Every exmember a missionary

Andrew S Anti-Mormon, apostasy, missionary, Mormon, Mormons, new order mormon, race, religion 78 Comments

And now, dear friends at Mormon Matters, is your regular report from the Dark Side of the Moon.

I was reading a comment in another article here, and what Doug had said intrigued me:

This board started out as a place for middle-way thinking people to discuss problematic issues with doctrine and history. It would now appear that anyone with an opinion different then the “current LDS view” is attacked as I and many others have been. On several other discussion boards, mormon matters is considered a pro LDS blog. Gentlemen, just say the word and I’ll find another place to try and help those who don’t see the church the way you do understand that they’re not alone. I guess it’s true; there is in reality no room for a NOM in the church.

I don’t know if I have ever thought of MM as anything other than a pro-LDS blog. But I *have* always recognized that this site is of a different caliber, of course, than M* or T&S and others. So I guess, I’ll try to shake things up and offer a different perspective and hope that I don’t get chased out on a rail.The other day, out of all people, *I* had a missionary experience. I’ve written about it on my blog, but here’s the executive summary: over the course of conversation, I revealed to someone that I was raised Mormon. Over more conversation, I revealed further that I’m not a believing Mormon (and with that, I’ve probably lost half my MM readership right there, if Doug’s comment is to be believed) and so they shouldn’t expect me to have the most faith-promoting answers.

However, despite that, I still was the go-to guy for tough Mormon questions. Questions such as, “Isn’t this the church where blacks can’t go to heaven?” (these guys have learned well from the Huckabee school of interrogation) or “Are women banned from celestial glory because they do not have the priesthood?”

It was at this time, of course, that I realized that I was, in ways, a representative of the church (despite my pointing out that I’m not the faithful go-to guy). And so I realized that I had to take a delicate path.

I guess that for faithful members, there are standard, correlated answers for these questions. So it’s easy enough to answer that the policy was that blacks could not get the priesthood, but now with new revelation, blacks do have the priesthood and things are resolved. It’s then easy enough to segue that into an explanation of different levels of heaven (exaltation? how’s that different from salvation? Celestial Kingdom? Priesthood ordinances?) And then jete to the restoration of the gospel and isn’t that nice and won’t you come? I bet within a week you can get the missionaries a referral if you’re good enough.

But…if you haven’t realized it…for ex-Mormons, former Mormons (who I guess form the “dark side” in many members’ minds), liberal Mormons, New Order Mormons, and anyone similar, the standard correlated answers don’t work. They make us feel uneasy or deceptive. And that’s in part how we get to our position — by distancing ourselves from the church, we detach from stinging correlated answers. So, we can relate the Joseph Smith story, but we don’t necessarily feel obligated to believe the correlated telling. Or do the same for whatever issue.

Now, I will say that there are some who will go far with this — there are those who will leave the church bitter, angry, and anti. But I would suppose that most ex- and former Mormons don’t want to appear like antis. Anti-Mormons sometimes embarrass me. I’d like to think that people can look at reasonably truthful, accurate information, and then decide based on that (there’s enough gray to allow people to go either way without bringing up inaccuracies, falsehoods, sickly sweet faith-promoting stories and sickly venomous faith-destroying ones.)

But I am still put in this strange position…where I become the liaison for the church and for the LDS doctrine. And then I realize that because I am viewed as a somewhat reputable source despite my warnings otherwise, even as an exmember, I still am a missionary of sorts.

This post sounds kinda spastic because this is the third time I’ve written about it (the second time was to get perspectives from the other Dark Side of the Mooners) …but I wanted to ask people from a faithful perspective…what would you expect from ex- and former Mormons? What would you hope that they would say in response to questions about the gospel? Would it impress you to see an ex-Mormon dispelling blatant untruths from anti-Mormons? Would that all be dashed to bits if they followed up their trouncing of inaccuracies with unflattering church history or doctrine?

Comments

comments

Comments 78

  1. As a recent adult convert, I would have asked you lots of questions if you were my co-worker. I would probably ask if you were willing to talk about it. Then I would want to know what the teachings are and where you parted ways. I would hope that you would be respectful, and I’m sure you are. There is a difference between asking what the church teaches and what you believe. I would have wanted to hear both. All a missionary, even a reluctant one, can do is present information as accurately as possible. What a listener does with that information is beyond control. I, personally, would be impressed with your dispelling untruths, blatant or otherwise. To someone who really wants to know (as opposed to someone who is mildly curious), unflattering church history/doctrine is just that. And don’t all religions have some of both? Life is messy. Humans are … human. To my mind we have to allow for some wackiness. Opposition in all things, don’t you know. ;-D

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    Re 1:

    Please don’t hold your breath on each and every one of us.

    Re 2:

    Thanks for your perspective Ellen…I guess it’s true about the difference between what the church teaches and what someone personally believes.

  3. It seems to me that you have become, in the minds of your colleagues, a source for accurate “facts,” is not “testimony.” I think that is great — just as I feel grateful every time I see an accurately portrayed production or appropriately worded news article on the Church. Thanks for doing it. (Of course, we do want you to come back — but the “testimony” part, I know, is a very personal thing. We all need to slog down that road at one point or another. Good luck with your slogging.)

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    Re 4:

    WMP, Of course, I don’t think that even as a source of facts that the story will be pleasing to everyone. I can tell the “facts” about Joseph Smith’s treasure hunting, polygamy, etc., and these can be accurately portrayed (they also can be inaccurately portrayed…but that’s the art of journalism), but even as they are, that’s not necessarily correlated or flattering. So, do you still feel grateful for these times? What does “appropriate wording” mean especially with respect to “accurate portrayal.”

  5. I guess I would expect an ex-Mormon to decide what it is they DO believe and then move on with their life. If Mormonism doesn’t work for you then let it go and move on with what does work for you. Just because something isn’t working for one person doesn’t mean it isn’t working for another and it is not ok to try and destroy another’s faith. I agree with Ellen, life is messy and humans are just that….human. I would hope than an ex-Mormon would allow others to make their own decisions about their faith and not intrude upon their learning process with their negativity about the church. It is hard for me to understand why a person who has left the church feels a need to keep hanging on to it by talking about it and spending time debating all the issues. It seems a better use of time and life to just drop what isn’t working and to find what does and then live life. It is not like we have all the time in the world. Enjoy what you have been given, whether LDS or not, and for heaven’s sake don’t hang on to things that you don’t believe in or desire, what is the purpose of that?

  6. I think that things usually come down to a single thing. – respect. How respectfully we are of one another’s beliefs govern the way we discuss them. We can and do have respectful discussions on differing perspectives here all the time. Not just with ex-members or non-members but between card-carrying devout members who have differing points of view. And, I know from my own experience, you can turn your back on former beliefs without resorting to hostility.

    I can understand and respect that some members of the Church stop believing for a variety of reasons. But, where I draw the line is when that same individual who decided that Mormonism is wrong for them, also has to determine that it is wrong for me. That is not right. But yet, many seem to go there. Hence, the expression, “they can leave it, but they can’t leave it alone.”

    With regard to correlated answers, they tend to be simplified for the understanding of all levels of the membership. They represent the truth, in my mind, but not necessarily every details of it. that is for those interested to discover. In that effort, we may have a slightly different view of it. but I don’t accept that the church is misrepresenting but not detailing every fact.

    For example, there is the official version of the first vision in the PoGP. And I accept that as the truth. but I also know their are multiple versions of the first visions that differ. As I study those, it is up to me to decide what to do with that information. For some, it is a big deal, for others, like me, it is not.

    To answer your question, I would expect ex-members to answer the questions as truthfully as they can, admitting that while something is considered church doctrine, it might not be what they personally believe. It is acceptable to me that the ex-member is free to explain why they differ. Respectfully.

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    Re 7:

    Jen, so what happens when a nonmember asks an ex-Mormon about the church (as in my situation)? This is not the ex-Mormon “intruding upon their learning process with their negativity;” this is someone coming up to the ex-Mormon and the ex-Mormon just calling things as he or she sees it. This is the ex-Mormon simply answering questions, not restrained by correlated or flattering history.

    To get to your greater question (which I think is thematic in your post)…I’d like to suggest that Mormonism is a culture. You are immersed in it from the time you join (and if you’re a lifelong member, then that’s how you grow up for your *entire* life.) You don’t just leave it just when you leave the church. You still have family that’s Mormon; you still have friends that are Mormon; you still have Mormon traits and idiosynchrasies; and you still live in a world where you get to see the actions of Mormons, whether you agree with them or not (whether it be the political candidacy of a prominent Mormon or some legislation that the church ‘supports’). You still have a particular knowledge set and familiarity with Mormon issues so that you can’t really be fully non-Mormon, because you’ve been on the inside, and yet faithful members seem to get this idea that if you don’t believe, you should just drop it all and leave it alone.

    So, I think it’s actually harder to understand how or why a person who has left the church would *not* feel a need to keep hanging on to it — generally, you don’t see people abandoning full parts of their personality, their upbringing, etc., just because they are trying to move away from certain parts of it. What they don’t feel a need to hang on to are particular aspects — whether it is spirituality or some aspect of doctrine or some kind of history or the faith claims…but I mean, there’s so much beyond that that remains.

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    Re 8 and a bit back to 7:

    To clarify, the purpose of this post isn’t necessarily about Ex-Mormons who actively go out and tell the faithful members that what they are believing is wrong and not right for them.

    What happens when nonbelievers begin the conversation and have questions?

    I guess I’ll try to anticipate an answer. Going off the same vein as, “just because a person has determined it’s wrong for them doesn’t mean it’s wrong for someone else,”…I’d still like to put up a defense. I don’t think it’s saying, “Mormonism is wrong for everyone,” to point out uncorrelated histories or the less desirable aspects of church culture. It’s just pointing out that, “hey, the church wasn’t the best fit for me, and it might not be for you, and I’d rather you have this information now than before you invest all this time and money into it.”

    I don’t know if my meters are off…but I seem to get this strange feeling that there’s an expectation that if every person doesn’t give the correlated, accepted version and nothing but, then they are “trying to wreck someone’s faith” or are “bringing their personal negativity in” or are “determining the church is wrong for everyone.” Is your expectation that when anyone — faithful or non — is asked a question, they give the perfectly correlated answer?

  9. I am pleased by the ex-Mormons who don’t have a chip on their shoulder as large as a Christian Evangelical in the likes of Huckabee and the Tanners. Interesting enough, too many of both secular and religious anti-Mormons only sound different by the use or non-use of the Bible. There are a few ex-Mormons (too few) I have run into on the Internet that I would actually trust as a go-to because they don’t try to twist things for the worst. At the least I expect a respectable ex-Mormon to have respect for those who disagree with them.

    On the other hand, I do agree that “. . . there is in reality no room for a NOM in the church.” Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a religious institution, that means the participant should at least have a mediocre of faith in its divine origins. Those who don’t have faith and remain for family, friends, and reason of tradition have no right to do or say anything beyond showing up at the pew. The minute they seek to change or pontificate about the LDS Church, they should leave. Otherwise, they are nothing more than spiritual obstructionists, insurgents, and living a lie. Strong words, I know, but that is how I feel.

  10. Ellen,

    Glad to hear you joined the Church. I was wondering how that process was going. We need more Mormons like you in the fold.

    Andrew S.,

    I share your approach to answering non-Mormons’ questions.

    As one of the original and now less-active contributors to Mormon Matters, I didn’t think of MM as either pro or anti LDS. I weary of those dualisms. Mormon Matters original charter was to serve as a place of open discussion between people who “love Mormonism”. That was actually the first post on the site.

    Is it true that those who leave Mormon Matters can’t leave it alone? 🙂

  11. Andrew,
    I don’t have much time, but in response to your question about a nonmember asking an ex-Mormon about the church, I understand that you are just answering questions in relation to your experience with the church. If I have never been to the ocean and I ask around about it I am sure I will get different answers. If some have had a bad experience in the ocean (such as a near drowning, or getting stung by a jelly fish, etc.) they are going to tell me how they feel about it from their experience and it probably will be more negative than positive. If I ask someone else, they may tell me it is the best place on earth and they are there everyday surfing and taking in the sun. In other words, to me it is important to not just take what people say at face value, but understand their experience, more about them personally (do they tend to be more negative or positive about life), and more about their knowledge base of the church in general. I would hope that an ex-Member would give the nonmember the chance to talk to others who are having a good experience and suggest they do that in addition to telling them their side of the story. That allows the nonmember to decide for themselves, which I think is important and it also shows a general respect for those who DO and DON’T believe.

    I will respond later to the rest of comments you have made. Gotta run! Great discussion. 🙂

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    Re 11:

    Those who don’t have faith and remain for family, friends, and reason of tradition have no right to do or say anything beyond showing up at the pew. The minute they seek to change or pontificate about the LDS Church, they should leave. Otherwise, they are nothing more than spiritual obstructionists, insurgents, and living a lie. Strong words, I know, but that is how I feel.

    yikes. I guess the church has a prerogative to keep its house in order, though, so that makes enough sense. But yikes, nonetheless.

    Re 12:

    Oh, I see what you say about the first post (although I guess I hadn’t read it until now…durh, that would be a good thing to do)…I should look way back through those archives then.

    I try to think that there is no leaving Mormon Matters. There is only an extended period of time when you’ve temporarily forgotten the address…

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    Re 13:

    Ok, I completely understand Jen. I make sure to tell people where to go as well for the faithful perspectives (although perhaps I should keep the missionary’s cards on me — wouldn’t they be so surprised to get referrals from an ex-Mormon?)

    But part of it also depends on the nonmember, I think. Often, there’s only one time to get a first impression…and then they probably will make their mind and decide not to research further. So, if it’s with a faithful member, they’ll get one impression. If it’s with an ex-member, they’ll get another impression.

    So, that’s my question. I have no idea when someone asks me a question if they are going to go to the other side and get their perspective. I try to tell people that I don’t speak of all of the positives of going to the beach and swimming in the ocean, because quite frankly, that hasn’t been my experience. But what if someone takes my word for it and never sees someone who likes the ocean? I’ve shared my story, and I’ve shared that for others, it might be different, but they just don’t have that other side there.

  14. “Correlated answers] represent the truth, in my mind, but not necessarily every details of it.”

    Mind explaining how something that’s “true” can exempt unsavory parts or how someone can “know” the truth of something that’s incomplete and/or manicured to assure comfort levels? Personally, I wouldn’t want to invest my life and my eternities in things that can’t be fully explored or doesn’t hold up to investigation.

  15. “…I’d still like to put up a defense. I don’t think it’s saying, “Mormonism is wrong for everyone,” to point out uncorrelated histories or the less desirable aspects of church culture. It’s just pointing out that, “hey, the church wasn’t the best fit for me, and it might not be for you, and I’d rather you have this information now than before you invest all this time and money into it.”

    Well, here is where you get into a dicey area. Volunteering that “it might not be for you” is an issue, I suppose. But nonetheless, you are entitled to express it. It depends on whether you can be unbiased in your assessment of that.

    Since religion in general is more about faith than fact, it seems hard to be 100% correct in assessing someone’s faith is misplaced because of a disagreement on interpretation of fact or history.

    In other words, a fair statement is: “all I know was that it didn’t work for me.” I think that was brought up earlier

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    re 16:

    Well, Alice, I’m not Jeff obviously, but I think the idea is that even if truth has unsavory parts, it can still be true.*

    I’m not saying I necessarily think that church history should be manicured to assure comfort levels, but I think that part of enduring faith is to be able to work through the unsavory parts and pull someone from the roughness. Of course, Mormon Matters (and the other blogs in the bloggernacle, and of course many members offline) have had instances where they’ve studied and come across the rough aspects of the church…and yet they’ve come from this recognizing that for them, the church is still true…it still improves their lives…it’s still something worth sticking to. I think it’s something that speaks more to the personality and character type of a person than to raw facts and raw numbers.

    *But then again, I’m not Jeff, so maybe I got that all wrong. Personally, I’m of the mindset that when we get to talking about “truth,” we have some awkward goal posts. Instead, goalposts like “good” or “helpful” or “practical” make more sense to me. With or without the deeper history of the church, the church may be practical to some, helpful to some, good for some, but not for others. This does not depend on its truth.

  17. “On the other hand, I do agree that “. . . there is in reality no room for a NOM in the church.” Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a religious institution, that means the participant should at least have a mediocre of faith in its divine origins. Those who don’t have faith and remain for family, friends, and reason of tradition have no right to do or say anything beyond showing up at the pew. The minute they seek to change or pontificate about the LDS Church, they should leave. Otherwise, they are nothing more than spiritual obstructionists, insurgents, and living a lie. Strong words, I know, but that is how I feel.”

    I think you meant to say “modicum”, not “mediocre” in regards to faith, right? Although it could be a Freudian slip ;)!

    In a sense I agree with the sad truth of your statement that there is no room for a New Order Mormon in the church, at least in the sense that the institution has not designed anything within itself with New Order Mormons in mind, except perhaps the ward employment specialist calling, the custodian’s broom, and the disciplinary council.

    In another sense, this is a statement which deeply offends my sense of humanity, the purposes of religion, and the maintenance of harmonious family living. It goes far beyond any official Church statement I know of in its severity, restriction, and callousness towards the ideals of a true religious community. You make the Church sound like a kooky, frail, third political party, not the Kingdom of God moving in power on the earth.

    How would you propose dealing with those teenagers who would rather not attend church with their parents and siblings? I think the institution would rather have them attend and participate in their classes instead of shutting up because they don’t have a testimony “yet.”

    Historically speaking, according to your definition of appropriate behavior, David McKay, Hugh Brown, Spencer Kimball, Lowell Bennion, Orson Pratt, and Sterling McMurrin were all spiritual obstructionists and living a lie because they sought to bring an institution into line with what they believed were God’s wishes. A strange church indeed.

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    (split my last comment in two)

    re 17:

    With respect to faith, I think that I can say…if you have faith, then go for it. The history shouldn’t *necessarily* be what wrecks it (I mean, there are different situations, but still). When I say, “it might not be for you” (the generalized you), I’m not necessarily saying that it’s all about historical interpretations and whatnot — after all, we’ve got tons of people who have studied church history and the “facts” in depth…and some have incredible faith, and some don’t. It’s not like this is an automatic, absolute, ultimate deal breaker.

    So really, it seems to me that the key factor is faith. Do you have it or not? Do you find comfort with it? While I guess the church’s answer is that even if you don’t have the spiritual gift to “know” or to “believe on the words of others,” you can just desire to believe, all I’d want to share with someone else is that sometimes, you just don’t have it. If you don’t believe, don’t desire to believe, don’t feel it, don’t sense it, none of that…then what I want to tell people is that they should listen to these signs and not try to force themselves sick over this.

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    Re 19:

    well said, John. Although I’d probably temper it with my own brand of heresy. If someone practically experiences a sense from their ward and people around them that they are “spiritual obstructionists,” then they have to determine if that’s the stigma they want to have and suffer through…

  20. Just because you are an ex member doesn’t make you an enemy. We have friends in many other churches, so why not friends who are ex members? Ex member doesn’t make one an anti. So yes, even if you don’t give an correlated answer, I would hope that you would defend the church from the standpoint of dispelling false information, even if you feel that you cant support the church or the prophet in its mission. So even though you aren’t building zion, so to speak, it is wonderful that you will stand for the truth as you see it and dispel falsehood as you see it.

  21. Andrew-

    In response to the second part of your response to me (#9), I am glad you brought up the points you did because as I look at it from that perspective it makes sense. I guess when I am saying to leave the church alone, it is not a fair statement because you still have to deal with all of those in your family who aren’t “leaving it alone” and those relationships are important. Having a good number of family members who have left the church in my family, I have noticed that at family parties, etc. there are two things that just aren’t discussed…..religion and politics…..and it works.

    For me, it is about the type of person you are and how you treat others, not whether you are a member of a church or not. If I were to leave the church and someone were to ask me about it, I can only say from my perspective that I would be more inclined to tell them to talk to the Lord about it. If a person wants religion in their life, I would hope the purpose for that would be to come closer to God. To me, the best source of finding out where we belong and where we should go is God. If a person is atheist and happy….great, but if a person really wants to know something and believes in God, then I would highly recommend talking to Him about it and would tell others the same. We can get a lot of information from others and we should, but if we are the givers of that information we need to be responsible givers. By that I mean we need to allow others to have their own experiences and discoveries. There are always two sides (or more) to everything in life and if we generally have a positive outlook on life we will see the good in many things. First impressions can, many times, be the deciding factor in whether a person decides to investigate something further, so it is important that we consider the implications of this in everything we say and do.

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    re 23:

    thanks for understanding. It’s a common issue, but really, it’s not so realistic to “leave the church and leave it alone,” even if one wanted to have nothing more to do with it (not saying that people do).

    I ultimately agree with the part that we need to allow others to have their own experiences.

  24. I’m exhausted and this damn hot drink isn’t helping me, so please bear with a probable random entry. I’d fix it but I can’t tell 😛

    It’s interesting, because during the time I “came out” on my blog as one who is considering leaving (becoming inactive) is the time I had people emailing me. “Hey, it’s good to find someone who’s neutral. I’m thinking of joining, etc…” and I’m thinking to myself “Uhm, yeah I’m not your girl.”

    I tend to shy away from the antis and any zealous arguments–TBM or otherwise–that in the end don’t hold up. I’m having issues enough without passionate assertions from either side. I don’t want to vilify the church anymore than I want to stack halos atop it.

    But I am not the girl to go to when someone is looking for a reason to go or a way to stay. Nor am I the girl to assume has a neutral position. I’d love to think I do, but I don’t. I don’t consider myself anti (at least not aggressively. i suppose I could be considered such on some issues), but I am angry about a few things.

    I hate those questions too. People ask, I guess, because they figure we won’t give them BS but the dichotomy we feel inside is interesting. You want to answer honestly, you want to steer clear of the script (which, you’re right, it does feel deceptive), but you don’t want to take sides. I want to be neutral, but it’s difficult. I’m not in a place right now where I feel I could be.

    I don’t appreciate people who allow their anger (or, on the other end of the spectum, their “testimony”) to get in the way of common sense. If a person can keep their head on straight, give proper warning, and be as accurate/honest as possible, then I don’t see the problem in exs being “missionaries.” People need to make informed decisions. That’s why I love sites like fMh, MM, and the like. Rational people are an investigator’s friend, IMHO.

    At least that’s where I am.

  25. “Personally, I wouldn’t want to invest my life and my eternities in things that can’t be fully explored or doesn’t hold up to investigation.”

    Well, Alice, this is an example of the stuff I was talking about, the hostile reply. I found no example in the church where we are told not to investigate or study something. Just because some folks are ok with the simple answers doesn’t make it wrong.

    Some people focus on living a Christ-like life rather than examining the reasons why the Kirtland Anti-Banking Safety Society failed.

    Andrew S. A well expressed reply to her

  26. Lisa,

    “I don’t appreciate people who allow their anger (or, on the other end of the spectrum, their “testimony”) to get in the way of common sense”

    I wonder what is “common sense” about religion? The whole premise of most religions are based on the supernatural occurrences that cannot be proved. Common sense might dictate a complete rejection of those idea based on a scientific approach.

    Yet, many people feel a yearning for belief in something beyond themselves. In fact, it appears to be a majority of people seem to feel that. The fact that there are so many belief systems actually prove it rather than negate it. The fact that we cannot all agree also speaks to the individual nature of the feelings.

    One of the things I took away from a study of Scientology was an expression, “What’s true for you, is true.” I accept that to a point. While it mans what you believe is what you believe, it doesn’t it make it fundamentally true or untrue. it is only what you believe to be true.

  27. Jeff:

    I suppose I used the wrong term (totally beat, exhausted, ugh). What I meant is that a person shouldn’t allow their emotions to completely get in the way when speaking about the Church, be it for the Church or against it. I want to allow people to believe what they believe because I want them to allow me the same.

    I cannot *not* believe in something beyond myself. And I agree with your final statement.

    Hrm. It’s just…emotions do play a part and I don’t consider them invalid. But I take issue when people allow their emotions to blind themselves, to make arguments while ignoring veritable fact. I’d rather someone said “I believe this. I know there’s little reason to, but I choose faith.” I can totally respect that. But to insist, for example, to tell people we don’t practice polygamy when we kindasorta do (in the Celestial sense) and choose to leave that bit out really rubs me the wrong way. On the other side, I don’t like people ignoring facts to the contrary when railing against the church just because they’re angry.

    We can believe all we want, but I just wish some on both sides of the fence could be more rational and realistic about it all.

  28. So many good things on this thread.

    Jen – I appreciate how you are so focused on taking everything to God in prayer. It’s something I hear consistently from you, and I think it’s inspiring!

    The quote from Doug above struck me as more of a personality conflict between Bruce and Doug and not indicative of MM in general. I have learned a ton from both Doug and Bruce, so I hate to think there isn’t room for both of them here. IMO, all are welcome to share their viewpoints freely. I have viewed the site as DAMU-friendly. We have bloggers from all ends of the belief spectrum. I want to talk to interesting people who are interested in Mormonism and these topics. Mostly that’s what I find here. I like to think we are open to all.

    I’d rather think of everyone at church as an investigator. Look at how well behaved people are at church whenever there is an “investigator.” Consider the contrast to how “apostates” or “ex-members” or “non-believers” might be treated: an investigator is not judged for a WoW issue or expressing their beliefs in a different way, an investigator is not viewed as subverting the church by being there, an investigator is welcomed with open arms. Aren’t we all worthy of that kind of treatment at church, regardless of level of belief? Likewise, someone who doesn’t believe (but used to) and is still at church is still a person of value to the congregation. I prefer “he that is not against us is for us” to “he that is not for us is against us.” If the person wants to be there or is willing to be there, let’s accept them on whatever terms they need us to accept them. Without conditions (okay, no physical violence maybe).

  29. Great post, Andrew. Thanks everyone (almost) for the thoughtful and respectful nature of the thread.

    When I think of someone who is a former member to whom I would recommend an interested party talk, without reservation, I think of MikeinWeHo. As a gay man in a committed relationship, raising a child with his partner, Mike has every reason in the world to be bitter and angry – but he’s not. He talks openly about why he no longer attends, but he also talks openly about how well it works for many people. I really like his overall foundation: “it doesn’t work for me, but it works for lots of people – and often when it works, it works amazingly well.” (I apologize, Mike, if that isn’t a fair summary.)

    When I think of someone who in a former member to whom I would NEVER recommend an interested party talk, it has NOTHING to do with concern that the former member will share difficult issues. It always is based on the attitude. There are some of these people among those with whom I converse regularly in the Bloggernacle, and I really do like each of them – usually a lot. I just don’t want them to represent the Church to someone who is interested.

    In a nutshell, if I had to pick something that distinguishes these people from each other, I would say that it’s the exact same thing that I would use if I were talking about active, dedicated members: the extent to which they see things in black and white or are able to allow for shades of gray. There are members AND ex-members for whom it’s “my way or the highway” – and I wouldn’t want either person being the primary source of information for an interested party.

    I don’t want someone saying, “You either believe this in exactly this way or else _________” – from either “side” of the discussion. I don’t want someone saying, “This is how you will feel the Spirit (e.g., your bosom will burn within you).” Likewise, I don’t want someone saying, “The Church is a perfect (or an oppressive) organization, and everything (or nothing) it says and does comes from God.” I don’t want to have someone hear, “Joseph Smith was the most perfect man other than Jesus who ever walked the earth,” but I also don’t want to have someone hear, “Joe Smith was a lecherous pervert who only practiced polygamy to get laid.”

    I think the “truth” is somewhere between the extremes for pretty much every issue imaginable, and I would hope members and former member alike would allow for the idea that it really does work for many while not working for many – and not present it in black and white terms.

  30. “In another sense, this is a statement which deeply offends my sense of humanity, the purposes of religion, and the maintenance of harmonious family living. It goes far beyond any official Church statement I know of in its severity, restriction, and callousness towards the ideals of a true religious community. You make the Church sound like a kooky, frail, third political party, not the Kingdom of God moving in power on the earth.”

    Mormonism is a RELIGION and therefore by the definition of religion requires FAITH to be considered a member. I could have said no one without faith should be allowed and I admit too often that is what members seem to convey. Instead I said that, by virtue of Mormonism as Religion, those who don’t hold to even the very basics of belief (think Articles of Faith) are not really Mormons. They should act as visitors and observers, but never participants. Too many NOMs act as if they should have some kind of say and even seek to undermine the faith as a faith. Worse, too many NOMs hide their doubts and live the lie as if they are believers. Instead they are intruders (often atheists in believer’s clothing). I think it is the NOMs who treat the LDS Church as some kind of kooky, frail, third political party and not the Kingdom of God. That is often how they express their views about the LDS Church since they see it as a social club or community because they surely don’t see it as a divine institution.

  31. Ray says it good again! I think it is too easy to always fall into a “them versus us” mentality. As it is not too be too cliche about all this. it boils down to this:

    “to each, his own.”

    oops 🙂

  32. Re 27:

    I think faith and spirituality are common sense to some. I think they are not to others. There are people who genuinely feel the spirit. There are people who genuinely don’t. Regardless of if it can’t be proven, I’d still think that for people who truly have faith, it’s not a forgone conclusion that there’s no “common sense” about it.

    As you say, that the majority of people have this “yearning” (which I think it a better definition for faith) is a sign that it’s part of a “common” sense. But for people who do not resonate with a particular brand of this spirituality, or who do not have this spirituality, then that’s when I think people need to reevaluate.

    It kinda gets a way from a One-True-Path model, but it’s kinda like that quote you had…what’s true for you is true.

  33. re: 11, 19, & 31: I love you, Jettboy. Seriously, your comments always bust me up–whether I agree or disagree with them. Pure honesty.

    In this case, I disagree with your comment, for a single reason: today is not judgment day. It might be tomorrow, but it is not this day. As such, any attitude or policy which tightens the crank on expelling “perceived” tares from the crowd is spiritually irresponsible. NOM, or other disaffected people on the Dark Side may indeed be “tares” to you, to the Bishop, to President Monson, and even to Jesus…but here’s the catch: Being a tare is not a steady state; the spirituality and strength of a testimony is dynamic for every single person on Earth. The man who is pure wheat today may commit adultery tomorrow; similarly, the woman caught in adultery today may go, and sin no more tomorrow.

    While there are times when an individual needs to “cast out” so to speak, caution must be the word in delivering such judgment, because there is a great danger in casting out those who prefer to stay: They just might never come back.

  34. Andrew,

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but you seem to be implying that members who are aware of the Church’s “issues” deliberately avoid speaking of them when asked questions about them. Do people really do that?

    I guess what I’ve always thought is that people give “correlated” answers because those are pretty much the only answers they know. Is it common for people who actually know more to hide their knowledge and just give “correlated” answers that gloss over problems?

    What I mean is that back when I was a believer and I hoped that every one of my non-Mormon friends would join the Church my answers to questions like “Isn’t this the church where blacks can’t go to heaven?” or “Are women banned from celestial glory because they do not have the priesthood?” were pretty much the same as they are now that I’m an unbeliever and don’t feel at all enthusiastic about recommending Church membership. Then and now, I’d talk about historical roots and current practices, the kinds of explanations Mormons give for them vs. secular explanations, and how Mormons use faith to deal with contradictions. The only real change is that today when people follow up with, “Do you actually believe that s—?” my answer is “No, but I used to” instead of “Yes.”

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    btw, thanks for the comments everybody…I kinda got tied up with other things (haha, I feel so bad when I can’t respond to comments in real time. This shows how much I have no life or responsibilities)

    Re 30: Nice idea about the distinction in attitude and the distinction between those who can see in gray vs. those who see in black and white only, especially with the recognition that not only does this sometimes apply to some ex-members, but also to some members.

    I’d like to think, in response to Hawkgrrrl in 29, that Mormon Matters does do a good job of seeing in gray, recognizing the different perspectives and being reasonable — so I do think that Doug’s comment was perhaps just a kind of personality disagreement with another poster. After all, Doug’s prophecy has not come true for this thread, and I indeed have not been run out on a rail.

    Re 31:

    Jettboy, I touched this earlier, but I think that Mormonism is not just a religion, but a culture. And sure, they both affect each other (the culture and the religion) and overlap, and I guess depending on who you are, you have different views on each (I see a lot of posts crying out against the “culture” but for the “religion,” — but I recognize that there are different strokes for different folks).

    But still, that’s why I am hesitant to agree with such an ultimatum. Mormonism as a CULTURE requires that you are a part of that culture and share the common language, traits, habits. You really don’t need faith to be able to fit your part.

    …Atheist in believer’s clothing…I actually like that line though.

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    re 35:

    I can’t speak for every member, but when I was younger, I definitely shied away from dangerous answers, even though I knew a lot of the things. Even if it was to answer with dubious cultural lore (so what was up with that polygamy thing? My younger self would reply, “oh yeah, there were more women in the church at the time, and it was more practical at the time for a woman to be married than to be on her own, so really polygamy made sense back then.” never mind that the statistic might not have shown that.) So I guess I can’t extrapolate that to everyone, but I know that was me.

    It always bothered me. And from my asking of others in the ward, I have a biased, very small sample of people who I know did the same thing to me (only to come back later and reveal that they knew the complexities of the issue, but were just “giving milk before meat” — especially to someone who they thought had shaky faith.)

    I don’t think this is just a Mormon thing. I think this is a human reaction. People want to talk about good things or good-sounding things and are reluctant to raise the negative things, even if they know them. You have to sell your idea.

    I think that some people only know the correlated answer (and there was a stage when I was there too), but I don’t think this fits for *everyone*. And with ideas like “line upon line, precept upon precept” or “milk before meat,” I’m not saying how this should be interpreted, but it’s seemed in my experience to be translated as “protect the innocent.”

    so I mean, I guess my experience was pretty different from yours. For me, the difference was before, I tried to tell the correlated answers (but felt guilty about it), but now, I tell the answers I feel comfortable with and recognize that I’m not really tied to church answers (but the problem is…as in this post, people still “tie” me to these answers as if I’m a representative). Before, I didn’t want to say anything that made the BoM seem doubtful (even though I doubted it and I knew some issues). Now, I really don’t care so much, because I don’t hold myself to a standard that must believe in the Book of Mormon.

  37. There was a time, of course, when I only knew the correlated answers , so that’s what I gave. (Or maybe not so correlated — I used to know “Mormon Doctrine” backwards and forwards, and assumed people who disagreed with it were simply wrong. Unless the person disagreeing was President Kimball, in which case he was was right, which was not to say that “Mormon Doctrine” was wrong.) I also directed discussions to safer ground sometimes. But I think I always tried to give honest answers: “Well, obviously there are other possible explanations, but most Mormons see it this way, while some see it this way” or whatever. (That’s assuming the questions were sincere. With trolls, I used to have all sorts of fun.)

    But I guess it was kind of naive to think that people don’t actively hide information. There are some talks out there about “milk before meat” and so on. And, come to think of it, my kids have complained that one of their Seminary teachers and a couple of their Sunday School teachers along the way would never give them a straight answer when they asked a difficult question.

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    I hated Mormon Doctrine with a passion. My favorite answer to give was something like, “It’s not official; it’s not a standard work.” It was really surprising when I got to seminary and had a teacher who pointed out, “Bruce R. Mcconkie was an apostle — he *is* standard work.”

    so, I would definitely say that there was a time afterward that I was conscious of Mormon Doctrine and other such books, but which I would distinctly avoid because they just raise too many dangerou issues.

  39. Not sure I have expectations of former members at all. I think regardless of who you are, who you’re talking to, and what you’re talking about, we owe it to ourselves and to others to make sure something is accurate before we repeat it. And if we’re careful, we’ll recognize there is almost no certainty involved here; only our best guesses based on incomplete records of questionable accuracy. That being the case, I think responses that present BOTH sides’ strongest arguments and most compelling evidence are the way to go.

    Too often, we see people on both sides talking about things that happened 200 years ago as if they were actually there personally and as if they really know what happened. Carefully examining Appendix C of Fawn Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History”, I recently had to concur with Blake Ostler’s assessment that when it comes to Joseph’s practice of polygamy (not the whether but the how and who and when), what we’re usually dealing with is 160-year-old second, third, and fourth-hand gossip and rumor. Might be true, might not, but who really knows? That said, I’m astounded when I hear assertions of certainty from either camp on that historical issue, and just about any other issue as well.

  40. Andrew A (41)

    “I recently had to concur with Blake Ostler’s assessment that when it comes to Joseph’s practice of polygamy (not the whether but the how and who and when), what we’re usually dealing with is 160-year-old second, third, and fourth-hand gossip and rumor.”

    Well said. How many of us have been have been in a situation and remember it a certain way while another may describe the exact same situation completely different?

  41. re #26

    You *assume* hostility whereas I was asking about the nature of truth. Truth may have unseemly aspects. But that is no reason not to let it be what it is. After all, what else *can* it be? Our job is not to define or limit what’s true but to mold our lives to embrace it and live in accordance with it. Meanwhile, any appearance of trimming truth down or putting a cosmetic face on it strikes me as evidence that it’s the presenter who may have trouble with it rather than an investigator.

    That which does not stand up to examination is simply not something I can afford to stake my eternities on. You may see this as a hostile statement but for me, it’s a simple reasonable statement of fact. And the alternative, that is to vest oneself in something that cannot be fully face, reckless or cowardly. But then that’s an opinion — mine, but an opinion — and I am more than willing to grant you the right to see or express things differently. I won’t even call you “hostile” for doing it.

  42. “Every exmember a missionary”.

    Why would any member expect anything less then this? I was raised to share truths with others when I found them. I was trained to do so with enthusiasm and vigor. How can I simply leave ‘Mormonism’ alone when I have so many in my family and community who are still trapped in a mindset that devalues their humanity and lines them up like humble sheep to be sheered, and when I ‘know’ how much happier and better off they would be without religious dogma and indoctrination.

    I know these are tough words to hear. Mormonism does not much abide viewing issues from the other side. You want those who believe differently to leave you alone, yet you send thousands of missionaries out into the world to ‘not’ leave others alone. You spend millions in public relations and out-reach to ‘not’ leave others alone.

    How about a truce? Mormons cease their missionary efforts and Ex-Mormons will cease theirs?

    …didn’t think so.

  43. Alice, #43

    “Our job is not to define or limit what’s true but to mold our lives to embrace it and live in accordance with it. Meanwhile, any appearance of trimming truth down or putting a cosmetic face on it strikes me as evidence that it’s the presenter who may have trouble with it rather than an investigator.”

    It seems that you presume that a simplistic view of something automatically implies someone is trying to hide something. Synopses are used all the time, and for a specific purpose. It is not wrong to present things in this manner. For those who are curious, they may investigate more. But to presume that it means anything sinister is disingenuous or just plain wrong. Especially as it applies to historical events, where one must interpret many things and draw conclusions from it. And they may be 100% mistaken about them. or they may be 100% correct. It would be hard to know.

  44. “I recently had to concur with Blake Ostler’s assessment that when it comes to Joseph’s practice of polygamy (not the whether but the how and who and when), what we’re usually dealing with is 160-year-old second, third, and fourth-hand gossip and rumor.” (#41)

    Possibly true. But if we turn to the very best of the sources for that subject, are they any weaker or less direct than our very best sources for the details of Joseph Smith’s First Vision? I’ve studied these things for a lifetime, and I would say no.

  45. Rick (47) I would say a first-hand account is typically more reliable than second-hand, third-hand, forth-hand, etc. accounts. So to the extent we’re weighing one person’s word about his personal experiences versus something that someone says someone else said that someone else said, then, yes. But ultimately, believing even professed first-hand accounts of events requires faith/trust in the speaker. Which is why we should all acknowledge that our belief in one slate of affidavits versus another is ultimately an act of faith, even when that leads us to the conclusion that we choose no longer to have faith in the Church. Believing the Hurlbut affidavits against Joseph Smith, for example, requires at least as much faith/trust in the integrity of the affiants as does, say, having faith/trust in those who testified in favor of Smith.

  46. I resigned from the LDS church in January 2009 and rejoined the Episcopal church of my youth. A month earlier I got a call from my brother who lives on the other coast. He had been befriended by a new coworker who happened to be LDS. This coworker decided to do the full fellowshipping route with my brother and his family and sent the missionaries over to my brother and his family. My brother’s call was to ask some questions about what he had been taught by the elders in the first discussion. While the elders gave non-responsive “milk” answers, I answered my brother directly and with specificity about certain things especially regarding the temple. My brother is also a freemason and was unaware of the intersection of the craft with the temple. At the end of the conversation he asked me what he should do. I told him “I can’t make up your mind for you, but I would recommend against joining the LDS church”. I then told him of my pending resignation from said church.

    My brother and his family are continuing to attend their Catholic church and have decided that is where they belong.

  47. Andrew S. said:But I am still put in this strange position…where I become the liaison for the church and for the LDS doctrine. And then I realize that because I am viewed as a somewhat reputable source despite my warnings otherwise, even as an exmember, I still am a missionary of sorts.

    I can relate to this. I have had the opportunity many times to share my story of leaving the LDS church after becoming a born-again Christian. But when my audience hears that I was a member for 47 years, they change the subject from my story of finding God’s grace to a question-and-answer session about Mormon doctrine.

    For example, I was a guest on the radio program Truth Talk Live not long after my conversion. In the first segment, I shared my testimony of Grace. But for the rest of the hour the callers wanted to know about Mormonism, so I fielded questions just as you have been talking about. I was honest and fair and corrected a few misconceptions about the church. (The host thought that people paid to have vicarious temple work done for their ancestors much like the Catholic indulgence.”)

    Some of them were quite pointed and one guy even wanted to talk Adam-God theory. I summarized the questioning by saying this: There is enough in the basic, canonical Mormon Doctrine to engage LDS and those who are investigating the church. We don’t have to resort to “fringe” doctrines to show that the LDS Church is not “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30)

    For example President Hinckley’s statement that the LDS church does not worship the same Jesus as traditional Christianity is fertile ground for discussions about God’s true nature.

    I find it vital to continue to keep my pulse on the church’s doctrinal positions through their publications because I know that I will be asked about them by people who know I used to be a member and they can trust that I will give them a straight answer.

  48. Jen said:
    “It is hard for me to understand why a person who has left the church feels a need to keep hanging on to it by talking about it and spending time debating all the issues. It seems a better use of time and life to just drop what isn’t working and to find what does and then live life.”

    For me, there are two reasons: My friends and family who still remain in the church whom I love deepely AND because truth matters.

    I know that many Mormons sincerely seek to heed the admonition to come to Christ (2 Nephi 25:26) including my own children who are still LDS. However, Mormonism–by its own definition–teaches a different Christ than the traditional church (JSH 1:19). That distinctiveness was reiterated by President Hinckley in 1998 (click for Church News article).

    The Bible teaches that a correct knowledge of the nature of God is paramount to salvation (John 17:3) and Joseph Smith agrees: “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God” (History of the Church, 6:305).

    I hope that I am never guilty of criticizing LDS people for their sincerity nor the experiences which lead them to their faith. But I must put everything to the test (1 Jn 4;1; 1 Thes 5:21) for the sake of my own salvation and preach the true gospel for the salvation of others (Romans 10:10).

    For me, that is “getting on with my life.”

  49. Andrew (Ainsworth, #47), I was thinking not in terms of faithful vs. critical interpretation, so much as the quandary created by conflicting details obtained even from Joseph Smith himself (since the point of the discussion was not about if, but how, when and what). For “the very best of the sources” I mentioned – whether about polygamy or Joseph Smith’s First Vision, I was thinking, just like you, of first-hand accounts only. I do not feel any need to trivialize or complicate this by dragging in the easy target name of Hurlbut.

  50. “I hated Mormon Doctrine with a passion. My favorite answer to give was something like, “It’s not official; it’s not a standard work.” It was really surprising when I got to seminary and had a teacher who pointed out, “Bruce R. Mcconkie was an apostle — he *is* standard work.”” Despite what your seminary teacher may have thought, I maintain “It’s not official. It’s not a standard work. And it is not error-free.”

  51. “Despite what your seminary teacher may have thought, I maintain “It’s not official. It’s not a standard work. And it is not error-free.”

    While true and something that is discovered with even the most basic level of research, when you are a youth, your seminary teacher may seem like an apostle, based on the authoritative style of teaching and their position.

    It took me a while, as a new member, to realize that “MoDoc” was not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Gospel according to Bruce R. McConkie. Still, IMO, very useful but not the last word of doctrine. The name, itself, is somewhat deceiving.

  52. #44. Imperfection –

    “How can I simply leave ‘Mormonism’ alone when I have so many in my family and community who are still trapped in a mindset that devalues their humanity and lines them up like humble sheep to be sheered, and when I ‘know’ how much happier and better off they would be without religious dogma and indoctrination.”

    You really think you ‘know’ what would make other people happy?

    Every time I think the things that make me happy would make others happy, I find out how wrong I am. I’m not sure what kind of a personality it would take to really make those kinds of decisions for others. You’re a better man than I, sir.

  53. “The name, itself, is somewhat deceiving.” Uhm, yeah. I don’t suppose “The Gospel According to BRM” would still be in print.

  54. #8:
    I think that things usually come down to a single thing. – respect. How respectfully we are of one another’s beliefs govern the way we discuss them. We can and do have respectful discussions on differing perspectives here all the time. Not just with ex-members or non-members but between card-carrying devout members who have differing points of view. And, I know from my own experience, you can turn your back on former beliefs without resorting to hostility.

    You probably meant this, Jeff, but I’d hasten to point out that it’s not about respecting “another’s beliefs.” Rather, it’s about respecting others. No matter your perspective, I can guarantee that you will encounter beliefs which you do not respect, and nothing says you need to do so. Rather, we need to respect the person who happens to hold that respect, and treat the person with courtesy and kindness.

    #17:
    Volunteering that “it might not be for you” is an issue, I suppose. But nonetheless, you are entitled to express it. It depends on whether you can be unbiased in your assessment of that.

    Jeff, shouldn’t I be just as entitled to expect that those who support LDS-ism “are entitled to express it,” but “it depends on whether [they] can be unbiased” in their assessments of it? An expectation like yours can’t reasonably be one-sided.

  55. Imperfection:

    Sounds like you’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd (Mormons who don’t tolerate views from the other side). I get a buzz out of it. There’s so much good to be had…and the Mormonism I believe in says to follow the good wherever it goes.

    So I would hope that no one does missionary work in the way you’re thinking of it. I would hope that both member and non-member alike can have a true desire for and knowledge of charity and love. If we do, then it will all turn out well enough in the end. This is the Mormonism I follow.

  56. 52. “You really think you ‘know’ what would make other people happy?”

    Isn’t that the very premise of the missionary program? That Mormons ‘know’ what others really need to be happy? Of course I don’t ‘know’ any more then you do what another person needs to be happy. Yet the church sends out missionaries by the thousands with just that pretense. Why do you not allow ex-Mormons the same pretense?

    And yes, it has been my experience that people are better able to find their own way to happiness when they free to define themselves without the framework of dogmatic religion.

  57. Isn’t that the very premise of the missionary program? That Mormons ‘know’ what others really need to be happy?

    In some people’s eyes, sure, but I look at it as trying to find every single, solitary, individual for whom the Church WILL bring unknown happiness. I don’t know if it will make any given person happy, but it’s made me happy – and since I don’t know who it will make happy, I answer anyone who is interested in asking and learning and deciding for herself.

    My problem is when someone (Mormon or not) insists on shattering someone else’s happiness by trying to force that someone to see things the same way – even if that’s just not how the person sees things. Too many members do that, but the VAST majority don’t – and it ABSOLUTELY is not the way the Church trains its missionaries to act or teach. Lots of former members don’t do that, but a lot do.

  58. Would you accept that just as there are those who have found happiness on the path to Mormonism, there are others who would find happiness on the path out of Mormonism? And, just as you want to find all of those who would be happy finding Mormonism, do you believe there are those with just as honest a heart as yours who would like to find and help those who would be happy leaving Mormonism?

    My bet is that most in the church don’t see it that way. Why? Because Mormonism is a religion, not a philosophy. Religions need believers. Philosophies don’t. Those who leave must be vilified by the organization. Their motives cannot be tolerated as honest and sincere. They must sit down and shut up.

  59. “You probably meant this, Jeff, but I’d hasten to point out that it’s not about respecting “another’s beliefs.” Rather, it’s about respecting others.” Well said, Nick. I couldn’t agree more.

  60. Would you accept that there are others who would find happiness on the path out of Mormonism?

    Of course. I’ve said that in multiple posts and comments here.

    Do you believe there are those with just as honest a heart as yours who would like to find and help those who would be happy leaving Mormonism?

    Of course.

    Those who leave must be vilified by the organization. Their motives cannot be tolerated as honest and sincere. They must sit down and shut up.

    Hogwash. Many members feel that way about those who leave and vociferously call them mindless sheep and duped dunderheads and simplistic fools – but you react the exact same way to members saying those things about you. Right?

    Fact is, most “respectful” former Mormons don’t catch a lot of ire from most practicing Mormons, just as most “respectful” Mormons don’t catch a lot of ire from most former Mormons. It’s the rude, in-your-face, name calling ones on each side who get the attention.

  61. No matter your perspective, I can guarantee that you will encounter beliefs which you do not respect, and nothing says you need to do so. Rather, we need to respect the person who happens to hold that respect, and treat the person with courtesy and kindness.

    Amen, Nick. It couldn’t have been said better.

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    oh, noooooo…

    i leave for a day and the comments multiply.

    Re 49:

    DaveyMike, before I get checked for my subversiveness, I’d like to say I really liked what you had said:

    There is enough in the basic, canonical Mormon Doctrine to engage LDS and those who are investigating the church. We don’t have to resort to “fringe” doctrines to show that the LDS Church is not “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”

    I guess this is my biggest problem with the rumors and anti- arguments…very often they try to go for “fringe” doctrines or discredited doctrines…and really, that’s just really bad for their part (is that the best they can do)?

    (OK, to make this response more faith-friendly…)I think that, regardless of the position you take regarding the church, you can find if it’s worthwhile for you or not based on the plain and simple doctrines. For some, that’ll lead to them love the church and be helped by it, but for others, it’ll lead them to think there’s something amiss.

    re 52:

    Hawkgrrrl, yes, of course, I still take that kind of position and that seminary teacher didn’t really convince me otherwise — I think the point was that it just made me more conscious of the group in the church who still believes in those words (which is kinda unnerving…but I guess they also believe the words, “we had limited understanding…” and so presumably they’ve taken that into account). Kinda like how a liberal, believing mormon can still have faith, but must be conscious of more conservative interpretations.

    I just would like to think, playing advocate for the faithful side, that being so discerning about what is inspired or standard work and what is not (especially with works of those very high up in the church) can get to a slippery slope. What if the Book of Mormon just becomes a nice collection of stories? Or what if it becomes a not-so-nice collection of stories? If its inspiration or standardization or “correctness” (within bounds) is questioned, that’s a cornerstone of the religion….

    Re 54: Arthur,

    Every time I think the things that make me happy would make others happy, I find out how wrong I am.

    Amen.

  63. “Jeff, shouldn’t I be just as entitled to expect that those who support LDS-ism “are entitled to express it,” but “it depends on whether [they] can be unbiased” in their assessments of it? An expectation like yours can’t reasonably be one-sided.

    Nick, you’re right it goes both ways.

  64. #11-“Those who don’t have faith and remain for family, friends, and reason of tradition have no right to do or say anything beyond showing up at the pew. The minute they seek to change or pontificate about the LDS Church, they should leave. Otherwise, they are nothing more than spiritual obstructionists, insurgents, and living a lie.”

    I no longer believe in the only true and living church idea, but I continue to go to church because my wife and I want to go to a Christian church and all our friends are there. I hold no calling, do no home teaching. I’m not living a lie. I go there because I want to. For the most part, I no longer comment in the GD class I taught for 4 years because I don’t want to ruin things for others.

    Priesthood is very hard to attend. In HP it is a very intimate setting (about 15). As to not having a “right to do or say anything” even though I choose to remain quiet, the gospel obviously is more inclusive than that.

    Mormon Matters is a good place to discuss ideas, believing or not. I thank those who keep it going.

  65. Pingback: A reminder to be positive and upbeat, especially with members | Main Street Plaza

  66. “Mormon Matters original charter was to serve as a place of open discussion between people who “love Mormonism”.”

    True, but originally “Mormonism” was defined very broadly. It seems MM transmogrified into just another faithful Bloggernacle blog after Dehlin took his ball and went home. I was actually featured on one of the Mormon Matters podcasts in the early days of this blog. Not something likely to happen now. Whatever happened to that John Hamer dude? He was cool. I dig that cat.

    Peace.

  67. Please pardon my input so late in the discussion. I had sworn this site off after my last post. Tonight I took a peek out of some morbid curiosity. Imagine my surprise in seeing the subject line with one of my more emotional rants directed in reality at Ray and Bruce. They make me want to take up drinking as I’m conflicted between liking both of them and at the same time repressing an urge to strangle them!

    From Andrew in post #36
    “After all, Doug’s prophecy has not come true for this thread, and I indeed have not been run out on a rail.”
    Just to set the record straight, I didn’t say “Thus Saith the Lord” so this wouldn’t be considered prophecy… and not the first time I’ve been wrong… 🙂

    I’ve enjoyed reading this thread and must admit my surprise in discovering how many of you “faithful doubters” are out there. As others have so well expressed, Mormonism is a “culture” that I’ve been part of for almost 50 years. My family is still deeply committed to it and therefore not something I can or should “just leave alone”. Three of my seven sons have served missions and one is presently out. I don’t doubt that the rest will serve as well. So how do a heretic’s sons still find a way to believe and serve? (I think their mother may as something to do with it…) I present these facts to show that I’m far better at not pushing my beliefs on others than I’m given credit for here.

    Unfortunately there are many in the church that see people like me as a threat and secretly pray for a Stake President to get inspired enough to hold a disciplinary council. It could still be in my future… Now that type of affirmative action might have an effect on my wife and children!

    I wish it were as easy as some posters make it sound to just walk away. I’ve got to believe that many are in my same boat. They discover, after some research, that Mormonism requires way too many “explanations” to make all the historical stuff work. Once your world view changes, you’re faced with the challenge of still fitting in with people who desperately want to believe and will perform amazing feats of mental gymnastics to remain. It’s a tough row to hoe and not for the weak of heart. My compliments too many of you who seemed to have found the happy medium.

    Andrew S. Thanks for the thoughtful post and your very well written responses… I would have sworn you were a believer…. 🙂

  68. They make me want to take up drinking as I’m conflicted between liking both of them and at the same time repressing an urge to strangle them!

    The first wouldn’t be a sin necessarily, if you no longer believe – but the second probably is no matter your current perspective, Doug. 🙂

    Fwiw, I miss your comments here. I don’t agree with you very often, but I miss your participation. Usually, it’s just the fact that we each have reached different foundational conclusions and have no desire to alter them significantly enough to agree on the core basics, but this site is poorer when your view isn’t expressed here.

    I mean that sincerely, Doug. You might be vinegar to my water, but a salad just isn’t the same with only vinegar or only water.

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    haha, I bring people back who pledge never to come back. I have done my good turn this day

    I think I said it once before…you don’t leave MM…you just have a period of time (that may end with your death) where you temporarily forget the URL

    Re 70:

    Thanks for the comments, Doug. Fortunately, my family is way cooler about things (but then again, I’m not the husband/father…I’m just the wayward son who appears to not be going so wayward except for that ideology thing). I think the goal is that, wherever you are, believer or not…do people see you as a good person? And I mean, there is a lot of fluff too with this. If someone thinks you aren’t a good person because you don’t have faith to move mountains, I don’t think the person is looking at the right thing (but on the converse, if someone who disagrees with the church thinks you can’t be a good person because you still put up with it, then they also aren’t looking at things well enough.) Regardless of position, you can know what’s compassionate and what’s decent behavior.

    That should transfer to your sons, so it shouldn’t be so problematic if they know to look for that instead of oft-repeated seminary answers.

  70. Ray # 71

    Thanks Ray, for the first time in awhile, we are in complete agreement!

    Andrew, I’m really starting to like you man…:)

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  72. I realize that I’m late to this dialogue, dating back to 2009. As a newbee to this forum, I am walking in shoes that some of you left at the door; found ’em on my way in. First, author Andrew S is a totally cool and candid dude; and is welcome at my e-table anytime. I agree with him on much. Second, I’m active M, attending every week except for periodic visits to other faith congregations to make my tent larger. In my former orthodoxy, I felt need to defend every crumb; no longer. Now I put every found truth into my organic M-ism.

    I’m glad that Andrew S, and others like him, are walking earth to defend or clarify any misrepresented organization including ones that I’m member in. On occasion, I’ve spoken up inside Mormon circles to correct or clarify views of faiths that I’m not member to (i.e., Catholic, Baptist, Humanist,..) and plan to continue to raise the clarifying bar for all. Further, when I hear bad-speak about a group that I cannot defend, I give benefit of doubt to members of that group until I get trusted info from its own members.

    In brief, thanks Andrew S. Continue as you are.

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