The Facade of Activity

Jeff Spector accountability, Bloggernacle, church, Culture, faith, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, new order mormon, religion, sacrament meeting, spirituality, testimony 154 Comments

You see them every week at Church, attending their meetings, performing their callings, shuttling their children to this or that activity.  They are active in the Church by every definition.  But are they really ACTIVE in the Church?  Are they ACTIVE in the gospel?

Activity in the Church is loosely defined as attending Sacrament meeting once every three months. After that you are considered “less active,” which was changed a number of years again from “inactive.”  I guess “less” is better sounding than “in” wsacramenthich means not.  Which is technically what those members who never attend are: “not active”  It also takes into account those members who are partially active rather than fully active.

Anyway, a number of years ago, I lead a committee of Stake Council members to determine how we in the Stake could help Strengthen Families.  We were seeing a trend of dropping Church attendance, temple going, and tithe paying among the members.

One of the conclusions we arrived at is there is a façade of activity among some  members of the Church. That is, they appear to be active in the Church but are not fully committed.  This manifests itself by:

  • Lack of a current temple recommend
  • Not full tithe payers
  • No Family Home Evenings
  • No Family Scripture Study or prayer
  • Not doing home or visiting teaching
  • No bearing of testimony
  • Turning down callings
  • Not attending all Sunday Meetings (sitting in the halls)
  • No participation in classes
  • No participation in service projects
  • Little to no food storage

Now, before you start to complain about my list, I am not suggesting that any of these items individually constitute this façade, but a combination of items might be an indication of the level of real activity.  On the other hand, I’ve learned from the Bloggernacle there are many partial or non-believers who still attend church for one reason or another, but mostly because of family.  But perhaps they hold no temple recommend or do not attend, do not pay tithing and have no calling to speak of.  This information was not available to us at that time we were studying this issue.

I’ve heard and read statistics that as little as 25% of all church members pay tithing and less than 15% have any food storage.  I can’t prove these stats, but that is what I’ve heard.  That would tend to back up my thesis.

We have a saying in my current word that is abbreviated by the initials “STP.”  It stands for Same Ten People.  I probably don’t have to explain that to most church members.

Since the overarching objective of the Church is to help people:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. “( Moroni 10:32 – 33)

It seems that everything else is secondary to that.

So am I off base here or is it true?  Is there a façade of activity among some Church members?  And what, if anything, do we do about it?

Comments

comments

Comments 154

  1. I suppose it comes down to conversion. People that are converted don’t often appreciate what it’s like to not be. By converted I’m not referring to the newly baptized but to those who profess God’s hand in their lives and guidance by the Spirit in much or all of what they do. The converted don’t know what it’s like to sit in a class and feel that what they’re hearing is wrong or at least not believable. Or what’s it’s like to teach and have to shade everything so you don’t feel like a hypocrite. The converted don’t have to conduct a fast meeting and bear what sounds like a testimony or to pray and never have any sense that someone or something is listening.

    The converted can congratulate themselves that they don’t live behind a facade of activity and that by their and the other nine known reliables efforts, the Lord’s work roles forth. You see the less converted know who and what they are and how they’re seen by the converted. Sometimes they’re projects but mostlly just there in their usual pew listening to the converted. It would be nice if the less converted felt they were being helped by the converted and I suppose in some circumstances it really happens. Maybe if the less converted felt that the converted really cared about them and didn’t just see them as living a facade of activity it would be different.

  2. I think GBSmith point is actually right on, but I would put another twist on it. I think that the level of participation is indicative of how truly converted many people are. The Church is very program-centric, and as Jeff points out it is participation in these programs en-masse that defines ones “activity” in The Church. I suggest that this represents a loss of focus on true conversion in The Church, but instead we just try to incorporate people into a culture, rather than trying to truly affect their spirituality on a personal leve. Gospel study courses through the Church really only have one setting, pee-wee. The manuals are very unengaging, and most of the history or philosophy is very distilled. Generally this is used as a complaint that The Church is trying to cover things up. I agree with that to an extent, but would suggest that even when that is not the case the curriculum and overall attitude is a steady diet of milk with no intention of weening.

  3. I concur, Cowboy.

    Are we really trying to convert people to the Church, or to Christ? Christ said “Come unto me”, not “Come unto my Church”. Whereas I think that Christ organized the Church as a means through which people can come unto Him, I agree with Cowboy that we get focused on people integrating into a Church culture, activity in which becomes a gauge for one’s commitment to Christ. That seems backward to me, like it should be the other way around.

  4. Post
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    “People that are converted don’t often appreciate what it’s like to not be.”

    People that are truly converted do not pass judgment and assist those who struggle. But I also have a problem with the “blame it on the Church mentality.” The Church, after all, is a group of individuals, who should have their own individual goal of “Coming Unto Christ.” The Church assists in this endeavor. The facade occurs through the lack of individual conversion.

  5. The Church is an organization with a defined culture, artifacts, stories, heroes, etc. Members join, and yes individuals effect the organization, but it very much top-down. While individually we should each take responsibility for oursevles, I find it hard to accept the rationale that The Church is incidental to it’s members. The Church, sets the tone/pace and direction of the culture.

  6. It is interesting to me that “the Church” keeps saying, over and over and over, that it can only be a supplement to what happens at the individual level and in the individual home. I think a lot of members just don’t get that idea – that they equate “the Church” to the entity that is responsible for their spirituality and righteousness.

    Thus, the “facade” (imo) is the gap between what they want “the Church” to be and what it actually is.

    I don’t think that will change EVER for ANYONE until leaders at the local level and individual members focus on preaching Jesus and His life more than Christ crucified and programs implemented. Christ crucified (and resurrected, of course) saves us, but Jesus of Nazareth showed and taught us how to live and become. That’s what truly converts, imo (repenting [changing] and becoming more like Jesus) – and truly converted people use activity in church (and all kinds, really) to bless and love and serve others, not for themselves.

    I get tired of people trying to come up with “how to reach people”. If it were a matter of creating some program, it would have been created by now. Programs and activities are important for what they do (bring people together for a chance at mutual edification), but that’s about all they can do – they can’t provide the actual edification.

    For example, our Stake President talked last night to the Bishops about serving in the community simply to bless and help others – NOT as a “missionary tool”. He talked about not seeing people (inside and outside the Church) as potential converts or projects, but instead simply as brothers and sisters in need. He talked about not accepting others for who we want them to be (conditionally), but simply loving them for who they are (unconditionally) – hoping they will grow with us to be “new creatures in Christ” but loving them completely even if we never see any change.

    To me, that is the heart of the difference between activity as a “facade” and activity as a sign of conversion.

  7. Jeff: “The facade occurs through the lack of individual conversion.”

    I think there’s some truth to that for some individuals, but it doesn’t explain all of it. I think there are plenty of truly converted people that get caught up in the activities of the Church that they start doing those activities for their own sake, and not because of their benefit. There are other truly converted people who grow weary of putting forth the mental, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical efforts of discipleship (a concept which easily gets subconsciously equated with Church duties and responsibilities, btw). True conversion is not a tonic, nor is it a constant spur to Christlike outreach.

  8. Nice post Jeff. It has kind of been said already, but the church meetings and activities should always have a focus of serving others without underlying agendas, and as Ray said, to help us grow and become.

    I like your list. Since I’ve been getting all personal lately, here we go:

    Lack of a current temple recommend – Have one, although I have not been in a while. For no particular reason.
    Not full tithe payers – Yes, although my wife generally keeps me on top of this one.
    No Family Home Evenings – Not regularly in a formal way, but we talk a lot about the gospel.
    No Family Scripture Study or prayer – We pray together every night, as a couple and with our son. We have been reading the New Testament for a few years–slowly!
    Not doing home or visiting teaching – My wife is better at this than I am. Grad school is no excuse, but this is definitely a weak area for me.
    No bearing of testimony – I don’t normally do this in testimony meeting, but thinking I want to more. There really is the same 10 (more like 5) people on this. They could use some diversity.
    Turning down callings – Never have, but I have passively asked for a release when my schedule wasn’t working.
    Not attending all Sunday Meetings (sitting in the halls) – I’m there, unless I’m in the hall with my son.
    No participation in classes – I have to participate, or else I’ll often fall asleep.
    No participation in service projects – I generally love these, but I usually avoid big moves as my back already has issues. I’m not a hypocrite though–I haven’t asked the elders to help me move! 😉

    Little to no food storage – Doing the best we can with this, given the space.

    I guess I’m pretty active, but definitely have some areas to improve!

  9. SteveS, “conversion” means “change”; “conversion” (at its root) is another word for “repentance”. Both words get softened greatly by nearly everyone – inside and outside the Church. I think when someone truly is changed into a Christ-like person, it actually is a “constant spur to Christ-like outreach” – just internally and almost subconsciously. I think “true conversion” is “deep, fundamental change of nature”.

    I think you are totally right if “conversion” is to “the Church”. I think “true conversion”, as taught in the Church, is not to the Church but rather to becoming a new creature in Christ – becoming truly Christ-like. There is a HUGE difference between those two conversions – and I think it hits the point Jeff is addressing in this post.

  10. Post
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    SteveS:

    First of all, I think Ray is exactly right in his comments above. And you typically don’t find those who have dedicated their lives to Christ complaining about the Church. They are too busy being “anxiously engaged.” Those same people can roll with the punches and the differences in leadership styles and quality. They are not blindly lead sheep but true disciples.

    I would have to disagree with you and say that true conversion is indeed the tonic to escape the blame game and finger pointing that goes on.

  11. 6: Ray
    No, the church does not bill itself as a supplement to personal worship. It tells you where to worship, when to be there, what room to sit in, what to read, how to pray, when to pray, what music to play at your funeral, and on, and on, and on.

    Members become façade Mormons because the program does not work for them but they want to maintain the social structure they are in. They are ‘trying’ to use the church as a supplement and are being labeled inactive for doing so.

    I wish the church really did structure itself as a supplement to personal growth. That would be nice.

  12. Jeff, ironically, I think there are people who leave the Church who have dedicated themselves to Christ – specifically because they are so stinking frustrated that many of those they see who profess to be the “true followers of Christ” aren’t following Him and becoming like Him. I get that, and I even respect it to a degree, but I wish they would stay, let go of the judgmentalism (which often is the root cause of the frustration – the inability to accept people for who they really are and recognize all those who really are becoming more Christ-like – just at a slower pace than the ones seeing them recognize) and help build a more Christ-centered congregation.

    I respect their decision to leave to a degree, specifically because I try HARD to not internalize the type of jugmentalism I am describing here – and that’s not an easy thing to do when dealing with anything “critically”. It’s a very fine line, and I have to jump back over it constantly as I find myself crossing it regularly.

  13. Re: church being supplemental – I have more often heard this idea expressed in church, but often what happens is it does not get implemented. So, in a sense I can understand your point Imperfection, but from my perspective leaders have indeed tried to express this idea.

  14. Imperfection, we see this very differently. That’s fine.

    I see the “structure” as an attempt to facilitate group and communal edification – but individual members have to bring their collective contributions to that structure or it simply is an inanimate, static structure.

    Look, there’s NOTHING inherently edifying about the Church simply as a structure. Discussions of ordinances are one thing, but the structure itself is just that – a framework – a structure. It is what happens inside that structure that is important – and that varies radically from unit to unit and member to member. I believe those who rely on the Church to convert them generally end up in the type of facade Jeff describes; those who are striving to be more Christ-like independent of church activity generally have no facade – the person everyone sees is the actual person, no facade in place. They are active because they are servers by nature and attend activities to enrich and bless others – to share in communal sociality – to laugh and cry and play and worship and whatever as a “fellowship” – etc.

  15. Sorry if this is a thread jack, but I’m not clear on what y’all mean by the church being a supplement to personal worship. #11 Imperfection: What do you want it to do? #13 AdamF What should be implemented?

    For me, my activity at Church is mostly because I do believe in the core doctrines of the Gospel. I do attend also because i want the social interaction for me and my family. However, when there are activities, guidlines, and unwritten orders of things that I don’t like (what I think #11 means in the “where to worship, when to be there, what room to sit in, what to read, how to pray, when to pray, what music to play at your funeral, and on, and on, and on” quote), I just ignore them. And I’m OK. So just because some people don’t do everything at church doesn’t mean they aren’t truly converted.

    I’ve got enough on my plate as it is, (AdamF: grad students of the world, UNITE!), so why worry about whether or not others are truly converted when all I can judge is their outward actions and what they choose to share with me? I can only worry about myself, and my family. I can serve others, and I love Ray’s stake president for talking about service for service’s sake, and for NO OTHER REASON. (Ray — I want to get a job wherever you are. What universities need an astronomy/physics professor near you?) That attitude, and the one Ray espoused in #12, are critical for all of us.

  16. Jeff, from my prospective your list is just a more detailed elaboration of the facade of activity. That is, its possible to be a full tithe payer, TR holder, accept all callings, etc etc etc and still be not very “active” Cowboy states it well:

    “we just try to incorporate people into a culture, rather than trying to truly affect their spirituality on a personal level.”

    This is an important point. The list you (Jeff) provided manifests this cultural emphasis. Some might balk at that idea because you included tithe paying and having a TR but I would argue that even these are culturally determined to a large extent, if for no other reason than they are institutionaly proscribed. I would argue that conformity to institutional expectations is not necessarily going to be a good measure of faith, belief or conversion. I know that this idea is counter intuitive, since Mormon culture seeks to assess the quality of individual faith and experience exactly by our level of institutional conformity. I tend to take this as an irony generated by a culture that has so throughly conflated individual faith with a specific institutional structure.

    To address the bigger point rather than trying to judge or assess the conversion, or activity, or faith of other people, why not ask how many of us are being spiritually fed by the experience of being Mormon and going to Church on Sundays? I think the number of folks who are truly fed is tiny; for both institutional and individual reasons. Or rather than measuring “activity” by participation in proscribed activities, we could look at what individuals do on their own accord, at what they can’t not do, because they feel strongly called by the spirit. (as an aside, I have been fed in ways I never knew possible by the experience of being Mormon but most of this takes place outside of Church settings.)

    Rather than a one size fits all generic list. I think the emphasis needs to be on us as individuals going on a spiritual journey, using spiritual curiosity to discover our own passions and what lies at the heart of our faith and beliefs. When one is doing this, it allows for faith to be manifest in actions but many of these actions need to be of the individual’s own choosing. What you have given us is a view of “activity” based on a checklist list of cultural / institutional proscriptions which is important, but I suggest is of marginal help in understanding an individual’s spiritual life.

  17. Post
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    #11 – Imperfection

    “No, the church does not bill itself as a supplement to personal worship. It tells you where to worship, when to be there, what room to sit in, what to read, how to pray, when to pray, what music to play at your funeral, and on, and on, and on.’

    Wow, you and I view this so very differently. I see the structure as an assistance to the goal of becoming a Christ-like person and I guess you see it as shackles to–I don’t know what — personal expression?

    But you may be right, that the Church program may not work for everyone. Especially for those who make no effort. As Ray indicated, it may also not work for those who make a tremendous effort, though I confess I’ve never really met any of the latter but many of the former.

  18. I think what I meant by implement is the individual members taking on the responsibility of learning and applying the gospel for themselves, rather than just through official church channels or means. Nothing wrong with that, but I have found my faith to be much more personal and internalized when I keep church activity in this perspective–i.e. it is a guide or vehicle, rather than the end-all of my worship or expression of faith.

  19. Jeff–

    This is a great subject to write on.

    Being active in the church is important but ultimately insufficient. We must, at some point, become active in the “gospel”. The Savior defines the gospel:

    And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter… (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 39:6)

    This is the ABC’s of the gospel, but how often do we hear this taught?

    I would love to attend a class at church where the subject of fulfilling our baptism covenant would be taught by someone who had experienced it. “There are two parts to baptism–baptism by water and baptism by fire or the Holy Ghost. If you separate the two, it is but half a baptism.”

    When a person has received both parts of baptism they are:

    1 fully converted (Alma 23:6)
    2. fully born again (John 3:3-7)
    3. received a remission of their sins (2 Nephi 31:17
    4. experienced the mighty change (Mosiah 5:2)

    And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. 2 Nephi 31:18

    When a follower of Christ has received the two parts of baptism then s/he has entered the gate and is on the path. They are essentially at the beginning.

    The Book of Mormon teaches this gospel message over and over.

    In my opinion, church leaders are teaching what members need to hear. However, there are those who find their way to a complete baptism on their own–usually when they are faced with a crisis and they turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart and end up offer up the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite Spirit (2 Nephi 2:7). This is what happened to me, and I am a witness to the truthfulness of this doctrine–the doctrine of Christ. It is taught clearly and powerfully in the Book of Mormon and this is what Joseph Smith met when he said:

    “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (TPJS, p. 194).

  20. I have skipped all the comments, and I’ll get back to them…but I would say, yes, there *is* a facade of activity. However, even with the criteria you have here, I don’t think you necessarily get at the heart of the issue. I mean, I’m not going to say my family was perfect, but when I identified as an active member, we had…

    * Current temple recommends, and we were expected to go to each of the ward trips (perhaps you’ll set a new scale for…”maybe you should go more frequently than when the ward goes”)
    * Full tithe payers, to the extent of it being annoying. I can
    * No Family Home Evenings. You got me here. We tried it a little bit, but it didn’t work out.
    * No Family Scripture Study or prayer. You got me here.
    * Always did home or visiting teaching. Personally, I don’t see the hubbub with why people don’t do home teaching. Maybe my families were always super cool, but it was never a problem to go out. Not only that, but we did other stuff for our families. It’s just a good thing to do. And I’m still inclined to do things like that *now*…but the difference is I’m not going to try to wrap a gospel message around it.
    * Bearing of testimony. This was my problem, because I would bear a testimony that wasn’t mine. (And this is part of the reason why I think “facade of activity” is true, but may not be hitting the mark). Someone who bears testimony has a better facade of activity than someone who doesn’t.
    * Never turned down calling. Maybe I’m a wimp, lol, but the possibility never has crossed my mind that it’s possible. Heck, even when I was disaffecting, so to speak, I *still* accepted ordination/setting apart to Elder’s Quorum…which is different than a calling, but still.
    * Attending all Sunday Meetings (not sitting in the halls). The only times we’d sit in the hall is if we came so late the doors were closed. The thing is…even in these instances, we’d go in after the sacrament was passed and the ushers had abandoned their watch of the doors.
    * Participation in classes. I’ve always been one of the most active in class, but I think it’s because I just can’t stand to see questions go unanswered. It’s really awkward when you’re in that kind of situation, and I know it’s awkward for the teacher.
    * Participation in service projects. But then again, I still do service projects and I don’t think that has much to do with the church.
    * Little to no food storage. Guilty. We got into a food storage binge for a while (along with a lot of canning), so we have some food storage, and we have an extensive amount of canned jelly, but not whatever the recommendation is (2 years? what?)

    In this analysis…my point is not to say I’m a saint. My point is not to brag. Rather, my point is to suggest that despite my activity (which isn’t perfect, and I can’t judge others, but comparatively, I think I was doing better than certain others in my ward), that really didn’t do much in the end for belief and faith. That’s because I think what really happened was I was well socialized into the Mormon culture.

    Of course, now, I think I would fit some of your criteria. But then again, now I don’t *pretend* to be active and I don’t pretend to be an ideal member (or even a member at all, unless it be of Mormonism as a culture rather than a religion — I’m simply still on the rolls as far as religion goes).

    now, lemme go through the comments to see if what others got from this is completely different.

  21. Post
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    Jared – #21:

    Exactly, the history of the Church, the procedures and the actions of individual membershave nothing to do with our conversion to Christ and His gospel.

    I think if any fair-minded person would has issues with the history and practices of the LDS Church should closely examine the history of Christianity after the death of Christ and should be equally or more troubled. But that should not prevent anyone from Following the Savior and His true Gospel.

  22. The truly converted, IMO participate in church (1) for personal worship and (2) to help others. Many attend, I’m afraid, “to be seen of men.” This cultural conversion is more pronounced, i think, in Utah and other areas where there is social neighborhood pressure to keep up appearances.

    THat’s why Jeff’s list works, because it looks at things that are done in secret. Nobody knows about personal prayer, scripture study, tithing, FHE etc. One performs these due to personal belief, or they don’t happen.

    Like many commenters, I have a testimony, but often struggle with whether “being active” actually boosts my level of conversion. It always comes down to attending church to Helping others (right now teaching the deacons) and personal worship (mainly taking the sacrament.) The 3-hour block is not a place to learn the gospel. It is a place to worship and serve.

    Off Topic: I think this is why the church will eventually get rid of Sunday School. THe new two hour block will focus on WORSHIP in the first hour (sacrament) and SERVICE in the second (PRIESTHOOD & RS)

  23. People come to church and participate in one way or another for reasons. Using the term “facade” is a bit loaded because of the negative conotation that I associate with it and it casts doubt on any reason that they might be participating. Another thing is that in the blogernaccle it may seem that this group is the complainers but in your average ward, I don’t see them being the grumpy ones. Isn’t it good enough that they are there or do they have to be like the converted ones?

  24. “Isn’t it good enough that they are there or do they have to be like the converted ones?”

    Amen, GB. That’s part of what I was addressing in #12 – and what Tom nailed in #15.

  25. It’s important for the “Same Ten People” to realize that except for the grace of God, go they. From the STP’s of today are tomorrow’s disaffected. We all know cases like this. Oh, that’s right, I’m one of them.

    We’d all like to think we are Job, but we never know what the future holds or how we will react to it, whether we are active in the church, the gospel or both.

  26. after reading comments, I guess a few posters kinda went a different direction.

    but in basic, I agree with the commenters who recognize the distinction between simple activity and something spiritually deeper. For example, I’m sure to disagree with Jared on a great many issues, but his comment 21 is important. All of these activity measures point at the minimum to activity in the church, and it may be true that people who are active in the gospel will do those things as to fit the active-in-the-church requirement as well, but we can’t focus on activity in the church, because I can tell you that doesn’t necessitate spiritual activity. since we’ll disagree on whether spiritual activity is necessary for all, necessary for some, possible for all, etc., etc., I won’t provoke the issue and i’ll leave my comment at this.

  27. re 27 and 28

    *furiously grabs for popcorn*

    ok, i will instigate this, because I’m such a stinker like that, :3

    re 28…Jared…your comment sounds rather…calvinistic. “The elect never fall away because the saints persevere. If someone appears to apostasize, then either they will come back or this is a sign that they never were saved to begin with.”

  28. #29 Andrew S–

    Your understanding of things is impressive. I hope the day will come when you will revisit your Mormon roots and apply yourself to obtaining an answer from God, so that you too can be converted and healed. I don’t think you will find it from anyone in the flesh. You’ll need to have a king Lamoni or Aminadab experience.

  29. #30 Andrew S–

    You’ll need to have a root beer with that pop corn to have a complete snacking experience–

    My comment is pure Book of Mormon.

  30. Jared—-I erased what I originally wrote in this new post. My new, kinder, gentler self. Jared, it that really what your brain and heart tell you? (I also erased a second question)

  31. #33 Holden–

    I think you’re a great person. I’m talking pure Mormon doctrine. Please don’t be offended because the last thing on my mind is to give offense.

  32. re 31: if God gives me some kind of good answer, I’ll be sure to tell him you recommended me. Regardless, while I’m waiting for that Lamoni or Aminadab experience, I won’t hold my breath.

    re 32: of course, but it wouldn’t have been the first or last time I’d heard someone use a scripture that could easily appeal to exactly the opposite argument espoused by the religion. This Mormon Calvinism is a freakish frankensteinian monster, regardless

  33. #35 Andrew S–

    I had a hunch you wouldn’t agree with it. But then, either would have Lamoni and Aminadab. Look what happened to them. 🙂 Note to myself–use smileys more often when the possibility of disagreement is at it’s highest.

  34. Jeff: I don’t think you and I have the same definition for the word “tonic”. For clarification, I used the term to signify a “cure-all” elixir that when taken, fixes all problems permanently. I stated that true conversion is not a tonic, i.e., true conversion is not something that happens once and you’re “good to go” for the rest of your life, like there will be this constant, burning, compelling desire to go out and help, lift, and serve others. I argued that despite true conversion, people get tired, they get burned out, they get discouraged, they go through periods of greater and lessor spiritual intensity, they struggle and fail just as much as they succeed, bless, and uplift. What I mean to say by all of this is that true conversion isn’t a one-time event, nor is it never-ending once “achieved”. Also, true conversion doesn’t magically make all the problems of managing the Church programs, ordinances, activities, etc. go away. I can’t say that true conversion will really stop “finger pointing” and “blame gaming” that goes on either. Those terms are just negative synonyms for critical evaluation of stewardship, causation or influence. We spend lots of time in counsels and on blogs talking about what works, and what doesn’t (this post is a great example of critical evaluation, no?). Christ commands us to “judge righteous judgment”, which I think means that we cannot avoid placing blame (if necessary) where blame is due–we just need to be careful how we do it.

    FWIW, Douglas Hunter (#18) is probably right about the list: it could be representative of “just a more detailed elaboration of the facade of activity”.

  35. Jared—so that is what your inner self tells you, not just what you may have read?

    No offense taken, my erased comments were my usual blunt, annoying prose.

    Sometimes, I just can’t tell when people are pulling my leg. Like “pure Mormon doctrine”. That sounds like someone kidding. But, somehow I don’t think you are.

  36. Post
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    #30 & 35 – “Jared…your comment sounds rather…calvinistic.’ and “This Mormon Calvinism is a freakish frankensteinian monster, regardless.”

    Please resist the temptation to use other Church’s beliefs as a pejorative to ours.

  37. I’ve known a number of of people who were “active” according to every criterion on your list but who abused their spouses, neglected their children, and/or participated in questionable business practices. I also know other who appear to live perfectly (according to the list) but who have serious spiritual issues, ie. adultery, fornication, rape, criminal activity. Although the Church is a place of all people–the weak and the strong–unfortunately some use their position or status in the Church to abuse and harm others.

    I’ve also known others who are less active but who are merciful, compassionate, and Christlike. Although it is good to live the letter of the law, our challenge is also to live the spirit of the law: to come unto Christ and to be truly converted. As we seek to live the higher law–to become more merciful, pure, and compassionate–we experience the fruits of the spirit, including peace, joy, and love.

    Off topic: I would like to see the 3-hour block shortened to 2 hours as well. It would be fun to see a post devoted to that issue.

  38. re 36:

    I think there is some agreement and disagreement, and it is to be expected. I don’t deny that such an experience could occur, and then if it did, obviously I would think differently. All I’m saying is…I haven’t experienced it yet and so I have to speak for myself now.

    re 39:

    Sorry Jeff: will avoid in the future. Personally, if Jared or anyone wants to admit a kind of calvinism, then that is no problem to me. I don’t have a problem with calvinism and I see something to it, even if I’m not a calvinist. So, I don’t mean to use it perjoratively…I just know that Ray for example, and others have very strong opinions against calvinism. And as you wrote, you also believe strongly in the power of choice. So I only make my comments because I am empathetic to people who would shudder at the idea.

  39. #40 Carol–

    Good point-I’ve seen similar traits in those who are active, but it’s rare. The worst “sinners” I have personally come across have used religion in perverted ways and certainly didn’t have a peaceable walk with their fellow man. And some of the best have no use for religion. An interesting paradox.

  40. Post
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    Carol:

    “I’ve known a number of of people who were “active” according to every criterion on your list but who abused their spouses, neglected their children, and/or participated in questionable business practices.”

    Without any doubt in my mind, those things are true. It is a shame and those folks will pay a very high price in the end for their behavior. So, I agree all combinations can be found in the “church of the imperfect.”

    “Christlike” is a adjective that can define people both in and out of the church. No one ever said that the LDS Church has a monopoly on goodness. And any one who does is going to be very surprised at judgment day.

  41. Jared, the issue isn’t whether or not any particular scripture is pure Mormon doctrine; the issue is whether or not any particular interpretation of any particular scripture as applied to any particular topic or discussion is pure Mormon doctrine.

    I think your application is IF “converted” is defined as “permanently changed” – and that concept is not calvinistic, since it really just says that those who truly become Christ-like have truly become Christ-like.

  42. #41 Andrew S said: I don’t deny that such an experience could occur, and then if it did, obviously I would think differently.

    That is a beautiful expression of faith.

    #44 Ray–

    I’ll borrow your phrase-“spot on”. I think that is how you say it. As I’ve read the various comments I find much to agree with what you’ve said.

  43. re 45:

    I never thought I’d hear THAT attributed to anything I said, lol. Regardless, at the core is my philosophy — you’ve got to have that experience first. You’ve got to have that inclination first.

  44. At a recent Saturday stake conference meeting with Elder Kenneth Johnson, he asked the audience what the purpose was of having meetings. His answer: to receive revelation. That was an interesting thing to hear, when I was trying to justify my time away from my family and unfinished chores at home. One non-member friend of mine made a comment critical of the church one time about Mormons having all those “silly little meetings”.

    So, I drew a line down the page I was taking notes with to have a column for spiritual impressions. As the subject was missionary work, people came to mind who I could welcome back to church or share the church message with. As I pondered the needs of those individuals that came to mind, I also got the message that I needed to serve them better, because they are friends and not because of potential as investigators/reactivations. Thanks to others for sharing that same message in this post.

    As to the purpose of having programs in church, they should be one vehicle to bring people to Christ. When I have had a prompting to visit someone in the ward, I found out who the persons home teacher was and asked if I could go with them that month. One time, the person I wanted to visit didn’t let us in, but I went along to the next member on his home teaching list and learned quite a bit about the individual that was important to know for upcoming Bishopric meetings and ward councils. The organization of that program was helpful for me to accomplish a goal easily and effectively. As we have lay Bishops and not Pastoral clergy, those programs need to be there. The Bishop cannot do it all.

    I just went with the Bishop to visit a woman who’s attendance of meetings has been very limited. Nevertheless, she was thrilled to welcome us in and we had a great visit. The Bishop commented to her that she was a very spiritual person, and she agreed that she was. I could feel that this was true. Reminder to me: inactivity doesn’t mean lack of spirituality, and activity doesn’t mean spirituality can be assumed.

    By the way, I need some help with the prayer thing, if anyone can offer advice. When we put the kids to bed, my wife and I usually divide and conquer. I often go with my son to his room, help him say his prayers, and read a couple of stories. Both of us repeatedly fall asleep in their rooms, then stagger to our own room and zonk, missing the moment for personal or companion prayer. What can we do?

  45. Jared–I realize that quotes from general authorities are only so useful. Discussions using them can become “my quote can beat up your quote”. I only use Harold B Lee’s quote to reflect my feeling that “truly converted” has many meanings to many people and there is no doctrine as to its meaning.

    HB Lee-“The greatest responsibility of church members is to become truly converted, but more important, to stay converted.” To me, even though he seems to contradict himself within the sentence, he differentiates between being converted and staying converted.

    This seems to be a semantical thing, as Ray alludes to. In my own life, I sure felt converted when I left for a foreign country for two years, giving up college, etc., after having been a member of the church for only 17 months. Even as I did that, I could hear my mom’s pre-baptism indignant declaration of “You can join any church but the Mormon church!”

    To me, truly converted means doing the right things (including Jeff’s list) for the right reasons.

  46. #49 Holden–

    I agree 100% with what you say. The context I see it in is found in John 3:3-7. The Savior talks about being born again in two very different ways:

    1. Born again to see the kingdom
    2. and born again to enter the kingdom.

    There are two conversions, separate and distinct, but both are necessary as we pursue the path outlined by the doctrine of Christ.

    There are exception to this in some miraculous conversion like king lamoni and some others who were taught by the sons of Mosiah.

  47. #47 – Rigel, before you put your kids to bed, tell them that your wife and you are going to go into your own bedroom and say your prayers together – then continue what you already are doing with them. You will be more awake, and they will know you are praying. It won’t hurt to put them to bed a few minutes later than otherwise – unless you would be praying for 30 minutes or more. 🙂 If so, then say your own prayers even earlier – “during” the end of the day rather than “at” the end of the day.

    I think it’s much more about the doing than the timing.

  48. #47 & 51 Rigel and Ray–

    My boys and girls are all raised now, but when I was in the tick of it, what Ray said is what I found worked the best. I second what Ray says.

    I often fall asleep praying–hope it doesn’t offend the Lord or those who serve Him.

  49. Post
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    #17 – AndrewJdavis

    “However, when there are activities, guidelines, and unwritten orders of things that I don’t like (what I think #11 means in the “where to worship, when to be there, what room to sit in, what to read, how to pray, when to pray, what music to play at your funeral, and on, and on, and on” quote), I just ignore them. And I’m OK. So just because some people don’t do everything at church doesn’t mean they aren’t truly converted.”

    For the most part, I agree with you. Many things in the church are opinions and not “musts.” It seems like some have a hard time differentiating between what is required of us as disciples of Christ and the other things.

    But, why wouldn’t you want to sit in the Chapel for Sacrament Meeting at the time your ward meets?

  50. I will agree with Jared’s overall point of view to an extent. I think the difference between those who find the church’s structure, programs, involvement, expectations, etc., burdensome and those who find them expanding is the degree of belief. If someone has a 100%, rock solid, sure belief in the truth of the gospel and the LDS church, they will likely view anything that is asked or expected of them as coming from god and will find great satisfaction in it. If someone has a lesser belief or, certainly, no SURE belief, then they will find those things cumbersome and unreasonable. I can speak from personal experience. Long before I decided I didn’t believe in the church I decided that I would never accept any calling that required me to spend any meaningful time away from my family. I felt (and still feel) that requiring such things of members is inappropriate and a misappropriation of precious time that one should be devoting to his or her family (just my apostate opinion). Those who accept and fulfill such callings, however, see in them a higher purpose, and no doubt feel that the lord not only strengthens them to fulfill them, but helps them make up for other deficiencies that serving in such callings may create. Ultimately it’s just like everything else – if you believe in it you will see the purpose and feel the truthfulness of it. If you don’t then you won’t. I’m certainly not saying there isn’t an objective truth, because I believe there is. But on a personal level, I think that’s what it comes down to when we discuss the “structure” of the church. So while I personally agree with those who have pointed out that the church’s program is tantamount to micromanagement, I think it’s important to accord to others the same principles that I adhere to. Namely, I personally didn’t feel fulfilled or satisfied by the church’s program, and ultimately I chose to leave based on my experiences. For those who are fulfilled and enlightened by the expectations and direction of the church, who are we to say they are wrong about its effectiveness? At the end of the day it’s a personal experience. It’s why some of us leave the church and some of us blossom in the church.

  51. I think your view is a bit too black and white, brjones. Many who aren’t rock solid in their belief enjoy fulfilling callings and enjoy the structure and organization of the church. Many who are rock solid in their belief have difficulty fulfilling expectations due to feelings of hurt, or feeling that they have done enough to deserve x or y blessing but feel let down by god, and so, despite still believing, many “rebel” by sitting in the halls, or not doing their home teaching. For many, it is more an issue of how much they enjoy the social network of being involved than their belief level. Many of the strongest believers have trouble with things like home teaching, etc., due to anxiety over that type of interaction.

  52. #53 – I personally think that’s a great philosophy, Jeff. The problem I have is, the whole point of this post is to discuss those who have been categorized by the church and its members as “inactive” or “less-active” because they have made the same decisions. I’m not criticizing you, because as I said above, I agree with you, but why is what’s good for the goose not good for everyone? If someone has determined that they don’t like some of the things on your list, why are they considered to not be fully living the gospel? This is where imperfection’s issues arise. The church has a very detailed and specific program, and although it’s perfectly fine and reasonable for those on MM to say “we think it’s fine for people to live the gospel as they see fit and in a way that works for them personally,” the fact is, that’s not really the church’s position, or else they wouldn’t be keeping lists of the people who aren’t following the program and sending people to their homes to get them back in line. The fact is, the church’s program is deemed to be inspired, and although you are free to do what you want, if you’re not following it then you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and it will be noted with the church. If the church was really ok with people ignoring those aspects of the program with which they disagreed, they would not worry about WHAT people were doing and would only worry about HOW they are doing. And although there are definitely many individuals in the church who think this way, I don’t think it’s fair to say the church proper does. I think the opposite is true.

  53. Dexter, I’m not saying that everyone who truly believes will be a perfect member and vice versa. What I’m saying is that even those true believers who have struggles with the program, more often than not don’t have those issues because they believe the program is wrong, rather that they personally have issues that prevent them from completely following it, as you described above. You’re far more likely to hear someone lament the fact that they personally have not done a good job of home teaching or fulfilling a demanding calling than you are to hear someone criticize the amount of time that is being required of them or the level of involvement. My point goes more to people’s VIEWS of the church program than it does to how that actually plays out in people’s lives. Those who think the church program is overbearing probably would not describe it as truly and completely inspired.

  54. I definitely agree. For better or for worse, the church has established a system where it is not really acceptable to question what is being asked. It is simply, do as you are asked, or you will face the consequences. Such consequences could be rather small-rumors abound that brjones turned down a calling! (collective gasp!!!!!)-or, a member loses his temple recommend. Within the church, there is definitely an attitude of, if you don’t like it, you need to change, instead of a let’s change the way the church is run.

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    #18 – Douglas Hunter

    “Some might balk at that idea because you included tithe paying and having a TR but I would argue that even these are culturally determined to a large extent, if for no other reason than they are institutionally proscribed.”

    This POV depends on whether you think that the institution has a divine mandate to reflect the Will of God. If you do, they having a TR and paying Tithing is the mark of a true Disciple of Christ since it is His Gospel we claim to teach. If not, then it has no point other than to collect money. I have no idea why you’d have a TR if you didn’t think the Temple was important.

    I also think you are over-laying the term “culture” with the Gospel. The gospel is about paying tithing. Green Jello is about culture. Family Home Evening is about building up the family, a part of the Gospel, white shirts may be culture.

    I never expected the “list” to be the end all of describing how converted someone was, but only a potential set of indicators on the facade.

  56. Those who are converted don’t fall away (Alma 23:6).

    Yes, they do (Alma 5:26 – 32). Alma 23:6 refers to a specific group of people, not to all people anywhere who truly convert.

    “If they leave, they were never really converted” is a convenient and comforting argument to make — and LDS are far from the only people who make it, BTW — but it simply isn’t true. It especially isn’t true under LDS theology, which requires “enduring to the end.” And besides insulting any who were converted and later fell away, “It could never happen to me” is a hubristic and perilous point of view. It can happen to anyone. Trust me on this. It happened to me.

  57. #53: “But, why wouldn’t you want to sit in the Chapel for Sacrament Meeting at the time your ward meets?”

    I have 3 main reasons why I don’t always want to be in the Chapel. 1. It’s so irreverent in there that I can’t have a spiritual experience. 2; I don’t agree with what’s being said (a la ‘if you don’t vote XXX you’re doomed); 3. Often the people who need help, smiles, and a kind word in my ward are late and don’t come into the Chapel at all, and then slip out after Sacrament Meeting. I can’t talk with them otherwise, and I think it’s important to do so. We attend in a 4 story converted building and so our chapel is small, with the doors at the front of the room — very embarrassing to walk in late as everyone sees you, so many people stay out in the halls (no foyer for us even 🙁 ).

    Now, in point #1 — it is more often than not my daughter causing the irreverence in my row. I’m not usually bothered by others’ kids, just my own.

  58. #59 – I don’t mean to be flippant, but you’ve got to be kidding, Jeff. Having a TR is not cultural? Ideally that’s true, but if you don’t think there is a HUGE number of people in the church who maintain a TR and even attend the temple for image, you are deluded. I agree with you that that is not the INTENT of a TR and tithing, but that’s not completely what we’re talking about. Anything that is an outward manifestation of righteousness (which is almost everything in the church) is a cultural issue, even if it isn’t meant to be at its purest level.

  59. Jeff’s final question was: what can we do [to help people be as faithful as possible]?

    I have a few ideas:

    1) We can require that all members who attend a wedding must believe certain things and behave in certain ways.
    2) We can teach our teenagers (at the age where temptation is strongest) every day in seminary and in college at institute.
    3) We can send our young men away during 2 of the most dangerous years of sin and debauchery for normal folk (19-21) where they will obey extremely strict rules and teach others at the same time.
    4) We can teach about our beliefs at other very key moments of people lives, for example, whenever someone dies we can use this event to teach about the benefits of our ways, even if it means spending less time talking about the person who died, and the reason we all gathered (this was addressed in a recent post).
    5) We can command families to read the same book every day together and individually for the rest of their lives.
    6) We can have youth conferences and treks and church activities as often as possible.
    7) We can avoid evils by teaching not to watch rated R movies or listen to inappropriate music.
    8) We can promise blessings in the afterlife to motivate the members.
    9) We can promise death, destruction and doom to those who do not obey.
    10) We can teach that the only way to be with your loved ones is if you obey and endure to the end.
    11) We can keep our eye on members of the ward through hometeaching.
    12) We can commemorate every birth in the ward with a blessing during sacrament meeting.
    13) We can instruct our members on the glorious history of the church, but purposely leave out anything not faith promoting.
    14) And on and on and on.

    I’m not trying to be rude, but is WHAT MORE CAN WE DO? really the right question?

    Perhaps backing off on so many THINGS TO DO and focusing more on simply loving people and treating them with warmth is in order. I can tell you, a genuine friendliness is lacking in many wards even where hometeaching percentages were through the roof.

    I freely admit that if the church is true, obviously, the leadership and the members should be working hard to help make the church a part of everyone’s life, and the list I constructed above can’t really be criticized. If god truly commanded the church to do all those things, who can fault him? But if the church isn’t true, I can see why some people would view mormonism as too in your face about their beliefs and too seclusive in things like marriage ceremonies. Either way, I think it would behoove the church to have maybe a few less lists of things to do and more of a focus on being charitable without efforts to convert or convince. People can tell when you are being nice in order to share the gospel or get someone to return to church or just to check it off of a list. People can also tell if you truly just want to be friendly.

  60. At heart is the interplay between the external manifestation of inner feelings based on a prescribed list of activities. Of course, it’s more difficult to gauge someone’s true inner feelings. We rely on their professions of such combined with our own discretion to assess that, but we really only see “through a glass, darkly,” while “the Lord looketh on the heart.

    I often wonder if lists like this are helpful or a distraction, both to the organization and to individuals. When my BIL first went to a Utah ward, he was concerned and asked us, “How do you deal with all the complacency?” I didn’t readily see then nor now how to gauge or change that widescale. Programs are a necessary evil in some ways and compliance with lists can build up a nascent faith but can also dull a mature faith if people are prone to Calvinism or checklist faith. And Carol Brown’s point about what really lurks in people’s hearts is valid. One can do great good or great evil within any framework, and it’s even more insidious to hide your abusive nature behind a facade of patriarchy and righteousness.

  61. I forgot some HUGE ones in the list:

    Garments
    Old people being urged to go on missions
    Old people (and everyone else) being urged to work in the temples as often as humanly possible)
    Honor Code at BYU
    Standards for Youth
    Genealogy
    Food Storage
    Tithing
    FHE
    Daily Prayer (morning and night)
    Family Prayer
    All the Church books and videos and BOM on CD and ipod.
    Fasting
    Fast Offerings
    etc.etc.

    Again, I’m not criticizing. The church has done a very thorough job at affecting people’s lives in as many ways as possible. And, if the church is true, who can blame it? But the job already done has been pretty exhausting, so I think a question like what MORE can we do is missing the mark. How can we still LOVE our fellow human beings, despite how busy we are with all these lists, should be the focus, in my opinion. And by that I mean, throwing out the rules or canceling a meeting to have a BBQ with neighbors (members and non-members alike) where members are asked to solely focus on beliefs held in common with non-members (as in, not as a lead in to introduce the BOM, but INSTEAD of mentioning the BOM or anything at all that is only a mormon’s belief) would be a good thing if you ask me.

    This attitude of “we have the truth and we must share it” puts many off. A more open, honest, “this world is tough at times for all of us and we are here to help each other because who knows what the future or the heavens hold” is a loving attitude anyone can embrace.

  62. Dexter makes a good point in that there is so much to DO already, that we can’t really ask what more we can do. This is especially true because changing what we DO is not really an option. Can you imagine a local leader deciding that the third hour of church could be spent with parents teaching their families in the home rather than squinting at endless quotes by multitudinous general authorities of the church over the past 175 years? Can the full-time missionaries decide that instead of spending 95% of their time tracting and 5% in community service each week, they were going to spend 95% of their time serving others in the community and 5% knocking on doors? Could a bishop tell his congregation that they should all read the Old Testament instead of the Book of Mormon this year? Could a gospel doctrine teach prepare her own lessons instead of those prescribed in the correlated, approved course of study (repeated ad nauseum every 4 years) without censure or release? It quite simply could never happen. None of these things could happen for very long, even if the change was made in an effort to get people out of their routines, and hopefully focused more on coming unto Christ rather than churning out the same old same old.

    And yet, the stories of great people in the scriptures were all about people who thought outside the box, who did things differently, who caused others to perceive the world around them in new ways. Think Abraham leaving his homeland. Think Moses rising up against Pharaoh. Think Samuel seeing a king in a shepherd boy. Think Hosea marrying a prostitute. Think Isaiah naming his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Think Paul preaching the Gospel of Christ to a large portion of the Roman Empire. The ultimate example of this? That’s right. Jesus. What if coming unto Christ meant being willing to do things differently than what is expected of you culturally? Some might argue that Jesus suggested changes from within the context of Judaism. But when did breaking ritual purity standards (touching dead, diseased people, eating with publicans (i.e. heretics and infidels who worked for or supported Rome) and sinners (i.e. prostitutes and scoundrels), etc.) or proclaiming yourself to be the Son of God, or reorienting the Passover meal into a celebration of His own imminent atoning sacrifice fall into “following” Judaic law? And of course, in the end, Jesus breaks with Judaism completely. He himself was a disruptive figure in religious history. And the world would forevermore be affected by his example.

    Maybe I’m overthinking this. Being converted to Christ means following His will in all things as much as you know how, whether it be in conforming to structures and programs and organizations already in place, or in doing things in different ways. I just fear that there is so much structure in place that doing things differently is extremely different, even if you feel inspired to so act.

  63. That last sentence should read “I just fear that there is so much structure in place that doing things differently is extremely difficult, even if you feel inspired to so act.

  64. #59

    you miss my point entirely and are drawing an incorrect distinction. Culture is about far more than superficial commonalities within a group such as green Jello and shirts. Culture plays a profound role is shaping belief and how we comprehend the institutionally mandated aspects of religious practice. It also provides the context in which religious practice takes place. So its just absurd to me to pretend that having a TR or paying tithing is not a cultural issue, in addition to what ever else they might be.

    Even a phrase such as “this POV depends on whether you think that the institution has a divine mandate to reflect the Will of God.” is an expression of cultural influences. There is a lot of unpacking we could do in examining how one understands an *institution* as capable of having such a mandate and reflecting such a will; much of it is going to be based on culture, education, political ideology, historical context, and so on. These things can’t be extracted. It would be wonderful if they could, but they can’t. Our participation in the church is always a cultural act influenced by a cultural context.

    A related but different example might be the way that in the church the conventional reading of scriptures, doctrine, history are always done from a politically conservative ideological position. Who is naive enough to believe that an aspect of culture such political ideology should play a primary role in scriptural interpretation and religious life? Hopefully not many, and yet, its obviously manifest in our meetings on Sundays, in church manuals, in the Ensign, in the history of the church’s engagement with social issues, etc.

    “I never expected the “list” to be the end all of describing how converted someone was, but only a potential set of indicators on the facade.”

    Yes I got that, but what I am doing is proposing that the list isn’t even a set of indicators, because it doesn’t really measure “active in the gospel,” a good phrase you used in the OP. That is a good concept, but the list only serves to conflate active in the gospel with adherence to institutional proscriptions, which serves to diminish and at times trivialize the gospel. In short I am challenging a few things you are taking as given.

  65. Post
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    Dexter:

    “Jeff’s final question was: what can we do [to help people be as faithful as possible]?”

    First of all that was not my question. My question is what can we do about the facade? I addressed that to us as individuals. Also, I know you thought you were being funny with your lists, but I don’t appreciate it. So please either contribute to the discussion in a constructive way or leave it alone.

    I haven’t asked anyone to do any more or any less.

  66. Oh, I should add that culture can be a good influence and a good context as well as bad or neutral. So I am not making a simple “culture bad / gospel good” argument because 1) culture is many things and 2) You can’t separate gospel and culture in the first place.

  67. #69 – Jeff, I think this is a little unfair. Dexter was certainly being critical and caustic, but I didn’t get that he was trying to be funny. He obviously has issues with what he feels are the laundry lists of requirements the church gives its members. You may not appreciate his tactic, and obviously you don’t appreciate his intent, but I think his point was a new one in the thread and is a valid discussion point, so I think it is constructive. That said, I think it’s fine for you to express that you don’t like his tone, but I think it’s unfair to say that his point wasn’t constructive.

  68. Post
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    #62- brjones

    “Having a TR is not cultural? Ideally that’s true, but if you don’t think there is a HUGE number of people in the church who maintain a TR and even attend the temple for image, you are deluded.”

    No, its all part of the facade I was talking about. If the reason to have a TR is for show. I don’t think I know anyone like that. Most of the folks that I think of when I think of the facade of activity do the minimum required to maintain their image. Going to the temple is probably too much work.

    “Anything that is an outward manifestation of righteousness (which is almost everything in the church) is a cultural issue, even if it isn’t meant to be at its purest level.”

    Don’t agree. having a TR is not just an outward act. Paying tithing is not outward unless you are trying to impress the Bishopric. Frankly, no organization would get my money just for that. these are just outward sign of the inner commitment that we have to the Savior.

  69. Post
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    #66 – SteveS

    “Maybe I’m overthinking this.”

    Over thinking and over critical. You use the Jews as an example of going overboard cultural by following the Judaic Law? I guess you mean the Mosaic Law? You need to remember that the Jews were given the Mosaic Law as a “Schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ. Up to the point that Jesus came, they were to follow that law. Granted they took it to extremes in some cases, but they did that in order to show greater devotion to God, not man. Unfortunately, they missed the Coming Of Jesus and His true Mission to fulfill the Law. I would agree that Jesus came as a change agent but to restore the Gospel, which is, in fact a superset of the Mosaic Law. He eliminated certain practices, like animal sacrifice because He became the ultimate sacrifice. Not to eliminate Judaism but to take it to the next level.

    One must separate out in one’s mind what things are part of our progress toward Christ as one of His disciples from what you term as cultural. Instead of railing against it and being critical of it, determine how it brings us closer to Him. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.

  70. #72 – Jeff, I completely understand what you’re saying, and I have no doubt that for you those things are true. But you have to understand that there are many, many people in the church for whom those standards are not applicable. There are scores of people who don’t really have a personal testimony of tithing but they still pay it. There are scores of people in the church who don’t particularly care about the temple but still maintain a recommend and many that still participate. How many people on this site alone have admitted that they would just as soon leave the church, but they are staying in the church solely for family considerations, and you think simply going to a TR interview every two years is too much work to keep up appearances? I can tell you from personal experience, I maintained a recommend and didn’t go to the temple in the last 5 years I was in the church, and really had no desire. But when the bishop called me in to renew, I wasn’t prepared to get into the whole issue of my questioning my faith. I’m not surprised that you don’t know anyone like this, because, frankly, people in that position don’t share those things with people in your position; that would defeat the whole purpose of doing things for appearances. You’re the person they’re doing it for, and that’s not a criticism of you. They’re going along to get along, and I’m not just giving you my opinion here, I’m telling you this is very common in the church. For many people, these things are not outward manifestations of their inner commitment to the savior, but are simply methods of avoiding conflict.

  71. #74 – “…determine how it brings us closer to Him. If it doesn’t, don’t do it.”

    Again, Jeff, I agree with this statement, and I don’t doubt this is how you live your life. The problem is, you’re assuming that everyone in the church lives by this credo, and that is simply not true. You’re assuming that because the purpose of the temple is to redeem the dead and bring one closer to christ that no one would maintain a TR for any other reason. This just isn’t so. It would be wonderful if everyone felt like they could do the things they felt were right for them without worrying about what family, friends and ward members were going to think, but this is not the case for many people. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s not sensible to deny that this is going on.

  72. Jeff:

    Frankly, I am surprised by your response. What did I do? If my list bothers you, take it up with the church. And I was not trying to be funny. There is nothing funny about the lengths the church goes to. And I clearly stated that I was not being disrespectful, and that if the church is true, I find no fault with the level of involvement the church asks. And further, I find your comments to be rude. My suggestions to try and simply focus on having charity for your fellow human beings instead of focusing on lists was not “constructive”? I thought this was an open minded forum? If you only want sunday school answers, I suggest you ask this question in sunday school. Seriously Jeff, if you can’t take any thing that you don’t deem to be constructive, why are you an author on this site? Did you read “is mormon matters balanced”? I thought everyone could make an opinion. I didn’t read any rule about only “contributing to the discussion in a constructive way” according to Jeff’s definition of “constructive”. If those are the true rules of this site, just tell me, and I’ll never come back here again. I would love to hear some other opinions. SteveS didn’t seem to be all that offended. He said I make a good point. Did my comments bother anyone else? Please tell me.

    The problem of the facade IS that members aren’t faithful enough. It’s the same thing. Unless you simply want members to not fake anything, which I don’t think you are proposing, then what else can be done but to try and make them genuinely feel more faithful. How else does the facade end? Unless you want those without enough faith to just stop showing up and stop pretending. But obviously, a member who is pretending to be more faithful than he really is is at least trying in some respect.

    Hawkgrrl or Ray or someone, was I really out of bounds? Why is Jeff scolding me? Please clarify the rules of this site. I was simply making a point.

  73. There are plenty of missionaries who go to keep up appearances. Now that is a lot of work. I am sure there are plenty of people who go through the work of maintaining a TR to keep up appearances too.

  74. Jeff,

    I think your thesis is completely accurate. What percentage of the church would be considered truly active? I would assume an extremely low percentage.

    While I agree that the facade CAN occur through the lack of individual conversion, when you realize that the majority of church members are not truly active don’t you have to question if there is bigger problem?

    I had a director at work that couldn’t understand why none of his employees were hitting their goals. He concluded they were not focused and dedicated. He was eventually fired for his team’s poor results. When contractors were brought in to evaluate his department they all agreed the goals were unrealistic and that was the true reason the employees weren’t meeting them.

    I just think your thesis is more indicative of a problem with the church and its leadership than its members.

  75. Jeff, with all due respect about your take on Christ and Judaism, I don’t think that most Jews today, or in Jesus’ time, saw the law of Moses as a schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ. That was Paul’s spin on Judaism, written to convince others that all Jewish history and practice had typology and doctrinal precedence in Hebrew scripture. No Jews expected a fulfillment of a law, after which they would no longer be required to keep Torah. Torah was God’s gift to his chosen people, and a privilege to follow. That concept didn’t exist in the minds of Jews in Jesus’ day, so when Jesus proclaims that he will be the Lamb of God, of course no one understood. What they did understand was that Jesus was tampering with the acceptable forms of religious expressions, at least as the Pharisees saw it. And they could certainly see Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God as blasphemy (because there is only one God, the God of Israel; in other words, God did not have sons like the Roman Jupiter). Jesus was a disruptive religious figure; his Gospel required a major reorientation of theology and praxis, as well as a new vision of life after death not terribly well developed in Judaism. The only “restoring” I see Jesus doing was reminding people that the most important thing about the Law was loving God and loving your fellow man. Above all else.

    You may see things differently than I do, but I see a fair number of parallels in the way members of the Church, leaders and laity, have built up an ultraconservative wall of cultural practices, traditions, programs, and policies that resists any dynamism in forms of worship and religious expression, akin to the Pharisees of the Hasmonean and Roman periods, who fought against a Hellenization of Judaism. These Pharisees (and the Scribes) were among those whom Jesus most strongly condemns (at least as he is portrayed by the authors of the Gospels).

  76. Drew, I think you make a great point. The problem is, and I think was addressed earlier, that the church can’t be blamed. What I mean by that is, a faithful member who believes the church is inspired can’t blame the church, because this would reflect a lack of faith. Thus, the only one left to blame is the self. I think this is why many members feel frustrated at times. They believe in something so strongly that it cannot be faulted, so if the expected results aren’t met, they blame themselves.

  77. #82 – I’m starting to feel like this thread is being hijacked by nonbelievers – not sure why no one else is commenting. I’ll go one step further, Dexter, and say that members in the church are explicitly taught that if they’re not receiving the results or answers they seek, there’s no one to blame but themselves. I can’t even recall all the analogies I was taught in primary and sunday school about how God is always there and always waiting to help, and it’s only a matter of whether we’re worthy enough to access him. He’s a constant radio signal, and it’s only a matter of tuning OUR radio to his frequency. Taken to its logical conclusion, this teaching can only mean one thing – if god’s not answering you, it’s your fault. I’m not saying this isn’t true, but it can be a harsh wall for people to continue to bash their heads against day after day for their entire lives, especially when they are doing everything they can think of to be worthy. I don’t think the gospel accounts for these people.

  78. 14. Ray

    To be candid, I don’t think church meetings and programs do a very good job of helping members be Christ-like independent of church activity. I think they equate how Christ-like you are WITH your activity. Instead of building our foundation on Jesus Christ, I feel like we are building it on Jeff’s list above.

    Am I completely off?

  79. Be careful saying that. I was scolded for saying we should focus on having charity instead of following lists.

  80. 23. Jeff

    I think your last paragraph pretty much explains why members who lose their faith because of the history of the church slip into atheism (even if it’s briefly).

    IMO the church sets an unrealistic expectation of prophetic leadership through its white-washed history. When someone discovers the true history they are stuck in a messy predicament. They have an expectation of prophetic leadership that doesn’t exist. We could avoid all of this by being honest in Sunday School.

    Sorry, I know this isn’t completely related to your post.

  81. 85. Dexter

    I agree we should focus on having charity instead of following lists. I think your comments illustrate the weight a member can feel in the church. No one can fulfill all of those duties at one time.

  82. #87 – DrewE, while it appears that you and I are very much on the same page, I think it’s only fair to point out with respect to the last sentence of this comment, that the most you can say is that you can’t conceive of someone fulfilling all of those duties, or to acknowledge that many people obviously have failed to do so. Again, I happen to agree with you, but I have been hard on some of the strong believers on this board for speaking in absolutes without acknowledging the divergence of opinion on the other side. There are undoubtedly people who frequent this site who relish the requirements the church places on its members, and many who do all that is asked of them and more. Now, the issue of what potential consequences can arise from such an investment is another matter. Still, I think it’s unfair to make a blanket statement that indicates that as a matter of fact no one can do all that’s asked of them in the church. At the very least in the minds of many members, this is not true.

  83. “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67-69)

    I have long pondered this scripture as to its meaning relative to the organized religion we are discussing. I have come to the conclusion that we can belong to the LDS church and not be members of His Church. Coming unto Christ is, in my opinion, a call to be sanctified by the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. As it states, anything else is not of Him.

    I once held the opinion that the programs of the church were our leaders attempt to throw as much as they can against the wall in hopes that something will stick. Perhaps tithing would lead someone to a deeper relationship with Christ, perhaps another would gain from their sacrifice in home teaching, etc. I abandoned that position when President Hinckley used tithing and temple attendance as markers of the condition of the church. As far as I can see, these outward signs (the facade) are now used to measure our ‘goodness’ as a church. I don’t believe that is what Christ intended for His church. Eternal life if to know God, to paraphrase. Matthew 7 reminds us that we can appear to be very active yet Christ will reject us because He doesn’t know us.

    Someone dear to me had a dream where they were riding a bus to get to a very special high place. After a while the bus stopped and they had to put on their hiking shoes and finish the rest of the journey on their own two feet. The church will only take us so far before we will need to ‘walk by faith’ the rest of the way under our own power.

  84. I wanted to get involved in this discussion, but brjones, Dextor, and DrewE keep beating me to the punch! I also wanted to compliment Douglas Hunter’s posts. When I have to read something a couple of times to get what’s really being said because of its complexity, I get a big smile on my face. Now that’s some good writing skills…

    To keep this civil, I would like to inject a point made to me by a friend who was a devote Jehovah’s Witness. For over thirty years he religiously practiced his faith including at least 10 hours per week of witnessing. Members in his church make the same arguments as LDS ones for why people leave. They assume the standards and practices were just too hard to follow due to a lack of faith. The truly converted ones don’t leave. He left despite years of service and dedication to build the kingdom here on earth. (If you want to see an impressive list of things you can and can’t do, just study into that faith a little!) Interestingly enough, he still retains much of the day to day living of a JW. He doesn’t celebrate holidays, won’t even consider getting a blood transfusion, and still thinks the “Book of Revelations “is particularly important for our day and age. He left the group because he concluded that the founder ‘s (Pastor Russell) re-writing of the bible was very flawed and not actually a better interpretation of the Greek and Hebrew text. Work on the Dead Sea scrolls could be compared to our “Book of Abraham” for shaking the faith of their members. (They believed the discovery and translation of those old documents would confirm much of what was unique about the “Witnesses”.) He also started to have serious misgivings about the 144,000 going to heaven doctrine and the 1914 advent of the “Golden Age”. He finally decided that he just couldn’t deal with all the problems and changes in prophesies and doctrine.

    No one on this board would probably have a problem with him leaving his religion. After all, it wasn’t true to begin with, so despite the good these people endeavor to do, he is actually better off outside the faith. I don’t find his experience very much different than my own. I spent many years earnestly striving to keep all the “boxes” of Mormonism checked. I certainly thought I was converted for many of those years, but like my friend, the evidence against the LDS faith being “God’s one true church” became overwhelming. With this revelation, am I (like my friend) better off outside the church? Is half hearted participation for the sake of family worth the glaring looks from TBM’s and the need to repress a strong desire to tell them just how deluded I think they are? To be honest, I still don’t know the answer to my own question. Perhaps some of you have some advice for a non-believer still participating for the sake of the “show”.

  85. #92 – I don’t think anyone can tell anyone else what to do in this situation, or judge what anyone else is doing. As I have detailed in another post, I went through several stages with my activity until I arrived at the point where I felt that I couldn’t be involved anymore. Ultimately the decision was made for the sake of my children. Let me reiterate that that doesn’t mean that I feared for my children if we kept them in the church. I just think it would be too difficult for my wife and I to teach them our values when some of those values are contradictory to what the church teaches. Additionally, as has been discussed in this post, there is so much expectation to bear testimony, do missionary work, serve in callings, etc., I ultimately felt that I had to either agree to do those things fully or to bow out. I sympathize with your situation, and I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for yourself, although I know how hard it can be.

  86. Brjones,

    It would appear from your post that you and your wife are on the same page. I long for that day my brother…

    Of course the bishop would encourage her to leave me before I destroy her testimony. (Obviously he doesn’t know her very well 🙂 . )

  87. 88. brjones

    Sorry. I wasn’t trying to make a blanket statement that members of the church cannot fulfill all of their duties. I have seen faithful members of the church fulfill their duties with exactness. I was referring to Dexter’s list (minus a few negative jabs, no offense Dexter) which I felt would require someone to be perfect aka Jesus Christ.

    I was acknowledging that some members of the church feel pressure to be perfect in everything, which I don’t believe is possible unless you are the Savior.

  88. A very thought provoking thread. Personally, I feel that externalities can be somewhat misleading. I was once one of the go-to people, volunteering for everything, doing two home teaching beats, always attending every meeting and so on.

    About seven years ago, however, I experienced a severe flare-up of what I now know to be fibromyalgia. I went from doing everything for everyone else to having people do things for me.

    According to the list below

    * Lack of a current temple recommend – me
    * Not full tithe payers – me
    * No Family Home Evenings – me (single, FWIW)
    * No Family Scripture Study or prayer
    * Not doing home or visiting teaching – me (asked to be excused from HT, in fact, which was granted by one EQ president and denied by the next)
    * No bearing of testimony
    * Turning down callings – have done so before, would do so again
    * Not attending all Sunday Meetings (sitting in the halls) – I don`t attend at all many weeks
    * No participation in classes
    * No participation in service projects – me
    * Little to no food storage – me

    By all external measures, I am a less active member of the church, yet at the same time, my illness has helped me become closer to my Father and to my Savior than I have ever been in my life.

    I cannot say that the external things of the gospel are trivial, because they are not. I would however, suggest that they are not the sole measure of an individuals level of conversion. Exigence is well understood by the Savior and mercy, in my experience, is freely offered when one simply cannot meet the standard expectations.

  89. #95 – No worries, DrewE. Like I said, I have just gotten on the case of others on this site with whom I disagree for making statements that I thought were unfairly absolute. I understand what you were saying and happen to agree with you.

  90. #94 – Yes, Doug G., we are, for the most part, on the same page, and you’re right, it makes all the difference in the world. It hasn’t been that way from the beginning, but she’s always been open to discussing it, which is more than I can say for some of my friends.

    Although I don’t think it’s appropriate in the middle of this thread, I think it would be interesting to discuss the issue with people who are in similar situations – where are you on the continuum of belief/activity/involvement, how does your spouse/family feel, etc. If there is an appropriate forum for such a discussion, let me know and I’d love to be involved.

  91. #97 – “I would however, suggest that they are not the sole measure of an individuals level of conversion. Exigence is well understood by the Savior and mercy, in my experience, is freely offered when one simply cannot meet the standard expectations.”

    Matt, even when I was an active member of the church, I always believed this was true. Unfortunately, as has been discussed at length in this thread, I don’t think the church as an organization and many members of the church accept this. Ultimately I think it’s too threatening.

  92. For what it is worth, I hold a current Temple Recommend. As an obligatory confession I am not perfect, but feel perfectly comfortable defending my Mormon worthiness. The debatable issue in my life is that I don’t really buy into the Church anymore, and that is it. This means that I am also a full tithe payer. So Jeff, why do I do this? One is to keep the peace at home. My wife is really troubled by Mormon history, and on her better days will even admit that she likes the way the Church is today, hates the way it was from what SHE has read, and understands that two and two doesn’t add up in that equation. For the sake of maintaining family relationships we haven’t discussed any of this with either of our families, and in order to be fully part of their lives, we have to be full fledged Mormons. My wife likes the Church culture, I don’t necessarily object to it – though I find personally intrusive, time consuming, and Church is generally boring (Probably my fault I know, but I’m not aware of a time in my life where Church wasn’t boring). My wife enjoys her callings, working with the women in the ward and the comradry that it builds. I support this particularly because I realize that I am able to enjoy those same qualities (comradry/achievement) in my work, and without the Church my wife would have a limited outlet for adressing those human needs as a stay at home Mom. I have no reason to object to any of this, and so out of necessity, we hold Temple Recommends and pay tithing. In a perfect world I wouldn’t feel compelled to pay tithing in order to keep up appearances, and would be willing to forgo a Temple recommend (I haven’t even been in almost 2 years), but that’s sort of what it takes. Jeff, I mention this to add perspective. Finally, I would agree with the statement earlier Jeff, that part of why this seems odd to you is because it is unlikely that anyone in my position would confess this to you. I don’t suggest that to insult you, but the whole purpose of keeping up appearances is to keep them up, so it wouldn’t make sense to confess them to those in the Wards who would likely approach the matter from an ecclesiastical, duty bound, position rather than confiding in a trusted friend.

  93. Here are my own observations about the overall issue in Drew’s #84. It says:

    “To be candid, I don’t think church meetings and programs do a very good job of helping members be Christ-like independent of church activity.”

    I agree, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I count “church meetings and programs” as an opportunity to edify each other, but becoming more Christ-like can’t happen there. It has to happen outside that activity – which is what I think too many members don’t understand. I think too many MEMBERS equate obedience and activity with being Christ-like.

    “I think they equate how Christ-like you are WITH your activity.”

    I think that is an accurate description of too many members and local leaders, but I think it is NOT accurate for the global church leadership. I think they draw a clear distinction between being “dedicated” and being “Christ-like”. I say this simply because they say it constantly in General Conference. Seriously, when you listen to what they say in those meetings, there are multiple talks that focus on Christ-like attributes / characteristics / values / virtues / whatever. I think they understand the point very, very well – as illustrated perhaps best by Elder Oaks “Good, Better, Best” talk, which has been referenced indirectly in lots of talks since then. I think one of the clearest sermons on this issue was Elder Wirthlin’s “Concern for the One” – since he included in his description of those who drift from the Church those who are “weary”. (That talk, imo, should be at hand for EVERY member to review periodically – those who don’t accept those who are different AND those who are different.)

    I am in the wonderful position of living in a ward and stake where my Bishop and Stake President really get this. They talk all the time about prioritizing, about leaders spreading the responsibilities around so nobody is unduly burdened, about not having both spouses hold time-consuming callings with multiple children still at home (when possible, I know) – even if that means the wife holds such a calling and the husband is responsible for picking up the extra work at home, about personal study and growth being more important than institutional efforts, etc. I’m fortunate to live in a “local church” where much of what is being described here ISN’T an institutional problem – to the degree being described by lots of people here, since it always will be a balance issue no matter what.

    My main point is this: Those who participate in a forum like this, generally, are those whose experiences give them a need to network and seek support outside the normal structure. There are plenty of people who participate who don’t fit that description, but many of those who would disagree strongly are spending their time (generally quite willingly and happily) elsewhere. These conversations sometimes take the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy – a support group that starts to give the appearance that all Mormons are struggling mightily with these issues. There is a very large percent that is; I get that totally. However, the global leadership recognizes this, imo, as evidenced by what they keep saying over and over again in GC and in message to the local leaders. The issue is that too many local leaders can’t let go and end up trying to do it all – which then translates to the individual member that the standard is to wear yourself out doing it all – that being Christ-like can be boiled down to being obedient in everything.

    I do believe the Church is the same everywhere, but I also believe the Church is radically different everywhere – and it’s that reality that drives much of this, imo.

    “Instead of building our foundation on Jesus Christ, I feel like we are building it on Jeff’s list above.”

    Too many are, I agree. I just don’t think it’s what “the Church” teaches.

  94. Andrew S – Now I am really worried I just made an unintentional jab at the church :\

    …this thread has not been good to me…

  95. Brjones #99

    The New Order Mormon (NOM) website seems to offer the kind of place your post alludes to. I don’t post over on the NOM board, but I lurk over there from time to time. I like their mission statement and admire the intent of those members.

    My wife is fairly supportive of me and my hereticness, although she won’t give up the church for many of the reasons Cowboy posted in #101. When I say supportive, I don’t mean she’s not a believer, she just isn’t willing the dissolve our family over my lack of belief and she’s smart enough to know that many of my issues have merit. We’ve both been victims of ecclesiastical abuse and went through a very traumatic period for a couple of years. (I wrote about it on a thread here about “Good Bishops”) I’m not sure what motivates her to stay with the church, but she’s a good example of someone who can honestly say yes to most of Jeff’s list and yet believes if the church was like what it was under Brigham Young, she would run from it. In other words, she loves the modern watered down version of Mormonism, but hates its roots. I don’t know how to separate them, but she’s found a way…

    I’ll be out of town and internet access for the next three weeks on a cruise, but thanks for your thoughts. Hopefully you’re still posting here when I get back.

    God Bless

  96. Post
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    One of the problems I seem to have, for which I take full responsibility is not making the point of my posts clear enough. I am committed to try harder from now on.

    Some folks have at least captured, inadvertently, the idea that some members in the Church think adhering to a list of Pharisaic duties is the way to draw them closer to God. On the other hand, some have offered proof that by doing some of the things on the list you can appear completely active in the Church while being a complete non-believer.

    Others still use this post and every post to be critical of the Church, no matter what. I continue to echo Ray’s thoughts because they do address the point I was trying to make. The Church is about bringing people closer to Christ and living His example. The things the Church asks us to do are only in the effort to achieve that end. Everyone has to determine for themselves what is useful in achieving that goal and what is not. If the so called programs don’t work for you, then they don’t work.

    We stopped doing regular proscribed Family Home Evenings in our house because they turned into a circus almost every time and it didn’t serve the purpose intended. So, we have other ways of accomplishing the same thing. Sometimes, we don’t make the Temple on Stake Temple night or for a given month. So what? We go to have a spiritual experience, not check a box on monthly attendance. Sometimes, I don’t visit my HT families every month. But one lives around the corner and I see him and talk with him at least once a week, if not more. But, they know if they need me, I am there in a heart beat.

    So, the point. We have to separate these long list of things to do from the point of doing them. Some want to think that the CHURCH demands those things of us. It does not.

    The Savior asks for our broken heart and contrite spirit. He asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to be in the service of our fellow man. He asks us to be still and know that He is God. He asks us to be our best selves. He asks us to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father.

  97. Jeff said:
    “The Savior asks for our broken heart and contrite spirit. He asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to be in the service of our fellow man. He asks us to be still and know that He is God. He asks us to be our best selves. He asks us to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father.”

    So why isn’t the condition of the church measured on these parameters rather than on tithing and temple building?

  98. #112 – Jeff, I think just about everyone on this board, the non-believers included, would agree with this comment. I think the fundamental difference of opinion that this thread highlights is that you (and many others) believe that the church as an organization is fully in line with your philosophy, while many of us feel like the practice of judging members’ activity and righteousness by externalities comes directly from the church as an organization. I’m not sure there’s going to be a meeting of the minds on this issue, but I do think the points of agreement on this issue are meaningful, and I also appreciate that there are active members of the church who think the way you do, although I think you’re the vast minority.

  99. re 113:

    don’t know if I’m understanding Jeff’s POV, so I don’t know if I’ll be answering his question well, but

    the latter (tithing and temple building) are measurable signs. The former (loving our neighbors as ourselves, etc., etc.,) are generally private.

  100. Also, I think too many people confuse the necessity to measure the things that contribute “physically” to the “concrete” growth of “the kingdom” with the need to measure both “activity” and “conversion”. Those three things really are different things – even though they are intertwined somewhat.

    The Church absolutely MUST measure and emphasize tithing if it is to continue to build and maintain meetinghouses (especially in very poor countries), build and maintain temples (especially in very poor countries), keep tuition costs at its universities ridiculously low, etc. To run the physical side of the Church, it simply has to track that stat.

    The Church has other measures in place to track activity – and it has other measures in place to track conversion (starting with baptisms, but absolutely not limited to that). It’s just that the measures often get mixed in people’s minds, since they aren’t divided into separate spreadsheets labeled “Kingdom Building”, “Activity” and “Conversion” and distributed to local leaders that way.

  101. The problem I’ve had with this post from the beginning is in the opening sentence.

    “You see them every week at Church, attending their meetings, performing their callings, shuttling their children to this or that activity.”

    When you refer to someone as “them” that means you’re referring to yourself as “us”. And in this case the “us” are the converted, the true believers and the “them” are fundamentally lacking and portraying themselves as something they’re not. To be judged in that way gives rise to all the arguments that have gone back and forth about how to measure faithfulness or why it’s important. ?can you can be a good person and pay tithing but turn down callings or never say anything in SS class but always show up to clean the chapel, etc.. If you believe you’re good and someone else is lacking you have several choices. You can marginalize them (they’re facade mormons), you can ignore them, or unless you’re the bishop/RS,YM,YW,Primary, EQ pres, or HP group leader, you can just decide someone else’s righteousness is none of your business and leave it at that.

    We’re not all where the” us” are. Have patience.

  102. Post
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    #117 GBSmith,

    Very observant of you. Since you are into critiquing, what do you suppose I might have meant when I used “them?’

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  104. I think I’ve lost some of the meaning here. Jeff, do you take issue with GBSmith’s statement? If he’s misinterpreting what you said, perhaps you could clarify. It may be as simple as a “us and them” thing, but if not, what is the nuance that we’re missing?

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  106. Jeff, I think you were referring to those that the Saviour meant when he said they were neither hot or cold, people in a spiritual inertia. People that are comfortable in where they are and what they do but without realizing it are just one or two steps away from something much better. I guess that’s who I think you meant.

  107. In regards to Ray’s comment in #116

    Why MUST the church build spacious buildings? Are these necessary for the spiritual conversion of those living in the area? Does a building attract those seeking to be closer to God or simply reinforce the message of material success is to be sought for?

    My issue is with the church leaders, specifically Monson and Hinckley using tithing as a measure of the condition of the church as they have done several times in conference. Let us not forget that tithing was put in place as a temporary substitute when the saints were unwilling/unable to live the law of consecration. I would liken this to taking pride in keeping a terrestrial commandment, and ignoring the higher law that was put in abeyance.

    So, Ray, why aren’t these other measures, such as baptisms and retention of new members, mentioned when the ‘condition of the church’ is discussed? Could it be that even the brethren measure their success by the dollars in the bank rather than the souls sanctified?

  108. “So, Ray, why aren’t these other measures, such as baptisms and retention of new members, mentioned when the ‘condition of the church’ is discussed?”

    They are. Frankly, you are cherry-picking one statement and ignoring the multitude of statements that use other measures. The “other ones” outnumber the “tithing ones” greatly.

    “Could it be that even the brethren measure their success by the dollars in the bank rather than the souls sanctified?”

    Absolutely not. Relatively few statements mention “dollars in the bank”, while constant statements focus on “souls sanctified”. If you go back and read all the talks from ANY of the General Conferences from the past decade, you’ll see what I mean.

    I’ve said over and over that the Church is nowhere near perfect, and I’ve said over and over again that we need to do a much better job teaching Christ’s life and grace and many other things – but an objective, simple search of what the leaders are saying makes your assertion very hard to make. They talk WAY more about spiritual things than they do about financial things.

  109. Ray,
    I don’t agree that I am cherry picking (although the first crop is almost in). And I would suggest you search for the talks where the condition of the church is described. That is my point. Yes, I am aware of the multitude of messages that are presented but how many of them are addressing this specific topic? And, when the president of the church defines the parameters by which the condition of the church is measured, I pay attention.

  110. Jeff said, “Gee, brjones, you’ve seem to have all the answers up until now, why quit now?”

    Jeff, again I ask, why do you post articles on this site? You are too sensitive, you don’t answer questions asked to you, but you do make rude comments like the one I quoted here. Frankly, although you are sitting in your chair thinking about how much better you are than the likes of any non-believers on this site, your posts have been more rude than any non-believers. It is hilarious to me. You are a shining example.

  111. Sorry, maybe that was a little harsh.

    But Jeff, you aren’t the church. It seems that if anyone makes a derisive comment about the church you feel the need to lash out like they had insulted you. A rip on the church is not a rip on you. So it’s not really tit-for-tat for you to lash out at someone who does this as if the person had insulted you personally. You avoided my questions, and the questions of brjones, and one other person, while making insulting comments to each of us. It’s poor form, especially from the author of the post. If you can’t answer questions about it, fine, but don’t avoid our questions while saying that everyone else is being “over critical” and then make sarcastic remarks like, “you seem to have all the answers, don’t you?”

  112. spektator, I searched lds.org for “condition of the church” used in General Conference – then I searched again for just “condition”+”church”. Here are the results of a few of the talks – with no articles omitted. I simply listed every talk I found that dealt directly with this question as its central topic – until I had enough to not want to add others:

    Arpil, 2003 – Pres. Hinckley – “The Condition of the Church” (Maybe this one is the one to which you referred.)

    “Suffice it to say, the Church is in good condition. I believe its affairs are prudently handled. Our people are growing in faith, in love for the Lord, and in adherence to His teachings.”

    Listed in the talk are convert baptisms, sacrament meeting attendance, tithes and temples, no debt, family preparedness, young adult and senior missionaries, Perpetual Education Fund, faith, love for the Lord, adherence to His teachings, following and incorporating the Gospel into our lives, love and peace in homes.

    October, 2003 – Pres. Hinckley – “The State of the Church”

    Includes world-wide presence and recognition, missionaries, humanitarian work, Perpetual Education Fund, faith, love. Not one mention of tithing, temples, etc.

    April, 2004 – Pres. Hinckley – “The Church Grows Stronger”

    Mentions missionary work (and the need to retain members), activity, enthusiasm, lay leaders’ time, faith, faithfulness, virtue, education, discipline, temples and meetinghouses, humanitarian work, consecrated service.

    October, 2004 – Pres. Hinckley – “Condition of the Church” (Maybe this one is your reference)

    “Suffice it to say that I believe the Church is in better condition than it has been at any time in its entire history. I have been around now for nearly 95 years of that history, and I have seen much of it firsthand. I am satisfied that there is greater faith, there is a broader measure of service, and there is a more general measure of integrity among our youth. There is greater vitality in all aspects of the work than we have ever seen before.”

    Essentially, the list is similar to the first one I listed.

    April, 1999 – Pres. Hinckley – “The Work Moves Forward”

    Missionaries, volunteers (non-missionary, but formal responsibilities), family history, temples and chapels, sacrament meeting attendance, succoring the weak, diversity, tolerance, respect.

    October, 1974 – Pres. Kimball – “God Will Not Be Mocked”

    “The people are attending their meetings and looking after their personal responsibilities. The temples are increasing in numbers, and the work at the temples indicates great spirituality. The educational program is pleasing, with the university and the colleges, the institutes and seminaries, and the ecclesiastical organizations of the Church all teaching. And knowledge is expanding and testimonies are deepening. The construction program continues to expand throughout the land.”

    Finally:

    October, 2000 – Dallin H. Oaks – “The Challenge to Become”

    “the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

    I’m not seeing the imbalance.

  113. Regarding the tithing issue raised by spektator, I don’t have a problem with the church using it as a barometer. In the practical world, I think it is a good indicator of certain things. Money is simply one of those things that people almost universally want more of. The same cannot be said about almost anything else. Of course the church will and should use it to get an idea of how dedicated members are. Don’t get me wrong, it is only one indicator, but I don’ think the church has put an overly high emphasis on the rates of tithing payers. Any one in charge would want to use that information to get an understanding of what is going on. Similarly, any leader would want to know about lots of other things as well, like attendance, % with TRs, etc. Further, money is quantifiable. Level of purity in your heart is hard to measure. If you have an easy to measure stat, you should use it.

  114. “in this case the “us” are the converted, the true believers and the “them” are fundamentally lacking and portraying themselves as something they’re not.”

    I don’t think the two categories are that divergent. Although some people may persistently maintain a facade because it keeps family peace, there are many who’s fire of testimony comes in waves and when there is a low-tide of testimony, they maintain a facade of sorts. I’ve been there and would be dishonest to say that I have shed facade worship completely. It creeps in, just as ‘compassion fatigue’ can hit one on a bad day. So when making a statement such as ‘we’re not all where the” us” are,” is there anyone save Jesus who IS where the “us” are?

  115. Here is the text from the October 2004 General Conference talk by President Hinckley:

    “Now in opening the conference I wish to comment briefly on the condition of the Church. It continues to grow. It is touching the lives of more and more people every year. It is spreading far and wide over the earth.

    To accommodate this growth we must, of necessity, continue to build houses of worship. We now have, at some stage, 451 meetinghouses of various sizes under construction in many parts of the earth. This tremendous building program is phenomenal. I know of nothing to equal it. Our structures are beautiful. They add to the ambience of any community in which they stand. They are well maintained. We have had long experience in constructing houses of worship, and out of that vast experience we are producing better buildings than have ever previously been constructed in the Church. They combine beauty with great utility. If they look much the same, it is because that is intended. By following tried and tested patterns we save millions of dollars while meeting the needs of our people.

    We continue to build temples. We recently broke ground for a new temple in Sacramento, California, the seventh in that state, where we have the second largest membership of any state in the United States.

    The temples in the Salt Lake City area are extremely busy and at times are overloaded. For this reason, we have determined to build a new temple in the Salt Lake Valley. The location of the site will be announced shortly. It may appear that we are unduly favoring this area. But temple attendance is such that we must accommodate those who wish to come. And if the present growth trends continue, we shall probably need yet another.

    We are also pleased to announce that we will construct another temple in Idaho, where we have the third largest membership in the United States. Plans are going forward for one in Rexburg. Now we are also planning to build another in the city of Twin Falls. This temple will serve thousands of our members who live between Idaho Falls and Boise.

    Temples are now under construction in Aba, Nigeria; Helsinki, Finland; Newport Beach and Sacramento, California; and San Antonio, Texas. We are replacing the temple which was destroyed by fire in Samoa.

    When those which have thus far been announced are dedicated we shall have 130 working temples. Others will be constructed as the Church continues to grow.

    We are now working on a major undertaking in Salt Lake City. It is imperative that we preserve the environment around Temple Square. This makes necessary a very large construction project. Tithing funds will not be used for this construction. The income from Church businesses, rents on the property, and other such sources make this possible.

    We must do extensive work on the Salt Lake Tabernacle to make it seismically safe. This marvelous structure has been used for 137 years this month. The time has come when we must do something to preserve it. It is one of the unique architectural masterpieces in the entire world and a building of immense historical interest. Its historical qualities will be carefully preserved, while its utility, comfort, and safety will be increased. We are grateful that we have this Conference Center, where we can meet for such gatherings as this. I now ask myself, “What would we do without it?”

    I am pleased to report that the Perpetual Education Fund continues to grow, as does the number of those who are the beneficiaries of this wonderful undertaking.

    We are strengthening our missionary program. We are striving to bring a greater measure of spirituality into the work of our vast body of missionaries.

    Our educational program continues to grow, extending its influence wherever the Church is established.

    The Book of Mormon was recently included as one of the 20 most influential books ever published in America. We are now joining hands with a commercial publisher to enlarge the distribution of this sacred volume, this second witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    And so, brothers and sisters, I might continue. Suffice it to say that I believe the Church is in better condition than it has been at any time in its entire history. I have been around now for nearly 95 years of that history, and I have seen much of it firsthand. I am satisfied that there is greater faith, there is a broader measure of service, and there is a more general measure of integrity among our youth. There is greater vitality in all aspects of the work than we have ever seen before. Let us glory in this wonderful season of the work of the Lord. Let us not be proud or arrogant. Let us be humbly grateful. And let us, each one, resolve within himself or herself that we will add to the luster of this magnificent work of the Almighty, that it may shine across the earth as a beacon of strength and goodness for all the world to look upon, is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

    I would submit that the works of men, including meeting houses, temples, reconstruction of the downtown area got the most time in this address. That was my point.

  116. #136—“The Book of Mormon was recently included as one of the 20 most influential books ever published in America.”

    Pres Hinckley makes it sound like this is “the” definitive list. Anyone know to which list he was referring?

  117. 38. Ray

    I agree with spektator’s point to an extent, but your research on General Conference talks illustrate that sometimes we make gross exaggerations on what Church leaders are emphasizing. I am more guilty of this than anyone – just read a couple of my comments on this thread.

    I think that I, personally, need to do a better job of separating what I may feel from what is reality. That is just a personal observation, and I mean no offense.

  118. Holden (#137): Ask and you shall receive. Although, it took me quite a lot of time to find the likely citation, and despite being connected to a large university research library with access to most full text aggregators, I could not get the full text of this article.

    20 Books That Changed America: Magazine Honors Remarkable Literature (July 30, 2004) [from Book Magazine’s July/August 2003 issue]
    http://abcnews.go.com/WNN/story?id=132737&page=1

    Information about Book Magazine:

    ISSN: 1520-3204
    Title: Book: magazine for the reading life
    Publishing Body: West Egg Communications LLC
    Country: United States
    Status: Ceased
    Start Year: 1998-2003 (ceased, Oct.)
    Frequency: Bi-monthly
    Document Type: Magazine; Consumer

  119. “temple attendance is such that we must accommodate those who wish to come”

    “any leader would want to know about lots of other things as well, like attendance, % with TRs, etc’

    Building temples = accommodate those who wish to come = a number of temple recommend holding members sufficient to justify the cost = a statistical measure of activity. It also indicates a level of maturity of the development of the church in the area. I don’t know that announcing the number of endowments for the dead performed each year would go over well, nor would announcing the number of those with current temple recommends–although that would be very interesting to hear.

    Some conference presentations are simply announcements for general interest. For the member who comes to conference but reads no Ensign or Church News the rest of the year, they get some of the highlights.

    As for the announcement about the City Creek project, the amount of missionary work that goes on at Temple Square does make it imperative to protect the environment. Our current Bishop had his first witness of the spirit that the church was true in one of those visitors centers. Has anyone driven up Mesa Drive to the Mesa Arizona Temple? If so, you have a good example of what can happen if the environment around the temple gets run down. I try to avoid that route.

  120. I have to agree with Ray and Rigel on this issue. Even the quotes in #36, in my mind, go more to the growth of the church and, as Rigel pointed out, the capacity of the buildings, than they do material success. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to discuss the need for more and larger facilities and to interpret that as the church thriving in both membership and temple usage, which are fair barometers of the church’s health. I think that is much different than referring to how many members are paying tithing or how much money the church has. If he wanted to, the church could wow everyone with the finances of the Corporation of the Church, or even the amounts in the tithing accounts. I think the balance is appropriate.

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    Dexter #131/132 –

    “Jeff, again I ask, why do you post articles on this site?”

    I post because I have something to say. Are you saying I shouldn’t be posting? if so, why? Are my posts that bad?

    “You are too sensitive, you don’t answer questions asked to you, but you do make rude comments like the one I quoted here.”

    I hope that I am sensitive, but in the right way. I choose not to answer questions where I think there is no point to answering. If it does nothing to further the dialog that I am looking to have, then I ignore it. I am always happy to answer a sincere question. I might come off as a bit sarcastic at times but it is usually after I feel provoked into doing it. Not a trait I am particularly proud of, but useful at times.

    “But Jeff, you aren’t the church.”

    I think you are wrong on this. I am the Church and so are all the members. We are the Church and without us, there is no Church. So if I choose to defend the Church against the constant barrage of criticism that comes from certain folks, I am happily going to do it. I make no apologies for that, though sometimes I have to apologize for the manner in which I do so.

    “It seems that if anyone makes a derisive comment about the church you feel the need to lash out like they had insulted you. A rip on the church is not a rip on you. So it’s not really tit-for-tat for you to lash out at someone who does this as if the person had insulted you personally.”

    See the above comment. I do take misinformation and insults against the Church personally when I think it is unwarranted. It IS a rip on me and all other loyal members of the Church.

    “You avoided my questions, and the questions of brjones, and one other person, while making insulting comments to each of us.”

    See above. Which question of yours did I not answer? BTW, maybe I just didn’t see it. As for insulting comments, I suggest you re-read the entire post and thread to see who makes the most insulting comments. I don’t think you will find that it is me. OTHO, it will depend on your own perspective as to how that turns out.

    “It’s poor form, especially from the author of the post. If you can’t answer questions about it, fine, but don’t avoid our questions while saying that everyone else is being “over critical” and then make sarcastic remarks like, “you seem to have all the answers, don’t you?””

    I’d be happy to compare “form” with anyone here. I didn’t intent to be insulting, only somewhat sarcastic. I’d admit to that.

    “Frankly, although you are sitting in your chair thinking about how much better you are than the likes of any non-believers on this site, your posts have been more rude than any non-believers. It is hilarious to me. You are a shining example.”

    I hardly think I am better than anyone. I do feel sorry for those who may have had any experience or that have somehow studied or talked themselves way out of the Church.

    Well, Dexter, you are also free to be here or not be here. It is really your choice. If the administrators wish to kick me out because of my rudeness, I will understand.

  122. #43 – I thought there was going to be an AndrewS syle “reaches for popcorn” moment in here somewhere, but Jeff had to go and respond all civilly and respectfully. Thanks a lot, Jeff.

  123. #140–Steve S–thanks for the info……Your answer was so thorough, I think I’ll just ask for you directly next time.

  124. re 145:

    brjones, I almost had such a moment for this post’s comments. But to be honest, I must admit I haven’t really been keeping up with the 140+ comments here, so I can’t be quite sure who’s really starting or ending the drama. At some point, the tone did change.

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    Sorry to disappoint y’all. I canceled my post this week because I thought it was going to be too provocative.

    Nuts!

  126. aww, jeff, don’t make me impersonate you with a blind guess post of what your post might’ve been.

    it’ll be hilarious for everyone and will guaranteedly miss the mark.

  127. I would hate for anyone to think that this site is not for those at all ends of the belief spectrum. I for one find Jeff’s input valuable, and he represents an important contingency of Mormonism: first gen converts!

  128. On 133 and 138 Ray,
    Yes, I do understand we will have to disagree on this point. We, all, are heavily influenced in our perception to see that which supports our position. As a, perhaps, final thought on the issue of how we measure the condition of the church, let me present a scripture that illuminates the topic for me. It is found in 3 Nephi 27:10-11. In this topic, the Lord gives three conditions that His church should meet in order to be His church.

    “And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
    But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.”

    The key point here is to discriminate between the ‘works of men’ and the ‘works of God.’ If the church is build on the works of men, it will be successful for a season. As I see it, pretty well everything you noted in post 133 represent the works of MEN. Why do I say this? Because the Lord provided us with guidance on what the works of GOD are. In verse 21, he states:

    “ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;”

    In His visit to the Nephitss, Christ performed many miracles. These are summarized in 3 Nephi 26:13-15:

    “Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.
    And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.
    And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—”

    I would submit that these are examples of the works of God. These are things that man cannot do with his own hands and his own power.

    Yes, Ray, you may join in trumpeting the ‘growth’ of the church, the expansion of the meeting houses and temples, the missionaries in the field, the hours spent in doing temple work even things like the PEF and home teaching. I see these as the works of men. If they are the works of men, you will have joy for a season then the end will come.

  129. Jeff:

    “I might come off as a bit sarcastic at times but it is usually after I feel provoked into doing it. Not a trait I am particularly proud of, but useful at times.”

    I guess I’m not sure what sarcasm is useful for, closing arguments maybe, but not changing any minds or fostering any sort of respect. IMHO

  130. As I said, spektator, we simply disagree on this – which is cool. This life would be boring, and this type of forum would be non-existent, if we all agreed on everything.

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