For more than a decade, Chelsea Shields Strayer and her parents, Eric and Heidi Shields, have held very difficult but ultimately fruitful conversations regarding her struggles within Mormonism, which eventually led her to no longer believe its teachings or choose to continue to engage as an active member. Their journey together during this time has been painful, but their relationship has ultimately grown stronger and continues to unfold in rich ways. How have they managed this feat? What has this journey felt like to each of them? What mistakes have they have made along the way? What are the key moments, insights, or shifts in perspective that have allowed them to draw closer and stay committed to remaining continually open with each other?
This two-part episode features a wonderful, open-hearted dialogue between Chelsea, Eric, and Heidi, held live on May 8, 2015 in the home of Mark and Elizabeth England in Salt Lake City, Utah, and facilitated by Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon. The evening event was the May meeting of the group “Faith Again,” which meets monthly and features speakers and panel discussions of Mormon and other faith-related topics.
Thank you to Jay Griffith, always a tireless force in Faith Again, for his incredible organizing and many contributions to this event. Thank you also to the amazing Sarah Collett for being our sound and recording engineer for the evening.
After listening to this conversation, please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!
Our daughters “left” the church when they were still early teens. Every situation is different. Although the hurt and fear are any parent’s initial reaction, ultimately the place of peace for us is to trust that God will do a work with our children. Then it can be our privilege to love them and be tutored by life and all of the rich, awful, surprising lessons it has to teach us.
Wow. This may be the most tangibly useful episode of a Mormon-related podcast I have ever heard. The vulnerability present in this conversation is incredible. I think this is so useful to listen to.
Brother Shields was my Institute teacher in California during a very special time of my life, as my own worldview was beginning to change from the more conservative to the more open/flexible understanding of things. I have always admired him as a teacher and as a person who seems to really try to live how he believes. As a teenager when I was in seminary and he was in charge of my stake’s seminary program I asked him a question about the scriptures that I didn’t understand, and weeks later, even though I thought he must not remember who I was, he followed up with a researched answer that I think he emailed me.
These guests demonstrated so honestly that seeming absolutes do. sometimes, come head to head, and it can be very difficult to find a common solution when that happens. In the prodigal son scenario, the parents sit passively, hoping that the wayward child comes back. It seems in this family’s case, both the parents and the child are making great progress toward understanding on their own, and maybe the reunion that culminates in the story is more about both sides learning what can be compromised (as scary as it seems, everything) in order to reach a deeper relationship — both sides repenting and coming back to each other, not just the child.
I was so moved by this. Thank you Dan, for posting it. Listening to each other goes so far.
Thanks, Derrick, for your sweet words. I hear you’re a fun English teacher. I bet your students love you, too. Come see us in Lindon sometime.
Also, I would love to drive up from Provo whenever these types of events are happening! Jealous of those who saw this in person. #FOMO. 🙂
Wow. What an amazing dialogue all around. I appreciated Chelsea’s parents being willing to come of the podcast. Beautiful family.
Wow has to be my first comment also. Thank you Dan for an awesome couple of hours. And thank you Chelsea, Heidi and Eric so much! The value of this conversation cannot be overstated. Love and understanding just have to be the over-arching spirit of these faith conversations. And so often we forget that, not just because of our own pride and need to be heard but too often because of attitudes that were taught to us over a pulpit. Thank you so much!
First, to the participants, I deeply appreciate the candidness of the conversation and being so very open and vulnerable. Also, thanks to those in the production. So many aspects to cover, absorb, and come to some sort of understanding. May I make one point that kept ringing throughout my thoughts and was rooted in a difficult conversation I had some time ago with my now current Bishop. “Our Children” and “Inheritance” are the base thoughts in my past conversation. I sense that all too often, as Latter-Day Saints, we are too emotionally and spiritually possessive of the children that we bring into this life and look so much forward to a temple marriage and receiving the blessings of our little family. In this conversation, I inferred that the children of our family are not really just ours, but more deeply that of another family or parents eternally. Wow, you would have thought I was the most awful person with the look that he gave me. In essence, his words indicated that “not true and such children are ours and given to us from heaven and sealed to us in the temple.” I am not sure he addressed cognitively at that moment the eternal nature of spirits. This brings for me the potential cultural conflict of temple sealings with our earthly children vs. a set of heavenly parents of the spirit of that child that are distinct and “for me” much more invested than I am here on the earth. So when we have lost a child from the LDS way or path (which by the way I have), is it really over, final, finished??? If such a child were really my possession and the strictness of the temple sealing is all that governs, then I suppose so. Nonetheless for me, its not the end or the final outcome, regardless of our cultural or mortal perspective of such temple blessings. Our children have greater being(s) than ourselves in determining what happens in the eternities.
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Thanks to all who made this podcast possible. Thanks Dan for posting. As the primary curator and organizer of Faith Again, I have had the blessing of traveling with some of these good people who come to our group for several years now. During this last gathering I heard several of them express that they have left the church or will be leaving it. Or that their spouse has left it. I know in my conversations with them and others moving in that direction that the suffering and discomfort in staying actively engaged is real and my heart goes out to them. Know that you are loved and respected. It does make me sad though, to lose from our congregations, such bright, thoughtful, loving people as yourselves. While I too struggle with what I believe Christ wants his church to become and what it is now, I feel called and committed to stay with it and hopefully be a part of it’s continued restoration. I hope more of you will stay and I hope those who are leaving will be healed and find a way to come back eventually. The church needs your perspectives, experiences, love, and talents.
The gospel of Christ and the LDS church has blessed my life in more ways than I can recount. Even the blessings of knowing the good people that travel this rocky faith journey with me are a result of my faith, membership, and deep exploration of the Mormon church and existential questions in general. In my local congregation I am served by my ward family and am grateful to serve them. I have long time friends due to the home teaching program of the church. I have walked the last several years with people who found the church, got baptized and saw their lives become dramatically better for it. For all it’s faults, I feel the church still does much more good than harm. And that it is changing for the better and will continue to do so as we each take responsibility to make it so.
A reoccurring theme in this podcast and in our group in general is this feeling of being lied to by the church. Jacob Hess, one of our group members and a past dialogue leader for our Think Again group wrote a thoughtful essay on the subject.
You can find that here:
There are also a couple of essays in this same vein written by Bob Rees, professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. You can find those on the Faith Again site here:
They are the last two under “stuff to study” near the bottom of that section:
“Forgiving the Church” and the “Goodness of the Church.”
May we all be the prayer we pray.
I was so happy to see the name ‘Jay Griffith’ as I was reading the write up. You may not remember me, but I remember you and your lovely family. I lived in a condo in your ward while my husband and I finished grad school. My husband, Spencer, worked with your youngest son. We have such good memories of that neighborhood and ward. Glad to see your still doing so much good.
I’m sorry but I have to rain on the parade. Please indulge me. It was incredibly sad to listen to this because it illustrated one of the insidious things about religion. Eric and Heidi will always have an “I love you but…” relationship with their children as long as they don’t toe the Mormon line. Religion allows good people to do bad things. Conditional love for our children is a bad thing.
The excellent relationship that my wife had with my grandmother literally changed overnight once it came out that my wife was not attending church. She immediately became the “selfish spawn of Satan” and I was encouraged to find another woman to spend the rest of my life with, 21 happy years notwithstanding. Religion allowed an otherwise good 90-something-year-old woman to be cruel. That is never OK. Even in the name of God.
Religion is the only thing that tears families apart in this way. The golden rule would say that parents should honor the path their children are on in the same way the children respect the path of the parents, agree with them or not. Too bad dogma gets in the way of something as fundamental as the golden rule.
I agree with Bill. And it is always sad to those who leave, that their parents always label them as “prodigal” sons and daughters, while the parent is labeled as loving and wise for letting the child go. The parent has a positive label and the child gets the negative label. I hate the parable of the prodigal son, because it always seems to imply that all children who leave and make their own choices do so foolishly and eventually fall on their faces! Many who leave do so as a spiritual need to have integrity within their own hearts-not just to goof off and make mistakes that force them to go crawling back to their wiser parents in the end. It would be nice if one side didn’t always have to be labeled with lesser terms and without true legitimate respect. Why does one have to be labeled wrong or prodigal at all? This is especially problematic and demeaning when people who leave have hearts and souls who have always been desirous to do the right thing, and they daily wrestle within if the “right” thing feels so different to them than to the people around them who they love and want more than anything to please. So then the nauseating conflict begins with trying to make the agonizing choices of whether to go with what you have studied out in your own heart and mind or to bury that and try endlessly to placate your loved ones. And burying those things often times can lead to disastrous outcomes for some. I just wish that when people are trying so hard to do good and to be good that they didn’t have to still be stuck with undeserved labels simply because their definition of good isn’t identical to the status quo of their family. Living a life of integrity and authenticity shouldn’t have to hurt so much….
I have been listening to all the podcasts for years and I have never heard anything like this……not like this. This podcast gets it right in the only way you can get it right. Heidi and Eric are actual full on true believing mormons. Chelsea is a full on unapologetic non believer. We got to hear the real and honest opinions of real tbm parents instead of listening to liberal mormons talking to each other. They were not talking about the problem but instead talking right freaking through it. Amazing. I hope Heidi and Eric are able to appreciate the value they bring to this issue. The fact is, from a tbm parents perspective, its not ok that their child has left the church and its never going to be ok….. so now what? That is the only honest place for this conversation to begin.
My parents are like Chelsea’s parents. They are wonderful people. They love me. They also love the Church. It is their whole life and then some. They love the church so much that I remember 7 years ago being taken to lunch and them saying to me, “Seasick, do what you want with your life but you are a bad parent if you don’t raise your kids in the church”. It did not matter that my kids were amazing or that my wife was awesome and we were happy and healthy. Literal belief leaves my parents with no other option but to KNOW that I am responsible for allowing my kids to leave the church, to not progress in priesthood ordination, to not get married in the temple and to otherwise jack up what was before the perfect forever family situation for them (I have four super tbm sisters where everybody is totally in etc). I don’t believe my parents celebrate or take the time to appreciate the actual lives of me and the kids. Instead, it’s all about what we are not doing. Do I really need another GA talk sent to me in the mail because it just might be the one that does the trick? Do my kids really need letters sent to them reminding them of their baptismal covenants or telling them to get to church? Does my wife really need my sister in law emailing her every week what was gone over in seminary because she knows my kids don’t go? Why can’t what I am or what my kids are be enough? Not only are my kids each uniquely accomplished in their own young lives but they are kind and genuine and compassionate……and yet to my parents, as they are,they are not enough.
My parents of course tell me that they love me. On the phone they will say stuff like, “we just love you”. Nice. My question is, how high are we setting the bar for love in this case? The bar is way to low and parents and children are each being given a life sentence of disappointment.
Dan, if you remember me, then you will remember just how crazy you make me. I get so pissed at your attitude about all this stuff……and yet I love you for this podcast. I also want to get go of the anger, which you have done….which also pisses me off. It has been over 8 years for me at this point and I can’t let go of the anger.
I’m to the point where I just want my relationships to be better. I don’t want the church to matter anymore. I just want people and their quality to matter independent of the church. Sadly, I don’t have any reason to believe that my parents will not go to their grave disappointed. Worse, they never got to know the real me.
I hope we hear more from Heidi and Eric. I appreciate them precisely because they are not liberal mormons. We need good people like them to help us unlock this problem and find a better path. I don’t think they realize what a great work they could accomplish in this area or how big the pile is of disappointed parents who are just like them.
I do not know you or understand your situation. What I have learned is that “people are not efficient” and will not likely ever be. May you find the peace you seek.
Thank you for your kind wishes. I can’t disagree with you saying “people are not efficient”. I don’t even know fully what that means but it makes sense. I know I’m not efficient or at least as efficient as I would like to be. Having said that, my parents are pretty darn efficient at being Mormon. They begin every morning and end every day on their knees. They serve a part time mission at the MTC, constantly work on family history, do temple work, pretty much read only church material every day, listen to conference talks in their car and on and on.
It seems like a big part of this problem is precisely because they are efficient at being Mormon. They pray about me and my family at least twice a day that we will come back etc. They are always putting our names on the temple prayer roll. Since they pretty much only talk about church topics, when conversations come up with my siblings about us, it is always within the context of our apostasy etc.
I have three kids, my oldest is going to college to play golf, straight A student, does service etc, my middle is a national merit scholar as a sophmore in HS, plays two sports and will probably wind up going to MIT or Georgia Tech engineering school. He is so kind and compassionate. My youngest is a dancer of national prominence. She is in NJHS, top of her class and wakes up every day with a smile on her face. My wife just got her masters in education as a working mom and is now the school teacher all the kids want. She always goes the extra mile. She is smart and beautiful and a full on ass kicker. Frankly, I am the runt of the bunch. We don’t drink (ok, I do occasionally but my parents don’t know this), we don’t smoke, we don’t drink coffee. We do community service and we all love each other and enjoy hanging out. Now, my falling away has been hard between my wife and I but we have managed to cooperate with each other and we are in a way better place than ever before.
As their only son, I did it all right. Deacons, Teacher and Priest president, seminary president, mission AP, BYU, temple married, active, callings…you know the drill. I believed, I was active and I gave it all I had.
But now non of that seems to be good enough now that I don’t believe and don’t go. Non of that seems to count for much and I continue to be defined in their eyes by what I am not instead of what and who I am. At least it feels that way. I will be the first to admit that I am likely projecting my own insecurities about this situation on them in some ways.
I don’t expect them to change. I don’t want them to lose their testimony. I know how happy the church makes them. It’s great for them and I have made peace with that. Why can’t they make peace with my life and my choices.
For me, I feel like I now am able to put people first and the church second (or in my case last). For them, it feels at least like the church is first….a really solid first and people are second.
forgive my bitching. I’m just trying to keep it real. Corvey, I don’t even care about being right anymore. I just want to be understood and appreciated for who I am, fully.
It almost seems like it is doctrinally impossible for TBM parents to fully and unconditionally embrace and appreciate children who don’t believe anymore. Do you think it is impossible? If it is possible, how? Thank you for listening.
Wow, thanks for sharing. I think you do tend to be more efficient than most people, maybe better than 90% of most that I have come across. What a great family you have. Good people, doing quality activities. Hmm, even when distancing from religious dogma. Who would have thunk? As to TBMs and their personality type, their efficiency can become greatly imbalanced (I think out of fear) as you have experienced (i.e. great at the long vision of dogma and related tasks, but weak in relating and living in the present). Anyhow, I don’t think it is impossible for TBM parent to change, but it is rare. I was raised as a TBM with TBM parents (not quite the resume you listed, but not bad either). When my brother expressed his desire to partner with another male, things got interesting for my parents. Also, when my other brother’s mental illness lead to a divorce (civil and temple) things became more difficult for them, particularly when their grand kids were no longer were in their lives. They had to change to cope with the anxiety and difficulties and are now less dogmatic. I presume others run even harder into the dogma to find hope and relief. Anyhow, none of this likely helps you nor provides answers to the difficult questions. So keep bitching and being real and keep seeking. I have a feeling (haha) that you are actually doing quite well (i.e. self-reflection). I think you are better than 90% efficient, so the less than 10% is seemingly problematic.
I’ve read you a bit over on Mormon Stories. Thanks for your comment.
During the evening this was recorded, as I listened to Eric and Heidi I winced a number of times. Partly because I heard my own past responses to my kids as well as partly wincing for how it must sound to Chelsea.
As I mention in the podcast, my children have all left the church and all but one have had their names removed. They don’t have the same pedigree your kids have. My boys and their wives eschew most mainstream ideas. They are hardcore atheists, and while they tested highly in school, they found it’s rigidity too confining and have resolutely avoided college up to this point. They read and listen to podcasts a lot. They are anarcho-capitalists. My one daughter-in-law is a pole dancer. I enjoy them immensely.
My point is that while I had different expectations of them once upon a time, and still have hopes for them to come to feel and know the all inclusive radically loving super-intelligent heavenly parents that I feel I’ve come to know and have had some experience with, I love them as they are right now. And respect their choices. I can see why they believe what they do because I’ve taken the time to entertain their ideas and understand the reasoning and even emotion at times that led them there. My being too hard core Mormon–in the way that you can probably imagine–likely helped them get to where they are now. But as I said in the podcast, I’m grateful for what they taught me and how they’ve helped change me into a much better kind of hard core Mormon. I prefer to use the label disciple of Christ since that’s my aim and he’s my hero/savior/genius god come down in love. I still believe in the revelatory power of the scriptures including the BoM and BoA. I still believe in the prophetic calling of JS and succeeding prophets. Still believe in the efficacy of ordinances. But all these beliefs are much more nuanced and often less literal. And due to learning the hard way of my own misguided attempts at applying revelation etc. I have empathy and compassion for others, including our church leaders who have screwed up thinking they were doing God’s will. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of Bishoprics and all I’ve ever experienced is fallible men doing their level best to love their fellow man the best they know how. These are the same men that eventually become GA’s. (Now if we could have women on that track!)
For me, as I stated in the podcast: Whatever the question, love is the answer. The pure love of Christ. Paul defines it in Corinthians 13. Mormon in Moroni 7. Alma in Mosiah 18. JS in D&C 121. These have become the touchstones for my theology, religion, life. This ideology can encompass Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, any form of Christian. It’s what matters most to me. Everything else are appendages. (And some of those appendages may need either some serious reconstructive surgery if not amputation.
Those rare times I’ve been able to pull this charity gig off–even clumsily–well, I’ve seen miracles.
I have great hope for the church that as we reframe our teachings, let go of false doctrine or at least doctrine taught falsely, that we can become a better vehicle to–as my wife so eloquently related later in the podcast–to love our children. PERIOD.
I hope you will feel that kind of love/acceptance from your parents some day. In the meantime, if you want the experience to come quicker, offer the kind of love you hope for from them, to them. It may accelerate the process with time and patience. You likely are already in the midst of doing that. I wish you well. No, I wish you full throttle love.
This was one of the best podcasts I’ve heard. Chelsea did a great job articulating many of the things I feel. I’m still active in the church but constantly question whether it’s where I should be. I’m married with three children, so that’s definitely the biggest factor.
I completely understand seasickyetstilldocked’s comments about being defined by what one isn’t. I just told my wife that in a late-night conversation yesterday.
I recently had a pretty traumatic conversation with my Elder’s quorum president (we’re home teaching companions). He told me that it’s going to be bad for the kids to live in a house with parents with “different values”. I disagree that my wife and I have different values, but we definitely have a very different worldview. I think one thing that people with there “mormon lenses” can’t comprehend is that for many of us who have experienced a radical change or loss of belief don’t experience it as a choice, but as something that happens to us. If I know that the dominoes would have put me through the trauma I’ve experienced, I would definitely have been more careful in my inquiries. I took the church at it’s word and believed that there were satisfying answers to my various questions. But it all just seemed to fall apart in my hands.
I would love to hear a conversation of this type about parenting in a home where one is more conservative/literal and the other more liberal, agnostic, etc. I would love to hear from the children after being in a home like that.
Thank you to everyone involved in the podcast. Sometimes I feel like a need to just drop the whole “mormon thing” for a while, including podcasts. But this one was definitely worth the time.
What a fantastic comment. That is exactly how I felt, but I wasn’t able to articulate: That this wasn’t a choice- this was something that happened to me. And my world fell apart. I cant go back. Often family asks why I can’t just choose to believe again and I have difficulty explaining.
Chelsea – that is and will be the hardest part to ever explain, it’s like ALS or Parkinsons – it happens, it only moves forward. Never back.
To paraphrase Ernst Becker in his Pulitzer Prize winning book Denial of Death: Facing our own eventual death is a terror which we begin to melt into in our childhood. Oh the terror of tidal waves and earth quakes, cancers and floods. We subsist on the flesh of other plants and animals ground between our molars, to be incorporated into our own flesh, or evacuated with fetid odor. We are animals which were born to die. Our survival involved the evolution of a brain capable of consciousness. What terror this capability brings-to be able to comprehend ones own death. For better or for worse virtually every culture provides a death defying immortality myth upon which we build our method of escape. When our personal immortality myth is challenged or found by another to be lacking, we subconsciously tend to view this as a threat to our very lives. We construct fortresses around our myth despite the tide of evidence to the contrary. In this podcast these fortresses were manifest in the inability of some to acknowledge that their belief system could be wrong. My father is a Patriarch. Although I do not believe he is speaking the words of a supernatural being when he gives his blessings, I acknowledge that I could be wrong, as in the very unlikely scenario that some sort of a supernatural being could be using his vocal cords as a medium. I also refrain from reminding him that he recently predicted that a young man with cancer would survive. Things turned out otherwise. We all could be wrong. We should admit it. Given the sordid historical happenings in LDS history, I can’t imagine a just God faulting anyone for admitting they could be wrong. This is a principle of healing.
I like this, Jay, of a different mother. Such humility would go a long way to creating a more peaceful and enriching experience with our fellow large-brained bipeds.
first a bit thanks to Eric and Heidi – both for participating in this (which I assume was not the most enjoyable thing they would like to do) and for the good example of how to be parents in this situation.
I whole-heartily agree with one of the above comments on how this was probably one of the most important and useful podcasts not only for Mormon Matters, but within the realm of families where someone leaves the church.
I appreciate how any specific doctrinal issues were steered clear of. This will allow this to be shared with many TBM’s in this situations.
Also a thanks to Chelsea and Dan also. This is just great.
I had to laugh at one point that I don’t think Chelsea would expect a laugh. It was towards the end and Chelsea mentioned how she withholds information from her parents to not hurt them. I thought, “that sounds like what many church leaders would say about why ‘certain details’ were not ever discussed.”
It may be too touchy and might not work, but what about another such dialog with a few couples where one is still TBM and the other has left?
We have a real problem in this church with our gospel. We believe that this is a gospel that requires perfection, when it is instead a gospel that requires perspective. The scriptures are clear that with the proper perspective, we will be seeking eternal rewards that come from obedience, rather than the temporary worldly rewards.
I think the lesson here, for parents, is that obedience is not about rules, but about perspective. The job for parents is to instill that sense of perspective in a way that church meetings and lessons alone cannot do. The world will increasingly require it.
As an example, with the immodestly dressed friend, we could remind our children while that friend is getting attention from attractive guys, it is the kind of attention that is detrimental to fostering a healthy relationship. Note that a conversation like this both teaches the principle and avoids the trap of condemning the friend.
A minor rant: When are we going to learn the lesson clearly spelled out in Mormon 4:5. We don’t need to punish the wicked. We don’t need to do Satan’s job for him. End rant.
The world is very good at teaching us how to get worldly rewards. The church and its members need to be just as good, if not better, at teaching how to get spiritual rewards.
I’ve the heard the accusation (both above and in the podcast) that religion is bad because it teaches people to love conditionally. What’s implicit in that statement that if you just don’t have religion then everyone would naturally love each unconditionally. I’ve spent time both in and out religion and I can say that loving others unconditionally just doesn’t happen in either worldview. I’m sure we can all easily think of extreme examples that would push us beyond the point that we could say we truly love someone without a “but…” (extreme examples to make my point would include rapists, murders, etc..). The same is true for ourselves. Perhaps you’ve never really experienced having really letting yourself down but I have and I can honestly that it is truly a very difficult thing to completely and wholeheartedly love oneself unconditionally after that.
For sure there are more healthy ways of loving one another than seeing others as “less-than” because they don’t sin the same as we do (to use a familiar phrase). But in my experience this kind of approach to love transcends religion — meaning there are those that model it both in and out of religious traditions. Isn’t even Chelsey modelling how to love her family while at the same time seeing that some of the things they either do or believe are harmful to her or others (she mention YW and LGBT)? She loves them in spite of the differing world views — just as her parents are doing as well.
Personally I find that a belief in God helps me to love myself and others more unconditionally, but I also realize that this hasn’t always been the case. My understanding of God had to change in order for that to happen. So, now when I come up against some self-righteous SOB in Sunday School I do my best to look inward at what is triggering me and on those rare occasions that that it works I am able to discover something about myself that I could not have any other way, and then I’m able to be a better friend to them. In a very real way for me at least, I find that believing Christ loves me more than my parents do (at least right now) allows me to have a closer relationship with them. For me thats the very definition of atonement.
Hi, I know this doesn’t belong here, but I can’t see a way to contact you on the site. Could you add a chronological list of episodes ala Mormon Stories? It would be so helpful, and I think it would really facilitate more internet discussion of the great topics you cover. Thanks.
I really enjoyed this podcast. Thank you for your generosity! I have been Chelsea, Eric, and Heidi at different points in my faith journey. I have found my own truth in a place somewhere between all of them – I’m kind of a practicing, temple-recommend carrying but highly non-literal Mormon with a dose Judaism, Buddhism, and Hindu mixed in. I abandoned the idea of an “only true church” many years ago and traded that for an “only true path for me,” which includes Mormonism but elements other faith traditions as well. While I don’t call it “knowledge,” I have chosen to believe in God, Grace, Eternal Families, and resurrection. My faith is challenging, enriching, and fulfilling.
I increasingly hear echoes of James Fowler’s Stages Faith in these kinds of discussions in the LDS bloggernacle. I would like to suggest that Fowler’s conclusions are pseudoscience with about as much validity as Freudian theories of psychotherapy. It is my experience that there is no one true path to faith and there is no one true path to “faith transition.” Religious faith is a journey. It changes, it evolves, it is lost (sometimes for decades), but can also be rediscovered.
I have recently had a sister return to the LDS faith of her youth after being away from in for over 20 years. (Personally, I thought she was never coming back) She now has the zeal of a new convert and is literally seeing her life and the world around her with new eyes. But it just took her that long to process it. Our family “loved her, but…” and she in turn “loved us, but…” It was love and “but” does not make it conditional. “But” just makes love a little more work. Through a path which I could never hope to systemize, (so I will call it a miracle), she is a practicing Mormon again, happier with her life than she has been in a long time, and full of experience to support others who choose a non-conventional path to faith.
I choose to believe in a God that works this way and I hope others find a similar path to grace.
“‘But’ just makes love a little more work.”
I love this!!
It has been a pleasure reading all of the posts. Even though I didn’t listen to the podcast, we all have experienced, heard of loved ones that have chosen another path. I personally love the diversity of thought and feelings that each of us have. The struggles that each of us face, the challenges of belief, the struggles of our hearts in seeking peace, the challenges of life itself, of being accepted by parents, siblings, loved ones. All in the name of religion. (I am not confusing the Gospel with the Church). Religion and moralism are the enemies of each individuals journey to seeking the truth, because it becomes an issue of control. Coming from an LDS background, a small town in Southeast Idaho, Church school present and influential in the thinking of its citizens and community church leadership, friends leaving and returning to the Church; and being as zealous in returning as they were in leaving, and then leaving again. Religion can be so confusing. As Seasick stated above that he wants the relationship to matter and the relationship to be independent of the Church, our focus in my opinion needs to be on the only relationship that will matter and that is coming unto Christ. By so doing our relationships with others will change. When we find ourselves in the midst of those who are TBM’s they believe that their legalism is the only way to true peace and happiness. The Prophet Joseph was a seeker of truth from all spheres. He understood that God had revealed truths from all faiths, religions, and philosophers. When we leave this life no matter what we have done in the name of religion all of God’s children will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and will be asked a number of questions that will determine our intentions. Some of them possibly being: “Do you love me?, Have you sought me diligently?, Do you have a clear conscience?
I agree with those who feel this was a significant and hugly important conversation to be aired. I was drawn to the level of transparency that you have all found yourselves at; although I can also imagine this has been a hard 10yr. “dissertation”…with more work to come! Thank you so much for not only taking this on, but for going public. I found myself in so many of the places you all described since I have been that daughter, that parent, and that sibling.
If it is alright to add to the conversation, for a very long time I continue to find myself back in the phrase ..”all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good”. All experience serves a purpose for goodness so how can I judge anyone’s experience or path? I hope I always listen, to walk alongside…maybe just a few steps behind so I don’t get in the way….and find the excitement of what any of us are discovering. That is goodness.
Thank you again.
God is bigger than all of us and all of this. Love God and others as ourselves.
I am happy and sad for all involved. When I was growing up I wished that my parents would have been more active, gone to the temple, etc. Now at age 57, thank heavens my parents weren’t so indoctrinated! I was for the first part of my life and thank heavens finally could step back and see the “real world!” I felt sad for the mother in this podcast that worries about a daughter wearing exercise clothing and crying over a child seeing a rated R movie! Really!? Look at the mothers in third world countries that just worry about their kids getting water or food!!! I’m not mad at her but the church and culture that put such very unimportant things in the big spectrum of realities on her plate to be upset by! She also says “she just believes but doesn’t feel the need to study or read alternate points or books on Mormon history. It was just sad to me. I would also listen to ANY podcast that my child was on and do my best to support them. I hope she will feel more free to explore her daughter’s work and not be afraid.
Such a valuable podcast. I appreciated the vulnerability, the respect, and the messiness.
The comment from the woman toward the end of the podcast about telling her son, “I love you period.” Was such a powerful example. She was responded to the “I love you but…” dilemma.
This is such a common conundrum that comes up in relationship struggles. As a therapist I literally sit with families and couples and we practice saying, “I understand that you are feeling ________ AND I feel __________.” So often the and is internalized and expressed as a but which invalidates the first part that was meant to validate.
A dialectical way of being is the key here – it’s BOTH AND. Eliza R. Snow got it right. “Where mercy, love, and justice meet in Harmony Divine.”
Beautiful stuff – thanks to all involved!
Brother and Sister Shields – Thank you so much for doing this for me. I stand somewhere between the two places. But like Chelsea has said, I can’t go back to what was. I have wanted to, I have cried out to God, fasted, prayed, ignored, read scripture more, and here I am in a world view that has crumbled. I participate because I dream of a fulfillment of my envisioned faith.
I want you to know how much I appreciate your candor in this podcast, and for coming to our side of the world. We tend to forget perspectives when we don’t let others in. Forgive this, but I love your pain, your parental efforts and your faith. I really wish I still had it. I miss it. Thank you for being a leadership team as you work through this together. I still pray, and I will pray for each of you and for all of our families who have this bridge to cross.
All 4 of my children left the church. Circumstances within our home were not emotionally healthy. Their mother is mentally ill and was constantly accusing the children of every sin imaginable. She used religion and guilt to control all of us. She then threw out our eldest daughter at the age of 18 because she was dating a non-member. This young man however kept the commandments better than many of the young men in our ward. In fact my children HATE all religion. Though 2 of my daughters have had angelic visitations they have told me that they wish it never happened so they could be true atheists. I welcomed her into my home and encouraged her to return, but the gospel being crammed down her since childhood has left her embittered.
Also in our ward, a high powered attorney threw his son out to live in the streets because he was not interested in attending BYU, another threw their son out on the street because he felt he was not ready for a mission.
Personally, I believe that members that do these types of things to their own children should be excommunicated; they have no comprehension of Jesus Christ.
I have just listened to the second episode with a ton of mixed emotions.
We have 5 children and my second child stopped believing as Chelsea did. The thought of him feeling that my love was dependent upon what was believable to him, was the worst feeling imaginable. We invited him and his wife to our home to talk about it and we parted company in love, understanding and acceptance. His wife was unsure about the truth claims of the church, but had made no decision and it was torture for them; they had 5 kids, what would happen to them?
Of course, I wanted them to still believe and felt that their concerns would all have logical answers and I set out to find those answers as they posed the questions.
I am – the mother who stopped believing.
No matter how many apologetic essays I read, I still felt like Chelsea, that I had been deceived; betrayed and now I was in the same situation with my own husband that my son and his wife had been.
Our other children went into a tailspin and effectively circled the wagons leaving me – the leper outside the circle to suffer alone.
Folks; for all the philosophizing that goes on between believers and non believers, the bottom line is this – it
SHOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE!!
If I ‘cannot’ believe, what right does anyone have to expect me to ‘try’ to believe things that make no sense to me at all?
If I cannot believe, I cannot believe and expecting me to do so denies me my own humanity; my own opinions.
Two of my adult children and their families abandoned me and their member father basically because he stood by me and my right to have my own beliefs. Our family was completely fractured and I was blamed for that.
When I left the Church of England to become a Mormon, not one Mormon mentioned or gave heed to any thoughts or disappointments that my family of origin may have experienced. It is ‘wonderful’ when someone embraces the ‘true church’. However, my family of origin didn’t wring their hands in despair that I had chosen something other than the religion in which I had been raised.
It is the pure arrogance of being the ‘one true church’ that creates this ‘us and them’ divide and the ‘we love you but’ attitude.
We have no right to be disappointed with the choices others make; the ones that really do not affect us at all; we merely imagine they do.
Pure love is acceptance.
I do not believe God will “punish” anybody for leaving the church. In fact somebody that is honest enough with themselves to question if it is true or not is on a higher level than any true blue mormon that has never questioned the party line. I want to congratulate you on your personal integrity.
I have the opposite problem, I have come into a spiritual understanding that pits me against certain doctrines and even apostles. The ward seminary teacher “unfriended” me because I boldly came out against Pres. Bednar’s dangerously ignorant talk about choice, we can just choose what to do. We can just choose not to be offended. Well I asked him, what if you tell a shy person to choose to stop being shy? I continued telling him that I know people that were driven to leaving the church, mental breakdowns, depression and even suicide because of this vile ignorant teaching.
Bednar is a business man and needs to stay far away as possible from psychology. Looking at his photo, I can see he has issues with pride. (I can tell people’s personalities just by looking at their photo)
The seminary teacher had no answer except to “excommunicate” me from his mind and life. Brother seminary teacher, why don’t you choose to be “not offended”? hehehehe I’m sure he does not see the disconnect.
However on genealogy work Joseph Smith was more correct than even the church acknowledges and I can only share with the more enlightened members. I get occasional Angelic ministrations and I was told that my grandfather was in HELL. Well by the life he was living he well earned it the old fashioned way.
But here is the issue, his suffering in hell was affecting all of his descendants including me in ways that was creating far too much distress for all of us. Temple work for him was useless. I had to do energy work (I’m a healer) to free him, and by freeing him I was also freed and I clearly see and feel the difference in my life now. My cousins and their children are noticing subtle changes in their lives but have no idea what was happening.
Joseph Smith got a lot of things right, but the church is still stuck in the 1830s distorted hyper-masculine paternal culture. He made mistakes, he was commanded by Angels NOT to bring out the doctrine of polygamy and told that doing so would cause centuries of confusion and hard feelings all over the world. He disobeyed and it set into motion the events that led to his death.
I far prefer the Book of Mormon to the Bible, the Bible has so much crap that was purposely interjected into it by truly evil men that I consider it worse than useless in many instances. Joseph Smith was also terrified of the Book of Mormon and he admits to having left out a great deal because the people were not ready and he would get it worse than for his polygamy screwup.
I look at the church more like a stepping stone out of traditional distorted Christianity. It really does have a purpose and to Jean Bodie, you are in the graduation process if you have not already graduated.
Of course I will NEVER say any of this in public, but my wife also is an active member and has also “graduated”. We choose to stay, to ease the road for aspiring graduates.
I should have mentioned that of those 5 children, without any input from the leper outside the circled wagons, each of them is now an inactive member or resigned. We are now on good terms, but in those 9 years, my relationship with the children of the two abandoning kids has become ‘nothing’. I rarely see them because their parents’ fear that I would infect them, has had long lasting effects – detrimental to them and my still partly believing husband. Observing our children’s behavior has been such an eye opener to him. What love is this?
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