Kiley recently posted, discussing her wrestling with a desire to believe and her wish for cultural Mormonism as an emotional / spiritual / intellectual space within which she could sort out her relationship to the Church while also honestly wrestling with belief.
Andrew, around the same time, posted on Wheat and Tares about whether cultural Mormonism is even possible. I thought Andrew's essay was interesting and thoughtful, and I absolutely agree with his conclusion that "Cultural Mormonism always exists as an unintended and undesired byproduct of a real religion predicated upon belief." Andrew comes to his conclusions by arguing that evolution of Mormon beliefs and practices makes it impossible for us to really define what Mormon culture is. (And, by the way, Andrew, I would argue that this was a problem long before the existence of "correlation." Rapid evolution of Mormon belief and practice even in the first 80 years of Mormonism is what accounts for the existence of the Community of Christ and Mormon fundamentalists -- two developments of Mormonism that have completely different cultures from the LDS Church.) I agree with Andrew's conclusions, but for reasons that have nothing to do with modern day correlation.
Steven Fehr, in his discussion of why he, as an excommunicated, gay Mormon, attends Church gives an account of an experience he had with the Spirit prompting him to read James 1:5 (and verses following). This was a breakthrough moment for Steven. He doesn't much discuss the exact content of the revelation he received upon following this prompting (though he mentions that it was the verses following James 1:5 that really had an impact on him... I recommend you read them!) I found myself deeply moved by Steven's account of this part of his story, because this same text has played a central role in my own coming to terms with faith. And it is -- as every Mormon knows, be they "cultural" or "true believing" -- a foundational text for Mormon faith.
I would add that my coming to faith has been a painful process. When the Spirit tapped me on the shoulder in August 2005, I did not want to believe in Mormonism. I was still profoundly angry at the Church. And I felt that belief threatened to disrupt and maybe even destroy everything I really valued at that time. I was angry, I wept, and I resisted for several months the prompting to start going to Church. My conversion was a painful one. I still wrestle with both faith and doubt. But believe you me, I am converted. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I would rather have a real faith that is painful than the empty, cultural shell of a faith that is comforting and easy.
To hunger for cultural Mormonism is to hunger for a faith that is eviscerated of its heart and soul. "Mormonism" (if there is such a thing!) is predicated upon a living, breathing, heart-thumping, blood-churning relationship with a true and living God who speaks to us in the here and now. Take away belief in that God and what you have left is not much worth having.
To be honest, I'm not sure if "Mormonism" is a valid concept. I even wonder if "Methodism" or "Catholicism" or "Lutheranism" or "Presbyterianism" or "Evangelicalism" or "Fundamentalism" or any Christian "ism" is or can be a valid concept. Because the heart of any Christian faith should be this relationship with a living God. And when you extract that from the cultural accretions of that faith, all you have left is "the traditions of men," something that in Joseph's first encounter with the Living God was execrated as an "abomination." Justly so.
I hate Mormon "culture." It is the part of Mormonism that least appeals to me. It is the part of Mormonism that, more than anything else, drove me away from the Church. It is the part of Mormonism that, more than anything else, undermines and eats away at real, living faith today.
You doubting, cultural Mormons who are heterosexual and blessed with Church membership, do you know how I envy you? Do you have any idea what I would give, just to be able to have the lowliest calling as a home teacher or a Sunday School chorister?
If going to Church makes you feel good, then my recommendation is that you simply go. If you don't want a calling, if you don't want to be bothered by worthiness interviews, if you wrestle with belief, there is still a place for you. True belief, true faith ought to make a warm, welcoming place for you, it ought to put its arms of love around you and fully embrace you with no strings attached.
Come to Church with me. I promise you, I will give you a welcome like you've never received in any church anywhere!