The Church in 20 Years

December 14, 2009
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Where do you see the Church in 20 years?  Today’s guest post is by David Heap.19 predictions about the church 20 years from now:

  1. probably Elder Oaks or Elder Holland will be, or will have been,president by then.
  2. I hope, by that time, the Lord will have seen fit to call one or two non-caucasians to the 12.
  3. Some sermons in conference will be given in a non-English language, with simultaneous translation available for English speakers.
  4. The Church will have, in some way, formally disavowed teachings on the curse of Cain/Ham and any teaching that the practice of withholding priesthood/temple on the basis of lineage/race had its origins before the Restoration.
  5. There will be a continued outreach to the GLBT community. While the Church will not recognize or perform same sex marriages, it may well permit GLBT individuals in a committed monogamous union to retain their formal membership, but not attend the temple or exercise the priesthood (sort of like the Church’s current position on those who have undergone”elective” transsexual surgery and who join the Church or who are rebaptized).
  6. Some sort of initiative will address the problem of excluding nonmember parents from weddings of their children when those weddings take place in the temple. My guess is that the automatic one year wait rule will be softened to accommodate those faithful members who wish their parents to witness the “for time” portion of the ceremony.
  7. Women will be invited to offer open and/or closing prayers in general conference. A woman will be appointed as president of at least one of the Church universities.
  8. The teaching and practice of women being permitted to join with their husbands in blessing their sick children will again officially become permitted and/or encouraged.
  9. The weekly priesthood executive committee will be expanded to include the RS president and YW president. Presidents of auxiliaries will be referred to as “President”.
  10. Another attempt at simplifying Church programs will occur. The three hour block may be reduced to two and one-half hours. It is possible that priesthood/relief society and Sunday School will be held on alternate Sundays.
  11. Small Church post-secondary colleges may be established in Mexico, Brazil, the Philipines, and Chile. The tithing subsidy for tuition at the BYU campuses in the U.S. might be reduced to provide a similar subsidy to students at the non-U.S. campuses. Alternatively, the BYU campuses might be spun off entirely, in the same way the Church hospitals were. They would remain LDS in focus, but without the tithing subsidy. Or, if that does not occur, then greater equality of US and nonUs members might be attained by a greater subsidy to PEF out of tithing, in the same manner the Church universities are subsidized.
  12. Small temples will continue to be built throughout the world, perhaps reaching 200 or 250 temples.
  13. Missionaries will be permitted to teach in China and in many parts of the Middle East. The Church will strengthen its ties to Islamic countries and representatives. For the first time since the Church was established in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, there will be a serious and significant increase in conversions in that country.
  14. The birthrate of LDS in the US will increase slightly, but not return to baby boom levels. Divorce rates will stabilize or drop somewhat.
  15. As the baby boom retires, the number of senior missionaries will increase significantly, however, the relative proportion of members serving missions will remain steady. If Church membership of record increases to 20 million (about 50%), then the number of full the full time missionaries serving at that time will also increase about 50% (to 80,000 or 90,000).
  16. The Church will once again begin making occasional disclosures of its finances.
  17. Retention levels will continue a slow increase. Addiction recovery programs meetings (including pornography addiction support groups) will be part of this growth in retention, helping new converts (or lapsed members) address pernicious addictions in a safe, supportive environment, to return to complete spiritual health.
  18. There will continue to be a strengthened emphasis on the Book of Mormon, and its teachings of gospel fundamentals such as God’s grace, free moral agency, redemption, and forgiveness. Further discouragement of the use of guilt as a motivator, and greater use of support and positive encouragement.
  19. The Proclamation on the Family may become section 132, and the current section 132 will either be removed entirely (like the Lectures on Faith) or will be added as an historical footnote (like the footnote at the end of Joseph Smith-History).

So, these are my predictions for the church in the next 20 years.  What are your predictions?  Which of my predictions do you think unlikely?  Which do you think will happen?  Discuss.

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29 Responses to The Church in 20 Years

  1. Peter
    December 14, 2009 at 3:11 am

    Well, where to start. Amazingly and noticeably I have a different response to the 20 years thing. In a vacuum and backwards, it may make sense, your list, but let us take into consideration the implications of imploding globalism, the declining state of the American standard, the economic malaise that is looking to get much worse, political polarization, and the rising conservative-oriented third world. Given these assumptions, my revised list may look as such:

    1. According to recent Salon magazine article, the Church maybe a mountain state empire that governs the nation as an America Vatican if the nation cannot hold itself afloat. The Church may pick up the cultural steam regionally, and thus, represent the cultural power of America. This bodes more on line of the apocalyptic version espoused by the church founders than the integrated progressive system that seem more prevalent today and on many cultural Mormon blogs. And yes, one of those brethren will most likely be the prophet, David A Bednar is my prediction.

    2. Yes, there will be non-Caucasians. In fact, I think most will be Latin American by then.

    3. English will still be the official language

    4. The black/priesthood thing will have quietly become a non-issue

    5. The gay/lesbian/transgender fight will be over. The political force behind it will have collapsed with the decentralization of the United States. Homosexuality will be depoliticized and more understood. The environmental issues that may have contributed to this kind of behavior (food, bad water, etc.) will be exposed without threat of political ostracism. We will have gays and lesbians who are more open about changing orientation, a full expose on the political machinations of the APA in the 1970′s, and more fluidity in sexuality. The “born that way” concept will have had a short political life, and we will see treatment, as well as more tolerance, of those that “chose” the lifestyle. There will be more parsing of those that “are” homosexual, and those that practice the behavior through non-orientation purposes, such as sexual addiction. Consequently, the Church will still admonish people to enter into monogamous heterosexual relationship in the temple. We will just have a better way of administering to the spiritual needs of these folks without the complications of the social political movements that use them.

    6-8. I could concur with any of these. Marriage and women issues have always been more fluid with the Church that people think. Who knows where it will go.

    I also predict that the Church will be more involved in a regional government of some sort from the Mountain States, but that is influence will be mostly felt in Latin America. America will not be powerful as it once was. The world political situation will be dominated by Russia/China/India and their allies.

    The Church will have bought properties in Missouri and will be constructing there, possibly a temple.

    Polygamy may return, although not in the same way it was here with Brigham Young. It will be a welfare program.

    As the world economy falters further, the Church will experiment with cooperatives again, kibbutz’s, and profit sharing in order to get back to the fundamentals of economic consecration.

    The church will actually retain less in the next ten years as things fall apart, but will explode in growth in the Latin American and Easter European countries soon after that.

    Cultural and ideological ties between Israel will increase. Latter-day Saint stakes and wards will be prevalent in the Middle East and Israel.

  2. Dan
    December 14, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Peter,

    I also predict that the Church will be more involved in a regional government of some sort from the Mountain States, but that is influence will be mostly felt in Latin America. America will not be powerful as it once was. The world political situation will be dominated by Russia/China/India and their allies.

    Just a few points to make here.

    1. America’s power. Currently the United States military spends more than the rest of the world combined on its military. Russia has no ability to come close to matching that in 20 years. China has no ability to come close to matching that in 20 years. Neither does India.

    2. China might surpass the United States on the economic front, but it’s economy is tied strongly to the fate of America. Even the American debt China currently holds in its banks. It actually cannot use that much as a leverage against America because of how much the rest of China’s economy is at the hands of American consumers.

    3. As a good indicator for the next 20 years in the realm of international politics, consider the last 20 years. Since the Berlin Wall fell down, the international scene has been surprisingly stable. Honestly, the only thing that could frighten away other nations from America, and push them into the hands of the Chinese, is if America elects another George W Bush type who uses reckless militarism around the world. That is what lowers America’s projection of actual power.

    4. Russia, China, and India are generally highly distrustful of one another. They see each other as competitors as much as we see them as competitors. It will be indeed a very interesting relationship to watch.

    5. Barack Obama’s shift to Asian politics over European politics shows the fact that he and his staff realize that the real power in the world has shifted away from Europe, at least until Europe gets its act together and acts as one continent. That may happen in 20 years, but it is not a good predictable item.

    ….

    as for the church. In 20 years I see little change.

  3. Coffinberry
    December 14, 2009 at 8:27 am

    1. A new hymnbook and children’s songbook… more hymns/songs that originate in Spanish sweep the Church as a whole and are translated to English.

    2. Missionary corps (perhaps senior couples) trained in parenting and childrearing skills, teaching these things to community members in general.

    3. Adoption of the BSA Venturing program for the MiaMaid & Laurels. (ok, I can wish, can’t I???)

  4. December 14, 2009 at 8:56 am

    1. You may be right or wrong, who knows.
    2. I assume likewise, that there will be non-caucasians. Seeing how many Latinos there are in the 70, I’d expect to see a few of them in 20 years. It’s not so long since the first non-US citizen was called.
    3. I would not be surprised to see the Church headquartered in somewhere else than SLC, or even US.
    4. I could see that the lineage issue could fade, but I can’t see how “withholding priesthood/temple on the basis of lineage/race had its origins before the Restoration” could be revised. After all, Jewish priesthood/temple rights were based on a very limited lineage. So no, lineage was not invented in 19th century.
    5. I could see the GLBT issue being depoliticized, as well, but I can’t see the Law of Chastity being changed. I think gays will marry before sex outside marriage will be acceptable. Just my feeling about it, nothing more.
    6. Our son is being sealed to a young woman (in 3 days!), whose family is not LDS. We wish we could involve them (as well as our unendowed children) in the sealing more. As it is, we have them very close.
    7. I would think that giving priesthood blessings will be restricted to priesthood holders. Other blessings are different, though (for example, the gift of healing is a gift of the Spirit, and there is no given formula on how that should be performed, AFAIK).
    9. Quite possible.
    10. Ditto.
    11. Quite possibly the Church will continue to globalize despite what is fashionable/lucrative in the financial world.
    12. Quite possible.
    13. Ditto.
    14. Hopefully.
    15. I think that younger missionaries from outside North America could get more and more opportunities to serve. Depends on financial trends, too, I suppose.
    16. I hope so; it would kill some of the most outrageous rumors, although some will always suspect us of dishonesty.
    17. I could see that happening, based on what I see in Europe.
    18. Hopefully so.
    19. Section 132 is the foundation of the teaching of eternal families. Perhaps the Proclamation could substitute it, but it could also be added as a “qualifier/clarifier”?

    Something totally unexpected and unrelated to trends we can see now can happen. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we’d have a temple in what was the Soviet Empire so soon? Not me. I am of little faith, I suppose…

  5. December 14, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Dan,

    America’s power could wane. The Soviets spent quite a lot on their defence between 1950 and 1989, yet the empire collapsed, as it were, overnight. In hindsight, that was not neither as sudden or unpredictable. The Soviets spent themselves out of business.

    I can not see the U.S. keeping up the level of defence spending while the wealth keeps concentrating in ever fewer hands and the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the richest without having a popular revolt of the have-nots. So far, Americans have believed that all stand an equal chance. More and more people do not, and are beginning to realize that. If you have to work three jobs just to pay rent, it can be hard to dream about being a millionaire without getting an attack of “congnitive dissonance”.

  6. All Of The Gospel
    December 14, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Although I personally am not keen on some of the changes you predict, I can see them happening anyway.

    #6 – The Church will change this to be in line with most non-US countries, so that American LDS are not ‘disadvantaged’ when compared to their overseas counterparts (who can be civilly married and sealed within a few days of each other).

    #10 I am betting on a two hour block, with RS / PH just once a month, or combined in one class.

    #12 – Stake Center temples which run one day a week will become the norm for new temples in foreign countries, the Endowment will be further reduced in time and content.

    #15 – Church membership will flatten around 15 million – With many members (who were inactive anyways) reaching the age they are presumed dead taken off the records, many more inactive members seeking to have their names removed, and many less children being born to members I think the Church will show its first drop in numbers.

    I think that policies will be introduced to ensure better retention, but believe this is only truly possible with better prepared and qualified (and therefore less) missionaries.

    #18 – I wonder if we will see even some General Authorities who do not look upon the Book of Mormon as literal history.

    #19 – I think they will ‘split’ Section 132 – removing verses 27 onwards (saying they have been superseded), as well as adding the proclamation.

    I would add a few more -

    The important of General Authorities in the minds of members will diminish. Pressure from members on matters of policy will become stronger, and more influential.

    The idea that God was once a man, or that we can become Gods will be relegated completely to “just a theory”, with some even teaching it is incorrect doctrine.

  7. Cowboy
    December 14, 2009 at 10:35 am

    1 – Priesthood holders will start carrying lightsabers, each one color coded to indicate rank.

    2 – Satan will emerge as the all powerful Sith-Lord, and Barrack Obama will be a relic of the past, once powerful but ultimately defeated sith apprentice. The Democratic party will also be revealed a clone army controlled by the sith.

    In seriousness I expect Dan is right, in 20 years I’ll be surprised if 5% of that fantasy comes about.

  8. Hawkgrrrl
    December 14, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Great predictions, David! Not much to add. These are not that shocking, more like incremental shifts.

  9. Cowboy
    December 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I will retract my 5% take, and agree with Hawkgrrrl that most of this is just incremental shifts. However, fantasy still remains on points:

    4) – The Church has said about all it is going to say on this via Elder Holland. It may become more common place to hear Church leaders echo Elder Hollands statement, but this is the new PR statement. To escalate the matter any further by exploring the origins of the ban will diminish the role of Prophets. It is not going to happen, Church leaders (President Hinckley) has stated time and time again that the Church would just like to move past this issue, and that is what they will do.

    5) – LGBT issues: The Church will continue to be “nice” as they have recently done at the macro-social level, and one of two things will happen institutionally; a) They will maintain their policy as is and LGBT’s will continue to be unwelcome in the Church so long as they embrace their homosexuality/transgenderedness. b) The social demands and scientific support of LGB (I’m not sure about Transgenders here) legitimacy will be so overwhelming that the Church will buckle and change its policy, via revelation. At which point, LGB’s will be accepted into the Church more or less in full fellowship.

    6) It is very unlikely that the Church will remove the one year waiting period for those who choose to marry civilly first. I am unaware of any actions on the Church that indicate this as a future probability. It is wishful thinking only.

    7,8,9) While the Church does seem to be lightening up on womens issues, this is quite a stretch. 7) Women giving the opening or closing prayers at conference, mabey, but I think that part of what prohibits this is that usually they want face time for the General Authorities. 8) This one is an absolutely not. These issues are what distinguish the current Mormon Church from the former re-organized church. These fundemental differences in doctrine, even though there is historical support, are to volatile for the church to change. 9) The meetings perhaps, the council no. This has been, and will always be a patriarchal Church. It is intertwined into the doctrine, and again there is no indication that this happening beyond anything other than the social level. The Church has loosened it’s attack on working women, but it is not about to go ordaining them to the priesthood.

    13) China has actually been westernizing some as their economy has grown and become entangled with ours through debt and trade. As for the middle-east, not even close. It will be a long time before serious Christianizing can occur in any major Islamic nation.

    15) If the activity rate was proportional to the “growth” rate, perhaps.

    16) Over it’s dead body. In other words, only if they are forced and only 90% as specific as they are required to be.

    19) The PoC may find it’s way into the canon as an official declaration. Section 132 however is not going anywhere. Again, this would undermine not only Prophets, but THE Prophet Joseph Smith. The Modern Church would love nothing more than to put a bullett in the head of former polygamy, but it can’t do it without also shooting itself. Section 132 will remain in the Doctrine & Covenants and continue to be downplayed, only being quoted in hopskotch fashion that avoids specific polygamy references, etc. Elipses are the future of Priesthood manuals and Section 132.

    So, I guess that changes 5% to about 50%.

  10. Ray
    December 14, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Fwiw, the RS Pres already can attend PEC if invited by the Bishop. Making it official would require very little change in theory – especially with the recent addition to the official mission of the Church.

  11. Hawkgrrrl
    December 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    “Section 132 however is not going anywhere. Again, this would undermine not only Prophets, but THE Prophet Joseph Smith. The Modern Church would love nothing more than to put a bullett in the head of former polygamy, but it can’t do it without also shooting itself.” I agree that removing Sec. 132 is problematic, but not because of dismissing JS (King Follett’s been marginalized for eons). It’s because it’s already in the canon. Once something gets into the canon, it’s crystallized and considered “the word of God,” and removing it would open the floodgates (yet we acknowledge that the Bible does contain some errors, and it is canon). The only possible caveat is that it could be removed as being “no longer in effect” which is a kind of loophole that could be employed. And, that could happen. Will it? Not sure – since that IS the official party line anyway, it’s not like it’s a major change.

    From a scriptural perspective, I’d like to see some more open acknowledgement that it is not all literal and accurate (can’t be for those who have actually read it closely as some contradicts itself or known history). But I’d like to see that extend beyond the OT & NT to the potential that modern day scriptures contain human error. The BOM acknowledges that (its authors talk openly about their weaknesses & failings), but somehow we’ve gone from “the most correct book” (because of only having one human translator) to the notion of a perfect book dictated directly by God. That’s just not supported by the process as we know it, and it sets people up for false expectations to be dashed, IMO. Same for D&C, some of which is not even “revelation” as we know it but meeting notes.

  12. hamsy2000
    December 14, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Ya know, all of this is pretty much wishful thinking. I think the church will not change at any different rate than it did in the last 20 years. Except for having a German in the Fist Presidency, I don’t see anything much different than it was in 1989. I’m speaking of the structure, practices, and doctrines here, not the day-to-day operations such as temple building and missionary numbers.

    Qualifications for temple attendance will not substantially slacken. If anything, they may become more strict. (We may need pictures on our temple recommends.)

    These predictions may be more or less the way you think the church SHOULD change. I may be wrong, but I don’t think most of these changes will happen. Just my opinion, though.

  13. Cowboy
    December 14, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t know that the Church could pull it because of it no longer being in effect. Section 132 does not just mention polygamy/marriage as a matter of policy, but rather explains in detail the interrelationship between God’s covenants, the sealing power, and salvation. Taking it away would very much undermine Joseph Smith because the tone and language of section 132 goes far beyond routine sermonizing, but rather represents itself as the actual voice of the Lord. In it Joseph Smith has exaltation secured, and the Eternal law of polygamy are spelled out. It would be very difficult for the Church to write this one out chalking all up to human fallibility, inconsistencies nothwithstanding. Let’s face it, the explosive content of section 132 has been carefully avoided in talks and manuals for at least the last 15 – 20 years. Church leaders are already well aware of the controversey in this section, and would have gladly written it out years ago if they felt that such a mesure were viable.

  14. WMP
    December 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    20 years???? Wha?? We’ve got maybe 10 until the Millenium (or 2 of you believe themthere Mayans/Hollywood). After that, all bets are off … But I can guarantee there will be no more carpeted basketball courts, for they are of the devil.

  15. brjones
    December 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    #14 – We called our chapel the Carpet Palace, and it was the greatest basketball ever.

  16. December 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    5) LGBT issues: I think what will happen is that same-sex marriage will gradually become acceptable to a large majority of the population, and the church will face harsh criticism for its outdated policies. A decade or two after same-sex marriage has become legal nationwide, the church will cave in with a “revelation” allowing them to treat gay members like everyone else, i.e., allowing “chaste” singles and “faithful” marrieds full fellowship. But temple marriage will be restricted to heterosexuals, so the church will still face harsh criticism, causing Mormons to feel persecuted. I don’t think that 20 years is enough for all that to happen, though.

    13) China/majority-Muslim nations: Christianization in majority-Muslim nations is extremely unlikely, but if it does happen, it is far more likely to be by Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians than by Mormons.

  17. Mike S
    December 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    #1: Likely. Probably Elder Bednar at that point
    #2: Likely. Growth in Latin America will trickle up.
    #3: Unlikely – though would be nice. It’s set up to translate from English to 40+ languages simultaneously. To add, say, an Afrikaans speaker, you would have to get that to the 40+ languages. Do you go through English as an intermediate step, or find people that can translate from that to Chinese? More of a logistical problem than anything else.
    #4: Unlikely – I think they’re done talking on blacks and the priesthood, hoping it will just fade away.
    #5: Unlikely – Gay marriage will be a reality by then in much of the US and Europe. The Church will either have to accept a legal and valid civil marriage between 2 people that are of the same sex, or not. They won’t be able to hide behind the “follow the same rules of chastity” that they’ve done. So far, they’ve said it’s ok to be gay, but you are expected to be celibate outside a marriage just like heterosexuals. What if 2 men are legally married. They can technically follow that same rule and wouldn’t be violating the “law of chastity” per se.
    #6: Possible – Technically very easy to do without changing doctrine. Simply allow a civil marriage to allow for everyone involved with the bride/groom to share in the experience. At a later time, whether 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, let the bride/groom go to the temple when it’s a much less chaotic day and be sealed to each other – making their marriage eternal. NOTE: This would also help solve the issue in #5. While homosexuals may be legally allowed to marry each other, this more formally sets the sealing apart and could be restricted to a man and a woman.
    #7: Possible – I would love to see a woman give a prayer in general conference. They should say 50% of them. I do agree with the “face time” comment above, though.
    #8: Unlikely – Given that the president of a Church university is essentially “training step” on the path to GA, I think it unlikely.
    #9: Unlikely – Too patriarchal
    #10: Unlikely – Again, too patriarchal. Easy to fix – change the name from PEC.
    #11: Possible – It would be amazing to make it a 2 hour block. Is there really much difference between Priesthood/RS and Sunday School any more?
    #12: Unlikely – BYU’s lobby is too large to allow any decrease in funding.
    #13: Likely – Small temples are the future.
    #14: Mixed – China yes. Middle East no. The agnosticism of China is easier to overcome than the tenets of Islam. Religion has a much greater influence in the Middle East.
    #15: Unlikely – the birthrate will not go back to where it was. Divorce will stay the same or creep up.
    #16: Unlikely – The number of senior missionaries will stay about the same or maybe go down. People who had planned on retiring won’t be able to. The number of full-time missionaries will also continue to decrease as proportion of the church population. The church growth rate as a percentage of population has decreased year after year. More people are leaving the church on a percentage basis. And the percentage of the population who goes on a mission has decreased as well. The Church population will flatten out between 17-20 million people and the convert numbers will balance the number who leave the church or die.
    #17: Unlikely – The Church will always be secretive, especially about finances.
    #18: Unlikely – Retention levels will continue to decline as they have for the past decades. The Church remains very much a rule-based religion – emphasizing works over grace. There are also a great number of questionable things in our history that the leadership doesn’t want to definitively address. In the past, people only found out about these things if they specifically sought out or were given “anti-Mormon” literature. Now, a simple Google search has all of it available in seconds. A “head-in-the-sand” approach doesn’t work anymore. An “only saying things that are uplifting rather than just because they are true” approach doesn’t work in this information age. The problems need to be tackled head-on. But I don’t see the leadership doing this.
    #19: Unlikely – Reasons very nicely given above. This would question authority and the prophetic mantle.

    So, overall, I think very little will change. Unfortunately, I think because very little will change that the Church will continue its unfortunate slow decline in convert numbers and retention rates.

  18. Cowboy
    December 14, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    “13) China/majority-Muslim nations: Christianization in majority-Muslim nations is extremely unlikely, but if it does happen, it is far more likely to be by Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians than by Mormons.”

    It would also require a major political Islamic power shift in the Middle-east (not just one nation), and a liberal revolution in Islam.

  19. December 14, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Given the death penalty is meeted out for those who become Christian who were Muslim, in Muslim states it will take quite a change for much progress.

  20. Peter
    December 14, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Given all this conjecture, it’s interesting to see how people may “want” things to look in 20 years instead of normative guesswork. Some of us see a slow progressive march with respect to social liberalism. Some, like myself see it as a 40 year blip in the radar and see the death and collapse of the West as more likely. This doesn’t mean that all hell will break lose (it could, especially if the world economies continue to atrophy), just that the power shifts from West to East. I am making predictions based on what I think will happen, not what I want to happen.

    These posts pop up every so often, and instead of helping us predict the future, it really only shows are historical narratives. Many of us see a slow steady shift in Fabian/Marcusian internationalist socialism mixed with post-modern social sexual liberalism continuing to move forward. A trend analysis would say this is correct, but trends rarely keep. Birth rates makes that 50 year projection look less certain. Inevitably, a shift will lurch us in a different direction, and instead of being some sort of progressive dialectic, it may just be another lurch in history that plunges us into a new Dark Age, no one knows. Some, like myself, see our world as a house of cards that is supported by geo-economic liberalism (WHO, UN, World Bank, Bretton Woods, etc.) collapsing as a house of cards in the next few years because it is unsustainable and is balanced on the backs of an increasingly more powerful third world. This means smaller, not bigger government, more tribalism, not less, and consequently, regional power like religion, like the the LDS Church will gain more influence in its sphere of influence like the Rocky Mountain states and Latin America. There will be more cultural distance, not less, from the Eastern States more Euro-centric politics that are pushing us to a new world order as we are witnessing with the G-20 summit and Copenhagen. I think these things are going to collapse under their own weight and are unsustainable. I think the Church will crawl out from the post 1890 economic and governance accommodations (not all was polygamy remember) and be more governmentally focused as it once was.

  21. December 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Cowboy,

    It would also require a major political Islamic power shift in the Middle-east (not just one nation), and a liberal revolution in Islam.

    As I said, it’s extremely unlikely. The world seems much more likely to become more Muslim than more Christian.

  22. Cowboy
    December 14, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Kuri:

    Agreed, my comment was just a second voice to yours. I’m not sure what the line reasoning for that twenty year prediction was, beyond wishful thinking.

  23. DavidH
    December 14, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    One of the advantages of our Church structure is that the governing quorums are drawn from the lay members (at least from the U.S. lay membership). Also, with their generally sizable families, and being advanced in years, the Brethren have lots of posterity in all walks of life.

    In my opinion, while the principle of common consent is not reflected in the largely ceremonial raising of hands in Church meetings, I think the Church’s structure incorporates an element of common consent (i.e., the influence of the common membership) by the manner in which leaders and governing councils and their posterities are connected to the main body of the Church (again, at least in the U.S.).

    Example, President McKay not only had to deal with explaining the Church’s practice regarding race/lineage to other leaders, or to the press, but had to discuss it with his own family. And he got pressure from his own family–such as his daughter-in-law, who was my great aunt, who told him she thought it was about time he had a revelation to end the practice.

    I also think the bloggernacle is representative (perhaps not proportionately) of different viewpoints in the Church about current events, inequities in the Church, doctrinal questions, and the like. I have said before, and I fully believe, that the debates in the bloggernacle are similar to debates among the leading councils of the Church. They read the same newspapers, they read the same books (and even alternate voices–although they may do so surreptitiously), and they have same sorts of friends and families in all walks of life.

    In making my own prognostications above, I have evaluated many of the possible changes based on discussions in the bloggernacle and how controversial they might be. If I thought most people here would think it was a good idea, or at least if they would not strongly oppose something I thought was a good idea, I included it in the list.

    Example. I do not think there is any justification for limiting prayers in general conference to males/general authorities. Stake conferences have had prayers by women as long as I remember. Perhaps some of the Brethren might prefer to continue to limit prayers to men to give other authorities “face time”, and those Brethren may have enough seniority or influence that it will be a while before the practice changes.

    Most of the Brethren have female relatives (in some cases, their wives) who have concerns about the male dominance in Church structure and governance. And women could give prayers in general conference (just as they can preach there) without doing “violence” to any principle of restricting the administrative (AP and MP) priesthood to males. So why not invite women to pray in conference? Thus far, no one here has objected to this in concept.

    Similarly, for years, many wards have routinely invited the RS president to PEC meeting. Perhaps the name would need to be changed, but the RS president has her finger on the pulse as much or more as any male leader. And if the YM president has to be to PEC every week, while not a little equality by inviting the YW president. Again, these are changes that do not do violence to a “male” priesthood, but provide greater female participation in governance. The only objection I can think of would be a practical one for the RS Pres or YW Pres, who likely would prefer not to attend another meeting.

    Section 132 replaced an earlier section of the D&C on marriage, because during the time of polygamy, the earlier section no longer applied. While part of 132 applies, much of it no longer does. If 132 were left in the D&C only as a footnote or appendix (like the JST) for historical interest, that would likely be a welcome change for many people who find the idea of polygamy deeply offensive. Taking it out entirely, or relegating to a footnote or appendix would be consistent with Elder Ballard’s recent address that polygamy is behind us. If it is behind us, let’s move it to the very back of the book, or remove it entirely.

    Regarding Muslim nations and the LDS Church, the Church is already established in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, with a gentler form of Islam. In 1970 I would not have imagined in my wildest dream that the Iron Curtain would fall within 20 years (I would not have imagined it in my wildest dreams even in 1980.) So why not a hail Mary for hoping there is great progress among our Islamic cousins.

  24. SteveS
    December 14, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Interesting post and comments. I don’t have much to comment, but the last prediction about D&C 132 and the PotF seems unlikely. D&C 132 isn’t read as the polygamist manifesto by many of the membership, and all Sunday School lessons that read from it refer to “celestial marriage” as between one husband and one wife. I think the Church will continue to interpret D&C 132 thusly over the next twenty years, even if they publicly disavow JS and BY’s practice of polygamy (I also think this unlikely).

    Concerning the PotF, I really don’t see it becoming part of the scriptural canon as long as gender and sexuality issues continue to plague the Church. Church leadership probably considered itself fortunate that no “revelation” on priesthood availability to blacks was ever canonized, so that when Kimball agreed to extend priesthood to all worthy males, it didn’t have to clear the hurdle of scriptural doctrine. Similarly, if any changes are made in policy dealing regarding a womans “primary responsibility” to nurture children or how essential a characteristic our “gender” is to our eternal identity, it will be much harder to shift LDS faithful’s perspectives if the PotF is first canonized and then modified to reflect more inclusive terminology. I could be wrong on this, of course; many members already treat the PotF as scripture. I simply think it would be a serious misstep for Church leadership to propose adding it to the canon before issues of gender and sexuality can be addressed more comprehensively.

  25. hamsy2000
    December 15, 2009 at 9:24 am

    There is simply too much history to allow the Church to officially disavow polygamy. Many in the U.S. Church and among its leaders are descendants of polygamous relationships. Would they necessarily imply that those children are not legitimate? That the marriage was not legitimate? I don’t see that ever happening. Elder Ballard was specifically addressing the issues raised by modern apostate polygamous groups. He never said that polygamy was wrong or that we should not have had it. This implies that we still believe in it doctrinally, but it is “behind us” in that it is no longer relevant for today and will not be (as far as we’re concerned) in the future. Therefore it is a non-issue.

    There are plenty of “non-issues” in the D&C. Many revelations that predicted events or things that have come and gone. The law of consecration and the gathering to Zion are a couple. They are retained to show the power, reasoning and wisdom of God in His revelations to man, if for nothing else.

    I don’t see any problems with women taking a more active role in Church councils. These changes could possibly take place over the next 20 years, but I’m not holding my breath one way or the other. What I would like to see is couples being honored equally. “Neither is the man without the woman in the Lord.” I like how temple presidents AND THEIR WIVES are equally honored when they are called and throughout their tenure. It would be nice if the GA’s wives were sitting up there with them on the stand and given equal honors and opportunities to speak to the Church with their husbands. After all, I don’t think most of them would be there if it weren’t for their wives. They’ll even admit that. There is something to be said for only one of them being the “spokesman” for the couple, but too often the wives are simply left out of the honors. Actually, none should be seeking the honors, but they naturally come. We have a poster of the GA’s on our wall, but not with their wives.

    Something drastic will have to happen for most of the Muslim world to accept Christians in their midst, though. I have no doubt this will occur, just don’t know how or when.

  26. Hawkgrrrl
    December 15, 2009 at 10:41 am

    DavidH: “Section 132 replaced an earlier section of the D&C on marriage, because during the time of polygamy, the earlier section no longer applied. While part of 132 applies, much of it no longer does. If 132 were left in the D&C only as a footnote or appendix (like the JST) for historical interest, that would likely be a welcome change for many people who find the idea of polygamy deeply offensive. Taking it out entirely, or relegating to a footnote or appendix would be consistent with Elder Ballard’s recent address that polygamy is behind us. If it is behind us, let’s move it to the very back of the book, or remove it entirely.” Fascinating! Thanks for this additional insight. I was not aware of the history of this. And count me in the ‘haters of polygamy with no ancestral dog in the fight’ camp.

  27. Ty R
    December 15, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    I would bet that at least by 2030 (maybe ealier?), perhaps on the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Book of Mormon, the Church will release a new edition of the scriptures, with an on official LDS translation of the Old and New Testaments.

  28. December 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Very interesting and thought-provoking post. I agree with other posters that some of these ideas are wishful thinking and not likely to happen. Here are a few of my comments on some of the more interesting ones:

    1. In 2029, Dallin Oaks will be 97 years old, assuming he’s still alive. I agree that he’ll probably get his turn to be prophet at some point, probably sooner than later, but in 20 years most likely either Uchtdorf or Bednar.

    2. Very likely, considering how many non-caucasians are in the quorums of 70. Considering two of the seven presidents of the seventy are non-caucasian, it could happen very soon.

    3. Not likely. All of the official-English folks in Utah would have a cat hemorrhage.

    5. Not likely in 20 years, BUT… Some time in the near future, same sex marriage will likely be legalized at the federal level, overriding all of the state constitutional ammendments banning it. I predict 15-20 years from that point, someone will have a revelation allowing gays to get sealed in the temple. Think that’s shocking? Consider how shocking it would’ve been to have African Americans receiving all the temple blessings to someone in 1958.

    7. Women offering opening and closing prayers at conference is likely at some point in the near future. A woman heading one of the church universities is extremely unlikely however, given that those are now generally considered GA responsibilities. A woman heading a non-church sponsored university that adheres to church standards (Southern Virginia, George Wythe, Nauvoo University, etc) might happen, however.

    9. As others have pointed out, this already happens in certain instances. What I’d really like to see, but probably won’t happen anytime soon, would be to have RS presidents seated on the stand next to the bishopric. Yet another one of 1000s of reasons why I’d never be bishop is because I’d probably do that for as long as I could get away with it.

    10. We actually had 2-1/2 hour blocks in my stake for awhile. We had four wards meeting in one building and the stake pres insisted that sacrament meeting must come first. So rather than have one ward meet from 3 to 6, they cut sunday school and priesthood/RS in half. It was great while it lasted. I’d love to see this, but doubt it’ll happen anytime soon.

    11. Don’t see much expansion of the church secondary system anytime soon. I’d love to see BYU spun off as a non-church sponsored institution a la Notre Dame, but don’t see that happening either. Most parents would object to coughing up $20K plus per annum for tuition.

    14. For over 100 years now, church members have averaged 1 baby over the national rate. I don’t see this changing, although more members might join the Evangelical Full Quiver movement.

    16. Nahhh

    18. As much as I’d like to see less guilt used as motivation, it’s an engrained part of our culture and I doubt it’ll go away no matter what the brethren say.

    19. As others have mentioned, many members already treat the proclamation as scripture. We had both a SS lesson and a combined meeting on it last Sunday. I could see it eventually added to the D&C as Official Declaration 3, especially once the church realizes how much paper is wasted by leaders making copies of it to give out at church. But I think section 132 remains as is.

  29. hamsy2000
    December 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Steve, I don’t think it would have been all that shocking to tell someone in 1958 that blacks should be able to marry in the temple, etc. Many church members, if not an actual majority, were uncomfortable with the priesthood being withheld from blacks, as evidenced by their myriad and often quite creative excuses for the practice. Joseph Fielding Smith and a few other GAs even said emphatically that some day they would get all temple and priesthood rites. Some said sooner, some later. I’ve never heard a GA get anywhere near saying homosexuals would ever get that opportunity. Most members, and I would say a vast, vast majority of them, are not in the least uncomfortable about withholding temple rites from gays and lesbians. Wrong or right, they perceive being gay as a choice, at least a tiny bit more of one than what color of skin we were born with.