ARE YOU A FOUNDATIONALIST?
Being a traditionalist is not really about promoting tradition for that sake alone. Being conservative should not ever be about impeding progress and fostering stagnation! We need a new understanding of what it means to be conservative.
What I call traditionalist or conservative perspectives regarding the church might be better expressed as “Restoration foundationalism”.
To put it simply, as demonstrated by the list of cardinal convictions in Part One, I believe in many of the things that this church was built on: God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the revelations of Joseph Smith, the divine organization of the church, the Book of Mormon, the Inspired Version of the Bible, etc. These are deeply important to me. They are part of my personal theological identity.
So, I’m a “foundationalist”. But being a foundationalist is not incompatible with belonging to an innovative church. I don’t need to be arrogant in my beliefs, and I don’t need to presume that my interpretations are 100% accurate.
In fact, as a foundationalist, I know that the (1st) prophet Nephi, some 2,600 years or so ago, encouraged us to ponder scripture. This is what he wrote:
“For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them…” -Second Nephi, 3:29 (RLDS 1908)
This is one of my favorite verses of scripture. Think about it. Nephi didn’t just read the scriptures. He pondered them. He wrestled with them, sought to understand them, and formed interpretations of them.
This must become a principle that all church members should adopt: We must not just read the scriptures, we must ponder them.
As I have been challenged by the church to explore my beliefs, I have found that our foundational beliefs and doctrines still sign to me. They still excite me, and they still, in my opinion, reflect God’s truth. In short, I still believe in our beliefs.
But the exploration has taught me that I don’t need to resist everything. For example, if the church wants to broaden and deepen it’s understanding of Zion, I’m totally ok with that. In fact, I embrace that. I don’t need to cling to the notion that everyone should uproot themselves and move to the city of Independence.
But I still believe that Independence is (or will become) Zion. I don’t feel that my belief on that point is in any way threatened by broadening and deepening our understanding of Zion to see the benefit to the world of building Zionic communities outside of Zion.
The point is, I don’t need to resist that new way of thinking about Zion, because it does not negate or diminish my own beliefs. It does not negate Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon, or any of the other foundational beliefs that I hold to be sacred truths.
And, the new understanding of Zion can also become one of my personal beliefs…and not merely a corporate belief that I feel obligated to claim as my own, or begrudgingly accept as true, but I can, without negating my other understanding of Zion, truly accept, embrace, and celebrate the broader notions of Zion.
That is the beauty of being a foundationalist. I don’t need to feel that I have to resist things. I can continue to cherish all those foundational concepts, and be fully excited and passionate about our Enduring Principles, our call to respond generously, our Mission Initiatives, and the challenge to magnify our callings.
So that is who I am now. I’ll still call myself a conservative, or a traditionalist. But in my heart, what I really mean is, I’m a foundationalist. And if you think as I do, then you are too. As such, we are the new conservatives. And that gives us the freedom to envision a church that is both a church of the Restoration, *and* a 21st century church at the same time!
And if we can truly become that, then maybe one day, all of us, conservatives, liberals, foundationalists, moderates, etc., can shed our labels, no longer needing the security that they offer, and just be the church that Christ is calling us to be.
In the mean time, it is my hope and prayer that liberals will strive to better understand where conservatives are coming from, and it also my prayer that conservatives will, in addition to being patient with liberals, more deeply explore their own convictions, why they have them, what they truly mean, and what they enable us to become.
If you lean more towards the liberal or moderate spectrums of the church, are you willing to strive to better understand why traditionally minded people have the positions that they do?
If you are a conservative church member, are you willing to evolve into a foundationalist? Are you willing to find your voice, to courageously proclaim both what you believe *and* your support of the full mission of the church? Are you wiling to let go of the constraining customs, and embrace the call to be generous and committed disciples, who see the heritage of the Restoration not as an end unto itself, but the means by which our sacred community can truly become a 21st century church?
Are you willing to help guide the church towards becoming something that truly resonates with people, and which is relevant and redemptive?
Will you join me on this journey? Consider yourself challenged to do so. Who will accept this challenge?
Questions to Ponder
What are some of your own “cardinal convictions”?
Are you able to keep them in the wake of a changing church? If not, why not?
Do you feel empowered to have traditional beliefs, should you wish to?