There’s no room for your kind in this family

mfranti - June 17, 2011

Another friend of mine has lost her faith in The Church.

She’s like many people we all know: A lifelong member, married in The Church, kids baptized at the proper age, served in many callings, and now she’s done playing along.

I let responsible and thoughtful adults make up their minds about such personal things. As I see it, my job is to support her through this transition time and help her avoid feelings of failure. Much like I would if she were going through a divorce.

Only she knows what’s going on in her relationships. And only she knows what her heart and mind feel and think about her faith.

But her family and friends aren’t so understanding. This good woman, who was loved and respected last week by her friends and family, is now treated as though she’s a bad person by the same people. Her friends and family act as though she betrayed them and that she is in wrong. They’re offended by decisions she made about her personal beliefs, and the best way they know how to respond is to cast her out.

Why do “good” LDS people do this? Is this how our Savior taught us to treat people? Do our scriptures and doctrine support this type of behavior?

So, bloggers, have your say: What is it about our religion that makes doubters and those who chose to leave be cast out from their families and friends?

(Yes, I know that not every Mormon acts this way to the [newly] unfaithful but it’s a common enough occurrence that it’s worthy of discussion)

84 Comments »

  1. Good people do not do this, but human people do.

    Perhaps fear motivates the behavior — fear that the disaffection will spread, fear that our own beliefs will be challenged one to many times, fear that children will follow that (presumed wrong) example.

    I am happy to observe in my own family that concerns of ostracism were wildly over estimated when a child or sibling chose to walk away. But I recognize not every family is so lucky.

    Comment by Paul — June 17, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  2. Paul hit the nail right on the head. I’ve personally never heard of anyone doing this, but I wonder if perhaps it happens more in the so-called “Mormon corridor”? From what I hear, the lines between Church and society can get very blurred in Utah, so I’d imagine it would be harder to see someone fall away.

    Comment by Jeff — June 17, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  3. Besides all the failings of Church members, here are a couple of factors.

    1) Mormon friends may not have a basis for a relationship without the church in common. A divorced person sees much less of former in-laws.

    2) The degree of isolation a person feels in such a situation may be amplified in his own mind. People are not always thinking about us what we think they are thinking.

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 17, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

  4. People long for validation. When a family is built on a foundation of a common religious theology, the self-affirmation dynamic becomes strong. It also becomes threatened when one falls away from that belief. Not saying this as justification for treating people poorly who lose their belief; just pointing out the mechanics at play.

    The conduct of the newly-disbelieving can exacerbate this. Are they handling this new development with tact and kindness, or shouting from the rooftops, hoping to save their dimwitted family from the Great Con? I’ve seen reactions all along this scale. While believers need to give more room for unbelievers to share of themselves, unbelievers should also practice some empathy and kindness. Acceptance is a two-way street.

    No idea how your friend has actually handled this, so the above may be a waste. Hopefully, her family can come around after getting past the initial shock – which is a circumstance that provides very few with their best moments….

    Comment by Dan — June 17, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  5. While what John says is true to some degree in comment 3, I have personally witnessed this and felt it (felt it as a divorced woman, and seen it in a friend who’s left).

    The isolation and ostracism is ugly, and it is real. Children are not immune either, from being excluded from play dates and social engagements. Peers tease them. A friend’s parents told her they would rather she be dead than break the unbroken chain of their perfect pioneer roots. There is something personally threatening to some people when someone opts for a path away from the church. We like to say “people leave the church but they never leave the church alone’, but those of us who stay can be just as guilty insisting church be the only communal narrative, the only frame of relating, and when someone we love leaves, they get cut out of the rest of our lives, too. Too frequently, we just won’t leave it alone, either.

    Comment by Tracy M — June 17, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  6. Also, I think if we blame the person who is leaving for being oversensitive, it reinforces our sense of rightness and their being wrong. It’s more comfortable for us to simply dismiss them and their concerns as oversensitive.

    Yes, it’s a two-way street, and kindness and consideration on both sides would go a long way, but in my experience- with a few flamboyant online exceptions- the people I know who have left just wanted to continue to be loved by their families, and have struggled mightily with even that, let alone with acceptance by their former coreligionists and friends.

    Comment by Tracy M — June 17, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  7. To add to Tracy’s second comment,

    those that leave often do it quietly because they know they’ll be treated poorly. There’s shame and blame and disappointed to look forward to. No wonder so many people hide out in dark and only come out on the blogs…

    Comment by mfranti — June 17, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

  8. Among family, it could work something like this:

    1. If you reject the Church, you reject the sealing blessings that have been bestowed on you.

    2. If you reject the sealing blessings, you reject the people you have been sealed to, at least in the long term.

    3. If you reject me in the long term, I’ll get my revenge by rejecting you in the short term.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 17, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  9. Just last Sunday I finally told the Bishop and RS President that I no longer believe the church is true and really don’t have any desire to try to regain my faith. I’m only still going at all to support my husband because it’s something that’s important to him (and because I have friends there and think that, overall, it’s a really positive community). I’ve told about ten people, almost all of them close friends, and I’ve had much better responses than I was expecting. People are confused and sad for me, but still friendly. As word gets around the ward I don’t know whether that will be true of everyone. We’ll see.

    I think one thing that has really helped is that I’ve emphasized that this is honestly where my study, prayer, and logic have brought me. I honestly have come to this conclusion — it has nothing to do with what I’d rather believe and everything to do with what I just plain do believe. I tell people that I’m not offended, not planning to sin, and am happy and still a good person. I think that helps a lot. Saying it right out like that generally makes them say, “well, of course you are!” and it eases a lot of their worries. I’m hopeful that this transition will continue to go smoothly.

    Comment by Conifer — June 17, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  10. There have definitely been hard points, too. My husband has been really supportive, but in many ways this has been really bait-and-switch for him. This isn’t what he thought he was signing up for and that’s really hard on him, especially when I talk about wanting the kids to have experiences outside of the church so they can see their options and choose for themselves. I have no doubt we can get through this, though. It’s just very hard.

    And I have had some difficult responses from people. They weren’t trying to be attacking or negative, but they want to corner me and make me tell them all of the problems I have with the church so they can set me straight. They try to be respectful and friendly about it, but they can be pretty pushy. I think it’s just really hard for some of them to accept that I could honestly seek an answer and come to a different one than the one they know is right. I’m a complete enigma to them. So far as long as I stay calm and tell them that I’m really not interested in discussing things and have no interest in being reconverted they eventually stop, but they certainly don’t want to. It hasn’t ruined any relationships yet, but there’s one that’s certainly strained. We’re both trying, though. It’s just a hard thing for them to accept.

    Comment by Conifer — June 17, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  11. LL,

    I do not believe that people leave the church to hurt their family/friends. It’s not a personal attack on family, it’s a personal decision based on what an individual believes.

    And frankly, that’s a pretty damn smug position for the faithful and [more] righteous to take with their loved ones.

    Also, if a person doesn’t believe but stays in the church to avoid “rejecting family and sealings” and myriad other reasons, those sealing blessings are nullified.The blessings belong to those that are faithful. Not those that appear to be faithful.

    Comment by mfranti — June 17, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

  12. Mormons frequently reject and mistreat others who change their personal religious beliefs. Those who do this are wicked. Though the Lord will sometimes allow wickedness to prosper for a season, Jesus will smite them in the last days, and their souls shall know no peace as their spiritual death becomes permanent and they are separated from God for all Eternity. When this happens, I will cheer for Jesus.

    In the meantime, when I hear people say “It hurts families when a member changes their beliefs about Mormonism,” I spit on them. When they object, I remind them that they’re lucky I didn’t choke them.

    Comment by DKL — June 17, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  13. David FTW.

    Comment by mfranti — June 17, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  14. I agree with the validation hypothesis — seeing people willingly leave the circle can often leave those staying inside the circle feeling a little defensive and insecure.

    Comment by Trevor Price — June 17, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  15. My arguments are meant to reflect the mindset of the believing family member. I don’t mean to suggest it reflects that of the unbeliever. But I have seen this dynamic play out, although nobody explicitly states point 3.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 17, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  16. I spit on them.

    I stand on their lawn and curse them.

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 17, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  17. I had family friend walk up to me at my mother’s funeral and tell me to “return to my mother”. I replied, “Excuse me?” She continues, “Return to the church, return to your mother, she’s waiting for you.”

    I was speechless and changed the subject. Since then I have thought of some choice words for her.

    Comment by james — June 17, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  18. I agree that a lot of it is out of fear.

    Also, a lot of it is just not knowing how to react. As a parent, when your child does something you view as wrong, you want to make sure there are consequences so that the bad behavior doesn’t continue. I think rejecting a family member who has left the church is kind of a consequence imposed in hopes of “correcting the bad behavior”, and that the family members just don’t know a better way to respond.

    It’s something that would be helpful to have a lesson or twenty on. “How to love others when they make choices you don’t love”.

    Comment by Alice (alliegator) — June 17, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  19. The short term rejection of an individual may have less do with decision to leave than the grief of the those affected. Part of grief is denial, bargaining, anger, etc… These come when somebody starts life in a new way – after a death, divorce, a move, or when someone you viewed as a role model or fellow believer is not. For many, it is easier to blame the newly non-believer than it is to deal with the grief that this person will no longer be part of the community that you shared together.

    Conifer – I think that fact that you stay in connection and go to church makes it easier for the community to deal with the grief – you are still part of them. If I up and left the church, stopped attending all meetings and expected my friends to treat me the same, I would be kidding myself. I chose to leave them, not their beliefs. I see Conifer leaving the beliefs, but not the people. There is a big difference to me.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — June 17, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  20. I definitely had family members react like this when I left, i.e., treating it as a personal and a family betrayal and making veiled threats about how we would no longer be able to have a relationship.

    It was a rough time, but they get over it. I mean, maybe they still think those things, but they don’t say them to me anymore. Time goes on, life goes on, people deal in better or worse ways.

    Comment by Kullervo — June 17, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

  21. My son told us a few weeks ago that he no longer believes. I don’t feel rejected and it’s not a game changer for me. He will always be my son and I will always be his mother. My main problem is that I don’t know how to talk to him since so much of what we discuss assumes a certain set of beliefs. I’m not quite sure where he stands. I have to think before I say anything. I wonder if my comments will be offensive. I can’t assume anything so it makes communication more difficult. It’s no longer free and easy. I have fears that his wife will leave him and that his children will follow him out of the church. We have actually seen and heard more from him lately and our relationship seems okay but it’s hard to know for sure. Will his newly revealed beliefs lead to different behavior in the future? I don’t know and I don’t think he does either. It’s like everything is up for grabs.

    Comment by Sherri — June 17, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  22. It is threatening to the group think.

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  23. When a family member told me she didn’t believe in Mormonism or even Christianity, and especially when she later had her name removed, it felt worse than a death to me. It hurt worse than when my mother died, because I sincerely believe I will know my mother again someday, and that our relationship will go on. When this relative broke the sealing by withdrawing from the church, I couldn’t look forward to that same kind of reunion later. I genuinely mourned — I couldn’t help it. It is a grief as real and as painful as anything I have ever felt.

    When that’s the case, I think you ought to give the believing family members a little understanding, at least in the short term. They may not know any better how to handle their feelings than you would expect them to be in total control while they’re grieving after death. A person who leaves has had time to prepare and to choose the timing and manner of making the announcement; to the family, it often is a sudden and unexpected shock.

    In the case of my family member, the girl had not of course actually died, and I had the option — the necessity, really — of continuing our family association. I didn’t understand — still don’t — but I tried to do what I think my mother would have wanted, which was to love her and try to build a relationship under the new conditions. Because of this young woman’s personality, I had long before learned not to argue or attempt to persuade; I knew that would only bring out her stubborn streak. That, I think, helped me refrain from the faulty thinking that if I could just correct whatever her misunderstandings were, she would of course return to the church. I don’t know what else I’ve done right or wrong, but I did that part right.

    It’s been several years. We’ve had our ups and downs, our misunderstandings and apologies. We have a new relationship, and it’s supportive and loving, but very different from what it was before. I still grieve for what might have been; it may always hang over us no matter how long we love each other, because I *do* believe that something very special and significant was lost when the sealing was broken. I can’t help that, any more than she can help her own thoughts and experiences that led her to make her choice.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  24. Thanks for that, Ardis. We had the experience mentioned in the OP just last week with a member of our Ward. He’s out, she says she’s confused. Meanwhile, we mourn. Certainly the four of us remain friends, but Ardis’ perspective is important: we shouldn’t feel badly about feeling badly.

    Comment by Hunter — June 17, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

  25. Thanks, Ardis. Howard, I don’t think that my comment was evidence of “group think”. I am willing to form a new relationship with my son based on his new beliefs and to accept him like he is. I do miss the old, easy relationship, though.

    Comment by Sherri — June 17, 2011 @ 2:59 pm

  26. I can’t help but think of this scene from Fiddler on the Roof. Apologies for it being a rehearsal. I don’t think MGM is allowing this scene to be on Youtube from the film.

    Comment by Dan — June 17, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

  27. My sister left the church while I was on my mission. Yeah, that was pleasant. She sent me a package with anti-Mormon literature about all the new historical evidence she never heard about in Sunday School. We had a rocky relationship after that, but mostly because she sent that stuff to me on my mission to try and get me to end my mission early. That pissed me off somewhat. Later my mother would leave the church as well. When you’re the only left in your family to be in the church it is very hard to ostracize your family for leaving because you don’t have the support of other family members who are active to ostracize with you. My mother is active again, but she’s got no testimony. My sister is still not active and doesn’t believe that much in God these days. But we’re all on great terms right now.

    Comment by Dan — June 17, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  28. Ardis, I read your story, and it strikes me as insanely presumptuous to judge someone else based on your own interpretation of the current popular understanding of what this generation of church leaders tend to communicate about how the afterlife works.

    There are any number of baffling questions about the afterlife that people are willing to let go of, because we just don’t know a lot about how the afterlife works. But the willingness to cling to beliefs about the afterlife that foster toxic judgments of those who disagree with us is more indicative of our own unrighteousness than of anyone’s actual place in God’s plan. Shame on you.

    Comment by DKL — June 17, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  29. Sherri sorry I was responding generally to the OP rather than specifically to your comment I should have been more clear.

    Comment by Howard — June 17, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  30. DKL, I have some experience with the death of people I once loved. You, for instance, have been dead to me for quite some time.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  31. Ardis’s point about someone’s shock and grief is very relevant to this discussion. Any family member leaving Mormonism should be aware enough about the beliefs to realize that their family might have to deal with feelings of grief and they might have difficulty handling it in the short term.
    I think Sherri’s point about finding new equilibrium in conversation and point of view is important. You’ve been used to discussing topics a certain way, but suddenly you don’t share a point of view.

    Comment by jks — June 17, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

  32. Some time after my sister-in-law converted from Catholicism to Mormonism, her mother told her that she felt like she had lost her daughter, largely because they had built so much of their adult relationship during their mornings at the kitchen table sipping coffee. They still met and talked, but somehow the fact that they no longer shared the coffee highlighted the change and drove something of a wedge between them, although SIL wasn’t aware of doing anything else that altered the way they talked and related to each other.

    Somehow in these discussions the practicing Mormon is held responsible for family discomfort, regardless of whether the practicing Mormon is the one who changed or the one who stayed the same. That’s unreasonable.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 4:27 pm

  33. I think Ardis’ response was perfectly acceptable. I appreciate that she gave plenty of information about how it turned out over a number of years. I am the outsider in my family, married to a (nonmember) and having somewhat unorthodox views, with children who’ve left the church, and I feel shunned by some members of my family. There’s no question that my children are shunned by some of their active cousins. I’d be doing mental cartwheels if any of those cousins would bother to engage in the struggle to keep a relationship alive in the way Ardis described. It’s not easy to keep a viable loving friendship alongside the family bond even under ideal circumstances, but even when the chasm includes religious differences, it can be done.

    I think God designed this to be a world where people, and families can be hurt and even destroyed, precisely so that we can learn to take actions to preserve what we can. Sometimes we can only do a patch job. So while I agree that we can all spit on those who would tear apart a family just to keep themselves from being tainted, I think it’s a good thing to take a careful look at the nuances of a situation before I spit.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — June 17, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  34. Ardis, “dead to me” is a silly phrase exressing a longing for (if not a realization of) inhuman rejection of human dignity. We don’t for example say, “Gaddafi is dead to me,” though he’s one of the few mortals who is truly undeserving of sympathy. Instead, we lash out against those who irritate us, much like the wicked Mormons who pass toxic judgements on other Mormons based on the character of their beliefs.

    Even so, your response here is interesting: my judgement of you wasn’t nearly as harsh as the one that you pronounced on your friend by virtue of her differing belief. If you don’t like being judged, then you should be more circumspect about your own judgments — or at least be embarrassed enough by them to refrain from describing them in public.

    Comment by DKL — June 17, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

  35. DKL, your incoherence barely deserves a response, but I’ll give you one anyway.

    People cannot control their intense emotional reactions to significant events. They can, however, control their actions and their words. My family member’s breaking of the temple sealing was and is a deeply painful matter to me because of the seriousness with which I hold my own temple covenants. My pain, which I candidly described, is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be embarrassed by, and is not a judgment or condemnation of my family member.

    Any normal person who holds dear any religious tenet or philosophical principle should be able to recognize my distress even if their own tenets or principles are quite different. You, however, are not normal, and you chose to heap the hatred upon me that you condemn in me (wrongly, because I have no hatred toward my loved one).

    My actions toward this young woman, despite my inner turmoil, have been welcoming and supportive and loving — and have been returned by the young woman, who wrote on my FB wall on Mother’s Day that I had been as a second mother to her. I’ve attended worship services of her new faith with her; I’ve gone to every activity she has invited me to (her new faith held activities specifically for the family members of new converts, and I was the one she chose to invite. I’ve helped her prepare food for those events, I’ve played the social games — literally games for entertainment; I don’t mean manipulative social games — at those activities, and met her new friends, and done everything I could to reassure her that I wanted us to remain close family members. She visits me (I can’t visit her because I can no longer drive), and I’m genuinely glad to see her. I love her, I always have, I always will, and I do all I can to make sure she knows and believes that. And yeah, I grieve to myself because despite all that, a bond that is important to me has still been broken.

    I have nothing more to say to you, DKL. Spit and rant all you want — you’re wrong and you’re cruel, and I doubt anybody reading this thread fails to recognize that.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  36. It happens more then you realize. Many of my friends and family it has happened to. Luckily, my immediate family has been incredibly understanding.

    Comment by Becky — June 17, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  37. When I resigned my membership in the LDS church, I saw a full range of reaction from my LDS friends. Many of them, including the stake president I’d been serving with as executive secretary, were loving, supportive and understanding. Some were unintentionally hurtful, such as the friend who was sympathetic, but also immediately stated that he would never again be able to discuss spiritual matters with me.

    Remarkably, some of the people who’d sought historical and doctrinal material from my collections for years suddenly thought I knew little or nothing about Mormonism. If I shared a quotation, they suddenly doubted its authenticity. A few even began trying to explain the most basic LDS concepts to me–the kind of doctrines taught in missionary discussions–as if I was unfamiliar with them. I went from “trusted source” to “presumed ignorant” in these peoples’ eyes, within days of my departure. One of the people in this category immediately decided it was his job to “rescue” me from myself, so he began publicly preaching “Mormonism 101″ to me in an email group of about 300 participants, somehow thinking that he’d have the “magic words” that would suddenly reconvert me to LDS-ism (not to mention suddenly make me heterosexual!). To their credit, several members of that group actually took him to task over his behavior, after he repeaetdly ignored my requests to stop.

    At the extreme, there were a very small number who promptly became openly hostile to me. One of these individuals, interestingly enough, is a participant in this discussion. Now, I’ll certainly admit that I contributed somewhat to this, since I went through a very vocal (okay, overly-vocal) stage, in which I was openly critical of the LDS church and its leadership. Still, nearly six years later, I’m pre-emptively blocked from certain websites, etc., due to the outright hatred that individuals like this adopted. For a time, a few individuals even “stalked” me around the bloggernacle, taking it upon themselves to follow my comments with “warnings” that I was a “covenant breaker” whose words could not be trusted, etc. It got a little extreme, and certainly didn’t help to improve my attitude toward the LDS church at the time.

    Comment by Nick Literski — June 17, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

  38. That’s the typical way that people rationalize wickedness: “I couldn’t help it.”

    So someone has a crisis of faith that up-ends their long-term values and beliefs so that they have to re-orient a substantial portion of their lives, but to you and other Mormons, it’s all about you. All you can think about is how you can’t keep from making toxic judgments about them. The fact that your blind to the innate cruelness of that is astonishing, as is your glib dismissal of anyone’s attempt to call you on it, as though they are the ones being cruel.

    I feel pretty strongly about this, because I’ve heard your story from a thousand different mouths, and the tragedy of Mormon cruelty to other Mormons can only stop when people draw attention to the hyper-selfish outlook of those who make toxic judgements about the faith of their co-religionists.

    This is personal for me, too. Part of my family is inactive, and I’ve been inactive myself. Sure, everyone is super nice to each other, but the latent attitude that there was something denied to family members by the inactiviy of others — the exact sentiment you describe — taints every interaction. Furthermore, the assumption that the salvation of the active members is more certain than the inactive members is offensive as well as downright false — in spite of insistence to the contrary by the active members.

    The first step is for people to stop pretending that there’s anything excusable or inevitable about the cruelty to which orthodox Mormons frequently inflict on there doubting brothers and sisters.

    Comment by DKL — June 17, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  39. My preceding comment was aimed at answering Ardis’s comment, not Nick’s.

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, Nick. I’m saddened to hear of the difficulties you experienced. You’re welcome at Mormon Mentality any time.

    Comment by DKL — June 17, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

  40. Nick continues to rewrite history.

    My response to him when he wrote privately to tell me his news that he was leaving the church was that I wished him well, and that I couldn’t help but think that he might work out his problems with the church more easily within than without — he hadn’t yet told me he was gay. And as a T&S perma I mediated between Nick and other permas who had had their fill, doing my best to keep him off the mod queue and welcome to comment. It was only when he began sneering at “LDSism” and cracking wise against the church and its members on every front that I bowed out. Now he never misses a chance to do what he has done here, misrepresent our past relationship. I have never attacked him, although I do speak up, as in this comment, to point out his revisionism.

    I still wish you well, Nick. I don’t snipe at you, yet you continue to snipe at me. I don’t understand that, but recognize that it isn’t likely to change.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

  41. Thanks for your kind words, DKL. I’ll admit that a part of me is still hurt by how some people behaved. On the other hand, I don’t know their hearts. I don’t know what sort of issues they’re facing in their own lives. I remember a time when I really resented another man who left the LDS church and came out of the closet. I told myself that it was because of his “betrayal,” but ultimately, I think it was more the fact that I didn’t have the guts yet to do the same thing!

    Comment by Nick Literski — June 17, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

  42. There is room for everyone in Gods family. Forget religion and find God.

    Comment by Jenny — June 17, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

  43. What would Jesus do? Hhmmm, let me think. Well, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, Christ pretty much made it clear that we are to LOVE our loved ones, regardless of their choices in life. So, if we claim to be followers of Christ, I’m guessing we should show MORE love, MORE tolerance, MORE patience towards those who struggle.

    Besides, if the sealing power isn’t strong enough to withstand my husband’s disaffection, how could it possibly be strong enough to bind us together forever? Seriously, do we BELIEVE in the sealing power or not? Because, if its all we SAY it is, its got to be stronger than doubt, disbelief, or even resignation from the church.

    Comment by pinkpatent — June 17, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  44. Ardis, I didn’t mention your name, so you’re making some rather large assumptions as to “sniping.” That said, I’ve no doubt that your frequently-posted narrative reflects your personal perspective on your behavior of approximately six years ago. I’m equally certain that your description of the conflict between you and your family member, in which you describe yourself as a flawless, altruistic victim, also reflects your personal perspective of your behavior.

    Personally, I’ve already acknowledged my own contribution to any conflict which you and I may have had. At this time, however, my own perspective does not allow me to agree with your view of yourself as a long-suffering example of Christlike compassion and virtue.

    Comment by Nick Literski — June 17, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

  45. Gilgamesh, I’m sure you’re right. In some ways I wish I were completely leaving, though. It would be a lot simpler.

    Comment by Conifer — June 17, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  46. When I left the church my father didn’t speak to me for a long time. He ignored me, as if I was dead to him. After several months of this things settled down and returned to some semblance of normality. Then I had my name removed: he hasn’t spoken to me since. He has never asked me why I left or tried to talk to me about it.

    I still send him father’s day cards and birthday and Christmas presents and try and pretend that things are normal. But I’ve had to accept that my father’s first and biggest love is the church. He loves the church so much that he can’t love anyone who doesn’t love it too.

    My mother does talk to me via email, but she has not spoken to me on the telephone since I had my name removed. I feel like the church stole my parents from me during my childhood while they spend hundreds of hours serving as stake president and seminary teacher respectively. That burglarizing continues now as they serve a mission abroad and my children are robbed of grandparents.

    If my parents even offered crumbs of contact I would take them. But they don’t. I find it hard not to laugh when people say that the church is all about families.

    Comment by Jane — June 18, 2011 @ 3:01 am

  47. For anyone who strongly believes in the gospel, to have a loved one turn away from it will seem tragic. At least it seems that way to me. In such cases, a reaction is evidence of love and care – even if it is poorly executed. A lack of reaction in some ways could be seen as a lack of love and care.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 18, 2011 @ 5:06 am

  48. Eric, I understand what you are saying. However, I think that for some of us, there is a developmental issue at work: our parents have never learned how to treat us like autonomous adults. My father used to insist that when I agreed to be born into his family in the pre-existence, I also agreed to forfeit my free agency (it used to be ‘free’ back then). People used to think that he was joking when he said stuff like this, but he meant it.

    I am nearly forty years old. I have been married for twenty years. My father is not showing love, he is showing anger. He is behaving like the Old Testament God. He is treating me like a recalcitrant toddler. He is modelling his parenting on talks like the one that Dallin Oaks gave on love and law (my father was still speaking to me back then and ‘lovingly’ forwarded the talk to me).

    For every ounce of love that my parents withhold, I shower more love on my own children. They all know that that my love is not contingent on them growing up to be the same as me. It’s the best I can do. It’s my way of saying ‘This stops HERE’ to the conditional love that my parents consistently exemplify.

    Comment by Jane — June 18, 2011 @ 6:23 am

  49. Eric Nielson: For anyone who strongly believes in the gospel, to have a loved one turn away from it will seem tragic. At least it seems that way to me. In such cases, a reaction is evidence of love and care – even if it is poorly executed. A lack of reaction in some ways could be seen as a lack of love and care.

    This is false. If you believe that there’s something tragic about someone who turns away, it is not evidence of love and care. One the contrary, it is evidence that you value them for their alignment with your religious beliefs, and do not value them as a person. If you behave this way, you are not behaving virtuously.

    Mormonism touts moral agency and free choice as the theological foundation of mortal probation, which is why it’s astonishing how many commenters here are unabashedly willing to say “I just can’t help it” when it comes to treating someone poorly for disagreeing with them.

    Comment by DKL — June 18, 2011 @ 6:55 am

  50. Can you help treating someone poorly for disagreeing with you, DKL? Then please do.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 18, 2011 @ 7:07 am

  51. mfranti, is this thread developing the way you wanted or expected it to? When you don’t step in with the slightest guiding hand, I have to assume that you’re perfectly fine with hatred and abuse, as long as it’s directed toward the “right” people.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 18, 2011 @ 7:13 am

  52. Grow up, Ardis. You’re being told that you’re wrong. If you think that’s the same as being subject to hatred and abuse, then you’ve got a lot to learn about how the world works.

    Comment by DKL — June 18, 2011 @ 7:43 am

  53. Ardis’s point about someone’s shock and grief is very relevant to this discussion. Any family member leaving Mormonism should be aware enough about the beliefs to realize that their family might have to deal with feelings of grief and they might have difficulty handling it in the short term.

    I feel sad when threads disintegrate into Ardis bashing.

    Sure, everyone is super nice to each other, but the latent attitude that there was something denied to family members by the inactiviy of others

    Which just happens to be true. That is part of the issue.

    Would help if they all just attended some Al Anon meetings …

    As for Nick … he still owes me that guest post he was going to do …

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 18, 2011 @ 7:44 am

  54. parents have never learned how to treat us like autonomous adults

    Yep, they really need an Al Anon meeting. Jane, I’m so sorry they aren’t going to attend one and wish you the best.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 18, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  55. I really think it would be helpful to discuss the issues, why and how people react, without demonizing the people who are reacting.

    Imagine if your spouse, parent or child developed a drug problem or active alcoholism or a mental illness. How would you react? How would you learn to get past what looks to you like a terrible mistake, and one you can not control?

    There are a lot of reasons people act like they do.

    I think that reading literature by groups designed to break people free from the co-dependency and control and responsibility issues would really help this entire discussion.

    So I’m serious in my references, not being snide or dismissive. I think the issues are deeper than “Mormons are just bad people” implied by What is it about our religion that makes doubters and those who chose to leave be cast out from their families and friends?

    Because that is not what is really going on. It is a more complex reaction, a narrative that is beyond and deeper and more mixed than the stereotypes, and that has trouble healing when people fail to get through their labels and judgmental attacks on each other.

    I’ve said enough. I’ll probably trigger the spam filter here by multiple postings. But I think that by devolving into bashing Ardis and revisiting old hurts and fights the entire discussion has gone astray.

    What is it about people and apostasy that causes them to frame everything in terms of those left behind casting those leaving out, and in such unloving terms?

    [And if you can't see that that is the wrong question too, it is probably best that I've not said any more.]

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — June 18, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  56. The way friends and family treated my brother-in-law when he quietly left the church only reinforced to him that he had made the right choice. After ten years my wife still has trouble convincing him to come to family gatherings because of the vile things “followers of Christ” said to him at that time.

    The Church shouldn’t be the only factor in our relationships, and it feels like sometimes we lean on it as a crutch in that way. It can feel impossible to relate to some people without the Church being part of our thoughts and conversations about them, and that’s wrong.

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 18, 2011 @ 8:24 am

  57. #53:
    As for Nick … he still owes me that guest post he was going to do …

    Ummm….(blush)…can you remind me about this? I guess it dropped off my radar somewhere! :)

    Comment by Nick Literski — June 18, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  58. What this discussion is exposing a problem in Mormonism, namely that many put the LDS Church above their family.

    That is really wrong. In fact, flat-out wrong.

    Family should ALWAYS be first.

    President Harold B. Lee noted: “Your esponsibility as a father and a husband transcends any other interest in life.”

    I was highly disturbed by the former stake president above who ignored his own daughter.

    So wrong . .

    Comment by Steve — June 18, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  59. Drug problem, mentally ill alcoholic = leaving Mormonism. Wow. It’s just like being gay only without the pedophilia shout-out.

    Comment by djinn — June 18, 2011 @ 9:51 am

  60. I am certainly not advocating treating people poorly. I am simply saying that many firm believers will view leaving the church as a tragic mistake that will eventually lead to unhappiness in this life, and perhaps the loss of a degree of salvation in the next. This is only meant to help understand the mindset and the motive. Not as an excuse for poor behavior on their part.

    I think many in this situation will feel a desperate need to confront the loved on in a sort of intervention. This may be bad behavior, and poorly executed. But in their minds it will be motivated by love – even if poorly expressed.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 18, 2011 @ 11:03 am

  61. Whoa! It’s not my style to post and take off, but I had to yesterday.

    Ardis, I’m sorry, I wasn’t around to mod the threat but in all honesty, I didn’t expect David to show up and pick a fight with you.

    David, I absolutely adore you, and I’ll tolerate a lot of crap from you, but there’s no need to be mean to Ardis. I think her initial comment was sincere and thoughtful. I could imagine myself feeling the same way over a serious issue with a loved one.

    I suspect you’d feel the same if your son or daughter came to you and said (s)he was a Democrat, or worse, a Green. You’d weep and wail and thrash about in disappointment at first. You might even think: You’re no child of mine and give the cold shoulder for the afternoon. But eventually you’d come around because you’d remember how this thread and everything would be fine. Imagine how lively family holidays will be?

    Take some of that passion and direct it over at New Cool Thang and that monstrosity of a thread on the YW. I’ll cheer you on.

    I like you both. Please stop now.

    Comment by mfranti — June 18, 2011 @ 11:04 am

  62. Wow. This thread sure is something else.

    As someone who has just been going through the motions for some time, reading all these comments has definitely given me real food for thought. Lots to consider as I ponder when and how to take the next steps. I am glad that I’ve had some serious conversations with my folks about my loss of beleif (just the other day, my mother and I were talking and she said — about how some gospel principle affected her outlook — “…but maybe it’s different for you.”) so they’re not in a state of denial about where I am. I only hope (dear God, please) that they don’t react like Jane’s parents. And they haven’t so far. I just don’t know what I’d do.

    Comment by Anon for this — June 18, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  63. I think the issues is certainly NOT as cut-and-dry or black-and-white as many people in the Church seem to think. I think of my own extended family. There are people at all levels of activity withing the Church, as well as various levels of belief in God outside the Church.

    When I picture the next life, I picture us all somehow being together through God’s love and Christ’s atonement. The Celestial Kingdom would be a pretty sad and bleak place if some/most/all/none of my family wasn’t there with me.

    And, at the end of the day, there has to be some allowance made. Only 0.1% of the world’s population are active-LDS members, and if you look at the number of temple-recommend-holding members, it’s even lower. I think God is more successful than a 99.9% “failure” rate.

    So, this is gospel according to “Mike S”, but I’m not too worried about the level of involvement in the physical organization of the Church of any of my friends and family. I have great friends and relatives who are completely honest, who would do anything for me or anyone around them at any time, who would literally give the shirt off their back if needed, who treat their families with respect, who are gay and straight, who are of all races and nationalities, etc. And I have faith that we will continue our level of involvement after this life, regardless of their involvement with the Church in mortality.

    So, I’m not too worried.

    Comment by Mike S — June 18, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  64. If you believe that there’s something tragic about someone who turns away, it is not evidence of love and care. One the contrary, it is evidence that you value them for their alignment with your religious beliefs, and do not value them as a person. If you behave this way, you are not behaving virtuously.

    Mormonism touts moral agency and free choice as the theological foundation of mortal probation, which is why it’s astonishing how many commenters here are unabashedly willing to say “I just can’t help it” when it comes to treating someone poorly for disagreeing with them.

    I think David is right here. I understand feeling disappointed when your loved one leaves the Church, but they’re still living and doing good things in the world. You’re still able to love them, hug them, and talk to them.

    And they’re still here to love you back.

    Death is forever. And treating a child or relative, that you presumably love as though they are dead because they don’t agree with your worldview is despicable. Shunning them isn’t showing love or care, it’s showing contempt.

    So while it might be a natural reflex to have feelings of disappointment, and even consider acting in retaliation, we have to remember that we’re adults and adults think before they (re)act to other adults

    Unlike petulant children that want what they want. Now.

    In what other situation is treating your children/family with contempt acceptable?

    In fact, in what other situation is it acceptable to shit on other humans?

    ***

    Are LDS really so shallow as to build every meaningful relationship around The Church? Are we not complex enough to love our family and friends for the individuals they are? For their unique personalities and talents?

    Does every conversation have to involve some aspect of The Church for it to be a worthwhile expenditure of time?

    If so, this is sad.

    And it’s hollow.

    Comment by mfranti — June 18, 2011 @ 11:48 am

  65. I feel like I should say that my in-laws have been very good about the whole thing. They expressed disappointment, as is their right, and then tried very hard to treat us the same as they did previously, even though there have been a few awkward moments: some people are able to deal with these situations in a kind way.

    Comment by Jane — June 18, 2011 @ 11:56 am

  66. There is a difference between abuse (like Jane describes) and just cutting family members some slack by understanding that they have some real grief to deal with.
    No one here thinks that a parent dealing with disappointed hopes or shock means that it is ok to treat someone poorly or verbally and emotionally abuse anyone.
    I am sure my relationship with my children would change if they chose to leave the gospel, whether they are 13 or 43. I will not interfere with their right to have their own ideas and once I no longer support them financially I will try very hard not to tell them what to do, but it might make things a little strained.
    I remember my sister being upset because she wanted my parent’s approval for all of her mistakes and all of her choices outside the gospel. It isn’t going to happen.
    Co-dependency is really an issue sometimes. People have a right to their own feelings and opinions. You can’t change that. You can expect respect, but not a fan club.

    Comment by jks — June 18, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  67. I see in this thread all the components of a dysfunctional family disagreeing about the situation and bringing their differing points of view into the conflict. Just like when someone leaves the church and gets shunned by loved ones, and reacts to that with bad behavior of their own. And behavior is where our agency lies. Al-anon principles apply all around here. You can have your natural feelings, but they don’t justify treating a person badly (which includes shunning, angry ranting, passive-aggressive “rescuing”, etc.) I think Ardis and Jane’s in-laws are in the right place, trying to override their natural feelings of disappointment and continue to pursue a loving and friendly relationship in spite of the challenges.

    I was inactive for a long time and experienced being judged. I still do since some folks are not very forgiving. Now I find myself with adult children who are not practicing anymore. There are challenges from every side, but when I muster up some meekness and gentleness and love unfeigned, it usually gets me through the day.

    It gets easier when you practice, just like playing the piano.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — June 18, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  68. Look, the bottom line is that if you fantasize that loved ones who have turned away from Mormonism are cut off from God and your family, then you are treating your membership in the church like a poison with which to infect those you love. The fact that I don’t use Mormonism as a poison makes me a far better Mormon than you. Don’t worry, though. You can always repent, and when you do, I’ll happily forgive you.

    Comment by DKL — June 18, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

  69. I lost 200 pounds after having been fat from early childhood. It changed ALL my relationships–for the worse. Leaving the church wouldn’t have been nearly as bad.

    What really sucked was that it wasn’t restricted to any one cluster of friends and family–it was everyone. Cue acute isolation.

    My conscious decision and sacrifice to better myself was solely responsible for changing the way these people related to me and, funny enough, I didn’t know they were relating to me on a she’s-the-fat-one level.

    This isn’t about the church. It’s about social habits and learned expectations and, as Ardis said, grief at the sudden loss of those expectations.

    Comment by Curious Bystander — June 19, 2011 @ 4:40 am

  70. mfranti, #64 rocks and you rock.

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 19, 2011 @ 8:18 am

  71. When one speaks of the family reunion in the “later” that will either occur or not, it just seems silly to me to be so utterly convinced in the here and now that it’s just not going to happen. “Later”, for all of us, is going to include some portion of time spent in the spirit world between now and the resurrection. I can’t help but think that this “time out” to which we’re all going to be subject is going to have some real impact on all of our attitudes towards one another. At least, I sure hope it does.

    Comment by Mark N. — June 19, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  72. The problem is not your friends fault,the fault is the lack of joy in the gospel.Go to any black baptist church and you see joy.My favorite bishop and i discussed this many times.For most mormons i know the gospel is something members endure ,while they wait for their reward.The gospel can bring great joy to those who embrace the joy and it can be an anchor to those who walk the line but miss the joy. One of the most important words a member should use,is NO.We should do what we can in the season that is right for us and not let others make us feel guilt for what we are not prepared to do.

    Comment by marv thompson — June 20, 2011 @ 7:12 am

  73. Y’know, there’s a simple way to avoid all this mess. Before condemning anyone for leaving the church (or hypocritically being nice to someone while thinking they are damned, cough), just ask yourself, “Am I Jesus?”

    If the answer is no, then you don’t have any standing to condemn anyone (openly or in your heart).

    If the answer is yes, then feel free to condemn, or possibly see a psychiatrist : P

    Comment by Doug Hudson — June 20, 2011 @ 9:38 am

  74. God gave us a commandment to NOT JUDGE OTHERS. That is His job and if we let Him do His job than we wont have to worry about what others are doing or not doing.

    Comment by TSteed — June 20, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  75. We often forget that everyone has their agency. We do not enjoy watching people explore other options and “falling away” (as many would call it). We tend to force our shared beliefs back on those who used to have similar beliefs.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 20, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  76. I tend to not try to judge either side in family issues like this. Families have their own dynamic and who knows what is going on under the surface to cause the reactions we see externally.

    Offer support and love for your friend, but be cautious not to judge or condemn the family while doing it.
    It’s hard to understand the undercurrents in a family you are not a part of.

    Comment by Marie — June 20, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  77. Doug Hudson you should go back and read more carefully between your affected internet coughing. Ardis is judging no one, she is condemning no one. She honestly admitted that her relative’s decision grieved her but that her grief has not translated into rudeness, condemnation or judging. That is about as far from hypocrisy as you can get.

    If your mother and father called you up one day and announced that they were divorcing would you feel sad, maybe even betrayed? But if you were trying to follow Christ’s example would you try to rise above those visceral feelings and not let them pollute your actions toward them? Family and friends leaving the church is more like a divorce than a decision to take a new job or buy a new house. Changes with that kind of emotional impact will always create strong emotions and feelings. It is how we deal with those feelings that defines who we are.

    Comment by KLC — June 21, 2011 @ 7:18 am

  78. When my son left the Church about 6 months ago, I was shocked. 6 months prior to that he was being released as a faithful missionary, zone leader, and someone I felt would raise a family of his own in righteousness.

    It hurt worse than anything I had previously experienced. I wish I could say that I handled it perfectly but I didn’t. We spent several months debating principles and doctrines. There were a few instances where we raised our voices to one another – not out of control, but we both knew that the other one wasn’t happy. It took me awhile to learn how to deal with this new reality. And now our relationship seems to be doing much better.

    I can honestly say that I have never stopped loving him. I have always supported his right to make certain choices. And most of the LDS I know who have gone through similar situations have reacted in a similar way.

    Comment by Don — June 22, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  79. Don, Thank you for sharing your story.

    Comment by mfranti — June 22, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  80. 4 things:

    1. Our treatment of those that leave has to be counted as one of the 7 deadly Mormon sins that we are all (to some degree) in need of some redemption from. I’ve had my fair share of judgmental behavior and have been trying to change.

    2. Its such a problem, that I’ve had a couple good friends leave and assume that I would cut ties. It offended me at first (don’t they know me!?) but realize its understandable when you see it happen to others.

    3. Especially in areas with few Mormons, the ward/branch community can be incredibly close-knit and supportive. Feelings of betrayal are understandable (not excusable) when someone leaves the tribe.

    4. Also, in defense of the accused, as many verses from Jesus telling us to love our neighbor (and enemy!), there are as many versus that support ostracization.(wheat and tares? sheep and goats?) Now, I love Jesus and believe his central theme is love, but let’s be careful when we throw out the “obviously, Jesus taught…” line. A compilation of all that Jesus taught is much more complicated than that.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — June 23, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  81. Those are good insights CJ. It’s clearly wrong to ostracize friends or family that leave, but we need to have some patience for those who struggle in that situation. For some, hearing that a person they care deeply about doesn’t believe anymore is horrifying, and feels like a personal rejection. The least we can do is show some understanding when their reactions are not what we hope for.

    Comment by MCQ — June 23, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  82. I have a few thoughts

    1) I have a friend who I regularly communicate with and I adore them. I ask how Church is going for them and they either don’t answer or change the subject. I suspect they aren;t attending anymore. What hurts me more then that is that they might be thinking I will reject them if they talk about it, like they can’t confide in me their problems or issues as to why they aren’t going. I wish SO MUCH they would just talk to me.

    2) Recently our ward had some people quit, which is their choice. Rather then leave quietly and move on with their life they decided to attack members on a social media site. It has almost gotten to the point of harrasment. Like if the Church isn’t for you then don’t come, but just stop the vitriol and the childish behaviours, my word!

    Comment by Whizzbang — July 9, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

  83. The Utah Church is mostly a social institution. The percentage of the state’s population who are Doers or the word and not Hearers only is the same as everywhere else.

    She believes in Christ and was baptized. Therefore, she is an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven. Pride prevents people from welcoming her as one of their own.

    Comment by Brad — August 13, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  84. Howdy, well put together webpage you have there.

    Comment by Learn More Here — November 26, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

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