What does it mean to be “In” or “Out” of the Church? As readers of this blog, I expect most of my readers realize that it is not binary, but there are many shades of “in” and “out” when it comes to Church membership. Hence the word “nuanced member” that gets thrown around a lot on the heterodox LDS blogs. This nuance becomes a grey area. This is in contrast to various pronouncements by leaders that you are either all in or all out. They get the idea from the unknown author of the book of Revelation in the New Testament.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16

Elder Sabin of the 70s said this in the April 2017 Conference

That’s not how we do it! We don’t hold back to see what the minimum is we can get by with. The Lord requires the heart and a willing mind. Our whole heart! When we are baptized, we are fully immersed as a symbol of our promise to fully follow the Savior, not half-heartedly. When we are fully committed and “all in,” heaven shakes for our good. When we are lukewarm or only partially committed, we lose out on some of heaven’s choicest blessings.

Stand up and be All In, Elder Sabin, April 2017 General Conference

Recently a friend shared the following experience. He had gone to lunch with a young couple who he had been friends with for years. Though they had skipped church because my friend was in town, and they wanted to spend time with him, he thought of them as fully “in” the church. She was a returned missionary, both were raised in faithful LDS homes, and hold callings. Yet when the subject of church came up, the wife expressed that she is “out” of the church. She wears garments, loves the temple and the Book of Mormon, loves the gospel, and holds a non-Sunday calling, yet she considers herself “out” of the church. My friend never even considers this couple “on the edge”.

What is it that this couple, who attends church once a month or so, reads the BofM, and goes to the temple would consider themselves “out”? Could it be the “all in or all out” rhetoric from our leaders?

After reading Jana Riess’s book “The Next Mormons: How Millennials are Changing the LDS Church”, I believe we are moving away from the binary definition of church membership, much to the consternation of our leaders. The book is full of millennials telling about how they “Mormon”. Some drink coffee, some don’t wear their garments, some don’t attend church, but they all consider themselves “in” the Mormon Church. From a survey of 1100 members Jana did, of those that consider themselves “faithful and obedient Mormons,” 10 percent drank alcohol in the past 6 months, and 18 percent drank coffee in the same time.

So what do you think constitutes being “in” or “out” of the church? Is the definition changing? Are we moving to a big tent, or are we pulling up stakes (laterally and figuratively) and making the church more exclusive under Pres Nelson?