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Do Finke and Stark offer any examples of sects that remained sects rather than taking up some degree of churchly accommodation with the broader culture? (I can imagine a few that have maintained a strict "Christ against culture" approach that would include people like the Old Order Amish.)

But if what Weber called the bureaucratization of prophetic charisma applies to Mormonism, then it may be that Mormons will sooner or later face the same issue that has vexed every other initially sectarian church in American history: Those in each church who want to make sure that they retain the sense of vocation to be not "of the world" must find ways to be sects within each church, as it were. Not schismatics or fundamentalists — who feel that they must break away from the larger church in order to hold the "true" vision — but loyal critics. Martin Luther called such groups the "ecclesiola in ecclesia" — the small church within the large.

Philocrites, Finke and Stark considered the Baptists to be largely successful at retaining their sect-like energy and commitment, avoiding the transition to church-like coziness. Full-time episcopal clergy seems to be the key factor. They saw the development of local unit clergy in Methodism as the primary explanation for its transition to a more church-like orientation. Incidentally, there were only one or two comments about Mormonism in the entire book--they focused elsewhere. The comments on Mormonism are my application of their argument, not their commentary on Mormonism, but it is pretty clear how they would see it, I think.

Mormonism, lacking a professional clergy, thus avoids one of the primary sources of pressure to accomodate. Furthermore, there really isn't much of a "little church" within Mormonism. Even if there was, there is simply no practical avenue for any reform agenda to have its voice heard. Within Mormonism, any voice for reform is almost automatically self-marginalizing. One can debate, of course, whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I'd add that unlike many churches, the Mormon view of prophesy allows "revolutions" to take place under the direction of the president. Of course one could well argue that in this last century, most of those directions came after society at large had already changed. (i.e. blacks and the priesthood) However I think the combination of of that ability to radically transform oneself on a dime (i.e. Utah in the 1890's) combined with the strong emphasis on personal revelation will keep us from becoming "church-like." Admittedly the last 15 years has seen an emphasis on accommodation, possibly leading to declines in growth. But I think there were some good reasons for that and that we'll see other trends now.

Clark, on a different scale I would see the long period under Heber J. Grant through David O. McKay as one in which the Church moved in a general way in the direction of accommodation, certainly trying to ease tension between the LDS community and American government and society.

Since Joseph Fielding Smith, however, there has been a string of conservative leaders who are more inclined to maintain tension, feeling accommodation has gone far enough (and they may be right). Of course, the growth and increasing presence and influence of the Church on the national stage means we are carving out our own cultural space, a development of only the last ten or fifteen years. I think we are decreasing tension by making our own culture and slowly spreading it, not an option discussed or even considered by Finke and Stark.


I'm interested in your last sentence. It seems to me that "making our own culture and spreading it" would only decrease the tension with outside culture to the extent that the Mormon culture is continuous with outside culture. Or are you saying that Mormon insularity reduces the contact points, and therefore the friction, with the outside world?

Greg, reading Stark I get the idea that they see sect congregation members as having a rather stark encounter with secular society (at schools, the workplace, civil institutions) and that it is pretty much entirely on society's terms. I think it's different for Mormonism: (1) because of Utah and the Mormon corridor, where a geographical concentration of LDS members makes for a friendlier environment; (2) schools, workplace, and civil institutions are often full of other LDS members in that region, again reducing tension; (3) outside the corridor, being a Mormon (at school, at the workplace, in government) is not an issue and in some cases is viewed postively. I wouldn't call all of this "insularity," just an advantage of geographical concentration (in Utah), strong growth, and a good public image. All this works to minimize the tension Stark sees as motivating accommodation.

Of course, "accommodation" is a broad term. My take on it is that apart from the 1890 polygamy change and the 1978 priesthood change, the Church simply isn't inclined to accommodate. Quick examples: (1) BYU still won't play on Sundays, period. (2) BYU students and faculty encounter increased, rather than reduced, scrutiny. (3) The few ecumenical moves the Church makes are done largely on LDS terms--there is no felt need to cozy up to mainline denominations or join their councils. (4) There is little voicing by either local leaders or members for a move toward a lower commitment approach to church life, which was part of the sect-to-church transition in other denominations.

Stark identified groups in the other denominations who wanted accommodation and moved their sects in that direction. I just don't see any group within Mormonism that desires much accommodation. There isn't much dissatisfaction. Note that I'm being descriptive here--I'm not suggesting that there should be LDS dissatisfaction, just contrasting the LDS experience with Stark's view which sees a sect-to-church transition as one that happens naturally and almost inevitably.

Dave I tend to agree with you regarding Pres. Grant and the movement of correlation which continued up through Pres. Hinkley. From one perspective Pres. Hinkley's actions (which I hasten to add I support) aren't that radical. Yet from an other they were. Certainly older 19th century doctrines and speculation were downplayed if not repressed starting with Pres. Woodruff. However there was much more of a break with Pres. Grant. Yet, we still had a fairly distinctive religion, if not quite as objectionable as under Brigham Young. With Pres. Hinkley though, instead of emphasizing our differences, we started emphasizing our common ground. Often that emphasis actually became somewhat misleading. (I think here of books like How Wide the Divide or Pres. Hinkley's infamous Time interview)

While I agree to a point about a stronger emphasis on morality and dietary rules, I'd note that such rules and emphasis are fairly common among many sects. Indeed many are far harsher than our own. (Thinking here of groups like the Church of the Nazarene or some of the Cambellite sects) Thus the difference isn't between Mormons and other conservative forms of Christianity but between Mormons and what is viewed as secular society in general. Yet it seems the real issue is how groups like the Assemblies of God are growing so much faster than us, and do so often because if anything there are more issues separating them from the secular society than there is between us and secular society.

Once again I note that I don't in the least criticize Pres. Hinkley for his actions. Indeed I tend to think them a necessary step in our maturity. However I'll lay pretty good odds that the next active president or figure in the church has a different emphasis.

In Utah, though, Mormonism isn't in any way a sect. It is very much a church with all the senses of accommodation and worldly involvement that might (and do) make sectarians squirm. Mormon congregational, stake, and general authority leadership ranks are drawn overwhelmingly from the business class; the Church functions partly as a for-profit corporation; the political structures in the state maintain a rather thinly disguised religious partisanship. Sure, the state itself may behave like a sect with regard to broader American culture, but this doesn't seem to be quite what the authors you cite have in mind.

In Protestant history, sects are voluntary associations — people join in adulthood as an act of withdrawal or renunciation of the world — whereas churches are more involuntary and cultural (think Church of England in the 17th century or Roman Catholicism in many places of the world even today). Mormonism shows some of the attributes that H. Richard Niebuhr characterized as "Christ against Culture" (see Christ and Culture), but it also behaves as the most pervasive influence in its own cultural sphere. What is God's and what is Caesar's in Utah? I mean this as a positive analogy, since it struck me so frequently when I was at Harvard Divinity School, but Mormonism in Utah seems almost as culturally significant as Puritanism in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (a group whose history really does intrigue me) — and confronted with the same basic problem: What happens when a sectarian movement suddenly arrives in a place where it makes the rules and shapes the culture and is no longer confronted by the accommodationist churches it sprang up to oppose? The sect becomes a church becomes the culture.

These comments aren't meant to be negative, and I hope they don't come across that way. I simply think that contemporary Mormonism already shows very striking signs of what Weber called rationalization and bureaucratization; what Niebuhr called "the Christ of Culture"; and, from what I gather of Dave's post, what Fink and Starke would call "church" rather than "sect" characteristics. That's what fascinates me about Dave's observation: "there is simply no practical avenue for any reform agenda to have its voice heard." The single best thing about liberal, modern culture is its capacity for self-criticism, its impulse towards reform. Mormon culture needs its own varieties of reform, even if they look nothing like Protestantism or secular liberalism, because without them, the self-critical function is assigned to the hierarchy — an arrangement that history has shown to be rather unfruitful.

Philocrites, might this explain the rather stated "divide" in Utah between Mormons and non-Mormons? (An unfortunate one quite regularly) I think Mormons, even in Utah, do not see themselves as you describe. Of course I don't think that entirely accurate. But the history of Utah, which still affects the mindset here, suggests this divide is always present.

I do agree with bueaucratization though, but at the same time there is still a very strong charismatic styled aspect to the church as well. (i.e. direct action via personal revelation and a strong emphasis on this)

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