposition.
However, there is another aspect of baptism that requires our attention: when one is baptized, one is essentially submitting to several salient facts. Allow me to enumerate:
- Through baptism, one is submitting to the notion that the Church possesses authority to perform the ordinance.
- You acknowledge tacitly that the Church is a “top-down” hierarchy. For example, you cannot be legitimately baptized without approval from the ward bishop and witnesses.
- Thus, by its very nature, you agree that the Church sets the terms. The bishop is vetted by the stake president, who acts as the bishop’s “boss” as it were. The stake president is advised by an area presidency, typically seventies or area seventies. Those seventies are in turn supervised directly by Apostles – the men who hold and use the keys of the priesthood itself.
It seems remarkably incongruous to hold membership in an organization in which you no longer believe in. And, dare I say, it is hypocritical? Here is a disturbing truth to some: membership in and of itself implies loyalty.
Having therefore set forth the aspects of baptism, membership, and loyalty, I am thus led to ask myself a serious question: why do some active members of the Church continue to agitate, criticize, find fault, complain, murmur, cast aspersions, or engage in subversive activities detrimental to the Church?