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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : It Must’ve Been Love, But It’s Over Now » It Must’ve Been Love, But It’s Over Now

It Must’ve Been Love, But It’s Over Now

David - August 23, 2008

When I was attending the University of Utah one of my then favorite movies, The Big Chill, was released. Starring a very young William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and Jeff Goldblum, it was about a group of friends who come together when one of their own commits suicide. One of the more powerful moments for me was when the minister gave the eulogy. In conclusion he said:

“It makes me angry, and I don’t know what to do with my anger! Are not the satisfactions of being a good man among our common men great enough to sustain us anymore? Where did Alex’s hope go? Maybe this is the small resolution we can take from here today. To try to regain that hope that must have eluded Alex.”


Towards the end of my mission, Elder G. and I were ZL companions, and as close as they come. We had a great time together, traveling the zone for exchanges and baptismal interviews. We laughed a lot, prayed a lot, took a lot of silly pictures. In one we’re straight-faced, wearing boxers over our Swedish knit pants, and another holding up the Durham Herald-Sun, the two-inch high headline reading: “Reagan 40th President”; big, cheesy grins on our mugs. He was from Kearns and I was from Sandy, so when I came home three weeks after he did we went on a double date (saw The Jazz Singer; drove the girls nuts with our over-the-top Neil Diamond impressions). We both started attending the U. and ended up in a number of the same classes.

It was around this time I started seeing the cracks in the veneer. Ken would pose questions like, didn’t I think it was ridiculous how the Church turned Sonia Johnson into a martyr, or “Why couldn’t Kimball see the Salamander Letter was a forgery? I mean, he’s supposed to be a prophet, right?” I thought he was just assuming the smug collegiate mindset, always questioning and framing arguments. Apparently it ran a lot deeper than that. He had a new girlfriend at the time, a sweet non-member girl, and they soon moved in together. Finally, Ken admitted he left the Church and tried for months afterward to get me to see the absurdity of it, and all religion in general. And then we just sort of faded apart.

I know people leave the Church all the time for a bunch of reasons. I hear about it every week. Something– or things– happens that brings about disillusionment, disenfranchisement and finally divorce. Their testimonies (I would reason) just weren’t strong enough to take the challenges they faced, or they chose to yield rather than endure. Questions that occured to them took prominent placement in their minds, to be fed and nurtured. Excuses such as not agreeing with the Church’s position on an issue or getting mad because their bishop made an observation that offended them became smoke screens obscuring truer reasons– either that or they just never got the gospel in the first place. Their testimonies were malnourished seedlings or just plain figments. Why else could they make wholesale dismissals of everything else the religion consists of: All the collective scriptural and spiritual evidence, the perfect package of the Plan of Salvation, the cause and effect– and lessons– of living the Gospel? To be so hung up on things so insignificant in the eternal perspective.

It reminds me of another scene in The Big Chill:

“I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.”

“Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.”

“Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”

On the other hand, I know there are expatriates in pain over their decisions. They genuinely feel betrayed, broken-hearted. My heart goes out to them. But again, I feel that so many good and precious things the Gospel offers are being needlessly sacrificed for the sake of small satisfaction. The Gospel they had once embraced came from God. The testimonies they once bore came from Him. Not liking feeling judged in your ward or the Church’s stand on a particular issue shouldn’t erase all that– it’s not worth spiritual amputation.

But this was Elder G.! We wept together in the field, we baptized and marveled at the disinterested, we fought the good fight! He came from a strong, active home. Where did Ken’s hope go?

Another friend, this one in my current ward, was recently ex’ed. Before that happened he was stalwart to the point of nauseating, a real boy scout. He’d preach missionary work with the zeal of a Kool-Aid drinker and was the go-to guy in Gospel Essentials. Ours was a quirky friendship because I tended to be more the contrarian and weisenheimer to his wide-eyed “whoops there goes another rubber tree plant.” But we admired each other’s minds and passion for film, and enjoyed each other’s company while going to movies and running marathons. Then he strayed from his marriage, dyed his hair and disappeared, only to show up a few months later with a new wife (I call her “Yoko”). I used to comfort myself for being cynical by saying it’s the zealots you have to watch out for– THEY’RE the ones most apt to crack. At the same time I suspected that that kind of thinking was just pathetic justification for my own sins. Now I’m not so sure I was so far from the mark.

People leave the Church every day. It’s virtually a law of nature– a necessary evolution of the purification of Zion. In my heart of hearts I truly believe that those who are converted– and who cultivate the spiritual maturity to actually “get” the Gospel– will not leave the Church, not permanently. Those who aren’t and don’t I feel will vacillate into a spiritual passivity or will persistently be bugged by things in the Church until they finally step off, either with crashing cymbals or a mouse fart.

But that’s me.

It just surprises me sometimes, you know, who leaves and who stays.

45 Comments »

  1. I’m staying.

    Even when most everyone and most everything in my life would have me choose to leave. On my worst days, I don’t even consider leaving the Church. Sure, I consider doing things that would ultimately result in my loosing my membership — but it never crosses my mind to just up and leave.

    Whatever else goes wrong — no matter the occasional, brief, but profound pain I endure — this is home. And inasmuch as anyone can know, I know it’s true. It’s the Kingdom of God, and I revel in being a part of its inexorable (yet maddeningly glacial) heavenward progression.

    Comment by Silus Grok — August 23, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

  2. Thank you David for sharing your experience that was lovely. Silus I appreciate your testimony as well. I am with you Silus no matter how difficult the journey of membership may be at times the thought of leaving is so alien.

    BTW David I grew up in Sandy too. I attended Jordan HS and Alta HS. I think you may be a couple of years older than me.

    Comment by JA Benson — August 23, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  3. I used to read about the converted Lamnanites in the Book of Mormon, and how Mormon mentions that they never did fall away. I wondered what made the difference between them and the Nephites, who continually had dissenters going off and joining the Lamanites.
    I think I have an idea. Aren’t we told over and over that we must seek out our own testimonies?
    The good or bad quality of one’s family, or the good or bad examples of one’s fellow saints, or how much one has heard from professional skeptics and disbelievers has very little to do with whether one remains faithful.
    What has a great deal to do with it is whether one has sought God, endured a trial of one’s faith, and then been answered.

    Comment by Confutus — August 23, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  4. Good post. I also liked hearing your experience in the My Girl Bill post.
    My testimony of the gospel is the most important thing to me. I think we should realize that we are all in danger of wandering off the path. Each of us faces a different temptation and it would happen differently.
    We should offer our broken heart and contrite spirit daily. Everything the church teaches us encourages us to do this. Pray, read the scriptures, go to church, serve others, take care of our families, let the atonement work in our lives.
    I’m sorry about your friend.

    Comment by JKS — August 24, 2008 @ 12:22 am

  5. David,

    Great stuff.

    I grok your experiences and agree with your conclusions.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — August 24, 2008 @ 12:25 am

  6. This is interesting for me to read because me and my husband are some of the stalwarts that left. And, our parents and friends are probably saying similar things right now. I could write a long comment about why people like us leave, but I have learned through this experience that there is absolutely nothing you can say or do to help members understand when you leave. You will never understand unless you have left.

    Just be nice to the people who do leave. Especially if they are your family. Don’t try to understand (unless you really want to, which no one ever does because that requires us discussing a lot of things you don’t want to hear), just accept and respect. Only understand that leaving the church is hard and scary. Much harder than staying and pretending you believe.

    Comment by Julie — August 24, 2008 @ 3:28 am

  7. Julie,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I believe what you say and I hope to always be accepting and respectful of those who leave (of which I have a number of friends who have done so). Your last line, “…leaving the church is hard and scary. Much harder than staying and pretending you believe.” is, I think, part of the problem (for me) of those who leave. I guess I have a hard time with anyone who has come to the conclusion (meaning FINAL DECISION, case closed, no more discussion) that the Church is definitely NOT true or that God definitely DOESN’T exist. I mean, I question those things all the time but I just don’t know how I could possibly CONCLUDE either one. There’s a certain amount of arrogance in claiming that knowledge. (And I am fully aware of the opposite argument, that it’s arrogant for Mormons to say they have CONCLUDED God exists and that the Church is true. I understand that and you’re probably right.) Maybe I’m too comfortable just saying, “I don’t know” to come to such drastic conclusions. But I truly hope you the best in your journey.

    Comment by Rusty — August 24, 2008 @ 5:09 am

  8. Julie,

    Absolutely, I agree with you 100%. My favorite bro-in-law left shortly after he came home from his mission (I met him after it happened), and I’ve been not only grateful to be his friend but also to see his family surround him with embraces and love, never once trying to bear their testimonies or mention the Church.

    Comment by David — August 24, 2008 @ 7:39 am

  9. JA Benson (#2),

    A least a couple years older than you, yes. Alta High came into existence only a year or two after I graduated from Brighton. :)

    Comment by David — August 24, 2008 @ 7:46 am

  10. How difficult to understand those who give up on their faith. It seems like such a betrayal, to me. I reflect on what my ancestors have endured to put me where I am, and I could never go against the faith they embraced. To me, remaining true to the faith seems like the very least obligation I carry.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — August 24, 2008 @ 9:33 am

  11. I don’t get it, either. When my MIL left the church (10 years ago), it destroyed her entire family. She had been the stalwart –the rock, if you will. Hardest part? She left because her atheist boyfriend refused marriage –he was opposed to the idea of a marital institution, even though that meant she had to choose him over her religion, heritage, and testimony.
    How that equated true love is still beyond me.
    But anyway, it was hard. Sometimes it still is; she even told me once that being without the Holy Ghost is like flying blind, and yet she continues to live without it. I guess I just don’t understand. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m sad for her, for sure, but I never make her feel bad for her choices. I love her and I don’t want to ruin the good relationship we have.

    Add me to the list of people that would/will never leave the Church. Like in the words of Marjorie Hinckley: I know too much and I’ve seen too much to ever deny it.

    Comment by cheryl — August 24, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  12. Another great post, David!

    It reminds me of a talk I gave a couple weeks after I got off my mission (that is, I gave the talk opposite a High Council speaker) about apostasy and all that I learned about it on the mission and all the great things Brigham Young said about it

    It also reminds me of Job. I don’t think anyone has done what he’s done and yet he remained faithful throughout.

    Today in SS I got a somewhat new perspective, however. Helaman 5 is a great example of how the Lord sometimes uses apostates to lead hundreds, if not thousands into the fold along with those who fall away

    Comment by Bret — August 24, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

  13. This is a great post. I too have a well-loved mission companion who left, as well as other friends.

    I think there’s a grieving process that you go through when those you love leave the Church. It’s almost like a death. You still have them with you and you can see them and talk to them and you still love them the same but something has died. As a believer, you want desperately to understand but talking to them about it is frustrating because their reasons always seem so insufficient when you approach them as a believer. Understanding is difficult to achieve when you approach the subject from such a different perspective.

    Those who leave seem to say, “How can I stay when I don’t believe?” or, “How can I believe in the face of [insert your favorite controversial issue here].” Those of us who stay want to say, “How can you leave the Church when the spirit constantly testifies of its truth?” If that person isn’t feeling the spirit, you can never tell them about it sufficiently. It has to be experienced first-hand. I try to just continue to have hope that that experience will return to them someday.

    Comment by MCQ — August 24, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  14. Thanks for the link, Bret. I like this rather surprising quote from Brother Brigham:

    You hear many say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, and I never will apostatize;” “I am a Latter-day Saint, and shall be to the day of my death.” I never make such declarations, and never shall. I think I have learned that of myself I have no power, but my system is organized to increase in wisdom, knowledge, and power, getting a little here and a little there. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord, and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing.

    Comment by MCQ — August 24, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  15. Excellent stuff David-again-as always.

    I agree with Confuctus-that it is all about testimony. I think some people “think” the Church is true, or confuse the peace and happiness they “feel” for a certain time with having a testimony, when it is not. A testimony is a living, undeniable witness granted through the Holy Ghost that Jesus Christ lives, is our personal Savior, and that His promises are sure. It is the baptism of “fire” and while it is a process that takes everyone a different length of time, it is an event that MUST happen if we want to dwell with God again someday.

    Whether we grew up in the Church or joined it later in life, at some point every one of us has to gain more than just a “thinking and/or feeling” sense that the Church is true. And every one of us has to submit to the steps and process God has established or we will not be given that witness. I often wonder how many people leave because they don’t know about or believe in those steps as compared to those who leave because they do not want the responsibility that they know comes with having a testimony of their own…

    Comment by quin — August 24, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  16. It’s worth keeping in mind that some huge percentage–70%?–of people who are baptized go through a significant (> 6 months) period of inactivity during their lifetimes. Life is long, and eternity is longer. Grieving seems premature and potentially unhelpful if it gets in the way of loving our friends.

    Comment by Kristine — August 24, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  17. Kristine (#16),

    Well said. I never came across that stat, but it feels right. That’s why I added the line:

    I truly believe that those who are converted– and who cultivate the spiritual maturity to actually “get” the Gospel– will not leave the Church, not permanently.

    There was a period after my divorce when I didn’t attend church– about 6-8 months. During that time I never once thought I was through with the Church or that its truthfulness was faulty. I’m the one who strayed– even in my mind– not the Gospel, and I knew I was going back. I wonder if a lot feel that way.

    quinn (#15),

    “I often wonder how many people leave because they don’t know about or believe in those steps as compared to those who leave because they do not want the responsibility that they know comes with having a testimony of their own…”

    Last spring I taught an active couple in my Temple Prep class who only attended after the bishop repeatedly urged them to. Upon taking all the lessons, they admitted they would put off getting their recommends because they believed in the seriousness of the covenants they would be making, and they weren’t prepared to make them. I had a tough time chewing on that– “we believe it’s all true; that’s why we can’t go any further”– but I also thought it was extremely interesting and appreciated their articulate honesty. Wow.

    Comment by David — August 24, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  18. There’s more to it than having a “knowing” kind/level of testimony.

    I’m an example of someone who left the church and eventually requested name-removal while still believing (and knowing) the foundational truths and claims of the church and gospel (God as father, Jesus’s Atonement, Book of Mormon true, Joseph Smith as propeht).

    There are several “root causes” for leaving the church, and also for losing one’s testimony. In my case I didn’t lose my testimony. I still believed/knew. There were two major areas, that were tied together. One, I didn’t want to repent, so I didn’t have the Spirit. Two, without the Spirit, there were some offenses on the part of others towards me that were just unbearable, and appeared to be unresolvable to me. Perhaps my thinking was “I absolutely can’t live with that, and it’s not something that can be resolved, so I’m out of here.”

    Let’s remember that some very notable early saints of this dispensation left too, and they not only had testimonies, they had a sure witness on their own, having received revelations, angelic visitations and open visions.

    People like Harris, Cowdery, the Whitmers, Rigdon, Marsh knew how to get personal spiritual confirmations of various doctrines that Joseph Smith taught. Yet they all allowed circumstances to overcome the testimonies they had, and sever the connections they had to the church.

    There are several kinds of “knowing” when we say in a gospel context “I know that…”

    You can know based on spiritual evidence, such as promptings, impressions, spiritual feelings, burning in the bosom, etc. Those are things you can hang your hat on, but there’s a line that they don’t quite cross.

    I’m not sure how to describe that line, maybe it’s some sort of “contact” or touching, which might be what the scriptures call the Holy Ghost “falling upon” someone.

    Page 38 of Gospel Principles talks about a spiritual “knowing” that goes beyond even physical manifestations, such that the truth is woven in to the fiber of the soul. I had such experiences. And I can’t “un-know” them. In the past, I used to try on occasion, but the effort only lasted a couple seconds and I had to conclude “Who are you trying to kid?”

    There are things that I used to believe that I stopped believing when I left the chruch. We can change what we believe and think. But what I knew, I couldn’t un-know. The Holy Ghost “burned” it in.

    And sinnging against that kind of light eventually leads one to the abyss. Those who “know” at that level and then leave, either have to come back, or they burn out their conscience.

    David, about your “kook-aid drinker” friend who left. Maybe Steve EM was right, that fanaticism leads to apostasy. I can see some truth in that.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 24, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  19. Er, kook-aid = kool-aid.

    And by the way, I read somewhere, maybe even on this blog, that Steve EM claimed to have left the church and “moved beyond” Mormonism. That might be an example where openly speaking against the Brethren leads to apostasy, too.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 24, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  20. “knew I was going back. I wonder if a lot feel that way.”

    I run into this fairly frequently in my calling. We visited on the doorstep with a woman the other day who told us quite frankly – yes, you’re my church, but I’m not ready to come back yet. Give me six more months. :)

    Bookslinger – yeah.

    There was no one reason I left the church. I wasn’t angry with the church, just highly irritated. There were some things that I no longer believed, however – chief among them maybe that I no longer believed the church is where I was likely to find the most happiness in this world. I have often said that I believe my time away was necessary to me. Sometimes that gets some resistance – because if it truly was necessary for me than it might be necessary for others, as well. I can’t answer to that – I can only reflect as honestly as possible on my own experience.

    There was also no one reason I came back. A thread of several things worked on me for a period of years, and a single very minor event tripped the wire and knew it was the right time to come back and that I would never leave again.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — August 24, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  21. I am back. I have been re-baptized on the 18th and got a calling and a talk the following sunday (meaning last sunday). The bishop was not kidding when he said he needed me.

    My story is about excommunication when my mother’s is about “leaving” the church. What drives me nuts has been her way to rationalize and to try to prove me that it was all an illusion. Not that it was not good, just not true enough to her when her first motivation to leave the church has been very different actually.
    Back when she left the church she totally told me her reason was that she wanted to be able to live her fair with her lawyer (she latter found out that she was not the only one on his schedule male and female lovers) WITHOUT being under any condemnation from a spiritual point of view.
    Sweet mom….not being a member does not erase the fact that you know this is wrong.
    Rationalizing is the way baby! And then trying to lie to yourself because you’re the only one who can believe those lies.

    Comment by G — August 26, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  22. Welcome back, G! Your courage and faith will pay you back in blessings untold. But I’m sure you’re experiencing them already.

    Comment by David — August 27, 2008 @ 6:48 am

  23. #10 Jim

    Because your ancestors got you where you are today is the worst reason to remain true to the faith. Mormon missionaries the whole wide world over have to deal with people, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, etc. who refuse to embrace the Gospel because they have been in their religion for life, their parents and grandparents were in the same religion, and on and on.

    We go into other countries, asking the inhabitants to give up the religious traditions of their ancestors. Yet, we consider it a betrayal to do the same to ours? Doesn’t make sense to me. Just like we complain about how the Catholics decided to stop recognizing a Mormon baptism. Do we recogize a Catholic baptism?

    I guess if you are a Mormon with crossing-the-plains pioneer ancestry, you feel an obligation. But those 1st generation Mormon pioneers crossing the plains had given up their original faith. In fact, if they hadn’t, you may not even be a member right now.

    We stay true to the Church because it is true; otherwise, we live a lie.

    Comment by SAM — August 27, 2008 @ 8:15 am

  24. SAM #23 True.

    Comment by JA Benson — August 27, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

  25. great thread. i carried around a letter addressed to the church for, oh, over a year? i made sure it had a stamp on it, in the event i felt ready to finally stick it in a mailbox. there were a variety of reasons i wrote it and a variety of reasons i never mailed it. back in, full swing, and a lot more understanding of all of those reasons i thought were a huge deal before.

    Comment by makakona — August 28, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  26. As a missionary serving in a tiny branch down in Colon, Panama (in 1973), I remarked one Sunday that I just couldn’t understand how anyone having a testimony could go inactive. Bro. McCoy, a Green Beret officer and the EQP in the branch, smiled patiently at me and said, “Elder Webster, nobody ever plans to go inactive.”

    About four years later, during my senior year of college, my (former) wife and I were head residents at Heritage Halls. This meant that every Saturday night, starting at 1:30 am, I had to go around and (a) kicks all the guys out of our two halls, and then (b) check all the back doors to all 48 apartments to ensure they were locked. I typically didn’t get to bed until 2:30 am or later; our BYU branch started services at 9 am or so. And my wife and I had a year-old daughter. So our attendence at the branch tended to be a bit spotty, even though I was the executive secretary (our branch presidency meetings were always held during the week).

    One Sunday morning, my wife and I dragged ourselves out of bed — and realized that it had been 5 weeks or so since we had last gone to church. We resolved to go the following Sunday — which we did — but I was startled to find how reluctant I was to go: not for any reasons of doctrine or self-indulgence, but out of embarrassment. I worried about branch members coming up and saying, “Bro. Webster! It’s so great to see you again!” or something like that. At that moment, I remembered what Bro. McCoy had said — and I realized how easy it is to go inactive, and how hard it can be to return to activity.

    During the 30+ years since then, I have actually known one or two people who I believe did plan to go inactive, but by and large, Bro. McCoy’s observations were correct. It may happen quickly — over an issue or an offense — or it may be gradual. But it’s rarely planned. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — August 28, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  27. Very insightful Bruce #26.

    Comment by JA Benson — August 29, 2008 @ 4:13 am

  28. Why is it that if someone leaves, it is automatically assumed that their testimony just wasn’t strong enough? I know it’s not “done” to consider that the church MIGHT actually be wrong, based on deceptions and untruths, and it’s very very scary to think that it might be so. And yet it is.

    There is a mountain of evidence out there, for anyone willing to look, that shows “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that church history is not what we, or at least I, was taught growing up. Things have been changed, white washed and out right lied about. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was brought up in a church that believed that when the Prophet speaks, it was as if God Himself had spoken, that he couldn’t be wrong because Heavenly Father wouldn’t let him be wrong. And yet, he (or they, rather) have been, many times.

    I was taught that entire basis for the authority of the church lies in the truth of Joseph Smith, that “either he’s a prophet or a liar”, there wasn’t any middle ground. Maybe that made me, and my family, zealots, I don’t know. I just know that when I realized certain things couldn’t be, and aren’t, true, it had to mean the whole thing was a lie.

    I don’t know any LDS folks who don’t think that way, either it’s all true, or none of it’s true. If any LDS people out there feel like they live in a religion where they’re free to pick and choose which mandates and doctrine they’re free to believe in and which they’re free to dismiss, I’d love to hear about it, because I’ve never known that kind of Mormon religion.

    Just so everyone doesn’t start hating me, let me redeem myself ever so slightly. I left the church four years ago, resigned officially but quietly, after years and years of questioning and soul searching. I took my questions to my bishop, to my stake president, to my bishop father and one of my seven brothers. I am, in personality and lifestyle, as Mormon a girl as you could hope to find. I’m the mother of seven, I just finished canning up a couple hundred quarts of this and that, I build my food storage, adore my husband, work four different jobs in my church (non-denom) and pay my tithing to that church as regularly as anyone could hope to see. I am not bitter, I do not rail against the church or try to convince anyone, even family members, that they’re wrong. I’ve seen too many people who leave the church to wander aimlessly, sometimes even giving up their belief in God because He turned out to be different than the Mormon God they had always thought him to be. I don’t want that for anyone.

    I’ve never lost my faith in God, or my reverence for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. I never thought I’d post, or talk, about anything like this. But when I see this hurt for the people who leave, and this bewilderment, and, let’s face it, this sense of superiority because you’ve got the faith that they don’t have, I just felt like I had to say something.

    If you’re happy in the church, I’m very glad. I was happy, too. Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I knew that the church was a barrier between me and a real, living relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think there are saved people in the Mormon church, I pray daily that my family are among them. But there are also many among you who look to the rituals of Mormon Religion to save you, rather than a true, close, abiding relationship with your Father in Heaven.

    May He watch over and bless and draw you into an ever closer relationship with Him.

    Comment by Kate — August 29, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  29. Why else could they make wholesale dismissals of everything else the religion consists of: All the collective scriptural and spiritual evidence, the perfect package of the Plan of Salvation, the cause and effect– and lessons– of living the Gospel? To be so hung up on things so insignificant in the eternal perspective.

    Oh my…it seems these are the very things over which people leave the Church and “not” the “insignificant” things. The LDS faith is encumbered by family, peer and pastoral pressure at every turn for anyone who thinks differently. Do you honestly believe it is easy for people who have grown up in the Mormon world to leave it? It takes tremendous courage to leave the insular acculturation of the LDS Church. Perhaps because the Church teaches that the gate to Heaven is very narrow that many cannot except such an elitist perspective on their Maker.

    Comment by Robert — August 30, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  30. Robert #29

    Amen, my brother, Amen.

    Comment by Kate — August 31, 2008 @ 5:43 am

  31. In regards to “Kate”, post#28:
    I am impressed with your point of view on your decision to leave the Church. I have told my friends and family that, should I ever feel that God wants me somewhere or somedenomination else, I would have to go – I just believe that this is where my Lord wants me to be right now. As you very eloquently put it, you believe that he has a plan for you somewhere else. Good for you for being strong enough to listen to Him! There may well be someone whose life He needs to touch through you that you would not have even had contact with if you were still a member.

    ANYTHING that gets between you and your savior should be removed from your life.

    I firmly believe that we will be judged at the end more harshly for what we were led to do by God but didn’t than for which denomination’s bank account our tithing was deposited into.

    Comment by Jason — August 31, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  32. Doctrine 134:9 We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

    Pass It On…

    Comment by Robert — September 1, 2008 @ 4:52 am

  33. Robert (#32),

    While I’m sure we all appreciate you quoting non sequitur scripture at us, it really offers no light to the topic. If you’re aching to make a Prop 8 statement somewhere, there are plenty of ‘bergs floating in the cyber sea that would welcome the ad nauseum.

    Comment by David — September 1, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  34. Julie (#6), Bookslinger (#18), Kate (#28):

    Thanks for helping me to understand better some of the thoughts and feelings that attend some of those who no longer worship with us. It is easy to demonize those who leave and view them as weak-willed or otherwise deficient. And then to forget them. It is much more difficult to consider everyone as still a brother or a sister and not altogether different than I.

    Kate, I am one who can choose which doctrines and practices to believe and which to disbelieve, and those for which I can withhold judgment. I suspect that I’m not alone; perhaps things are different in Utah. I happen to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, albeit a prophet with an apparently tremendous libido. I also believe that his legal wife was a saint with a Jobian patience and who couldn’t stomach Brigham Young. These are not the binary (black/white, true/false) thoughts with which I was raised: the Church has shades of gray, and even colors, among its doctrines. It is those shades and colors that keep me, for now, visiting those I’m assigned to home teach.

    Comment by Paul — September 2, 2008 @ 8:40 am

  35. Paul,

    Very interesting take on it all. I have been amazed, over the past couple of days, as I’ve found more and more sites that are filled with ex- post- or still-but-don’t-believe-everything Mormons. I had no idea so many people felt like I did. I really, truly, felt like I was alone. When I realized that it wasn’t all true, I had one conclusion, if it wasn’t all true, none of it was true. And if that were the case, I felt like I had to leave. It felt like the only honest thing to do.

    I recently came across a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, in April 2007. He was speaking in an interview regarding the PBS documentary, and specifically the foundational beginnings of the church, Joseph Smith, 1st Vision, etc., and he said “Well, it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.”

    This was exactly what my feelings were on the matter. There couldn’t be any middle ground. Now it would apear that lots of Mormon’s feel like there’s plenty of middle ground. I can’t decide if that’s healthy or not. I can see the pull of that attitude, simply because it is so incredibly hard, and scarey and lonely to leave. So how do you reconcile your attitude of “taking or leaving” with the position of the church that it’s either true or not true, period? And what do you say when they call you in for interviews and ask you outright if you believe it all?

    This is all very curious to me and so very new. Since I left the church, I’ve just gone on my quiet little way, living life the way I thought I was supposed to, worshiping God and raising my family. Other than in my relationship with my own family, I just didn’t think about it too much. I really only recently got reinterested in even having a conversation about it because of this original post and I came across it by accident. I’ve been very interested in the church’s involvement in Prop 8 out in California I was reading David’s post about his experience with his SP and then I saw that he’d posted this and read and got sucked in.

    It’s been very interesting and I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know your stand on it all. Thank you.

    Comment by Kate — September 2, 2008 @ 2:14 pm

  36. Are you familiar with Richard Poll’s 1967 Dialogue article “What the Church Means to People Like Me?” He posited two varieties of Mormons: the Iron Rodders and the Liahonas. And he was a Liahona. I view myself as someone wandering in the wilderness, Liahona in hand, hoping that I’m righteous enough today for it to work for me today. Willing to go where it points, but recognizing that I’ll be going places unknown to others. There is a tension between faith & doubt that keeps me wanting to know more, without abandoning faith for doubt or doubt for faith. A Eugene England essay, the title of which escapes me now, calls this tension a “necessary paradox,” where learning can take place.

    Of course Church authorities are going to force a “true or false” choice, or at least preach that this is the only way: like a fine dining establishment that serves one 8-course meal. Fortunately, I don’t think this is the only analogy; I much prefer the cafeteria approach and believe what I want to believe.

    Regarding the temple recommend interview, nowhere does it ask whether I accept the whole “ball of wax.” There are specific questions about specific beliefs and practices. For example, one of the questions is whether I have a testimony of the restoration. It doesn’t ask which of the several versions of the JS story I believe, or whether I accept the Book of Mormon as an historical document, or whether I believe JS’ deification teachings in the King Follet Discourse. Or whether I reject evolution as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McKonkie would have me do. In fact, I’m probably guilty of each of the “Seven Deadly Heresies” condemned by BRM in a BYU address. It is only recently that my eyes have been opened and I’ve learned that some things I’ve known were “true” since Primary aren’t necessarily true at all. And that some of them are just fables.

    Anyway, that is my long-winded answer to why and how I’m a “still-but-don’t-believe-everything” Mormon (sometimes called a “New Order Mormon” on the web. And, yes, having the Liahona in my hand certainly complicates life.

    Comment by Paul — September 4, 2008 @ 11:46 am

  37. Paul,

    I appreciate your perspective and admit the “black and white” position can seem draconian. For what it’s worth the Church doesn’t stand by BRM and JFS’s position on evolution, either (JFS wasn’t a prophet when he wrote it).

    And, yes, having the Liahona in my hand certainly complicates life.

    This reminds me of an observation that was made of Lord Salisbury: “He sees both sides to any issue; the penalty of a thoughtful man.”

    Comment by David T. — September 4, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  38. David,

    Thanks for the encouragement. FWIW, the Church hasn’t repudiated the JFS or BRM anti-evolution stuff, either. And the current BYU official “evolution” packet isn’t particularly encouraging regarding acceptance of evolution. Alas, it omits anything later than a FP 1931 statement on the subject.

    Comment by Paul — September 5, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  39. Paul,

    The most credible evidence I have that the Church isn’t standing by BRM and JFS’s position on evolution is my best friend. He’s a science professor at BYU, no doubt a position where what you teach is monitored. This is what he had to say recently about the Church and evolution:

    “Evolution is so well established that it is now more-or-less law. So is the antiquity of the earth. So the question then becomes, does this violate our LDS dogma. The answer is no–the Church has no definitive position–so I’m off the hook. No head butting. There are lots of LDS folks who do think the Church has a position against evolution or an old earth–but they just happen to be wrong.”

    Comment by David T. — September 5, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  40. Paul,

    I can appreciate how difficult it must be to live in the LDS world when you see things differently. I can’t help but wonder if it’s really worth it.

    I have a sister who has confided in me that she doesn’t know what’s true and what’s not and that she’s decided to just not think about it any more. In her words, “My husband’s a Mormon and I love him and I want to stay married to him. My family is Mormon and I don’t want to make them unhappy. And at the end of the day, the church is a good place/way to raise a family and live your life, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

    It doesn’t seem, from what you’ve said, that that’s really your take on it. If I understand you correctly, you “know” that certain things aren’t really the way church says they are, but somehow you feel that the church is still basically “true”, do I have it right? Let me see if I can pose a couple of questions without sounding completely evil or hateful.

    Do you think Joseph Smith lied about some things but not others? And how do you know which ones? For instance, if plural marriage was a result of his “tremendous labido”, as you put it, but was “revealed” part and parcel with Eternal Marriage and Temple Work, then is Eternal Marriage real in your opinion? Is the temple and it’s ordinances necessary, in the way the church says they are, for admittance to the Celestial Kingdom and eternal progression?

    I can’t help feeling that if someone lies, then they’ve shown themselves capable of lying. And if they’re capable of lying, how do you know when the stuff coming out of their mouth is a lie or the “truth” (“truth” being defined as an eternal gospel principle, necessary to salvation).

    I don’t know if I could ever have stayed and tried to sort it all out, or if in the end it would have been worth it. It would have been easier in some ways, but in others so much more difficult than just walking away and finding the basic truths that God puts in front of everyone, every day, in the Bible. The gospel we find there is so simple, and sweet, and pure.

    (1) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, (2) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

    (3) “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

    (4) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: (5) While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (6) Since we have now been justified by his blood, (7) how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Rom. 5:8-9).

    Everything added to this core belief is, I believe, unnecessary and a burden placed by man and for his own glory.

    I’d be interested to know, Paul, what addittions that the Church has added are necessary and which are just fluff. Sorry to have been so long winded. I do tend to get carried away.

    Comment by Kate — September 5, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

  41. Kate,

    Is it worth it to stay? I think so, at least for me. I am “Mormon in my DNA,” as Mike Quinn says. I haven’t found a better place for me to become a better person than I now am, or where I can serve my neighbor better than I would otherwise.

    There are a lot of things I haven’t yet sorted out. And, the older I get, the more things there are that I once knew “for sure” that I now recognize are more nuanced than I’d considered. Einstein said something about as the circle of light (i.e., knowledge) expands, the circumference of darkness expands more quickly. Every Gospel answer brings up at least one new Gospel question: sort of a “the more I know the less I know,” or “the more I study the less I know” thing.

    I also have a dual handicap of being trained in the sciences and in law. The science training tells me to not expect any knowledge to be “eternal,” i.e., unchanging. All science is tentative, in that there is always the possibility of some new data that causes the old theories to be tossed out in favor of a new theory that explains both the old and the new data. And that is the essence of science (he says more dogmatically than he knows – leaving himself open for fair criticism from anyone who claims to be a true scientist). Law training, among other things, lets me not expect everything to fit together in a neat package – with one theory explaining all the data. No “one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them,” as Tolkein would say. Keeping two mutually-exclusive theories in my mind at once without being bothered by it. (Or maybe I’m just being insane and not knowing it – you’d have to ask my wife.)

    What do I think of Joseph Smith? That he had some really radical ideas – both at the beginning and at the end of his ministry. That his understanding of what both he and God were all about increased as he aged. That I accept his story that he saw something in the grove – probably “an angel,” as his subsequent writings didn’t include multiple Gods in the Godhead until several years later. That the Book of Mormon’s origins from gold plates is as good an explanation as any. That Rigdon’s and Cowdery’s ideas comprise more of our Doctrine and Covenants than is readily known. That some of his “plural wives” may have just been run-of-the-mill adulterous dalliances, and/or his libido allowed him to be more accepting of revelation regarding plural marriage than someone else may have been. That he did a lousy job of designating his successor (or that he designated too many successors – none of whom included Brigham Young). In other words, that he wasn’t perfect. Subsequent efforts by others to make him appear perfect have resulted in embellishments that perhaps even he wouldn’t recognize.

    Does this mean that I don’t think he was a prophet? No. Just that I need to consider and weigh what he (and his successors) have said and decide whether to incorporate them into my own beliefs, rather than, for example, just accepting what Brigham Young said about the relationship between Elohiem, Jehovah, Adam, and Michael as my theology – which can’t really be reconciled with what Joseph F. Smith(?) said about them and is taught by the present Church.

    I’m not a believer in the supposed simplicity of the Gospel as taught by the bible. John 3:16 says all I need to do for eternal life is to believe in the Son. Sounds simple, but how do I reconcile that with “if you love me, keep my commandments?” Why should I love or keep commandments if only belief is sufficient? Perhaps belief is necessary, but not sufficient, for eternal life? And, what is eternal life? Does it have something to do with Paul’s 3 heavens or Jesus’ many mansions, or what? And was Jesus just demonstrating his knowledge of Jewish law when he answered the question about “which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Or did he mean to re-incorporate a necessity to love our neighbor as ourselves into his own Gospel? And, if so, how do we do that? What is the purpose and effect of the Atonement? I don’t think that John meant that we can be whatever jerks we want to be, so long as we’re believing jerks, and inherit eternal life.

    I believe that the things I need to believe, and do, for my salvation are a tad more complicated, more nuanced, and that my study of what prophets – ancient and modern – have had to say about things will be instructive for my understanding. What is necessary? What is “fluff?” Can I disregard everything that was preached as doctrine between, say, 1844 and 1906 – none of which is emphasized (and some of which is totally disregarded or denied) by subsequent prophets and apostles and the present correlated public affairs apparatchiks?

    And, what I believe now probably won’t be what I believe in a year – or 5 years – from now. I’ll have learned more and will need to have modified my beliefs accordingly.

    Comment by Paul — September 5, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  42. To Kate #40

    I have to make this distinction between necessary, saving gospel truths and all the other stuff that we Mormon’s do. When talking to protestant friends I regularly have to re-explain that we believe that beautifully “simple” plan(just as you outlined it in your post) of SALVATION, but we also believe in this other thing called EXALTATION. “Oh,” they say,”so you guys are the only ones going to this highest Heaven because you’re the only ones with Temples, right?” No. I have always thought of it like we (Mormons who live a Celestial Kingdom-worthy life and received all the proper odinances) have just bought our tickets to the “event” early, while the rest of humanity is going to have to buy theirs at the ticket booth at the stadium. Christ has brought us out of the Parking lot of Hell and gotten us past the Gate of Death through His sacrifice – there’s no ticket we can buy for that trip! Only He could give it to us if we but ask for it. Once inside the Stadium though, some of us will have Skybox tickets in hand and some will be standing in line waiting their turn(already inside the stadium, remember). Most importantly – We are all going to have the opportunity to buy tickets either early on our own or at the booth by proxy!If I’m not careful that will sound elitist, I promise that is not what is in my heart as I type this.
    To re-cap, I agree that

    “Everything added to this core belief is, I believe, unnecessary and a burden”

    , when we are talking about salvation. When, on the other hand, we are talking about exaltation, I think we have to understand that this is a different subject and yes a little more complicated.

    Kate, you have a beautiful spirit that shows through in your writing here. Please don’t take any of my ramblings as anything other than a brother-in-Christ adding his two-cents worth to the thoughts of a sister-in-Christ who obviously has her stuff together.

    Comment by Jason — September 6, 2008 @ 8:25 am

  43. Jason,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m very familiar with the distinction between Salvation and Exaltation and I can appreciate what you’re saying. I believe that, yes, there will be some sort of “reward” beyond just getting into Heaven for the works we do here on earth. That’s a fairly accepted Christian principle, I believe. I won’t go into all of the reasons why I don’t think Mormon’s have it exactly right. I realize that this site isn’t for that, although I’ve so enjoyed the opportunity to take part in this discussion. The one thing I’ll say, perhaps it’s really two things, is that #1 Paul (of the NT and not our current posting Paul) reminds us that we are saved by grace and not works, lest any man should boast. It’s man-kind who cannot wrap their mind around the idea that: I only committed 497 sins in my entire life and he committed 9,678 and yet we’re both getting into Heaven? That’s not FAIR!!! (sounds a little bit like explaining to my children why they both get ice cream even though I had to scold one of them three and the other four times before they finally got their rooms clean enough) and #2 that works are the result of faith in and love of God, not the other way around. We serve Him because we love Him and because of what He’s done for us, not because we think we can somehow earn our way up. For those whose works are done for the express purpose of earning a greater reward, I fear they’ll find that they’ve had their reward in the respect and adulation of those around them. As to the ordinances of the temple, etc., I’m sure you’ll be able to discern my thoughts from the comments I’ve already made. Thank you for still referring to me as a sister-in-Christ. Too many LDS have a hard time believing that we’re still all of one family, if our beliefs don’t line up exactly.

    And Paul (this time our current Paul and not he of NT fame),

    My heart hurts for you. I’ve read your last comment over and over again and I see real anguish over your beliefs and your responsibility for discernment and I just hurt for you. I’ve said before that the most important, really only important, thing is your relationship with your Father in Heaven. I think you’ve chosen an overly complicated and painful path, but you seem to have your focus where it belongs. I wish you much luck in your journey and much happiness in your destination.

    Comment by Kate — September 6, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  44. Kate,

    Thanks. Don’t sing sad songs for me, though. Church history, as taught me in Seminary, is akin to flying over a forest and viewing it from a satellite. As taught at BYU or Institute (the Official history) is akin to making the same flight at, say 40,000 feet.

    I’m walking on the forest floor, learning the differences between the firs and the pines, the beeches and birches, alders and aspens. It is an interesting ecosystem, full of life and rot. And the life can’t exist without the rot. Some may find it tedious, but I’ve already taken my high-level flights. The few people I meet here in the forest are great companions.

    I have my Liahona, and expect to reach my destination. Until then, it is a great journey; I find the woods much more interesting here than they appeared from the plane window.

    Comment by Paul — September 7, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

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