We’ve all seen the changes. Two hour church. High Priests don’t meet separately. No more Scouts. Come Follow Me. Etc., etc., etc. Anyone with a serious continuing connection to the Church is still adjusting. And those adjustments include adjustments to our culture.
You’ve probably seen the changes in culture. They include changes to our terminology (“ministering”, “come follow me”), changes in how we structure our lives (“two hour church”, home-based study and study groups) and changes to the cultural goods we consume (podcasts, YouTube videos).
During my life the culture associated with the Church had already changed markedly before the most recent changes. The roadshows, bazaars and theater, the sports competitions and blue and gold balls, the Relief Society magazine of my youth are gone, along with many other things. How I act as a Church member now is radically different than what was normal then.
With all of this, I wonder how the role of culture has changed and should change. In my view culture is an extremely important part of any organization. We rely on culture to allow members to express their feelings about the church and their place in it and the world. Our culture gives others signals about whether we are part of the community or not. Culture fills in our experience between ritual and meeting. It is present in how we try to accomplish our religion. And sometimes it even limits and thwarts what the plain text of our teachings would have us do.
I realize this is a big question. It’s complicated by our relationships with the Church itself and our understanding of what is permissible. There are some cultural expressions that aren’t acceptable, while others are encouraged. Many church members are uncomfortable with culture that they don’t believe has been approved by the Church or doesn’t come through a church-owned source.
Fortunately, culture isn’t always something that is decided by authorities and transmitted to members. It is more often the collective and generally unintentional decisions of everyone in the group. In a very real sense, we decide on our culture.
So, what should our culture look like?