I might as well add my voice to the chorus of self-congratulatory and/or other-condemning posts out there on the topic (I won’t link to them, though. Well, I’ll link to this one, which is the only good one I’ve seen so far).
Orson Scott Card in his wonderful “Saintspeak” (which predates snarker sites by decades, and did it better than any of them – if any of them are still active) pretty much already came up with the definitive definitions:conservative Mormon 1. As perceived by a liberal Mormon: Someone with a completely closed mind who goes through the motions of obeying Church policies without ever understanding the spirit of the gospel. Conservative Mormons spout cliches about charity and then devote their lives to crushing out any sign of intelligence or compassion that dares to surface in the Church. 2. As perceived by another conservative Mormon: Someone who is dedicated to serving God in the manner God has prescribed, who therefore tries to keep his own life pure and help purify the Church to be worthy of the Lord’s approval at his Second Coming. Conservative Mormons listen attentively to the words of the Brethren and try to do all they are asked to do without presuming to second-guess the Lord’s chosen servants.
liberal Mormon 1. As perceived by a conservative Mormon: A Mormon who wants to pervert the gospel to fit the doctrines of men instead of waiting for the Brethren to receive revelations. Liberals talk about being guided by the Spirit but usually find that the Spirit is telling them to espouse currently fashionable American liberal causes and ideas. 2. As perceived by another liberal Mormon: A Mormon who believes that the Lord won’t give you any answers unless you ask him intelligent questions. Liberals believe that a Saint should be sensitive enough to recognize truth and humble enough to accept it whether it comes from the Brethren or Boethius, Newton or Nietzsche
Personally, I find the labels some people so insist on to be a danger. We should all be in the gospel together, rather than slapping on labels on ourselves and each other. Loudly proclaiming yourself conservative or liberal, methinks, runs into the danger of “Mormonism and . . .” as illustrated by this quote from “The Screwtape Letters” (for those unaware, Screwtape is a devil dispensing advice on how to damn mortals):
What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring.
I think too many people in the church are “Mormonism and Liberalism” or “Mormonism and Conservatism” rather than just Mormons. It’s nice, I suppose, to be able to claim that the gospel can be mingled wholesale with current philosophies. However, as Orson Scott Card once said in a speech given at BYU (at LTUE when LTUE was part of BYU), we all have multiple loyalties (say to capitalism, to a particular artistic community) – but at some point all of our other loyalties will conflict (to greater or lesser degrees) with the gospel. We can choose to ignore or rationalize those conflicts away, but when we do that, we show that we’ve chosen the other philosophy over the gospel.
[This is not to condemn any specific person or particular post on this topic, though. I honestly tire of people taking general points and assuming they are meant to attack specific people. If I meant to attack a specific person, I would attack that specific person, trust me].