Applause for Another Mormon

This one is right in line with my earlier post, “I don’t need to listen. I’m right.”

To the Saints Who Tell Heretics and Apostates to Leave

I have watched the same phenomenon of some Mormons who take great pleasure in telling questioning, or doubting members to leave the church, and it’s always puzzled me. After all, the mission of the church is to invite people to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him” (Moroni 10:32), not to weed out undesirables. Unfortunately, some people have taken it upon themselves to decide who gets to stay and who must leave. I never have understood this drive to divide the body of Christ, but I think the writer gets at some of the reasons behind it:

In a way, I can understand this impulse. Mormons sacrifice a lot for their faith. We live moral standards most people are baffled by. We attend hours of church meetings every week. As young adults, we even give up eighteen months  to two years of our lives, asking people every day to learn more about Christ and come unto Him. When you have done these things for God’s church, to have someone come along and question it feels like a slap in the face–especially when that questioner is not some ignorant outsider but another member who has made these sacrifices too. It is painful and sometimes scary to see people so similar to me find fault with something I love so much.

I would, however, caution against labeling all questioning and doubt as “find[ing] fault” with the church, but I that’s a minor quibble. As I wrote earlier, it’s quite easy to take offense when someone criticizes what we hold dear or sacred, and our natural “fight or flight” response is to become defensive and hostile. That’s just part of being human.

The same is true of those who have left. We feel as strongly about our reasons for leaving as Mormons feel about their reasons for belief. When members react with hostility to us and our beliefs, we can be equally as defensive and angry, and that just leads to more misunderstanding and animosity.

But most of the time what I have seen isn’t Mormons being “mean” but rather well-meaning family and friends being at a loss as to how to deal with loved ones who have rejected what Mormons hold sacred. They may ask themselves, How could someone walk away from something so beautiful and uplifting? How can they not see what I see in the church and its teachings? How can I stop them from making such a terrible mistake?

Because most Mormons have no experience dealing with the “apostasy” of a loved one, they may say or do things that seem hurtful, although they are well-intentioned. We who have left–again, speaking solely of my own experience–are extremely sensitive to criticism of our choices because we understand how painful and gut-wrenching it has been to arrive at them. We start out in a defensive position, and we may react badly, and the cycle continues. Love is the key for us, too.

What we are talking about are deeply held, highly personal beliefs that govern how we live our lives. Even the attempt to convince someone to change the way they look at life is going to be fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding and hurt. It should be obvious that starting out with hostility and rejection on either side is the wrong way to have that conversation. Love may not bring the unbeliever back, but it certainly can help relationships survive a major life change.

The thought strikes me that this essay and the earlier one from Chris Henrichsen would not have been written had there not been an increase in core members walking away from the church. There’s no stampede for the doors, but enough people are leaving to allow us to see patterns both in why they leave and how other church members respond. That the response can involve rejection and animosity may have inspired Dieter Uchtdorf’s kind and conciliatory “Come, Join with Us” talk in last October’s general conference.

Maybe President Uchtdorf wasn’t speaking so much to doubting members as he was to their staunch family and friends when he said, “my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.” If an apostle tells me there’s room for those with questions and doubts, how can I insist they leave? Better to rejoice that they are still here and strive to love, even if their questions sometimes make me uncomfortable. After all, I don’t have to agree with someone to love them. And there are many things I’ve been wrong about in life, but choosing to love others has never failed me.

The reality for today’s LDS church is that more people are making a conscious choice to leave for a variety of reasons, and the church really has two issues to work through: How to prevent the loss of more members, and how to deal with those who do leave. I have no idea how they plan to address these issues, but it does my heart good to see both leaders and lay members promoting kindness and love. The gospel Jesus taught is about love, and love ought to trump all other considerations. John Lennon said that “love is all you need,” but really, love is all we have.

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6 Responses to Applause for Another Mormon

  1. robinobishop says:

    You’re not going to block me again, are you? Being the only person responding to this post, I would think you would not block me but participate in a discussion that you start.

    For what its worth, little of this account rings true.

    1. “Mormons take great pleasure in telling questioning, or doubting members to leave the church… some people have taken it upon themselves to decide who gets to stay and who must leave”

    It doesn’t happen.
    Among those who attend, I see no “doubt” or “finding fault” but that’s my experience over 30 years. People who find fault because they doubt might want to open their minds to the fact that if they don’t understand, it probably has little to do with others they find fault with…stands to reason.

    2. “Mormons sacrifice a lot for their faith.”

    This is quite peculiar. You mention: Having moral standards, attending church for more than one hour a week, perhaps serving a mission. These are choices common to Christians worldwide. When one loves to do something, where is the sacrifice in that?

    3. “When members react with hostility to us and our beliefs, we can be equally as defensive and angry, and that just leads to more misunderstanding and animosity.”

    This too is peculiar. One supposes you are perhaps supposing Mormons react with hostility to who? I think you miss the problem. The problem is cultural. The LDS are not professional victims nor do we cultivate a helpless complaining sort among our own. Such a disposition of whining about your personal perception of being victimized will not endear you long anywhere except within the company of professional victims.

    4. Most Mormons have no experience dealing with the “apostasy” of a loved one.

    This may seem to have merit where there is generally no “apostasy” in most of our families. Of course that was equally true in your own youthful experience. From your own explanation, it would seem you chose to remain secretive about your own growing apostasy, keeping it from your family. Are you saying the actively gay apostate needs to be coddled more?

    5. “And there are many things I’ve been wrong about in life, but choosing to love others has never failed me.”

    Then, stop blocking access to your blog by those whom you disagree.

    6. There’s an “increase in core members walking away from the church.”

    As the LDS church grows at its present unequalled statistically verified rate, so to there will be more that walk away. That is the natural order of things. Don’t fret about the natural order of things.

    7 “Maybe President Uchtdorf wasn’t speaking so much to doubting members as he was to their staunch family and friends when he said, ‘my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.’”

    Staunch families know their place in the LDS Church; they are busy in their place, doing what needs to be done within their homes to remain staunch. How else would they be staunch members? The Lord takes you the way you are but demands change…let the dead bury the dead.

    8. John Lennon said that “love is all you need,” but really, love is all we have.

    I’m a boomer and grew up with John Lennon. Lennon was speaking in hyperbole when singing of love. I’m surprised you would take the statement literally. John was a controversial and rebellious youth without grounding and later for the purpose of promoting his own music he was lunatic. He had a terrible reputation with those who worked with him. He was hooked on drugs by 21 and later had a continuous experience with LSD. He expressed hostility for the band when disbanding it prematurely.

    Obviously, Lennon needed a great deal more than love. He needed to bring discipline and integrity to his life.

    • runtu says:

      I’ve never “blocked” you, so I don’t know what you mean. You’ve always been free to view my blog and comment as you wish. The only comments I have ever blocked have been obvious spam. Checking my blog stats, I’ve had 4634 comments and blocked only 106 spam items. I have never blocked anything from you.

    • runtu says:

      As for your comments …

      1. “It doesn’t happen.” Obviously, the author has seen it, and I know what I’ve experienced. Thankfully, it’s a specific subset of Mormons who behaves this way, but they are out there, whether you believe so or not. Note that I said “some” Mormons are happy to show struggling members the door, definitely not all or even the majority.

      2. I thought sacrifice was a good thing. “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” People have died for their faith. Heck, I’ll have health problems all of my life because of my mission. As you say, people sacrifice because they love their religion. I did, I’m sure you do. I’m not sure what bothers you about my statement.

      3. I wasn’t complaining about hostility. In fact, I was quite clearly stating that we ex-Mormons are not blameless in the hostility that often arises around someone’s loss of faith. We who have left should be kinder and try to avoid hostility towards our Mormon friends and family. Again, I’m not sure why you have a problem with what I wrote.

      4. I had no youthful experience with apostasy, and I never kept it secret from anyone when it happened in my 40s. My crisis of faith happened on a particular day, and when I got home from work I told my wife all about it. Again, your speculations about me keeping my growing youthful apostasy a secret have no basis in fact or anything I have ever said or written. And who’s talking about coddling anyone? As I said, it took me a while to understand that what I had once interpreted as bad behavior and hostility from Mormons towards those who leave is best explained not as willful unkindness but a simple lack of experience in dealing with such matters. As you say, most Mormon families don’t have any experience with family members who leave, so they really don’t know how to act if it happens. And if we don’t know how to react to something that major, it’s not surprising that some people react badly.

      5. Again, no one has ever been blocked from this blog. My friend Ray was once “moderated” only because he had put a typo in his email address, and wordpress automatically puts unknown addresses into the moderation queue to prevent spam. You certainly have never been blocked or even put in the queue. Maybe you could give me some specifics about when you think you were blocked, and I’ll try to figure out if something went amiss.

      6. I’m not fretting, but I can guarantee you the brethren in Salt Lake fret about the loss of members. It’s their job. I used to work there, and we fretted about it back then.

      7. I think you misread what I wrote. I think Pres. Uchtdorf was, at least in part, telling staunch members to be tolerant of those who might not be as staunch as they are.

      8. Yeah, a minor rhetorical flourish on my part, but to clarify, what I mean is that, sometimes discipline and integrity (traits I have tried to nourish in myself) are not enough, and love is the only thing left in your tool box.

      I appreciate your comments, though I wish you wouldn’t interpret everything I write in the worst possible light. I used to be cynical like that and put my own negative spin on everything where the church is concerned. It really wasn’t good for me, and I’m glad I’ve been able to overcome that cynicism to a large degree, though I’m still working on it.

      • robinobishop says:

        The fact that some people react badly, as with all of us, is a matter of the human condition. Idiots are found everywhere in uneven numbers. In life it is a matter of course. I let it roll of my back (after shaking the dust off my sandals) because people acting badly, by how I measure it, is not my problem. In any event, I cannot rectify it. Too many throw their skirts over their heads and run to the hills about nothing they carry a grudge.

        the best piece of advice I received was from the man who baptized me…I paraphrase: He said there is always going to be found imperfect member in the True Church: No matter. Where I am not welcome, I take my wife and dogs and move on, leaving them to grovel.

        I surmise you have a vigorous interpretive mind if you see a great many members “showing the door” to others. I wish I had a quarter for every unfulfilled prognostication of ex-mormons not attending 🙂

      • runtu says:

        You seem determined to spin everything negatively. I have no idea why. No one said “a great many” Mormons behave that way, but some do. I don’t understand why you think there’s something wrong with me saying we ought to be patient, kind, and understanding when they do. I’m suggesting that we don’t take it personally and don’t hold grudges. Why would you disagree with that? The only thing I can surmise is that you have some bitterness in your heart that you can’t let go of, and you have found a suitable target for your anger: me. I think that’s sad.

  2. robinobishop says:

    For you as you explain it, it sounds like a productive theoretical core philosophy. You could embrace Islam and go there. Sure beats an incessantly blog that part time demonizes folks and their church for personal failings they do not own. Besides…..
    “Every man should have a fair-sized cemetery in which to bury the faults of his/her friends.” Henry Brooks Adams

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