Explosive Church growth has had a real impact on one of the core experiences many LDS had growing up — knowing apostates. The lack of them hampers us and in many ways we need more apostates.
After all, it used to be that everyone, while growing up, would know at least one ex-apostate, someone who had left the Church and returned. Sure, the bloggernacle has some (e.g. Bookslinger), but someone on-line is a poor substitute for having someone in your ward or stake that you get to know and interact with. So we have a need for more apostates.
Well, we need more ex-apostates. People whose journey took them out of the Church and back, and whose stories overlap with our stories. People who have completed the journey.
Between turnover and people moving about (so that you don’t get to know people in other wards as well or get to know people’s private stories) and growth, people no longer grow up with the experience of ex-apostates to guide them and give them perspective.
For not only do ex-apostates model a path back to the Church for those who leave and who remember them as the Spirit moves them to return, but ex-apostates also provide a second hand experience and example of people who have had doubts or who have left and returned and that experience serves to inoculate others against doing the same thing.
The return also brings a strong testimony of the truth of the gospel. Oliver Cowdrey’s return had a completely different meaning to the children of the pioneers than it did to the pioneers, and it was a stronger message to everyone than his leaving was. To the children it was a strong witness of the truth of the gospel, that what their parents suffered for really was true and that the contrary stories, which obviously caused Oliver to leave, did not stop him from coming back.
Like Thomas Marsh, Oliver Cowdrey knew intimately the weaknesses and follies of the brethren, yet at the end of life, returned when there was little benefit and a great deal of sacrifice involved. By completing the circle, he gave a witness and example to others.
In my own life I’ve known people who left the Church and then returned. Some for a chance to frolic in sins of the flesh, some who lost faith in God, others who were troubled that the Church was made of mortals. Their stories, their falling away and their returns, and in cases my chance to participate in their returns, has given me a better and broader life, a deeper faith, and a better knowledge of the mercy of God and the truth of the gospel.
One thing that has always kept the Church strong has been its apostates, well, its ex-apostates. There are times when in dealing with people and their needs that it seems that what we really need now is more (now ex-) apostates who have completed the cycle, a knowledge of their stories and experience and a chance to be strengthened by their narratives and testimonies.
So do we need more apostates or ex-apostates?
So do we need more apostates or ex-apostates?
Well, you have to have apostates before you can have ex-apostates, so I guess you would need more of both
Stephen, hopefully this will cause us active members of the church to treat apostates with the same unconditional love we’re obligated to show to all, so that more apostates will become ex-apostates. As Richard Dutcher said, we’re taught the parable of leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one, but too often, instead we pull out a hunting rifle and blow his wandering head off. We certainly need more ex-apostates, and we need more active members realizing that every apostate is a potential ex-apostate who should be treated with love and patience regardless of which choice they ultimately make.
I’m a bit flabbergasted here. I think ex-apostates who come back are certainly an awesome asset the church has. But I think that your idea that people should apostatize and come back stronger is a bit out there. Thats like saying that everybody should go commit adultery and then repent so that everybody can benefit from the first hand knowledge of how terrible adultery is. Your idea is whacked, and you must be on some kind of mushrooms. All apostates should be ex apostates, and there should never be apostates to begin with.
Dutcher now is the straying sheep, and certainly he needs to be brought back. But his whole leaving over who knows what was very bizarre. I never quite understood what it was, or if he actually withdrew, or just went “inactive” or whatever. It didn’t make any sense.
George, you may not realize how silly you sound. Stephen is not saying that people should apostatize first, he has created a provocative title for his post to make the point of how valuable ex-apostates are. It is a literary device and I’m interested that you think he is “whacked” and on drugs. I don’t blame you for not seeing the humor in the post, but your response could better be made by asking a clarifying question than insulting him.
Kent, I think he needs to speak clearly rather than assuming everybody will get his particular brand of humor because I seriously don’t think he was saying this crap in jest. It seems like a pretty serious thing he’s trying to say here. And I think that you are missing the literary device in my words as well, that when you say someone is on crack or something its a literary device to say that they are whacked, not an insult. And if you people are insulted, then you people are actually the ones that take things too seriously on blogs to begin with.
You’re absolutely right. I’m so sorry.
Stephen, hopefully this will cause us active members of the church to treat apostates with the same unconditional love we’re obligated to show to all, so that more apostates will become ex-apostates.
I continue to have warm friendships with LDS members who have shown me unconditional love. That doesn’t mean I’m going to ever return to the LDS church. My decision to leave the LDS church wasn’t about whether I felt loved there. It was about whether I found truth there.
. . . and we need more active members realizing that every apostate is a potential ex-apostate who should be treated with love and patience regardless of which choice they ultimately make.
Viewing every apostate as a “potential ex-apostate” is akin to viewing every non-LDS person as a potential convert. It doesn’t go well, and frankly, a common complaint against LDS members is the tendency to stop reaching out once the “potential” looks unlikely to embrace the LDS faith. I like your end point, that “apostates” should be treated with love “regardless of which choice they ultimately make.”
All apostates should be ex apostates, and there should never be apostates to begin with. . . . Dutcher now is the straying sheep, and certainly he needs to be brought back. (emphasis added)
When you actually believe that you have an exclusive claim to “all truth,” let alone exclusive divine authority, I suppose it’s easy to make such determinations. I would suggest that “apostates” and Mr. Dutcher are most likely in the best position to determine what they “should” do, “should never” do, or “need” for themselves. If you think otherwise, you will always see and treat such people as projects, rather than equal members of the human family.
Then again, when you say that someone is “whacked,” your language gives away your age/maturity level. I’m guessing 18 and a half.
RE: “I would suggest that “apostates” and Mr. Dutcher are most likely in the best position to determine what they “should” do, “should never” do, or “need” for themselves.”
Certainly you are right, and I never meant to say that anybody should be a project. On the other hand, I certainly would be interested in anyone like you coming back and doing whatever I can do to help in that process. I never thought the LDS Church had a claim to all truth, nor to all authority. I do think that the LDS Church has a claim to a certain type of authority that nobody can do without who are interested in getting to where that authority can lead. I think that everybody can make it to heaven, and most everybody will. On the other hand, I know that the highest heaven can only be reached within this church, and that is its mission. Those who are not concerned or interested in that concept really have nothing to lose if they go elsewhere, because they aren’t seeking after it anyway. The mission of all other organizations differs from that mission, and they will certainly serve those who aren’t seeking after the Mormon celestial kingdom anyway.
RE: “Then again, when you say that someone is “whacked,” your language gives away your age/maturity level. I’m guessing 18 and a half.”
Then again, your just going after a cheap shot and not talking about the substance of what I am getting at. I’m in my mid 30’s, and I find you to be an insulting person as well.
I will step up to fill this important starting Friday.
“I will step up to fill this important starting Friday.”
I have no idea what you mean either. Please clarify.
Reading this post and comments makes me laugh.
Does one have to leave the church to be considered officially apostate? Or can you just have a few apostate attitudes, later reform, and still be considered an ex-apostate?
I agree that we should all exhibit love to everyone regardless of church affiliation. In practice, this is easy to say, but not always easy to do.
George (4, 6, 10, 11, 13). I urge you to re-read your comments with a particular focus on your tone and then ask yourself whether your approach is precisely the type of attitude that discourages apostates from becoming ex-apostates.
Nick (8), regarding your statement: “My decision to leave the LDS church wasn’t about whether I felt loved there. It was about whether I found truth there.” It is interesting how we all have different reasons for deciding to belong or not belong to the Church. In my case, I belong primarily because of the goodness and love I both receive and am able to give within the Church. Others, like you apparently, may be more focused on whether you’ve been able to identify “truth” in the Church. That’s not my approach simply because I read Jesus’ “truth test” in the Sermon on the Mount as instructing us to look for goodness, which is proof of truthfulness. However, I understand why you probably focus on a truth search because that is the message that was probably drummed into your head while you were an active member. Also, although you left because you perceived an absence of truth, I think many people do leave the Church because they don’t find enough goodness and love there. And as an active member who believes the Church can and should provide goodness and love to others, I do believe that reaching out to “apostates” with love and goodness can bring back those who left because they felt an absence of that love and goodness. Of course, it’s their choice to return, but if active members like me don’t love them, they don’t even really have the option to return to receive it.
Regarding your statement that “Viewing every apostate as a “potential ex-apostate” is akin to viewing every non-LDS person as a potential convert. It doesn’t go well . . . ” I have a hard time understanding why someone would be offended by someone demonstrating genuine goodness and love to them regardless of whether they had an unspoken hope that one day that person returns to the Church. I don’t think it’s wrong to hope others join with you in a community where you find love and goodness. I only think its wrong if you’re pushy or rude about it; but I don’t see that desire as being insulting in itself, and I think anyone insulted by someone wanting to join their community needs to lighten up a bit. I’d be flattered by anyone wanting me to join them in theirs. It feels nice to be wanted.
“George (4, 6, 10, 11, 13). I urge you to re-read your comments with a particular focus on your tone and then ask yourself whether your approach is precisely the type of attitude that discourages apostates from becoming ex-apostates.”
I may be abrasive, but I speak my mind, and if you think my tone or my attitude isn’t what you think is the most effective, then perhaps you are right. On the other hand, I aint going to sit around and not defend myself either from the likes of you people that make me an offender for a word.
But I think that your idea that people should apostatize and come back stronger is a bit out there. err, that wasn’t my point. Sorry it looked like that to you.
As Richard Dutcher said, we’re taught the parable of leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one, but too often, instead we pull out a hunting rifle and blow his wandering head off Ouch. We need a lot more love.
but not always easy to do.
Amen. Many things are simple, that doesn’t mean that they are easy.
Viewing every apostate as a “potential ex-apostate” is akin to viewing every non-LDS person as a potential convert or as a child of God who needs love and care.
Anyway, my hopeful point was that the narratives of those who leave and then return are a valuable part of the narrative of the faith and that we seem not to pay as much attention to those narratives as we once did. I find them valuable.
I agree that the Church loves ex-apostates who come back and tell of the dark horrors that exist “out there,” in contrast to the warm light of love “in here.”
I’ve found that it doesn’t have the same enthusiasm for those who come back and effectively say, “You know, it wasn’t that bad out there, in fact I’m a better person for having experienced it.”
Which is too bad, because I think we can learn from both.
Kind of off-topic, but somewhat related… Someone, somewhere, once wrote a pretty convincing post about how it would be great if the Church forced everyone to take two months off each year… one month away from Religion altogether, and one month visiting another Church/faith. Seems with such an approach that we could learn a lot about ourselves and others.
I have a hard time understanding why someone would be offended by someone demonstrating genuine goodness and love to them regardless of whether they had an unspoken hope that one day that person returns to the Church. I don’t think it’s wrong to hope others join with you in a community where you find love and goodness. I only think its wrong if you’re pushy or rude about it; but I don’t see that desire as being insulting in itself, and I think anyone insulted by someone wanting to join their community needs to lighten up a bit. I’d be flattered by anyone wanting me to join them in theirs. It feels nice to be wanted.
You’re right, as far as that goes. It seems, however, that many non-LDS who live in heavily-LDS areas complain that as soon as they made it clear they didn’t want to join the LDS church, their formerly-friendly LDS neighbors had no interest in associating with them. Naturally, this is a matter of their own perspective (and heck, maybe some of them were extremely nasty in expressing their lack of interest!), but it’s still something important to note. Love others for the sake of loving others, not to “convert them.”
Nick (#19) I feel ya. Hence my call for “genuine” goodness and love, i.e., the type that doesn’t vanish when someone doesn’t see things your way. “Love others for the sake of loving others, not to ‘convert them’.” Amen. Real love touches hearts. Phony love is sniffed out and turns off pretty easily.
Whatever path one travels, at some point each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost in fulfillment of our baptismal covenant. This is fundamental to our spiritual well being, and to the church’s too.
Great post. I can honestly say that I wish I knew more people in real life that had struggled with the issues I have and still made the decision to stay. Or they left, but found a way to make peace and came back.
There are so many factors that keep us from sharing our experience-from people moving in and out quickly, to fear of judgement, to people not feeling comfortable that they have “sinned”. It is unfortunate because we can all learn so much from hearing other’s stories.
I have a brother-in-law who apostatized from the Church after he returned early from his mission. The reason is kept so quiet only three entities knew the details: Him, his dad (now deceased) and the Church. Something happened that even prompted the Church office to send him a letter of apology and invitation to finish his mission elsewhere. That said, of all my wife’s family, he was the closest to and most like his father, a former stake president. His “roots” are deep and strong, his character true. When he left, he left hard– he was hurt and angry– and we can’t help but feel that when he returns, he will also do that hard– it will be such a wholesale conversion, nothing will sway him, ever again. He didn’t leave for another faith; he said if he’s not going to be Mormon, he’s not going to be anything. I totally get what Stephen is saying and, in the case of my brother-in-law, it’s with anticipation that I witness his ex-apostasy.
David, where did he serve?
There are plenty of people who have left the church, and the number seems to be growing. When someone goes “apostate” it seems that they tend to get isolated. Members who they thought were friends, no longer call or visit, unless it is to make them a project. I think that the reason that so many who leave the church develop ill feelings towards the church is the way that we treat them. We, the church as a whole, are not very christlik sometimes.
I wish that I knew more people who had experienced the same problems with the church that I am currently experiencing and came back. I can find a few here and there on the blogs, but in real life, I really have no one to talk to.
Stephen, he served in Italy.
Hmm. Wish I knew David, but that is outside of my knowledge base.
Bob H, all I can say is I wish you well.
Chris, sorry to hear you are leaving the Church. I wish you well.
Stephen, great post and interesting way to look at the issue. Thanks.
I knew a couple ex-apostates growing up and one in one of my favorite wards in my mission. There is also one in my current ward who is on his way back in, so this is still happening. Of course, you weren’t really arguing that it isn’t happening anymore but rather that the nature of our economy and lives has changed in that we aren’t as geographically stable as we used to be. We don’t buy a house after college in a neighborhood and stay there until retirement. It’s unfortunate in many more ways than just not getting the full “village effect” that such a lifestyle provides in old-fashioned, established wards.
Hopefully I can change the tone of this discussion a bit with the following, as I think it goes along with what Stephen seems to have been driving at, and why I will never leave the church, regardless of how difficult I find things to be:
As a young man of 15, then 16, 17 and 18, I had a good friend, who I will simply call J. J had been a member, served a mission, and then left the church. Because of various misdeeds and an unwillingness to repent, J had been excommunicated. All before I met him. By the time I met J, he was about 28, had married D who was not a member of the church. D and J moved to where I grew up and at some point D met the missionaries and joined the church. This led J on his long and difficult road back into the church. I remember when he was rebaptized. Furthermore I remember when he had a restoration of temple and priesthood blessings. What most impressed me was the length and difficulty of his J’s journey back to fellowship in the church. It impressed me that he was not only able to make that journey, but that he wanted to. It was long, difficult and very heart wrenching for him. We were very close at the time, and he helped me through some difficult teen years as well.
Another story. My own father, fresh out of high school, as I recall the story, was a bit rebellious. He decided to join the Army. At some point I believe he went through the temple or was ordained to the Melchizidek (I’m a bit unclear of the specifics, and since he’s no longer around, I cannot ask him). In either case, while off in the Army, he did more than a few things that were not entirely appropriate. Then he broke his leg while stationed in Hawaii, and while the rest of his unit got shipped off to war, he stayed behind. Eventually he finished his tour of duty, and returned to Idaho. In 55, at age 23 he finally was able to go on a mission, because he had turned his life around enough to do so. He had to quit a few habits, and when he got to the mission home in SLC, he had a few interviews with a number of the GA’s, including some of the 12, to make sure he was really worthy. This was, I think, in part due to the fact that there had been a German woman he had nearly married while stationed there in Germany. I don’t know the details, but…
Finally, a last story, more recent. I know a brother who is currently a second counselor in a stake presidency. I’ll call him M. M is a sociologist, and taught sociology for some years before retiring. During his career, much of his research focused on human sexual behavior, and for many years he had left the church, although he never withdrew his name from the records and he was never excommunicated. But he definitely did not believe. M said that because of his research and his reliance on that philosophy, he had quit trusting in the Spirit. He is now one of the most spiritually minded individuals that I know. In his seventies, he recently had a liver transplant with one of the fastest recoveries I have ever heard of–within six weeks he was back at church in good health. The doctors had seriously considered refusing to do the operation because of his age and potential for complications.
So, while I don’t think that anyone should go out and leave the church with a plan to come back years later, I think the real lesson is that anyone can come back to the church, and that we should never give up hope, always treat everyone with love, respect and decency, and never make our treatment of them dependent on their actions with regards to the church. It is pretty simple, really. The best way to get people to come into the church is also the best way to get them to come back to the church: to be their close, honest, and real friend. It also happens to be the best way to keep people in the church in the first place. As long as we treat each other with real, honest, open and true friendship, then it doesn’t matter if the other person comes back–we have done our part, and their actions will be their own responsibility.
As the scripture says: “Love unfeigned.” Nothing could be more plain.
As far as innoculation goes, I think it is absolutely correct. It does go a very long way to saying, look, this guy has been out of the church, he knows the counter arguments, if you have doubts, talk to him, he will work with you on resolving them. I think the youth of the church need to know that the adults have had doubts and have wrestled with the fears they face and that it is okay to wonder. I also think that they need to know that just because you are wondering doesn’t mean you need to quit coming to church.
Yes, great post Stephen.
I’d only add that maybe we need to distinguish more between ‘apostate’, who fights the church and seeks its downfall, and the just ‘inactive’ who may be inactive for whatever reason but doesn’t want to see the church destroyed. Because I for one still haven’t seen a true ‘apostate’ return to church.
It seems to me that in some people, strong feelings begat strong feelings. In other words, for some reason, there are some people who have very strong feelings about the truthfulness of the church that can just, by some act or information, turn right around and have equally strong feelings against the church. And when they decide to return, those strong feelings for the Church return.
I am not speaking against having strong feelings, but it seems the personality, emotional make up of some folks lends itself to those actions.
I also don’t think that we give enough credit to the Holy Ghost’s influence in our lives. Losing the Spirit can have a devastating effect on people. While there are some here who will argue against the fact that they might have lost the Spirit on their way out of the church, I have noticed the distinct differance in people who were once active who are either not active or not in the church at all.
Carlos, I would like to say that I have seen someone in open rebellion join the church.
On my mission, we taught a teen who wanted badly to join the church, but her mother was against the church. I had heard terrible things about this mother. She had read every anti-mormon book there was, and was quite well-versed into why mormons were not christian.
Well, I ended up baptizing this mother. Now you may say that she is not an apostate, because she was never a member. However, she knew all the anti-mormon literature previous to her baptism, and in most ways would fit the category of an apostate. So, what I’m saying is that it is possible for a true ‘apostate’ (ie someone who is vehemently against the church) to change their mind and join. This particular sister is one of the strongest, most valaint members some 20 years later, that most people can’t believe she isn’t a lifetime mormon.
. . . and why I will never leave the church, regardless of how difficult I find things to be . . .
Wow. I used to say the same thing!
People who leave and come back may not be representative of people who leave. That is, people who leave and come back may have left for entirely different reasons than people who leave and don’t come back.
Just a thought. If you want people who leave and come back, make sure they leave for the right reasons!
so, not only are you and your ilk claiming exclusivity on “all truth,” but now it now sounds like your claiming exclusivity on “pure goodness and love.”
If you, “…belong primarily because of the goodness and love I both receive and am able to give within the Church…” why on earth would someone have to join the your [LDS] faith.
If its “goodness and love” (as Rx’d in the Savior’s Sermon per your interpretation) then could not mankind seek/receive it at any religious institution, fraternity, club, or even on a mountain peak or forest grove in upstate NY by one’s self?
tell me what “truthfullness” do you [LDS] claim different than my neighbor [Presbyterian] who like you in the form of “goodness and love” fraternizes with hand-shakes, hugs, and talk of BYU/UofU football during sunday services?
If i wanted to study and understand the truths contained in the King Follet discourses, all i would have to do is particapate in “goodness and love?” so, by applying your “hug theory” i will be able to grasp the quantum field theory.
you see i’m the guy (like other Truth-seekers), who after sacrament meeting and on my way to gospel doctrine class, has to elbow my way through your loud little cliquish groups congesting the hall-way after my reverent salutation followed by a “pardon me” are drowned out.
i attend church to 1.) renew my covenants and 2.) seek truth. I believe “goodness and love,” otherwise known as the “light of Christ” are programmed into every human and that it does not take the environs of a religious institution to be neighborly and human.
the days to apostasy are numbered for those who stand up and say “I like to bear my testimony…Andrew opened the door for me today, shook my hand, and hugged me…therefore, i know the church is true.” whats going to happen to their “religious self-esteem” on the day you dont acknowlege her?
a good portion of my neighbors are “apostates.” being an unorthodox mormon, i am rather social and open with them. while not suprised, a few have admited that while active in the church it was the social behavior (or lack thereof) that was the catalyst to their leaving.
the reality for thomas and oliver was bleak after leaving the church. because they had dedicated a portion of there life in building up the kingdom, the world new it and hated them. Afterwhich, it was practically impossible for them to sit down with a non-mormon and have a beer, socialize, revel in “goodness and love” and to even function in society. ostrisized by mormons and hated by everyone else and being no ‘john muir / jedadiah smith’ type-of characters, they most likely couldnt handle the isolation. So they honorably swallowed their pride and returned.
i believe a true ex-apostate would be considered a contribution to the church as a whole if they returned with the intention of seeking truth and not for social reasons.
“Wow. I used to say the same thing!”
What is the point of such a comment? You’re doing nothing constructive here, and rarely do you do so anywhere on the Bloggernacle. I’m really curious as to why you keep posting on so many blogs. What do you get out of this?
I’m sure most understood the point, Jeremy, but since you asked, I’ll explain. Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage, “never say never.” It really is true. No matter how sure we think we are about future predictions of our own behavior, things happen, and circumstances change. Our thirty-year-old self might be quite surprised to find out how different our forty-year-old self can be. There was a time when I thought I’d never willingly eat saurkraut. I guess my tastebuds changed, because I like it now, and love Reuben sandwiches.
Even from a faithful LDS standpoint, Jeremy, it’s simply unwise to assume we will “never” change our views. If we allow ourselves to be so certain, we tend to become complacent, and frankly, complacency doesn’t do much to preserve or promote religious faith.
Jeremy: I for one enjoy reading Nick’s points of view especially when his fingernails come out 🙂
#32 Mormon Heretic, I also baptized someone like that, but they aren’t ‘apostates’ at all. I think they see the light for the first time and compare it with what they get from all the anti-mormon literature and see the differences.
But apostasy may be a different matter all together. People like Deconstructor or Infymus who fight to see the downfall of the LDS church after having been faithful members, who now call the spirit just emotional ‘feel well’. I’ve never seem one of those return. And is an ‘apostate’ is classified as ‘a son of perdition’ well then by definition they will never return!
I think we shouldn’t be so liberal with the use of this ‘apostate’ label.
“Wow. I used to say the same thing!”
Now you’ve got me thinking of people I knew who said they would never come back …
Hope to see you back some day Nick 😉
Now you’ve got me thinking of people I knew who said they would never come back …
Though I keep waiting for someone to use the Brigham Young quote about saying you will never fall away.
Those whose estrangement from the fold is merely a question of lifestyle — not actual disbelief — are jack-Mormons, not apostates. Please see the handy guide to different types of Mormons.
Don’t forget the 5 types of Mormons by Robert Kirby. This is pretty funny.
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Stephen, I think that you are genuine in your optimism of the idea that church leaders should be broadminded and treat those members who question procedures or situations that arise in the church with dignity and respect. I do believe that LDS leaders wish to present themselves as being open to dissenting opinions. The reality is different, in my humble experience, apostates are treated with disdain and hostility, if you regard violations of confidentiality, shunning and disfellowshipping as hostile behaviors.
Jimmy Carter expounded on his dissention when he spoke of the treatment of women in his Southern Baptist church, in theage.com, Losing My Religion For Equality. He stated that many churchs, including the LDS, tend to become more rigid and narrow in their definition of the role of women as they progress, which reduces the likelihood that the earnest wish many women express: “that it will change”.
The first step in change is to acknowledge that there is a valid concern. How often have we heard our prophet state something to the effect of:
Women in our church are happy with their role, and there are no complaints.
In seeking a change in social justice, one must first recognize that there exists its opposite, injustice. Many of the church leadership and men in the priesthood are not even aware of their own bias and the impact that bias has on men and women in the Church. We are currently at this first step, where the official policy is that there is no complaint, concern or injustice. The Church does not wish to uncover whether any groups or individuals have been marginalized or have had undue priviledge because there would then be pressure to clarify the situation and bring the light of truth to the problem that we lack social justice in our religion and need to change. Those individuals who express a concern, provide constructive criticism or offer assistance, such as offering to teach the professional concept of “confidentiality” are more likely to be disfellowshiped or excommunicated than they would be to be heard. Allowing GA’s to clarify process and procedure for members and allowing individual rights to members, along with a due process system and an oversight committee composed of more than just the usual “good ol’ boys” would be a starting point in encouraging social justice and tolerance of dissenting opinions. Your invitation to welcome apostates is sweet, but does not acknowledge the current climate and tone of the LDS Church, at least in my experience with my stake. Some companies also do this, for marketing. They pretend they have an “Open Door” policy for complaints, but what happens when someone has a concern is punitive. It is hypocritical for a company or religion to give the impression of tolerating differing opinions, without providing protection for those who bring the company or religion a concern.