A while back I was reading an article by Seth Payne (and I blogged about it on my personal blog from a slightly different perspective)…and I guess I was most impressed/shocked by something that Seth had done.
See, while I was already interested in the paper because he tried to analyze the Ex-Mormon exit narrative (I’m just a sucker for that…even if someone gets it wrong [it happens more often than I’d care to admit], but fortunately Seth had a reasonable analysis, I think) what I didn’t expect was in this shift that Seth took. Rather than speaking about how flawed and petty and prideful Ex-Mormons must be or whatever, he notes:
…the narratives themselves seem to be driven by an estrangement process both doctrinal and social. I believe that we, as liberal and intellectual Mormons are partially to blame for perpetuating these feelings of estrangement.
I discussed this a bit on my blog, but I wanted to discuss this again because I hadn’t really quite seen something like it. He continues:
For too long we have been marginal to Mormon culture and have conceived of ourselves as “the other.” In many cases, we have defined ourselves by what we are not and by what we do not believe, rather than as what we are and by what truths we have found. Rather than positively affirm our faith, we have often sought identity through the discovery and adoption of heterodox views. The irony of course, is that the whole notion of orthodoxy is anathema to Mormonism. There is no orthodoxy, but merely the perception thereof.
Regardless of any particular truth claim or its so-called validity, there is one observable and tangible, yet amazingly silent reality. In our midst there are those who struggle and suffer with their faith. There are those who feel alone and isolated and whose world-views are shattering regardless of how much they fast, pray, hold family home evening, or read the Book of Mormon. These saints often feel as if they are alone.
At first glance, Mormonism may give off the appearance of a homogeny of culture and belief, yet, there is a strong undercurrent of lively discussion, debate, belief, and conversation involving a wide-range of Latter-day Saints who may or may not accept all of modern Mormonism’s unique truth claims. I believe that we, who are engaged in this conversation are called to make our faith manifest to kindred spirits – to validate their struggle, to share our experiences, our doubts, and our love. Recently, one first-time attendee of Sunstone West commented on his blog: “Sunstone attendees treated me exactly the way we hope and ask ward members to treat all newcomers.” Let us extend that experience beyond the walls of this symposium. Let us, in our unique and individual way, seek out those who need and want to hear our perspective and our testimony
And then, as opening to his conclusion:
In conclusion, may I suggest that those of us who consider ourselves Mormon liberals or intellectuals come “out of the shadows”, as it were, and assume a pastoral role for those who may become ex-Mormon. By existing and behaving as a sub-culture, rather than as an integral part of the larger Mormon tapestry of experience, we contribute to the myth of Mormon orthodoxy. By this I mean that every Latter-day Saint struggles with their faith, prefers some doctrines over others, and ultimately forms a unique world-view informed, but not strictly defined by LDS theology. Certainly, some of our brothers and sisters will find that they are more comfortable outside the Church. We will miss them. However, many who struggle are seeking a reason to stay; to retain their heritage and develop a faith which is informed by their Mormon roots.
I was reminded by another post or comment somewhere on the bloggernacle: I don’t know if it was here or BCC or wherever else, but someone was lamenting on this unfortunate trend that they saw. They might see one lone black family in their ward, but after a while, the family would leave, feeling they were alone and misunderstood. Soon, there might be another black family in the ward, but since the first had left, they too might feel they were alone in their experience and leave. And the cycle would continue.
I don’t know how many members who would consider themselves “liberal” go here, but from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t think that MM is opposed to this message of coming out. And while I’m not saying that it would convert me to the gospel or anything, I would say that if church were more like MM or Sunstone, that would be a lot more comfortable to many members.
So, are we all out of the closet? Two separate causes, but the analogy, I think, is apt.
What even works? What doesn’t work?