Cadence Woodland, writing for the New York Times, believes that the “Mormon Moment” — the wave of popular interest in the Church that included Mitt Romney‘s run for the presidency and The Book of Mormon musical — is finally ending. She says the Church is to blame for that by missing a valuable opportunity to capitalize on all the attention by righting its wrongs.
When they had the chance to reach out to LGBT individuals, Mormons supported Prop 8.
When they had the chance to reach out to women, Mormon leaders excommunicated Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly.
When they had the chance to reach out to African-Americans, they banned black men from the priesthood until 1978.
When everyone was watching, Church leaders did what churches leaders do: They became more exclusive and intolerant.
The church will continue to lose members like me until it realizes that messages about diversity and inclusion are hollow when excommunication and censorship are the responses to dissent. While the church invests in missionary work, especially overseas, an unwelcoming posture is likely to hinder its growth.
The true legacy of the Mormon Moment might just be that the church was given the chance that many religious institutions desperately need to stay relevant in the 21st century: the opportunity to open itself to criticism and inquiry. The church has chosen not to. And it has killed its own moment by doing so.
Mormons aren’t alone in screwing up their golden opportunity.
We live in a culture divided on social issues that shouldn’t be divisive at all. Opening up marriage to gays and lesbians? Easy call. Giving women the full range of options during a pregnancy? Obvious. In both of those cases (and so many others), the most powerful religious institutions in the world refused to lead the path forward. They chose bigotry and control over tolerance and freedom.
For all the power evangelical Christians, Southern Baptists, the Catholic Church, and the Mormons have today, can you imagine how much more they would have if they supported marriage equality and abortion rights a decade or two ago? Instead, their own actions have forced young people to leave the institutions, drop their religious labels, and search for more welcoming communities.
Woodland is upset about that. She shouldn’t be. She did herself a favor by leaving a Church that shows no desire to improve. If more people followed suit, maybe these institutions would finally rethink their policies.