Apostate = someone who fails to honor his own conscience

Jamesaccountability, Anti-Mormon, apostasy, Bloggernacle, book of mormon, doctrine, doubt, faith, Mormon 92 Comments


The third ward verses the seventh ward. Us verses them. Insiders verses outsiders. My buddies and I were third warders. We were full of ourselves. But why wouldn’t we be? Our ward display case was full of softball trophies. Our scouting program was full of Eagle scouts. Our report cards were full of A’s. And our bulletin board was full of missionary photos. By comparison, the guys in the seventh ward had few of those things. I needed those guys, but only to remind me how low they were. The lower I made them out to be, the higher I stood. Loving my neighbor didn’t apply to the seventh ward.

Dan arrived in town and moved into the seventh ward when he and I were about thirteen years old. He was a nice enough kid, but ward boundaries made him an outsider. I had my third ward friends. He just wasn’t one of them.

One day in a junior high school science class, Dan sat down on the tip of pencil I happened to be holding. I felt bad for doing it, but not bad enough to have kept me from doing it in the first place.

Dan and I attended the same schools, same dances, same seminary, and had our missionary farewells and homecomings in the same building. But our paths seldom crossed. As adults, we went our separate ways. In my early thirties, my young family and I moved into Dan’s ward. I was called to be his home teacher, and got to know him for the first time.

Dan worked as an Electronics Technician, and had made a career as a civilian working for the Goverment. He was skilled with circuit boards and other electrical doodads that would undoubtedly boggle my mind. As a fix-it man, he’d take stuff that didn’t work and turn it into stuff that did work.

I became a Licensed Professional Counselor. As such, I had developed the capacity to feel empathy for virtually all my clients, to enter their world in a sense, and validate them for their good and encourage them to do better. Multiple forces created them and multiple course corrections lay within their grasp. They often chose paths I wouldn’t have taken, but that was okay. I honored their right to exercise their agency, and believed any attempt to manipulate or coerce them violated the principle we all stood for in a distant veiled time and place.

Dan had grown into an outgoing, friendly, and respected man, both at work and in his ward. He cultivated rich and lasting friendships, and generously included me in his circle of friends. His generosity stung my adult conscience. Dan and his wife,  hosted parties and barbeques, and opened up their swimming pool—possibly the only one in the whole town—to our families.

Dan, the conversationalist, and I, the professional listener, served each other well. He shared many stories from his childhood, and I began to see that, even though we had attended church in the same building, we had outrageously different experiences. While my buddies and I were studying chemistry together, many of the boys in his neighborhood were practicing the art of “better living through chemicals.” While our priest quorum advisor taught us to respect women, his advisor had the boys make an oath of secrecy before introducing them to his pornography stash. “You can’t tell anyone,” the advisor advised. “People won’t understand.” When our Sunday school teacher taught us the sacred value of chastity, his told the kids that it was all a big lie, that he and his girlfriend were having sex, that there was nothing wrong with it, and then he encouraged his students to share how far they’d gone. And while I taught the gospel and encouraged people to join the church as a young missionary, Dan’s mission president manipulated, coerced, and intimidated the missionaries into implementing a teaching program based on manipulation, coercion, and intimidation.

I wondered how I would have responded to a priest quorum advisor who used Play Boy and Hustler as lesson manuals. How would I have responded to a coercive mission program, especially after learning late in my mission that the program originated with the presiding general authority and my mission president despised the program as much as I did?

Dan seemed none the worse for wear. He had become a high priest and served where called, including positions of leadership. He even sat in judgment with other leaders and occasionally joined with them to turn insiders into outsiders.

I added his stories to hundreds of others I’d heard over the years and placed them on a shelf in my personal library. Other prominent stories in my library came from my work with victims of domestic violence. I had learned through their remarkably similar stories that trauma is usually the result of violated expectations. When a priesthood-bearing husband violates his wife’s expectation of respect, then she quite naturally loses respect for him. Her respect for “the priesthood,” however, usually remains intact. If, however, when she seeks help from “the Church,” and finds “the priesthood” aligning with her husband, then often the violation is too great to bear. She learns that not only is she married to an abuser, but that she is a member of an abusive church. The Church ceases to be “true” for her because her expectations have been violated at a foundational level. Sometimes she loses her faith in God, or perhaps worse, that if God exists, He’s the lead despot in a kingdom of aspiring despots.

After living in Dan’s ward for some six years, Sarah and I decided for the second time in our marriage to move far from our home communities—this time to a small town on an island in the pacific. I kept occasional contact with Dan for the next several years. He was fine. New home, new ward, new community. Promotions, raises, and professional success. Then last winter Dan called and told me he’d been reading about DNA and Book of Mormon archeology. “Did you know about that?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve read a bit,” I said.

“And that book by Ferguson? My dad bases his testimony on that book. Did you know the author left the church?”

“Yes, I remember reading that.”

“How come you never told me?”

“What would I have said?”

“You know,” he said, “I used to tell my investigators that archeologists used the Book of Mormon to help them know where to dig.”

Dan found a listening ear with me—something not always easy to do when discussing the darker aspects of LDS history. He became consumed with discovering the truth. Every Google search result dripped burning acid on his foundational church circuit board. The Kinderhook Plates, the Book of Abraham, The Nauvoo Expositor, Adam/God, scriptural revisions and reversals, first vision accounts, peep stones, the Masons and the temple endowment, and the ugly details surrounding polygamy; standard fare for anti-Mormons. Each new discovery produced a new violation of his expectations until his expectations changed, and then each new discovery confirmed his new expectations. Always a man of deep integrity and still a conversationalist, Dan shared his findings with his wife, his neighbors, and his friends. Some would tell him, “Dan, I’ve learned to put those questions on the shelf for now.”

“You’ve got a mighty big shelf,” Dan would reply.

I spoke to him as a counselor would speak to a client, disclosing little of my own doubts and fears. We discussed Fowler’s stages of change, the process of grief, personality theory, our own family of origin issues, and the relativity of agency. One day he said, “What I did to those people on my mission was wrong. We actually lured people to the church to watch a movie, and then we’d take them in little classrooms and block the door until they got the right answer. I had women in tears. I hated it at first, but after a while I felt proud at how good I was at overcoming objections. I’d apologize if I could.”

We discussed the fact that his was not the only mission where such tactics were used.

“It didn’t start with us, ” he said, “and others have done far worse. I didn’t isolate young girls and women, some of them already married, and tell them they’d go to hell if they didn’t marry me.”

“You know, Dan. Some people consider those words to be blasphemy.”

“But if it’s true, isn’t is blasphemy not to speak them?”


“I don’t get it. The general authority who forced us to force people into the church gets up in general conference and bears his testimony. But if I dare mention the truth, then I’m at risk of excommunication.”

“We’re not very good at loving our enemies,” I said.

“Mountain Meadows?”

“A little dramatic, but the same concept.”

“But I’m not bragging about killing the prophet.”

“No, but you’re slam dunking our image of the prophet.”


“Move slowly, Dan. You’re not the first to walk this path.”

“No, but it’s my first time.”

“Some come out stronger for it.”

“I’ve got bishops taking me out for lunch, and family and friends praying for my apostate soul.”

“I believe an apostate is someone who fails to honor his own conscience. Some people who stay in the church are apostates, and some people who leave are saints.”

“Now that’s apostate,” Dan said. “And I couldn’t agree more.”

Dan scares me. As a boy and young missionary, he survived a fair number of church related violated expectations. Now, as a middle-aged adult, his new beliefs separate him from the mainstream church. He’s become an outsider—one of them. Of course, the new Dan places tremendous stress on the key people in his life—his wife, family, and friends—and they are dealing with their own violated expectations. What makes a guy like Dan respond to church history the way he does? What keeps more of us from joining him? Why do we love those who investigate themselves into the church and despise those who investigate themselves out? Why is it okay for our leaders to declare they’re not perfect, but it’s not acceptable for members to actually discuss their mistakes and declare them to be so? And if we can’t discuss their mistakes, don’t we increase our chances of repeating them—just as Dan and thousands of other missionaries were coerced to do in their formative years? Is it courage or foolishness that motivates Dan to share his findings? Is it prudence or cowardice that keeps my mouth shut? Am I apostate for staying, apostate for holding back, or apostate for leaving “Zion” and hiding out in my isolated little town?

I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’m just the lukewarm water that God is going to spew out at the last day. But I do know that I’ve seen too much good to leave and too much bad to fully join in. At any rate, Dan’s right. I keep a mighty big shelf in my library. Sometimes I peruse a few pages, sometimes I speed read, and occasionally I concentrate enough to imprint violating images upon my mind. I squirm in the presence of my shelf. But it’s only one shelf in an entire library. I’m not willing to forget all the other shelves and the books and stories I keep on those shelves that have nourished me over the years.

Recently the Southwesterly winds stirred up the seas. I hiked with a friend to a stunning place named Pucker Point. Granite cliffs, some fifty feet high, defiantly jut into the incoming surge as if to say, “Bring it on. I can take it.”  Towering seawater walls exploded on the rocks, shooting tons of foaming water into the air, just out of our reach, and sometimes blocking our view of the sepia toned sky. I watched the waves roil and roll forward along each side of the point, until they rose up on land and then crashed back into themselves. I positioned myself on the edge of the cliff to maximize my terror. I imagined myself sitting in a kayak in a small section of relatively calm waters. And then my stomach tightened as the next wall buried my imaginary self.

Waves like these waves have been crashing against the edge of the earth for millions, if not billions of years. I am both repulsed and drawn to them. I sense that for now at least, I’ll continue to search them out and experience them, just close enough to quake in their presence but far enough to remain on solid rock.

Sometimes I wish for a safer world, a world without military bases, domestic violence therapists, large shelves, and mangled circuit boards. Our scriptures suggest such a world has existed, but as inspiring as it sounds, it makes for poor reading. Stories are born of conflict, contradiction, paradox, good and evil, and overwhelming need. When those things are gone, stories end. As long as human nature remains unchanged, there will always exist one ward verses another, us verses them, and insiders verses outsiders. And good people like Dan will continue to seek out truth, and be violated in the process. Like the churning seas, Dan’s stories and the stories of so many others both repulse and draw me closer. I want to mourn with those who find themselves on the outside—bruised and hurting, but I fear the consequences of retelling their stories and honoring their choices. “Perfect love casteth out fear.” I wouldn’t know. I realize now that fear has been a major motivator all my life. When I was kid, I didn’t win those softball trophies and I dropped out of scouts as a tenderfoot. I huddled close to my third ward friends partially because I was afraid I didn’t measure up, and I might find myself on the outside. And, as much as I hate to admit it, all these years later, fear continues to motivate me. Who would I be without it? How would my life be different if I enjoyed perfect love? Perhaps it’s ironic that I’m afraid to consider those questions too deeply.

I don’t know much for certain. But I know that the seas of the world are crashing against ancient rocks this very moment, and I would guess they’ll continue to do so long after my shelf and Dan ‘s circuit boards are lost and forgotten. As a kid, loving outsiders like Dan didn’t really matter to me—it wasn’t safe. More and more I’m coming to believe that loving Dan and everyone else is just about the only thing that really does matter—safe or not.

We’d like to thank our friend from Sunstone for submitting the above post

Please discuss

Comments 92

  1. Loved the post.

    I see parts of myself in Dan and in the author. I especially like the ideas of loving the outsider, and the definition of apostate. These thoughts really capture the two ideas that I have recently settled on as sort of the ‘things I believe’ about how I should live my life.

    But those ideas still leave a lot of room for uncertainty, and I continue to be at least a little bit jealous of those who don’t seem to have the faith struggles I have. And, at the same I wouldn’t give up my struggles as the expense of giving up the experience and perspective that they came with.

    Anyhow, thanks for the great post.

  2. Why do we love those who investigate themselves into the church and despise those who investigate themselves out?

    I think much of this has to do with validation. Mental illness or incapacity aside, there’s hardly a person on the planet who doesn’t harbor some level of spiritual doubt, no matter how small that may be. We all love to point to those who believe as we do, particularly when they are intelligent, successful, ethical, etc., in part because it reinforces our own self-concept. Since we like to think of ourselves as having those qualities, it reassures us to know that others with those qualities share the spiritual beliefs we hold.

    On the other hand, when someone we’ve seen as intelligent, successful, ethical, etc., agrees with us, it inevitably causes a bit of insecurity for us. Inside, we think, “Wow…He’s a really smart guy, and he thinks this is a bunch of hogwash…He even can list off some evidence that sound pretty reasonable…What if he’s right, and I’m just not as smart as I thought I was?….What if I’ve been fooled all along?”

    When we have those thoughts, we immediately start finding a way to “fix it,” so we can keep our belief and keep our concept of what kind of person we are. Sometimes, we do this so fast that we never really acknowledge that we were challenged in the first place. For some, this “fixing” takes the form of finding conter-evidence to support our position, allowing us to decide we’re actually more intelligent, successful, ethical, etc., than the other person. For others, however, this “fixing” is accomplished by finding a “fatal flaw” in the other person, i.e. “he must have sinned,” or “he’s too proud to believe,” or “someone evil has influenced him wrongly.” I’d suggest that particularly in a religious context, the latter reaction seems to be both common and encouraged. Our own cognitive dissonance doesn’t let us come to terms with why this person has rejected our views, and the primal reflex kicks in to hate that which we don’t understand.

  3. “I’ve learned to put those questions on the shelf for now.” Of course you wish to not examine your priviledged position on the LDS Church social order.
    Each generation may accept the beliefs, myths and predjudices of the previous generation or focus their examination, like Joseph Smith did, in the grove, and ask for help through the Holy Spirit, God and Jesus to understand what to believe. The unexamined life is shallow. If we didn’t question our ethics, we would still be racist, as we were pre-1974. We are still sexist in our behavior and beliefs. Women in our church are oppressed.
    We have before us, the opportunity to transform our generation by advocating for all of God’s children by bringing to the light of truth those practices that discriminate against women or men, based on race, gender, physical disability, national origin, economic status or native language.
    Jesus advocated social justice in his day. He was a social reformer in the Jewish religion and was crucified.
    Elements common in social injustice in the days of Jesus and the present day include the following: (A) There is oppression, (B) it is systematic and/or institutionalized, and (C) it is likely to be conducted by a specific priviledged group. Our LDS Church meets all of these criteria when it comes to its treatment of women. There are no individual member rights, due process or system of social justice within the church to address discrimination by Bishops, Stake Presidents and other priesthood members against women. I know from direct experience. I could testify to discrimination and then be excommunicated for bringing truth to light.
    So when you say that if we do not agree with every oppressive act by the priesthood, we fail to honor our own conscience, you are speaking from a position of power and priviledge over other groups who are treated in a subservient and secondary manner. It is easy for you, as a member of the elite, to dismiss the suffering of those people whom you have treated in an injust manner because you wished to influence their thinking. Think of how different the bus trip looked to the white male, who was of the priviledged group versus Rosa Parks, a black female who was determined subservient according to the social order of the day.
    They both paid identical bus fares, but she was required to give up her seat an move to stand in the back of the bus, or be arrested and removed from the bus.
    The apostates are asking “why”? Imagine a world of equality, where all of God’s children are treated with equal respect, dignity and honor. It would not take away from our LDS Church. It would allow us to be equal bus riders in our church. Losing sexism would have a postive effect, just as when we stopped being racist and stopped the practice of polygamy. Let us speak truth to power. Give us a way to address the oppression and improve the LDS Church. I dream of a day when we can strive to hold everyone, especially ourselves, to maintain the highest ethical standards and to recognize the strengths of every individual soul.
    Let us honor Nephi’s wonderful description of God’s love toward all his children, that “he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

  4. Thanks for this post, James. I appreciate you sharing your personal history and Dan’s story.

    “I believe an apostate is someone who fails to honor his own conscience. Some people who stay in the church are apostates, and some people who leave are saints.”

    As someone who attends church but no longer believes, I find the sentiment behind this statement important. While attending, I need to make sure that I do not ruin someone else’s worship. If I do so with that as my purpose, I should be shot.

  5. Post

    6 “As someone who attends church but no longer believes, I find the sentiment behind this statement important. While attending, I need to make sure that I do not ruin someone else’s worship. If I do so with that as my purpose, I should be shot.”

    Holden I can totally relate to what your saying on the whole!! But I think now you know what you know and are attending I think you have a moral duty to stop folklore! http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/01/the-milk-strippings-story-thomas-b-marsh-and-brigham-young/

    In the case of Thomas B Marsh not only is the church using his name pretty unjustly as an object lesson which in my views slanders his name. But he may have relatives who have felt unjust guilt.

  6. Post

    4 Nick

    “For others, however, this “fixing” is accomplished by finding a “fatal flaw” in the other person, i.e. “he must have sinned,” or “he’s too proud to believe,” or “someone evil has influenced him wrongly.” I’d suggest that particularly in a religious context, the latter reaction seems to be both common and encouraged. Our own cognitive dissonance doesn’t let us come to terms with why this person has rejected our views, and the primal reflex kicks in to hate that which we don’t understand.”

    Thanks Nick for your insights on the above. I think this is why many people are turned off apologetic sites!! Many times they try to slander their victim by saying he got a divorce has had an affair, has been inactive for 6 months points that have nothing to do with the subject but is geared to take away all credibility away.

    But the same is true with Anti Mormon web pages their facts I have found on the whole very good and thoroughly vetted but they in turn have such venom for the church that I find much of it hard to read.

    I think this is where John Dehlin scored in that he kept in neutral and factual!

  7. Post

    5 Jo

    “The apostates are asking “why”? Imagine a world of equality, where all of God’s children are treated with equal respect, dignity and honor. It would not take away from our LDS Church. It would allow us to be equal bus riders in our church. Losing sexism would have a postive effect, just as when we stopped being racist and stopped the practice of polygamy. Let us speak truth to power. Give us a way to address the oppression and improve the LDS Church. I dream of a day when we can strive to hold everyone, especially ourselves, to maintain the highest ethical standards and to recognize the strengths of every individual soul.”

    Thanks Jo do you think the church will start to give women more of a share of the priesthood!! I think many women in the church are equal bread winners to their husbands and are doing similar hours and work. Husbands roles have also changed and are doing more of an equal share of domestic work around the home. Do you think both parties are inwardly finding it offensive now that women take more of a back seat role in the priesthood! Will it change as younger GA’s and apostles come up the ranks who have had working wife’s?

  8. #7 – I don’t think there is a moral responsibility, because I don’t think you can be that certain your perspective is right. I agree with Holden.

    #8 – The fact that John Dehlin dropped his podcasts because of the way his life mixed up in them suggest to me that he was not neutral or just factual. It is just not possible to do that. I think John recognised that, but you may well know something I don’t.

    The main issue of being an apostate in that you don’t follow your conscience is nice, but I think it falls down when we look at people who are innately driven by their conscience to abuse children or to rape whatever. We want these people to change their consciences but then that makes them an apostate. I know this is an extreme example. but from a religious point of view I think apostate is word laden with power and its content is defined by those in power. So you can label me an apostate and I can label you an apostate but all this irrelevant because it is just word games. Moreover, the idea of following our conscience as some sort of infallible guide is exactly the same as the person who makes every decision by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they are both barking up the wrong tree.

  9. Post

    10 Aaron

    #7 – I don’t think there is a moral responsibility, because I don’t think you can be that certain your perspective is right. I agree with Holden.

    Just in the example I gave of Thomas B Marsh which article was written by a pretty credible church historian in his own right!! Do you dissagree with Hammers perspecitive on Thomas B Marsh history or are you saying he may not have his facts straight? Or are you saying even if the facts are wrong we should continue to use Thomas B Marsh as an object lesson because the principal that is taught out weighs the facts?

    #8 – The fact that John Dehlin dropped his podcasts because of the way his life mixed up in them suggest to me that he was not neutral or just factual. It is just not possible to do that. I think John recognised that, but you may well know something I don’t.

    I agree its very difficult to be unbiased its built into us but John’s podcasts were as close as I think you can get. You can’t attract two extreme ends of the spectrum on interviews like Bushman Fair and Grant Palmer if your going to your show if they thought they thought John Dehlin was going to roast them either way.

  10. #11 – I thought Hamer’s article was great. But the discussion that followed showed there was some disagreement about Hamer’s interpretation. So my point is that someone else may see things differently. There may be new evidence to come up as well. Thus, I think we need to be careful about taking it on ourselves to correct all the errors we see. Because we just may not be right. Even the most bright and articulate historians disagree on different issues, so as a lowly and inexperienced member I feel that I need to be careful about thinking too much of my own point of view.

  11. Post

    12 Aaron fair point !!! Even with FAIR Armand Mauss and the Race Issue which I totally am biased for may find later on that it was wrong that Blacks were less valiant in the pre existence so incase we don’t really know for sure and until the church publicly endorse his views its very dodgy ground and we should just stick totally to the manuals and what the apostles prophet and Mark E Petersons have instructed us on because their could be evidence that will come up and prove Armand Mauss wrong and confirm Brigham Young’s statements on black people correct. 🙂

  12. #13 – Although I agree that these ideas were incorrect, I still think that for me to take it upon myself to correct everything that I see as myth set-ups a barrier of I am right and your wrong. Approaching this, or any other, issue from this perspective will only alienate people. So although I don’t agree with these ideas I have never seen them taught and so have never had the oppportunity to share another perspective. I think by taking upon ourselves to correct everyone else we set ourselves up to fail in our ability to discuss because we separate ourselves.

  13. Another bloggernacle tale of lost faith

    In the two years I’ve been participating in the ‘nacle tales of lost or failing faith is a constant, enduring leitmotif (Mormon 9:20). On occasion, someone will relate how they had a Spiritual experience that resolved their difficulty with church history or one of the other confounders of faith. But they are rare, receive few comments, and are quickly forgotten.

    It seems many ‘nacler’s are stuck in the twilight zone of shrunken faith by choice, and when this carte du jour is challenged by someone (like myself) who can relate miraculous encounters with the things of the Spirit they are instantly marginalized by the defenders of the status quo.

    There are many ways to handle trials to our faith. As this account illustrates we can have our faith incrementally destroyed by “study”. However, the Lord teaches us to call upon Him in mighty prayer to resolve our trials.

    Prayer, fasting and like Spiritual methodologies seem to allude those who are caught in the vortex of ‘nacle faithlessness. In just about every account of those whose faith is overcome by one thing or another, as is the case in this post, seeking God for an answer isn’t mentioned.

    When my faith was challenged I turned to the Lord and I found the promises made in the scriptures, and taught by church leaders to be true (Mormon 9:21). God will support us in our difficulties and trials(Alma 36:3). The gifts of the Spirit are real and powerful and will prevent us from being deceived (D&C 46:8), but we need to be willing to wrestle with the Lord in mighty prayer (Enos 1:2)in order to be possessors of these blessings.

    Now, some who read this will be angry. This is typical. I ask: what is there to be angry about? I’ve told my experience and related my sincere feelings. Isn’t that what those who support dwindling faith or faithlessness are doing, and are applauded for doing so by those of like mind.

    To those who are struggling with their faith, my hope and message is: try it the Lord’s way with as much gusto as you have put into losing your faith.

  14. Aaron,

    I don’t think anyone is expecting those like Dan to try and get everyone else to see the truth or point out all the “myths” to the believing masses. I also understand about conformational bias and why, depending on your particular perspective, the facts will seem to prove your particular paradigm. Thankfully, science has come along way in helping us objectively study a given amount of data and develop reasonable supportable theories based on the evidence.

    As a missionary (serving many years ago now) we started our discussion explaining about ancient prophets and Christ’s ministry and then taught about the great apostasy in an effort to show the need for a restoration. This then led straight into the first discussion which consisted of the First Vision, priesthood and Book of Mormon. The intent was to convince people that there particular faith was an apostate group and therefore unable to save them in the end. In-other-words, we were using logic and reasons to help them understand that they’re beliefs were false.

    Isn’t that what people like Dan are doing in the original post? As I read it, Dan is hard on his family and friends because we would like them to logically figure out that they’ve been deceived and come over to a more enlightened world view. He’s not out to fight the masses of TBM’s or the church directly, just those that he personally has a connection with. Anyone who has honestly studied the restoration is fully aware of deliberately deceptive stories and exaggerations used in presenting the history. For the believing, these mistakes are not intentional and do little to affect they’re belief. But shouldn’t those Dan loves be entitled to know the actual undisputed facts about the restoration and the logical conclusion most would derive from those facts? After all, in taking the step he’s taken, most of his family and friends will either come to understand him or abandon him. In a perfect world, we would love and accept everyone despite their beliefs. In reality, people like Dan scare most believing members. Not because of where Dan’s headed, but because they know he could be right…

  15. Jared,

    “To those who are struggling with their faith, my hope and message is: try it the Lord’s way with as much gusto as you have put into losing your faith.”

    I think the only thing that’s offensive about your post is your belief that what is true for you is true for everyone else. Perhaps the person in the story has had equally or even greater experiences confirming their new beliefs as you’ve had. Also, you seem to be insinuating that Dan didn’t have a strong conviction and therefore if he would only “try the Lord’s way” he would get his testimony revitalized. What seems more likely to me is that Dan has already been where you are presently at, and moved beyond it…

  16. Jared,

    It is refreshing to hear someone talking about turning to the Lord. I agree that when we struggle with our faith it is important to turn to God for answers. Thanks for expressing your faith in God and for sharing your experiences. I am sure that there are people who read this blog that don’t necessarily comment, but who benefit from reading your thoughts and feelings.

  17. Doug G.–

    You’re right about one thing. My experience can be duplicated by those who put their heart and soul into an effort.

    As I’ve observed, for forty years now, the Lord keeps His promises. I think the biggest obstacle for those like Dan, is that they are active in the church, but have some how missed being active in the gospel. So when they encounter a really challenging trial they can lose the their “church testimony”; having never experienced a gospel testimony (via the Holy Ghost).

  18. re 15:

    I was waiting for you to come by soon.

    I don’t think it is anger you face. At least, not initially. Rather, it is disappointment, perhaps. Frustration, maybe. And why is this? It’s not simply because you are sharing your experiences and feelings, but rather because often, through your process of sharing experiences, things escalate to an indictment and marginalizing critique. So, even when “seeking God for an answer” is mentioned (and is found to be wanting), you search for some other fault to indict with. Instead of uplifting, your message often comes out as contentious. Oh, another tale of ‘Nacle lost faith. As if you can just brush it aside. Really, people have to live, scrounging for new answers because the old ones don’t work the way they used to (if they ever did).

  19. For evidence, comment 19.

    Dan must’ve done it wrong! Dan didn’t put his heart and soul into an effort, even if he thought he was. Perhaps he foolishly went in the wrong direction, being active in the church, but not in the gospel. I wonder what you would say to someone who is led out of the church but into some other Christian community…would you then say their fault was being active in the gospel, but not in the church? 😀

  20. Hi Andrew S–

    As always, you have worthwhile thoughts to share.

    I want to invite, not indict.

    Over the years I’ve seen faith restored by employing Spiritual methodologies. I’m an advocate for those so interested.

    I’m looking for someone like you to follow the methodologies of the Spirit and become and advocate with me after they been converted or reconverted. Interested? 🙂

  21. #18 Jen–

    I just saw your comment. Thanks for sharing. I’m hoping for more church members who have had like experiences to gather to the ‘nacle and share. The ‘nacle is filled with quality people who are struggling with lost or dwindling faith. I think many would find their way back if the ‘nacle had more converted members sharing their stories.

  22. re 23: It’s because I used “colon D” and you probably just used “colon parenthesis”. 😀 > 🙂

    re 22: or perhaps the Lord has purposes for me and others (perhaps even Dan) to show his faithful to be humbled by the diversity of good people, regardless of nonbelief or belief.

  23. I wonder Jared, if believing that Dan was never really converted somehow makes you more at ease? Perhaps, more importantly, you’re insinuating that Dan has turned from God rather than just a church because he no-longer believes in the restoration. There are some of us who have greater faith in God and our purpose in life after leaving the church. Just a thought…

  24. Andrew S–

    Thanks for the smiley tip. I’ll try it.

    You may be right Andrew, a special–temporary mission, then back to the real path. I’d consider it an honor, a highlight of mine life, to be aware of your return trip. I have a feeling it may be sooner than you think. :d

  25. “There are some of us who have greater faith in God and our purpose in life after leaving the church”

    It seems to me that some of the people who blog regularly on here also talk about losing their belief that God even exists as well. Is this not the case for you?

  26. #26 Doug G.–

    We may be on different sides of the issue of lost faith–but I always enjoy a thoughtful exchange of ideas. Thanks for you thoughts.

    One of the problems I’ve noted with stories like Dan’s is that there is rarely a mention of a turning to God for help. I would guess that over the last two years there has been nearly a weekly story of lost faith related in the ‘nacle, but I would guess that 95% of them make it clear that Spiritual methodologies were not attempted.

    In my mind, that is like a man dying of thirst next to a water fountain.

  27. Jen,

    I think if you go back and read any of my previous posts, you will find that I’m very much a believer in the Divine. I just don’t think the LDS group as some kind of monopoly on the truth. I actually have a very strong belief that God inspires all of us on a daily basis. I think men use those “feelings” to promote their particular agendas and build churches. Does that mean God should shut off the flow of inspiration? I don’t think so…

  28. Doug G.

    FWIW, I don’t think that the LDS group has a monopoly on truth either and I don’t think all the members of the LDS church believe that they do either. Of course there is truth in many things and can be found in all parts of the world. I also believe that God inspires His children and I don’t believe that God turns a deaf ear to anyone who seeks after Him and there is always an open channel between Him and His children when we seek Him through prayer.

    Being a believer in the Divine I wonder why you make some of the comments you do to Jared when he is asking about why no one mentions turning to the Lord. Do you not wonder that as well being a believer?

  29. Jen,
    I am going off an assumption from your posts that you are an active LDS member. I find it hard to swallow that you don’t believe your church has a monopoly on the truth, when that is the very foundation of the church’s teachings. I’ve heard many members say something similar to your post in conversations with them. Sure, you may believe that truth can be found elsewhere, but the church teaches that they are the only ones who hold the keys of the priesthood and the only true church on the planet. If you believe that, then you should be proud to say, “yes, we hold more truth than any other religion out there”. Membership in the church would not be worth it if you believed otherwise.

  30. Jared,
    Let me make sure I understand you, you believe that if one were to take up moroni’s promise, and do so with faith, they will come to the same conclusions about god and the church that you have? But anyone that gets a different answer didn’t have faith or prayed about the church and not the gospel?

  31. Awesome Dave – you might find it interesting that Jen is by no means alone in her statement that the LDS church doesn’t have a monopoly on truth (aside from numerous GC talks that say more or less the same thing). The recent pew forum (sidebar link to the left) shows that while 57% of Mormons consider the LDS church to be “the one true faith,” 39% consider many to lead to God and 43% believe there are many ways to interpret the religion. Additionally, there was a split between Utah and non-Utah Mormons and between converts and BIC. While 63% of Utah Mormons believe that the LDS church is the “one true faith,” 51% of non-Utah Mormons did. While 61% of those BIC felt it was the “one true faith,” only 46% of converts agreed with that statement. Another interesting stat shows that while Utah Mormons and those BIC are more likely to believe it’s the “one true faith,” they are actually LESS likely to share their faith with others on a weekly basis than those who have a more nuanced belief. Lest you think that this is due to less opportunity (e.g. those outside Utah have more access to non-members), bear in mind that the highest baptizing mission in the US is in Salt Lake City.

    Hmmm – this feels like it should be its own post. Maybe a series of posts on the Pew Forum results would be good to familiarize everyone with them. It was interesting.

  32. Hawkgrrrl
    Thanks for the stats, I actually don’t find it surprising that lots of members agree with Jen. Like I said, I’ve talked with many members who hold a similar view. I guess my question was how do you justify it? The church claims that it’s the only true church, not one of many paths to god. Like we’d say back on the “mish”, it’s a dichotomy: either it’s true or it’s not. Joseph Smith was a prophet or a great liar. In my mind, it goes back to being luke warm, you don’t want to get spewed!

  33. #15 – Jared, I agree with you that anger is not an appropriate response to your comments. You have to recognize the import of your words, though. There are countless people who have put great effort into finding spiritual answers. For all you or I know, they have put every bit as much effort into it as you have. Perhaps more. Yet your response continues to be: I know you haven’t done that, because if you had, you would have the experiences I have had. Do you not see the condescention in that statement? I understand that you’re not the author of that statement. The church has taught you that way of thinking. I think it’s interesting that you see the proliferation of lost faith stories on the bloggernacle as some kind of unfortunate anomaly as opposed to a more reflective trend towards the abandonment of faith on a much more general level. Obviously one’s interpretation depends largely on his or her perspective. I have seen many stories of people who have lost their faith and who have spent their entire lives in the church, serving missions, marrying in the temple and even raising children in the church. How unbelievable it is to have a stranger presume to tell that person that they know what their experiences have or have not been, or to pass some kind of judgment on the kind of effort they have expended in finding answers. I don’t believe that answers all have to come in the same way that you have found yours. Moreover, many people have put in the work you suggest and have received either no answer or opposite answers to yours. On a personal note, since we’re all sharing our personal perspectives, I will state unequivocally and without hesitation that I have put the gospel and the lord to the test in the manner prescribed by the church and in the scriptures and can say with peace of mind and strength of heart that I too have received an answer. And that answer is that the church is not true and my family is much better off not participating in it. Jared, as much as you may choose not to believe me, I am every bit as confident and sure of the truthfulness of my position as you are. I know with every fiber of my being that I am doing what is right. Fortunately, my beliefs only require that I decide such things for myself, so I don’t feel the necessity to tell you what you should do for yourself or your family. I also don’t feel that I have the right to tell you what my answer says about any answers you may have received. My beliefs have nothing to do with you or your beliefs. I only wish that we all had that perspective.

  34. Jen, to butt in here allow me to answer your question. Jared has a tendency to do just as Andrew said, he levy’s accusations against those who lose faith. I find it disconcerting that he can so confidently claim to know why people “really” leave the Church. His rhetorical bewilderment in this post laments the irony that so many who leave the Church, do so without ever mentioning their efforts at employing the appropriate spritual methodologies, which Jared feels, should assuage any religious difficulties. Based on that absence of information, Jared confidently concludes that therein lies their problem, they never tried, or they were never “truly” converted to the gospel. He assumes as a logical maxim that those who do not mention any religious methodologies in their approach, are also admitting to being spiritually derelict. Curiously, in order to give his indicment the impact of “double whammy”, he completely reverses his prior logical schema, by making other assumptions about a persons religious conduct, based on details not mentioned in their stories. There was a sin, or they actually “faked” their way through the Church. In these instances, Jared freely assumes that details not mentioned are in fact evidence in the affirmative. For Jared I am sure this is all very self consoling, as his basis of reason only allows conclusions from the evidence’s to be set in conformance with his already held beliefs. So, I am not sure that Jared even has a valid question, given that even if it is demonstrated that many of those who lose faith have in fact employed spiritual methodologies, the default will fall to another assumption on the persons character, based on faulty logic and insufficient information.

  35. Awesome Dave,

    “If you believe that, then you should be proud to say, “yes, we hold more truth than any other religion out there”. Membership in the church would not be worth it if you believed otherwise.”

    I don’t understand why my membership would not be worth it otherwise. I strongly believe that our Father in heaven loves all of His children and will respond to them when they seek Him. Because everyone is placed in different circumstances, they will approach God in different ways. I know that He cares just as much about them as He does me and will respond to them in the way they need. I don’t consider someone accountable to reach up to God who has been taught that there is no God. We each have different levels of accountability based on the knowledge we have been given. I am much more accountable for my life than someone who is struggling to just physcially survive everyday. I know that God will make it right in the end and I know that He has placed truth and evidences of Himself all over the world. I feel grateful for the knowledge that I have been given and I realize what accountability goes along with it, but I don’t feel “proud” in any sense that I have what I have because I realize that I am no better than anyone else in this world.

    I don’t have any desire to tell the world that I have more truth then them. My desires are to teach others about a God who loves them and wants to hear from them. About a God who is interested in their life and wants them to know that. It is far more important to me to teach people to have a relationship with God than to tout that my church is true and theirs isn’t as true. I know that truth can be found in many different places and just because I may discern truth more in one place than another doesn’t mean that I cannot learn something from others in a different place than me. The minute I start to do that is the minute I start to miss the mark and lose focus of what life is really about. To me, it is about loving one another and religious differences should never get in the way of doing that.

  36. Cowboy,

    I understand your perspective on Jared. I see him differently though. I believe him when he says he has experienced what he has and I also believe that he does care about the people to whom he directs his comments. I recognize that we all have individual experiences in our lives and we each have to seek out truth for ourselves. In the process of seeking for this truth we will end up in different places. You may, however, still want to share with me what brought you to the place you are now because you have found peace and contentment in the place you are and want me to feel it as well. I think that is what Jared is trying to do and if you can see him as someone who cares about others it is easier to understand his approach.

  37. #35 Awesome Dave said:

    Let me make sure I understand you, you believe that if one were to take up moroni’s promise, and do so with faith, they will come to the same conclusions about god and the church that you have? But anyone that gets a different answer didn’t have faith or prayed about the church and not the gospel?
    From my perspective, based on my experiences, I would say that the Lord keeps his word as we have it in the scriptures and from the living prophets.

    For example, consider the following three declarations with a promise:

    1. To know if the Book of Mormon is true—Moroni 10:4 – 5

    And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
    And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    2. To receive a complete baptism, ie, water and the Spirit—2 Nephi 31:17

    Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

    3. To see the face of the Savior—D&C 93:1

    VERILY, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am

    As church members, we can experience all three of these Spiritual stepping stones. Are they easy to achieve. Based on my experience, I know there not easy (I haven’t fulfilled the third one, yet).

    With that background I’ll give my best answer to your questions.

    Regarding Moroni’s promise. When an individual fulfills the requirement, they will reach the same conclusion–they will know by the power of the HG that the Book of Mormon is true.

    Will all who ask realize this promise, no. Only those who fulfill the requirement.

    The parables of the 10 virgins, the sower, and the gospel net make it clear that not all who are members of the church, are “true” followers of Christ.

    The second part of your question is a little vague, but what I think you are asking/saying has to do with my thought about members being active in the church vs the gospel.

    The church has many members, but they are at different places along the stepping stones I mentioned above. Those who have realized #1 have a certain view of things, the same for those who have realized #2 and #3.

    Those who have experienced the Holy Ghost at the level of receiving a testimony of the Book of Mormon (#1) are far less likely to lose that testimony than those who have not had this experience.

    Those who have experienced the gift of the Holy Ghost at the level of being born again by fire and the Holy Ghost (#2) are converted and healed, and very, very few of them will lose that kind of testimony (1st Comforter).

    Those who have experienced the 2nd Comforter (#3) by seeing the face of the Lord are redeemed from the fall and would be opening the door to perdition if they denied Him.

    Back to the post about Dan. I don’t know for sure, but from what I read, Dan was an easy target to lose his faith because, in my opinion, he was living on borrowed light. Meaning he didn’t have an independent testimony of any of the stepping stones (1-3).

  38. Jen
    I appreciate your perspective, but I can’t help but feel you are still skirting the question. Your response was very diplomatic, though. In my view, Jared is the only true mormon on this discussion. His viewpoint may seem to be prideful or stubborn, but if you believe that asking god in prayer is a reliable source for truth, and that god has informed you through this method that the fullness of truth is found in the mormon church, then you would have to believe that those who get a different answer are doing it wrong. Otherwise prayer loses it’s credibility as a source for truth.

  39. Jen:

    I am not really in a position to challenge Jared’s experiences, though I’ll tell you that personally I’m not convinced, and that has not been my intention. The continuing argument I have had with Jared’s comments are that he also is not in a position to comment on many of the experiences claimed by others. He does so routinely, with little more to support his case than his take on interpreting the scriptures. I’m beginning to think that this is the lens Jared looks through to try and percieve the world. In other words, Moroni promises that under certain, somewhat ambiguous, conditions a person should always recieve a witness/testimony of the Gospel if they follow the standard BoM promise. That is all there is to it in his mind, therefore the scriptures need not prove themselves, so any failures in the process rest soley with the candidate – and only scriptural explanations will suffice.

  40. Brjones and Cowboy–

    I would like to try and clear up a few things with both of you, as well as those who feel the same way.

    It is not in my nature to put people down. I come from the bottom of the ladder because of the many things I have done wrong in my life prior to becoming active in the church. My father was a drunken bar fighter, my mother was inactive in the church until she was in her advanced years, getting her temple work done in a wheel chair at 84 years. What do I have to be proud of?

    I’ve been in combat and seen the hard side of life. I am relating this to make a point–I do not judge others as you think I am. I am writing with the perspective of the scriptures and this apparently comes across as though I am making judgments. This is not the case. I have nothing, absolutely nothing that would make me feel superior to another living soul.

    Each of us travels a path designed to get us back to heaven. It is different for everyone. The Lord has a time table for each of us and will take us as far as we will let Him.

    I was lost and the Lord found me and brought me back. I have great confidence in the Lord’s plan to reach out to all of those who have become lost, even those who may not think they’re lost.

    When the Lord left the 99 and came for me I was astonished at what He did, but I am, and will be forever, thankful to Him!

  41. Awesome Dave – personally, I think people can find truth in all churches and outside of them, too. I understand your view of the importance of authority, but given the universalist nature of the LDS belief system, it’s also easy to say that it can all be worked out later from an ordinance standpoint, and that people can accept truth when/where/how they can. Building on whatever faith and enlightenment people have now is better than saying “all or nothing.” But I am aware that there are also many who prefer the polarized/black & white/all or nothing argument. IME, it causes people to come across as arrogant jackasses who lack empathy if unchecked. The irony is that if we have “more” truth, that’s all the more reason to be patient with those who don’t.

    Honestly, I’m surprised in the story that Dan is the one who is losing a testimony while his 3rd ward friend is shelving the issues. I’d find it far more usual for the 3rd warders to have their shelves come crashing down in dramatic fashion. Based on the 7th ward, Dan is no stranger to eclesiastical abuse (secret porn-stash YM leaders??) and he’s probably already got many mental strategies to deal with that. Adversity breeds strength. Prosperity breeds weakness.

  42. I don’t think the Church teaches it has a “monopoly” on Truth. Saying that you’re the only organization that Christ authorizes to do certain work is quite different than saying you’re the only organization that has true information/teachings/doctrine. I think a better definition than “a monopoly on Truth” is needed here to clarify.

    One of the reasons I’m even IN the Church is that I consistently hear admonitions in the writings of the early Church leaders and even current ones to seek out Truth wherever you can find it, to read the best books, etc.

    Without taking sides here I think that the Church has a much wider umbrella than people think. I’ve been a member my whole life (I’m young, I admit), and I hold a current recommend, and I’ve been able to believe and worship basically however I wanted. I’ve read the Qur’an and other religious texts, attended other churches/services, and found lots of good in secular charities.

  43. Jared:

    On a personal note, I like you, and I would agree with AwesomeDave at least somewhat, that a refreshing quality of yours is the willingness to say what you believe, without succumbing to modern wave of political correctness that pervading Mormon discourse. If you want to say that the LDS Church is the only true Church, and the only vehicle for salvation on earth, then I will challenge you, but I will respect you as we discuss things. If you want to begin qualifying the non-believer, you better have more than scripture or weak assumptions to support your case about the sincerity of their efforts. While it would be nice to take your comments to me and BrJones at face value, the reality is if it were necessary I could mine enough inflammatory and denigrating comments from you on this site, to fill a dump truck and bury your response. So the explanation doesn’t cut it.

  44. Arthur, if on occassion you atttend another Church service, or read the Qur’ an, nobody is going to challenge you. If you begin teaching from the Qur’ an, or take an office in another Church, you could subject yourself to Church discipline. The Church is much more PR minded than it once was, but that is not becuase the Church is taking an ecumenical approach to Christianity, they are just trying to be more Christianly neighbored towards those they must compete with. From the LDS perspective, any truth that other Church’s have is largely incidental to the Bible, or private manifestations of deity to private members, even clergy. However, again according to LDS belief, other Church’s do not possess Priesthood authority, or a Prophet, and function as an impedement (mists of darkness) to the message of God’s restored Church. It is the LDS belief that if God has something to communicate to the world, it will come through the Prophet of the LDS Church. Any truth’s which advance socially the Christian doctrine, if they are true, will also be had through the LDS Church. So, while yes a general belief in Mormonism is to seek out truth wherever it may be, it is not generally accepted that any real substantive progress in Christianity would be made independent of the Mormon Church.

  45. Awesome Dave,

    You are more than welcome to define what you feel a true mormon is and isn’t. I am a follower of Christ and I am a Mormon. I don’t believe that people who get different answers are necessarily doing something wrong. I can’t determine who is truly sincere and really seeking after truth when they pray, only God can do that. I had a family member who said they prayed about the church and received and answer that it wasn’t true. Do I tell this person that they are wrong and that haven’t done it right, even though they have been taught all their life the way to do it “right”? Or do I encourage this person to keep seeking after God and to focus on that relationship? I feel it is important for people to sincerely seek after God and by doing so He will guide their lives. God may have informed me of the truthfulness of His gospel, but that doesn’t mean He will tell everyone else in the same manner He told me or on the same timetable that I experienced it. I believe He does keep all of His promises and that as we seek after Him we will find truth. I also believe that He has an individual plan for each of us and the timing of things is very different for each one of us.

    I don’t feel it is right to tell others that their answers are less valid than mine. I feel it is important to come love others and teach them to pray to God. I believe that by doing this truth will be discovered and embraced. My experience with the Lord has taught me to love and accept others from where they are at. Prayer is very personal and it not something I try to intepret for others. I leave that to God and just try to emulate His love to others. I am happy to share my experiences with others and to tell them of the joy and peace I have found and how I have come to find that, but I am not about to start telling people that their answers aren’t right. That’s going to far IMO.

  46. #48 Cowboy–

    I’m not going to yield a fraction of an inch on what I know to be true. At the same time I have grown to love many in this forum, you among them.

    Back to the battle.

    The problem I have with this post, and the reason I commented is that Dan never is shown to employ a Spiritual methodology to deal with his “violated expectations”. James, the writer of this post, doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility of any other type of church member than those shelving the hard questions.

    Regarding doubt, it is a powerful force the faithful need to contend with. Even the prophet Joseph Smith had to deal with it. He never doubted what he experienced, but I think he on occasion doubted in his ability to please the Lord and accomplish all that the Lord required of him.

    I can relate to that kind of doubt.

  47. re 46:

    Dan’s experience doesn’t seem like it would be surprising that he would lose a testimony. Rather, it simply appears to me that if he did (well, as we know from the story, he is the one), his tale of loss is a great deal less violent than a 3rd warder’s. I think the distinction is in what you said: the 3rd warders, if they lose their testimonies, will have welts from the shelf that has collapsed on them. The 7th warders, who already have thicker skin, do not come out as bruised.

    I guess BCC was having a discussion on how members should “lower” expectations…but I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem like lower vs. higher expectation is what leads to people losing faith (otherwise, one would expect the 3rd warder to have a “higher probability” of losing his testimony than the 7th warder Dan.) Rather, expectations may predict how hard one falls, if they do. Someone with lower expectations probably doesn’t break too many bones in the process. But at the same time, these lower expectations aren’t conducive to belief (ecclesiastical abuse may make one tougher to the fallibilities of men, but it certainly doesn’t engender strength in the church.)

  48. Cowboy-

    “On a personal note, I like you, and I would agree with AwesomeDave at least somewhat, that a refreshing quality of yours is the willingness to say what you believe, without succumbing to modern wave of political correctness that pervading Mormon discourse”

    I am curious, do you feel that I am succumbing political correctness in my comments?

  49. Jen,
    OK, so you can’t be the one to judge of someone else prayed correctly. Can you judge if you have prayed correctly? What I mean is, there must be some way for god to inform you that you prayed incorrectly, otherwise you may end up worshipping the wrong way, or at least in a lesser fashion than the mormon way. Your family member believes she received an answer from god, and you believe you received an answer from god. both are different answers, so one has to be wrong…right? OK, so maybe god was telling your family member that it wasn’t time to be mormon right now, but why? I would think it would make it harder for her to convert later on. I guess I just have a problem with the idea that god’s ways are not ours, so we shouldn’t attempt to figure it out. I appreciate that you love everyone and your gentle approach to missionary work, but when it comes down to it, wether in this life or the next, people need to be mormon to enter the celestial kingdom according to church doctrine.

  50. Awesome Dave,

    First I am curious, are you active LDS?

    I used to think that if two people recieve two different answers about a situation that one had to be wrong. I don’t necessarily believe that to be true anymore. Let me add more to the story of this family member. Around the same time this person said they prayed about the church they also told us they were gay. Could that be the reason that their answer came the way it did at that time? I am sure the Lord is very aware of the deep suffering that many gay people have within the church and maybe this person would not have survived staying a member. The truth is I don’t know what all the answers are, but I do know this: God did not send us here to fail. He sent us here to succeed and He WANTS us to succeed.

    For me, I try to focus on the answers God has given me and live true to them. By doing so, I feel I am able to help others find peace in their lives and relieve suffering. I’m sure that God planned for all of His children to get to the best place possible in the next life, so I am going to leave all that stuff to Him and just focus on what I can do now. And by the way, I am not as gentle with the missionary work as you may suppose, just ask my kids who have to live up to my expectations everyday! 🙂

  51. Jen:

    I had Arthur’s comment in mind when I said that. That being said Jen, if you believe that ordinances in the Mormon Church, in other words membership, is essential to salvation, then I have a hard seeing the concession that all Church’s are or have truth in them, as little more than PC posturing. Because, clearly whatever truth they DO have is not enough for salvation. So they can’t be that great. On the other hand, I see your comments as an expression of faith, that still acknowledges complexities of varying personal experiences, which personally think is just the right approach.

    If you recall, during the Utah Olympics (I think), the today show interviewed an LDS Stake President from Manhattan, who was asked whether you had to be a Mormon in order to be saved, or something to that effect. There on national televisional he said “no”, and then provided some Christian friendly remarks that made the Church seem “acceptable”, but did very little good, and possibly harm, toward stressing the restored Gospel’s import. It is this type of rhetoric that I refer to as the “Modern wave”. For what it is worth, he could have spun “Yes” in a reasonably positive light, by saying “well, we believe that following the resurrection of Christ and his disciples, the world entered a period we refer to as the Apostasy, where all Priesthood authority was removed from the earth. This included the authority to perform necessary saving ordinances such as Baptism. We believe that God restored this authority to earth through Joseph Smith”. I think there is a good chance that this response would have prompted questions, and this Stake President had a reasonable shot of teaching the First Discussion on National Television. Instead, he was nice, but didn’t give anybody, any good reason to become a Mormon.

  52. Jen,
    Once again, How do you know if god has answered you, or if it is your own interpretation? I feel that prayer is a very flawed system. You’re relying on the “fruits of the spirit” to guide you when making life altering decisions that could potentially lead to your eternal damnation. Yet taking Dan’s approach of study and research is frowned upon. It appears all too calculated that whenever we hear or see anything that causes us to question our faith, we are to believe that it is satan working on us. Which will then force us to “put it on the shelf” or risk losing our spot in heaven.

    To answer your question, I was raised LDS and served a mission in washington state. Currently I am not active in any church, nor do i believe in god. 😀

  53. #56 – Jen, I have a lot of respect for you as a poster on this site, because you are level headed and accepting of other people. However, I do agree that at some point as a believing member of the church, you have to be willing to say that other churchesbelief systems are wrong. I know that it can be difficult to do that diplomatically, and it might not suit your tastes, but this is exactly what the lord is supposed to have said to joseph in the first vision. All the other religions are wrong – using that very word. The fact is, if one person prays and gets a personal confirmation that the LDS church is true and another person prays and gets personal confirmation that the LDS church is wrong, then those are mutually exclusive premises, and cannot both be right. Of course you believe that all people have some truth and have access to god personally, but that is not what Awesome Dave, Cowboy or anyone else in this thread are talking about. If the LDS church is correct, then the Catholic church cannot possibly be a true church. Nor can Judaism, Islam and on and on. This must be admitted. Do you admit this to be the case?

  54. Awesome Dave,

    I know that the best answer I can give you will not satisfy you but I will give it anyway. I knew God answered me because I was instantly comforted in my comfortless state. A peace overcame me that is impossible to describe or create. Peace, IMO, is not something you can create. It is a gift from God.

    I am sorry that prayer has failed you to the point of losing belief in God. I have discovered something very interesting about myself. It is utterly impossible for me to believe that God does not exist. It is as if I know it as much as I know that I have a right hand. I have had every reason to not believe in God, and yet it is impossible for me to disown Him. Even when I have been hurt and angry and have said out loud that I don’t think He can even be there, I know within me that I am just angry and hurt and that He is, in fact, there. I find it interesting when people are truly able to not believe in God because I have never been able to say that and really mean it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you do not believe it, I am just saying I find it a curious state because I cannot understand it.

    Dave, I am sure you are awesome indeed. I don’t necessarily believe that Satan is working on others when they question their faith. I have always questioned God in many things and I have received answers. For me, it is important to keep communicating with God when I question. This has made all the difference and I have been able to come to a better understanding of things that have been challengning for me. I think it would be much harder to not only question your faith but to lose your belief in God as well. I think it is amazing that we have the opportunity to believe or not believe in God. I think that alone is something very important for each person to be able to choose. I also think it is very important that whether we believe or not, that we respect each other in this journey. I sincerely wish you the best.

  55. Jen said, “I find it interesting when people are truly able to not believe in God because I have never been able to say that and really mean it.”

    I agree that many believers feel this way and I think that is why many of these conversations come to this wall that is very difficult to penetrate.

    I used to feel the exact same way as you described, Jen. And the fact is, I would still feel that way if it weren’t for many, many experiences and the fact that many of those experiences occurred at a time when I had enough free time to think long and hard about them and their ramifications. I can tell you without any doubt that if events in my life occurred even slightly differently there would have been no catalyst and I would have had no time to evaluate it to the extend I did anyway. Perhaps years down the road some event might have driven me to take a hard look at these issues but perhaps not. For this reason, I think at times we simply have to agree to disagree because it is impossible for some to imagine a world without god and it is impossible for some to imagine a world with god. And for that reason I respect those who don’t believe and those who do. Life experience shapes us to a very large extent and some are simply in stages of life where it appears to be so clear, that truly evaluating these issues with a completely open mind is impossible. And that is not to put anyone down, that is simply the way we are. I neither like nor dislike it, I simply accept that that is how we are.

    For some, everything points to a god. For some, everything points to a lack of god. For some, there are mixed signals and they freely admit they don’t know. Who is right and who is wrong? Who knows, but I think we can all agree that some people are extremely sure that god exists, and some are extremely sure that he doesn’t, and some are extremely sure that it is unknowable.

  56. Jen, I can’t speak for Awesome Dave, and even if I could, I’m sure I couldn’t say it as awesomely as he could, but I think your sorrow at prayer failing AD or any other atheist, is misplaced. I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say that prayer has not failed me. As with any other hypothesis or proposition in this life, if it is sufficiently tested then the results lead to truth, and that is never a bad thing. Although because many people are looking for a specific answer when they pray I’m sure there is much disappointment when they do not receive what they hoped for. For me, though, my experiences with prayer worked perfectly. They proved to me that there is no one listening to me and no one waiting on pins and needles to help me when I need him. Obviously that’s not what I was expecting or hoping for when I started out, but that was a monumental truth to discover, and I could have discovered it in no other way. Additionally, I am happier now that I have settled the issue than I ever was before, so I am thoroughly satisfied with the way the whole thing worked out. In the end, I am as firm a believer as anyone that testing prayer is an effective method of gaining truth.

  57. brjones-

    I do believe that the LDS church has more truth than any other religion, so I do admit that I believe other religions don’t have as much truth or are wrong in different ways. Having said that, my experiences over the past few years with the Lord have really opened my eyes. I know what it is like to have answers to prayer questioned and be told I am wrong. Having this experience has opened my eyes and I think it was the intention of the Lord to do this. I think He has wanted me to see how many others feel and how it can create negative feelings to a point of not wanting to associate with others that claim they are always right. I think this is why I fell upon this site as well because I had no idea how many people were struggling with church history and other issues and I believe the Lord wants me to be aware of it. I am still in the process of learning many things, but one thing that I have learned is that the Lord is much more liberal and loving than people believe. I think every experience we have, no matter how useless or difficult we may feel it has been, can be for our good and God can make it so.

    Although it may seem like I am trying to be diplomatic, I really am just expressing how I feel in the place I am at in my life right now. I feel it is important to help others feel understood and heard wherever they are at (believing or non-believing). I think people are much more important than being right and although I may not always be good at behaving in this way that is my ultimate goal….to treat others as God would have me do.


  58. brjones-

    Thanks for expressing your experience with prayer. As far as my sorrow, I don’t see how it can be misplaced if it is MY sorrow because I do sincerely feel sorrow for those who lose belief in God. You may not and you may feel at peace and feel free, but that doesn’t mean that others won’t feel sadness and sorrow over the same thing that brings you peace. For example, this may be too personal to answer, but if it is not, did your wife feel any sorrow at all when you initially expressed your loss of belief in God?

  59. #57 Cowboy-

    I understand your point about the SP’s comment, but is it really true that a person has to be a Mormon in this life to be saved? No it is not, I think many people will return to live with God who aren’t Mormon in this life, and I would have probably said the same thing, not because I didn’t want to offend others, but because that is what I believe to be true.

  60. Jen, I understand what you’re saying, and you make a fair point. It’s appropriate for you to feel sorrow at someone losing belief in god, since you feel strongly that he’s there and that person is missing out. I do think, though, that many people never stop to really consider and appreciate that the person in question may have done their due diligence and may be making an informed decision that is good for them personally. I wouldn’t count you among that number, but I think your perspective is an exception to the rule.

    To answer your question, yes, my wife was very alarmed when I first admitted to her that I was having questions about the church and the existence of god. Her first reaction was that I was putting our family’s eternal future in jeopardy. To her credit, though, it didn’t take her long to come to the conclusion that her love and concern for me was deeper than her knee-jerk fear, and when I started acheiving some clarity and peace with my conclusions, she was much more relieved and happy that I had found some peace than she was concerned that I was deviating from the script we had been following. Additionally, she could see that in contrast to the real stress and anguish I had been experiencing as I wrestled with the issue, I was now much happier and more content, regardless of the decision I had come to. I think that trumped her preconceived notions of what I should or shouldn’t be doing. She wanted me to be happy, and to be happy in a way that I was a part of the makeup of our family and contributing to our family’s happiness. In the end that’s what was important, and the proof, as they say, was in the pudding. I’m very grateful for her perspective, especially considering the many people I know who can’t even begin to discuss such questions with their spouses or families. I’m very fortunate.

  61. Dexter-

    I think respecting each others decision to believe or not believe is very important, and I do think it is a conversation that can only go so far as you said (although many will try to hash it out over and over). I do know that the whole God vs. no God conversation is just not as fun and exicting as the one on porn. 🙂

  62. brjones-

    I really am glad to hear that your loss of belief did not lead to a break up in your marriage and family. I have read a few comments on another blog over the past few weeks about women who are deeply struggling with their husband’s loss of belief and they aren’t sure what to do. Just by reading their posts I can see how much pain it is causing in their relationship. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like for my husband to loss his belief in God because it is such a significant part of who he is. Interesting to think about.

  63. Jen,

    I agree that it is a very difficult issue. And let me just say that in no way would I minimize or criticize the feelings of any person who was dealing with a spouse that is going through such a thing. I believe what I believe, but I also understand that others’ beliefs are equally as strong. When I first decided to be totally honest with my wife about how serious my concerns were, I told her that although I wouldn’t pretend to believe something I didn’t believe and wouldn’t actively teach my kids something I didn’t beleive, I would be 100% supportive of her doing whatever she felt was right, including going to church with her and the kids and being involved to make it work. It’s a very tough situation, and I guess the only way to manouver it is to be understanding and recognize the validity of the other person’s thoughts and feelings, and to be willing to make whatever sacrifices you can to accomodate the other person. The problem is that for many people, any sacrifices whatsoever are completely unacceptable when it comes to faith and religion. That goes for people on both sides of the issue.

  64. #69 – And for what it’s worth, Jen, my wife had that exact concern. She told me she was terrified because when we met religion was such a big part of my life, and she married me with the understanding that that’s who I was. Now that that part of me seemed to be going away, she was worried that I wouldn’t be the same person. I am happy to report that she feels that her concerns at the time were not borne out, and that she feels like I am still the same person she fell in love with and married. Obviously I’m not exactly the same person, but we all go through changes in life, this is just another change, albeit a big one. I think part of the problem that comes with a change such as this is that people assume that someone’s morals and values are rooted in that person’s religion, and when they abandon their religion, what will their morals be? For the most part I have found that that belief is unfounded. Most people’s morals and values are dear to them, and more often than not, if they abandon certain values after leaving the church or any church, the chances are those values were never that near and dear to their hearts anyway.

  65. #69 – And for what it’s worth, Jen, my wife had that exact concern. She told me she was terrified because when we met religion was such a big part of my life, and she married me with the understanding that that’s who I was. Now that that part of me seemed to be going away, she was worried that I wouldn’t be the same person. I am happy to report that she feels that her concerns at the time were not borne out, and that she feels like I am still the same person she fell in love with and married. Obviously I’m not exactly the same person, but we all go through changes in life, this is just another change, albeit a big one. I think part of the problem that comes with a change such as this is that people assume that someone’s morals and values are rooted in that person’s religion, and when they abandon their religion, what will their morals be? For the most part I have found that that belief is unfounded. Most people’s morals and values are dear to them, and more often than not, if they abandon certain values after leaving the church or any church, the chances are those values were never that near and dear to their hearts anyway.

  66. brjones-

    I think that one of the most important things for your kids to see is the respect and love between you and your wife. Even when your kids come to know that you aren’t a believer, if they see that you respect your wife and her belief it will make it much easier for them to become who they have the potential to become. I think it is when couples are at odds and the tension is felt that children really struggle and feel they have to take sides. That can be very stressful for a child and it can take up a lot of energy that they should be using elsewhere.

    I think that being willing to meet your wife’s desire to go to church is a great expression of your love to her considering how you feel. It sounds like you both really have a desire to be true to your commitment to one another and your family and that is impressive.

  67. #72-

    I have to admit, the morals and values issue ran through my mind. I know that if my husband was to lose his faith in God and the church that he would still be a very good person and I couldn’t help but love him. I don’t think I would ever be capable of not loving him, no matter what.

    I do have a question. What about drinking alcohol? Is that something that you choose to do socially now? Or do you not care to discuss it. I don’t think beer would ever interest me in the least but I have a friend who drinks a lot of different wines and really enjoys trying them. Is that something that doesn’t seem so taboo to you now?

  68. I hope I am not going to be accused of threadjacking. Maybe I better reread the post and make sure I am still close to topic. Sorry, I have a tendency to stray off topic.

  69. #76 – I think it’s probably ok as long as it comes up organically. In any event, I’m an apostate so I think that naturally keeps us close to the topic at hand.

    I guess I would say that I don’t think alcohol is taboo anymore, but I don’t drink because I’ve never really done it and don’t have much of a desire to. Does that mean I never will? I don’t know. But I’ve had friends who have asked if I wanted to have a beer at dinner or something like that, and my answer is always no, not because I think it’s wrong necessarily, but I’ve tasted alcohol and frankly it tastes disgusting to me. If I had done it when I was younger and had a taste for it, maybe I’d do it now, but as it is I’m not too interested in it. As far as my kids go, they have a decent amount of family who are not active LDS, so they’ve been exposed to people drinking, smoking, etc., and we’ve always gone out of our way to make sure they know that those people aren’t bad, so I don’t think there will be too much of a change in the way we approach things like that with them. Obviously we won’t teach them the word of wisdom anymore, but practically speaking I don’t think we’ll change the emphasis we place on things like that.

  70. brjones-

    I have to run but I was curious if your bishop knows where you stand or if you are a “closet” apostate. I guess I am wondering if you hold a calling or if you aren’t involved in that way and will your kids be baptized at age 8, etc. and by whom?
    I will respond later if you do decide to comment on those questions. Thanks for the input.

    I think it would be great if you were to write a post about your experiences and ideas you think would help others going through what you have with your spouse. I think there are enough people having to go through it that they could use some insight and help in that regard. It would be nice to hear your wife’s side as well. Just a thought. Thanks again. 🙂

  71. Jen #65:

    Frankly I see it as posturing. The question didn’t narrow the time frame down to this life, rather it was a pretty open question. I would invite you to go back and read section 76 which is fairly explicit about the implications for those who had oppurtunity to accept the Gospel in this life, who where “honorable men” and yet failed to take advantage of that oppurtunity. According to LDS belief and practice, those who were not given reasonable oppurtunity in this life, though section 76 does not address that case – rather the closest scriptural explanation we have is section 137, will be given the oppurtunity to hear and accept it in a place of spirit probation. Those who choose to accept must then, somehow, submit to Mormon ordinances, performed in proxy by undeceased Mormons in LDS Temples. Those who choose not to accept The New and Everlasting Covenant, can not inherit Celestial glory and enter into God’s presence. This applies to both the living and the dead. So regardless of how you want to slice it, a person must become a Mormon in order to go to heaven. Given all that is riding on salvation within Mormon theology, I have to wonder why someone would prefer to answer “no”, regarding the necessity of Mormon ordinances, and by implication Mormon membership. A person may respond, “well we don’t believe that someone who hasn’t had ample oppurtunity (determined by God) is inelligible for Celestial Glory. Nor do we believe that the number of observable non-Mormons in mortality is a reasonable indicator of who is going to heaven or who is not”. I should find the reference, but I think Joseph Smith said it best when he was asked a similar question:

    Question – Do you believe that only Mormons will go to Heaven?

    Joseph Smith – Yeah, and even a good many of them won’t make it.

  72. By the way Jen,

    Standing ovation for you on many points, particularly on your willingness to be an excellent non-adversarial conversation partner. Cheers to you!

  73. Just a thought or two if you will. Jen asked me if I still believed in God, why am I so hard on Jared? I think I’ve been much harder on other people here (like AdamF) than I’ve ever been on Jared. 🙂

    At the end of the essay, the counselor makes the statement about loving each other is probably the only thing that really does matter in this life. We all think we have the truth and therefore feel some obligation to help anyone else who is searching to find it. On my good days, I’m all about letting people believe in their false doctrines and fabricated histories. Unfortunately, I have my backsliding days where I’m intent on convincing someone that I’m right and therefore they’re wrong. (Not very loving) The biggest difference between Jared and me is I’m a “believer” and Jared is not. Jared is what I affectionately call in the church a “knower.” (That’s not a slam on him.) There are many good people in the church who feel they’ve moved beyond believing and much like the Brother of Jared have faith no-longer because they “know,” nothing doubting.

    I’m not sure what pushes someone like Jared to require this kind of knowledge to be secure in his beliefs where someone like Cowboy or brjones is very comfortable with their beliefs fully realizing that their peace has no bearing on anyone else’s truths. As Jared has encouraged, I would like to add my witness to those that have gone before. I am very much at peace with my God and my life. I feel more alive then ever before and I enjoy people and cultures with new understandings and acceptance.

  74. Aw, Doug, you keep me on my toes. I know I can’t just write anything because you will be there to call me on it. Keep it up, my commenting friend. 🙂

  75. #82-


    I understand what you are saying and I agree that the points you brought up are true in relation to LDS doctrine. I would be interested in seeing the interview that you referred to, but I don’t know how I can access it. It would be interesting to get a deeper understanding of why he said no rather than yes. It’s too bad they didn’t ask Jared because I know there would have been no posturing for sure! 🙂 (BTW, that is a compliment to you Jared)

    Thanks for the standing ovation Cowboy! 🙂 Just so you know, I appreciate your ability to help me see things from a different perpsective and to understand others better.


    Thanks for the link! I look forward to reading it.

    Doug G.-

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has good and bad days! 🙂

  76. Not that this matters now, but I do have a confession to make. The writer of this essay is in reality Brett Wilcox who wrote this about me over two years ago for Sunstone. They chose not to use it, but I’ve held onto it since. So yes, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m Dan. (I still have the mark on my butt from that pencil to prove it!) I sent it to James and asked him to put it up on this site. My intent was to persuade you good folks to see heretics in a little different light. I also like Brett’s conclusion at the end of the piece, loving one-another is really what I think God will judge in the end, despite different beliefs, cultures, orientation, or heaven forbid a lack of belief in Him.

    I still see Brett as a third warder who has everything made for him. He’s active in his Alaskan ward and has a great family. Hawkgrrrl’s comment in #46 about him is insightful though…

  77. Jen:

    I just googled “Mormon Stake President, Today Show” and came up with this link.


  78. #79 – Jen, to answer your questions, I’m pretty sure our bishop knows by now that we have decided to stop being involved with the church. The reason I say that is that my wife ran into a member of the primary presidency a week or two ago, and the woman was, in a nice way, pressing my wife to at least let them pick the kids up and take them to church if we weren’t going to go (we haven’t been active for most of this year). My tried to deflect, but ultimately she felt like she had to say something so she kindly thanked this woman for her and the ward’s interest, but informed her that we have decided as a family to stop being involved. I think that news will probably make it back to the bishopric in one form or another. As to a calling, I was given a calling about a year ago (at that time although I had come to a number of conclusions, we were still going to church and I didn’t think we were going to totally extricate ourselves) and I accepted it. It was as a sunday school teacher. I’m a fair teacher and I thought I wouldn’t have too much trouble presenting the material as it is given, and I would never attempt to introduce my personal feelings in that context. The bishopric never followed through, though, and I never had the opportunity to teach. Obviously there came a time when I would have politely declined a calling, but I think that point is moot now.

    With respect to our children, I baptized my daughter last year, and my wife and I have spent many hours discussing what is the best way to proceed, almost exclusively with our kids’ best interests in mind. Initially I felt like we should just remain involved but to a degree that suited us, but ultimately we decided that if we really felt it was not true, it would be very confusing to our kids to try to raise them as less than fully committed members. So we will not be baptizing any more of our children, and we’ve had many conversations with them to explain what we’re doing and why, and they’ve handled the entire situation very well, I think. It’s definitely difficult to know what to do when you’re talking about young children. My wife and I still spend a lot of time talking about it.

  79. brjones-

    Thanks for sharing. I was under the impression that your wife still desired to be active and that you were attending with her and the kids, but it sounds like she is leaning more in the same direction that you are as well? I don’t know if you live in Utah or not but if you do the issues with the kids can be a lot more “in your face” daily I am sure, especially as they grow up. I can see why you would spend a lot of time having to discuss it with your wife. Wow, I don’t envy the challenges that you face, but I do wish you the best in dealing with them.

  80. James # 9, (late to answer due to technical access difficulties) Great question. “Do you think the church will start to give women more of a share of the priesthood?”

    I think, like racism, sexism becomes even more disturbing to the average person as a society transitions to a more rational and equitable way of treating a group or individual who has been subject to prejudice.”

    In every problem situation, there is an opportunity, to transform an organization to do better. Problems, when brought to light, examined and resolved, clarify the ethics of the situation and pinpoint what needs to be improved in the group process and organization. How to achieve social justice was described as generally addressed by two main methods (as cited in Natasia, 2008) by Nelson and Prollethensky.
    The first method is transformative, the second, ameliorative.
    A transformative approach deals with changing institutions from the top down. Think of the Prophet’s decree to allow black Americans the priesthood in 1974, after Jimmy Carter’s national presidential influence on states addressing racism (described in his book “Our Endangered Values).
    An ameliorative approach deals with individuals and individual situations that occur and how they are addressed in an organization. Think of the result of “case law” on laws in a state.
    How breastfeeding in public was dealt with over the years would be an example as laws prohibiting public breastfeeding tended to be developed from specific cases, where mothers were arrested or forcibly removed from public areas for feeding their infants in public.
    Implicit in these views is the choice of whether we reform institutions to meet the member’s needs in a fair and equitable fashion or demand that the status quo be upheld. Organizations first need to be willing to seek to uncover whether a group or person has been harassed or marginalized due to an attitude of people within the group.
    Looking for transmitters of oppressive politics that are sexist, racist, or elitist necessitates approaching institutions from a potentially contentious standpoint because it highlights a problem in process or attitude within the group, although there is nothing wrong with striving for a better society that fully integrates everyone and eliminates “unfair” advantages.
    Many oppressors, themselves may be unaware of their biases and experts are needed to find the biases and develop ways to rectify these. Public education researchers and School Psychologists study this social justice process and this is described in more detail by Shriberg et al. (2008) School Psychology Review, 37, 453 – 468.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *