Today’s guest post is from blogger ChurchIsTrue.
Why are people leaving the Mormon Church? A document from MormonLeaks caused a stir, attributed to Church employee Clint Melander as a Powerpoint for a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The most controversial and interesting part of this Powerpoint presentation was a slide titled “Issues and Ideas Leading People Away from the Gospel” with 17 bubbles in four different colors ranging from left (liberal/secular) to right (conservative/fundamentalistic).
Orange — representing liberal/secular
- Disagree with current policies
- Incredulity over Church history
- Ordain Women
- John Dehlin
What is the church doing to minister to and retain the people in this group? I see three broad issues.
1. Disbelief over historicity of scripture and foundational events. I believe we have a clear path on how to overcome this issue. It’s not easy but the path is there. We need to get open and honest about church history. I think the church is doing this, but it will be a slow, painful process. The Gospel Topics Essays are a big start. Integrating this and the new work “Revelations in Context” into the Gospel Doctrine lessons this year is a big deal. We see new art work coming out depicting proper Book of Mormon translation with the seer stone. The church is moving in the right direction.
A big next step on this, in my opinion, is going to also require a change in our doctrine becoming more humble. We will likely need to back off the exclusivity claims a bit. We will likely need to accept views of non-historicity of scripture, especially Book of Mormon. We will likely need to repurpose the First Vision as the founding event of the LDS church, which has an important inspired work to do, but back off the claims that this is a restoration of God’s one and onlyexclusive true church. I call this faith reconstruction. How do we reconstruct faith into something that works after faith crisis destroys the “dominant narrative”.
2. LGBTQ policies and doctrine. This is a huge one. This could kill the church if we let it. For those in my generation and older, sexuality was suppressed by our gay peers. It was pushed away, to the underground, in the closet. It was easy for us to marginalize those who came out. The most common view was to view sexual behavior among gay people, even committed relationships, as evil and debased. Not so, anymore. Our children all have gay friends. They see them the same as everyone else. Some good, some bad. Some selfish, some pure. Their sexuality has nothing to do with this. We don’t see gayness as a virus you can catch and watch it spread if you don’t stamp it out. We know there’s going to be a few or a handful or whatever it is out of a hundred in every sampling you take, whether you suppress it and force them into anonymously acting out or whether you accept them and allow them to have normal relationships. I hope and pray we can move forward in a direction that can undo some of the harm we’ve caused to the LGBTQ community. I understand our current position. I support and sustain the brethren in “patience and faith.” I’m not calling them out, but I hope we can move in this direction. I think there is doctrinal, historical, and Biblical support for doing so. I expect it to happen, but how long it will take is a big question.
3. Female equality. This is also very important. I do see the church making progress here, and I look forward to more progress. The females in our church need to be equal. We have inherited a patriarchal system, and it’s difficult to sort out as a church what’s doctrine and what’s cultural attitudes that we can let go of, without moving away from God’s will. I think we as a society in general and a church in specific, have a lot of work to do. I think we have the organizational structure with the belief in modern revelation to help us lead on these issues in the world. I hope we will do that. If you’re struggling to have empathy on this topic, I highly recommend this eye opening blog post from Amy McPhie Allebest. I’ve raised daughters in this church that have served missions and are strong and capable, and see themselves as not a single bit less than their male peers in the church. But that’s not the experience all females have, and we can improve here.
Blue — representing Apathy, Boredom, “I can’t live the commandments”, what we call “Jack Mormons”
- Lack of Righteousness
- Lack of Commitment
Ugh, I don’t like the way this comes across. “Lack of Righteousness”. Eek. We might need a refresher here.
9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
After apartheid ended in South Africa, some Church members struggled with integrating black and white congregations, Elder Renlund said. Thoba, a black convert, vented to her mother, Julia, about the mistreatment she felt from white members one day at church. Her mother said, “Oh, Thoba, the Church is like a big hospital and we are all sick in our own way. We come to church to be helped.”
This group has always been there. If you look at the colors. The green group has always been there to some degree. The orange group I think is the one that has grown the most. The blue group has always been there. We’ve always had inactives, and most of those if you ask them, didn’t have a lot of issues with church politics or doctrine or belief. Most of them just didn’t care enough to attend church. Or they feel judged. Or they knew they were not keeping Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity and just didn’t feel comfortable. A lot of this group can be reactivated with good local leaders and members who can show empathy and support.
I think the church has done a good job in a lot of ways to address some of the issues here. I understand excommunications and disciplinary courts for sin are down quite a bit. I believe bishops are not grilling and guilting kids over masturbation as much as back when my generation were youth and earlier. Pornography is an emphasis, but even that seems to be viewed a little more realistically, generally speaking. We could use some standardization on this, because like many other issues, the way local leadership (ie leadership roulette) interprets things makes a big difference.
But in general, and I mostly blame the members not the leadership for this, we need to stop acting so Pharisaical. Church is not a contest to see who is the best. We are all sinners. We come to church to be healed. We have standards and we shoot for the best. But we expect to fail. Jesus threw out the old law that said it was a sin to commit murder and adultery. He said he wants our hearts. It’s now a sin just to lust or become angry. That doesn’t mean he expects us to live lust and anger free, though that’s a good ideal. But rather, he wants us to know we’re sinners. We need to toss out the term “Lost Sheep”. All we like sheep are lost and gone astray. None of us are found. If we all took this approach to the gospel, I think those sitting outside thinking they can’t join us because they can’t keep the commandments would immediately feel more welcome.
The red group. International challenges.
- Language and cultural problems “-ites”
As an international church with its core in the Wasatch front, the church obviously struggles with cultural and international issues. I don’t have anything to add here, but Gina Colvin in this podcast interview makes some good points.
Now, the green group. The Ultra-orthdox and Fundamentalistic LDS.
- Church has lost its way or is deficient
- False prophets
- Last days/end of world predictions
- Need “something more”
- Denver Snuffer
- Robert Norman
Again, this group has always been there. I’m not sure it’s any bigger than it ever has been. Denver Snuffer has taken a few from the church. Julie Rowe and the tent city group appears poised to take a few more. This is the hardest group for me to understand. These are the people that want more church. They think the church is weak because we’re not more strict or the prophet doesn’t speak directly for God. They view scripture as God’s God-breathed handbook for man.. They look at prophets as super humans that talk to God.
I made this graphic to illustrate an orthodoxy spectrum within religion. I would say the “Left” the church’s Powerpoint refers to in orange is anywhere from 0 to 60 on this scale. The “Right” in the Powerpoint is more in the 90 -100 range. This side is more likely to believe scriptures are literal, such as the Earth is 6,000 years old. I think the brethren would prefer is to be in the 60-90 Traditional Mormonism range, and those on either side can be perceived as threats.
Fundamentalism is two edged sword for the church. On the one hand, it commands respect and obedience from followers. These people tend to be very, very serious about religion. Not a lot of Jack Mormons in this group. Not a lot of people that think they can skip church and get their spirituality with a hike in the mountains. But on the other hand, it requires literal truth of scripture and factual historicity of church foundational events in a way that doesn’t fit the facts that are coming to light in the internet world. Attacks on the church like the CES Letter, are very successful, if one is trapped in that literal-fundamentalistic paradigm. So, the solution is to move away from Fundamentalism, but then you have two problems. How to get people to still be that committed. And what to do with all these nutso’s that have a real need for a prophet who walks and talks with Jesus and love to analyze the scriptures for clues about the end of the world?
I want to call out a few of my friends on the liberal side of things who criticize the church at both ends. If you criticize the church for scripture historicity and lack of humility in prophetic authority, etc, all those criticisms on the left side of the spectrum, please don’t pile on the right side also. Please don’t jump in with the Rock Watermans and Denver Snuffers criticizing the church for the lack of real prophecy in recent history. We all know what a prophet is and isn’t, so please take one side or the other. Don’t give these crazies on the right any more firepower. They are the dangers to progress in the church and society in general.
Symptoms not Root Cause
The consensus of a lot of analysis on this chart from Church Headquarters is that it seems to be focusing on symptoms and not the root cause. I created this chart that I think shows both. I redid the size of circles to show what I think is the real impact, the overlap, and relabeled the categories a little. I also added a new bubble, which strikes more at the root cause and which spans across all categories.
The big overlying issue here, touching all the other categories, the elephant in the room, is the disbelief and lack of trust that is what I believe is the growing area here that the church has never quite had to deal with in this big of a way.
Information in the internet age is exploding and causing many to doubt the dominant narrative of scripture historicity, factual accuracy of church foundational events, God speaking directly and specifically to prophets. This is pushing people into categories they might not ordinarily fall into. The new information is causing some to doubt the prophet’s ability to lead on progressive topics like LGBTQ issues and female equality. The new information doesn’t seem to agree with science, so those that can’t harmonize them, are leaving and embracing secularism. Not seeing the possibility for the harmonization of both. All these trends are causing the church to mainstream a little and move towards progress in these areas (a good thing). Ultra-Orthodox don’t like this, so they are more apt to believe the church is in apostasy and look for alternatives.
The last thought I wanted to share in this post is about communities. John Dehlin has his own bubble here. The Preppers have their own bubble (Last Days). These are communities that have a high risk factor to the church. We naturally seek out communities when our needs aren’t being met. Those with real big issues on the historicity/belief side of things are looking for communities. The John Dehlin Mormon Stories community seemed to start out neutral towards the church, with intent to work out problems in a healthy way regardless if the path was in or out of the church. Now, that community seems to be promoting the “out of church” path. I hope some of us covering that spectrum can join together to create a new community in place of this. One where those that are on that left side of the spectrum can discuss issues and support each other, from a pro-church position, like the original Stay LDS community tried to do. Those of you in communities on the far right side, I hope you can find a way to make it work within the church. I’m sorry I called you crazy. Variety and diversity is good.
I’m glad church leadership is talking about this. I hope they’re reviewing good information like Jana Riess published in a recent article. I think they are showing a lot of signs of progress. The brethren have a tough job to keep all this together, while moving it in the right direction. I don’t envy them. I look to them with faith and optimism. But it’s not just their problem. It’s a church problem. I want to help and be part of the solution. We have a great heritage. We have a great church. It’s worth committing to, and giving our best to help it overcome these hurdles and reach out and minister to all members, becoming a “mighty power for good” in the world.
I do think the leaked slide is missing “millennial tendencies/trends.” I am not sure the top leaders (or most any older leader in most any level in the church) really gets what drives millennials. They would be well to buy and study Jana Riess’ upcoming book and have her come and have a session to discuss what she has found in her work.
I agree in general with much of your interpretation on this topic. Spot on with LGBTQ, Female equality, being a Utah church (thumbs up on Gina Colvin shining a light on that), the paradox of how to deal with liberal vs. fundamental factions, communities, and the core issue is lack of trust.
But disagree to a smaller extent on many items. The essays to me are a baby step and still hidden, church is all be being forced in most areas to “come clean” on history, MY kids are still getting asked constantly about masturbation by bishops/SP’s, the Gospel Doctrine class lessons are unchanged from 4 years ago, leaders are primarily responsible for culture or not correcting bad culture, and I don’t see the leaders doing all that great of a job responding. It seems with little exception they are just clamping down and in more ways than not doing exactly the opposite of being more humble. I do think it is possible that the church will double down even more and become stauncher and hold a line of, “Either you believe the Q15 are right or you are not one of us.”
BTW – Why mention who might have leaked the document? I can’t see where good comes out of that (unless Clint has come out and claimed it).
The post title could be expanded to “Why are People leaving their Church?” because all religions are facing similar situations. No intellectual me, but here goes.
Whether convert or family raised, you are now discontent. There is at least one thing about your church’s beliefs you don’t like. You think there should be something there that isn’t, or vice versa. Insight may be sought through prayerful study and counsel, or you may jump straight into complaint and activism, which will most likely be unproductive. Your attitude may be called disruptive. That’s a bad situation for everyone but you may feel justified.
Your discontent hopefully leads to a positive change. Do you help expand the goals of your church now, or look for the next thing to be discontent about? It could lead to a never ending series that cankers your soul.
Suppose you have multiple issues that you wish to see changed in your church and, to your delight, they come about. But now there is a small segment of your congregation who are discontent as you once were. Are they justified in their feelings, or do you think they stand in the way of progress?
I know people like this (not exclusively Mormons) and I converted from a church that experienced conditions I described.
“The brethren have a tough job to keep all this together, while moving it in the right direction.”
There is no general agreement among members as to what the right direction is. At least at times there has also not been such agreement among the Brethren. Is there really any possibility of keeping it all together when, e.g., moving in the direction of inclusion is the same thing as giving up the common understanding of the prophet/prophets/brethren/brother will never lead astray means they will never utter a mistaken sentence or adopt a mistaken policy? or the common understanding that when JS wrote revelations in God’s first person voice he was acting as a mere stenographer? How can it be possible to be more inclusive of those with liberal issues and not at the same time, by the same actions, encourage departure of traditionalist Mormons? I am grateful that I have no part in making those decisions. How do we “help and be part of the solution” when trust disintegrates for both the liberal-minded and the traditionalists? I appreciate much of the OP’s analysis, but would appreciate even more ideas and examples on how to be part of the solution when, in any discussion at Church, there are those who take the approach that “Either you believe the Q15 are [always] right [in every detail] or you are not one of us.” Those folks have invested so much of their “faith” in the Q15 and the Church rather than in Christ and personal responsibility/revelation/whatever, that any attempt to broaden horizons about history, doctrine, policy is perceived as an attack on faith. How can the ward/Church family get past that and remain a community? I would love to hear what others have accomplished in that regard, how they did it, and at least generally where they did it (as the Church is in fact not the same everywhere).
Great post, as usual. I think that we are in the painful transition from people having 110% trust in the institution to people recognizing it is an institution with warts and all. For some, this bursts their bubble and they walk away. For others, they remain but may be a little less committed than before. I think we will have to adjust to this new reality and find out how to cope with more members being OK with not being 100% in agreement with the Church and also make space for the true blues who would buy groceries at Deseret Book if they could. I think nuanced views clash with an obedience-based discipleship pretty quickly and obedience-based people often feel threatened by a nuanced view and say something like “well, you could just rationalize not keeping the Word of Wisdom with that approach.” As more people ask tough questions, I think we are eventually going to have to give a bit on some of our norms. If your only justification for a norm is “well, that’s what we’ve been commanded to do,” I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny. Ever notice how the justifications for the WOW always talk about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco and never say anything about tea or coffee? Questions about tea and coffee usually are answered with “well, we don’t know why, but that’s what the Lord has asked.” That won’t hold up, especially when people learn the history and actually read what D&C 89 says. In the temple you are asked (do not covenant) to wear the garment throughout your life. In the TR interview you are asked when and where and how often you wear it. We’ve also backed away from the idea that the garment offers physical protection and now it’s just a reminder of covenants. Is that enough to justify telling people how, and when to wear underwear that is unattractive and uncomfortable? We have overreached on a lot of these obedience-based things and I think part of accepting a more humble doctrinal stance will force us to back away from some of these norms.
simple ,they never had a real testimony in the first place,you have to earn your testimony ,and as far as the Gay community is concerned remember GOD will not be mocked.
Sidebar: “We’ve also backed away from the idea that the garment offers physical protection and now it’s just a reminder of covenants.” Just last Sunday a missionary bore his testimony in our ward about being attacked by a pitbull that fully shredded his shirt but failed to damage his garment or to hurt him where he was covered by the garment. I guess if we’ve backed away from the physical protection idea in some places, we haven’t done so in others. I chose not to bring up the subject with that missionary or to comment at church about the physical protection notion and its possible derivation from the Carthage jail experience of JS and HS (who I’ve read did not wear their garments there) and Willard Richards (who did).
Sidebar 2: Ron’s “you have to earn your testimony” may be false doctrine. D&C 46:11-14
Thanks, JR. I have not heard those kinds of stories about garments since my youth, it’s interesting they are still going around.
Great summary of events. My response reading was the same as HappyHubby’s.
I’ve thought for years that we were on a tipping point. I’ve felt that way for so long that I’m really starting to worry the church is not going to pull out of this. The changes all feel like quiet appeasements so leaders can say ‘How can you complain about X, look we have it right there on LDS.org!” rather than dealing head on with problems (or things that will become problems). An example of this is the Revelations in Context section of the SS lessons. Of the three regular teachers and multiple subs, not a single teacher in my ward has used them this year. So they are there, but unless the brethern model how to use them (the way they do many other things in the church), they are fringe rather than main-stream. The majority of the members of the church only learn about church history/function from church on Sunday or official church resources. So they are still going through the same process of faith crisis as I did ten years ago. (And that’s not even getting into SSM. ‘Look we have a whole website and supported fair housing in SLC!’ Yes, but LGBT still doesn’t have a role, or even exist, in Mormon heaven.)
To keep the left and the millennials, we need more main-streaming, more transparency, more organizational humility. Yes, that will be a problem for those on the far-right, but I wonder at the age range of those people. Are there many millennials that are preppers, Snuffer followers, etc? The youth are the future of the church. It is them we need to keep from leaving if we want to be a dynamic, growing organization in 50, 100 years from now.
There are still just enough hyperconservative (“far right”) members among the younger generations that, rather than become more mainstream or inclusive, the Church’s leadership can continue to self-sustain from a well of people who believe exactly the same as current members. I’m cynical enough to believe that the more orthodox members of the Q12 regret the presence and teachings of President Uchtdorf, and will do everything in their power to call new members who are cut from the same doctrinal/cultural mold as them.
In other words, I expect the messaging from the top to be along the lines of “We are beset by the strongest challenges the world has to offer in these last days, and only the most worthy and faithful [and obedient and willing to embrace the most socially conservative aspects of the Gospel, along with Utah cultural norms] will hold fast.” We’ve already heard a lot like that and I expect there to be even more.
felixfabulous, Sunday’s story was not an old story still going around. It was a report of a recent experience of an 18-year-old. Not sure, however, that you meant anything different.
“This is the hardest group for me to understand.”
I can tell. Please do a little more research before writing on these groups. If anything, these groups think the Church is weak because it’s too strict, not not strict enough. They want less than 10% tithing, don’t believe in the Word of Wisdom as a commandment, etc. Many of these people are fed up with the bureaucratic, Pharisaical structure of the church.
“The John Dehlin Mormon Stories community seemed to start out neutral towards the church, with intent to work out problems in a healthy way regardless if the path was in or out of the church. Now, that community seems to be promoting the “out of church” path. I hope some of us covering that spectrum can join together to create a new community in place of this.”
I’m part of that Mormon Stories community. I’d like a community WITHIN the church “with THE intent to work out problems in a healthy way regardless if the path was in or out of the church” .I’ve worked with local leaders for almost 3 years this end in mind. To ZERO avail. There is still NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in creating an open and honest environment. You hope that we can join together to create a new community in place of this. Why do we have to create a new community? Why can’t the church be our community? To me, this screams volumes about the problems of our current LDS culture. This culture did not develop on its own. It was fostered and nurtured by the leaders at the top. Our culture needs a drastic makeover. Families are being torn apart. Good people are fleeing. And guess what…we are creating an army of enemies.
I agree with what Dylan says about the followers of Snuffer. I know about a unique ward that had several liberal families AND several “snuffer” families and there was a great deal of overlap, communication,friendship, and even collaboration between the perspectives. I found that the two sides agreed well about what the problems in the church are, and they even often agree about what the solutions should be (like more-democratic, more local control, less focus on appearances and external stuff, etc). The main difference is that “right wing” is more believing and religious and the left wing tends to be more secular.
An excellent, well-balanced post. I hope we’ll continue to get more from you. I disagree with various points, but it’s well done.
I don’t think the Church can do what you propose on historicity and exclusivity. Humility is certainly needed, and we could do more to emphasize the teachings that truth and inspiration can come from anywhere, and we’re glad to have it, even if it comes from other religions and beliefs, but the exclusivity, the “one true church”, the “only authorized church” is pretty foundational.
Pres Uchtdorf is not as much of an outlier as some people seem to think. His talks/sermons have certainly been much more focused on cleaning the inner vessel (e.g. church is a hospital for sinners, Potemkin villages, leaders make mistakes, concentrating on one minor problem causing the loss of the entire airplane, etc), but plenty of others have giving similar talks. Outliers don’t get called to the 12. We just tend to pay better attention cause it comes with an awesome accent.
I think the “lack of trust” bubble created in the post is much more of a generational thing that’s effecting everything, not just the Church. Not really generational, since it’s easily found in all generations. Maybe just a human thing, wanting an “ultimate authority” we can cling to? Blaming a generation for anything, or even using it as a delineation at all, doesn’t really work, as people are not that predictable.
Anyway, primarily because of the lack of information, people have placed their entire trust in all sorts of things: governments, churches, media figures, traditions.. History and science even shift and flow with each new discovery and analysis. Right or wrong, people trusted in them as absolutes, when they were never meant to be. The Church itself is but sandstone, made up of layer upon layer of millions of organisms doing their best to be a good building material (with varying results), but certainly not the rock that is the gospel of Jesus.
I end up feeling like this (and several other) blogs are my community to work the church problems out in a healthy way. The problem with it is that there is no organizational power (meaning power to actually effect changes) in a blog. But then again, I don’t know that there would be any organization power in a group having discussions like this on Sunday during the three hour block. ~Which is one of the inherent problems in need of discussion!
JR, that’s what I understood, it had just been a while since I have heard of someone making such a claim (not since Bill Marriott did in the Mike Wallace interview that I watched in hundreds of youth meetings in the 90s, we love to pat ourselves on the back, don’t we?).
Sam Young. I enjoyed your Mormon Stories interview and think what you are doing is courageous and scriptural. I applaud your efforts with common consent and with your petition. I listen to a lot of Mormon Stories and think John Dehlin facilitates a lot of important and interesting discussions. I do agree with ChurchIsTrue that people who are still participating in the Church appear to be in the minority of the Mormon Stories community and most of the people interviewed are out. Even worse, I feel like it has a tarnished reputation in the active LDS community and a lot of my friends and family members who are progressive Mormons are reluctant to listen to anything from Mormon Stories. I wanted to share an interview about the abuses of bishop worthiness interviews with someone and they were very interested until they found out it was from Mormon Stories. I also don’t like that John Dehlin tends to be really harsh with people who have a nuanced view and remain in the Church (i.e. asking Greg Prince if being part of the Church was being complicit in the oppression, come on). I agree that the Church has created an army of enemies, our harshest critics are now people who have been on missions, graduated from BYU and married in the temple. I do wish that the Mormon Stories community could be more charitable to people who have a nuanced point of view and choose to stay. This may be difficult because a lot of people (including John Dehlin) feel they tried to do this and were pushed out. I agree that our current culture did not grow organically and real change needs to come from the top. Right now we are giving lip service and wanting credit for it being real change.
I think that one of the bubbles on your new chart needs to be “failed community”. Back in the days of several meetings during the week, road shows, and fun activities, the church kept a lot of people because it gave them a good community to belong to. My grandmother born in 1902 had problems with polygamy because of the trauma her mother went through as a child of polygamy. Her problems with polygamy led to problems with Joseph Smith as a prophet. But she stayed faithful to the church because it was her community. My mother read “No Man Knows My History before I was born and lost all faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet, but she also stayed loyal to the church because in Utah, it was community.
Fast forward to 1980 when I decided that I just did not believe the foundation stories of the church and thought that Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon, but I stayed because as a military wife moving every two years or so, I needed the instant community the church gave us when we moved to a new area.
Now, I have dropped out and 2/3 children have dropped out of church. Oh, we would all give you different reasons. One child is gay, one is a jack Mormon, one went pagan, and I just decided that since I don’t believe and am bored silly and hate the Pharasee atmosphere that I was getting nothing from the church at all. But none of us were getting anything we needed from the church.
When the church meets one need, it is easier to overlook problems in another area. So, if social and community needs are met, people will overlook historical problems, or doctrinal problems. For example, back in 1976, I knew lots of people who objected to the blacks and priesthood/temple restrictions, but because they felt integrated into Mormonism, they never thought of leaving the church over it. But contrast that to now and the gay marriage issue, and I know many people who have left the church over this issue. The people who wanted to give blacks the priesthood were just as angry, just as disillusioned over the church being racist and bigoted as people are now over LGBT issues. But the difference is they are not leaving.
People tend to keep the values of their community, but when church community falls apart, it become easy to adopt the values of your age cohort, the values of your university, the values of the people you work with. Then you run into value conflicts with the church that would never have happened if you had been part of a healthy church community.
The church with its bubbles looked at symptoms, and not the underlying causes. I think that the failed church community is one of those underlying causes.
Sam Young. You have a community. A very large community of Exmo’s and critics who are vocal and angry and like you say not committed to the church at all. That’s fine. I’m not judging you for that. You’re following your conscience and that community is meeting your needs. What I think would be very helpful for me and people like me and the church in general, is a group that is very nuanced but committed to working positively within the church. A group that says many of us don’t view the BOM as historical, many of us don’t believe the church is exclusively God’s one true church, many of us don’t receive the brethren’s words as if it came straight from God, many of us see very serious problems in the church we hope can change such as on LGBT+ issues, but we love the church, we find truth and beauty in it, we attend, many of us have temple recommends, and we are asking/requesting change but not demanding it. We hope for change and express our dissent on certain things but sustain the brethren. I think this kind of community could be very powerful in retaining many in faith crisis and could be a powerful force for positive change.
The LDS Church leadership should develop reasons for people to stay, rather than reacting to symptoms. A much greater emphasis on helping our global neighbors (Christian charity) would be a great place to start. This effort would also help with wider community development.
“Need something more”
I know this was grouped with the “conservative” side, but I think this could be said of Jack Mormons as well as those on the liberal side. Most people on this blog seem to call me liberal–I always feel a little more moderate–but honestly I need “something more” than I am getting at church. Jack Mormons need “something more” to get them to come to church. This seems more broad based than just the Jack Mormons, and I suspect Need “something more” includes some Orthodox as well.
Despite me being on the left end of the spectrum, I have always admired both Rock Waterman and Denver Snuffer. I wish I could walk with angels and Denver claims. Some things make me a little nervous about them, but I know Rock and I feel like he’s a great guy. (He’s wayyyy wrong on polygamy, but I respect many of his positions.) I feel a kinship to this group, more so than the Orthodox people I attend church with, even if I don’t subscribe to all the beliefs of those on the right side of the slide. I feel they are more accepting, more Christian, and less judgmental than some of the church-going Orthodox.
If I had a redo, I probably wouldn’t have used the language that could be seen as insulting towards the conservative spectrum. Just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t mean they are nutso.
Great article and discussion. For me, your visual showing a decline in trust (or lack of trust) hits the proverbial nail right on the head. Leaders of “the Church” have deliberately withheld or whitewashed the messy parts of Mormon history for decades. According to the way I was raised in an LDS home this behavior constitutes lying. I know longer have ANY trust in Senior Church Leadership. All I see is an attempt to protect the organization at all costs; as compared to doing the right thing. Hence – I’m actively stepping away. Again, my compliments.
Nutsos”?? “Crazies”?? Wow…..no judging there.
That just about sums up the whole dilemma, doesn’t it? No other group was denigrated that way in the post. But clearly, that’s the author’s view of the folks on the right. And……
ALL of us have such denigrating names we call (even if only in our thoughts) some group or person on that chart. Whatever our perspective we naturally view those quite different from us as “less thans”. As wolves. Destroyers. Threats. Ick-ites. But most folks aren’t trying to destroy anything or anyone….they just see and feel things differently than we do. And everyone has something good to bring to the table. Everyone. Full stop.
We can talk about being healed in the hospitals of our wards, but I think most folks think someone else but me needs the healing. We all like, if not love our viewpoint and perspectives. We embrace them. We embrace like-minded people. And we want our church to be like us rather than us like our church. We want our view to count, to be important—maybe the most important. We deeply want our leaders to turn their faces toward us rather than the next tier up of leaders, which means they’ve turned their backs to us. We want, even need to feel we fit in, we belong, we’re valued and accepted. But someone (indeed everyone) is always sending out those name-calling vibes that marginalize.
It’s human nature. And the gospel is suppose to help us transcend that nature. The church offers some ways and means to do that, but really, it’s up to each person to do that gut-wrenching gospel work on our own journeys.
All are alike unto God, but no one is alike unto us, nor unto our church. So throw the chart away. Love one another as He has loved us. Love God way more. We do not have to be agree to be able to love. Then, and only then will there be healing—in our nature’s, and in the Mormon Church.
Happy Hubby wrote:
“I am not sure the top leaders (or most any older leader in most any level in the church) really gets what drives millennials. “
It’s just not getting what drives them, but also how fast they’re driving. They’re leaving us baby-steppers in the dust. They are deciding *now* whether to marry in the church, and once they don’t, there’s very little chance they’ll come back.
But some are scoping each other out on LDS dating sites, signaling their level of orthodoxy with key words and phrases in their profiles.
Frank Pellett said: “Pres Uchtdorf is not as much of an outlier as some people seem to think. His talks/sermons have certainly been much more focused on cleaning the inner vessel (e.g. church is a hospital for sinners, Potemkin villages, leaders make mistakes, concentrating on one minor problem causing the loss of the entire airplane, etc), but plenty of others have giving similar talks. Outliers don’t get called to the 12. We just tend to pay better attention cause it comes with an awesome accent.”
I have to respectfully disagree. President Uchtdorf engages doubt and the imperfections of leadership in a way that doesn’t sound like lip service. There’s also what *doesn’t* say: yes, he talks about airplanes a lot, but he’s also able to reach for a wealth of metaphor and experience that doesn’t match the dozens of other leaders who hail from the Western United States. He spoke once of compassion and mentioned the judgmental members in Germany who mocked East German refugees (including his own family ). I don’t think he’s ever addressed issues of sexuality (I’m not in a place where I can easily Google to confirm that), and certainly not in the manner that Elder Oaks has. He’s an outlier by omission as much as actual attitude or language difference. If new members of the 12 are cut from the same “Utah business leader” cloth as so many others, those of us from a different place and perspective will have just that much less in common with church leadership.
Those “Utah business leaders” sure are obsessed with sex.
That’s kind of a huge point of disconnect for this millennial, since I clearly don’t think about it nearly as often as they do.
(They also have really bad taste in porn. I follow / support these fellow trans girls that draw happy, upbeat, body-positive smut, and the only porn that Concerned Mormons ever talk about is mainstream pay-per-view garbage. Being told over and over again that there’s no way to explore your body and feelings without contributing to an exploitative industry will make you a nervous wreck who’s afraid of herself, and who is so repressed that she gets turned on by TV Guide covers and strapless dresses.)
It seems like you are calling out Sam Young to be more like you because you like that way of interacting and you love the church more than Sam (I am probably overstating that last part a bit). I personally do feel Sam still cares about the church. I do agree with the term that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference.
I actually think it is great to have both of you and your perspectives. And I would say that Sam actually helps your “way of nuancing Mormonism”. It can make your message seem less heretical.
And Sam has a following not just because of Sam. He has a following just like you have a following of people that see this issue the same way as you. You may want more in your camp, but the reality is that there are many that resonate with Sam.
I could see Sam making almost the same reply to you that your softer touch does not make progress in the church. Just look at the pressures that came to bear that led to the church to finally stop practicing polygamy and shed some racist policies and procedures.
I am glad both of you are out there crusading each in your own way. I think you help people that want (or need) to stay active in the church. Sam is pushing to right some wrongs that are going on in the church. Your methods wouldn’t be effective on the causes he is championing, and visa versa.
Interesting article. It does show a profound misunderstanding of some of those on the right side of the spectrum however. Certainly those who are attracted to Denver Snuffer emphatically do not want “more church “. They want a greater connection to God. They see the flawed institution as an impediment to that . It use to be there were talks in General Conference on the importance of making your calling and election made sure but no more . There used to be concrete examples of members of the First Presidency prophesying “ in the name of the Lord “ then seeing those words fulfilled. but no more. There use to be a time when we would offer saving ordinances to anyone with a contrite spirit and a broken heart illrespective of the sins of their parents but no more. There was a time when we recognized prophets were flawed and they accepted criticism and apologized for mistakes. But no more .Now we excommunicate people for criticizing the leaders “even if the criticism is true “. The doctrine of the church has been reduced to “follow what liiving GAs tell you even if that is contrary to what Prophets in the past told you.”. I love the gospel and have spent 70 years serving the institution but I don’t think given the present composition of the leadership and the likely composition of their successors there is much room for optimism for the institution. There is however much optimism for developing your own connection to the devine dispite what you may hear on Sunday.
Interesting comment Bellamy. I fall on the left within the context of this diagram, but I also feel the way you described in so many ways that perhaps I fall right in some ways as well. I’m a little hesitant about romanticizing the past too much though. Yes, there was perhaps more emphasis on spiritual journeys and callings/election made sure. But there were other negatives that with those that we’ve improved upon. I have a feeling you’d agree we don’t want those negatives back, but rather to improve on where we are.
ReTx. I certainly don’t want to romanticize the past. I lived it.. Although in those days doctrine counted . None the less you are correct some things have improved. The problem is that as Joseph Smith taught purpose of religion is to connect us to God and give us the power to enter his presence. If it doesn’t do that we should look elsewhere. When I talk to my 20 something sons and their friends the consistent theme is how “boring” church is and how they do not “get “ much out of it .These are RMs. Greg Prince has noted and decried the same issue. Even Elder Packer noted that we have done a good job of disseminating the authority of the priesthood but not its power. I guarantee you that if authentic spiritual gifts were manifested in our meetings such as speaking in tongues, prophesy and revelations received as was once the case and are signs of the true church our meetings would be packed. It is the doctrine and the power of godliness that converts. If this is no longer present neither are the people.
Yes, I agree with you completely there as well. I too seek spiritual gifts. For me, I’ve found them taking a more Buddhist approach to Mormonism. I recognize that isn’t for everyone though.
ReTx we wish you every success in your endeavors . As Denver Snuffer among others recently pointed out there is much to be learned from other religious traditions and there is truth everywhere’. The first principle of Mormonism is to embrace truth wherever it is found.