Here is a summary of comparative points between Reform Mormonism and the LDS. In using the acronym “LDS” we mean “Latter-Day Saints,” and are referring specifically to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Reform Mormonism is a progression beyond LDS Mormonism and early Mormonism.
|LDS View||Reform Mormonism View|
|The LDS tend to take a literal approach to scripture, religious history, sociology, and theological concepts. Examples: Joseph Smith possessed gold plates, the Garden of Eden actually existed, the earth is 6,000 years old, etc.||Reform Mormons do not take a literal approach to scripture, myth, or theological concepts. Our belief is that literalism tends to make continued exploration more difficult, thereby slowing progression. We examine scripture, myth and theological concepts for knowledge that can enhance our progression through life, and understanding of our lives.|
|The LDS take the orthodox christian approach to authority; that it is necessary, instituted and sanctioned. Authority is transferred by ordination and specific actions sanctioned by the granting of “keys” from higher authorities.||Reform Mormons take a more Gnostic approach to authority; that authority already rests within the individual, and that authority as it is instituted in the hierarchies of religious organizations is for the purposes of the organization, not the purposes of God. In Reform Mormonism, ordination is used as a ritual to aide in mutual understanding of a role. No one “gives” you authority from God – you already have it. Reform Mormons tend to be skeptical of people who claim they have more authority than another.|
|The LDS view obedience as the “first law of the gospel.” Eternal and temporal rewards are granted by God based upon obedience to specific laws upon which the rewards are predicated. Great emphasis is placed on obeying the laws that church leaders have given.||Reform Mormonism does not accept the concept that God has instituted or administers a law/reward system, and views the existing systems as man-made attempts to guide people into better ways of living (although, in many cases, the arbitrary nature of the selected laws can create living conditions much worse than intended or would have naturally resulted.) In most cases where laws, rules, sin, and absolution are involved in religious teachings, we often find that the purpose is to create followers and maintain a power structure.|
|Morality and Accountability|
|The LDS view “morality” as a sexual code, and have specific laws to which obedience is required; failure to comply with the laws results in separation from God and the Church.||Reform Mormons believe in living moral and accountable lives, but do not subscribe to the idea of “morality” as merely a sexual code. To Reform Mormons, moral behavior is when an individual acts in harmony with their moral construct; the building of one’s moral construct is one of the purposes of life, and is different for each individual, based upon their progression. Reform Mormons also believe in living accountably; that is, we accept the consequences of our actions. We don’t believe in offloading the consequences of our behaviors on other people.|
|The LDS recognize two types of revelation. First is a personal revelation, given from God, through the Holy Ghost, directly to an individual. This revelation is specifically limited to the individual’s areas of responsibility as defined within the hierarchies of the Church organization. Second is revelation from God to the President of the Church, for the purposes of leading the organization. The second type of revelation occurred during the days of Joseph Smith as God supposedly appearing to Smith in person. Current LDS leaders report that modern revelation is a “warm feeling.”
|Reform Mormons believe in revelation as the opportunity to commune with God, and for most Reform Mormons, this is an internal endeavor. It can occur in a variety of ways. It is highly personal, and is initiated, understood, and improved throughout one’s life by the knowledge one acquires by making decisions and dealing with the consequences. Revelation is not limited or restricted based on a hierarchy or concepts such as “worthiness.” The goal of this communion is increased wisdom.
|History and Tradition|
|The LDS have a rich, modern history, and have co-opted many ancient religious traditions. Their traditions include many social routines, myths, and rituals. The LDS view some rituals as obedience issues (required actions necessary for “exaltation”.) Leadership of the LDS church discourages aggressive historical or intellectual inquiry, viewing it as “non-faith affirming.”||Reform Mormons share the modern history of Mormonism. Though not as socially structured as the LDS church, we have our own routines and myths. Our rituals are designed for personal edification and progression, built upon Mormon tradition, and are not compulsory or viewed as required insofar as God or our progression are concerned. We view all historical and intellectual inquiry as desirable and welcome. We believe faith is enhanced by a full exploration of truths from all sources. We believe that all facts and theories are valuable, and deserving of examination.|
|Salvation and Exaltation|
|The LDS believe that God has instituted a grand design which they refer to as the “Plan of Salvation.” The plan is complex and the details of the plan are explored elsewhere on other sites (here is a good example.) The Plan includes the concept of eternal progression, which is the idea that there is a part of human beings that has always existed and will continue to exist forever (beyond time.) Most LDS adherence to laws is based upon the concept that while “salvation” (existence beyond this life) is granted to everyone, “exaltation” (the opportunity to become as God is now) is granted only to those who have obeyed a variety of laws. Ultimately, there are six different places one could wind up in the afterlife.||Reform Mormons believe in the concepts of eternity (beyond time) and eternal progression (we have always existed, and we will always exist.) We believe that there are several purposes for existence on this earth, and that one of the primary purposes is to gain knowledge; we value the idea of knowledge acquisition because we believe it enhances our current experience and our attempts to progress, and that the process of learning is training ground for further progression after this life. We believe that many people squander their opportunity to gather knowledge in this life, to their detriment. We believe that progression is an unstoppable force, but that many things in life can slow it down, so we try to avoid those things. We don’t believe in convoluted progression systems with multiple heavens, viewing the various ones that exist as people’s attempts to reconcile a variety of scripture taken too literally.|
|The LDS are well known for fostering an environment where traditional families are prioritized and valued. LDS ritual involves ceremonies designed to consecrate familiar relationships. Families are defined as a father, mother, and children – all three elements essential. Families outside of this definition are not as highly valued. Some social movements (feminism, homosexuality) are considered to be family-destructive, and the Church views political action to stop the progress of these movements to be acceptable, and engages in it routinely, using the contributions of its members in political efforts, and encouraging its members to be politically active against these movements.||Reform Mormons consider the family to be the basic building-block of society. We view non-traditional families with the same importance as traditional ones, and within our rituals consecrate a wide variety of familiar structures. We do not view feminism and homosexuality as anathema to families; indeed, most families already contain these elements, and failure to recognize this creates hatred and animosity where none need exist. We view political activity by religious institutions valid insofar as their attempts to remain viable and legitimate within society are concerned; we do not condone or support Church-based political activity designed to influence laws outside of this concern. We view most political activity of the LDS church designed to influence discrimination against women and homosexuals as extremely misguided and damaging to families and society.|
|The LDS consider their Church to be the “one true church,” and that all other churches may have elements of truth within them, but do not posses the complete truth which the LDS alone posses. For this reason, the LDS are engaged in aggressive missionary work, to attract and convert as many people as possible. Their Plan of Salvation calls for the ultimate presentation of the Church’s doctrines to everyone, regardless of when they lived; also for this reason, they conduct proxy ordinances in their temples for deceased individuals.||Reform Mormons consider truth to be an assessment of things as they are at a given moment in time. Truth is individually understood, not provided from a Church, and as such, declaration of another individual’s religious pursuits as invalid, incomplete, or untrue, is ridiculous. Diversity within religious pursuit offers a variety of individual progression opportunities (new knowledge) that exist only due to that diversity; conversion of all individuals to a singular religious view and approach would suggest the ultimate destruction or elimination of other views, and as such, acts as a barrier to knowledge acquisition. We value all of the religions of the world, including the LDS, and seek to explore and learn from the mysteries and knowledge they each contain, but we do not view any one church as completely true or more true than another. We do not seek the conversion of everyone to our point of view. Therefore, we do not conduct proxy ordinances for the deceased (although we do repeat ritual in the interest of the personal edification of the living.) We tend to be skeptical of anyone or anything that claims to have a greater understanding of the truth than anyone else.|
|Church Structure and Purpose|
|The LDS do not view their theology or philosophy and their church administration with any distinction; both are viewed as inseparably connected, just as the Catholic Church. The LDS Church is hyper-organized and “correlated,” with little toleration for doctrinal variances. Speaking publicly of theology not sanctioned by Church administration can result in disciplinary action; the Church performs disfellowshipment and excommunication proceedings (whereby “all blessings of the Gospel are lost”) on a routine basis. Such action is usually perceived by the disciplined member as being cut-off from not only the Church, but their tradition, history, potential exaltation, and connection to God.||Reform Mormonism views the Church as an entity distinct from one’s philosophy and theology. While the LDS organization is very “top-down,” similar to a business organizational chart, the Reform Mormon approach is “bottom-up,” with no controlling hierarchy. We believe any church organization should be organized for the specific purpose of supporting the individual in their quest for progression enhancement; as such, Reform Mormonism does not posses the ability (or desire) to conduct disciplinary actions. One leaves Reform Mormonism when one chooses to leave it; it is not up to the Church to make this decision. One’s connection to God is influenced by each individual’s progression; separation from God is illusory; control of one’s destiny is not in the hands of an organization, and we encourage everyone to resist mentally handing it over to an organization of any kind.|
|The act of converting to the LDS church involves religious instruction (known as “the discussions,” usually presented by LDS missionaries) followed by worthiness interviews with ecclesiastical leaders. The interview ascertains if the individual has cleansed themselves of moral sins, and determines if the individual has developed a “testimony” of Joseph Smith and the truthfulness of the LDS church adequate to warrant initiation. If the result is positive, the individual is administered the ritual of baptism by immersion, regardless if a baptism in another religion has already been performed. An initiate is then “confirmed” a member of the Church.||A Reform Mormon becomes a Reform Mormon by electing to be one, and declaring the affiliation. There are no formal instructions, interviews, or rituals for a person to become a Reform Mormon. If you’ve decided you’re a “Reform Mormon,” then you are one.|