I have this habit of trying to name the artist of songs when they come on the radio or even on TV or a movie. I
probably irritate my wife with this and she most likely assumes I am just trying to brag about remembering artist’s names, but my intent is to just test myself that I still have a few synapses between the ears that are working. Now don’t ask me to pick out some Drake or Lil Wayne as I am WAY too old for that. But I do seem to have devoted a bunch of my brain to remembering songs in the late 70’s into early 80’s.
But I did struggle the other day when “Should I Stay or Should I Go” came on a show the other day. I eventually had to look it up and see that it was, “The Clash”. I felt disappointed that I didn’t remember it, but I will get over it – eventually.
Later I looked back at my phone and saw where I had looked up, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and thought about it I a different context. The context of those that struggle with this question when it comes to the church. As I have wrestled with that over the last few years (even before Bishop Bill look at this topic earlier this year prompted by the same song), I have tried to understand why some people stay while other leave. I am quite curious on this topic. One main reason I do this is to help me with my decision on this topic in my life. It seems to me it is not common, but there are certainly individuals that know the messy church history and/or dislike current church positions AND they stay active and/or believing members. I have tried to figure out why and how some can stay.
I have read the book, “Why I Stay” by Robert Rees. I have marveled at those like Gregory Prince and Carol Lynn Pearson that can write some very compelling books on church topics that could certainly be very critical of the church. But they seem to be comfortable staying active members.
I see them know as individuals loyal to the church, while pointing out problem areas. They seem to me to come very close to the “loyal opposition” that some leaders have mentioned. As I have grown up in the church I always felt a deep sense of, “you are either with us or against us” and to be “with us” included never saying anything derogatory about the church or the leaders. It seemed to me that if you were in disagreement with a church leader or a church teaching, then you were going down the slippery slope that Satan would want. If you didn’t repent and stop, inevitably you would leave or be excommunicated. The church could not tolerate such dissent in its ranks and there is story after story in church history that shows this to be the case. I know some disagree with this, but I am in no way the only person that has felt this was/is one of the “unwritten rules” within the church.
I have read “Why am I a Mormon” by Joseph A. Cannon, Blake Roney, the founder of Nu Skin, opened his response in the book in a very honest way, “I am a Mormon because I was born a Mormon.” I found that refreshing compared to the common response of others in the book of, “because it is true”.
Many have left the church after learning details of early church history. I have seen several people mention that men often leave the church over church history, but this isn’t generally the same for women. I recall in Jana Riess’ “The Next Mormons” that for younger women that left the church, the top issue was that they feel judged – a reason that didn’t even register in the top 10 on the guys list.
I was recently reading the book “Blueprint” by Nicholas Christakis and he was discussing the history of communes back a few decades ago. He found that the main reason people left communes is that they did not feel “loved” by other members of the commune. Similarly, if people don’t feel loved in their ward, they are more likely to leave.
I am reminded from a few years back hearing an expert say that those that are autistic often have strong reactions when they see someone being treated poorly. I can understand for certain situations in the church can be rather triggering for such individuals when “the rules” are put above individuals and people are hurt.
It isn’t hard to see there there are many different reasons people leave the church.
The one case I have studied the most is of course the case that is closer to me. There are those that know “all the issues” and still stay as active members of the church. For some that are outraged at what they feel as being lied to by church leaders, those that “know the dirt” and stay seem somewhat incomprehensible. It can be hard for them to understand why some don’t have the same reaction they do to this information. I would probably put myself partially in that category, but I would certainly frame it more that I am curious as to how some reconcile and are fine staying in, or at least able to stay active attending members.
There certainly are some individuals that would like to leave, but feel the costs for leaving is too high. I think of a junior at BYU that feels they have to “pretend” until they graduate. I feel much more sympathy for the BYU professor that no longer believes and is a few years from retirement. There are those that are in a family business and know their livelihood is at stake. Or the common issue of concern if a marriage can survive one partner losing their faith in the church. I think those cases can be sad, but I can understand the reasoning. There can be the situation that one lives in that can impact their decision. It is a different equation for stepping away from the church when you have a family of kids and you are in Alpine Utah vs Miami Florida. The social implications can be quite different. The same can be said for families and how they view a member of the family stepping away from the church. Some families can be very enmeshed.
I want to understand why those that could leave, but decide to stay. I have listened to ChurchIsTrue podcast. In the episode, “10: Prophets, Revelation, Current Issues – LGBT, Female Equality” he made a comment at about 41 minutes in that struck me a bit. In talking about the church he says:
“It’s a net positive in my life and it’s a net positive in the world and it’s very important for me. If it wasn’t a net positive in the world then I think it would be wrong for me to support it. But I do believe that by far it’s a net positive in the world and the good things that it does. But just because it does a lot of great things and even that it’s a net positive even a huge net positive, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do any bad things and it doesn’t do any harmful things.
So certainly there are those that don’t feel the same about the church. I can certainly see how a young woman that was date raped and was then told by her bishop she needed to repent might not be able to say, “The church and its leaders have been a net positive in my life”.
And then I ran across a quote from Richard Bushman, probably not many more “know all the issues”, yet are still active and believing members. He made the comment:
The following statement someone posted on a Facebook discussion attributed to Richard Bushman (sorry I didn’t find a reference, but I don’t find this hard to believe Bushman would say this):
“The fact of the matter is that I find goodness in my Latter-day Saint life that I [can] find nowhere else. When my mind is filled with scripture, when I speak to the Lord in prayer, when I comport myself in the way of Jesus, I am the man that I want to be. I feel wisdom, concentration, compassion, and comprehension to a degree beyond anything I have known as a scholar or a teacher. I do everything better under the influences that radiate from the Latter-day Saint religion. I am a better father and husband. I give more to my children. I connect with the poor and needy. I counsel my students more truly. I am more unselfish. Moreover, I like what the religion does for my fellow Saints, both longtime members and new converts. It welds us together into a community of mutual trust and aid. Latter-day Saints, in my experience, are people of goodwill. They give to each other and to worthy works of every kind. We care for each other the way Jesus said we should. The experiences in my own congregation have persuaded me that nothing is more likely to improve the world than conversion to the beliefs that I have treasured all my life.
As a scholar, I know full well the doubts of agnostics. I know that the scientific worldview, now dominant among intellectuals, appears to exclude traditional belief. I have dealt with the arguments against belief all my life. But over against these, I place my own intimate experience of goodness among the Latter-day Saints.”
I have heard that Terryl Givens has said that the Mormon gospel “tastes good”.
After years of mulling over this, I have come to the conclusion the same as ChurchIsTrue. It is very simple in one way. The church works for them or at least it has more positive than negative attributes, they will stay. And it follows that for those that leave, there are more negatives than positives. For some it is a nice congregation and a way to meet friends and neighbors and to be able to serve and be served. For some it is a feeling that they have found the truth. For some it is that it just makes them feel good.
As I have reached this conclusion I have looked at those that leave and stay and to me this reasoning seems to work. It leaves me not being as judgmental for if someone leaves or stays.
What thoughts do you have on this topic?
Does anyone have a theory that seems to work better for them?
I agree with your conclusion. As complicated as it seems, it’s really not.
People stay if they perceive as more helpful than harmful to them to stay and leave it isn’t.
What’s complicated is that “”helpful” (or positive) can be so many things (and combinations of things):
Marriage / family relationships
Truth claims / validity
Opportunities to serve / be a better person
Comfort / routine
I’m sure there are others I’m missing.
Harmful can be the other side of a lot of those same topics.
Most people I know who have left have left over homophobia or sexism. Those issues open the door to looking at whether prophets are prophets and developing a vision of God that seems bigger than the one we get at church. And then eventually church just doesn’t even seem useful (because so much of what’s taught in Sundays they no longer resonate with), the community seems shallow (because they tend to abandon you once you don’t seem safe anymore), and the institution seems harmful to their identity as LGBTQ or woman or to their families. But that’s my anecdotal sample.
I don’t think it’s that surprising that more women leave over social justice issues than men – women personally experience more of them due to their indisputable second-class citizenship in the institution.
Why do most members leave? Mostly they’re not well integrated and do not live in an environment that has centripetal cultural forces drawing them to predominant Mormon norms. This is the number one reason. And we see it throughout South America and Africa and other areas where church membership is sparse.
The phenomenon we’re talking about here is why do those born and raised in the church and who have lots of Mormon family members and friends, and often live in our spend considerable time in the mountain West, leave the church. Simply put, a new cultural trend took place within the church where people started determining a variety of justifiable reasons (gay marriage support, women’s rights, historical and doctrinal issues) to disassociate themselves, often openly, with the church. Those in the corridor who leave have often heard stories of others leaving and for one reason or another the idea becomes attractive to them. I have gradually inched out of the church, with my pinky toe still in, largely because I heard stories of other people doing it. I wouldn’t have had the courage pre-internet.
I disagree with Bushman that people who know the issues well tend to stay. Most congregants are clueless and don’t have time to read and study. What time they devote to study they devote to reading things that confirm their biases, available amply. Those who learn the damning history tend to leave. The group of people Bushman is talking about is a select group of people who already have intellectual reputations built on Mormonism. This select group of people has lots of time and money, and often a job, to study Mormonism. They have a lot to lose if they start writing and talking critically about the church. The Dan Vogels of this world are deprived of money, time, convenience, and support network in writing about Mormonism. Vogel revealed that for insurance access he helps bag groceries. I trust that Vogel’s see among the least tainted by outside pressures and influences. I can’t say the same of the Muhlesteins and Givenses of the world.
@John W, that’s a really good point. I interpreted this question through the lens of “why do people we historically didn’t expect to leave (the ones who were born and raised Mormon and served missions and married in the temple and have strong family connections and history) leave”. You’re absolutely right that a TON of people leave in other countries largely because they are simply not integrated.
I also agree that the unprecedented ability to connect with other people who have left or are leaving (and learning that leaving doesn’t always lead to a horrible life as we were taught growing up, and feeling less alone in our concerns) has made leaving way easier.
i think i’m still at the view i had written back a while back — being able to stay ultimately requires having a sense of personal calling that sustains you.
With this, it actually doesn’t matter if you’re accepted in your ward, if you remain a member in good standing or are excommunicated, if people treat you well. Because your fueling is independent, you can survive all of that.
I think that someone who is only staying to change things who doesn’t have that sustaining sense of personal call will burn out eventually.
i think this is probably difficult for many mormons to get because we don’t use “calling” in the same sense as it is used in many other traditions and denominations. For mormons, calling is something that is assigned to you. It is a duty that you do because you are asked to do it, not because you are irresistibly drawn to it. It is a choice you make to practice every day, not a free gift that you can’t choose or earn.
But calling in my definition is a grace. Some people have it. Some people don’t. It’s not always expected or predictable or even *wanted*.
I think the whole Covid experience is changing the costs versus benefits sense of many members of the Church. The costs of staying are now not merely tithing money and service time (varies dramatically by calling) but also the health risks of weekly in-person attendance given the many congregations where masking is not being practiced and a significant percentage of the members are not vaccinated. Historical and doctrinal issues can tip the truth versus untruth calculus people make (sometimes implicitly). But Covid is tipping the cost versus benefit calculus.
The other recent development, loosely related to Covid, is the realization of some LDS that their fellow members have fallen hard for Trump’s various lies and manipulations, including the various lies about Covid and vaccines that circulate rather freely on social media and some mainstream media outlets. It’s getting harder to rationalize “fellowship” with that group, particularly if that includes your local leaders. Poor judgement on that scale is not compartmentalized. It spills over into their religious thinking and into Mormon thinking generally, given how many LDS fall into that camp.
My image is the old-fashioned balance scale. On one side are all the things I can’t accept. On the other side are all the things I can’t deny. For me, the “can’t deny” side still outweighs the “can’t accept” side. That is very true of my relationship with the gospel, some of which carries over to the somewhat different balance in my relationship with the institutional church.
I like this nonjudgmental analysis – we stay or leave depending on whether Church is a net positive or net negative in our lives. My final reason for quitting was pretty obvious: I was sick of crying on Sundays. The more complicated reason was why going to church left me in tears about half the time.
I was born in Utah, pioneer heritage, and lived a very faithful life with parents who held all the ward (and some of the stake) leadership callings. As a woman who couldn’t get married, and then got married and divorced, I always felt secondbest, despite my consistent callings as a GD or RS teacher. My father was EXTREMELY active, and he was also very demanding. My whole life was about making my father happy, and by extension, making Church leaders happy. When I couldn’t do that (unmarried), my self-image didn’t survive. I had to quit Church in an effort to accept myself. Through therapy, I realized that my need for male authority figure approval is a lot more intense (near pathological) than most people experience (from my difficult relationship with my father). When I quit needing male authority figure approval, all the male authority figures got thrown out — my father, Church leaders, and God himself. The baby went out with the bathwater, and it was an immense relief. A woman can’t go to Church without having male approval/disapproval of her life choices presented to her. I couldn’t heal from my emotional insecurities in that environment. Whether or not I was crying on Sundays had a lot to do with whether or not I felt like I had a chance at changing my life into the ideal Mormon woman life that week.
(And it was impossible to talk out with anyone because of the gaslighting: ‘awww, you can’t have those feelings because church doesn’t actually say that getting married is better than being single.’ Um.)
Anyway. One of the reasons I let my son quit Church (a couple years before I did), is that I didn’t want him to feel like he didn’t live up to the approval standards. Because of his various issues, he’s never going to serve a mission, and likely won’t get married. I didn’t want him feeling that sting of disapproval for a ‘consolation prize’ life.
I could make my decision to quit about social issues – I don’t like the patriarchy, I have LGBTQ concerns, I know the troubled history, etc. And those were factors that weakened my feeling of inclusion in the Church community. But the personal reason is the one I described above.
Based on talking to/reading on forums about why people have left, I have a theory. There’s a front issue, and then there’s the personal connection. The front issue is the one we tell people. The personal connection is how/why it broke our connection to the Church community. My front issue is the patriarchy is too rigid and controlling; the personal connection is how I felt about my life being second class. Someone’s front issue might be LGBTQ issues; the personal connection may be watching a loved one hurt. A front issue may be history; the personal connection may be the feeling of betrayal. You know? Like there’s an event. And then there’s the way the event makes you feel. Someone who used to be very integrated into Church always has a deeply painful and personal reason for leaving, and it might not be one they talk about very freely. Instead, they might deflect the discussion into something more socially acceptable to discuss.
‘John W – you are correct. Even Jana Riess has said more than once that what her data said for “The Next Mormons” that the most common set of people leaving by far are those that just fade away. Those that you wouldn’t expect to leave” leave and moan and groan because even they never thought or sometimes even wanted to leave.
Melinda – Sorry to hear of your painful situation. I do agree there is some validity to what you propose on a “front question” and then others. I have even heard other theories such as one that I think was John Larsen on a Sunstone podcast saying you have to have either (a) a strong belief that the church is true OR (b) a very good experience in church as you attend. If you don’t have both, you are on a bit of shaky ground. But if you have neither, your days are numbered (John is welcome to correct me if I got that wrong). I will say that for me, my theory works best for me and makes me less emotional about others.
“The fact of the matter is that I find goodness in my Latter-day Saint life that I [can] find nowhere else.” (Supposed attribution to Richard Bushman)
I find this to be untrue. The reality is that, if someone looked hard enough, they could at worst find goodness to match Latter-day Saint life elsewhere, and at best, find something even better. But I think this line of reasoning is used to convince others to stay.
@chadwick agree. That view is scare tactics / ignorance. There’s a lot of good outside the church – some of it without the baggage. But you only realize that if you spend a lot of time with people outside the Church and are willing to entertain that possibility in the first place.
Of course there’s good inside too, but we simply don’t have a monopoly on that. Especially not since we decided to cast our lot with the Christian Right.
Being a loyal and active Church member doesn’t make you a kind, moral human being. Of course plenty of people are both. But they aren’t the same thing, yet I think we generally focus on the former at Church.
I like Richard Bushman just fine but he is in no way objective and he’s staked his reputation on his Church membership. His cost-benefit analysis is very different from a lot of people’s.
As Hugh Nibley told me personally many years ago the biggest secret in the church is the gospel. He also said the twin pillars of Mormonism are an obsession with wealth and a distain for the scriptures. Over the 70 odd years I have spent in this organization I have come to realize Hugh knew what he was talking about. The difficulty is we don’t make the critical distinction that GA Ronald Pohleman made in his original talk in GC before he was forced to revise it. That is there is an mportant distinction between the gospel and the church. One is true and the other by definition can not be. If you know the scriptures (Mormon 8) you know that the holy church of God has become corrupted. I chose to stay knowing the abuses ,falsehoods and fraud that the corrupted church perpetuates because it also has a purest nugget of truth at its heart.I do hope and pray that out of this dark pool Zion may yet arise.
Bellamy, thanks for bringing up the Pohlman talk. It was truly phenomenal (well the original). I never cared for Nibley’s apologetics. His social vision was very praiseworthy, however.
Bellamy: “ I chose to stay knowing the abuses, falsehoods and fraud that the corrupted church perpetuates because it also has a purest nugget of truth at its heart.”
I’m asking very sincerely. What is included in the falsehoods and frauds for you? Are the literal truth claims – First Vision, Angels, Plates, Nephites, priesthood authority conferred by original apostles, etc. – part of the falsehoods, but there is enough beauty and meaning in living a Mormon life that those concerns don’t matter?
Richard Bushman’s remarks are poignant. I used to feel that way. But my mental smooth-sailing ended when I realized that I was about “truth” and not “utility.” I wish I weren’t.
I’m still there every week and hold callings. So I guess the very bottom line for me is that I do this for my husband.
Ruth – I am in the same situation. I consider myself a “PIMO” – Physically In, Mentally Out. I am only attending because my wife likes that I come (who likes to attend sacrament meeting alone?)
I can only tell my reasons for staying.
– About twice a year, I have a profound spiritual experience at church.
– I absolutely love the people around me that give of their time to help me and help my kids.
– I have status and a voice and am well respected. I have no desire to go to another church and spend years building up that confidence in another church.
– There is no “one true church” and this one is as good as any I have visited.
– I want to worship with other people in holy places and I would have just as many issues with any other theology as I have with Mormonism.
– My covenants have blessed my life. I have no desire to go “live life” and do not feel that I am missing out on anything. (Except for golfing on Sundays)
– My wife and I are on the same page.
– I don’t give two shits what people think of me. My kids are not enrolled in Seminary and everyone in my ward knows that I am the guy that loves to read church history. I know what not to say to keep them all from losing their minds and I know how far I can push the envelope. I don’t aspire to callings, yet I always get called anyway. I just got called to serve as the Executive Secretary of our stake by a Stake President who knows how I feel on most issues. When he called me, I asked him why on earth he would want me in those meetings with the views I hold and he told me my views were THE reason he wanted me.
– Service makes me a better person and I know myself well enough to say confidently that if I walked from religion, I don’t have the self discipline to serve.
– Music keeps me going back. I can’t imagine not singing and taking the sacrament.
I have many friends that have left. Their reasons are very valid. I realize I have privilege and do not feel guilty about it. I am a universalist at heart and believe whole heartedly that everyone has to do what gets them through each and every day, if that means leaving the church, I fully support them.
Word up, Zach. Beautifully expressed & right on.
Will also say that there’s undoubtedly a strong behavioral gene link in religious people: the highly religious tend to produce the highly religious. Those young who drift frequently return in later years. It’s also possible that this works backwards w/ the irreligious & their progeny – all of which calls into question notions of agency/choice: you can change your hair color every week but in reality you’re still a dirty blond.
I don’t claim to know all that much about reasons why people stay or leave. For that matter, I’m not even sure I can adequately articulate why I stay. I think what struck me about the OP was mostly just the respect and acceptance for those who choose to stay without disrespecting or being cynical about those reasons for staying.
About a year ago, my wife “came out” to me that she was leaving the Church. In that year, I think my biggest fear is that she would see my reasons for staying through the kind of cynicism that some in the comments have expressed. “He’s too lazy/scared/brainwashed to study the real stuff.” “He’s too invested (sunk cost fallacy) to leave.” Or whatever cynical explanations the post-Mormon groups like to give for reasons why some stay. It’s one thing to direct that kind of cynicism at distant or even unknown people, but the dynamic seems quite different when it is your spouse/best friend/life companion.
Which isn’t to say that it can’t go both ways. Too many times it seems that those who stay treat the reasons that people leave with the same kind of cynicism. “Just wants to sin” “Unwilling to make the right faith choices.” “lazy learner” (however you want to parse Pres. Nelson’s words there, I think the big reason that it was so inflammatory among post-Mormons was because it came across as cynical and disrespectful to the people who leave and the reasons they leave).
I don’t know how well I understand why people stay and leave. I like the respectful tone of the OP that avoids judging the reasons people give for staying. I might even go so far as to say that — especially when it comes to our closest relationships — that kind of respect and avoidance of judgement is important, maybe necessary, to maintain those relationships.
anon – thanks and I have to say it has taken me a few years to get to this point. I too think it is important – as you say for “both sides.”
I came out to one of my teenage best friends. He is climbing up the LDS leadership chain. When I told him he just hugged me and said, “oh Happy Hubby, that must be so hard.” Zero judgement. How could I even entertain any negative thoughts about him and him wanting to say when he showed me nothing but love and no defensiveness? I think if members could respect and accept that the church didn’t work for someone, quite a few ex-mo’s wouldn’t feel like attacking the church. I do acknowledge that some ex-mo’s do show disrespect towards members and that usually provokes a defensive/persecuted position from the believer’s side.
I listened to Bushman’s Mormon Stories interview recently. I remember thinking that as much as I admired all that he has done as an LDS scholar, the reason that his experience no longer resonated with me is that it was the experience of an older white male who had always found the LDS church to be a supportive place to be in commune with others. So he didn’t really have to be too worried about whether Joseph made stuff up or was cheating on his wife or the modern church’s insistent misogyny and patriarchy or its toxicity for LGBTQ individuals. That was all history or too distant an experience to him and therefore not impacting the comfortable place in the world being a member of the LDS church had given him.
For a long time, that was also how I felt about the LDS church. It was a good place for me to grow. Even if I had real concerns about the history and the authenticity of the Mormon narrative, the ideas about a Zion community and.eternal families and how to be a disciple of God had great resonance. I loved the people in my various wards and it was where I had made life-long friends. If I thought that many of my literal-minded co-religionists had too narrow of a view of God, there were enough other individuals that didn’t, that I could have lots of spiritually meaningful conversations at church. And I thought that the ward was a net positive for my family. Youth leaders that cared greatly about my kids, friends that helped our family in times of need. And as a ward leader, (serving as EQP, HPGL, bishopric counselor, WML, besides Primary. Nursery, and GD teacher) I thought I was helping those on the margins have a safe place to worship.
But then my wife stopped going to church, and then my children. And especially when my youngest, who is transgender, revealed just how deeply LDS.doctrine had estranged him from God, well, the calculus changed. Especially because when Covid hit and our ward was kept from having virtual meetings by our overzealous Area Authority, it was clear that the institutional leadership of the church was more worried about lines of authority than sustaining the spiritual growth of members. And then I started attending the virtual meetings of other Christian congregations..And it became clear that many were far more Christ-centered and service oriented than the LDS church.
So when Bushman says “The fact of the matter is that I find goodness in my Latter-day Saint life that I [can] find nowhere else.” It seems to me that is most likely be because he hasn’t tried very hard to find that in other faiths. I recognize that he (like me) has invested decades in the LDS church and starting over is hard, but the personal calculus for me now lays in favor of doing that for that last 20-40 years of my life, rather than coasting on empty in what seems more and more to me to be a spiritually adrift church.
Bushman (may) have said, “Moreover, I like what the religion does for my fellow Saints, both longtime members and new converts. It welds us together into a community of mutual trust and aid. Latter-day Saints, in my experience, are people of goodwill.”. I would still like to believe that of my ward, but I am not sure that is true of my stake and I don’t think its true of s great many of the Saints in the Mountain West. The four years of kissing the ring of Trump and the recent anti-mask/anti-vax tirades have let me to judge the fruit of the religion as rotten.
My journey away from my heritage religion began at 19 when I went through the temple for the first time. I not only didn’t get it, but parts were offensive. After 5 hrs of introspection, I decided to go on a mission anyway.
During my mission, I was introduced to the kooky writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, Alvin Dyer, and Bruce McConky. Not my idea of what a religion should be. At BYU, I learned crazy conservative political interpretations of the BoM.
At that point, I was gone. And things haven’t improved. Turns out the things I taught on my mission were half truths (putting it charitably). The temple ceremony has been altered several time, but it is still problematic. BYU’s religion department is being turned over to CES (this can’t be good).
There is an article on millenial star encouraging people to stay, after the FPs letter on masks and vaccination. They seem to be upset that the FP are not completely on board with their prophet trump, and his undermining of society.
I would like the church to be true because my wife and I have invested so much into it, but I see no evidence that we are lead by prophets, just old men. Being in my 70s I understand the limitations of being an old man.
We have no friends who are not in the church, so leaving would be socially isolating, but we have very little in common with most of them anyway. My wife is part of a small group of the older women who do charity work in the community which could continue. We have a couple of grandchildren who might get married in the temple in the next few years?
Our chapel has the air conditioning on every week but has no thermostat so just gets colder and colder.
@10ac I appreciate you noting the ways that privilege impacts a person’s church experience and willingness / ability to stay. I’ve had a lot of privilege too – high-status callings, educational and financial success, a sufficient number of children at a sufficiently young age, straight orientation, etc. But my disadvantage as a woman has also heavily colored my experience and also puts a ceiling on my ability to make positive contributions or even be heard.
I have no problem if straight white men (or other privileged groups, but that’s the top of the Mormon food chain) enjoy their church experience and choose to stay. I do have a problem when they ignore or minimize the problems less-privileged folks face because they haven’t personally experienced those problems.
It’s 2014. I’m 53, the 1st counselor in my elder’s quorum, and have a temple recommend in my wallet. I have never had a period of inactivity.
But something was wrong. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of unease I had with the church. I heard Terryl and Fiona Givens being interviewed on Radio West about their new book, “The Crucible of Doubt”. I bought it immediately. It was both a tremendous relief valve to my feelings and scary. I couldn’t believe that the stuff I was reading was published by Deseret Book. It seemed subversive and radical. That was followed by “Wrestling with the Angel”, “The God Who Weeps”, and, in a couple of years, “The Christ Who Heals”. I had no clue that Terryl was a professional apologist and that his work was to build a bridge to people like me.
I reconnected with a former mission companion who organizes a lecture series in a fireside setting. His aim is to help people stay in the church. Presenters included Bob Rees, Patrick Mason, David Ostler, Jana Reise, Carol Lynn Pearson, and many more. For a while, I found a home in the borderlands. I used those lessons in my efforts in my next calling as a ward missionary.
Most of all, I found that I was not alone. I was shoulder to shoulder with progressive Mormons (a term I had never heard before), doubters, post-Mormons, and folks that want to burn the church down.
From 2014 to 2017, I studied with a fervor: thousands of hours, tens of thousands of pages – I felt my “life” depended on it. I stayed away from anti-Mormon stuff and, for the same reasons, apologetic material (FAIR, etc.).
Why I ultimately chose to leave:
History is what it is – can’t change it. But some of the historical facts are horrendous and have present-day repercussions as they have shaped the modern church in harmful ways. More troubling is how that history has been misrepresented for my entire life and continues to be presented in disingenuous and even deceitful narratives.
The expansive, beautiful, and inclusive themes of original Mormonism (much of which was yet flourishing in the first half of my life) have been throttled by increasing pharisaical and authoritarian top-down “leadership”. Common consent is a ghost of what it was and should be.
It isn’t much fun anymore – the death of roadshows et.al. has been discussed extensively on Wheat and Tares.
Having a gay child and a Black child put the church’s current stance on these issues front and center for me. I don’t give the leadership a passing grade.
For me, the exclusive truth claims don’t stand up to scrutiny.
In the end, the benefits of staying were far outweighed by the tedium, oppression, and even pain of being an active Mormon. The church has chipped away the benefits at the same time as they were adding to the costs.
I love some aspects of Mormonism and will be forever grateful for my youth and childhood in the church. Out of the church, I feel more peace and love and connectedness with deity.
Ruth good question. I suspect I am in a tiny minority because I very strongly believe in the foundational narrative. I really believe strongly in Joseph’s prophetic calling. I have spent 50 years intensively studying the B of M and am absolutely intellectually convinced of its historicity. I have had certain transcendent spiritual experiences involving messengers who have taught me that the message of the restoration is true. On the other hand I see the abusive institution telling people pay your tithing even if it means you can not feed your family. I see thousands of LDS children being severely malnourished or even starving to death while the institution adds to its hoard of 100s of billions.. I see the church church falsifying the scriptures and it’s history to fir its own needs . Did Joseph practice polygamy . If so where are the children? Brigham had 29 wives and 57 children . Joseph is claimed to have had 35 wives but no children!
Fraud . Read the Huntsman lawsuit against the church for additional details. But I personally know of multimillion dollar land purchases the church made from insiders or their relatives at grossly inflated prices. Look at the official filings the church is required to make showing sources and allocation of funds in Great Britain. I have and discovered it raised more than a million dollars from its members for disaster relief but actually on spent $100,000 of it for that purpose.. The rest went for general administrative purposes including paying excessive salaries,It is all in their official filing . Did you know 50% of all tithing collected in Canada goes to support BYU. Again from the church’s own filings required under Canadian law which I have personally reviewed.
Each has to make our own decision and choose our own path. I have chosen to stay and minister to people I love even though they are being deceived and mislead and abused. . Incidentally just by way of background. I have served in bishoprics for 12 years ,8 as bishop. High councilor in multiple stakes, temple worker in multiple temples,BYU grad , spent 2 1/2 years in the mission field and married to a RM. in the temple,and fwiw am a descendent of Brigham and have 3 cousins who are GAs . My conclusions are very painful but informed
Why do I stay when my kids, the reason for my being involved in the first place, have left? Why do I stay when I read many valid reasons online for leaving? It’s true that the people in charge don’t appear to care one jot about our experience, only see us as a cash cow to be milked, and deliberately ignore requests for changes that would improve things for everyone. In response, they throw more mundane, pointless tasks at us, designed to keep us engaged, but never really satisfactory. I watch my friends dwindle into inactivity, despite my attempts to reach out to them. Given the system we are a part of, real communication is not possible. I guess I stay because it motivates me to get out and do things. It gets me off my butt. It’s a habit, and if I break it, I might lose my motivation entirely. I also enjoy feeling like I’m a part of something much bigger than myself, a global network. And then there’s the sunk cost fallacy, the years of my life I’ve spent on this.
That’s why I haven’t yet quit Pokemon Go, but I’ve come really close in the last few weeks.
You know… why isn’t there a crappier Mormon version of Pokemon Go yet? We’ve had all kinds of inferior Mormonized copies of board games, card cames, toys, knickknacks, self help books, cook books, underwear, scriptural exegesis, and so on. We demand our Mormon version of an mobile AR game about catching imaginary creatures. We’ll call it “Curelom Go!”
Well, today I’m thinking maybe some leave cause they’re not into an apostle asking people to aim muskets at them, their friends, and family.
I know some for whom this was a last straw.
Bellamy: “…I very strongly believe in the foundational narrative.”
I wish I still did. But the proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube. There’s no going back to trusting that Joseph Smith didn’t fabricate, and the Church has no place (except for the keep-it-to-yourself room) for non-literally believing members. I get it; there’s a narrative. But I believe it was Richard Bushman himself who has said it isn’t sustainable.
I’m afraid that might sound like I’m challenging you, and I don’t mean it to. I can love and respect everyone who believes as you do. My husband, for starters.
And your account of the finances is eye-opening.
@Elisa – that’s an unfortunate timely tie-in to this topic.
Here is a link to the newsroom’s release. The first part is a summary. Full talk follows. Elder Holland is quoting Elder Oaks.
Anon today & Everyone Else
Yesterday was my birthday. I woke up to a house decorated for me (never had that before) and a centerpiece on the dining room table of a small group of unicorn ducklings swimming under a rainbow archway. The gays boys in my life did all of that – totally made my day.
Then news of Holland’s talk. Watched the video from the newsroom link above. Don’t just read the transcript – watch the video and hear the vehemence in his voice.
I hopped on to a Zoom meeting with 150+ LGBTQ+ students and their allies. They were all frightened. They discussed safety plans. Plans for providing suicide intervention. What actions should be taken in response.
There was no joy.
Holland’s call to action was expressed in violent terms. It was almost a call to arms. And I’m sure that the DezNat folks will take it that way.
1- Watch the talk and wrestle with it
2- Reach out to community members and their families. Let them know you will help and support them in whatever they may need at this time. Don’t let them feel alone.
LGBTQ suicides spike after every general conference, more so when the community get a mention (most often unfavorably). This was an all out attack on the community, delivered with violent overtones (“I want to hear some musket fire”). BYU faculty and staff were put on notice that supporting same sex marriage will not be tolerated (one reason given was that BYU is losing donors) and that the stance will be defended even if it means that BYU loses it’s accreditations.
The community and their families will need all of our help – no matter what you personally believe about SSM. The parable of the good Samaritan teaches us that comfort and support should always be our response. And let’s try not to play the role of the robbers while we’re at it. They don’t need to be preached to today.
Ruth I appreciate your comments and did not consider it a challenge. Good people can agree to disagree amicably. It is interesting that you mentioned R Bushmans comment. It happens he was my advisor at BYU and we both have connections to Columbia and love the upper west side. I do not think you properly understand what he meant by his comment however.The traditional narrative has Joseph as a serial bigamist ,a perjuring sex crazed child molester who took advantage of powerless teenage girls. The church may not articulate it in exactly that way but that is what the traditional LDS narrative requires you to accept. It also requires you to accept that his successors really received revelation like he did. Again Joseph had no children by any of the woman he was sealed to . His successors had harems that would be the envy of an Ottoman Sultan Do you know how old saintly Lorenzo Snows last wife , wife number 9, was.? He started dating her when she was 12 and he was 52.They married when she was 16 and he was 56. Their last child was born when she 46 and he 86.How many Presidents of the Church and Apostles since a Joseph have publicly claimed to have seen the Savior. 5 Apostles and no Prophets or Presidents at all. The traditional narrative via Section 27 of the Dand C has the higher priesthood being restored by Peter James and John . But Joseph in his own words in the History of the Church says he got it via the direct voice of God I think Richard meant that so much of what we think we know about Joseph and the Restoration ie the stuff they teach in GD is simply wrong and as we continue to teach the traditional narrative we will lose more and more people when they discover that as Moroni prophesied we have “transfigured “ the holy word of God and “corrupted “ the holy church of God (Mormon 8)and the stuff there were taught can not stand scrutiny. Thanks for your thoughts
Ps Ruth you will note Bushnan said the “traditional narrative” not the” foundational narrative “. Richard is a very careful wordsmith. I think he intended a important distinction between the two. I have viewed the video wherein he said this and friends of mine were present. Our belief is he meant church organizational history in general and not the first vision in particular
Pps Ruth . I am wrong the phrase used was “dominant historical narrative. “. My views of what was meant remains unchanged. It fact it is stronger.
Bellamy: “The traditional narrative has Joseph as a serial bigamist ,a perjuring sex crazed child molester who took advantage of powerless teenage girls. The church may not articulate it in exactly that way but that is what the traditional LDS narrative requires you to accept.”
I’d say the traditional narrative is that Joseph was a devoted, monogamous husband to Emma. What Bushman said is:
“I think for the church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained. So the church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky ground.”
I know he was speaking about more than just polygamy, but I think Rough Stone Rolling maintains that Joseph Smith had polygamous wives, and that at least some of them were sexual relationships.
Bushman also said, “The price of protecting the grandmothers was the grandsons. They got a story that didn’t work.”
Just our family, but of my parents’ six kids, one is active; of their twelve grandchildren, one active.