Of world religions...
|Will Mormonism be a "world religion", and if not, do we care?|
Like all good Mormon topics, this one has already been thrashed out at T&S, but wouldn't you like the opinion of an "international Mormon" (say yes)? Plus, with the Joseph Smith conference, this topic is once again current.
The question of what is and what isn't a world religion is a thorny matter. Is size all-important, or do other factors come into play? To get a sense of this, ask yourself whether Catholicism is a world religion, or is it subsumed under Christianity? Tough one, huh?
According to Douglas Davies, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the potential to be a "globally present religion", but not a world religion. In short we are too centrally-controlled, too dependent on one culture. This will come as a disappointment to many Latter-Day Saints who wear Rodney Stark's famous prediction as a badge of honour. But in reality, this is just a semantic game: what Mormons focus on is the potential for church growth. Whether or not the Church is a world religion or a globally present religion, is not important. Only size matters.
(At the conference Gerald McDermott popped this balloon a little too, gleefully reminding all and sundry that the Jehovah Witnesses--the JW's!--are bigger and more successful than we are.)
"If Mormons want to be a World Religion," Davies stated, "they have to make some changes." He suggested a process of de-Americanization (or de-Utahification?) and de-centralization. Perhaps we can imagine a time when the church in each country has its own governing body (led by a local Area Authority) and is given a certain autonomy in adjusting the Church programme (not doctrine) to local mores.
Roger Keller's objection to this suggestion was that it assumed that the Church should adjust to popular models. "This is the Church of God," he testified, "led by authorized leaders." In other words, we will not be moved.
All of this is a great misunderstanding. Davies did not suggest that Church has to adjust, only that it should if it wants to be a world religion. But we just want growth, not to fit some academic model. It was just a little deflating to many in the audience to hear Rodney Stark challenged so, er, starkly. (Bad, I know.)