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  1. It’s interesting that those people who admit the difficult issues of Mormonism, but there was no question of God’s existance.  Michael Quinn once said his piller of faith was God Himself, but to me, I believed in God because someone who actually saw Him and there was the Prophet who witnessed of Him and the way you know if Joseph Smith was a prophet because of the Book of Mormon.  If the First Vision was in doubt and the Book of Mormon was not true, at least in the historical sense, then there is no evidence of His existance.  God should be out of the picture, at least He has nothing to do with the church. 

    I stay in the church so far because leaving makes my wife really sad.  It’s a great support to me to hear those people who talk about the issues. 

    1. The existence God (or lack thereof) is one of those topics that everyone who questions has to deal with on a personal level.  There’s no answer ultimately except the one we become comfortable with, the one that feels right.

      I decided there’s something out there, some higher power, but I don’t really have much attachment to knowing for sure what that being/power is.

    2. I disagree, Steadie. My belief in God has little to do with the First Vision. my belief is based on personal experiences I have had. Everything I believe about God has to do with experiences I have had.

      1. I appreciate your comment.  Yes, I know.  I don’t mean I am more right, but I have to admit that my faith is not rooted that way or has not reached that far.  I always relied on Joseph and His experiences about God.  My own experiences are also regarding His experiences.  As far as my own spiritual experiences I had in my life, I attribute them as the result of my ancestors helping me, rather than God.   

    3. The gospel, as preached by Mormon missionaries to people of non-Christian cultures, would begin with a western concept of God, and support it with the first vision.  The sad thing about this situation is that without a testimony of Joseph Smith, or the first vision, faith in God can also slip away.  My impression of the responses you have received from Brian, Kim, and what you know of Michael, is that their belief in God has not disappeared, only the very concrete Mormon depiction of Him has.  They all seem to have adopted a more ‘fuzzy’ concept of God as a being or power who shows interest in our lives.  I have approached these differences in my own way.  I see an amalgamation of Mormonism’s ‘all things were created first in the spirit’ and Shinto’s animism to be helpful.  I don’t worship the mountain or the tree as the Shinto do, but I see that they, as creations of a loving Heavenly Father, could very well be the closest link we have to Him.  (A Father who wants the best for his children during their mortal probation.)  In the end, I think we all need to find our own way of understanding God.  (My cousin for instance, pictures God as an amalgamation of Santa Claus and a grandparent…  many find comfort in knowing that God is the unity of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.)  I think in this way, many people who have doubts regarding orthodoxy in Mormonism, find a way to keep faith in a loving personal God.  I wish you nothing but the best. 

      1. How embarrassing.  I think this is my comment on podcast 63…
        I’m not sure how this got here   (I’ve never pretended to have it all together, but this is out of my usual range of mistakes…)

    4. In the end, it was also easiest for me to reject my belief in God. I think people always support their belief by personal experiences–which is okay, most of the time, though it seems like in general people will say because of X experience or because of Y experience which isn’t (to them) rationally explainable, therefore God exist.

      I’ve had plenty of experiences I haven’t been able to explain rationally. Some of them were associated with religion, and most of them were just random–things like rolling a “4” on a die once forty-nine times in a row. I think the reality is that crazy things happen. When you add God into the picture, and really think things through, I think (at least for me) things just get more confusing.

  2. Dan, Jeff,Brian, Joanna,
    Thanks so much for this fabulous podcast! I want to second Jeff’s sentiments regarding how helpful Mormon Matters and Mormon stories and StayLDS have been throughout my faith crisis. Im quite certain i would have gone down in a ball of flames without that input. Dan,you are always so self deprecating. I think the skill it takes to moderate these podcasts is often underestimated and I wanted express to you my gratitude for the intelligent and provocative way you guide these interviews. Your breadth of study adds many interesting layers to the discussions.

    I particularly appreciated Jeff’s participation in this dialog. His feelings represented so many of the issues I have been struggling with personally. Jeff’s questions and the responses about the TR, near the end, were very helpful. Looking forward to more great stuff.

  3. Looks like a good podcast. Will definitely be listening to it.
     
    Quick Background: Grew up in the church, served a mission, married in the temple…
     
    I had a personal experience many years ago which triggered my coming to the realization that I didn’t believe in the church. In the last four to five years I’ve spent this time in discovery, diving into what I (at this point in my life) believe. As a father and husband it initially threw a wrench into the marriage, but as I discussed with my wife my experiences, beliefs and feelings towards our supreme being’s role in our lives the relationship slowly but surely got better. I guess it helps that I continue to support my wife and go to church with the family 95% of the time. I just never wanted to be “that guy” who stayed home in defiance to make a point, besides I agree with many of the values, goals, and basic teachings of the church so it’s not that big of a deal to me anyways to be there.
     
    I’ve read many articles, historical accounts, journals, books ect. regarding church history. As a “non-believer” the inconsistencies don’t bother me in the least because again, I believe in many of the modern day messages of the church.
     
     I’ve never hid or had an issue telling the bishop or members of the church that I don’t believe in the discourse. To keep my integrity in check I’m always open and honest with them or anyone else in the church. If I get called to do a talk I let them know I’m happy to give one but I’ll be tailoring it to fit my belief system. Within either this website or Mormon Stories I believe I recall on a couple occasion guests talking about the danger of being open with unorthodox beliefs because it may upset the heard so to speak and have relational impacts. I guess I’m the anomaly as it really doesn’t bother me as to what the others may think or feel about me or my family. If they have a problem with me enough that they avoid me, then so be it-probably not the caliber of person I’d want to be around anyways. Beside I don’t go to church to feel like I belong to a club.
     
    I’ve listened to stories on this website as well as many other where people feel stuck or worried about leaving. It’s hard for me to relate but it’s nice for places like this website to exist to give them an outlet to people with similar beliefs and thoughts.
     
    Keep up the good work.

    1. I’ve had similar experience being fairly open with people, including with Bishops and the Stake President.  I find that irritating people quickly stop asking me questions when they know deep down they really don’t want to hear my answers.  The questions and challenges just stop.  I’m perfectly comfortable and at peace with the boogeyman that lives in their closet — doubts and controversy.

      The most important thing about my being accepted, in my experience so far, is that I show up.  That’s the main thing (I live outside the Mormon corridor though).  I am comfortable with my personal views and only tend to share them when it is positive and constructive.  I am happy about being there at Church, which honestly isn’t the case for many more-believing members.  I participate.  I help out when I can.  I try to be a good part of the community.  I try not to interfere with anyone else’s faith journey unless they ask for my insight, or seem to be upset about something I might be able to help them with.

      But all that works for me because, in the end, I like being there.  I find value in being a part of my ward and the LDS community.  A lot of my ability to belong and blend in would be tough if I didn’t like it so much.  It’s a calculation that everyone has to make.  Is the benefit greater than the cost?  For me it is, on my own terms.

  4. Very insightful discussion. I always enjoy Brian Johnston’s contributions. It is surprising to me given that I have had my name removed from the records of the church and I arranged with my wife that the kids only go to church every other week. If I went through different circumstances I might be in a very different situation today, but I imagine I would have a similar view on things. Kinda wish I had gone through Brain’s military faith crisis first. 🙁

    For example, if I had known about these online support groups for those in a Mormon faith crisis I probably would still be at least partially active. Or if my wife felt the same way I do about church then the kids would probably just keep going to church every Sunday. I really believe that people genuinely make the best decision for themselves that they can given the circumstances. Because of this, I really appreciate the panel making sure to present their understanding of people who decide to leave or stay either way.

    I really loved how the freshness of Jeff’s perspective kept the discussion on issues that are very relevant to those who are struggling. I especially loved the Walt Whitman poem referenced in the discussion. I really like defining integrity as the correlation between what we value and how we act. This makes it easy to understand why one person’s integrity compels them to make a very different decision than someone else. Integrity could convince someone to stay in the church, or it could compel them to leave.

    As a return missionary and a male, I didn’t struggle with the fact that I was coerced to go on a mission under what I now feel are false pretenses. I don’t have a problem with the things I was compelled to do as a faithful member. Mostly I am frustrated by how completely I trusted that they hierarchy was presenting the complete picture when I found out later that they were only presenting the side of the defense as mentioned in the podcast. This is the betrayal of trust that is so painful. It made me feel duped. It made me feel dumb. It made me feel naive. It made me want to go to church and announce all the amazing and revealing things that I was learning.

    Besides the particulars of Mormonism, I agree with Joanna Brooks that there is nothing really different about a Mormon faith crises. However, I think it would be fair to lump it with the crises in other very high-tension belief systems that are highly authoritative and insular. I’m thinking of lumping together Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Scientologists, Moonies, etc. The difference is mostly a matter of the severity of the crisis.

    This is why I insist that my children only go to church every other week. I believe this approach will immunize them against the crisis. Not that I can “protect” my children from going through an important developmental stage, but I feel like I can keep them from enduring through such a severe crisis. The will grow up more in touch with the uncertainty and nuance that’s out there that you don’t get when you have two very loyal (I’m trying not to use the phrase TBM) members as parents.

    Thanks again for great podcast!

  5. Loved the discussion, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! It seems that this becomes an issue for me every 6 months or so, and I hit that point of the cycle again the past two weeks or so. I recently re-obtained my temple recommend, and felt good about it at the time.

    And then, this past Sunday, some of the content of the SM talks made me begin to second-guess myself. After SM, I was inches away from surrendering my recommend, but my wife stopped me and told me to sit on it for a few days.

    During the interview process, I applied some of the logic to the questions that Brian discussed, at least with respect to questions about the Brethren and Thomas Monson’s priesthood keychain.

    The Godhead and Atonement questions I’m pretty cool with…..it’s the Restoration one that really gets me. I felt like I could answer “yes” as I think that Joseph really did teach some wonderful truths that I hope are true and that I hope and would very much like to believe came from heaven.

    The problem is that the “Restoration” seems to me to have been imbued with very specific meanings, especially in our era of hyper-correlation. It seems to mean much more than simply, “Joseph was inspired some of the time,” and I feel the weight of that expectation.

    I think this will always be something I struggle with. I’d love to hear how other people deal with problematic questions in the TR.

    1. The specific temple recommend question asks if you have a testimony of the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days.

      I think most of us believed up to a point in our past that this meant everything about the Church is  completely correct all the time and has been the only fully true truth out there since 1830.  That’s the gist of what causes a lot of people heartburn after they move past their previous unrealistically simplistic view of the world (a nicer way of saying they don’t buy this anymore, hehe).

      I can think of a few ways to break this down from my own perspective if I was still in the habit of getting a temple recommend:
      1.  I accept that Joseph Smith (and the subsequent Brighamite branch leaders) created a restorationist-style religious narrative (a “Gospel”) in recent history (these latter days).  That’s pretty clear from the historical record.  I happen to enjoy many elements of this narrative, and have benefited from using these concepts in my religious life.  But I also don’t think there’s a requirement to accept everything that has ever been said, or that I have to use it all in my own journey.  Let’s face it, there’s so much contradictory stuff in our narrative, you can’t possibly accept everything said by anyone with a fancy organizational title since 1829 as factually correct simultaneously…

      2.  I personally define “The Gospel” as all truth, wherever I can be find it.  I want to include in that all things I find lovely and virtuous, inspiring and useful.  I am also free to reject anything that I don’t find to be correct or useful.  I’m doing the best I can.  That has to be good enough.I personally think we are in an era of human history that is experiencing an explosion of knowledge, and also an explosion of understanding our own past history better and better.  So in broad societal terms, I think the whole world is experiencing a “restoration” and also a rapid advancement of knowledge and wisdom.  I am experiencing this too as an individual.  I have a testimony of that 🙂

      So with those two ways of looking at this question, I could answer “yes.”  I have a testimony of the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days.

  6. If a woman asks her husband if he is cheating and he decides to nuance the meaning of the question because he knows his heart is in the relationship for the long run, is he exhibiting integrity?  Is he honoring her and her expectations?  Perhaps he thinks he just has a physical urge that must be satisfied. Perhaps he’s found a stage 4 way of viewing monogamy, but he excludes his wife from the difficult feelings she may experience.  Is that really integrity? I think a discussion about how integrity views and treats other people was missing in the discussion.  The focus seemed to be on internal integrity more that external.

    In listening to how Dan chooses to answer the TR questions, I really have to ask, are you honoring your Bishop?  Would he feel respected by your choices?  Are you being honest in all of your dealings?  Is courage on display in your life when you choose to obfuscate? Do you nuance your answers for your benefit or for the benefit of the LDS church?

    Your justifications sound a bit like someone who chooses to shoplift. “I’m sure Walmart is cheating someone else somewhere. I don’t like their policies. I deserve it and I’m not going to let them stand in the way of what I deserve.”  If you know you’re right with Heavenly Father, why do you care if you’re allowed into the Temple or not?  If your heart really is right, why hide it? Do hearts of integrity hide themselves under a bushel?

    Dan says he’s being the grownup. I don’t think so. Grownups recognize they have freedom and the ability to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions. They accept consequences and they deal with people in a way that respects and honors them. Dan is grownup enough to recognize there is trouble outside but not grownup enough to go outside and face it.

    It’s interesting to hear Dan (and Joanna) start to disassociate Mormonism and the LDS church from one another. But I don’t think you’ve firmly convinced yourself of it. You’re still keeping the security blanket of their priesthood and their worship locations close by and you’re willing to convince yourself that your answers are exhibiting integrity to do so.

    I don’t think you’d be willing to enter into a business relationship with someone who you knew was nuancing their conversations with you the way you nuance the TR questions.

    1. Wow! Great comment. Dan (or someone) really needs to respond to this one. It really use to bother me hearing how uncorrelated members responded in loose ways to get temple recommends. I guess if you don’t see the institutional church as the same thing as the living church, it doesn’t matter if you are a little savvy in negotiating its boundaries. The institution is not a person. Do we need to give it the same respect we do a person?

      These are really tough questions that I think really bother uncorrelated Mormons. It’s a genuine struggle and probably the reason behind things like staylds.com, Mormon Matters, etc. I’m just glad people are able to do it if it works for them. They get beat up from both sides: TBMs and ex-Mos.

    2. “If a woman asks her husband if he is cheating and he decides to nuance the meaning of the question because he knows his heart is in the relationship for the long run, is he exhibiting integrity?”

      I think this person might be acting out of integrity, but they are not being honest.  They might be acting consistently with their values if they lied to their wife.  They just happen to value their relationship more than honesty.  Taken to a more broad extreme: I think an evil person who acts evil is exhibiting the characteristic of integrity.

      I tried to bring up some of this in the conversation — the use of words and language.  We didn’t end up spending much time on it though.  I wanted to separate Integrity, Honesty and Authenticity.

      I think your criticism is valid, and a common one.  It is the way a lot of people see it.  I don’t think it’s the only way, but it is probably the most common.  Specifically in the temple recommend process, many people place a high value on answering the questions from the perspective of what they think the other person (the Bishop or SP) believes.

      I think the best counter argument to that, if this is a good one, is that the BP or SP is acting as a proxy or agent for God.  They are asking the question, but you are answering God (whatever you think God is).  It really doesn’t matter what the human being on the other side of the desk believes is the correct way to make meaning out of the questions.  You could even argue that you can’t know what they expect unless you first had a whole long philosophical discussion before you answer, and agree on all the definitions.

      But the Church explicitly forbids that.  The interviewer is supposed to stick to the exact wording of the question, and the answer should be a simple yes or no.  That is the Church’s own rule.  I think one could argue they want to keep it ambiguous on purpose.  That is how the process is designed and implemented by the people who own the temple buildings.

      1. Love it, Brian. Love especially the “proxy for God” and our answering to God insight! Wow! So simple but really cuts through a huge knot! Thank you!

        1. I’m pretty sure that exclusive priesthood means that LDS inc. believes the Bishop is a proxy for God as well.  By acting as an exclusive proxy they want you to act toward them with the same trust you put in God.

          If you don’t believe they have earned or deserve that trust, are you being upfront with them about that by making them think you’re playing along with their game?

          1. I can’t speak for Dan (and I think my beliefs are more orthodox than his), but I take it seriously when I consider the bishop acting as proxy for God in those interviews.  It’s not a game to me at all.  It’s quite serious.  

            Still, in my experience, we’re both really aware of each others’ humanity.  My last bishop even told me explicitly, “This job is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.  We’re all just doing the best we can.”See my comment below about the interviewee’s conscience being fundamentally important.  This isn’t an attempt to reframe the context of the interviews in some touchy-feely way.  I have heard this explicitly taught.  I think you’re missing some of the picture here, Tim.

            Here’s a quote from the church’s temple prep manual, not exactly known for being particularly postmodern, on the subject:

            If a person’s conscience, which is the Light of Christ given to all people, raises a question in the person’s mind about whether something should be discussed with the bishop or branch president, it should probably be discussed.

            The flipside, of course, is that if our conscience doesn’t raise a question, it probably doesn’t need to be discussed.  The interviewee’s conscience is paramount.  Like I say, it’s understood as part of the contract.

            One more anecdote.  I remember a very conservative priesthood leader  (a bishop of mine) talking about this issue.  He was asked, “What do you do when you suspect that someone is answering the temple recommend questions dishonestly?”

            His reply: “I don’t do anything.  This is between them and God.  How the answer the questions is up to them and their conscience.”

          2. That’s helpful Katie. Thanks.

             I don’t know that it’s all that explicit to Mormonism in general.  If it were THE standard, it probably would have been brought up in the podcast.

          3. ????, Tim? Conversation moves fast. Never a sense that all important points get made or made as well as they should be made. But certainly the orientation that many/most bishop’s have that Katie is mentioning was present in this discussion as well as in some recent episodes where issues like this have come up. Certainly in my interview with John Dehlin, and you will also find it in the interview of Jim McLachlan that I did that will be on Mormon Stories very soon.

          4. Sure, Tim.  There will always be varying interpretations.  The more hard-nosed folks will be, well, more hard-nosed about it.  🙂  But this is a common, “center of the flock” way of approaching it that I’ve often heard expressed when this topic comes up in church (which, to be honest, is really not all that often). 
            One other thing to keep in mind is that even my most orthodox friends understand the game of “priesthood leader roulette” that exists to a certain extent in the church (they probably wouldn’t call it that exactly, but the sentiment is there).  I believe the top leadership is aware of it, too, which is why there is *such* explicit instruction not to deviate from the wording of the temple recommend questions.  All they need is some power-hungry bishop in Provo denying recommends for french kissing.  ($100 says it’s happened.) This really is one area where my understanding is that we are to govern ourselves and act according to conscience.

          5. Sure, Tim.  There will always be varying interpretations.  The more hard-nosed folks will be, well, more hard-nosed about it.  🙂  But this is a common, “center of the flock” way of approaching it that I’ve often heard expressed when this topic comes up in church (which, to be honest, is really not all that often). 
            One other thing to keep in mind is that even my most orthodox friends understand the game of “priesthood leader roulette” that exists to a certain extent in the church (they probably wouldn’t call it that exactly, but the sentiment is there).  I believe the top leadership is aware of it, too, which is why there is *such* explicit instruction not to deviate from the wording of the temple recommend questions.  All they need is some power-hungry bishop in Provo denying recommends for french kissing.  ($100 says it’s happened.) This really is one area where my understanding is that we are to govern ourselves and act according to conscience.

          6. Hi Katie, Not sure where I used the term “game,” but I know I do use it from time to time in the same basic way that Wittgenstein uses “language game” (and somewhat equivalent to Joanna’s talk in this episode about Foucault and us all inhabiting “discourses” that have their own rules, etc.).  I never mean it in a sort of “fun and games” way, as if . Like you, I’m very serious when it comes to religion and my interaction with sacred things. Sorry for any misunderstanding about that.

      2. I think an important part of this conversation is what are the underlying expectations of both parties, and the church, going into the TR interview? 

        This is something that an outsider — even a thoughtful and observant outsider such as yourself, Tim — might not understand.  But I believe that an underlying expectation of the temple recommend interview process itself that the questions are meant as a gut-check for the member, and that we are to answer the questions in accordance with OUR OWN CONSCIENCE — not to necessarily account for the Bishop’s interpretation of specific questions.  This is because, as Brian mentioned, the idea is that the Bishop is standing as proxy for the Lord in the process.  Therefore, his individual interpretation takes a back seat.

        Here’s an example that I think will illustrate the point better on something a bit less controversial and fluid than belief.

        Let’s say that a Bishop views caffeinated beverages as against the Word of Wisdom.  Do I have an obligation to “confess” drinking Coke to my bishop in my temple recommend interview, even though I do not believe it is against the Word of Wisdom?  No.  And, I would argue, my bishop would not expect me to either (unless you’re dealing with a really tyrannical bishop, in which case your first obligation is to protect yourself from spiritual and psychological abuse).There is a reason that the questions are written as they are.  There is a reason bishops are instructed NOT to deviate from the wording of the questions.  It is because the onus of responsibility is upon us to answer the questions in good conscience, not to be accountable for the beliefs of the bishop and stake president.   I believe this is part of the contract and both parties understand it, which changes things a bit from what you’re saying, Tim.Having said that, I agree that if you have to reinterpret many of the questions past the point of common recognition, there is probably some wisdom in praying to God and asking if the temple is really the place for you.  Also, since I have some nuanced beliefs and doubts about what “prophet, seer, and revelator” means, I have been known to address those issues specifically in my interview by saying something like, “I have doubts about this, but I also have hope and faith that they are led by God.”  I have never been denied a temple recommend for this.  Of course, doubts aside, I really am a hopeful believer.  Unorthodox, yes, but a believer at heart.  If I were agnostic, for example, I can see how this would be a lot harder.

        1. As an adult convert, I’ve been told from the beginning just what Katie L. said: that the purpose of the TR interview is an opportunity for us to, in effect, judge ourselves. I’m almost certain that all the bishops and stake presidents who have interviewed me have been more “orthodox” in their beliefs than I am, but none have ever indicated to me that the interview is a test of orthodoxy of some sort. In fact, some (including ones quite conservative) have told me that most of the questions about belief are deliberately vague for a reason. The questions are meant to include, not exclude.

          And while I certainly am more “orthodox” than Dan is, I am grateful for that lack of specificity. While I’m in the minority on some major theological issues (example: I strongly suspect Adam and Eve are more allegorical than historical), I don’t feel I’ve been asked to compromise my integrity to get a temple recommend.

          I’ve gone into interviews where I’ve given simple yes-or-no answers, and others where I’ve given nuanced responses. I’ve given answers something like this: “If by sustaining, do I agree that the leaders are infallible, then the answer is no. But if that means that I believe they have been called by God despite their weaknesses, and that it is incumbent on me because of the office they hold to listen to and pray about whatever counsel they provide, and to support them in their righteous endeavors, then the answers is yes.”

          For questions such as the one about conduct with members of my family, I usually say something like “I’m far from perfect in that regard, but I do not engage in anything that would be considered abusive and am striving to be better.”

          And frankly, I don’t think anyone who “affiliates with” either of the major U.S. political parties could give the “correct” answer to the pertinent question, and I’ve said as much.

          I’ve never been denied a recommend either.

          I need to listen to the podcast before I say more, but because of the way the questions are worded I have no reason to doubt the integrity of some fairly unorthodox believers who get temple recommends as long as, to use Katie’s words, they are believers at heart.

      3. I think this definition renders the term “integrity” as meaningless.  I hate the term “be true to yourself” because everything a person does is in someway an expression of their “true self”.  If integrity is just being true to yourself, it’s not a value anyone needs to aspire to.  It comes naturally in every single moment of your life.

        I think there is probably a better definition of integrity.

        1. Really, Tim?  I think people live in contradiction to their core values all the time. 

          Google says…

          in·teg·ri·ty/inˈtegritē/
          The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
          The state of being whole and undivided
          I guess you’re operating from definition one and Brian’s operating from definition two.  You can be wholly and undividedly EVIL and, by this definition, still be integrous. If you take integrity to mean honesty, you couldn’t argue that sleeping around on your spouse is honest — unless there is something in your particular arrangement that allows for it (polygamy, an open relationship, etc.).

    3. Tim and Jacob. Thanks for the invitations to engage more thoroughly. Jacob, I may not be as directly responding to you in the following, but I think what I will say in response to Tim’s angles will be in the ballpark. Love the insight about hearing grief from both the TBM and ex-Mo (or thinking about becoming an ex-Mo!) sides!

      Tim, I think the crux of my not coming across as clearly as I’d hoped is that we seem to be in two different thought/feeling universes. Just as I admitted up front to Jeff when he asked on this podcast how I might give acceptable consent to several of the TR questions that talked about specific claims without feeling like I was selling out my integrity (and I offered that disclaimer even more thoroughly in my interview with John Dehlin when he wanted to go specific on the content of various claims we’re supposed to assent to in these interviews), these types of queries are asking for “head” responses to factual, this-statement-sums-up-something-specific-about-the-universe/God/church and its role (and I’m willing to try those types of answers if you really force me to—and with Brian we at least got into that a bit in the podcast), while I live most of my life and meet Mormonism and my decisions to stay engaged with it in more of a “lived sense of things” space—perspectives and senses of comfort with myself as part of this universe that I’ve “lived into” rather than “thought” into. 

      I totally honor my head, believe me I love ideas and would never feel comfortable if I were to hold fast to something that conflicted with what science and history and other forms of human knowledge pointed to (at their cores—obviously so much is debated in every realm of inquiry at the more surface levels), but part of that honoring of my head and brain has led me through the years to see that they are great for many things, but they don’t show equally as well as the primary tool for getting to every type of truth or knowledge. I do qualify that some in a broad way by playing in the world of neuroscience that indicates differences in the way the left brain and the right brain process stimuli (though not exclusively, of course) with the left hemisphere being the more linear, language-using/generating half and the right hemisphere being the more holistic, timeless, “feeling the gist without language” part. So, in some ways, my argument is that I feel your questions and critiques are coming from a real left-brain centered approach whereas I’ve become a lot more comfortable in the past dozen years or so with the idea of importance of moving into what might be seen as right-brain kinds of experiences than I had been comfortable doing when I first entered grad school and all my pullings apart were in the intellectual exercise, “how does this claim really fit up with science, other claims, rationality, etc.?” I can get back to this sort of stuff later (or with parentheticals in the midst of answers that deal directly in the language game your questions are wanting to engage me on), but for now let me honor your comments by addressing them in the more linear, rational way that you’ve formed them.

      I don’t think the sexual infidelity, shoplifting at Wal-mart, or going into business with someone who nuances things the way I do examples are very relevant to the TR questions or honoring one’s bishop. In marriage covenants made within the LDS church (and most often worldwide, I’m sure), there is a clear expectation of and agreement about sexual fidelity. One either keeps one’s pants on around others, or one doesn’t. There’s no way to finesse if one is a cheater or not, and I’d never try to do that. Same thing with shoplifting (did I jack that sweater or not?) and business relationships (did I honor the contract behaviorally?). With the TR and with a bishop’s role as judge in Israel, there is no such exactness on what exactly one “means” in sustaining the prophet as the only one with certain priesthood keys, believing in the Restoration, this formulation of God, etc. The only letter-of-the-law, clear ones are the behavioral ones: pay tithing, live WofW, abusive to spouse or family, honest in dealings (assuming here business and other kinds of not stealing, etc.—while we are, of course, debating here a bit about whether or not living in a different head/heart/soul space than perhaps my bishop across the table from me is during the interview is “honest”), and any other behavioral ones I might be forgetting. 

      So how can I say there is not the level of exactness on the “truth claims” portion? Let’s look at the baptismal covenants (think sacrament prayer stuff, plus add in a bit of Mosiah 18 with Alma and the others at the waters of Mormon), as well as the temple covenants (other than the chastity one, which is indeed very specific—even though I like to think it also points far beyond “measurable behavior” sexual fidelity). These covenants that we make are about desires of our hearts, remembering bigger contexts as we act in the day-to-day, obeying gospel truths, thinking inside certain framings, pledging to build up the world in positive ways, etc. Please show me where scripture privileges on the covenant altar “content in our brains” above “goodness of our hearts/purity of our intents/willingness to serve the kingdom of God (which is much bigger than just the “church”) sorts of things. Until you do that, I can’t see how I’d find your line of inquiry about rationalizing infidelity or shoplifting or acting dishonorably in a business relationship as more than just mildly parallel. And if the bishop’s and my cognitive content regarding the specific claims stuff are not exactly operating in the same way given our different life experiences, temperaments, studies, prayer or contemplative practices and how we have felt our way into our testimonies, I don’t see not going through all of that with him as any kind of lack of integrity either. The process is a worthiness one, an “are you aware of the covenants you’re about to make/reaffirm?” one, not a “brain dump” one. Except on the behavioral questions, he’s not asking me something parallel to my wife asking me if I’m cheating on her, if I stole from Wal-mart, or if I’m a good guy to do business with.

      Am I obfuscating? Am I being courageous? Am I acting for my own benefit more than the church’s? Hiding my true heart under a bushel? I don’t think so. I feel I’m living my life and choosing my connections and associations according to experiences I’ve had in life and with the spirit that I have won through hard work (and continued hard work: airplane rides up and down, up and down)—both brain and spiritual work. I feel centered in the universe in a way that I never was when just living in my head, and this feeling of peace with my path is the only way I can judge such questions. Are you going to argue that “head” processes are the most important than all other types of life experience, or that they should be the exclusive way of going after “truth”? I’d welcome you to make and support that argument if you feel you can.

      On the more specific issues regarding bishops, etc., I’ve shared in my interview with John and in Sunstone how I was judged unworthy to confer the Aaronic Priesthood on my son, how I felt that was the wrong choice, and how I went along with that decision even as I found a way to say my peace (and eventually actually feel my peace). On another occasion about 6 or 7 years ago, I was “fired” from a teaching calling because of a leader’s strange fixation that at the end of class I didn’t stop everything and “bear my testimony” the way he thinks all teachers must. My sense is that my entire class and the enthusiasm I was showing for the very cool ideas in the scriptures or what they revealed about the human condition, etc., is itself a form of “testifying.” He played a dirty game of getting me released without ever talking to me. When I heard through back channels what had happened, I went to him, shared my hurt and disappointment, expressed how I’d rather be dealt with upfront as I was doing with him right then and there, told him how unfair I felt his judgment was and why I think he was wrong, and left it at that. I accepted that I’d no longer be teaching that class (or probably any others as long as he had a say). I wallowed in my sorrow and indignation for a few weeks without enjoying too much at church, but I eventually managed to find joy again even with this guy in the same room. 

      In short, like anyone who is trying to act out of conviction and principle, I know that my ways will not always mesh with the ways of every other person, and if one of these other persons is in some kind of position in which she or he can by some fiat negatively affect my life, I have to be willing to accept that with my body even if my spirit disagrees with what they are doing. (Not trying to say I’m even in the same neighborhood with folks like Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, King, Kyi, or a ton of other actors of conscience who all experienced people who were wrong causing them terrible pain, but it’s the same principle. As Thoreau argues in “Civil Disobedience,” the person on the inside of a prison can still be the one who’s really the free one.) If a bishop or stake president ever decides to ask me point blank about cognitive content of my assent to certain TR questions, I’ll tell him everything I think. If that means a “no go” for a recommend, I’ll accept that. If it’s for cognitive content, I’ll let them know that I think they’re wrong for denying me access to the temple and why, but I won’t turn them into an enemy or think they deliberately aren’t acting out of their own sense of integrity in doing what they are doing. 

      Tim, you say: “Grownups recognize they have freedom and the ability to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions. They accept consequences and they deal with people in a way that respects and honors them. Dan is grownup enough to recognize there is trouble outside but not grownup enough to go outside and face it.” I’ll need help on what you mean before I can respond to this. Who am I not respecting or honoring? What trouble outside am I not facing? I think I’m honoring the processes of the TR interview and recognize that I could be turned down. I’m honoring the spiritual journeys of bishops and others who may not see things the way I do. I’m fully aware of breakdowns in church history telling, shortsighted ways of enacting policies, mismatches between ideals taught and actions acted out, etc. I feel like I’m facing them all and saying to Mormonism: you’re still my home, my people, my place that I feel called to be in. Here’s my mind, heart, spirit, body, gifts: meet me and put me to work. Or don’t. I can be at peace either way (though, of course, I root for the first!). And even if you shut me down totally, maybe I’ll still find a way to serve via a podcast or something…. (“If you have a desire to serve God, ye are called to the work.” Don’t need no stinking church to respond to that kind of call.)

      Tim, you also say Joanna and I are somehow holding onto the priesthood and worship choices as security blankets, and that we are somehow acting out of integrity by trying to convince ourselves that we are acting with integrity. Again, you’ll maybe have to help me understand what you’re saying here, as well as how you feel qualified to psychoanalyze about our somehow needing church comforts as security blankets. As for a response to whatever degree I understand what you’re saying, I can let Joanna speak for herself, but for me, is it impossible to think that I may just “enjoy” the church? I expressed in many places and on many occasions about how I don’t feel the priesthood is exclusive to Mormonism, that the gospel, at best (like all religions that in their core teachings point to truths far beyond whatever they or any person can express by mouth or thought), is merely a pointer toward deeper truths (and the kind that can only be known by experiencing them—hence the whole thing is about “Hey, have this experience people! Pray, serve, contemplate. Put yourself in positions where you might experience breakthroughs!”), that I don’t view ordinances as essential for “salvation,” that I don’t even know what being “saved” means outside whether or not one naturally lives into ever deepened godly qualities (lots of lists in lots of scriptures about what those are), etc. I’m clinging to Mormonism for security? I don’t think so, though I love Mormons and hanging with them even as they sometimes frustrate me and I them. Maybe that’s a kind of security blanket, I guess. And I think I’ve already addressed how I don’t see myself really doing a lot of “trying to convince myself.” I’ve lived into perspectives that I feel are richer than black and white, brain-driven, rule-oriented. Not much “convincing myself” needed any more. I’m just looking around and this is how the universe and what’s meaningful look to me. 

      Thanks, again, for the chance to engage. Sorry so long winded! Takes twice as long to speak in two different universes/language games!

      Cheers!
      Dan

      1. As I mentioned at the beginning of the pod cast, I think integrity is how well our values are represented in our lives/actions.  Dan, for me the last 20 mins of our discussion helped crystallize things for me.  And it bottom lines to this: 

        you have consistently said that you value the community and relationships and myth.  you don’t value the definition of “priesthood authority” as much as those things.  As one who shares your view on priesthood, I totally get that in a more concise way than I did before our discussion.   In short, in my view, you are full of integrity and totally consistant here.  you value your relationship with the bishop, your experience in mormonism, and your relationship with God more than you value squaring your definition of priesthood authority (or the definition of the atonement or whatever) with his. 

        I get it and respect that. I hope you know that. 

        Your friend,

        Jeff

        1. Thanks, my friend. This note means a lot. And thank you for sharing so generously on this podcast! That migraine (you know the one I mean) was perhaps heaven sent, telling us that there was a more important discussion for you to be part of! (And even if not heaven sent as much as airplane cabin pressure caused, here on the other side of that migraine, I’m at least offering a small hallelujah.)

      2. Thanks for engaging my critiques.

        I found the story about being released from teaching to be really interesting. I think you did a great job following the Biblical model for disagreement and then you said something really interesting to the Bishop.  You told him you would prefer if he dealt with you in an upfront manner.

        Do you think your Bishop would also prefer for you to deal with him in an upfront manner?  Is finding a back channel way to release you from teaching fundamentally different than finding a back channel way to answer the TR questions?

        I believe you that you would accept his decision if he didn’t give you a TR.  But I don’t think you’re trusting him to make the right choice by putting yourself in a position where he may deny your request.

        You are deciding for yourself what you deserve from the institution. Meanwhile the institution is telling you that they want your trust in those they place in priesthood authority over you.  You deny their exclusive priesthood authority and you deny them the trust they request.  They fulfill their end of the agreement but you keep for yourself what they want in return.  It’s a bad faith transaction.

        Is your behavior fundamentally different than Ross and Carrie’s?
        http://www.ohnopodcast.com/investigations/2011/8/1/ross-and-carrie-go-mormon-part-2-what-no-underwear.html

        Was their behavior an act of integrity, honesty and authenticity? What if they had continued to play the story out until they went to the temple?

        ————————————————————————
        What really confuses me is this; if you don’t think the LDS church has an exclusive priesthood, why bother with it?  It seems starting your own church with your own equally legitimate priesthood would relieve everyone of these moral wranglings and mental backflips. What about the buildings and priesthood owned by the First Presidency is so important to you. Your role model in these matters is Joseph Smith and his band of religious pioneers. It didn’t seem he had any reservations about leaving behind the religious institutions that were no longer serving him.

        1. Again, I don’t think we’re living in the same head/heart space. I don’t know what else to say but I don’t think my approach is any kind of back channel sort of obfuscating. Unless you can say that I should think the LDS church and it’s current center of gravity is more important than the life/spirit/heart orientations that I’ve lived into, then what’s the problem? Where in scripture or in what sense of a big God would you ever find that kind of priority order? I don’t think you can/would ever. You can claim that exactly “this” or exactly “that” is what the church wants from me and that I’m withholding it, but I believe the church’s own revelations and core teachings point beyond what you say it wants. It’s pointing to a godmaking path of complete embodiment of divine qualities that would simply be internalized/realized in our very beings and nature, and you’re saying it’s pointing to a stay a dependent-on-others child forever path. Of course some shortsighted discourse may occasionally leak out or take root in somebody somewhere who may give a talk, but not even you’d say that it’s really what the gospel points to. Would you?

          I enjoy Mormonism. I love Mormons. I feel called to be a Mormon. I engage it as honestly as I can given any human being’s weaknesses. I am inspired by a lot that goes on within it. I think and orient inside its biggest parameters. I take to heart its injunctions to do practices and have the focus and intensity of desire that can lead me to experience all that I can, to receive all that God wants to share, to acquire vision and qualities of godliness, to experience an “eternal life” in the sense of a god’s life. The religion is serving me just fine. If it ever ceases to, what in whatever I’ve ever said in any of these forums would ever make you think I’d be afraid to leave it? Your projecting onto me fears and things that are not there. My marriage and relationships with my children and dad (Mom’s passed) would even survive my leaving the church. Dude, I just like it, have no desire to start my own church.

        2. Again, I don’t think we’re living in the same head/heart space. I don’t know what else to say but I don’t think my approach is any kind of back channel sort of obfuscating. Unless you can say that I should think the LDS church and it’s current center of gravity is more important than the life/spirit/heart orientations that I’ve lived into, then what’s the problem? Where in scripture or in what sense of a big God would you ever find that kind of priority order? I don’t think you can/would ever. You can claim that exactly “this” or exactly “that” is what the church wants from me and that I’m withholding it, but I believe the church’s own revelations and core teachings point beyond what you say it wants. It’s pointing to a godmaking path of complete embodiment of divine qualities that would simply be internalized/realized in our very beings and nature, and you’re saying it’s pointing to a stay a dependent-on-others child forever path. Of course some shortsighted discourse may occasionally leak out or take root in somebody somewhere who may give a talk, but not even you’d say that it’s really what the gospel points to. Would you?

          I enjoy Mormonism. I love Mormons. I feel called to be a Mormon. I engage it as honestly as I can given any human being’s weaknesses. I am inspired by a lot that goes on within it. I think and orient inside its biggest parameters. I take to heart its injunctions to do practices and have the focus and intensity of desire that can lead me to experience all that I can, to receive all that God wants to share, to acquire vision and qualities of godliness, to experience an “eternal life” in the sense of a god’s life. The religion is serving me just fine. If it ever ceases to, what in whatever I’ve ever said in any of these forums would ever make you think I’d be afraid to leave it? Your projecting onto me fears and things that are not there. My marriage and relationships with my children and dad (Mom’s passed) would even survive my leaving the church. Dude, I just like it, have no desire to start my own church.

        3. Oh yeah, Ross and Carrie. It was depressing to hear that their big thing was the lack of “evidence” for Mormon claims when around the edges of their conversation was a clear sense that nothing outside science and logic could ever qualify as “evidence” for them. So I mostly just felt sad that this is how big they think life and truth is, and also that they think that they’re doing something constructive in the world by going around and focusing on the strange religions and being sure to note these religions’ least rational parts and being sure to ask questions of these that come from their favorite realm of discourse that are, of course, not going to be the helpful in understanding or illuminating the realms that religion plays in. To me, their show seems like an exercise in simply helping the world stay small and sterile and manageable by their brains and for those who want to inhabit that kind of world, as well. Religious seekers will/do see in a heartbeat that they are simply seeing and playing with shadows (and you’re welcome to take that as far into Plato’s cave as you want; I say they’re in chains that they’ve largely constructed themselves). 

          In terms of Brian’s claim that integrity can simply mean consistency, they maybe are acting in integrity. (And I know Brian is purposely helping us here push our definitions, and I appreciate that.) Where I’d see them as possibly being out of integrity is if there are “wild facts” (even if just in their own experiences rather than the phenomenal world) that they might be deliberately suppressing. As I mentioned on the podcast, for me integrity with something like the BofM demands giving full due to all experiences with it, not just the ones that fit some theory we think is more likely to be right. So if Ross in his evangelical days (am I remembering his background right?) truly never had an experience with God or deep interconnection at a realm beyond the ability of language and thought and what is testable in a lab or mathematically or according to rules of logic that can’t be handled by his current theory of the universe all being based in DNA and chemical reactions and who knows what else he thinks science and rationality demands are all the factors that he can think life is explained by,  it would be then that he might be moving in the world without full integrity. If he or someone else truly has never had a sense of their being existing beyond the body, then I can’t argue a lack of integrity.Got countering views?

          1. My main point of comparison with Ross and Carrie were their baptismal testimonies (particularly Ross’) where they worded their thoughts so that faithful Mormons would hear one thing and non-Mormons would hear something entirely different.

            I’m at peace with you remaining in the LDS church (as if my peace matters).  My main concern is you giving answers in your TR interview that sound one way to your Bishop that mean something different to you than they do to your Bishop.

            Ross and Carrie regretted doing that when pushed on it. You seem to think it’s an expression of your faith.

          2. Ah. Makes more sense why you’d bring up Ross and Carrie in this context. Yes, I agree that there baptism testimonies were an interesting part of that podcast that could be relevant here. I don’t think there’s a ton of parallels in the sense that they are dissembling through the whole process, not really telling the missionaries and members of the ward what’s up. With me, every bishop of mine has a good sense that I’m very unorthodox. I’ve talked with most of them at whatever level they want to go in exploring that. But they’ve also been in classes where they’ve heard me respond or share things that I’m sure they had never considered but which ring true to them and fully within the gospel in its biggest contests, and things that reveal to them my heart and commitment to growth, being of service, sharing my gifts, etc. Everything I hold to that keeps me engaged with Mormonism I ground in scripture and my own personal experiences with the Spirit/God/universe. As I’ve said, I’ll go as deep as any leader wants to show the principle or gospel pointer that leads me to my positions. I don’t think that’s what the recommend process is about as much as, what others have shared here, it’s about self-evaluation. But if a leader calls me to give an accounting, I’m more than happy to do my best to have them enter my heart and head and look around for themselves. If they get lost in there and decide that means they don’t feel good about a recommend, I can handle it.

            I don’t know what to make of your saying that I’m doing what Ross and Carrie did but they regretted it whereas I see it somehow as an “expression of my faith.” I reject the first premise, so I can’t give a defense on your conclusion other than to say it doesn’t track.

  7. I do understand the social aspects of Mormon lives and how post faith-crisis-Mormon individuals decide to stay in the church for such reasons.  But someone like me who sacrificed almost everything for the sake of the truth and converted into this religion has a totally different meaning.  I betrayed my cultural, religious and family traditions to join the church.  It was hard for me and very difficult for my family members for me to join, but I believed it was a right thing because it was true.  When I got married, my parents couldn’t even
    witness my wedding ceremony.  It was such a hurtful thing, but I convinced myself and believed it was necessary and a righteous action.  But if it’s not true, then this means, I did the horrible things to them.  It is one thing that you feel you are betrayed by the church, but it is a totally different thing to betray your own heritage for something not true.   

    But obviously, I am totally torn in my thinking.  My wife would be really sad if I leave.  I shared some thoughts with her regarding the issues with her.  Every time, she cried so much.  How can I do anything like this to my wife?  So maybe I change my mind again soon, but I decided today that I would pretend I don’t know the real truth and act as though I believe.  

    There was the story shared in the podcast regarding Japanese tradition of not telling the cancer patient the truth.  The panelists didn’t mention, but the reason why they don’t tell the patients is not because the group would be superior in judgment, but because some patients do better in recovery if they don’t know they had
    cancer.  Some patients get so discouraged and become hopeless that they wouldn’t recover as well as not knowing.  So the group takes the burden of truth.  Can you imagine how difficult for everybody
    to conceal such a truth and continue to encourage the loved one?  But they do that for love. (by the way, I am a Japanese.)

    So even though my wife vaguely knows what’s happening inside me, I will pretend for a while for the sake of love until she is ready to accept the truth or until I can manage to naturally ignore it.  The temple recommend interview?  My mental gymnastic are 1) The church is not honest, why should I?  2) My integrity is consistent because I care about my wife and therefore I act accordingly.  3) You don’t have to be perfect to answer yes on those questions, I just WANT to believe; that should be enough.

    1. Thanks for adding more details about the Japanese tradition of carrying a burden of knowledge for a loved one (cancer, in my analogy).  I knew I wouldn’t do this idea full justice.  It’s hard sometimes to express everything fully on the fly in a conversation with other people, and in a limited amount of time.  I think you explained my point better, and the personal example of how you are applying this to your relationship to your wife is a good one.

      That to me is the dynamic nature of integrity — how each of us value things differently, and then act upon those values.  I think integrity and honesty are two words that are conflated a lot in their use.  It may be dishonest to give someone uncertain hope in the face of hopelessness.  But it might be a noble and difficult act of integrity if they value hope more than honesty.

    2. Steadie, Thanks from me, as well. Powerful insight about others carrying burdens out of love for another person. I want to let that one to sink in some more.

      Regarding your early paragraphs about betraying your heritage for something you’re now worried isn’t true, please forgive me for possibly unskillfully asking a couple of questions and offering a framing that might not be totally on target but which I offer nonetheless out of a good place in my heart. Did you betray your heritage and family out of your best sense of what God wanted? If so, it’s hard for me to see that as betrayal that you deserve to beat yourself up about. You can look for family straight in the eye and said you acted out of integrity with that sense of being “called.”Did you expect God would only call to you once–that with this one move into Mormonism you’d be essentially finished with all the tasks of your spiritual life? If not (and I think God will never stop asking us to grow in more–even hard–ways), then perhaps your journey is unfolding perfectly according to God’s/the universe’s wisdom for you. For me, at least, you sound like you’re on THE human journey and you are taking it very seriously, and like Brian mentioned in the podcast, I also trust that nothing is wasted, every experience can be valuable, and that if we pay attention to our souls (of which our heads are only a part) there’s much richness ahead. Truth has many layers (and there are many kinds of truth–we’ll be doing a MM podcast in the next few weeks about this), and you’re sorting through them. As you’re prepared, you’ll soon see (or better, “feel”) order and beauty again (only so much more profoundly) where now you are mostly seeing chaos. That’s what I trust, anyway.

      Best to you in all you do!
      Dan

  8. From deep, deep, down in my heart I thank you Dan, Joanna, Brian and Jeff, for this thoughtful, honest, and important discussion!  The last year of my life has been spent trying to more fully understand these issues as a mother sincerely trying to understand the journey of one of my children that I deeply love who is on this path of navigating a change or crisis of faith.

    I understand the imperfections of people, and leaders, and even programs within the framework, but the LDS Church is deeply important to me and I have had many spiritual and important experiences in living it that have grounded me, and I have always felt so grateful to be a part of it.  For me, it has been such a positive way to live my own life and raise my family that I naturally want that for my children…Listening to your discussion here helps me to feel less *fear* in this journey as a mother who wants the best for my posterity. 

    Dan….thanks for your continued message that “there is peace on the
    other side” for all involved in this difficult and often painful path.

    I try to keep my focus now on the fact that my son is truly one of the best people I have ever known!  I trust him as I always have to do the right thing. In my LDS mother way of thinking, I have often felt that he is an older and more wise spirit than I, as I have often learned from him even as a small child…

    I would have to say that although difficult, I do very much value the new and more thoughtful, and I’d like to think more sensitive approach I have gained.  I often reflect on comments made in SS and RS that I am now not as comfortable with, as I once was.  I know there is much, much more out there for me to learn!

    Love & Blessings to all of you for your efforts to be helpful in the lives of so many people you have not met!

     

    1. We at times talk privately, Jeralee, but every once and a while I have to shout out publicly how much I love and admire you. You’re teaching me a ton through your love for your son that has taken you into new soul-stretching territories. You are for me modeling and making concrete something very important about trust in goodness and giving others space while still being a steady attractor that says “this is what love looks like.” I hope others will see and feel this kind of power for themselves.

  9. This podcast was really just too long. So it’s really unwieldy for me to address/respond to many of the issues I would’ve wanted to address from the podcast.

    I guess, going in a kind of stream-of-consciousness way, I would start by commenting on Joanna Brooks’s hypothesis that faith crises for men who went on missions is different than for women, etc., I think there’s something to it. For me, I never went on a mission, and so I don’t have a lot of the angst of feeling “betrayed” that the church wasn’t what it claims to be. I mean, I’m aware of those issues, but it doesn’t seem to go to the core of anything for me as it does for many other people.

    Having said that, I would say a few other things:

    It seems that one thread in the podcast is something like, “Well, sure, the church isn’t perfect. But neither is anything else in the world.” I guess I would have no problem if the church were just another organization, or if it just claimed to be another organization. But the church claims to be considerably different than just any organization, and it justifies its actions, practices, and doctrines that I find most disagreeable with divinity. So, in order to persist in the church, I always have to oppose — whether publicly or privately, its most fundamental and foundational talking points.

    I think there’s a sense in which many of the speakers on this podcast really do that. There’s a sense in which many of them do not take the institution seriously, because they care more about their Mormonism outside of the institution. (As JB mentioned, the institution/church and Mormonism are different).

    That leads to what seems to be extremely cavalier attitudes from the participants about dealing with the institution and people within the institution. See: the section on temple recommend questions. I’ll get to that later on.

    One thing that was interesting is the response to the idea of many people trying to protect their children. On the one hand, I think children should have to deal with complexity, lies, deceptions, doublespeak, and all of these aspects of living in an imperfect world. And, to an extent, I understand the value of having a sandbox area to deal with these things. For the most part, the LDS church will not cause long-lasting physical, mental, or emotional damage (of course, this is not always true, unfortunately), whereas other aspects of life can.

    …yet, as I work through my issues with the church, the one major reason why I don’t blame my parents is because they actually believe in the church (it’s a nuanced way, but it’s not this cavalier “I’m going to answer the question you should’ve asked instead of the question you did, because you’re not really even using the right criteria for temple recommends” that I get from many of the podcast participants, and from the stay LDS/Open/Uncorrelated Mormon ideal in general.)

    One thing I see in a lot of the frustrations of many ex-Mormon venues is whether they feel that people purposefully lied to them or whether people were simply “duped” as well. They can process the hurt of poor relationships with their families post-faith-crises because they can say at the end, “Well, it’s really not my mom and dad’s fault. They were deceived too.”

    But this doesn’t work for an uncorrelated Mormon who will thrust Mormonism onto his or her children. If they have some kind of faith crisis, they have to come to the position, “My parents knew this could happen and they forced it on me anyway. They knew the church wasn’t what it claimed to be and yet they raised me in it anyway.”

    I guess playing around with these personal relationships has many ways to backfire. I think a lot of uncorrelated Mormons say they will expose them to the good but inoculate against the bad…or “deprogram” or whatever (I think that’s a section deep within the “how to stay LDS after a faith crisis” document), but then it’s a matter of whether the parents will be of greater influence than the church. What happens if your kid takes to the church wholeheartedly, and disassociates with the parent, seeing that he/she is apostate/uncorrelated/whatever. That will have been a division the parent introduced.

    I think that a lot of disaffected Mormons do become overzealous in trying to “save” people from Mormonism or whatever, but I think the example of withholding the cancer news from the patient was misinterpreted. Doctors in these nations may not share with the patient that the patient has cancer, but as mentioned, they do share with the family and the family negotiates the best treatment options together. So, the idea of just being silent (even though one believes the church not to be true, that some doctrines/practices are harmful/etc.,) doesn’t work…because you’re not going to the proverbial “family” and talking with them instead of the patient.

    Anyway, I’ll get back to what I meant by my impression of the “cavalier” way in which I feel the podcast participants deal with the church as an institution.

    Jeff (I believe) question about specific temple recommend questions and how to approach them was really enlightening — I just did NOT like Dan’s answer AT ALL. It seemed much like a way, “Well, I really think the temple recommend questions are about this, instead of that, so I’ll answer them this way.” I think that the position from the How to stay LDS article (which Brian alluded to) that there is much vagueness to how the questions are actually asked, and people instead are bringing varying levels of baggage to the questions that don’t need to be there…I think that position is a little bit better, but I think they get into some other problems (namely, so, if you have one understanding and you reasonably can expect the Bishop to have a different understanding…I’m still not really getting the vibes of “honesty” to just go with your understanding and say it’s the Bishop’s problem if he interprets it in a different way.)

    I know that some of you have been hashing this out with Tim, and I probably come at this from a different angle from Tim, but…no offense to you all — you are probably really great people, and I would love to go to church if wards were full of people like you — but you don’t really seem to value honesty all that much.

    I think there are some people who value honesty excessively. They tend to be “brutally” honest. I think this is what shows up in a lot of the ex-Mormon boards — so I think it’s true that different personalities can be primed to leave or stay within the church. I don’t like that brutal honesty either.

    However, here, I think that honesty becomes a meaningless term. To kinda derail, I know some people have written about how much they dislike when apologists turn to postmodernism to try to create a space for Mormonism to exist and be “true,” but I have this same impression here. Dan and Brian, et al, are very good at employing postmodernism to redefine “honesty” and “integrity,” and maybe they are convinced of these things, but their explanations ring hollow to me.

    I’ve written a lot, but ultimately, this gets me to my final point. I think that I would stay in the church (even though I probably believe in less than any of the podcast hosts or guests) if I could convince myself (or if I could be convinced) that it’s not JUST (or, not PRIMARILY) a religion, but a cultural hall. But what years in the church have instilled in me is that that’s not the case. It *is* a religion first and foremost, so I don’t really have any right to crowd in on that.

    1. >>.no offense to you all  . . .  but
      you don’t really seem to value honesty all that much.<<

      OUCH Andrew! 
      So if someone doesn't value honesty and then they aren't honest, does that mean they have integrity?

      I will admit the piece of information that Katie provided that caused me to back off was that there is a cultural assumption that people lie during these interviews.

      1. As of this point, I do think that someone can have integrity if they do not value honesty and they aren’t honest. I think the issue is that whereas integrity is something personal and internal, people live in society with other people. And so, what happens is that there are going to be other people who do value honesty (or what they perceive of as honesty), and they are going to make judgments as to with whom they want to deal based on things like how honest they perceive the other person to be, etc.,

        So, I think that people in the uncorrelated Mormon sphere are put in this position where they have to “appear” to value honesty because it would look bad to other people (e.g., the Mormon friends, fellow ward members, etc.,) if they didn’t. This creates what may look to be an inconsistency where they are defending that they really are honest (when, in fact, they don’t really use the same definitions and underlying assumptions of honesty as the average person because they really don’t care about that)…but I think this inconsistency is resolved by the fact that really, what they value is a kind of social cohesion and comfort. In this sense, their actions are very consistent with trying to maintain relationships, keep people comfortable, etc., 

        I also thought that Katie’s comments were extremely interesting. They patch up a LOT of issues I’ve had with uncorrelated answers for how to stay LDS, how to maintain a temple recommend when you don’t believe as others do, etc., etc., They create an internally consistent viewpoint (e.g., so I can imagine that if you buy into that, then you can have integrity), BUT I don’t think everyone buys things that way. For example, the reason I am hesitant to live as these guys are doing is not in spite of my Mormon background, but because of my Mormon background. It seems that Katie, et al., get this idea, “Well, there’s a cultural assumption to lie, so really, lying is ok.” But I think there’s just as much within a Mormon background to say, “Really, we should be honest. Since the culture isn’t perfect, there is lying, but that’s not the ideal.”

        I think people who stay are those who internalized the first path while people who leave are those who likely internalized the second path.

        I don’t want to sound like an anti- or whatever, but I think that a lot of difference between conversations of those who stay and of those who leave can go down to this difference in values. Maybe I’m just not “nuanced” enough to realize that honesty isn’t so “black and white”?

      2. Tim — Where did Katie point to a cultural assumption that people lie during recommend interviews? I didn’t understand her to say that at all.

  10. Good Job!  Thank you! Loved Dan’s account of the BoM’s role in his life,
    despite its historicity problems. Great!  I also enjoyed Jeff’s quote,
    “If could go back in time 20 years ago to explain my current
    perspective to my younger self, my younger self would have ignored me.” 
    He said that these things cannot be explained, they have to be
    experienced.  I agree. As Morpheus said, “Nobody can tell you what the
    matrix is; you have to see it for yourself.”

    We are “red-pill Mormons” and in the context of having found our way out
    of the Matrix of Mormonism, I was hoping that some bigger questions
    could have been asked about integrity and the decision of participation vs renunciation.

    Some questions to think about for the next time:

    Without its truth claims, what is the relevance of the Mormon church to
    us?  Does the crumbling of its truth claims mark the simultaneous
    disintegration of any real relevance for us? Under what circumstances is
    Mormonism relevant and under which circumstances is it irrelevant?

    What exactly is Mormon epistemology–its way of discovering and knowing
    the world–and is that epistemology false? It has certainly led us to
    believe a lot of false propositions.  If Mormonism’s epistemology is
    false, does it obscure our understanding of the world and vitiate our
    personal growth as human beings?

    Now that we have reevaluated what we know, let’s ask the question of
    what we really CAN know: What is knowable? Does Mormonism distract us by focusing our attention on the
    unknowable, the abstract, and impersonal?

    The sense of community seems to be the focus of a lot of validity vs
    utility (or validity vs community) discussions that I believe are
    entirely shortsighted.  The myth or the lie that unites us–that is an
    interesting topic, but I’d like to ask whether the myth or the lie can
    truly unite us.  Can false unities give us false comfort, false
    belonging, and a false sense of community?  In other words, can we be
    entirely deluded about the reality of our community?  We have seen what
    happens to our personal Mormon community when we begin to disagree and
    question, so let’s ask the question: How real is community if it doesn’t care about your beliefs unless you agree?  What is our personal
    value in a community like that? What should a real community look like
    and act like?  

    The consequences of
    destroying certainty–destroying testimony–need to be discussed.  For
    example: Can we live a strict moral code, give selflessly of our time
    and possessions, and love our neighbors while simultaneously living in
    the midst of uncertainties and doubt and skepticism? If we can, then
    what does that say about religion and its relevance to our daily moral
    conduct and our meaningful lives?

    I understand the need for the 10 Commandments within a small tribe of
    Israelites, but we need to ask: In the context of our modern legal and
    criminal system, do we really need highly systematized codes of conduct,
    doctrines and beliefs?  How does that affect our worship?  

    What is the cost of systematizing our gospel into so many doctrines and
    dogmas and overemphasizing their role in our salvation? Should we even
    talk about salvation or only about living a good life? How would that level of
    pragmatism affect our understanding of being Christian?  Something I’d
    like to see discussed: the difference between Christ and Aquinas;
    parables vs dogmas; pragmatism vs abstraction; personal vs impersonal.

    Nietzsche shows us that sometimes madness is the only sane reaction to
    certain events, like Auschwitz or Buchenwald or the death of God.  How
    does one deal with the death of God?  How do we deal with the death of
    Mormonism?  Does the death of Mormonism hint at the death of religion in
    general?

    Gotta go, but I have a bunch of other issues I’d like to see discussed.

    1. Lots of great questions! Wouldn’t EQ be so much more awesome if discussion went along these lines?It’s just to dangerous. I remember one of the last EQ meetings I went to in my ward. A young man that just got married and moved into the ward asked a question that was very sincere. He asked what do you do when you start to experience doubt. He asked what you do when you don’t know for sure if things are true.

      I was appalled by the response of the EQ in general. Several people piped up that if you have doubts you have serious issues. You need to talk to the bishop, pray a whole lot more, study scriptures a whole lot more, etc. They really made him feel inadequate from my view. I hated the feeling in that room. Fortunately, it looked like he took it really well. He was very humble about it.

      Church should be a place for doubters and sinners too. This is what I love about Dan’s idea of living into Mormonism. The institutional church has increasingly pushed out doubters and sinners. Why is this so bad? Because we are all doubters and sinners! Those who are grounded in the Mormon tradition by a strong institutional alignment are often deceiving themselves about their own doubting and sinful state.

      1. Jacob,
        That Elder’s Quorum experience is so interesting and unfortunate…I wish that the doubters would be more honest and respond: “No, I don’t need to see the bishop.  I have legitimate doubts.  It’s not about me; it’s about the fiction, the lie.”

        As a member who knows the messy issues, it’s almost like you have walked into a kitchen where events are already in progress.  There is spaghetti on the floor and Joseph Smith is standing over it with an big, empty, saucy bowl, but everyone is looking at you and blaming you.  “It could never be brother Joseph. You must have done it,” they say. You’re flabbergasted, “I just walked in and noticed the mess. What the hell are you talking about?”

      2. Early in my days on this journey, I would share things in quorum that bothered me. I never had quite the backlash or vibe that it was some huge failure of mine, thank goodness, but it was SO interesting what would happen. Some would simply bear fervent testimony then and there, while others would call me later in the day with a “this is what helped me” kind of chat, and I remember one guy dropping off a cassette with some inspirational talk that really helped turn a corner for him. Sometimes I wanted to scream, “Bear your testimony to me after you give me a sense that you’ve read what I’ve read, thought what I’ve thought! Show me that we’re living in the same universe!” but when I settled down, I always simply had to admit that they cared about me and my pain and this was their sincere way of trying to help bear my burdens. Nearly twenty years later, I can say I still love those guys.

        1. Dan,
          So true.  Those have been my precise reactions as well.  I simply ask, “have you read what I’ve read and do you know what I know?  If not, you’re not prepared to discuss the issues with me.”  Perhaps that means that we’re not prepared to discuss the issues with them precisely because they are completely unaware of the issues.  It may be unfair to foist these discussions on them.  I don’t know.

  11. Thanks for the podcast, guys.  I have been interested by all the comments.  I have a lot to say in response, but I don’t know if I have time to get it all out, or it will make any sense.  I really do think there are black-and-white people, and then there are non-b&w.  Is that black-and-white?  LOL.  Actually, the point is, it is much more complicated.  

    I feel like I want to ask the all black-and-white crowd like Tim how they function with being blatantly, openly honest in their lives, in every single facet.  For instance, as a school teacher, I really dislike a lot of the professional development I am required to do.  I sit through meetings, and inside I am rolling my eyes.  How do I function in the all-honesty world?  Do I go up to the trainer and tell them, “hey, just have to be honest.  I think your presentation was a waste of time, and boring as hell.”  ??   

    Why does my bishop need to know everything I think/feel?  I have honestly been struggling with my testimony in the form of crisis of faith for several years now.  I have not figured it all out yet.  I am still wrestling.  What good is it going to do for me to dump it all on the bishop?  Is he going to solve my intellectual issues that I have been struggling with for years in one or two short conversations?  

    Not only that, but while I am pretty sure I don’t believe in President Monson as a prophet the way most average LDS folks do, I don’t think I am at a point where I am going to approach an authority and say, “I think Monson is a fraud!”  Because I don’t know for sure (what do I know for sure?), but I am pretty sure I don’t feel that way.  Some days I do.  Some days I feel more positive.  So going uncensored honesty can really shut some doors that I don’t want to shut, like Brian mentioned in the podcast.  

    Anyway, I could go on and on.  Maybe I am grasping at something.  Maybe I’m a weak person, and still need the crutch of the gospel.  But this podcast gave me hope.  I have trouble believing in a personal God who is looking out for me every second of every day.  But this podcast came down the chute at a perfect time.  I just accepted a new calling at church, and the day after I said “yes,” I was having near panic attacks, thinking I could not do this and be authentic, or have true integrity.  I wanted to go right back to the bishop and spill the whole story, and resign the calling.  But I am glad I didn’t, because today I am feeling a lot more at ease about it, and if I would have gone with my first impulse, who knows?  Two days later, I downloaded this podcast, and it did feel like a Godsend.    

    I have more thoughts, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. My thanks to Dan, Joanna, Jeff, and Brian.  You guys are fantastic.  Thanks for all your thoughts and encouragement.  

    1. I’m not Tim, and I don’t think I’m as black-and-white as some people are about honesty (which provides an easy copout…anyone can just say, “Well, I’m not totally black-and-white, so…”)

      But here’s the deal…what you describe and what is happening are two different things. It’s not like people are going around at every moment with the desire to infodump everything that’s on their mind. It’s not like you’re having this desire to talk about everything to your bishop in an unwarranted way.

      The question is this: you CHOOSE to be interviewed to get a temple recommend. You CHOOSE to go into that situation, knowing that that will come with certain questions…and knowing that your bishop likely has certain expectations. You know you don’t actually meet those expectations.

      So, what do you do?

      Dan et al. suggest that you should answer the question the Bishop meant to ask rather than the question he did. (Or answer without all the “baggage” that he has). Fine, fine. But this sort of behavior is usually shocking and repugnant when someone else (esp. a GA) advocates for it, or has been found to advocate for it in the past. 

      I mean, you can shut up and be silent. Fine. Then, you’re not “dumping it all on the bishop.” Good for you.

      But if you’re in a situation where you are talking (for example, for a worthiness interview), and you are explicitly dodging pretty simple questions just so that you don’t have to experience personal and interpersonal comfort, then just recognize that you’re being dishonest.

      If you are ok with that, that’s fine. But I think the deal for many people was that we weren’t ok with that. We weren’t ok when the church did that, and we’re even less ok with playing that game back.

      1. I think I hear you and understand how you are adding things up, but I simply disagree with the idea that I’m answering the question the bishop should have asked than the one he did. If some others who have weighed in on this are to be taken seriously, with some even sharing that they’ve asked bishops this themselves, you are imposing your idea of what the bishop wants and expects from the TR interview when it’s not always that way.

        What examples are you thinking of when you say we are generally shocked and find it repugnant when church leaders advocate not being forthcoming with everything that’s in one’s mind and heart in every situation. I can think of Packer’s “Mantle” talk and Oaks saying recently not to criticize even when we think church leaders are wrong, but I don’t see those as really all that relevant here, or indefensible at least to some degree, so before responding, I’d love to have you present examples that I’m not thinking of (or re-present these here in a compelling way) and then tie them to this matter at hand. Thanks!

    2. I’m not by any means a black/white thinker (That’s a lame way to disregard my concerns). To the contrary I absolutely affirm the positive role doubt and ambiguity can play in living out a life of faith. My objection is to calling black white when you’re quite sure it’s black.

      No you should not vomit every thought you have on everyone. But you should honor them by respecting their intended meaning to questions directly posed to you.

      John Dehlin recently stated that living a life of openness bears consequences. I whole heartedly agree.

  12. I absolutely love Joanna and always very appreciative of Dan and Brian’s insights as well. Jeff added a lot to the podcast this time with some great questions and a few key insights. All-around great episode. One that will be shared a lot. I have to say Dan always loses me on the temple recommend issue, but otherwise, a fabulous discussion.

    1. I don’t feel I “lose myself” when I am asked the kinds of questions regarding claims in the TR questions Jeff asked at the end (and that John asked in part 3 of my MS interview), but all my hemming and hawing at the moments I start getting taken into that discourse is my way of saying “I already know what I will say won’t satisfy you!” “Head” answers to these TR questions that involve propositional questions don’t satisfy me either. Not even close. If I were to live just in my head, I’d totally reject the questions and move on. If the temple were all about the mechanics of the ritual (or even somehow “saving” the dead–I’ve never quite figured out how these ordinances would be essential to eternal progression, though I’m willing to stay in the question), I would never give going a second thought.

      The bind is that I don’t live my religion primarily in my head anymore. I certainly still “think,” but I don’t consider the fruits of my or anyone else’s “thinking” to be the reasons I move the way I do in the world or in Mormonism any more. My core religious sensibilities are found in a world more inhabited by “gist” and “hunch” and “felt character” that this or that is closer to the more profound, active forces in the universe. It’s more akin to the primordial chaos before creation, before the separation of light from dark, earth from sky, land from water, right from wrong, etc. There’s an experiential realm where those things all intermingle still, and though nothing is as clear as it once was in terms of my being able to convey with language what I sense is going on (since everything is now so much more interconnected with everything else and colors whatever answer I might ever give), I feel even more oriented in the universe and its forces than I ever have been. Even though I feel centered more in this broiling, more full-fact/less-separated-out realm, I still have to act in the world of language where real communication is imagined to be possible–so I do. This is why I hem and haw the way I do. I’m being called to enter a discourse that know I can’t fully satisfy because language and concept can’t convey the fuller-facts at play. My only hope in these cases where stuff like this comes to a fore (I’m not so worried about language’s lack of ability in most aspects of life) is that all the other intangibles might kick in to show that out there on the fringes of what I’m saying might be something someone else might want to explore for themselves.

  13. Pingback: Responding to Mormon Matters’ on Integrity « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  14. I am one of those who chose to leave based on integrity.  I could just go answer the TR questions and pretend to believe all the things I’m supposed to believe as a Mormon, but I don’t.  I am fortunate, however, to have left the church along with my husband.  We did go through a time where he was believing and I was not, but eventually we both decided it was time to go.  That being said, I understand the conflict one goes through when attempting to stay in the church for various reasons.

    I believe many who have left the church or who have really, honestly had that crisis of faith can understand how difficult the church makes it to live authentically.  If you choose to live openly as a non-literal believer within the church your opportunities diminish considerably, especially if you are a man.  Depending upon your leaders (and we all know what a gamble that is) you may not be allowed to baptize your children, you may not be able to participate in major milestones for others, you will not be allowed to go to sealings in the temple.  Many active members I have spoken with tell me this is just your choice.  Anyone is free to be a part of all these ceremonies.  All one needs to do is believe.  To me, though, and to others who attempt to live that life, it is as though they are being held hostage.  Just believe exactly this way and you will be free.  It is not that simple.

    My children are very important to me.  I love them and I don’t ever want to knowingly hurt them.  Of course, I may inadvertently hurt them at any time, but that is never my goal.  When pondering whether or not to stop attending church, one of our main concerns was our children.  For several weeks we continued attending and found it more difficult to go back through all the things our children learned in primary each week and deconstruct everything that was unacceptable.  We came to the conclusion it would be far more damaging to our children to stay in the church than to leave along with us.   I did not want my children inadvertently getting the message that I or my husband were anti-feminist, anti gay, or anti science, among a host of other  ideas we consider harmful that are promoted in the church.

    I realize it is important for people to go through the stages in order and at the correct times, but there is no reason to teach children falsehoods in order for them to progress from one stage to the other.  They tend to do it naturally.  For example, a child can believe in fairies.  They are fully real to that child, although they have never seen one.  That child will progress through that belief in stages much like Fowler’s.  One need not necessarily be religious for the stages to be realized.

    It was implied during the podcast that if religion is not involved children will eventually turn against parents who have not provided that forum (Forgive me, but I do not want to go back through and find the exact quote).  I must disagree.  Religion is not necessary as a method of teaching or working through the stages, and is certainly not necessary for the rebellion of youth.  Children often turn against their parents.  It is normal.  Many, although not all, children as they mature will go through a type of stage 4 disaffection from their parents as they become their own authority.  I fully expect this will happen to my own children, and I fully believe they would have gone through it if we had continued our church activity.  I want them to become their own people.  I will support them in their blooming maturity and try my hardest to help them to the other side. 

    Unfortunately, the church is not a supportive parent, leaving many former stage 3 believers out in the cold, banned from the temple and full fellowship, until they can find some way to reconcile.  In essence, they are banned from the presence of the divine and the opportunity to continue loving relationships not only in the hereafter but here and now, a place far too important to deny it’s true significance.  Too often this will lead to people living inauthentically to ensure they will be able to participate with their loved ones in important events from which they would be banned if their true minds were known.  To me, if there were a loving god leading the church, a parent who wanted their children to progress and mature, there would be a way for those people who were still willing to participate to do so fully and authentically, with true integrity of heart. 

  15. I think Steadie really brought something to this discussion about integrity. When you live the “typical mormon story” (mission, marry in the temple) and then one person in the couple decides that they cannot believe in the Church, there is usually still another person in that couple that believes. That is my story. My husband doesn’t believe anymore and I do.

    My husband still attends Church with me and our children. He has a calling. He helps others in our community move and goes home teaching. He doesn’t have a temple recommend and doesn’t pay tithing. For years I have worried about him living with integrity. I have worried about the pain and frustration that he must deal with. I have told him repeatedly that I would rather him leave the Church than to go through the motions of living Mormonism and lose himself or live without integrity. He almost did stop attending, but he worries about our children. He doesn’t want them to be treated differently because of his beliefs. He doesn’t want to miss out on being a part of my son’s priesthood ordination or my daughter’s baptism. Yet, we both worry that our children will think that he believes whole-heartedly and then later discover that he wasn’t “living with integrity”. So, what do we do?

    For my part, I struggle with many issues in the Church, but I believe in so much that the Church teaches that I don’t want to be without it. I have grown within this Church and I don’t want to leave it. Some people have expressed to me that because of my “doubts” that I shouldn’t stay, that there is no place within Mormonism for me. I can’t agree. Didn’t Christ say that the “sick” are the ones that need the Physician? I guess I consider myself, my husband and any other person that decides to stay in the Church a “sick” person in need of “healing”. If a person believes they can be “healed” within Mormonism then they should have a place in Mormonism. I believe that even if they have to approach the TR questions in a more broad and open sense. If a person can find peace and joy in attending Church and the temple then I believe they should. Some bishops also believe that. My brother-in-law struggled with the Church quite a few years ago. My sister was worried about him and during a TR interview asked about her husband’s worthiness to go to the temple. That bishop told her that despite his doubts, as long as he was worthy (WofW, tithing, etc – expressions of a desire to believe) he should go to the temple, if he wanted to. That bishop believed the temple could help “heal” my brother-in-law. Those that stay have a desire to believe or a desire to grow within this tradition. I believe I live with integrity despite all my doubts.

    Back to my husband’s struggle and my concern’s about his integrity. I am still worried. He struggles and very rarely find joy and peace at Church. I believe he stays solely for his family. In his desire to serve a Church that his family participates in he has just accepted a new calling. Is he living with integrity staying for his family when he doesn’t believe? I don’t know the answer. I hope for him that can feel joy.

    For Steadie… I know exactly how your wife feels. I felt exactly the same way when my husband began his journey of historical discovery 6 years ago. I, at times, did not support him as he went through some very terrible personal struggles. Please understand that this is just as hard for her as it is for you. I hope that you can find a way to share what you are going through with her. Be patient with her. If you still feel that you can, pray for her. Your marriage will become stronger.

    Thanks to Mormon Matters and all who participate. I am grateful for a place I can openly discuss things that are very important to me. The podcast and discussion have given me a lot to think about.

  16. “If a bishop or stake president ever decides to ask me point blank about cognitive content of my assent to certain TR questions, I’ll tell him everything I think.”  Personally, I’ve decided to provide that cognitive content up front in the TR interview, and for a few reasons: 1. Because if I don’t provide the cognitive content, or at least provide the lexicon for my re-framing of the question, then I would feel that I allowed my priesthood leader to be misled.  So if I am asked whether I accept that Joseph Smith was a Prophet and I neglect to tell him that I can only say “yes” because my opinion of what a prophet is has changed as much as my opinion of who Joseph Smith was, I’m leaving him with two false impressions.  I don’t feel that I can respect someone if I am allowing them to drastically mis-interpret my answers.  2. There can be real consequences to having a Bishop believe that you have a traditional testimony when in fact you don’t.  What if this Bishop is approached by a member struggling with their faith after reading Rough Stone Rolling, and this Bishop says “go and see Brother Dan/Scott/Jeff – he is a well-read individual and still has a strong testimony of Joseph’s literal calling”?  Both the Bishop and the doubter are now in a precarious position with their relationship to you and to each other if you then “come clean” to the doubter.  3. As “uncorrelateds” who regularly rue for more transparency with the institutional church, how can we expect openness and transparency from the institution if we choose to equivocate?  How is the institution’s omission of Brigham Young’s wives from the priesthood manual different than our omission of why polygamy is a real inhibitor to our literal belief?  4. If we answer a straight “yes” or “no” to answers that deserve a more explicit answer, we are setting a precedent by which that leader may choose to judge other doubting members.  Or put another way, we rob the priesthood leader of an opportunity to see the soul of a strong, doubting member.  Brother Kloosterman was able to have a mighty change of heart by listening to the impassioned pleas for mercy from our gay brothers and sisters.  Might our priesthood leaders similarly have a mighty change of heart towards those with less than literal beliefs if they can truly see our naked souls?  How many other members might be blessed as a result?

    1. Your views ring true to me, however, as one who has been deeply hurt (abused?) by my ecclesiastical leader, I feel like I need to add a layer of protection for myself .  I’m quite certain a different Bishop would respond to my doubts in a totally loving way, but I don’t know that I will ever leave myself that vulnerable again.

    2. Your views ring true to me, however, as one who has been deeply hurt (abused?) by my ecclesiastical leader, I feel like I need to add a layer of protection for myself .  I’m quite certain a different Bishop would respond to my doubts in a totally loving way, but I don’t know that I will ever leave myself that vulnerable again.

      1. Hi Paula – I completely agree.  The decision that I have made to disclose as much as possible to my leadership is completely personal – and I think that your decision and Dan’s decision are both paths of “integrity”.  I’m sorry that you were hurt by an ecclesiastical leader.  I have female relatives who have been treated poorly by leaders and some have chosen not to subject themselves to the situation.  I understand and respect that choice.  I’ve never been abused by a priesthood leader, but I did live several years as a “walking dead”–attending regularly but leaving my heart and head at the door.  It took a mental and spiritual toll.  For me coming clean to my Bishop (and when appropriate to other members) regarding my doubts was the first step to rebuilding my spiritual and emotional self.  Basically I feel compelled by my experiences now to use my interview as a way to completely reveal my true spiritual self as honestly as I feel that I can.  For others, the interview does not serve that purpose and I can respect that.  I do hope, though, that others may feel the need to approach the interview as I do, as I think it can be a powerful way to have our voices heard and to eventually make the church safer for those with less orthodox beliefs.  

      2. Hi Paula – I completely agree.  The decision that I have made to disclose as much as possible to my leadership is completely personal – and I think that your decision and Dan’s decision are both paths of “integrity”.  I’m sorry that you were hurt by an ecclesiastical leader.  I have female relatives who have been treated poorly by leaders and some have chosen not to subject themselves to the situation.  I understand and respect that choice.  I’ve never been abused by a priesthood leader, but I did live several years as a “walking dead”–attending regularly but leaving my heart and head at the door.  It took a mental and spiritual toll.  For me coming clean to my Bishop (and when appropriate to other members) regarding my doubts was the first step to rebuilding my spiritual and emotional self.  Basically I feel compelled by my experiences now to use my interview as a way to completely reveal my true spiritual self as honestly as I feel that I can.  For others, the interview does not serve that purpose and I can respect that.  I do hope, though, that others may feel the need to approach the interview as I do, as I think it can be a powerful way to have our voices heard and to eventually make the church safer for those with less orthodox beliefs.  

    3. Thanks, Scottholley. I’m really intrigued by number 2 especially. Thanks for bringing that up. I’d respond to the rest, but I think I’ve already shared (too much!) in other responses to think you’d want another rehash here. But definitely have a great deal of sympathy with number 4, hence there is never a chance that I would interact with a bishop with simply yes or no answers who didn’t already have a long time to size me up, and who in that interaction I hope would not likely consider me a “doubter” as much as a guy who is–even if he doesn’t understand how I can view everything to be so much more powerful as myth than as literal and still want to stay connected to the church–nevertheless walking a spiritual path that he is called to by his life experiences and temperament.

      1. Thanks Dan.  I realized after I posted that while I started with the personal pronoun I over-generalized later in my comment.  I didn’t mean to infer that my approach was the right approach, since I totally agree that the interview can and should serve a different purpose for different members.  

  17. I loved this discussion and read some of the comments and Brian and Dan have impressed me in their responses as well. I haven’t read all the comments and so I’m not sure it came up, but I thought it was interesting that the TR question discussion came right after the discussion on ritual, and metaphor and using ritual to get to truth, rather than a concrete truthful action (not quite sure how to word it) and yet there was no mention of the TR interview being part of the ritual, which to me – is exactly what it is, and I can find interesting insights and truths in my answering or contemplating the questions without ascribing the questions maybe the literal meanings the Bishop or Stake President might expect. The latter part was discussed, but I thought it might be useful for some to see the interview as part of the ritual as well.

    1. Interesting, Meredith. Thanks! My usual approach to ritual is oriented toward the opportunity ritual gives us to get out of normal space and time, to get out of my head chatter and see what I can learn in realms where symbol is more explicitly employed and valued for its power, but in some ways the prep for and actual engagement in the interview itself might also fit this chance to inhabit a space betwixt and between (fullness of experience while being forced to answer at a much more pedantic level) and where we’re not meeting with Scott or Kevin but “Bishop _____” with each of us playing archetypal roles and hoping a deeper level of spirit-to-spirit communication can take place beneath the language we’re forced to use.

      Ha! Don’t know if that’s even in the ballpark of an response you were imagining, but that’s what came up for me just now! Thanks for jumping into this discussion! 

  18. Pingback: Is Mormonism a Social Game? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  19. A case for full candor and disclosure:

    If everyone were truly honest and open about their feelings (honest with everyone in the ward, not just the bishop), it would not take long for members and leaders to become acutely aware of this profound and pervasive problem.

    Truth is unconcealment.  The truth is a personal sacrifice that we make on behalf of the larger community.  Are we willing to make that sacrifice?

    1. You are absolutely correct.  Unfortunately, as it stands right now, orthodox Mormonism seems to value “worthiness”, or the appearance thereof, more than integrity.  It is my anecdotal experience during my 35 years of active membership that people don’t say what they really feel in church on Sunday or even when talking casually amongst other members.  Testimony meeting isn’t necessarily what people really believe, or “know”, but what they hope.  Until the ordinary member in the pews has the courage to say what they really feel I don’t think leaders will take much notice.

  20. Thank you for this podcast.  I have mostly come to terms with staying in the church at some level, despite my crisis of faith and lack of “belief” in anything concrete.  However, I struggle with something that I think Jeff mentioned.  I feel like what I hear in church, General Authority talks, etc, have lost all power now that the “Truth” has vanished.  Is there a way to regain some semblance of meaning?  I’m happy to continue attending with less than literal belief, but I find a complete lack of anything useful and powerful in my life now that I don’t believe in the same way.  
    I’d love to hear thoughts on this.  I would love to pray again and feel like I’m getting answers, but I’m just stuck not being able to believe or trust anything.  I would love to attend church or talk about gospel subjects and feel something.  

  21. I loved this podcast. Specifically, I was curious about Joanna’s comment about gendered thinking about truth versus care. This resonated with me and my husband; my issues are mostly with ways we teach sexuality or use shame because these things do not best care for us, while my husband’s issues–if I can speak for him accurately–are with these same things and with times people stop looking for the truth because he believes the gospel/church does/should encompass all truth.
    I was also interested in the TR conversation. I’ve felt most conflicted by the question about things in my life that aren’t in keeping with the gospel teachings. I mean, I sin. I guess eventually I could claim that sinning and repenting or trying are realities that gospel teachings address and allow for, but this is where I have felt most need to point out that I am in fact not perfect. I am rather TBM, and perhaps I haven’t felt as conflicted by the other questions as many people have.
    What I enjoyed most about this podcast is the discussion about how we can’t protect our children from pain and conflict and the recognition that no institution is free of issues and problems. I’ll spend more time thinking about what things I really want to protect my children from (like overabundant shame and hurtful teachings about sexuality) and how to best do that.

  22. In thinking about how the membership needs to wean itself from authority…  to become adults of faith, I’m reminded of Elder Poelman’s talk…(the original version!)  He mentions how the institutional church will be necessary at one stage of development, but not for a mature person of faith.

    1. Thanks, Bitherwack. Fun to be reminded of that great talk! For anyone interested, a side by side comparison of the talk as delivered vs as published in the Ensign is available via the Sunstone website. Go to past issues, find issue 97 (Oct. 1990), and in the table of contents you can find it (the one starting on page 50) and download a pdf. 

      I believe the core teachings of all religions point us beyond the need for the religion itself. I don’t think it means we necessarily should leave membership and association and service to others so much as we become grounded ourselves in the spiritual realities the religions point toward.  As Elder Poelman suggests, the external structures and disciplines of the institutional church naturally become replaced by our own self discipline and acting on our own initiative as directed by our own relationship with God/Spirit. Mormonism teaches all this, it just too often gets buried….

    2. Thanks, Bitherwack. Fun to be reminded of that great talk! For anyone interested, a side by side comparison of the talk as delivered vs as published in the Ensign is available via the Sunstone website. Go to past issues, find issue 97 (Oct. 1990), and in the table of contents you can find it (the one starting on page 50) and download a pdf. 

      I believe the core teachings of all religions point us beyond the need for the religion itself. I don’t think it means we necessarily should leave membership and association and service to others so much as we become grounded ourselves in the spiritual realities the religions point toward.  As Elder Poelman suggests, the external structures and disciplines of the institutional church naturally become replaced by our own self discipline and acting on our own initiative as directed by our own relationship with God/Spirit. Mormonism teaches all this, it just too often gets buried….

  23. Great podcast.  Thanks Dan for the work you put into all of these.  I’ve been downloading these and this is now just the latest one í’ve listened to.  If you don’t mind me asking, what is the evidence (or where can I find evidence from a trustworthy source) that the BoM is not truly a historical document?  I’m asking from a place of understanding, not from a place of challenge.  Thanks

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