Dear Elder Ballard,
This past Sunday you asked the 15 million members of the LDS church where they will go and what they will do if they leave the church. I’ve been trying to answer those questions myself for the past ten years so I thought I would respond.
It would be easier – and more satisfying – to simply say it’s better on the other side of orthodoxy, but that hasn’t always been my experience. The truth is that there is a tremendous amount of loss in leaving. Yes, I’ve been able to see the world with different eyes. Yes, I’m grateful for the freedom of ideas that has expanded my view on a number of important issues. I wouldn’t change that.
But before being able to have gratitude for a new perspective, I had to figure out how to deal with the loss. Questions about the origins of the Book of Mormon and the implementation of polygamy and other queries surrounding Joseph’s account of the founding of our faith soon led to much larger questions: Is the Priesthood real? Is there such a thing as modern day revelation? Will I see my loved ones again after they die? Does God even exist?
Those questions left me with a pit of existential despair unlike anything I’d known. They were all I could think about. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I read and read and read. I prayed even though I wasn’t sure anyone was listening. It took all I had just to get out of bed every morning; to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I had no idea where to go or who to talk to. I had friends who had left the church who wanted – perhaps needed – me to be happy on the other side of belief. And the people of faith in my life either didn’t want to discuss it or admonished me to give up my doubts and come back to what I’d previously known. But I couldn’t find a way to un-know what I’d learned about the history of the church, which was miles and miles apart from what I’d been taught in seminary or on my mission or at BYU.
What I was going through was not just depression, but grief. Stomach-dropping, soul-crushing, I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this grief. What I needed was for someone to sit with me in that grief and hold the space open for me to question all I’d known without any part of our relationship being in jeopardy.
One of the things Mormons are usually best at is taking care of each other in times of loss: they bring casseroles and tend to the yard and take care of your little ones and remember to check in on you and reassure you that you haven’t been forgotten. But the thing that I’d always relied on from my Mormon community was nowhere to be found in the wake of my faith crisis. I was desperately trying to plant my feet as I looked up at an oncoming tidal wave of grief, and I was standing to face it alone.
Fortunately, I found tree branches to hold onto along the way – keeping my head above water for just long enough to catch my breath before being pulled back under. But I know far too many who were swallowed up entirely, whose branches broke or who couldn’t find their own life-saving branches to begin with. What if someone had been willing to sit with them and just listen, as many times as it took, until the pain of doubt and betrayal could subside and make way for the beautiful possibilities that rise up from an acceptance of not knowing?
The questions “where will you go?” and “what will you do?” add shame to grief. They are questions that produce hopelessness and despair. They are questions that lead, inexorably, to casualties.
What if the questions instead were: How can we make room for you here? How can our tent be big enough for those with doubt and disbelief, with disagreement and difference, to feel included within our broad Mormon family?
What if the things we most wanted to know were: How can we welcome you back? How can we keep you safe when the waves come? How can we show you that – no matter what – you are loved and wanted here?
I believe those are the questions the One whose name this church bears has been asking all along. They are the questions I hope we will start asking each other. What we need in the wake of a tsunami of loss is not a rebuke. What we need is for someone to reach out and extend an olive branch.
Great letter! Are u really sending it to him?
This is exactly where I am at. Choosing to go or stay. His talk DOES NOT make me want to stay. I really appreciate your words! I wish the church was a safe place to express a crisis of faith Instead of guilting me into staying.
When I read what Ballard said I immediately thought of Dr. Seuss’s book Oh, the places you will go! Leaving Mormonism was the opening of a door that has opened my mind to all the wonderful things that living in a box prevented me from experiencing. There were difficult times, I lost friends and family, my world was tossed upside down…..but looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing. Dr Seuss understood….
Oh, the places you will go!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
I’m really just asking a question, not to start anything or argue, etc. I’m curious why one would feel like they had to leave the church in order to have experiences that living in a box prevented. I guess I’m pretty open minded, and haven’t felt prohibited. Like I said, just curious.
Do the math and figure if your tithing money was invested at an early age, what this would amount to come retirement. It’s huge! That’s why my retired friends can travel and do all kinds of things that I cannot, though we had similar backgrounds. Likewise, time spent in Mormonism can easily reach 30+ hours a week. Could this be spent with your spouse and family, or taking classes at school, or doing volunteer work, or magnifying your personal hobbies and interests, or developing a social network of people who share your passion (not the coincidence you are in the same church).
I really don’t think it was just tithing that kept anyone from a vacation. There are so many variables. Income, investment, family size, jobs lost, pay cuts, promotions, loss of family members, etc. I pay my tithing and I also invest, like a lot of people, and we can vacation. Just my opinion. No offense intended.
Helen, love, love, LOVE this comment! The best one I’ve read! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
I think it’s important to realize that we create our own reality. Even the financial and success gurus encourage to tithe. I’ve followed numerous courses, like one from the Rich Dad Education for example. They teach to pay 10% tithing (not to a church in particular, but to find a cause and give to it), because it helps you to be unselfish. Second, they teach to then pay yourself the same amount. You have to learn to live off of 80% of your income. That has nothing to do with the church asking to tithe. There are many churches who do this. Also, giving of your time leads to helping others and growing. Life is super busy and it’s full of choices. We decided at the beginning of our marriage that family comes first. Even over a church calling. It’s all about taking responsibility for your own decisions and then accepting the consequences (good and bad). I’m not trying to create strife, just giving my perspective. And it may be different than yours and that’s fine. Good luck with your journey. I’ve found my passion and hobbies, developed myself and continue to do so. In my mind, anything is possible.
Lee, I don’t think that people leave the church because they want to experience things outside of the box. That is one of the things that people who are dismissive of people that leave automatically turn to. We left because we were offended, wanted to sin, found it too hard to be LDS.. Etc.. I didn’t leave the church because I wanted to try a sip of coffee Lee. I left because the narrative that I had always known to be true, was shown to be a false one. When the story doesn’t add up, how can I sit in my seat on Sunday and raise my hand and sustain all that is coming from the pulpit and from the 15? I can’t be authentic if I do that. I didn’t care about drugs, alcohol, or anything outside the “box”. I left because my box wasn’t a box anymore. This is only my reason for leaving, and others’ reasons may resemble mine, but others may have different reasons as well.
Dario, I have been offended, I have had doubts, I have had word of wisdom issues. I fell away for a while but came back although I struggle with the desire to be fully immersed in the gospel and service, etc. I guess from me, I know we don’t have all the information, complete history of some troubling events but for me, that is where my faith comes in. I have faith that one day it will all be made clear. If I get to the outside and find out that the gospel isn’t true, that’s ok. My earthly life is better because of the principles and doctrine. I know how I would have turned out without that guidance,it wasn’t pretty. I came from hard partying parents. I feel like throat church helped me to be and raise good citizens. For me, that’s good enough right now.
Ditto. I have no desire to sin. I stil live the word of wisdom, etc. But I have decided that when any organization, be it a church or whatever, claims that they are the only true anything, that sets them up for a pride fall and extreme issues with being judgemental! As a convert of 50+ years, I raised my children in the church and im watching them raise their children in the church as well. I am grateful that they have stayed active in the church. I’m grateful that they are doing that because I believe the LDS lifestyle is a great lifestyle. But it is very disturbing to me because they ( my kids and grandkids) have become so judgmental of people that have word of wisdom issues, that don’t have the same lifestyle that we have, etc. I try to explain to them that the Lord loves everybody no matter what they smoke, drink or who they marry. I reinforce that in my opinion, same-sex marriage is a sin, homosexuality is a sin. And I reinforce that there are some sins that are easier to see then others. But I don’t know if it falls on deaf ears. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter who is now in her late 30s. It’s really upsetting to her to see me falter in my faith of the church and it’s lack of true historicity. She actually became angry at one point in the conversation and said to me “you can’t leave the church now after you made us go to church all those years and do the right thing”. My guess is that it scares her that we may not be a “forever family”. What I’d like to say to her is I don’t believe that anymore. I believe the Lord loves us all and wants us to be happy and with our families forever. Because of my lack of faith in Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon ( although I believe it’s a wonderful book that we can really learn from and become better people by reading) I am not sure that I really believe anymore in the revelations of the doctrine covenants from him and the consecutive prophets. Not withstanding the book of Abraham and the pearl of great price. So anyway, I continue to live the lifestyle of the LDS, but I find myself trying to look for more input from other christian sources for continuing ideas on how to become more Christlike, more loving towards those that are not like me and more patient with those that are so dogmatic about the LDS church. This is not the journey I expected to make in my later years. But on the other hand I find it kind of exciting to open my mind to many interesting ideas and practices. God bless you.
KJC – I am also an old-timer. I keep hearing that most people have a faith crisis in their 20’s and I feel like such a late bloomer! 🙂
But I am right there with you!
Isn’t saying that members of the church are judgmental being judgmental?
Well, we all have to make judgments about all sorts of things, so I guess we are all “judgmental”. Where I think it becomes damaging is when the judgmentalism is converted into negative behaviors aimed at others. Like looking down your nose at someone for their ideas and thoughts contrary to the mainstream dogma. I’m sad to say that I have been party to that occasionally in the past. Or excluding the person/group with the questions and concerns from an association. This I’ve never done to my knowledge. Or condemning them thru excommunication or threat thereof for asking and talking about concerns regarding the historicity of an organization? (An organization that claims to be the “only true church on the earth today” and has the “fullness of the gospel”, etc.) Obviously I don’t have the power to do that.
We might also want to ask the question of the hierarchy of the church why some people, myself included, feel they have to hide their names on these blogs for fear of reprisal from the “Strenthening the Members Committee” and a possible “Court of Love”? It’s a valid question.
But to me, more importantly, is the question of why the 15 don’t answer the questions of Jeremy Runnells, or others who have valid concerns of the differences between what is presented as “history” of the church and what actually is in the memoirs, diaries, and histories of the early saints? They were there. And granted everyone has differing views on some things, but when you have two or more views of something coincide you should be able to “take it to the.bank”. What is that scripture about “witnesses”?
All i really want is the truth of things. I don’t care about the mistakes made as long as they’re admitted to. We all make mistakes. Look at the ancient prophets. So goes it with the current prophets. Just admit it if you messed up. And don’t blame it on the previous prophets. If I was Brigham I’d be furious with being thrown under the bus by these new guys.
Another question: if the 15 love us so much why wouldn’t they try to assuage the pain felt by many of their parishioners regarding the questions asked referencing our history? Or is it really true what Boyd K Packer said that some truths are not useful to know? What is that about?
The questions are all over the internet and I’m sure some concerns have been sent ‘snail mail’ as well, And the 15 still don’t address them. Im sure they’ve all heard the questions and if they haven’t then shame on them for not being on top of what is happening in the church. I can only assume two things; that they don’t know the answers or they know if they give us the answers the rest of this stuff goes tumbling down. After all with three separate, differing accounts of the “first Vision” being lumped into one, that could be pretty undermining to many. Thereby less and less tithing to collect. Maybe a house of dominoes?
I dont know. Just very discouraging to a convert of 50+ years.
May God bless us all.
KJC – I with you on the question of “why are the questions not being answered.” I listened to I think it was a regional conference in Utah where Elder Ballard spoke. He told a story of a young man that had lots of questions. He meet with the young man and in the end said, “Can you just read the book of Mormon for a while and then bring back your list of questions and I will answer them?” Of course the young man agreed. Elder Ballard goes on to say that the young man returned a few weeks later and Elder Ballard asks, “OK, do you have some questions?” and the young man says, “I read the BOM and I don’t have any questions.”
If Elder Ballard, as an apostle, has answers to the questions that so many of us have and many are leaving God’s true church over, why isn’t he (or the other Q15) giving us those? If they are being inspired by God and are withholding the answers – shame on them (probably more like “damnation on them”). If they don’t have answers then shame on them for making it sound so simple and trying to just shame people into silent submission.
I too would be much more likely to stay in the church if there was a bit less hubris and a bit more honest humility. A few apologies and “We don’t know” would go a long way in my book.
Michael Barker: This narrow margin just doesn’t work. Please reconsider. Thanks.
The simplest answer to your query is this, the church claims to have the answers to the meaning and purpose of life, and in my opinion this is where we as human beings become stifled in a box rather than free to explore and test and learn and grow naturally. I could write entire essays on this subject and I have, but I’ll just leave you with the concept of true freedom of thought and action, which free agency in a religious context does not offer.
Lee: I agree. I respect that some people feel boxed in, and perhaps for them the LDS Church isn’t the best place. I won’t go so far as to say that I resent the implied claim that those of us who stay are boxed in and unhappy, but I’ll say that for me and a lot of other Mormons I know, the gospel of Jesus Christ is exhilarating and expansive.
Exactly. For many there is a feeling that the church expands their thinking. For others like me who are constantly told they think too much and ask the wrong questions it was liberating to free myself of boundaries and forced direction. Then there are those who don’t feel restricted, until they are free and can see how restricted they were in looking back. It is different for everyone. I’m just happy that Lee asked the question in the first place. I find so many members don’t want to know how former members really feel, they just want to correct them. THANK YOU Lee 🙂
I agree with Lee. I’ve found more liberty within the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ than outside of it.
Oh thank you! You articulated that well. It’s traumatizing when your in the space of church being painful but leaving just as painful. To be bullied with the question, where will you go? Gut wrenching.
I don’t think that being asked to focus on what we know and believe rather than on our doubts is a bullying or guilting tactic. He was only quoting Peter’s words to Jesus at a time many chose to leave the Saviour when his doctrine became difficult, thus likening that experience to our own times. As Peter shows us, it’s all a matter of perspective. Isn’t it great that a loving Father in Heaven gives us the freedom to choose our own path. He would never coerce or bully us. Neither did his chosen servant Elder Ballard.
Christ asked this question, because He KNEW what it was he was offering to all who followed him- to all of his disciples- the FULLNESS of the father.
The Savior stands before us, asking us to come and see. To come unto Him.
I think we find more answers and more liberty I getting closer, not further away.
And I’m not saying that a person cannot grow at all outside the Church. But come and bring your questions, and follow. Ask, ask, ask. Follow, struggle, and grow.
To put the quote in context:
“ 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This is either The church of Jesus Christ, the living church of THE Savior of the world, meaning Christ IS at the helm or it is not.
What’s your answer to the question he posed? I missed it.
I love this letter. Thank you for sharing. I had come up with an analogy for helping gain compassion for those who decide to leave the church. This letter and Elder Ballard’s question of where will you go fit into it pretty well.
Imagine you start dating a girl and she seems perfect. She is beautiful, She tells you all of these amazing stories about things she has done, you share many common interests. You date for some time and you think this is the girl I am going to spend the rest of my life with. You share experiences together and feel a strong feeling of love for her. After dating for some time you go meet her family and friends and you discover that many of the stories she had told you were either made up or greatly exaggerated. You also find out that she only told you she had many things in common with you to impress you.
In this situation some people may decide that after learning that she isn’t the person you thought she was that it is best to go your separate ways and find someone who is a better fit. That is a perfectly fine choice and understandable. Other people may look at the situation and say I know I have had strong feelings of love for you and we have bonded over different experiences and even though you aren’t the person I thought you were I know there was love there and I think we can make things work. This is also a perfectly fine choice. I don’t think one of those choices is better than the other. For me when I found out the church wasn’t what I originally thought it was I decided to look for something that was a better fit for me and just like breaking up with a partner you were really attached to it was very scary. I had moments where I thought to myself maybe I had made a big mistake. I thought I might not ever find peace that I had when I was active in the religion. Moments when I wanted to get back together with my religion because I was afraid of what else was out there. I’m happy to say I made it through that time period and I have been able to find a peace equal or greater than the peace religion had brought me at times. I have had experiences that I never would have had if I had stayed in the religion.
I think his question could relate to the girlfriend analogy. His question of where will you go is like a scared girlfriend trying to talk you into staying with her. Threatening you with not finding another girlfriend and being alone. I do wish he would have taken the approach you had spoken of. Saying we understand that when you learn the church isn’t everything we told you it was when you were young that it can be a shock. We hope that you stay with us and we want to love and support you and if you decide it isn’t right for you we still love you and hope you find something that makes you happy.
Interesting article. My leaving the church was one of relief. I’ve found such joy and love my life since I left the church. No longer am I plagued with doctrine that teaches me to hate or feel superior to people not of my faith. I find that most Christian doctrine is teaching hate and that they stand behind their religion to spew hateful messages and to divide humanity. I’m so over these messages of hate. I want to love, be kind, help and do the things that I believe Christ did while on this earth. When I listen or read messages from leaders, I get such a sick feeling inside with the training us to be so hateful to our brothers and sisters. This doctrine can’t be right when it’s all about hate. Now, if I can just get them to stop knocking on my door trying to guilt me to come back – I’d be super happy. You can be my friend in my life right now and just know that there isn’t a chance I will go back to be taught how to hate.
Thank you for taking the time to write back to me. I appreciate that you weren’t offended by my questions. I, too have seen hate and the superior attitudes in and out of the church, all walks of life, I guess. I’ve never felt that the leaders teach that tho. I will be clear in that I am LDS, but never felt like I was any better than anyone else. Perhaps it’s because I’m a convert? I openly support anyone getting married, same sex, etc. I openly support medical marijuana. I guess I’m not what one would call a mainstream Mormon. I do feel like the church has given me support, direction, friendship and love. Not from everyone, I’ve had run-ins a few times in my life, but that can also happen anywhere with anyone. Just my take on life, not an argument for or against the church or it’s members. Thank you again for answering me. I love having open respectful conversations with people in all walks of life.
Lee – I agree I have seen hate in and out of the church. I don’t feel like the church leaders teach hate, but I do feel there is an underlying message that is implied in many church teachings and that is a feeling of being more right than others because the LDS church is the only “true and living” church. I think that creates a kind of subconscious feeling of superiority that can cause members to disrrgaurd others spiritual experiences outside of the church because they can’t be as amazing as spiritual experinces that come from the only true and living church.
In response to your original question. I think it is quite possible to have enlightening experiences in the church that those who leave the church talk about, but for me and probably many others those experiences wouldn’t have come without going through the struggles we did. It’s my belief that everyone has that still small voice that when listened to will lead them to what is right for them. Some people are told to stay in the church others listen to it and leave. I believe if you follow your light and seek truth you will find it. For me that has taken me to a path that has had it’s struggles but has brought me peace and lead me to compassion.
Eddy, I feel like I still have the still small voice in my life as an inactive member. I’ve been so blessed in my life – because I give out good energy and recieve it back 10 folds. I’m in such a great place in my life and am happy. I don’t believe that going to church and dealing with judgemental hateful people made me happy – that is why I left. I want positive energy, love, kindness and non-judgemental superior people in my life. Heavenly Father still blesses my life so much. He loves me – an inactive LDS woman.
Sondra – I’m happy to hear that you listen to that still small voice and that it leads you to happiness. That’s exactly my point, everyone has it, not just members.
I remember as a kid asking that very question, thinking God only answered Mormons. Talking to my mom about, she set the record straight for me. He answers everyone, no matter what religion you are. I think this is also why I never had the attitude of thinking I was better than others. I have been judged rather harshly by members. Maybe they had the same thought I did, about God and Mormons with no one to correct their thinking. Just my thought.
Lee, I guess I’m not mainstream Mormon either. I was a single mom at age 22 – so I never really fit in. My oldest son’s father is gay and is now married and I love them (husband and husband). I was married in the temple (later divorced) and had another son who came out as a gay man after going to a year at BYU and chosing not to serve a mission. I’ve never been judgemental of others because – guess what – I’m not perfect. I’ve never really fit in to the Mormon religion because I’ve been single most of my life. I loved serving in Primary and was a President 2 times. However, the things said to me as a member have been horrible and when my son came out as gay were even worse. Prop 8 and all the hateful messages against gay people are disheartening. When I say I see such mean Christians – it’s just not LDS people – it’s all of them who do and say such evil mean things to transgender people. I’m in a place in my life where I just want to give love and kindness to everyone – I don’t care what you look like or if you identify as a different gender. I feel the spirit so much and have so much happiness in my life. The weight of trying to be perfect has lifted. I still feel like my Father in Heaven loves me and my children. I feel like I will have a great after life – even if I don’t go to church anymore. I know I am a child of God and he loves me just the way I am.
I’ve actually found just the opposite, lots of love. I’ve also found it in those outside the church.
The Church of Jesus Christ is a school for sinners. i’m sorry that you found and feel that people were preaching hate.
I think when we truly understand the gospel, it brings us to our knees in humility, realizing the importance to share its fullness.
These are great questions and observations. In fairness to Elder Ballard I thought he also concluded his talk by advocating for the same things you were saying (though you did it much more specifically). He stated:
“My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand, and love those who are struggling with their faith. We must never neglect any of our brothers and sisters. We are all at different places on the path, and we need to minister to one another accordingly.
Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith.”
I am sad to hear this was not your experience and am glad to hear of you and others sharing the good things you have found by taking the road less travelled.
I love this reply. And I sincerely appreciate reading the conclusion of Elder Ballard’s address. Thank you for sharing it here. It takes away some of the sting of the bracing questions he posed which I was responding to with this letter. I also interpret his concluding words as you did – as a genuine call for greater compassion. Thank you for demonstrating that compassion through your empathic reply. -John
This is an amazing letter. I left the church over 5 years ago and like others I have found that regardless of walking away from a set of rules under a single religious church the Lord has still blessed us whenever we have asked. We never found help in our local area as we grew up being told the church would be. When times were tough we were denied over the fact we couldn’t afford bills and tithing. We were told take care of bills. And when we did that it was then held against us because of no tithing. It was a frustrating cycle and in the end I drowned. This puts everything beautifully into words.
CJ – There is a safe place to share your crisis. There is a buddhist group that has created a group for people who are struggling with Any spiritual crisis. If you search on Facebook for “Life beyond belief” you should be able to find it. If not message me and I’ll find a link for you. They meet next on Oct. 12th
You make a great point. I understand how heartbreaking it must be for no one in a typically giving and loving community to reach out to you. I’m sorry for what seems like a negative and hurtful experience. However. I hope that you do not base your faith, or lack thereof, on other members and people. We are imperfect. We will not always come to your rescue. We will not always be perfect listeners or understand your deepest concerns. And thank goodness, because then we wouldn’t need the Savior. Are your eyes fixed on finding perfection? Because I can tell you the church isn’t the right place for you if that’s what your expecting (or even anything remotely close.) Unfortunatly many people fall away from the church through what man does, not what God does.
I hope you’ve found your light, wherever it may be.
It makes me so sad to see so many people who feel they have experienced hate within the church. The gospel of Christ is perfect, but unfortunately the people are not. Even leaders. Even prophets. I feel like I experienced a completely different church. Maybe it was geograpgical? I have found less love and acceptance in places with high concentrations of Mormons (weird, right?), while there has been great love and kindness in the places I’ve lived with less Mormons. As for Elder Ballard’s talk, I have had doubts, but I always come back to my testimony. There are certain experiences that have cemented in my mind a knowledge of truth. I cannot deny that the Hold Ghost testified to me. I can’t deny those experiences simply because of some of the history of the church. Though God is at the helm, men can be misguided or make mistakes. Holding onto the truth I received from God keeps my faith from wavering or helps me center myself when I have been shaken. And I think that is what he is telling us to do, to hold onto the revelation we received for ourselves. I like the change in narrative that John proposed. Asking what we can do to help or better welcome them is a much better response. I know I was weak when someone came to me telling me they were leaving the church. I was freaking out because of the ramifications that I believed would happen. I couldn’t see beyond my fear for her. If I had chosen to ask her how I could help and what she needed, I think our conversation would have been strengthening for both of us instead of crushingly sad. In reality, the plan of salvation is a plan of happiness. All of us will end up where we will be happiest. If I were unable to or did not desire to live a celestial law, I would be unhappy in the Celestial Kingdom. Our loving Father will put us where we will be happiest. I’m so grateful for that knowledge.
I found I began to have questions after people on my mission doubted, something I had never doubted. I struggled, I held onto the things I knew were true. I knew the Book of Mormon was true, I’d read it many times and had received my own confirmation. I knew God was real, he had reached into my life so many times and helped me change my perspective and in the process save me. As far as some of the things mentioned here, tithing- paying tithing had allowed me to combat greed in myself, to be able to give something that is very hard for me to give. I have also many times said to my husband, we really need to pay our tithing today we need the blessings of heaven, and guess what?they came.
Concerning all the hours of volunteer work in the church I say thank you. I know, having been in positions of submitting names for callings, that God is very much a part of that process.
I am a better person because I volunteered. I guess the best thing I have going is my relationship with God. That has helped me navigate difficult times and see how I should personally act.
Natalie, thank you for your straight-forward, simply-stated post. My experience mirrors yours. I too have had enough spiritual witnesses to confirm my faith in the Restoration. Among other things, I know what it is like to have the burden of guilt removed by the Savior; I not only felt it spiritually, but it seemed physical as well – a weight was lifted. And like you, I have received specific, timely and obvious blessings from paying a full tithe.
I read a lot and have a lot of questions, but have made my peace with polygamy (from God, for a season as in the past; Joseph Smith didn’t make it up, wasn’t a sexual maverick); the historicity of the Book of Mormon narrative (someday we will see where Nephi’s ship made landfall, the latitude and longitude then manifest. We, along with God, live in a physical, tangible reality, whether here or in the Eternities, so physical objects like the Liahona or seer stones or anything else can serve any function authorized by God); the Book of Abraham (if you get a roll of butcher paper and roll it down the length of your garage, you have the length of material Joseph Smith had to work with; the museum fragments fit on a desk top. In addition, the real test is whether the Book of Abraham says what Abraham – and God – want it to say. I am satisfied it does.)
While I have unanswered questions, most are the result of incomplete information here in mortality. I have found no intellectual reasons for leaving the Church. I believe I will one day have answers to my questions, and they will be satisfying answers. That’s my faith, my confidence in the Restoration.
We will face challenges to our faith. “How are God’s purposes fulfilled in this?” we will probably ask at some point or at many points. My Patriarchal Blessing puts it this way, and I doubt I am unique in this:
“He has blessed you with a perceptive intelligence. This will be a challenge to you because you will entertain thoughts that will threaten your faith and testimony in the Gospel. But as you cultivate spiritual knowledge alongside temporal knowledge, you will have the balance that will keep you steady in the faith.”
I have found this to be true.
As for the compassion of Church members; yep, it’s a problem, taken as a whole. (I know many compassionate, non-judgmental members.) Part of this I ascribe to living in America. Complacency. Pride. Having it too good, too routine, for too long. Luke 18:9-14 is instructive here. I also see a parallel with Alma 5. Alma started that ministry at the Salt Lake City of his day, and it wasn’t a soft and fuzzy message. I don’t know, but suspect, that members outside of the U.S., especially those in more humble circumstances, behave differently. I knew a sister in Belgium (my mission) who went to Salt Lake and turned around and came straight back. Ouch.
I will repeat what Elder Ballard said:
“My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand, and love those who are struggling with their faith. We must never neglect any of our brothers and sisters. We are all at different places on the path, and we need to minister to one another accordingly. Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith.”
I hope those who feel alienated from the Church find the love they need, the answers they need, and the resolve they need. And they’re right about this: Members need to step up. No matter how much we were primed in pre-mortality for the here-and-now, would we really have comprehended then what we see and experience here on Earth, now that we’re in the thick of it? I think life is harder than we thought it would be. We are in this together and should help each other.
Elder Ballard’s talk was based on John 6, wherein Jesus delivers a lengthy sermon. Result? “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
So what did Jesus do wrong?
The Savior’s subsequent question to Peter is the context for the latter’s “Where would we go?” response. I don’t believe God waited 6,000 years to restore a church that was going to fail, leaving the planet with no restored church at all. I think that was one of Elder Ballard’s points.
I also know that we are expected to keep our covenants and keep the commandments of God. “The way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him,” says Jacob. We simply can’t let the world – especially this one – dictate the substance of our faith or have final say on our doctrines, on what God can or can’t do, will or won’t do, say or won’t say. I don’t think it is a sufficient argument to say: “Because of what that person did and said, I am released from my covenants.”
God loves all his children and certainly answers prayers everywhere. But he does have a church and this is it. There is an Old Ship Zion and we should stay aboard. The storms battering today’s seas are not going to abate before the Second Coming, and we don’t want to be out there in a canoe.
Inclusive and exclusivity kinda stinks. Feeling loved, and not alone, by your friends and family regardless of your beliefs would be nice. Also, when dealing with doubt, it’s really hard to deal with the way others, especially friends and family treat, think, and look at you differently after knowing you have doubts/different beliefs. Makes one feel defective, even if it’s a sense of ignoring it, being treat like a poor confused soul, or satan’s swayed minion. Just kinda sucks.
This was a great article. I also left the church and it was a brutal experience, I was devoted and believing. I’m glad that many people who leave are happier. That hasn’t been my experience, for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t make the church true, I could no longer be part of that organization. But I appreciate you telling it like it is, and exposing the brutality of a faith transition.
I wonder if Elder Ballard and others who ask this question are really speaking from their deeply personal experience. When they imagine leaving the church they must ask “Where *would* I go?” Tough question, especially the more invested you are in belief. When you believe, you can’t imagine life without belief. Once you stop believing, of course it doesn’t seem so scary.
I feel like Elder Bednar gave a great supporting discussion to Elder Ballard’s. Trust the law of witnesses. I would say that trust comes in where faith might fail. For me it is knowing the Book of Mormon to be true. I trust its doctrines and find it very compelling evidence that if one follows its principles they will find greater faith in Jesus Christ and peace concerning the times in which we live.
One of the things that seems to be easily overlooked by those who criticize Ballards talk was the clear encouragement to love everyone even if they choose to leave the Church. Don’t conflate personal experience with Ballard’s talk. His was a message of inclusion, Not the rejection that some have felt.
has anyone stopped and thought that perhaps just perhaps that Satan has a great big hand in all this mess? That he knows he had to change his methods of persuasion to people from his old ways because we had become more knowledgeable. Stop and think how happy HE is with everyone falling away and how much happier he will be when those who have stepped away for whatever reason start “recruiting” others to join them falling away. Why else would so many people nitpick every single talk from general conference? Twist every message to suit themselves? Get a grip people!!! You are falling into Satan’s really big trap! The grass is NOT greaner on the other side.. it is just has brown and full of pitfalls as the side you left. Anyone who says how much happier they are after leaving their church are just fooling themselves. But this is just my honest opinion. This is NOT the church of the prophets. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. He is perfect. The prophets are not. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us. Stop tarring and feathering them every time you are upset with something. Instead of badmouthing them how about trying to find the good that the church actually does on a daily basis? Ok off my soap box now
Wow, that is a comment that can’t be argued with, but I’ll try. If there were an evil power or a Satan he would be pleased with things that are false. I think we can all agree on that. Then, why are you afraid of people pointing out problems they see with Things the prophets say. You admit the prophets aren’t perfect but from what I remember of the religion perfection is still the bar Mormons aim for. So pointing out faults in order to help people change can be considered the same as casting out devil’s.
Now let’s talk about people leaning the church and how happy that makes Satan. We established Satan as being one who is pleased with Things that are false and God being pleased with Things that are true. So using this logic it would seem God would be the one pleased with people learning the true origins of the church. So, in a sense you could say when people become informed with some of the many very disheartening things from church history that they have actually found God, if God is truth. And on the other hand if one chooses to stay uninformed about the history or the dark side of their religion that they are following Satan because Satan is the one who would have you believe lies.
Does this prove the church isn’t true out that there is no benefit from it? Of course not. Is anyone who believes going to read this and stop believing probably not. Same as no one who has left the church will read your post and think oh my gosh she’s right I’m in the hands of Satan. I’m fact its statements like that that keep people away from the church. I know it’s said with good intention but many people who have left the church did so at a great personal struggle and they lost a lot because of their choice, telling them that they are following Satan doesn’t make them what to come back. If God is a God of truth then why do they feel punished for learning the truth. The church is becoming more transparent and that will help greatly but what will they do with those in the transition who believed the church was one thing their whole life only to find out it’s something very different?
Sally, my reccomendation to you if you believe God is truth is to seek out the truth of the history of your church, not what “feels” true but the actual truth. You can start with a book from deseret industries book story called Joseph Smith rough stone rolling. Or you can Google search letter to the CES (Church Education System). They may or may not change your faith but you will learn many truths about the religion That you may not have heard before. And it will almost certainly help you gain empathy for those who have left.
Sally, I do think the point you bring up is a valid point. And to a large part I agree with you. I think that that either what you are saying is correct, or it could be turned around and be the opposite.
So how are we do know? How does God guide his children to figure out such things? The Mormon narrative is that the only right way is to feel that God is telling you that the Mormon church is true. Anything else must not be God.
I have a friend that is a Jehova’s Witness and says essentially the same thing. He looks at Mormons exactly the same way Mormons look at JW’s. He says that God would only TRULY guide people to the JW’s and everyone else is just being deceived.
So my JW friend has tried for 40+ years of his life to be a good observant JW, but he does not feel the “spirit” like everyone else around him is saying they feel. He has reached a point where he does not feel his leaders are spiritually guiding him. They are only trying to keep him in line and to stay with the JW’s. What should he do if he now feels when he prays that he needs to look elsewhere as he does not feel God when he goes to church?
Well it is interesting because both of us are feeling about the same thing. Whatever you tell him is the same thing you have to tell me to do. Should he just double-down on being a JW at all cost? I assume that is what you (and most everyone else that is a Mormon) would tell me to do.
I have to tell you that it feels like people are saying “it is more important for you to stay in the church than to follow God.” There should be nothing between me and God. If seems to me if someone feels like God is calling them elsewhere, we should wish them luck, pray for them, and let them know they are loved and always welcome. We should love them following God as much as we love when someone joins our church.
I think Elder Ballard is already concerned about the questions John asks. Consider theses paragraphs from the talk.
“My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand, and love those who are struggling with their faith. We must never neglect any of our brothers and sisters. We are all at different places on the path, and we need to minister to one another accordingly.
“Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith.”
I do not see Elder Ballard’s talk as an attempt to guilt people to stay in the church. He is quoting Paul, “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” I think Elder Ballard is just trying to help us make the choice Paul makes, and not the choice of those who, “walked no more with him.”
This speech struck me as coming from one who is desperate and frustrated at hos inability to come up with satisfactory answers to questioners.
The biggest problem the church faces is that it isnt what it claims to be and people are seeing it as such.