The questions naturally arise: if I no longer believe in the foundational truth claims espoused by the LDS church hierarchy, why do I maintain my membership in the organization and why do I continue to be active in the church? Why not stop attending or resign my membership?
I am a New Order Mormon because while I do not take Mormon mythology literally and I have no desire to send my hard-earned money to Salt Lake City to be used for the latest church real-estate project, I do find value in some of the church’s teachings and the opportunity for service to others that the church structure provides. I also enjoy for the most part going to church on Sundays and participating (on my own terms) in my local ward. I am fond of and respect the folks in my ward. My wife is a believing member and at this point I think it best for my family to remain united in our religious practice, even if not in our religious beliefs. And it is my considered judgment (for the time being at any rate) that the church experience for my children is, on balance, more positive than negative. Should events conspire to change the balance of that equation, I will certainly reconsider the level of church participation in which I would be willing to engage. For now, having an outlet on the Internet to share my thoughts and ideas on the church, its history, doctrines, and practices, is my personal shield of sanity.
I also believe that although the church does not respect members with ideas like mine, the church has shown a capacity to change in the past, and it may change in the future if enough skeptical or liberal members remain active in the church. I am aware of the argument that the church will only change its doctrine and practices when pressured from outside. I am inclined to disagree. I think the church changes when pressure is applied both from without and within. The extension of priesthood to all males in 1978 is a case in point. The church had been receiving enormous pressure from the outside for the better part of two decades but would not give in. It finally yielded when the pressure from within reached a tipping point—the church was having great difficulty finding leaders in South America and Africa; it was a victim of its own missionary success. In a similar vein, pressure from outsiders who write histories or perform DNA analyses of Native Americans will not have an impact on the Brethren until and unless the general lay membership begin to accept these ideas and begin to feel comfortable expressing them in church. If all liberal members leave the fold, there will remain only a cadre of “true believers.” On the other hand, if true-believers-turned-New-Order-Mormons like me remain active in the church, perhaps slowly other like-minded individuals will feel there is a place for them in the church after all.
Of course, I pretend to no delusions about being able to change the church single-handedly, nor am I sure how active I would remain in the church were my family not attached to the church. I respect those who make the choice to distance themselves from the church and I respect those disbelievers who, because of the church’s collectivist culture, attend church but remain silent. They fear the reprisals that occasionally are meted out against those who express heretical views in church. I respect also those who believe the church in its current form presents a hazard to their own emotional, spiritual, or psychological well-being, or who believe the church may be harmful to their family’s health. I am, for now, determined to chart a difficult course—to be true to my principles and beliefs as a New Order Mormon while simultaneously avoiding the wrath of the church's McCarthyites who seem to gravitate to positions of authority in the organization.