This is the third post in my series: Understanding John Dehlin’s Uncorrelated Mormon Movement. This post is not endorsed by John Dehlin and is my own opinion.
Correlated or orthodox Mormonism has three myths that feed and sustain it.
The first myth is that correlated Mormonism is the only truth that exists. Because of this, the beliefs and perceptions of alternate views – perhaps especially uncorrelated Mormonism– are seen as wrong (bad, misguided, dangerous, etc.)
This myth is damaging in two ways. It limits Mormons who want to explore their own perceptions and it limits others who want to learn from them.
Many uncorrelated Mormons may have heard these words: “You don’t understand what is true, you can’t change the truth,” implying that the correlated Mormon view of the world is all knowledgeable about truth and always “right”. Uncorrelated Mormons might be told that they are not doing it “right” (the church lesson, the blog post, the talk, parenting, etc).
Correlated Mormonism is not reality. It is a reality, but it is not the reality, and uncorrelated Mormons have a reality of their own that is just as legitimate. Neither is necessarily the reality. When one version of reality is set up as being the only true reality, however, and the other is dismissed as bad, misguided or wrong, then no one is free to explore the possibilities inherent in other realities.
The uncorrelated Mormon world view is not all good nor all bad nor the same for everyone. There are also many other belief systems/world views that have some good and some bad. It is good to know about as many as you can to get a better concept of choice. The more systems of belief you understand the more choices you have. Over time, perhaps, more new-and better-systems of belief, models, and alternatives will emerge.
There may be one true reality somewhere, but it has not yet been demonstrated that correlated Mormonism can claim it. If we were all given the opportunity to seek out and study other realities, we might come closer to understanding one another. The myth which states that there is one and only one reality limits our search for others.
Since correlated Mormonism is so thoroughly convinced that it is the only thing that exists in the world, or in other words, once someone is sure that the way in which he (or she) sees the world is the way things are, then he (or she) perceives any difference of opinion as threatening. This results in a closed system and a rigid approach to life in which all differences must be discounted, disparaged, or destroyed. No one is allowed to explore them or use them as opportunities for new growth because their very existence jeopardizes the most basic myth of the correlated or orthodox Mormon system – that it is the right and only way of life without which there would be nothing.
The second myth is that the correlated Mormon view is innately superior. At some level, correlated Mormonism has recognized in spite of itself that other realities exist. It has gone on to define itself as superior while simultaneously believing that it is the only true reality. Anyone who does not belong to this system is by definition innately inferior. Many correlated Mormons would deny the existence of this belief. Yet to challenge or doubt it is akin to heresy: it is a sacred given.
The third myth in correlated Mormonism is that correlated Mormons have the true answers for the rest of the world. Inside the correlated Mormon system is also a belief that priesthood appointed men have the answers for women, or in other words men must counsel women and never the other way around. This is why correlated Mormon women look to priesthood males for advice and direction (home teachers, bishop, stake president) and men never get personal counsel from Mormon women leaders. Both sexes genuinely believe that correlated Mormon men should and do have the answers for the world and for the women inside the church system. The latter is directly related to sex-role stereotyping. A stereotype is no more than a definition of one group of persons by another who wishes to control it. Stereotypes support correlated Mormonism. On the other hand, uncorrelated Mormonism supports equality.
Living according to these myths of correlated Mormonism can mean living in ignorance. For example, the only way to maintain the myth of knowing and understanding everything is to ignore a whole universe of other information. When one clings to the myth of innate superiority, one must constantly overlook the virtues and wisdom of others.
Nevertheless, the mere thought that these myths might not be truisms terrifies correlated Mormons. Many correlated Mormons have an overwhelming need to hold on to this sense of superiority and the conviction that they know and understand the way things should be. Second, is the fear that if this turned out not to be true, the only alternative is meaninglessness (to be like everyone else!). This reveals the dualistic thinking inherent in correlated Mormonism. Things have to be either this way or that. What a horrible option! How limiting and exhausting. It is an assumption that it is the only way the world can be- the way correlated Mormons see it. If it suddenly became different then chaos would reign. It is easy to see why correlated Mormons would be frightened by this. To avoid this dreadful possibility, correlated Mormonism must defend itself at all costs and can not risk exploring other alternatives.
It is important for Mormons and others to understand how deeply the belief system of correlated Mormonism is and how frightening it is to have it challenged.
The myth is that correlated Mormons know more, but the truth is that uncorrelated Mormons do. Uncorrelated Mormons have knowledge on their side. This is because ucorrelated Mormons have learned all about correlated Mormonism, either because they used to be correlated or because they have had to learn it in order to get along in their Mormon culture or family. Uncorrelated Mormons are also usually uncorrelated for intellectual reasons. It is a place that they have arrived at after intense study of Mormonism. Most correlated Mormons know nothing about uncorrelated Mormonism. They often limit their study to “approved” resources which does not give a clear view of the whole picture.
It would be great if correlated Mormons would seek to learn from uncorrelated Mormons, but it has not generally happened, nor is it likely to happen. Correlated Mormons are not required to learn about uncorrelated Mormonism in order to survive in the Mormon culture, so there is little motivation.
Teaching a correlated Mormon about any belief system different than his own can be extraordinarily difficult. Even if this Mormon is open to learning about other realities, he or she must constantly do battle with her own feelings of superiority and the confidence of already knowing and understanding everything already. These myths go deep into the core of most Mormons and are not easily overcome. It requires superhuman effort and enormous commitment on both sides.
References will be given at the end of the series.