Through my time in the church, I’ve known many who have left the church, many others who have seemingly never had an issue, and a vast majority who struggled with one aspect or another yet remained active (or resumed activity after a period of inactivity). What’s your experience with struggling?
I’ve observed 4 general categories of struggles that people have in the church (possibly in any church, and there are likely parallels in any type of organization):
- Cultural. They dislike aspects of Mormon culture, may feel they don’t fit in, or may simply not want to fit in (“I’m a loner, Dotty. A rebel.”).
- Examples: Church activities, social norms, opinions people express, how people dress, unwritten rules of behavior, church standards.
- Historical. They find aspects of our Mormon history unsavory (even faith-shaking) and white-washed or misrepresented (and sometimes have been unpleasantly surprised due to only having known the uplifting “correlated” version).
- Examples: Polygamy, BOM origins, aspects of church leaders’ lives, doctrinal changes, restrictions on priesthood, temple origins, events from church history.
- Doctrinal. They disagree with certain doctrines of the church or the interpretations of those doctrines they’ve encountered. While there may be some overlap between historical events that relate to truth claims, it is possible to view these items separately.
- Examples: Mormon view of the atonement, Godhood, marriage and sealing, priesthood authority, ordinances, historical claims that are related to truth claims may also fit here, plan of salvation, the role of prophets, Temple Recommend questions related to belief, interpretation of scripture.
- Personal. They have had a personal issue that has harmed them and caused dissonance with the church.
- Examples: marital issue, abuse, interpersonal conflict, depression
It seems that a person could have issues in more than one of these areas, or may find that they are less impacted by a disconnect in one or more of these areas. For example, one may find historical facts like Mountain Meadows Massacre troubling, but feel that they are personally less important because of no direct personal connection to the historical church. If an area is of high importance and is also an area of strong concern, that’s when people leave if they can’t resolve their concern satisfactorily.[poll id=”183″] [poll id=”184″] [poll id=”185″] [poll id=”186″]
It seems to me that for people who care very deeply about a specific area (culture, doctrine, history, or personal experiences), they are more prone to disaffection for that issue if something goes wrong in that area. Likewise, if it’s extremely important to them and it’s going well, that can strongly solidify their commitment to the church. What are your observations? And which of these areas are most important to you? Have they caused you any cognitive dissonance? Discuss.