I had the chance to listen to Patrick Mason speak at the Miller-Eccles group. Most people know him as an author or as the non-general authority face of the Church when reporters have questions. While he is the chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, he is also a respected academic outside of LDS matters. He also wrote the book, Planted, which I guess I need to read.
He has a metaphor he likes for talking about the Church and its critics and the strive that seems to swirl about and that is the metaphor of the Christmas truce in WWI.
What happened is that around October of 1914, both sides basically ran out of ammunition, since they had planned and expected to win the war before then. The sides then focused more on building trenches than trying to kill each other as supplies caught up and the trenches were not really finished until November of 1914. By Christmas of 1914 ammunition had not really caught up significantly, and everyone had been sitting, and not really fighting, for some time.
That led to an impromptu and informal truce on Christmas day as the sides played soccer, sang Christmas hymns together and exchanged some simple gifts. They recognized each other’s essential humanity and, for a brief moment, shared peace.
Of course we know that did not last, as they completed rearming and it was blood and death and both sides thinking they could win until the war ended. It wasn’t helped that the leaders issued orders forbidding anymore truces and forbidding any more humanization of the enemy. The governments also pushed back against the suffragettes who attempted peace initiatives.
The result was carnage. Casualties were so high that when WWII was fought, the sides fought it with divisions instead of army corps (army corps are made of divisions). War did not lead to peace, only more war.
But maybe, just maybe, something else would have been possible. The confluence of remembering Christ, recognizing each other, in a time when the option of war was restrained, was a time when something else might have happened, if the sides had only chosen to embrace that rather than re-arm and plunge back into the fight.
Against that he sees the current situation in the Church as another major inflection point, much like Joseph Smith’s death or the end of polygamy. What that point will lead to or what it will entail, he can’t predict. He is an historian, not a futurist. He also analyzes the three classes of people who go inactive or leave the church from that metaphor.
- Those who have lost faith.
- Those who have been squeezed out.
- Those who do not find the church relevant.
The first group generally have been faithful members for a long time, but generally are very black and white and often very judgmental. They are the most likely to become atheists. They have discovered something that doesn’t match what they believed, feel betrayed and then have a cascade that involves not being able to deal with a lack of infallibility. They want every prophet to be like Moses at his peak, with God speaking face-to-face, rather than for prophets to be like the majority (against whom Moses is contrasted) in the Old Testament.
They are appalled when modern apostles act just like those in the New Testament. (In discussing that group, my thought is that they either haven’t really read the Bible or they missed 95% of it. Mason agrees that while we have started to actually take the Book of Mormon seriously, we need to really take the Bible seriously too, especially what it teaches us about the humanity and fallibility of prophets and leaders and the way that gives us a lens to view God’s interaction with humanity).
They need to see the movies about Peter and Paul fighting if they can’t bring themselves to read the book (The New Testament).
The second group feels squeezed out. The issue of being squeezed out happens in just about every church, LDS and others. Those who get squeezed out are squeezed out by:
- Issues of clothing and class (often being too poor to fit in).
- Issues of politics (in the modern world, most people have a political identity that is stronger than their religious identity and if their congregation is dominated by Democrats or Republicans and they are in the other party, they can feel squeezed out).
- LBGT and other social issues, especially those involving sexual and racial equality.
- People who need to be ministered to and who feel like they are being excluded rather than cared for.
- Those who are a little strange, one way or another (either doctrinal hobbies, or perspectives or cultural difference, or neurological issues) and who lack social capital.
- Those who are just too self righteous (ok, those who are unwilling to see any shades of gray and view everything from their own black and white perspective).
- Those who have been harmed by members of their church who have higher status than they do (and thus the offender is protected and the victim rejected).
- Other groups (my notes are garbled and I can’t read my own handwriting, but this “other” was the most significant part of those squeezed out).
His advice to those in the audience was to avoid being squeezed out, you need not to be a weirdo from day one. Show up, help, build social capital. Also build your own spiritual space that the Church supports, rather than rely on the church to occupy that space for you.
The third group just tunes out. To them, 2017 Mormonism is not relevant to their lives, their needs or their hopes, especially as they are experiencing the local church. While we as a people have a lot that is relevant, it is often missing from the experience that people are having day to day.
That part of his thinking segues into what a church can offer people.
- It can offer Social structure. That is either:
o Social activity.
o Social ordering (or a hierarchy).
- It can offer Teaching.
o Repeating old lessons – some people like shallow repetition.
o Engaging depth and thought – some people want more.
- It can offer the chance to render Service.
o Social ordering service – where you basically reinforce the social order. Visit teaching often can fall into this type of service.
o Serving others in need – which can either turn into real service, tourism service, or just being exploited.
o Practicing and learning how to be kind and to be self-motivated in service.
The difference between what could be delivered and what is delivered is interesting, and is affected by the changes and currents in programs and approaches.
For example, a big change in the Church has been that we have engaged in abandoning the social activity end of the church. Ward dinners, linger longer, festivals, etc. were thought not to be part of the core of the Church and were phased out as a part of modern correlation. Instead, we offer the chance to nap in church meetings. (Ok, that is a joke, based on a too common image of church services).
One result is that the social structure process in the church often consists in efforts to create and maintain a social hierarchy that to socialize or to have social interaction. That long string of words means that the social part of a church is sometimes nothing more than creating a pecking order, and nothing else.
That sort of social process is more than pleasant to anyone who is served by that (that is, if you are at the top of the pecking order it is great, and if the socializing at church is limited to maintaining the pecking order, it is pretty pleasant to you). You can think of that as inhaling in the words of President Uchtdorf.
However, when the social structure of the Church consists merely of creating and reinforcing social hierarchy and pecking orders, if that is all there is to socializing at church it isolates and squeezes out many. It is as if you had dropped back into high school and aren’t an athletic star or cheerleader.
It also creates groups that are not successful.
Young adults are generally not enamored of the chance to make up the bottom of the pyramid created by social ordering. Every time there is a “leadership” structure where they sit and take orders but do not make their own decisions, that is what they are getting. If that is all they get socially, they lose interest.
Many young adults also seem to not be engaged by the chance to have old lessons repeated, finding that process boring and not relevant. That contrasts with people new to the church who find everything an opening book and who love the repetition and simplicity.
Finally, too often service seems channeled into things that result in rewards and recognition for the leaders who channel people into service projects, rather than a real connection, or in shallow service rendered just long enough to open a wedge for missionary work.
When a service project is a photo op for a leader, it just does not offer the rewards that service is supposed to bring. Instead, it fees like exploitation to everyone in the chain.
None of those points are really new. They are pretty much standard problems that all churches face. Additionally, all of the tools and elements to address the issues can be found in conference talks. Much of it is preaching the message of Christ to “those who are afar off” and ministering in love, while providing nourishment to the body of Christ.
But it appears to be difficult in execution.
Anyway, those are my initial thoughts. I thought I would share them in connection with the guest post we had that gives one perspective.
Patrick Mason also stated he felt that the LDS Church was at a great inflection point, much like occurred at the death of Joseph Smith or when the Church abandoned polygamy. He hasn’t the slightest idea of where it will go (after all, he is an historian, looking backwards, not forwards), but such points often bring about great change.
- What do you think about the idea of why people leave vs. remain planted?
- What do you think the Church offers, or could offer?
- Any guesses what will happen with this inflection point?
I’m really interested in what our readers think.
Most of this are things I’ve seen discussed before (and/or read in Planted). I would have loved to hear Mason in person. He seems so in touch with Mormonism. The one area that was completely new to me was the social status / pecking order. I mean, I am well aware it exists in wards, but I had never related it to the drop out rate of young adults. In my ward, the top hens are all in their 40s, model-thin and dressed like Barbie, with kids in HS/College and husbands that do well financially (Anyone want to do a Saturday trip to the spa?!). I can totally see why a 25 year old newlywed would not even want to bother with a society structured as so. Especially when the 25 year old is better educated than the hen and used to being seen/treated as competent in her profession.
Related is the the pros and cons of existing in an authoritative structure. No other group in my life functions under ‘authority’. Even work (where I’m not the top of the totem pole) has an expectation that I create/improve my own little area of expertise and those that are at the top respect that. They don’t tell me how to do my job and do listen when I give opinions based on my experience. I don’t find that to be true At All at church, which is very off-putting. Any time I’ve ended up in an organization where dominance or authority are the prevailing rule, I pretty quickly get myself out. It’s just an unpleasant way to function. And it’s unpleasant at church as well.
I will say though that as an oddball, I am tolerated rather well in my ward. But its because (just as mentioned in the article) I have a huge amount of social capital. I’ve checked every single Mormon box, I’m pretty much always the best teacher in the ward, and I’m useful to have around in a ‘got a question, call ReTx’ kind of way.
Great write up. Thanks for sharing.
A completely different take on things is at http://www.therichmillar.com/blog/how-i-lost-regained-my-faith
In answer to your first question, I have a very difficult time whenever someone starts putting people into boxes. The truth is, I see myself in all three of these groups of “people who leave.” I’d fit in the first group because I was a faithful member for a long time, but I don’t know that I am either a very black and white thinker or very judgmental. I did indeed discover something — make that somethingS– that didn’t match what I was taught to believe, and that certainly shook my foundation. But unlike someone who needs a prophet to be infallible, I’m just waiting for the church to admit that we’re all just a bunch of humans. I found the comment about this group either having not read the Bible or missing 95% of it condescending… maybe I’m missing something.
I’m also part of the second group because I do feel squeezed out, but again, the description of this group doesn’t fit me exactly. Maybe I am one of those “others” whose notes you couldn’t decipher. I do feel like the church squeezes out people who cannot conform to the ideals they set forth. To me, this group sounds an awful lot like “those who are offended,” and I think we all know how well that label goes over. Sometimes things actually are just offensive.
And, of course, I’m in the third group as well. I’m bored out of my mind with the same lessons over and over again, with the rehashing of the conference talk I heard just two weeks ago, with the high council guy who can’t seem to get enough of his own tales of greatness. I’m not a “young adult,” but all of your points about social structure still apply. So, if I’m really in all three groups, but none of them describe me exactly, then I’m not really in any of them. I’m just not a fan of the assuming that goes along with classifying.
I haven’t read Planted, nor have I spent a great deal of time reading or listening to anything by Patrick Mason, and I’m sure he’s a great guy, but I am super sick of people using the word “planted” to describe their testimonies. My struggles with faith have been the most painful and difficult times of my life, and to feel the implication that this happened because I just didn’t have strong enough roots just adds another sting to my wounds.
I find a bigger problem to be a great number of mainstream members that ignore completely the inconsistencies in scripture, history, and current teachings and fallibility in our leaders, past or present. They might be able to recognise past mistakes, but heaven forbid you try and discuss current or recent errors, inaccuracies or teachings that seem contrary to Christ, or main principles in scripture. I was raised with black and white thinking, all or nothing “faith” and those are completely untenable positions to defend. Members with nuanced understanding are drowned out by those that lack either the history, the context, or the capability to admit their leaders – now, not just in the past – hold conflicting and sometimes incorrect positions.
I have a lot of thoughts on this and I also hope this doesn’t take up too much space. I guess my response to the list of reasons why people leave is: is it really so rare that people leave because they are converted to another church? It can’t be so rare that it doesn’t even make the list? Out in Kentucky and Georgia, where I’m familiar with the church populations, there are plenty of people who join other Christian denominations (maybe there are some who join non-Christian religions too – I know one who attends a UU congregation now). So is that in the #1 category? But then we haven’t “lost faith,” we just found an expression of faith that was more congruent with the questions we had about the world.
I guess I feel a bit sensitive because among LDS apologists (and I’m not necessarily lumping Mason in with them) there’s this sense that Mormonism just makes SO much sense, and so if you lose faith in it, it’s obviously because you “lost faith” altogether. It’s like the possibility of someone thinking that another Christian church is true just isn’t fathomable to them. So either people like us don’t even make the list, or we are lumped in with those who “lost faith” or “lost their testimony.” From my perspective, I gained a deeper, fuller testimony of Christ. Is that “losing faith?”
But my response to the rest of the article is still one of puzzlement. I’ll frame my objection this way. The stated goal of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (the church I converted to) is to bring humankind back into communion with God (theosis). That’s the whole deal. If there are secondary benefits to being in the church, like group cohesion, service/teaching opportunities, social/community stuff, that’s a nice sort of utilitarian bonus, but those are certainly not the primary purposes of the church. If someone only came for those reasons, they’d absolutely be welcome, but I’d also think they’d be missing out on the Big Purpose of the whole church.
The presentation here completely obscures what seems to be the purpose of the LDS church, which in theory is to help humans gain exaltation, right? Or something else? Certainly the community/service/teaching/social stuff isn’t the point, is it? Or maybe it is? But then can’t you get the same thing by volunteering at the Red Cross or for the 4H program? It just seems like the whole presentation boils the LDS church down into something that only has a utilitarian purpose to “build a cohesive group” or whatever. I guess to me that cheapens the whole idea of the LDS Church, and I’m not even a believer.
In my view as long as the hand-wringing about people leaving the LDS church focuses on “how can we use social psychology/anthropology/sociology principles to create a meaningful and cohesive group in the LDS church?” then it seems like the purpose is just self-perpetuation. What’s the point? There are plenty of cohesive groups.
I am a non-believer who, after 20+ years in the church, RM, temple married, etc., is still fascinated by Mormonism from historical, cultural, and epistemological standpoints. (Perhaps I would be less interested in it if I wasn’t still surrounded by it, but that’s neither here nor there.) I used to devour Mormon-themed blogs and forums, but of late I’ve simmered down to the occasional jaunt through the exmormon subreddit, Wheat and Tares, and Times and Seasons.
I think Mr. Miller (and, frankly, by extension most believing Mormons) made some major miscalculations about his three classes of people who leave the church.
1. He characterizes those who “lost their faith” as judgmental black and white thinkers and makes the implicit claim that it is their own fault they have such black and white thinking and unrealistic expectations regarding the LDS Church’s truth claims. He (or perhaps it is Mr. Marsh’s extrapolation, I can’t tell) also makes the claim that those of this group don’t really study scripture and if they did, it would clear up their misconceptions. I have seen believers make these (or similar) claims time and time again, and it completely misses the mark. Mr. Miller fails to realize that the origin of such black and white thinking lies, not with the lay members themselves, but with the church as an organization. The LDS Church’s own narrative is extremely black and white. It has been historically and continues to be today, despite “moderate” voices like Dieter Uchtdorf’s attempting to change the underlying currents. Laying the blame of small black and white thinking at the feet of the doubter is merely an attempt to gaslight them and ignores the church’s own role in creating that kind of thinking.
2. I’m not sure what Marsh/Miller means by saying the “squeezed out” group needs to “not be a weirdo from day one”. To me, that sounds an awful lot like suggesting that someone should suppress who they are if who they are doesn’t fit in the mold of a standard member. As someone who personally knows LGBT mormons and ex-mormons personally, I can say quite authoritatively that this is a terrible idea. I’m sure I may stifle discussion by playing the Mormon LGBT suicide card, but I”m going to anyway. Beyond all the news and ink spilled on the internet about this issue. I personally know people who have suffered major depression and/or attempted suicide (thank God they survived) because of their upbringing in the LDS Church and being summarily rejected by so many of the people and culture they love because they are LGBT. I get that Miller’s suggestion is to try to build social capital in one’s church community (presumably to then be in a position to start changing hearts and minds), but to me that just seems like trying to put new wine into old bottles. At some point, the best thing for the individual is to just move on to a newer bottle, so to speak.
3. I more or less agree with Miller on the third group.
Arthur–it is rare for someone to go to another church who hasn’t left first.
For those who stay, the theosis, seeking to join with God as his children and joint heirs with Christ, is very much sufficient.
For those who leave, it isn’t for the reasons described (at least according to Mason).
I hope that helps clarify things.
SaraJane –are you saying people leave because of the vast majority of members and black & white thinking?
Or are you saying that is a problem that sidelines nuanced thought?
Or do you mean something else.
Forgive my questions trying to get more perspective on your comments.
“The stated goal of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (the church I converted to) is to bring humankind back into communion with God (theosis). That’s the whole deal.”
This is beautiful. I think Mormons do get sidetracked by a whole ton of other stuff. I suppose one could argue that the obsession with the family, obedience to leadership, being an active Mormon (or attending the temple enough or paying a full tithe or fulfillling their calling or wearing too many earings…) is seen as a way to be in communion with God. That doesn’t feel like the same thing to me though.
Arthur, “If there are secondary benefits to being in the church, like group cohesion, service/teaching opportunities, social/community stuff, that’s a nice sort of utilitarian bonus, but those are certainly not the primary purposes of the church.” Thanks for bringing this up. One of the arguments in Patrick Mason’s book _Planted_ is that even if people can’t believe the church is “true” (doctrines), they can still see the church as “good” (social structure and service opportunities). For me, that just doesn’t work. I prefer the idea that a church is to bring people closer to God, and the social/service stuff is the byproduct (or a tool) of becoming more like Christ.
Here is my problem. The church does not allow for “spiritual adulting”.
There is little room for in-depth, intelligent discussion and there is little to no room to really dig into hard topics. Growth is difficult when classes are scripted and challenging views are squashed and frowned upon rather than seen as opportunities to gain further understanding.
We really need to graduate from primary in our lessons.
I feel that less structure in areas such as priesthood would actually be better. The church needs to encourage its members to be creative and facilitate its members to take initiative. IE We can’t just show up to a priesthood quorum to just hear a lesson and get reminded about home teaching. There needs to be active participation in something greater.
My involvement in the church is on the decline. Why? Several reasons. One, I became aware of the complexities of church history which doesn’t align with the simple and pat answers and claims that “we have (all) the answers.” Mostly I’ve kept to myself, because the one
time I dared reveal that I have more questions and fewer answers, I was quickly shut down–with the same “pat” answers. Complexity makes people uncomfortable. Another reason my involvement has declined (bigger than historical issues) was the Prop 8 campaign, (and the subsequent new policies) where the church (my stake) joined in and participated in demonizing LGBT people using distortions and untruths. Another reason–I’ve never enjoyed what happens in the temple. Another reason is the lack of transparency–financial and otherwise in the church. It troubles me that we ask members/families to devote so much time and finances yet, we don’t make a public accounting of those finances, (but we build upscale shopping malls and invest in commercial enterprises etc).
Various reasons members of my nuclear and extended family are no longer actively involved also include challenges with church history/Prop 8 politics, never gained a “testimony/confirming witness” to the “true” church. Another–intolerance from leaders/ward members for those who don’t conform to the cookie-cutter (such as seminary graduation, serving a mission, attending BYU, marriage in the temple to someone who is LDS etc etc).
I stay minimally involved to renew my baptismal covenants every week through taking the sacrament, to participate in service opportunities and frankly to maintain connections to devoted LDS family members.
Stephen, kind of like Matt said, “spiritual adulting” is frowned upon. I think there are many people who just break, their black and white all or nothing (impossible) view unsustainable. But many of us hold on as long as possible, those around us rejecting the nuance of faith, accepting whitewashed, partial fiction yet faith promoting, saying “follow the brethren” no matter the consequences. The LGBT issues, the so many times my girls came home crying from Sunday school or YW lessons that were hateful towards other races, religions or orientation, or so marriage and modesty focused, repeatedly not focused on Christ. It was too much. And the personal family condemnation of even supporting lgbt rights. Last straw was the baptism ban. So clearly opposite of what Christ said, to not deny the children to come unto him.
Mason says that the “first group…discovered something that doesn’t match what they believed, feel betrayed …not … able to deal with a lack of infallibility. They want every prophet to be like Moses at his peak, with God speaking face-to-face, rather than for prophets to be like the majority (against whom Moses is contrasted) in the Old Testament.”
I like Patrick Mason and people I consider similar – the Bushmans and Givenses. But I think the adjust-your-expectations-of-a-prophet-look-how-crazy-the-O.T.-ones-were apologetic is wearing very thin.
I wish the church would distance itself from Restoration-era craziness (sexism, in particular, I think), with clear statements, policy, temple and scriptural (Section 132) changes. The church and people like Mason seem to say, “You’re expecting too much. Moving right along….”
It may be wearing thin, but I take it as one of the core messages of the Old Testament.
Andrew Chaney — I’m not blaming anyone for the Black and White mindset. I would agree that it is often nurtured by the way things are presented and by the context. But there is a group that having discovered something that does not fit, gets consumed by it. They are generally people who have been diligent and expended a great deal of time and effort. The cascade effect that causes them to lose faith not only in the gospel, but in God and Christ is tragic. They have often studied the scriptures a good deal, but they’ve missed what I consider a core message. The fact that the message I’m noting is not taught , except rarely, is clearly not their fault.
Nor is the fact that often they are met with black and white thinking and doubling down, which does nothing to address the underlying issue(s). The problem is black and white thinking. Some (like Spencer W. Kimball) have spoken against it, others seem to embrace it.
That those in that group missed the message of imperfection that is one of the major narratives of the Bible was my comment at the presentation, and Mason agreed with me, which was what led him to remark that we have started to take the Book of Mormon seriously, now we need to take the Bible seriously. I was always struck by how Eli’s sons were eclipsed by Samuel’s sons for abuse of position, and how Samuel saw that as a failing he was responsible for that caused the people to want a king. I’ve been tempted to write an essay on “just how bad can it get” …
On being squeezed out, Mason was giving some advice to those who were at risk from being squeezed out in the audience who asked about how to avoid it. That by no means is a criticism of those who are squeezed out. The people he was giving the advice to are wealthier, more educated and more socially connected than the general membership. Of those who are squeezed out, they are a very small sub-set. My apologies for my notes not being better organized and my failure to set that out as not something that would apply to the general group.
By no means am I suggesting or was he that people suppress who they are. He was only suggesting that for the individuals present that they build commonalities and social capital first.
Most of those who are squeezed out have no way to build social capital, or only get exploited. Consider the post by Damascene on the same day as mine. None of those people were being weirdos. None of them ever failed to try to build social capital.
Lois — you laundry list things, as if you have been pecked to death by ducks. I don’t have much to add, except your experience sounds painful, but I did not want you to think you had been ignored.
Matt & SaraJane — the way the lessons are supposed to be taught is facilitated discussions. The teacher training materials also teach how to do that. Some of the other posts recently have had some discussions on what works and what doesn’t, but I do agree that the practice (rather than the goal) needs to be more “learning together” rather than lecturing, and that it is too easy to be squeezed out rather than to be embraced by others.
Elise–those groups are nominalistic clumping, not platonic ideals. That something fits many doesn’t mean it fits everyone or that there are other groups.
Patrick Mason’s three categories seem very focused on identifying why the members were at fault for falling away instead of on how the church could change to reduce the problem. The advice to not be a weirdo from day one seems particularly problematic. Fitting in to everyone else’s social expectations isn’t something that everyone can simply choose to do.
There was a post here recently that discussed people leaving because their young children had autism. Sometimes people seem to forget that these children grow up to be teenagers and adults. No matter how much therapy they have, they will probably always be seen as weird by other people. Saying that they left the church because they had a neurological disorder seems to blame the member for being defective and not good enough for the one true church. The harm done to people who don’t fit can’t be balanced out by listing the benefits that the social structure provides for the well adjusted.
Andy. If you read the comments I went over your points before you posted.
I didn’t see your last post before I commented, but I don’t see how it particularly addressed what I wrote. People with autism aren’t usually socially well connected, but they are often thoughtful and well educated. Sometimes they are even wealthy if they have the skills for engineering or hard sciences. If his intended audience didn’t include people with neurological disorders, there wouldn’t have been any point to mentioning neurological disorders as a reason people leave. It seems somewhat distasteful to write about a group of people with the assumption that they can’t understand what was said.
First, I wrote: “Most of those who are squeezed out have no way to build social capital, or only get exploited. Consider the post by Damascene on the same day as mine. None of those people were being weirdos. None of them ever failed to try to build social capital.” That was the post “here recently that discussed people leaving because their young children had autism.” I was also not saying that they, the poor, or others were at fault or defective.
Second, I have a daughter on the spectrum. She clearly can understand things that are said. To the extent that you are reading me to conclude that I “write about a group of people with the assumption that they can’t understand what was said” you have misunderstood.
As I noted: “On being squeezed out, Mason was giving some advice to those who were at risk from being squeezed out in the audience who asked about how to avoid it. That by no means is a criticism of those who are squeezed out. The people he was giving the advice to are wealthier, more educated and more socially connected than the general membership. Of those who are squeezed out, they are a very small sub-set. My apologies for my notes not being better organized and my failure to set that out as not something that would apply to the general group.”
You may read into what he said or what I wrote “a criticism of those who are squeezed out.” but that was not my intent. I’m not sure why you are intent on finding that meaning after reading the comments, but it is probably because I was not clear enough in my sharing my notes.
I hope this clarifies things.
He was speaking at the Miller-Eccles study group. They were his intended audience. ” If his intended audience didn’t include people with neurological disorders, there wouldn’t have been any point to mentioning neurological disorders as a reason people leave. ” Actually, there was a good point in including them since that is one of the reasons get squeezed out. In general, few of the people at the Miller-Eccles group would be people who have left. That doesn’t mean that they would not be interested in someone addressing the reasons people leave.
Quite frankly, if someone is squeezed out, how can that generally be anyone’s fault other than those who have squeezed them out?
Thank you for the clarification on your perspective on who is to blame when someone is squeezed out. Often people in church do blame people who were squeezed out for some of the reasons you listed and I assumed that you were agreeing with that perspective.
I think it would be good if the church takes these lists and makes significant changes to make everyone feel welcome in church, but I am not optimistic that they will. Some of the issues on the list are well known and the church has been resistant to addressing them.
Poor people who don’t own a suit have been getting squeezed out for a long time. It would be easy to switch church services to a more casual dress code to be more inclusive of poor people, but the church has chosen not to do so. It seems that the church values its upper-middle class image more than including the poor.
There are similar issues people with autism spectrum disorders and the expectation that every man serve a mission. During the raising the bar period, the church had a policy of denying a mission calls to anyone with an autism diagnosis with no way to get someone in the missionary department to give an exception. In LDS culture, the first thing someone asks a man they meet is where did you go on your mission. People who were already socially awkward had to explain their lack of missionary service every time they met someone at church and deal with people that assumed they were less righteous because of it. It is hard for me to believe that nobody at church headquarters understood the problem after so many years of intentionally creating social pressure on young men to serve. They could have mitigated the problem by deemphasizing universal missionary service, but that would result in fewer young men choosing to serve a mission. At the time, the church was doing the opposite by re-emphasizing missionary service and talking in conference about how some young men weren’t worthy to serve.
These are just two examples, but I think that there is a pattern in the church of making policy decisions by looking at the overall effects of the policy on the church and ignoring the negative effects on smaller groups of church members. I think that most of the policies and culture that squeeze people out were established or maintained because they helped grow the church or make members more obedient to authority. The church appears to be reluctant to make changes that that would make the church more inclusive if the change would reduce growth or make the church less attractive to current members. Hopefully this pattern starts to change now that baptisms are declining and inactivity is increasing.
Does anyone know if there is an active effort in the church to address the kinds of issues on these list? Are leaders more open now to consider changing long standing policies or traditions that squeeze out members?
Some wards do an excellent job with these issues. Some are horrid.
I hear sermons in general conference each year calling on people to do better.
However, the issues spread across cultures and churches.
Mason frustrates me because he blames the culture for so many problems. Yes, the culture in a lot of these areas is a problem, but that culture didn’t arise from thin air. Care to explain why those cultural problems persist in Mormon communities the world over? From where did members get the message of black and white thinking, or that the leaders can do no wrong, etc.? Mason blames members for cultural issues and urges them to jettison the stated cultural impediments, yet that work is often at loggerheads with what comes from our leaders. Mason never really addresses that problem to my satisfaction but merely sidesteps it.
I also find it amusing and ironic to watch the tap dancing performed by Mason and the newer apologists as they ever so gingerly step around the “don’t question the leaders” cultural issue. Why must they do that, I wonder? They go out of their way to never be seen to question or impugn leadership, yet in doing so they support probably the most problematic cultural problem we face, and the one from which most of the others were born.
That said, I like a lot of Mason’s ideas and feel he moves the ball forward.
Andy, the church has significantly improved things on the mission front. For kids who are border-line able to serve (for spectrum disorders and other issues), they do 3-month trial missions (called “two-transfer missions”) to see how well they do with the regular mission schedule. If it works well, they continue on to the rest of a two-year mission. If it’s decided they’d be better serving in another capacity, they are honorably released and often are offered opportunities to serve in their local communities. With many missionaries coming home early due to mental illness, I’ve seen some increased efforts on the part of both the institution and everyday members to de-stigmatize the issue. We’ve still a long way to go, but I do see evidence of improvement on those typically squeezed out groups.
As far as the first group, the church has attempted to address some members directly (like in the 2010 fireside in Sweden and 2015 Boise Rescue), but they haven’t been all that successful. The Boise Rescue soecifically addressed the concern of whether prophets speak face-to-face with God.
Mary Ann, I had assumed that the blanket ban had been lifted, but I hadn’t heard about the trial period. From what I have heard about other people’s missions, the experience can vary quite a lot based on who the mission president is and how he motivates the missionaries. Letting someone try out the experience is a much better way of deciding if they are ready than trying to guess without knowing how they would react to the situation.
The firesides with church historians are a good attempt at addressing people’s concerns, but I don’t think that they can produce the results that the church wants. The people in the audience remember church, seminary, and institute lessons about how prophets speak to god face to face and how not having that kind of prophet was a sign of the great apostasy. They aren’t likely to react well to being told that God only speaks to prophet face to face at the start of a dispensation and on very rare occasions. I think that rewriting the lesson manuals will have a much bigger long term impact than a few firesides.
I found this exchange interesting, regarding the issue of whether prophets soeak face-to-face with God.
Pres. Hinckley in a 2004 interview with Larry King said this:
KING: You are the prophet, right?
KING: Does that mean that, according to the church canon, the Lord speaks through you?
HINCKLEY: I think he makes his will manifest, yes.
KING: So if you change things, that’s done by an edict given to you.
HINCKLEY: Yes, sir. KING: How do you receive it?
HINCKLEY: Well, various ways. It isn’t necessarily a voice heard. Impressions come. The building of this very building I think is an evidence of that.
There came an impression, a feeling, that we need to enlarge our facilities where we could hold our conferences. And it was a very bold measure. We had to tear down a big building here and put this building up at great cost.
But goodness sakes, what a wonderful thing it’s proven to be. It is an answer to many, many needs. And I think it’s the result of inspiration.
KING: And that came from something higher than you.
HINCKLEY: I think so.
If I tell you that I’ll never lie to you, and then you find out that I’ve lied to you about very important things, it isn’t your fault if you feel betrayed and break up with me.
No amount of goalpost-moving can change that.