I’m going to have to admit here that I keep up with little of the debates concerning Mormon “theology”, so please forgive me if some of these ideas are half-baked and/or already worked over in other blogs.
It seems to be the case that proper practice (orthopraxy) rather than proper belief (orthodoxy) defines a good Mormon. By ‘good Mormon’ I mean someone who is “temple worthy”—i.e. they can pass a temple recommend interview by answering each question honestly. This is not to say that belief is insignificant, but the defining characteristic of being a good Mormon is one who adheres to a strict notion of performance and not one who has a coherent theology (i.e. a theology which coheres to a larger body of “orthodox” church teaching). For instance, one can remain agnostic to the issue of progression between kingdoms in heaven and still be a good Mormon. I would extend this even further to say that you don’t have to believe in the Bible as literal history in order to qualify. In other words, any member holding a series of non-mainstream beliefs actually could honestly pass a temple recommend interview. While this certainly isn’t an either/or situation where we ONLY judge practice to the neglect of belief, how we work out the relation between the two is unclear.
Now, while I’m certainly willing to debate the issue of whether it is correct to speak of an “orthropraxy” for Mormonism, I’m personally interested in the implications of assuming the above to be correct. In other words, what does it mean to define Mormonism in terms of practice (keeping in mind I am not saying that it is defined SOLEY in terms of practice)? And how does this shape the way we perceive ourselves? Must we be more lenient to those with differing beliefs, in as much as they fit within the wide bounds of Mormon “doctrine”? Is this why many of the internal debates on policy, as well as messages given in conference are about “what to do”?
One strong point of an orthopraxy is that the leadership does not have to have a vigorous intellectual training in order to lead (and perhaps members don’t have to know a rigorous systematic theology in order to join). The downside of course is that actions are often (mis)interpreted as dissent. For instance, facial hair, white shirts, and other “nitpicky” actions become points of contention. An orthopraxy may lead us to be over concerned with “appearance” rather than what goes on beneath the appearance. This of course raises questions about whether homogenization of form leads to homogenization of content; and I could certainly go on, but I’m wondering what other’s thoughts are.