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Why "Liberal"?

In the scriptures, the word "liberal" is used to mean "generous" or "free" (James 1:5; Alma 1:30). These same meanings apply when speaking of liberal religion. Liberal is the opposite of dogmatic or unyielding. Liberal religion emphasizes love and mercy over laws and strictures. A liberal spirit stresses freedom of conscience and seeks to accommodate others' beliefs. Liberals hope for progress—progress in our understanding of truth and progress toward a world without poverty, war, or injustice.

The kind of Mormon spirituality promoted on this website is liberal because it:

  • Looks to LDS teachings for spiritual guidance without requiring those teachings to be literally or uniquely true.

  • Sees revelation as a process through which God gradually brings fallible human beings to greater understanding.

  • Is open to reexamining religious traditions in light of new developments in scientific knowledge and cultural values.

  • Prizes individual freedom and democratic community and is wary of unrighteous dominion.

  • Promotes social justice, equal rights, peace, and wise stewardship of the environment.

  • Above all else, emphasizes love: God's love for us, our love for God, and love for our fellow beings.

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A Place for Liberals?    

John A. Widtsoe: The word liberal, correctly used, has a noble meaning. The true liberal hates slavery of every kind. He battles for human freedom. He wants liberty in thought and action. He is tolerant, free from bigotry, and generous in all his deeds. He places truth above all else and hungers for full truth. He welcomes all new improvements and calls for more . . . In short the liberal seeks to make better the day in which he lives, and he becomes therefore a crusader for the betterment of the human race.

Such a liberal, to accomplish his purpose, holds fast, without the least concession, to the convictions of his soul. He is anchored to the rock of truth, as he may see it. . . . His liberalism lies in his constant attempt to make the underlying unchanging principles of the cause he represents serve the changing conditions of the day. . . . He may be forever seeking, under changing conditions, to make the doctrine of human brotherhood more effective in behalf of the needy. He is a believer who seeks to use his beliefs in every concern of his life. . . .

It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth. Neither can one be a liberal in religion except in the application of the underlying doctrine to human needs. . . .

Under the true definition of liberalism, the Church of Jesus Christ is preeminently liberal. First, it makes truth and love of truth its foundation. The whole latter-day work was initiated by Joseph Smith's search for truth. . . . It is understood that every worthy member of the Church must likewise seek and find truth for himself. Then, the Church insists that its truths must be used for human good. . . . Further, the Church . . . declares that men "live and move and have their being" under the law of progress. Change steps upon the heels of change in the unfolding of a progressive universe. The simple eternal truths of existence are combined and combined again, in different ways, but progressively, to serve man on his never-ending journey. . . . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not need to look elsewhere for a liberal Church.

Evidences and Reconciliations (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 45-46

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.