The topic of why people leave the church is one that never gets old in the bloggernacle and other online Mormon discussion groups. Everyone has theories, usually self-justifying ones, to explain either why they left or why those who haven’t stayed (like themselves) were offended or stupid or lazy or whatever. Any explanation that is merely bolstering one’s own sense of rightness is likely to be partly wrong, although according to Jonathan Haidt, we don’t really know why we do what we do–it’s all post hoc justification.
I realized that I never shared my own thoughts about the infamous Mormon-leaked slide about why people leave. I thought I’d take a moment to revisit it now that it’s been a few months.
One of the key takeaways church leaders took from this presentation was that Sabbath day observance in families was the key. If families observe the Sabbath, their children won’t leave the church, so the thinking goes. Hedgehog blogged about that idea here. Most of the disaffected people I know thought that was a pretty stupid takeaway. I’m not so sure.
In defense of the Sabbath thing, when they presented this idea in our stake it was that when young people fall away it’s because their families broke the Sabbath. Aside from the obvious blame-the-parents approach that I wasn’t a big fan of, I do think there’s something to this–but only with a boatload of caveats. It has to do with how seriously the family takes church commitments in general, but I like that there’s no set way to “honor the Sabbath” (let’s also just ignore that Sunday is not actually the Sabbath for simplicity sake). So, perhaps its true that more laxity in the home leads kids to leave the church (because kids are generally less invested than the parents until they get older and start having their own kids), but I would bet you dollars to donuts that TOO MUCH Sabbath observance has the same result. I suspect this is a U-shaped curve. If you club the kids over the head with church stuff, they leave as soon as they get out from under mom & dad’s house rules because they hate it. If you’re too lax, they leave because they aren’t invested.
As to the reasons listed in the slide about why people leave, here are some thoughts.
Some of these are related to social movements or competing groups, which happens for a few reasons:
- These groups address a gap people perceive in the church
- They rise around a “cult of personality” or an individual who writes a book, creates a group, or otherwise brings together like-minded people
- They become a threat when there are enough people connected together discussing this topic and forming a group consensus. If they disagree, it’s not a threat.
I see a HUGE difference between the right and left on this, and I’m sure that’s partly because I “get” what the left is on about, but the ones on the right look like wing-nuts to me. But I’ll unbox each one briefly.
- Ordain Women. The crux here is that women have systematically been disenfranchised in the church at an increasing rate since the 1970s. The church is still trying (baby steps) to figure out how to engage women more fully without actually engaging them more fully. Personally, IMO, this one is the church having a real “all male panel” problem. Women are in a tiny little domestic box and any deviation is seen as sinful. The church’s efforts in this arena are pretty poor so far, but all of our measures for success are based on engaging men, not women. The assumption is that women will follow their husbands and that men are harder to engage.
- John Dehlin. What John did was create places for people to talk to others who were experiencing the same doubts. That’s kind of problematic from an Overton Window perspective, but the reason it happened is because wards (and the church at large) are too often hostile to doubts and doubters. This problem goes away if the church can find a way to welcome people at all levels of belief like Catholicism and other Christian faiths have. Some of the Q12 are clearly trying to address this while others are doubling down on ousting doubters.
- Denver Snuffer. He got a toehold because he talked about personal revelation and seeing the savior, and he spoke with spiritual power. We get mostly business-speak in General Conference. People were hungry for revelation and charismatic leadership. He also pointed out ways in which the church has become less revelatory and spiritual. The church brought this on through becoming political, corporate, Wasatch-front-centric, and the nepotism in how leaders are chosen.
- False Prophets. This is just a catch all category for the others like Snuffer and Robert Norman I assume. There will be more. I don’t know who they all are.
- Robert Norman. I literally never heard of this guy before this slide. I guess he’s a former CES teacher. Mary Ann wrote about it here.
- Last days/end of world predictions. Ditto the false prophets bucket – it’s just a catch all for preppers. Note that Julie Rowe, probably the most prominent prepper, isn’t named. That seems pretty sexist to me. Women aren’t taken as seriously as men. Julie Rowe, whom I consider to be a crackpot on par with the others, doesn’t merit naming.
Other things are caused by a disconnect between church culture and personal values.
- Disagree with Current Policies. I really don’t like that this slide is on the left side because that reveals / bolsters that the church’s policies are right-wing. I know they are, but they should at least pretend they are non-partisan. Also there are people on the right who don’t agree with church policies. There are a lot of policies out there. This one’s also interesting because we call something a policy when it doesn’t qualify as a doctrine and it’s seen as temporary usually and man-made vs. revealed. I guess I would say, if you have crappy policies, fix them. Stinkers like Nov. 5 are just simply terrible, and I don’t buy for a second that it was revelation. That was a ridiculous assertion. I’m equally unconvinced that the Proclamation was revelation since it was written by lawyers to give the church grounds to oppose gay marriage.
- Secular. This is lazy terminology. We are all secular to some extent. We have a lay clergy, for crying out loud! The church is secular, concerned with more than just spiritual matters–our doctrine ties up the stuff of life with spiritual matters; we don’t believe in a full separation of these things. We are run by business men at the ward and higher up levels. I suppose this refers to individuals who don’t see any value in what is spiritual, but again, I don’t think there are a lot of people like that. They just might not feel they get spiritual nourishment at church.
- Incredulity over Church History. The white-washing has come home to roost. The church caused this one, unfortunately, and they are now working to fix it, albeit a bit slowly and in some cases not very well. As we can see, even bishops haven’t read the essays.
- Lack of commitment. I suspect this is similar to the “Secular” category, just a catch all. Why don’t people commit? Perhaps they don’t feel their local wards are worth their commitment. Maybe they are busy with other things. Who knows? Are we giving them interesting things to commit to?
- Church has lost its way or is deficient. There are some on the right who feel like we’ve lost the revelatory thing and leadership is dull and uninspiring, but there are also those who feel (and this might be more on the left) that the church is intellectually lazy, manuals have all the common sense correlated out of them, lessons are proof-texting, etc. Putting it on the right misses a bunch of people, IMO, and a very important part of what needs to improve.
- Need “something more.” Perhaps this is the milk before meat (that never comes) argument. If so, I don’t think it’s on the right only. If it’s the lack of revelation, then again, we’ve got a lot of overlap with several other categories.
- Language and cultural problems “-ites.” I suspect this means the global church thing, and if so, it’s probably a byproduct of some areas where the church grew quickly but through things like baseball baptisms, and now the wards don’t have sufficient leadership to staff positions and people don’t fully understand what they are doing. Not sure. The word “-ites” is enigmatic.
And a few are personal “weakness” related, or the “fault” of the person who left.
- Chastity. Yes, this is always going to be an issue.
- Pornography. This is, IMO, completely overstated, and not because I don’t think porn can be an issue. It’s just outsize compared to how many people actually leave church because of it.
- Lack of righteousness. Well, what a catch-all category that is! Also, there are plenty of people who don’t leave who aren’t righteous or who are self-righteous (which is itself unrighteous), so this category is dumb.
- Sabbath. I already said what I had to say about that, but it’s really an overlap with secular and lack of commitment probably.
How Can We Improve?
I would contrast that with my own thoughts for what we need to do to get people more active or what would impact it:
- Be Charitable To Others. I am really put off by how my ward trash talks people who’ve left. How about we treat absent people with kindness and respect, even if they rejected something we hold dear? My old ward did not do this, and whenever I hear this, it is a huge turn off and makes me not want to go back. I thought we were supposed to be learning to be Christlike, not nursing our hurt feelings against people who left the church. I really hate this.
- Do More Service. If we were focused on organizing service events for our communities, that’s something EVERYONE could get behind regardless of the doctrines and the history and whatnot. We could bring non-members and feel like it wasn’t an embarrassment. This should be the bread & butter for churches.
- Meaningful Callings. I swear that the old adage is true that people need to feel needed and if someone doesn’t have a meaningful calling, they will fall away every time. But so many people feel underutilized.
- Bring Back Fun. We used to have fun in our wards. There were activities, road shows, campouts, etc. It seems like since we cut the activities committee, the only “activity” is cleaning the building. People want a sense of community at church. Bring back the linger longers!
What do you think would help reduce the loss of members?
Do you think the leaked slide’s reasons are accurate or not? Have your views changed since this was first made public?
Is the focus on Sabbath Day observance likely to create more “stickiness” to the church? Why or why not?
I just noticed that the circles on the left mostly represent people who are marginalized, while the circles on the right mostly represent people who are dissatisfied. The thought is still too new to me to know what to make of it.
I think our now grown kids would say that our Sabbath *was*, on the whole, a delight. Ironically, recreating our family’s Sabbath, to the extent that they can as students, has steadied them as they’ve left and/or stepped back from the church.
No one is going to quarrel with the sincere reminder or suggestion to observe the Sabbath. It’s just that it doesn’t address any of the issues that have my kid attending a different church … every Sunday.
I wonder if the Church realizes that not every family defines ‘keeping the Sabbath’ the way that they would like us to. There’s a lot of wiggle room.
Thanks for this post.
A few thoughts.
1. For the people I know that’s have left, sabbath observance had nothing to do with their leaving.
2. To answer your first question… for some people, there is nothing you can do to stop them leaving. I consider myself in that category. Having ticked all the boxes from a church point of view (mission, branch pres, HPGL, married, kids blah blah) and then to consider elements of our history, polygamy, polyandry BOA, Nov 2015 – they are irreconcilable to me. I know some people do it, and that’s ok, but I simply can’t. One or two things I can handle, but the weight of evidence , for me, is too much for a home teacher, blogger, bishop or GA to bring me back. I know that some people just couldn’t be bothered and know nothing about church history or whatever and just stop going – maybe that cohort might be receptive – but someone like me (and I know a lot of people like me) is not going to be receptive to coming back to church.
3 second question about the accuracy of the bubbles – I think they are pretty good generally. Like you mentioned, John Dehlin or Ordain Women don’t lead people out of the church – it’s the underlying actual or perceived deficiencies in the church that do…
4. In relation to your third question about the sabbath – Ive known stake presidents to take their families to the beach as well as some that tell members to keep their church clothes on all day. If you feel ostracised because you are gay, a woman or someone who genuinely believes the church is not led by prophets because we refused to ordain anyone of black African descent then I honestly don’t think it matters what you oh ever did on a Sunday.
Great post as always. Thanks.
I absolutely agree with the U-shaped curve on Sunday observance and retention of youth. When exiting the teen years my peers fit this pattern perfectly. Those that had parents that were “meh” on keeping the Sabath quickly faded away from any activity with the church. Those that were the strictest parents (i.e. say in your Sunday dress all day, the TV will not turn on during Sunday, leave church dances early on Saturday night, zero homework to be done on Sunday) left home and bolted, often to drugs and drinking within months.
You do a good job enumerating and summarizing the groups and individual motivations. I agree with your point that “the church has lost its way” isn’t just from those on the right. Church (not just Sunday) used to be more fun, more social. Not every activity needed to have “a priesthood purpose.” The enjoyment I get out of church is the few minutes before it starts, a few minutes in the halls between breaks, and after church before we leave. You know – actual interaction with others.
How can we improve? Great suggestions (and I wrote the above “the church used to be fun” before I got to this section).
I agree 100% on your “Be Charitable to others”. I do see that there seems to be an unwritten rule that is followed rather consistently (and harshly). If someone is never a member they can be treated with charity even though they have different beliefs. If someone used to be a member of the church for a period of years, then decides they no longer believe – MAJOR PROBLEM!!! That person CAN NOT just be accepted as just having a different belief. They are now one of the most terrible people and must be framed as bad and not engaged. Now there are some that leave the church and their new religion is to see that the LDS church burn. I can understand a bit of hatred. But there are many good moral folks that come to the conclusion the church isn’t what it claims it is and that position just does not compute. Being that I feel I am somewhat in that camp, I have come to see it as not much more than fear. Fear of the fragility of their own testimony and they don’t want it challenged and take any risks that they could be wrong. So they just figurativly put their fingers in their ears and say “la la la la la”. There are exceptions, but I feel I am describing the norm that I see. As I commented on Stephen’s post yesterday on funerals – don’t let an ex-mo dad even talk at his own daughters funeral held at the church probably pretty much sealing the deal that he is NEVER going to see the church as charitable in any way. He probably is emotionally cemented into an angry ex-mo.
I would add to the “Do more service” the addition of “outside the church”. I get zero emotional satisfaction cleaning the toilets in our church (it actually has 10 toilets and 3 urinals BTW – and I have cleaned them all a few times by myself). I would rather do it for another church that is in need. Now THAT would be more meaningful.
I would add to the “Meaningful callings” the addition of “without tons of micro-managing what can/can’t be done. Yelling at the primary teachers that they can’t even hand out 5 M&M’s to the kids (with no alergeys or other health issues) is just mean.
I already mentioned we need more fun.
Your ideas on” How Can We Improve?” are very good. Are you now, or have you ever been, in a position to suggest/implement some of these ideas in your Ward? I sincerely hope that you’re not one who comes to Church looking for controversy and is disappointed to not find any.
We had a member in our Ward who seemed to revel in being disruptive. He ALWAYS wore a black shirt to Sacrament meeting. I’m thinking “do you expect me to believe you don’t have ten bucks to buy a white shirt? His attendance was usually F&T so he could “enlighten” the members with his opinions. He was also in Gospel Principles class with guns loaded, a chip on his shoulder, and a short fuse. Thankfully, he recently moved away.
Now to your ideas. Don’t let anyone decline to consider them by saying “we’ve never done that before”. Research the Church manuals; and if there’s nothing stated that forbids it, go for it. I’ve been victorious on several issues involving music and activities. I’m glad to say that none of them had escalated into battles or conflicts.
Great post, thank you Hawkgrrrl. I like your analysis. We as an institution and membership are caught up in a struggle that I believe is also going on in the Q15. Recognizing that there are a lot of people in the middle, I think there are two sides tugging at either end asking the following: Do we want a core group of committed believers who stand strong in the face of worldly opposition and watch as the very elect fall away and we await the Second Coming? Or do we want a big tent Mormonism where we have Mormons of all kinds of stripes in the pews and are more tolerant. We need to decide what we want. People tugging from one end are fine with the Church losing members and actually offer the door to anyone wanting change or expressing doubt. They want the core group of true believers. We saw some conference talks bolster this position. I have friends and family members in this group and it scares the hell out of me. I see this view as a lot of doom and gloom and actually applauding bad things that happen as progress toward the Second Coming. People tugging on the other end (probably most of the people who read this blog) want the Church to be more progressive and inclusive. I think we could do a lot of good and get people back if we adopted this approach. For example, I was shocked to hear Tanner Gilliland from Zelph on the Shelf say on a Radio West interview of Mormon Millenials that he missed the cultural aspects of the Church and would consider coming back if the Church would accept him for who he is and not demand conformity. I think we would be surprised how many exmos would do the same. But, we would need to be OK with things like people having coffee mugs at ward activities, bare shoulders at church and cohabitating and gay and lesbian families in sacrament meeting. We also would need to make a lot of space in wards for people who do not want or do not have temple recommends and have lots of callings that do not require a TR and do not treat people who do not have one like pariahs. To use an oft-quoted phrase from general conference: ““Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
I think the activities thing hinges on the bishopric. We have a tiny ward of mostly older people (median age is around 50-60, lol). But we have at least a potluck or BBQ every month, plus annual traditions like the ward picnic, the talent show, Halloween chili cookoff, etc. Since we are so small, with very few kids, we decided last year to have our Halloween activity combined with the other wards in our building. They reluctantly agreed to the chili cookoff, but nixed the haunted house (what?!), and had the trunk or treat about 20 mins after we started. No socializing time at all. This year, they wanna combine again, but are adamant about no dinner. They just want everyone to come, they will have a parade of costumes, trunk or treat, donuts and root beer and go home. My friend in that ward says they rarely have any kind of social. Sam says he thinks their bishop hates chili, lol. He could not convince them, so we are having our own chili dinner (no compeition cuz we only need like 2-3 pots of chili, lol)and then crashing their trunk or treat.
I think our socializing makes our ward more like a family. We have many differing life backgrounds, economic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, etc, but the amount of support anyone in need gets is phenomenal. It really is the best ward I have ever lived in. We never had much of an activity “committee”, because frankly, we don’t have enough people to fill those callings. But our bishopric is committed to making sure that everyone feels needed and loved, and it’s not possible if they dont know each other.
“Thankfully, he recently moved away.”
I find this to be an example of the attitude of members that makes it hard for those who fall into one of the above bubbles to stay.
markagblog – My snarky answer to your question if Hawkgrrrl has ever been in a position to suggest/implement would be – She’s a woman! My more serious response would be that one issue that makes this hard is the church already keeps people fairly busy and the kids multiply that busyness. I a stake calling someone said, “we could do so much more, but we need more people. We need to create an entire new stake committee made up of “really motivated parents from the wards to help the youth.” I almost laughed out loud. The wards would revolt saying, “we have nobody left to run the ward level programs” But not to be a total pessimist, we can still try and push these suggestions along.
I agree. If you want to have anyone in the ward listen to you, you have to build some credibility that you are “in the group.” A bishop can say, “let’s bend this rule for our ward”, but someone that is always saying how screwed up the church is will just be seen as an outsider.
Many years ago, varuous LDS church groups had all kinds of fund raisers and the RS had its own bank accounts. RS was viewed more like Junior League is now. RS ran significant programs within communities.
When all independent budgets were taken away and each auxiliary was assigned a budget from the ward, it changed the entire dynamic of ward organizations. It decreased feelings of connection to the church.
Then, meetings were changed. Primary and RS were moved to Sunday — with RS having a midweek activity on only a monthly basis. The entire church organization became more tightly controlled from the top hierarchy.
So many people grew up under the old system and they remember the culture and the social connection. Those people stayed in the church.
Their children lack the memories of the old system. Those children are adults now and the LDS church has given many rules but little socialization or connectivity that goes deeper than the surface. Those adults look at tithing money that go to the church. What does an individual family see as expenditures on their behalf? Poor printed Sunday bulletins, a church building that is heated and cooled when in use, and maybe $100 per year per child spent on various actvities through primary/YM/YW. That isn’t much of a return on the investment. People don’t need much .. but they need to see something local.
The argument can be made that tithing isn’t supposed to give a return. But the LDS church isn’t giving socialization. It isn’t giving culture. It isn’t giving inclusion. It isn’t giving anything other than a list of Do Nots and Shall Nots.
This was my answer to someone asking why no one every checked on her when she went from having a high stake calling to inactive:
“This is all too common of an experience. Those of us who were front and center in ward and stake leadership level callings so often feel that by being so visible in our callings, our absence should be equally visible and noted and addressed by local leadership.
My experience has been the opposite. My theory is that the more visible your presence had been, the less attention you will receive when you stop attending.
I have wondered if local leadership starts out thinking that they do not want to give attention to someone throwing “a tantrum”. Then time goes by, the person does not return to church attendance and local leadership is then just uncomfortable and wants the situation to just go away.
For me personally, I ran across a ward member at a local store. She mentioned that “everyone had discussed my situation and was concerned”
The problem with that comment was that literally no one had talked to me. The only information they had was that I wasn’t attending. Any other information would have been theoretical or made up. They knew nothing.
Her comment should have been, “We have all gossiped about you, made up crap stories, and repeated those to each other so often that we now assume those stories are truth”. “
Personally, I think people become deeply discouraged and dissatisfied with their church experience and they then look for someone who they relate to. They will find a group that reflects some piece of who they are and align with that group. That alignment will cause them to fall into one of the circles of the posted PowerPoint presentation, but honestly, I don’t think that is why they leave. The initial disappointment and dissatisfaction is more spiritually visceral.
The power point merely describes where people end up. It does not describe why they began looking for an alternative.
The hierarchy of the church preaches the importance of love and acceptance and loving people as they are and where they are. Until that lesson can be truly incorporated into the life and blood of each ward, the bleeding will continue. There is an old joke in anesthesia circles, “All bleeding stops eventually”.
An anesthesia provider doesn’t get to stop the bleeding, they just keep giving blood and attempt to keep the patient alive. They do all kinds of things to keep the patient alive while depending on the surgeon to stop the bleeding. Either the surgeon will finally get control of the bleeding , or eventually, the patient does die. Either way, the bleeding will stop.
The church needs to figure out how to stop the hemorrhage. What they have done so far is making it worse.
Happy Hubby: Since my home Ward has innovative ideas that come from women and men, should I consider our Ward progressive?
ReTx: You can’t convince me that if this member had been in your Ward, causing disruption at every opportunity, you would be comfortable with that. But no one held the door open for him to leave; his job took him elsewhere.
felixfabulous: Progressive advocates can also callously show the door to those with a different viewpoint/approach.
For me, it is an underlying question of utility. I see things similarly to LDS Aussie. I can’t reconcile the doctrinal and historical problems. Some can, but I cannot. There isn’t going to be any GA or apologist that is going to convince me that yes, the BofA (and subsequent doctrines) should be taken literally, that I should give any more credence to what Church leaders say than any other person, that polygamy was okay, that we have a clue regarding LGBT issues, that women shouldn’t have a completely equal place in the church, or any number of issues. That ship sailed long ago. Telling me to stick around and “doubt my doubts” or making an appeal to authority are nonstarters.
With that said, there is a lot to love about the community of the church. I think there is an important element of community in worshiping God; however, the LDS Church doesn’t do community well anymore. For people who do not buy the Party line, the church needs to offer some sort of utility beyond catechism, and it doesn’t. In that 3-hour block I hardly have any opportunity to mingle and get to know my fellow church members. Everyone is so busy running around, filling their callings, going to meetings, etc. There just isn’t time for genuine interaction, so why go?
Also, embedded within the push for Sabbath observance is the idea that unnecessary programs and such should be cut, but that almost universally means the community aspects are cut because they aren’t seen as doctrinal or as important as BYC or some other lame meeting. The overtly community building efforts are typically jettisoned in favor of more catechism.
My family watched “Hidden Figures” the other day and there is a scene where the women are at their church services. There is a sermon and then a potluck afterward. My son said, “That’s the type of church I want to attend,” and he’s right. Weekly catechism might work for some but, as that catechism’s credibility becomes untenable, the utility of a weekly catechism diminishes, leaving community as the reason to remain. Unfortunately, what little community we have isn’t accepting of those who don’t buy into the catechism.
Damascene said it perfectly.
I think the Sabbath observance thing is bogus. Witness the angst of a huge number of the disaffected who stay in for the sake of the rift it would potentially cause in their larger families. How could that be among families who weren’t truly committed and practicing their faith?
And I think the whole thing of the church as a tax exempt real estate corporation is greatly underplayed. Where are our prophets, seers and revelatory when the church is coming apart at the seams? Where is the transparency about where tithes go and the general financial underpinnings of the church? How can we keep the myth that the church practices any substantial charity when we no longer see it even when families are in dire straits and are told to go to the government first despite the vast wealth of the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints? Where is the Christ-like-ness of the church in it’s deep-seated and stubborn homophobia and misogyny? Where is the spirit of discernment when the Judges in Israel have for the most part become a matter of inheritance and nepotism rather than genuine worthiness?
Why do we skirt around the central issue of what has become of the church that enables every one of the issues on the social and religious right and left? The institution of the CoJCoLdS has become what the Gospel describes as a “whited sepulchres, which indeed” (and I would add ironically) “appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
This is a hard and blunt observation, I know. But how — and I ask that in all sincerity — do we manage to overlook it when the question comes up?
“ReTx: You can’t convince me that if this member had been in your Ward, causing disruption at every opportunity, you would be comfortable with that. But no one held the door open for him to leave; his job took him elsewhere.”
You’d have to meet my extended family. We have an unhappy propensity toward mental illness. Guaranteed I’ve seen worse disruption than what this man was doing.
My point was meant to be more broad than that though. When outliers make orthodox members uncomfortable, the orthodox members squeeze them out.
One additional thought on my previous point…
Discussions with members and comments at church lead me to believe that orthodox members do this out of a sense of fear.
Yes, I think the slide is a pretty accurate snapshot of problems in December 2015. Some of the bubbles would be labeled differently now, but the concepts would be similar.
The Sabbath Day observance emphasis in early 2015 was to address the hemorrhaging of members between baptism and the endowment (kids, teenagers, & YSA). Although addressing “weak gospel teaching and modeling in the home” (as Bednar put it) might help with some of those central blue bubbles, I don’t see it having much effect on the orange (left), green (right), or red bubbles. Having a multi-generational family in the church doesn’t suddenly make people not care about feminist issues, or feel less anxious about prepping for the second coming. And *being* part of a multi-generational family doesn’t necessarily mean your culture or language will be any more tolerated or accepted in a particular ward if it doesn’t fit the prevailing stereotype (the problems in the red bubble with in-groups versus outsiders).
Why Do People Leave
As this post points out there are many reasons why people leave. In my opinion, based on many years of observation, the main reason has to do with covenants.
The first covenant we make is at baptism. We are told to “Receive the Holy Ghost”. Those members, who at some point in their church experience, decide to diligently seek for the Holy Ghost will be blessed with some kind of manifestation of the Spirit. When one receives a manifestation of the Spirit, faith will grow. If they continue faithful then over time testimony grows in to conversion. Once converted, they move on to receiving a remission of their sins, in other words, they are born again. It is rare for a born again member of the church to leave. As the Book of Mormon teaches:
And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away. Alma 23:6
I wish that before assigning callings, they’d put out a list of callings and let people sign their name to what they’d be interested in. Also allow people the freedom to talk about wanting to get released from a calling because they are burned out or having issues with the members that they’re serving with. On the flip side, let people that love their calling stay in unless you have an overwhelming feeling that they need to be elsewhere.
Also, cut church down to 2 hours. I have no idea why we have 3 speakers in Sacrament meeting and make teachers teach a lesson for 45 minutes.
How can we improve?
Add this to the top of the list:
Make the LDS church unmistakably devoted to faith in and the worship of Jesus Christ (Dial down the prophet worshipping). Stop pretending to be The Church of Jesus Christ and start doing it.
Sabbath observance and keeping people active in the LDS church.
Not related. Two distinct activities.
Image a family (physically resembling Duck Dynasty) who hated the LDS religion and gathered every Sunday. Their idea of keeping the Sabbath was to zealously go around and burn down LDS churches. And further image that the reason they did this was because they used to be LDS and became offended for some trivia reason and thought the world would be a better place with fewer LDS church buildings.
Is this hypothetical family more likely to :
A) perpetuate the practice of church burning as a Sabbath activity into their children
B) get their children active in the LDS faith
C) grow tired of the practice and do something else
D) end up in prison
Obviously choice B is illogical, the others could happen.
If you equate sabbath observance with attending the LDS meetings, doing LDS suggested activities, going to LDS firesides, enforcing LDS taboos, visiting orthodox LDS relatives and friends, helping poor LDS people, socially isolating yourselves from any other group of people… well, gollie gee, you just might be more inclined to remain in the LDS faith. Ingenious.
Are we the only religion that can’t tell the difference between coincidence, association, circular thinking and causality? (Probably not).
Do you doubt the genuine conversion under the influence of the Holy Spirit of a person completely immersed in the LDS faith into another faith?
It has happened. In my own family.
Perhaps your many years of observation have a strong selection bias toward those who stay and you lack broad exposure to the inner workings and struggles of the spiritual lives of very many those who have left.
This gets right to the very core of LDS exclusiveness.
Are we really the ONLY true and living church with which the Lord is pleased?
Or does the Lord have other sheep not of this Mormon fold and not in another hemisphere?
There are many wonderful “churches” from all faiths to be found through out the world. I have friends and relatives from other churches and have seen the good in them. Yet, at the same time I accept that Joseph Smith was visited by the Father and Son and commissioned to be the prophet who ushered in the only church that possesses the authority of God (the priesthood), in other words, the only true and living church with which the Lord is pleased.
That doesn’t mean other churches are abandoned by God. LDS leaders teach that other churches teach much truth and bring blessing into the lives of their members. Where there is faith there are answered prayers. God loves and blesses all who call upon his name for help and blessings.
The Book of Mormon teaches that all who believe in Jesus Chris will have the manifestation of the Holy Ghost. This could be interpreted as churches other than Mormons.
God “manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles … among the children of men according to their faith” (2 Nephi 26:13).
Consider what Elder Oaks says about other churches.
“We also hear examples of this among people of faith in other churches. A Texas newspaperman described such a miracle. When a five-year-old girl breathed with difficulty and became feverish, her parents rushed her to the hospital. By the time she arrived there, her kidneys and lungs had shut down, her fever was 107 degrees, and her body was bright red and covered with purple lesions. The doctors said she was dying of toxic shock syndrome, cause unknown. As word spread to family and friends, God-fearing people began praying for her, and a special prayer service was held in their Protestant congregation in Waco, Texas. Miraculously, she suddenly returned from the brink of death and was released from the hospital in a little over a week. Her grandfather wrote, “She is living proof that God does answer prayers and work miracles.” Dallin Oaks, April Conference, 2010
Markagblog: “Are you now, or have you ever been, in a position to suggest/implement some of these ideas in your Ward?” I am, and I do, and the ward generally adopts them, although let’s be honest. It’s a lot of work. We no longer have activities committees, unfortunately, so this falls on the already stretched auxillary groups.
” I sincerely hope that you’re not one who comes to Church looking for controversy and is disappointed to not find any.” I honestly don’t know what you mean by this. Why would that be relevant? What would that even look like? I go to church regularly. I look pretty much like everyone else. I don’t know what you mean by “controversy.” I certainly consider it controversial when people bash those who leave, and in those cases I do speak up and have been thanked by ward & stake leadership for doing so. I also consider it controversial for people to claim that the Proclamation was in any way prophetic, but if it gives someone comfort to think so, I’m not there to burst bubbles.
Jared, I think you missed the point. There is no question that God guides people in other churches. Mike is saying that God also guides people to other churches as part of leading them out of the LDS church. I have formerly orthodox, faithful, RM, TR-holding, planned-lifer-Mormon friends who had this happen to them as well.
Personally, I find the claim that ‘they left because they just weren’t converted enough’ has very little to do with the person who left the church or their reasons for doing so.
This is an excellent post that makes a lot of good points. However, is it okay if I point out the irony of a plea to be more charitable toward others who’ve left while at the same time calling those on the right who have left “crackpots”?
“Julie Rowe, whom I consider to be a crackpot on par with the others…”
“Be Charitable To Others. I am really put off by how my ward trash talks people who’ve left. How about we treat absent people with kindness and respect, even if they rejected something we hold dear? “
BB, fair point. I think people should be on their guard against fanaticism. Would it be more charitable to call those on the far right fanatics?
How about just skip the labeling entirely and go with something like “who I don’t happen to agree with” especially as the OP admits that she is not familiar with them individually and the specifics of their beliefs.
A niece and her family left the LDS a few years ago when her mother took her own life. They joined a Christian church. They appear to be doing well.
Heavenly Father gave humankind agency. I respect her decision and wish her well. I believe she made a mistake. I also believe she will have the option to return to her former faith on either side of the veil.
The three degrees of glory as revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith doesn’t teach that those in kingdoms other than the celestial are in hell because of their choices. All the kingdoms are degrees of glory and every knee will bow and acknowledge that were treated justly. They are happy and content.
I’m relatively new to the conversation about why people leave the church, but as I have been thinking about this question and some of the comments here and in other posts, another question popped into my head. Speaking of the people that voluntarily leave the church —
“Why did they come to church in the first place?”
Were they coming to church because they wanted to enhance their social life in a church environment? Were they coming to church to please a friend/parent/spouse? Were they coming to church for an intellectual experience? Were they coming to church out of habit since childhood? Other reasons??
Of course if you’re coming to church at all, for any of the above reasons or other reasons not mentioned, I believe that is a good thing for you, your family, and your country, since religion in general teaches one to be a moral person. However, I wonder if one does not eventually get to the point where he is coming to church because of his love for Jesus (to worship Him), and additionally for LDS people, because he wants to renew covenants at the Sacrament table, something will eventually happen that will make you question whether you want to continue going to church.
Another question popped into my head —
“After leaving the LDS church, what is the percentage that start attending another church on a regular basis (at least 2 or 3 times a month)?”
I know there are plenty of people who voluntarily leave the LDS church and still consider themselves dedicated disciples of Jesus. They simply choose to worship Him by attending another Christian church, or perhaps no church at all. I find the “no church at all” option difficult to understand, while still considering oneself a dedicated disciple of Jesus, but that’s just me.
Regarding the idea that children leave the church due to parents being too lax or too strict on Sabbath observance, that may be just a specific take-away from the more general idea that children whose freedoms are not limited enough or limited too much will have a more difficult time following in (or wanting to follow in) their parent’s footsteps. For example, children who have ultra-strict parents many times will rebel against anything that was perceived as important to the parents (church, athletics, hunting, quilting, limiting chocolate consumption, whatever…). So if a child grows up in a home where Sabbath observance was ultra-strict, they will not only rebel against church, but will probably rebel against other things the parents thought was important.
Brian: “However, I wonder if one does not eventually get to the point where he is coming to church because of his love for Jesus (to worship Him), and additionally for LDS people, because he wants to renew covenants at the Sacrament table, something will eventually happen that will make you question whether you want to continue going to church.”
That’s precisely why I went to church, for years and years.
If you want to truly understand those who leave, be prepared to drop every last one of your assumptions. They’re all wrong.
Trousers: I’m happy to listen to the actual reasons rather than my assumptions. Please share…
I also remember the halcyon days of the roadshows etc. there was certainly a different feeling in the 70’s and 80’s regarding the community of the church. Lack of activities was not one of the bubbles and for people who have been unable to reconcile doctrinal, cultural or policy aspects of the church, greater community in the form of activities, mingling socially wth members etc may actually be detrimental in attempts to bring them back to full activity.
As has been observed before, the church leaders are broadly incapable of any real organisational introspection, so the bubbles reflect what they perceive to be failings in their members rather than failings in the organisation.
Long ago in my Mormon world I was born again unto the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the scriptures. I walked by faith along my journey toward greater light and knowledge holding fast to that wondrous, empowering, sanctifying gospel. It has been the love of my life, as well as the light. It has been the Bread and Breath of Life, and the Living, Loving Water. The Mormon Church has been a place where I could glean and sift truth and light from and with others. So has studying the lives of great men and women throughout history of many different cultures, faiths, and ideologies. So has walking redwood forest paths, meditating on mesas overlooking deep chasms, or walking along seashores.
The Mormon Church is not the Gospel. It is an imperfect organization that brings people together to grow in their journey toward the Light and Love of becoming holy. The imperfect, but ordained brethren who hold the holy keys of authority to administer the progressive ordinances of holy covenants are in this church. Those ordinances are of inestimable worth to our covenant journeys toward unspeakable joy, and cannot be found anywhere else on earth. We can find other places of joy and light, yes, but not the fore-ordained fullness of joy. Those keys, that lead to those ordinances, that give us Covenanted promises of all-fulfilling and utter glorious happiness from the glory of the gospel of truth and light are only in this wretched church run by wretched people who mostly mean well, but will always offend many.
I can look past the wretchedness of the church and it’s people, including my truly wretched soul, to help build a place of refuge for ALL who wish to come worship God and glean Truth and Light therein. Nevertheless, I grieve the wretchedness for it grieves God and hurts us all. Yet I have hope that one by one we can overcome wretchedness by cleaving to the Gospel with fire burning in our souls. I believe that with all my wretched heart. Still, Oh Lord, heal thou my unbelief…. Heal us every one…..
Jared – I associate with dozens of ex members who – for all intents and purposes – were converted, in both mind and heart. People who served in all callings of the church. Almost all of them self report full conversion to the gospel. My experience is that it is not rare, it is not the exception – for the great majority of people it is the rule.
“Bring back the linger longers!”
I was just thinking the same thing this week! I think that would be wonderful, but problem is, especially in Utah, some ward buildings are so over-stuffed that you can’t shoehorn in a linger longer. We barely have enough buildings to house the wards in our stake, and I know at least one ward needs splitting but is waiting until a new building is completed. They’re literally busting at the seams and taking over the entire gym just for Sacrament meeting. Our bishop suggested they start letting people sit in the choir seats so we can hold a Sunday School class in part of the gym.
Never seen it happened. If full conversion was as tenuous as you report we would see it among the General Authorities of the Church. Hasn’t happened. I think your idea of conversion differs from mine.
Jared – I think our ideas of full conversion are very similar. One cannot, post hoc, say that because someone left, that they were not converted and because they stayed they were. I know stacks of people with not much of a testimony who go to church every week.
Tom Phillips is a good example. Recommended for the calling and election. Received it. All in. A 70. Fully converted. And then later left the church. Both happened.
And a couple of others. 3 bishops I know, Hans Mattsson and Judas.
I lived in the same area for nearly 40 years. None of the Bishops, Stake Presidents, Relief Society Leaders, and etc have gone off to other churches. If you go to the internet sites where people who have left the church gather you will find what you report. However, that isn’t representative of the whole.
Jared: neither is your personal experience representative of the whole. There are many people who leave despite having been converted at one time. That’s described in the New Testament, and it happened with plenty of people I knew in my mission also, in branch and stake leadership. I’ve seen it in various wards and stakes. I know many fellow missionaries who are no longer in the church despite having been converted at one time
Jared – whilst I have been made aware of some people who were “all in” who have left via the Internet, I need not go there for dozens of examples. The fact that you haven’t seen it doesn’t invalidate the fact that I have.
So I guess the question is, Can someone who is *truly* converted to Christ ever fall away? Or does being *truly* converted to Christ by definition mean you will not fall away? I’m sure we all have differing opinions on that.
Perhaps some are basing their assumptions on these questions on a scripture like this:
Alma 23:6 …yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.
My belief is that there are people who have known, or will know, for a surety that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be. They will have tasted of the happiness and joy of that knowledge, and they will choose to turn away from it.
It’s not representative of the whole, but it is representative of a problem. Looking at anything and saying ‘this is how life works for me, thus it must be how it works for everyone else’ just makes no sense.
Back to your niece who choose a different church… She also is a representative of herself and no one else. You might think of asking her if God called her to her new church as a better choice for her. If she says yes and tells her story are you prepared to believe her?
Elder Hamula is a recent example. Bet he was converted…
“So I guess the question is, Can someone who is *truly* converted to Christ ever fall away?”
I think the bigger questions are ‘converted to what?’ and ‘fall away from what?’
I considered myself deeply converted to Christ. I was at one time deeply converted to the programs of the LDS church, but (although I’m still active out of respect for my spouse) have fallen away. The latter has very little to do with the former.
“Tom Phillips is a good example. Recommended for the calling and election. Received it. All in. A 70. Fully converted. And then later left the church. Both happened.”
Would you say that the *full conversion* of Tom Phillips that you mentioned and others like him is the same as the conversion of those who have not fallen away? Say for example the Lamanites I referenced in Alma 23:6? Or do we need a different adjective preceding the word conversion to distinguish the two? Or just a different word altogether?
Do we know if E. Hamula fell away? Granted he sinned in such a way as to be excommunicated, but that of itself is not an indication of not being converted to Christ, just an indication of being human. Perhaps he is on the repentance path now??
Brian – good point. Alma 23:6 talks only very specifically about a group of people. I’m not sure that has general applicability.
I can’t see why God would call Tom Phillips to such an important at station in the church of he was not fully converted – considering his job was to testify of Christ to the world..??
There are principles in the church that make it hard for some members to reconcile being fully active and converted and then fall away – like there was probably something wrong with them all the time…. the fact that one can be fully converted and then fall away sits ok with me.
Brian: I really, really appreciate that. Thank you.
I’m a high priest. I loved my savior and the Church (in that order). I had spiritual experiences that convinced me that God knew me personally and had forgiven my sins. I was all in.
The Church began to lose me at my faith crisis, when I discovered that all the techniques I had been taught for securing a blessing from God were faulty, and a product of well-intentioned wishful thinking. It lost me completely after about a year of hiding myself, dissembling, misdirecting, and occasionally outright lying in order to remain a member in good standing – all while in agony from a total collapse in worldview.
I’ve never felt so alone and betrayed as I did during that year. In return for years of faithful service, when I most needed support, the Church carried out an assault on my well-being and integrity, by forcing me to choose between exile and dishonesty. I was lucky to be married to a wonderful woman who saw and understood my pain, so that I could at least choose exile without losing her, too.
The chart needs the bubble “Kicking faithful members when they’re down.”
I think all the GA’s in the last 50 years is a better representation of a discussion on conversion than any other. I don’t know how many have left to join another church, but I doubt very many. I can’t think of any.
ELDER Hamula is an interesting case. In all senses of the word he fell away. Yes he is human, but whatever he did was reflective of something so significant adultery, serious criminal activity, fraud or whatever that the church took away his baptism, priesthood, sealing to his wife and probably any future leadership callings in the church, should he ever return.
It could be argued that to err is normal and human, but to stuff things up (whatever he did) is not reflective of someone truly converted. I don’t subscribe to that line of thought. I have no doubt that he – and the leaders that called him – and God – believed that he displayed behaviour and had integrity such that he was truly converted. And then he made a monumental stuff up. Both happened.
THE right trousers – almost my exact experience. Thanks for sharing.
Can we all agree that God is fair and that all of us, His children, will have a fair opportunity to prove whether we deserve to be in heaven or not? In other words, one person’s tests/trials will not be harder for him to deal with than another person’s tests/trials are for him to deal with? Jesus, the best of us all, had the hardest tests and trials. It is fair, or just, that His trials were the hardest because He is the best of all of us.
If we can agree on that, then we would have to have different words to describe someone who is *all in* and falls away vs. someone who is *all in* and doesn’t fall away. Both were given tests/trials that were fair and appropriate for them to show whether they would be faithful, but there were two different outcomes. How can we use the words “fully or truly converted” to describe them both?
Just to clarify on E. Hamula, the church specifically stated that his excommunication was not driven by apostasy. That still means it’s open to speculation (top two likely contenders seem to be something with sex or money, right?), but we have no way of knowing. Whatever it was, I wish him and his family the best.
“Both were given tests/trials that were fair and appropriate for them to show whether they would be faithful, but there were two different outcomes.”
I’d agree with your statement except to clarify that the two different outcomes do not mean one person followed God and the other did not. Some who stay are following God. Some who stay are not. Some who leave are following God. Some who leave are not.
Excellent clarification, thank you (and I agree with you).
Brian, if you toss the assumption “converted members don’t lose their beliefs,” you’ll be able to make sense of it. Why spend all this energy protecting that generalization from the facts?
It’s pretty clear that no true Scotsman as ever lost their testimony.
The Church is correct on some reasons on why SOME leave but also demonstrate major blind spots why people leave. Until they actually do research and this would include actually speaking to people who leave, they will never have an understanding in this area.
I’m not sure how old you are or what your experiences in life have been, but you don’t seem to have interacted with a lot of people who have left the LDS faith but who were deeply converted.
Can I introduce myself to you as such a one?
My name is Dan. For the past 25 years I have served in Bishoprics, high councils, and in stake presidencies. My wife served in all of the women’s leadership callings. We were and are very converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We left everything on the LDS alter. Everything.
A funny thing happened. We started to read the church essays. We started to read everything we could about our own church history. And despite all of messiness we found, we would still be attending the LDS church. But there was one thing we couldn’t accept: the LDS church can not tell the full truth about most anything. I don’t know where this idea of lying for the Lord started, but it is pervasive from the beginning of the LDS church to today.
The bottom line why we left is because we no longer trust the organization of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It simply does not tell the truth. That is a fact. And we could not reconcile that fact with the assertion that such a church is the one true church of God on the earth. That just doesn’t stand up to any of the wisdom and knowledge and lessons God has taught me in my life through the spirit. It is very sad to me, but a church that consistently can not be trusted to say the truth can not be THE true church. It’s that simple for us. Love the sabbath day, but…it had nothing to do with us multi-generational, deeply converted, committed Mormons leaving the LDS church.
A few years back our Stake Youth did a movie night akin to a Road Show. (I may have had something to do with that activity.) Each unit’s youth had to write a skit that included at least one song. They filmed and edit it. The youth then came together to screen the movies. It was a huge success. The kids wanted to do it every year, but the next year it wasn’t done again because it takes a lot of work to pull off, all the writing and rehearsing and filming and editing. The adult leaders felt that to do it every year was too big a time commitment. I think this sums up why activities in the Church have died; they’ve been streamlined to death.
I think there is a difference between testimony and being converted. A testimony precedes conversion. Church members often say they have been converted when they acquire a testimony. However, being converted as defined by the Book of Mormon is far more than testimony. Conversion, remission of sins, being born again, and experiencing fire and the Holy Ghost are ways of saying the same thing. Those who were converted according to the Book of Mormon experienced something very significant. Enos, the people of king Benjamin, and those who were with Nephi and Lehi in Helaman 5 are examples.
I studied in depth everything that is covered in the essays. I did it in the early 1970’s while at BYU. I was troubled by what I learned, but it never created doubt because of the manifestation of the Spirit I received prior to learning about the problems in church history and doctrine. My observation an experience has taught me that those who have experienced the gifts of dreams, visions, and the ministering of angels don’t leave the church as a rule. If I hadn’t had such experiences, I wonder if I would still be a member of the church.
Brian, it’s easier to see on the green bubbles to the right, but in the cases of people like Snuffer, these people are fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They believe the *church* has fallen away. Several of these folks claim personal visitations from Christ – you can’t get more converted than that. But you also get people on the bubbles on the left who also feel fully converted to Jesus Christ and because of that, cannot reconcile that belief with actions of church leaders. So recognize that what you are really asking about is conversion to the belief that current church leadership provides the best (or only) way to access the gospel of Jesus Christ, not just belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ itself.
Thank you for sharing your story Dan.
Jared: Bully for you that you haven’t fallen into the trap of these poor stupid souls who clearly don’t meet your bar for conversion. Your comments continue to be end to end True Scotsman Fallacy, and it’s pretty insulting although I’m sure your intentions are good. No matter what anyone says to tell you that they were converted, if they fell away, you’re going to say that they were never converted. We get it.
One of the things that I find so hard about the shape of my faith is that I have listen to Jared’s story and accept it as real and living and true. He truly is converted. He truly has had spiritual manifestations that bind him tight to Christ in a way that is beautiful and fulfilling. I am thrilled for him. I hope his faith stays deep and meaningful and that he is filled with peace. It is hard for me (at times) that he (and the many, many members of the church like him) will always see my faith as inferior. My spiritual manifestations and my relationship to Christ and the sense of peace I develop within my life are not as good as his. Nothing I can say will legitimize my experiences in his world-view because they have occurred outside of orthodoxy.
My faith will always be less to people like him, at the same time that I require of myself not to see his faith as less. It is an uncomfortable place to be (at times, again).
ReTx – wonderfully put. Thank you for sharing that personal perspective.
When Bill Reel was interviewed on Infants on Thrones a while back he spoke about one of his (Bills) bug bears. That is people telling other people’s stories. The apostles are really good at that in speaking wrongly about people like me who have left. They are telling my story and they are wrong. Jared is – perhaps to a lesser extent – doing that here…telling stories of people and experiences he (and others) know little or nothing about.
I have been a fully converted member in every sense. AND I am now an inactive member of the church. I KNOW both sides of that coin. I know members in my ward have spoken ill of me. I have had people laugh at my comments in HPG. I have had people turn up at my doorstep to get me to go back to church. I have been sent reading material in attempts to answer my questions. And I have had others (active church members) tell and share my story. And they have all been wrong.
To Dan, ReTx and others like them, I thank you for your courage in sharing YOUR story. To Jared – I appreciate your world view and experiences. I have had similar experiences too. The difference between me and you is that whilst it sounds like we have shared some similar experiences, I have had others that are very different. Only I get to tell my story.
Thanks for sharing your story. May I ask what you and your wife are doing now with regards to your conversion not to the LDS church but to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you attending other Christian services or living life without organized religion?
Thanks for that insight –> “They believe that the *church* has fallen away”. This statement seems to imply that the *church* was once in good standing, since it has now fallen away in some people’s eyes. Would that be a correct assumption? So the church as restored through Joseph Smith was at one time in good standing and was accepted by the Lord as His Church — a vehicle for His Gospel to be administered. Somewhere along the way, subsequent prophets/apostles strayed and the church has now fallen away and is no longer accepted by the Lord??
So in the eyes of the people who believe the church has fallen away, is the world now in the state it was in prior to Joseph Smith? Lots of different Christian sects, all teaching a slightly different flavor of the Gospel? Or do the Denver Snuffer’s and/or the Robert Norman’s and/or the John Dehlin’s believe they have the Lord’s approval and blessing to preach and administer His Gospel? These folks who have seen Jesus Christ, what did He tell them?
I’ve been thinking about your post/story a bit more since my last response. I hope you don’t mind a couple additional questions. You mentioned that through the Spirit, God had taught you many lessons and also that you had gained wisdom and knowledge during your life through the Spirit. I would assume that during your lifetime of service in the church, you also gained a witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is a true book. Where do you stand now regarding Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? Thank you in advance.
The reasons that cause me to consider leaving are. The church insisting on discriminating against anyone(at present gays and women), which I see as against the teachings of Christ. It is not only these teachings themselves, but that they cause loss of trust in the leaders (it would help if there were some leaders publicly qustioning) and the members who will support such policy are so politically extreme, that they are not the kind of people I want to associate with. We are having a government lead poll on gay marriage in Australia, members are expected to be on the no side. The yes sign that are defaced are usually defaced by swastika, these are the kind of people we associate ourselves with by being extreme republicans first and christians second. In Australia to be pro gun, in the Utah sense, is also extreme, members of my ward, in leadership positions publicly want gun laws reduced.
The reason I stay is I believe the Gospel was restored through JS, and my grandchildren are starting to get married, and some are getting marries in the temple.
The biggest problem is that the 15 do not seem to realise they are the problem, and have a little bag of things to blame the victim with, which do not relate to the problem.
I do not see the problem adressed until the leaders look in the mirror.
You have narrowed the scope from Bishops, Relief Society Presidents, and Stake Presidents down to those who have experienced the ministering of angels. I have now fallen out of your scope of the converted, so I don’t think anything more I could share would help you see where I am coming from.
My wife and I started to attend a very nice community Christian church and we thought maybe this would be a good place for us. But within a few visits, the discussions of how evil homosexuality is took us by surprise and we realized we couldn’t be part of that again. Here is the problem for my wife and me: our entire lives, we have been conditioned to think that we absolutely need a church authority to tell us what God thinks and what God commands us to do. Follow the prophet, he knows the way, period. As you emerge from that thinking and realize how much that responsibility has been abused by those in authority in the past and in the present, you are very reluctant to give that thinking over to anyone again. As we visit other churches, we find things that we just know not to be correct, and where does that leave us? We are having a difficult time with it. I find that I don’t want to hand over my thinking, my life experiences, my wisdom, my interpretation of the scriptures to another person. Is it that wrong to have a direct relationship with God without someone in between telling me what God really wants (never mind what my heart is telling me)? I don’t know. We are trying to figure this out.
This is all very fresh for us. My wife and I just stopped attending a few months ago. I was released from the stake presidency about a year ago. We have tried to leave as quietly as possible.
You ask a very hard question about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith. I’m still working through that question. There is no doubt that I felt very strong feelings that the Book of Mormon was of God and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Here is what I started to unravel: Yes, I felt very strong emotions as I read King Benjamin’s discourse or as I considered the compelling teachings from Alma about faith. The ideas that Nephi taught and that Joseph Smith elaborated on that man is on earth to have joy brought me a lot of comfort and conviction. It was all true! But why did I privilege all of these strong feelings and convictions over the negative feelings that I had when I read that white skin=pure and of God and black skin = evil and cursed of God, beheading a drunk man for the good of others, prophets watching women and children burn and not doing anything because it somehow justifies future action God will take. Why did I privilege all of the good things Joseph Smith did and quietly repress the feelings I had about polygamy and young teen-age brides?
I don’t know Brian. Was I deceived? Am I deceived now? All I know is that if I am honest with myself, I was having as many negative feelings in the church as I was positive feelings (but we only are allowed to focus on and speak about the positive things, and you just kind of forget that there are many things that are just not right). And in the end, I had to conclude that this just can’t be the one and true church of God when you lay everything out and ask God to help you, independently from anyone else, determine truth for yourself.
Each of us have a world view based on our experiences. The majority of those who write and comment at W&T are at odds at some level with the church, church leaders, doctrine, etc. I get that. We have agency and that creates a huge variety of experiences and opinions.
When someone writes or comments at W&T about their deconversion they get thumbs up. When someone writes a post putting the church, church leaders, church history in a negative light they are extolled, complemented, and praised for their honesty and courage. Dan decided to honestly testify of his deconversion. I accept what he wrote without criticism. I disagreed with his definition of conversion because of my experience. When I testified of my conversion thumbs-down pop-up all over the place. And a few commenters don’t seem to be able to accept what I write as a honest, heartfelt expression, so they add some snarky, witty put down.
The Lord for whatever reason decided to side track my plans to model my life after my dad’s of a boozer and bar room brawler. That’s the life I was living when He intervened after I sincerely asked him if the Book of Mormon was true and if Joseph Smith was His prophet. The answer came in a vision, veil parted. He didn’t mess around. He gave me an undeniable manifestation. That happened in 1966 and ever since He has been my friend through the thick and thin of my mortal experience.
Dan – In some was my experience is similar to yours. I’ve found that being able to ask the hard questions (Was I deceived? Am I deceived now?) is a huge part of me growing as a person and learning empathy for others. If you haven’t read it already, take a look a Jonathon Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. He does a really good job (at length – it’s a dense, but readable book) at explaining from a sociological perspective what is going on inside of all of us.
Jared – Don’t let yourself get too caught up in the thumbs up / thumbs down. This is a progressive Mormon blog, so if you arrive to argue a point that disparages the experiences of progressive Mormons (ie. They just aren’t converted enough) you have to expect some unpopularity (which at the end of the day is pretty meaningless anyway beyond a general sense of support/disagreement). And someone being vulnerable enough to share their story of struggle and how they made peace with it is always going to garner support (aka thumbs up) just because it is vulnerable and painful. If you are specifically looking for thumbs ups, I’d encourage you to share your story of change and manifestations. If done in such a way it isn’t weaponized, I have no doubt people will be touched and supportive.
ReTx – Why would Dan want to take a look at Jonathon Haidt’s book? He just told us the following:
“Follow the prophet, he knows the way, period. As you emerge from that thinking and realize how much that responsibility has been abused by those in authority in the past and in the present, you are *very reluctant to give that thinking over to anyone again*.”
“I find that I don’t want to hand over my thinking, my life experiences, my wisdom, my interpretation of the scriptures to another person.”
“when you lay everything out and ask God to help you, independently from anyone else, determine truth for yourself.”
Didn’t he just tell us that he wants to discover truth with God’s help only, not relying on any authoritative figure *independently from anyone else*?
For the folks who have left. Is there anything that the institutional Church could do to make you consider coming back? I’m not sure the Church is in a place right now where they would ever do this, but I think it would be worthwhile to reach out to people who are inactive or had their names removed and ask them what the Church could do to get them to come back.
Geoff-Aus says – ” The church insisting on discriminating against anyone(at present gays and women), which I see as against the teachings of Christ.”
Would you mind expounding on the policies/doctrines that are discriminatory and then which teachings of Christ these policies/doctrines are at odds with?
Brian- I guess I don’t consider researching how the brain works or understanding current thought in human dynamics as ‘relying on authoritative figures.’ Are you suggesting there is no way to read/listen to/interact with other human beings without turning them into authoritative figures?
Felix – That is the million dollar question. I’d say the billion dollar question is if there is anything the church can do for people who are on the verge of leaving, but haven’t made the decision yet. I don’t know for sure that there is, but my guess is that moving in that direction makes orthodox members uncomfortable and may cause more problems for those people. My thoughts lean toward being more transparent and open about the darker areas of church history, policy, and financial disclosures, moving away from right-wing politics, and creating a place where members can discuss these items *at church on Sunday* and receive support.
(I totally should have read all comments before responding. Sorry for the multiple posts!)
Brian – Do your own research on why some members feel this way. It’s not exactly a subject that has been hidden away. Even better, get to know someone who is a gay Mormon who has been devastatingly injured by the church and ask them about their experience. I don’t understand what you want from us here.
ReTx – No I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that if someone wrote a book on “explaining from a sociological perspective what is going on inside of all of us”, there is a really good chance that he would be considered an authority on that subject, no? He would be an authoritative voice on the subject of what’s going on inside of us sociologically.
The book summary says Jonathan Haidt is a “social psychologist” and has “twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology”. I would personally consider him an authority or expert by today’s standards of those titles.
So, given that Jonathan Haidt speaks as an authoritative voice and given that Dan just expressed multiple times that he didn’t want to listen to authoritative voices anymore (or anyone for that matter, just God) in order to learn truth, I asked the question of you – “Why would he want to read Jonathan Haidt’s book.”
That is the context in which I asked the question. It was specific to Dan’s situation. Of course there are plenty of other people who would want to listen to people like Jonathan Haidt, but Dan seems to be leaning toward just trusting God with his acquisition of truth.
Brian – I’m sorry, but your argument is beyond silly. Really. Just give it up already. Reading a book to learn from someone who may be knowledgeable about a subject does not turn that author into a personal guru or prophet or anything other than someone who wrote a book. I have no doubt Dan will agree with me.
Having said that, I’m sensing the scent of troll dung so I’m going to opt out of responding to you again.
Felix, you ask a great question. For me, I think a move to more egalitarianism would help a great deal. Our leaders have no more insight or access to God’s mind than does anyone else. Perhaps they could acknowledge that in meaningful ways (not just when they vaguely say “mistakes have been made” when called out on obvious errors such as Adam-God, the priesthood ban, or similar stinkers), such as being completely honest, dialing back the “we are prophets” talk, and stopping with the authoritarian “which way do you face” crap. We are all equal before God. Jesus did his work for all of us. None of us is more important than any other. We are all just trying to do our best with the light we are given.
Paul’s body of Christ metaphor works if all parts of the body are able to communicate with one another and be aware of each other. That is not how our church is run; there are 15 voices that matter – and that’s it.
Brian/ReTx – I will just mention that I am a HUGE Jonathan Haidt fan. I love his work. I already have done posts in the past with some of his work. I am actually working on a post from a podcast that he was interviewed on and to me it really explained some behaviors on “both sides” very well. But I am not getting into the middle of your discussion.
felixfabulous – “what would make me come back?” I have heard that question posed before. And it is an interesting that I am even pondering that given that I attend every week and hold down a stake calling (but probably not all that much longer).
But what would make me want to stay? Humble and honest top leaders, more pastoral care and less concern and emphasis on obedience to leaders, drop the gay bashing, and stop being so oppressive and dismissive of women. There is more, but that would probably make it where I could stay attending, participating, and contributing even if I don’t think it is “the one true church.” I am a lost cause when it comes to being a believer. God will have to convince me of its truth at this point and nobody can probably convince me.
I do think about what the leaders could do to keep people that are teetering on the edge. Most of what I think might help might not help the TBM’ish portion of the church.
Brian: I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish with some of your comments. As to Jonathan Haidt, and other authors and experts, there’s a difference between reading something from an author and improving your education (something the church encourages) and deferring your moral decision making to authority figures (unfortunately, something some church leaders and members also encourage). The former increases your abilities, education and self-reliance as an individual and the latter diminishes those same things.
Felix: I think that’s a great question, and the answer is I’m not sure (I’m still active, so I mean I’m not sure for those who’ve left). I think Happy Hubby hits on something important which is institutional humility. The further entrenched in right-wing politics the church has become, the less humble the organization seems to be. Perhaps this is just a byproduct of our current political climate. It’s hard to say.
As soon as I saw your question, of course I wondered the flip side: is there anything the church could do that would cause some of these stalwarts to leave? There was a blog post on mormon mentality (I think) years and years ago asking whether people would store mud in jars in their basement without any rationale being given, just that “the prophet said so.” It was a pretty interesting discussion actually. The point is, some would do almost anything they are told, and some require a reason to do what they are told. Both camps are defensive of their position.
ReTx – I hope you will reconsider not responding to me again. Aside from the 20 or so posts I have made here over the last few days, I haven’t participated in any social media platforms anywhere (aside from a forum in a hobby of mine) for probably over 10 years. My skills may be a little rusty, so please have patience with me 😉 It is not my intention to be *trollish* here. I am actually honestly seeking to learn about the things being discussed here from all the multiple perspectives, although I see that my manner in doing so is troublesome, confusing, *silly*, etc. I have several close family members who have left the church for various reasons, so I am not isolated from those types of people in my personal life.
ReTx says – “Reading a book to learn from someone who may be knowledgeable about a subject does not turn that author into a personal guru or prophet or anything other than someone who wrote a book. I have no doubt Dan will agree with me.”
I agree with you too, and I believe Dan would agree with that statement. I understand you were trying to help Dan find comfort, peace, answers, etc., during this transitional phase of his life, and I’m sure he appreciates your concern and efforts to help.
Regarding our conversation about Dan, I was not trying to make an argument really. I just asked a question of you, and a few of him. Answers of course come from questions. If you don’t ask questions, it’s hard to find answers. The bottom line is that I found it odd that you suggested that he listen to (read) someone when he had essentially just said he didn’t want to listen to anyone besides God. That’s it really. I wasn’t arguing whether Jonathan Haidt was worth reading or whether someone who wrote a book turns the author into a prophet.
Whether you believe it or not, I was trying to help Dan as well by getting him to think through some things and then share his thoughts with us. He and others like him have learned that they can’t trust the words of men in order to learn truth, but it is nearly impossible to get through life without listening to others to help us gain our worldview or our collection of truth. I think eventually what it boils down to is that we tend to listen to and trust men and women who speak words that align with our personal worldview. For example, I tend to trust men and women who speak of the devastating effects of pornography on a marriage and I assume most here would trust these men and women too. But oddly enough, there are people out there who think the opposite. I’m interested in how Dan and others find truth. What are their methods?
Dan and the thousands like him, the former *all-in* members of the church, at one point believed that at least for religious truth, it was found through some combination of:
1. Listening to 15 men
2. Reading scripture (God’s words)
3. Praying and receiving a witness through the Holy Ghost
How are these thousands finding religious truth now? (Not trying to start an argument with this question. It’s just a question for which I am interested in hearing answers.)
Angela C says – Brian: I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish with some of your comments. As to Jonathan Haidt, and other authors and experts, there’s a difference between reading something from an author and improving your education (something the church encourages) and deferring your moral decision making to authority figures (unfortunately, something some church leaders and members also encourage). The former increases your abilities, education and self-reliance as an individual and the latter diminishes those same things.
I agree with this Angela. I didn’t say anything to the contrary as far as I know, but through the conversation thread, it seems that people are questioning that. I explained my lack of blogging skills and asked for patience in my last lengthy post to ReTx.
What can the church do for those on the verge of leaving? I’m not sure I’m on the verge, but I’m close.
Much of it has to do with my current ward, which is culturally focused on conformity and conservative politics. My current bishop is a Trump supporter, but he isn’t nearly as bad as the last bishop who frequently made fun of Democrats on Facebook and who frequently brought his politics into church meetings. The few Democrats I’ve known in m y stake the last few years have all left the church, largely due to men like my last bishop and due to the local church culture that doesn’t allow for liberal politics. Locally, then, there needs to be major improvements made in tolerating political diversity. Yes, just toleration would be a big step forward.
At the church-wide level, I saw a former member of the Presidency of the Seventy and a former General Relief Society President both very publicly support Donald Trump, one by heading his campaign in Utah and the other by praying at one of his campaign events. They’re no longer in those church leadership positions, so they’re free to do what they want, but the optics were horrible. The church should have taken steps to separate the church from the Trump campaign. They could’ve done any number of things–for example, invite Tim Kaine to meet with top church leaders to discuss his missionary work–but they stayed silent. That’s not prophetic leadership.
And then there’s the fact that the majority of U.S. members voted for someone as vile as Trump, even with a healthy number of independent candidates on the ballot. “By their fruits shall ye know them” and all.
Frankly, I don’t think many members or leaders care about those that leave. After all, isn’t there the belief that as we approach the end times many will be “deceived” even some “elect” and turn away from the “truth?”
In our area the threat is the “world” i.e. the outsiders–people are leaving merely because the world is enticing them to do so. Therefore it never occurs to people to look inward and consider what forces within the church are driving people away.
I sincerely apologize for taking your comments in a different way than you perhaps intended. My original take-away was that you were trying to help Dan back to orthodoxy (using a rather superior approach) instead of helping Dan to wherever God leads him. I will take your questions at face value and answer them.
Why should Dan considering looking into what has been written about the human brain/human relations when he stated he didn’t want to listen to authoritative voices? I actually think Angela answered this better than I. I’ll add that there is a difference between studying what someone with authority has to say and submitting yourself to someone else’s authority. My guess is that Dan is trying to stay away from the latter. My personal experience says that the best way for *me* to find God is to ask lots of difficult questions and go in search of answers. Often the path leads in unexpected directions. Johanthan’s Haidt’s work has given me some good ideas on that. I think Dan might end up finding Haidt useful as well.
I’m not entirely comfortable with defining Dan’s experience and needs for him though, and other than answering the question of why I shared the book info, I think I will leave it to him to enter the fray or not.
“I think eventually what it boils down to is that we tend to listen to and trust men and women who speak words that align with our personal worldview.”
I agree with this in part. (I just started a book about biases called Thinking Fast & Slow – super interesting stuff. Jonathan Haidt (of course!) covers this extensively as well.) Trust though is also something that must be earned. There are plenty of people with my worldview that I don’t trust at all. There are also plenty of people I disagree with who I have a huge amount of respect for and trust that they know what they are talking about. Trust isn’t simple and its not only about a worldview.
I’ll also add that for me (someone with very little trust in the church at this point), I lost the trust first. It was in fact losing trust that forced me to revealuate my worldview. If the church and the brethern had been what I’d always been taught they were, I would never have questioned.
Anon for This – I hate hearing of stories like that 😦 It really bothers me when there is in-fighting within the church due to differences in political views, or for that matter on any views. And it bothers me even more when it is coming from local priesthood leadership. It is not a Christ-like approach to resolving or just living with our differences of opinion. It is wrong, period. Sorry you have to deal with that Anon…
ReTx – Handshake and “bro hug” 🙂
” the former *all-in* members of the church, at one point believed that at least for religious truth, it was found through some combination of: 1. Listening to 15 men 2. Reading scripture (God’s words) 3. Praying and receiving a witness through the Holy Ghost How are these thousands finding religious truth now?”
I can only speak for myself and I’m going to guess I’m not typical, but here you go:
1) Reading everything I can get my hands on (err… really, time is the biggest problem): Scripture (I love the scriptures, especially the letters of Paul), religious/scriptural commentary (Love Adam Miller!), Non-Fiction, Biographies, AutoBiographies (Emma Lou Thane’s was particularly influential on me), Histories. With that, I’ll add watching documentaries, listening to a variety of podcasts (Top Five: Econ Talk, Freakonomics, Radiolab, LDS Perspectives, and the Neal A Maxwell Institute Podcast), and attending seminars (generally having nothing to do with religious, but I’ve had huge insights anyway). In some ways, I’d add participating in blogs as I learn SO much and am really forced to think. The goal here is getting as much into my head as possible to provide myself and God with material to work with.
2) Daily Devotionals: Combo of meditation, prayer and a daily writing exercise (which has turned into a form of prayer for me). Getting rid of the things that stand in the way of God speaking. And learning to listen.
3) Living: Sometimes truth is kinetic rather than cerebral.
Yes, a great division among the people was foretold. This was to come after the Lord poured out a deep sleep upon us. I could be wrong (I often am) but I think the correlation program is a big part of the deep sleep. We were fed sanitized realities that now have been exposed through our personal urim and thummims of smart devices that bring illusions and truths to light. What we see and learn has largely shattered our slumber. When we honestly view more progressive and liberal ideas to be Christ-like, but the people you attend meetings with (as well as the institutionalized church) call such views wrong and wayward and sinful, it makes it almost impossible to believe that “all are alike unto God—male and female, black and white, bond and free.”
So as more and more members awaken to a sense of our awful guilt and realize all is not well in Zion, the division broadens and deepens. I see no bridges being built. I see no concept of even wanting to build bridges. I just see loved ones on both sides of the divide crying out in pain and anguish and stiff-necked pride. I grieve for the haughtiness of many of the so-called “faithful.” I mourn the condescending attitudes of black-and-white world views. I ache for those suffering loss of trust and faith in our church and its leaders—I know this anguish very, very well.
To all of us I pray for greater wisdom. We need it. I believe the only hope for anyone on either side of the prophesied divide is Jesus Christ. May we all look to him with our whole souls, and live. He is not the bridge. He’s the Healer of the divide. Till that healing comes it’s been my experience that the only bridge that holds any weight is forgiveness. My bridge has taken years to build, brick by brick, prayer by prayer, and it isn’t very pretty, but it has done wonders for my soul. I can’t even find words for the peace and healing it has brought. As I’ve forgiven I’ve been able to see so many wonderful things in Mormonism and its people.
I was so enmeshed in Mormonism. It was so much of my identity that disentangling myself has been complicated and messy. All my beliefs in God were through the filter of the LDS church.
When I became unhappy with the church, prayer was my response and eventually led to my answer. It was an answer to prayer that told me to walk away.
I don’t consider myself in faith crisis. I think of myself being on the faith journey that God has set up for me.
What would bring me back? Having God tell me that I need to return to Mormonism.
That being stated, the further I move away from Mormonism, the odder and less Christina the religion appears. It wasn’t expecting to feel that way about the LDS church. I’m still processing THAT.
My DH is devoutly LDS. That keeps me tethered to the church in so many ways because I dearly love and respect him.
Thank you for sharing about your conversion experience. I don’t doubt for a moment that you had a powerful and moving experience, and I am sincerely happy that you found a path that has brought you so much direction and joy. I am sincere. When I read those final words you wrote, I was happy for you. I want the same thing for all of my family and friends: a sense of direction and a fulness of joy. I think that is possible for many people within the LDS path, and I have no intention of wanting to disrupt that for you or others that are happy.
I think that what happens is that when someone like myself finds that the LDS path isn’t working anymore, my movement away creates a need for explanation to those still on the path. I get that. It’s natural. But what isn’t fair is to question the integrity and the depth of conversion of those who leave. I’ve heard church authorities do that, and some of your words felt the same. I guess what I would ask of you and others is to understand that there are those who have given all they had, who have believed with an intense faith and devotion, who have prayed with real intent and long duration, and they have found that to be true to what they think is right, they have felt the need to leave the LDS path. And just leave it at that. No need to dismiss that person as slothful, disobedient, unconverted, sandy-foundation-non-prayerful-Democrat, who can’t handle authority.
I wish you well Jared. I know you a little better now, and I hope you understand me a little more.
Speaking of authority, I admit, I am having a difficult time with religious authority at the moment which I think can be expected for one coming out of the LDS faith. But you have jumped ahead a bit on where I am at. I actually read The Righteousness Mind last month and thought it was fascinating. I learned a lot. It explained why it took me over five years to find the courage to make a change in my life (the need to stay true to the group, to never allow oneself to even see the negatives in the group is built right into our DNA. We are social creatures and have evolved to survive in groups.) I welcome truth wherever I can find it. Which brings me full circle to my original comment: I need full honesty. I need full truth. Without that, there is no trust.
I enjoyed our conversation. Best to you.
I hope we can meet someday. I would love to learn more about your journey.
God bless you, RockiesGma!
“And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.”
What I find striking about this verse is that Mormon found this striking enough to put into the Book of Mormon. Mormon didn’t point out that the sky was blue or that water was wet. But he did point out that these people — the Ammonites — had some characteristic under which as many of them that were converted unto the Lord never did fall astray.
Reading this, it reads to me as though Mormon would agree that there could easily be those who were converted to the Lord who thereafter would fall away. After all, he was likely surrounded by those who perhaps once were firmly converted to the Lord yet he watched many of them fall away. It was likely that he longed for people like the Ammonites (instead of the Nephites he was contemporaneously surrounded by) who, when converted, never fell away.
So in that sense, Jared, despite the profound nature of your conversion event I do not say that it is therefore inevitable that you would not fall away any more than I think it certain that those leaving the Church today were never truly converted. After all, Alma knew that the sons of Mosiah had seen the angel with him, and yet he rejoiced when he met them again to learn that they were still his brethren in the Lord (showing again that he recognizes that such a result was not inevitable).
Reading your comments is informative. I appreciate your kindness. I accept that you are telling it like it is. I think we all need to understand as best we can the life experiences related by others. I maintain the position that when Spiritual conversion enlarges then manifestations of the Spirit become more extensive. When they do it binds us to the Lord and His church. This binding allows us to absorb all the difficulties we encounter along the road of discipleship. Such things as the essays, local and general church leaders whose fallibility darkens our path, decisions by prophets that we can’t square up with the scriptures, and a host of other ills we are called upon to endure.
At times we reach our wits end and we need to spend time recovering. A few years ago, I got so feed up with things in my Ward I asked the Lord to change things. Within a few weeks a new calling took me out of the Ward. I was very grateful. Dan, you’re a Mormon and I don’t think you can get far away from that. You can have your name removed from church records and attend other churches or just be inactive. The Lord will not abandon you. He is perfect and will do all that the laws of heaven allow to stay by you.
Case in point, someone I know well contacted me a few months ago. He left the church many years ago when he married. He and his wife had their names removed from church records. They lived good and productive lives and were drawn to Buddhism. His wife died of cancer. He struggled for years because of her death, never giving a thought to Mormonism until he had a dream and other experiences that guided him back to his Mormon roots. He contacted me and said he was meeting with the missionaries and studying the Book of Mormon. We had many long discussion on the telephone about the doctrine of Christ and the church. I shared my testimony and encouraged him to follow what his heart told him. Eventually, he asked me to baptism him. What a great privilege. He is now a fully active and committed follower of Christ. He has emerged from the pain of his wife’s cancer death and is doing well.
I believe Heavenly Father will somehow reclaim the vast majority of those who leave Mormonism. The best to you on your journey.
“I believe Heavenly Father will somehow reclaim the vast majority of those who leave Mormonism.”
This is so insulting and demeaning.
Dan – Yes I read your words literally. Turns out your were mainly referring to religious authorities, and probably specifically LDS religious authorities (makes perfect sense). After reading your words, I pictured you just wanting to unplug from *everyone’s* opinions, ideas, counsel, etc. for a time and just focus on you and God. You seem to be finding your way and I’m glad. In your last post, I did find this comment interesting (an elaboration/clarification on your original post):
“I need full honesty. I need full truth. Without that, there is no trust.” – I don’t think that God is ever dishonest, but He certainly doesn’t give us the *full truth* does He? We just have a smidgen of the truth that God knows and yet we can still trust him. This comment is probably directed to LDS church authorities though right? They have been dishonest and have not disclosed the full truth about things. Dishonesty (saying something that is not true) I believe to be a sin (thou shalt not lie). I agree that trust withers away when dishonesty comes. Withholding truth is a different story though I think. I’m not a scriptorian, but I know there are cases where God told prophets to not tell others the things that He had told/shown them. Perhaps modern prophets/apostles were told the same thing?? I’m open to other opinions on this.
1. Dishonesty –> no trust. (Agree)
2. Withholding truth –> no trust. (Disagree)
“I know there are cases where God told prophets to not tell others the things that He had told/shown them. Perhaps modern prophets/apostles were told the same thing?? I’m open to other opinions on this.”
That is an interesting topic of discussion and gets really deep into what a prophet is and what is/is not direct revelation from God.
JS was clear that he had revelations that he couldn’t share. I love the idea of spiritual manifestations being so un-human that one can’t explain it for lack of language. I have a hard time seeing the intentional repression of church history as being that. Not to mention the secrecy about church finances, church programs, etc..
For me, With-holdng truth when that truth impacts my abilities to understand a situation and make a decision –> No Trust
With-holding truth because that truth is embarrassing or presents the with-holding person/organization in a negative light –> Especially No Trust (this is very much related to humility to me. It’s hard to trust people/organizations who can’t admit their own faults/weaknesses)
I just listened to Michael Quinn’s podcast interview by the SL Tribune about the church’s wealth – all of which falls under the category of ‘with-holding truth.’ Here’s the crazy thing. I ended the interview thinking waaayyy more kindly about the church’s investments than I did going into it. If the church had just been transparent about all of this from the beginning, I likely would have been kind about it from the beginning as well. While I still object to some of the investments themselves (shopping malls), the church’s goals and budgets fit very well with the bigger picture of the organization. My interpretation of what was going on was way more negative than it really should have been, but that was because the church chose secrecy over transparency. Which all feels like such a waste, with very little upside to the secrecy.
Well, I’m late to the game here, but I wanted to think about this before saying much.
I consider myself right now a non-believing yet active member. In spite of not believing, I try to always be respectful in this forum, so feel free to call me out if you think I am otherwise. W&T, while progressive/liberal, is still primarily a forum for believers, and I want to respect that. Sometimes I think it may be a little selfish of me to contribute here, as I find it a substitute for things I wish I could say at church. It would be unthinkable for me to say there some of the things I say here, but I hope it does not cross the boundary of what is appropriate here.
Several of those circles apply to me, but I won’t go into all of them. I have held on by the tips of my fingers for a long time, and a lot of that is for family and social reasons, but there are certain things that push me away. I muddled through using apologetics for a long, long time, but when I found policies that seemed to go against love-thy-neighbor I just couldn’t make the apologetics work anymore.
My best example is the treatment of LGBT. If the church had an explanation for how gay, lesbian, bi, or trans people could live a healthy fulfilling life, then I wouldn’t have felt so much push outward. The result may have been the same – my belief does not rest entirely on this issue – but the pressure would have been different. I feel very strongly that actions should be morally defensible *in this life*. Just as you should not kill someone in order to send them to heaven sooner, you also should not tear a family apart in hopes of a better afterlife. The church position on Prop 8 and the Nov 5 policy of exclusion do not follow this principle.
There is talk above about making church more fun with more activities. That might work for some, but I very much doubt it would keep me in.
My comment doesn’t exactly answer the questions posed in the blog article, but is related to the topic of Sabbath and member retention.
So, I joined the Church as a college student living away from home. Just a couple months after this, I moved home. My family did not approve of my decision and were in some ways hostile towards the church and my involvement. I lived with them, so there was always tension, especially on Sunday mornings as they prepared to attend their church and I did not join them. For the first year after I moved home, attending church was hard. It was stressful because of my family’s attitude, there were times when I would skip out on some of all of my church meetings to attend with them (things like a sibling singing in the choir or something). I remember always feeling like the Sabbath was a struggle. I struggled to attend and have a peaceful day of scripture study and the like.
When I lost my faith (it wasn’t the kinds of exmo stories I usually hear – nothing about Joseph smith or feminism – I just stopped believing in God altogether because I felt abandoned), I was devastated. I didn’t really choose to leave, and I absolutely didn’t want to leave. I just fell apart and stopped believing and decided I couldn’t keep fighting against my family and pretending to have faith.
I thought to myself, “they always said that if you did what you were supposed to do, it’d be alright. I did every faith-increasing thing you’re supposed to do. I studied the scriptures daily, I prayed sincerely morning and night and more, I kept the word of wisdom, I dressed modestly. I did all of those things – I’m not the person whose faith is supposed to be swept out from under them like a rug. I did everything I was supposed to do, but HF wasn’t there for me.”
After a little while, I remembered that I rarely attended all three hours of church, and attended sacrament meeting maybe 3 sundays a month on average. I remembered that sometimes I had to go to work, or went out to lunch with my family, or other things that could have been considered off-limits on the Sabbath. Because the church leaders had put such emphasis (as you talked about) on observance of the sabbath as essential for retaining members, I felt like my lack of Sabbath was the reason that god had cursed me and/or left me, let my life fall apart, basically. I beat myself up over it – “gosh, if I’d just gone to sacrament more, maybe I wouldn’t have lost my faith. If I’d stayed for Sunday school and relief society more, maybe I wouldn’t have lost my faith. It is my fault after all. I didn’t keep the sabbath holy, so the Spirit left me, and I lost my faith. That’s how it happened.”
And it was miserable. So while I don’t know if Sabbath-day observance keeps people in the church or how we can fix things like losing members, I do know that this rhetoric of equating sabbath day with stickiness affected me after I’d already left.
Rockwell, I appreciate your views and am glad you contribute. There are varying degrees of belief and non-belief here, so don’t feel shy about contributing despite your lack of belief. That is one of the things I have long enjoyed about Wheat & Tares.
He’s not going to reclaim me. I’m trans and married to someone of my birth gender, so he doesn’t want me.
Plus, he kind of sucks. Inari FTW.
Rockwell (or others) – Regarding your comment on the treatment of LGBT as an example of policies that go against “love they neighbor”. As far as I know, the LGBT lifestyle has always been classified as a sinful/unacceptable lifestyle by the church; Not just the LDS church, but many other Christian and non-Christian religions as well. Some of these religious organizations have changed their policies, others have not. I don’t want to discuss whether it is or isn’t a sinful lifestyle as that has been discussed to death. What is of interest to me though is to discuss the more general idea of when and why a religious organization should change long-held policies.
Is there a list of things that would help determine when it would be appropriate and/or why it would be appropriate to change a long-held policy? Does anyone know the reasons why some other religious organizations decided to change their stance on LGBT or other long-held policies?
Could we make a case for wanting change on any other long-held policies based our list of reasons? (women & priesthood, baptism earlier than 8 years old, Word of Wisdom, tithing, etc.)
NOTE: Using the word *policy* here as a catchall for (doctrine, belief, eternal truth, whatever you want to call it).
Brian being LGBT is not a “lifestyle”.
E – Sorry, I obviously haven’t been in enough of these conversations to know the proper terms. Strike “lifestyle” and replace it with whatever needs to be there (or nothing at all). Back to the question…
What reasons could we come up with that religious leaders have used or should use to determine whether a long-held policy should be changed?
Brian – The best way to research this topic is to research the priesthood ban and the end of polygamy. Both are good examples of dramatic change with church policies. Neither one was a lightening strike from heaven, but rather months/years of discussion, prayer, pressure from all sides, etc.
Thanks ReTx. Yes, those would be two great examples. I can actually see that the church could change its stance/policy on the recent announcement of prohibiting children of LGBT couples from being baptized. That makes sense to me that it could change. However, I can’t see that the church would change its stance/policy or “eternal truth” as I think E. Oaks put it, on allowing practicing LGBT (sorry if “practicing” is not the right word) to be considered in full fellowship in the church (hold callings, attend the temple, get married in temple).
(Is it acceptable to share a podcast link)?
This 30 minute podcast was fascinating and made me look at things differently–including the priesthood ban and genealogy…..
The matter of who is welcome to worship with us is probably the deepest part of the divide. I want to tell lgbt people they are welcome to sit by me and participate in class discussion and be my leaders and friends. I have worshipped with gay and transgender people. Ive spent most of my life living among all kinds of people with many different cultures and lifestyles, beliefs and ideologies. They were always very respectful of “that Mormon girl/lady/grandma”….really, truly, always. They never shunned or sneered or made mumbling snide remarks or gave me “The Look.” No, the only place I’ve experienced those unkindnesses was at church.
We speak of Zion. The “Corridor” calls itself Zion. But that’’s a “strong delusion.” In Zion everyone is welcome who loves the Lord and strives to be like Him even if they’re just wondering if God is even real…or those who question are especially welcome…..those who doubt…..those who hurt and are angry…..those who are different…..those who’ve been betrayed…..those who are lazy…..troubled…..pushy….bossy…..timid…..weak…..strong….. In Zion there are no “ites”among them because they are filled with charity toward everyone. I’m old now and most folks tolerate my “liberal” ways as they pat my head. But I see more and more young folks who struggle to remain active because their open hearts are full of love for those many judge and shun. Sometimes they are the ones judged and shunned. I wish they’d stay and be with us, but I understand why they go. I love them.
Even if the church maintains doctrinal stances on some things that hurt and are hard to bear, as it has done in the past and does now-we, the members, must have the love of God in our hearts to say “you are welcome here,” and mean it. “I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you, that’s how I’ll show my love for you.”
We do not have to be the same to love one another. Glory, glory, that.
Oh gosh. Well, if we’re discussing changes to policies and you brought up baptism – I’d argue for baptism (and priesthood) to be done LATER as individuals can mature and make better decisions. My confirmation into a mainstream denomination at 12 was stressful because I felt much too young and uninformed to make a proper decision and found myself saying “yes” because I feared disappointing my parents. I feel 8-year-olds are even more impressionable and wanting to please parents. I’d love to see baptism happen when children are older and more able to make informed decisions.
On the other hand, I see the value of going young. You have baptism at 8, priesthood at 12, and temple/mission at 18-22 (usually). If you waited until adulthood to baptize, you’d have all theee of those bunched up back to back, which might not be good, either.
Brian said, “What reasons could we come up with that religious leaders have used or should use to determine whether a long-held policy should be changed?”
And then Brian also said “However, I can’t see that the church would change its stance/policy or “eternal truth” as I think E. Oaks put it, on allowing practicing LGBT (sorry if “practicing” is not the right word) to be considered in full fellowship in the church (hold callings, attend the temple, get married in temple).”
Great questions. I don’t know that I have an answer. But I want to say first that before expressing my distaste for any particular policy, I said that what would help is a positive explanation of how a gay person can have a fulfilling and happy life in the church. What I mean by that is a life where they are not asked to be celibate nor to marry someone that are not primarily attracted to, and where they are not told that in the afterlife they will be a different person. For a trans person this would include allowing them to be the gender they determine for themselves. Most members right now would see this as a change in doctrine at this time, but I’m not sure that would have been the case 100 years ago.
I like how you (Brian) put “eternal truth” in quotes. Oaks has been a big fan of the term, and also the term “unchanging”. This has lead me to refer to the “Doctrine of Unchanging Doctrine”, which itself is kind of a new thing. He uses the term to double down on the idea that this doctrine cannot change, which is in itself a new idea, as the article of faith says that many great and important things are yet to be revealed.
A few years ago I read a book called ‘”This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology’ by BYU professor Charles Harrell. I highly recommend it. Harrell traces the changes of several different points of doctrine in the LDS church over the course of time. After reading it, I cannot think of a single doctrine in the LDS church that has not been changed at some point in time. Even the most basic doctrines of the nature of the godhead changed dramatically in the early years, and several doctrines continued to change into the 20th century. Apologists can and do explain this as the continuing revelation of the church, learning line upon line, precept upon precept.
So while I would agree that the leadership of the church is not likely to change the policy or doctrine relating to gays, etc., especially not soon, it is not without precedent.
For the first question, as to when *should* a doctrine be changed, I hesitate to answer. I have said I am not a believer, so if the church were to adopt all the changes I want, it would not even be the same church. I can be quiet about most of the things I disagree with, but I insist, again, that policies must be morally defensible in this life. And I don’t think that singling out children of gay parents as different, to be ostracized until they reject their parents, is defensible. I don’t think that telling a boy (trans) that they must be treated as a girl is really defensible. I don’t think that telling a gay man that he must be celibate is defensible (or really even feasible). I don’t think that telling bisexual people to marry someone of the gender they are less attracted to is defensible. I don’t think that telling a teenager that after she dies, she won’t have homosexual temptation is defensible. It may have made sense 50 years ago, but we know so much more now about biology and psychology, it really is time to move on. These are all things the church has done that hurt people in this life on the presumption that it will be better in the afterlife.
My, oh my gosh, this kitty cat has gotten a long tail. Over 100 responses.
Is it going to make any difference? We celebrate today “Reformation Sunday” and the 500th anniversary of Luther taking a pivotal step. Is our church not in dire need of Reformation? Does the LDS church leadership even listen or care what folks like us think or write? I suspect not, except for rare exceptions. This topic predictably generates an enormous response, while we see so little done.
This reminds me of a song borrowed and played by Johnny Cash which would be perfect; to have been echoing through the halls of the Vatican 500 years ago and perfect for today. If any church headquarters agents are monitoring, here is my message for them. This is what is going to happen to the LDS church if it does not mend its ways.