By Seth Payne
My interest in ex-Mormonism began in 2006 while I was a graduate student of Religious Studies at Yale Divinity School focusing on theological and political ethics. At the time, I was going through my own faith struggle as I decided to face, head on, the many issues that call LDS Church claims into question. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by fellow LDS students of all stripes: conservative, homosexual, feminist, and theologically liberal. We would often meet as a group to discuss specific issues and questions. These conversations often spanned several hours followed by vigorous and enthusiastic email exchanges. It was during these informal gatherings that I brought up several of the specific issues which were of particular concern to my Mormon faith.
Additionally, I had a supportive academic advisor who allowed me the freedom to explore theological ethics within a Mormon context. As such, I was able to research, in some detail, historical issues, questions of modern Church authority and heresy, as well as the sociology of contemporary Mormonism.
Yet, even in this incredibly open and supportive environment I found that struggling with questions that I had long-held to be solidly answered, was very painful and called into question my view of both the world and my place within it. Eventually, I became interested in the phenomenon of ex-Mormon narratives, the narratives some produce when they make a break with the institutional LDS Church (formally, or informally). For several months I collected, read, and analyzed a total of 137 narratives from various sources, although most were taken from “Recovery from Mormonism” as this site seemed to produce new narratives at a consistent pace. Due to the limited scope of my research I stated:
This study should be considered a preliminary or pilot study. The data presented here represent only the narratives directly considered by the study. Therefore, the data is not meant to be extrapolated to apply to all Ex-Mormon narratives. The sources used in this study were selected neither randomly nor screened for bias.
A total of 137 narratives were collected and analyzed for this study. A corresponding list of narrative elements was created simultaneously to represent the content or themes of each narrative. Ultimately, 145 unique narrative elements were identified. As each narrative was read and analyzed, it was associated with corresponding elements. Thus, there is a one-to-many relationship between narratives and elements.
The results of this pilot study surprised me. Because I had grown up in a supportive, healthy, and vibrant Mormon home surrounded by great Church leaders and members, I had expected to find that issues of the intellect would drive the ex-Mormon narratives I studied. That is, issues which caused significant mental, academic, and research struggle to reconcile one way or another. For example, the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the Mark Hoffman affair, or Joseph Smith’s claim to translate Egyptian. In other words, I expected the struggle of others to mirror my own, a struggle very much defined by issues dealt with primarily with the intellect, sans emotion. What I found, however, is that the narratives were driven by feelings of isolation, betrayal, and hurt. In many narratives, former Mormons told heart-wrenching stories of mistreatment by priesthood leaders, fellow members, and believing family members. I do not mean to suggest that issues of the intellect were not of importance to these former Mormons. Most narratives included mention of several specific doctrinal or historical issues. Rather, I am simply pointing out that the exit narratives were driven by feelings of emotional and spiritual isolation and betrayal.
Most narratives also fit into what sociologists have labeled “captivity narratives.” Captivity narratives, in their most general sense, are produced by those who leave sociological “subversive” organizations. The former group member views it as their civic responsibility to “warn” society at-large about the dangers of the subversive group and its “true” nature or intentions. In most cases, captivity narratives describe how the individual was somehow fooled or manipulated into joining the group, subjected to periods of intense conditioning, eventually learned the nefarious intentions of the group, and affected escape from group “captivity.” Invariably, such narratives are concluded with expressions of genuine relief at being “free.”
Mormon-related captivity narratives are nothing new. Mormon “apostates” who left the Brigham Young-led LDS Church in Utah often told stories of abuse and oppression. However, such narratives were produced and distributed when the LDS Church was widely regarded as a socially subversive organization. As such, these narratives were often accepted and perpetuated without question or scrutiny. The modern LDS Church is not widely seen as socially subversive. Rather, most sociologists would class the modern LDS Church as a “contenstant” organization. That is, the LDS Church experiences some level of tension with society and other organizations but is not widely seen as being socially harmful. As a result, many of the ex-Mormon narratives I studied showed the essential characteristics of a captivity narrative but lacked any outlandish claims or accusations. My sense is that narrative writers were constrained by modern perceptions of the LDS Church being mostly neutral or somewhat positive. Not to mention the fact that the narrative authors likely sought to present their stories as honestly and accurately as possible. As captivity narratives, they described how an individual was either born into or drawn into Mormonism, fully embraced the faith, discovered the truth, experienced a difficult period of separation, and ended with an expression of gratitude for newfound freedom separate from the LDS Church.
Since concluding my study I have had many opportunities to form close friendships with ex-Mormons, “New Order Mormons”, “Jack” Mormons, and traditional believers. These relationships have taught me that Mormonism can be a big tent for those who desire to remain connected to it in one way or another. I have spoken or corresponded with dozens of individuals who are looking for ways to remain LDS in the face of significant doubts and struggles. All of this led to my presentation on what I term “pastoral apologetics” at both FAIR and Sunstone this year. My remarks were aimed both at traditional, or conservative LDS believers as well as those who consider themselves theological liberals living in the “borderlands” or Mormonism. It is my contention that Latter-day Saints have a spiritual responsibility to reach out with love and understanding to those who struggle. Latter-day Saints must become pastoral apologists.
Pastoral apologetics may be succinctly defined as a response to doubt that focuses primarily on the spiritual, social, and psychological desire for meaning, purpose, and mysticism. It is an awareness of, and effort to support individuals as they process new information and adjust their existing worldviews.
According to Peter (1 Peter 3), when Christians provide a defense of their faith to those who inquire what is it exactly, they are defending? They are, of course, defending the hope that is in them because of their Christian faith. Peter does not advocate a defense of every last aspect of Christian metaphysics or history (although he isn’t precluding it either). And how is this defense to be given? With gentleness and reverence as a sign of inward Christian hope. Pastoral apologetics, then, based on providing the reasons for faith, as opposed to the rationale for why specific truth-claims are true or plausible, when done with kindness and gentleness, becomes an outward sign of an inner hope, a manifestation of the love characteristic of Christian discipleship. Thus, in order to be a pastoral apologist Latter-day Saints must first understand and be able to articulate as best we can, why they embrace Mormonism. Again, I am not speaking of academic answers. No one is Mormon because of chiasmus or Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. People choose to become or remain Latter-day Saints because Mormonism means something. It matters.
As Latter-day Saints interact with those who doubt and who have rejected key aspects of Mormon-specific truth claims, they can speak of Mormonism is pragmatic terms — explaining why the Book of Mormon, temple worship, or the story of the First Vision are inspiring and provide comfort or encouragement. I do not mean to suggest that studying and seeking answers to questions of history or metaphysics is not important. However, for those looking for reasons to stay as opposed to rock solid solutions to very difficult questions, such issues may be less important as they are likely looking for practical and pragmatic reasons to remain LDS.
As alluded to above, many ex-Mormons tell stories of being ostracized from their families, LDS friends, and others after the eventual expression of doubt or non-belief. Some of this is understandable as the expression of non-belief by a person whom a member has long known as a staunch believer presents a unique challenge to the member’s own faith. Seeing others struggle, especially when one has known them to be staunch and strong serves as a powerful reminder that all are subject to doubt and disbelief.
But regardless of how the expression of doubt affects an individual, Latter-day Saints must never make a doubter feel stupid, unwelcome, unworthy, or unwanted because of their doubts or disbelief. Such behavior is anathema to Christian love and is an attempt at social shaming and coercion. The redemptive value of the Gospel of Jesus Christ rests on the ability of an individual to choose for him or herself. Therefore, even if these attempts at shaming and coercion were effective, they would create reluctant disciples following the rules with an unconverted and defiant heart. It is essential to take doubters at their word and respect their views even in the face of significant disagreement.
The matter of pastoral apologetics is of deep personal interest to me as I have been the beneficiary of such pastoral approaches. In 2007 I had the opportunity to meet both David Bokovoy and Mark Wright at the inaugural Faith and Knowledge Conference series held at Yale Divinity School. David and I discussed the Book of Mormon and its relationship to Hebrew Bible scholarship over lunch or during an extended break in the program. I walked away from that conversation with a deeper appreciation for the Book of Mormon because it was apparent just how much David loved the Book of Mormon and its message while being fully aware of the arguments made against it. His example encouraged me to reengage the Book of Mormon with a new perspective unconcerned with historicity and I can say that since that time my love and appreciation for the book has grown substantially.
At the conclusion of the conference a group of us decided to check out one of the fantastic pizza places in New Haven. I shared a table with Mark Wright. We talked about a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon and Mark answered questions as only an expert in the field could. He acknowledged the difficulty of some specific challenges to placing the Book of Mormon in Central America and then shared his views on how these questions may be resolved. Throughout the conversation it was readily apparent how important both the Book of Mormon and Mormonism were to Mark. At the end of the evening Mark, in a playful and friendly way, stated that it was now his life’s goal to convince me of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. And, while Mark may still have work to do on that front, his willingness to engage difficult issues head on and maintain faith continues to inspire me.
When I returned to activity within in the Church after an 18-month hiatus, I met with my Bishop and was very open an honest about where I stood in relation to certain Church truth-claims. He told me that he hoped that at some point belief would return but made it clear that he was very glad to have me in his ward.
I could offer many more examples but instead I will simply conclude by stating that Mormonism can be a big tent that accommodates divergent views and motivations for fellowship. An appreciation for the difficulty of experiencing a “faith crisis” as well as the adoption of a pastoral approach to apologetics can help individual Latter-day Saints make their wards and stakes a welcoming place for those who question, doubt, our disbelieve.
Wow, Seth, this is really wonderful! Joe Spencer wrote something recently about a similar topic, and you post seems to continue and expand his insights. I teach Institute in North Carolina, and so I have the great blessing, privilege, of trying my best to practice that very pastoral work you describe. Thanks!
Thank you so much for the kind words. I read Joe’s piece and enjoyed it immensely. There seems to be a growing consensus that a new approach to apologetics and pastoral care is desperately needed within the Church. God bless you for being in the ideal position to share why Mormonism is important to you with young people who may be struggling with one question or another.
As I taught institute many years ago I found that the most wonderful and spiritual lessons were those where students felt they could explore questions without feeling judged. I think we can move to a point where every Church lesson is a conversation about faith and meaning, rather than a recitation of correlated material.
Cool. Thought provoking. I like the idea of the big tent. Thanks Seth!
I really do believe a big tent is possible — even without major doctrinal or structural changes. To me, it is a matter of attitude and, if Latter-day Saints seem themselves in the same boat working together, some amazing things can happen.
The “Big Tent” idea you delineate, Seth, is expressive of the idea that the gospel spreads a wide net or harvests both wheat and tares. I have found that to be profoundly true. As a religion, it is as adaptable to today’s social environment as it was to the culture of 19th century American frontiersmen. That shows remarkable breath and resilience.
In my experience, there is an intellectual side of the gospel that goes a long way towards affirming its validity, found in D&C, PofGP and temple symbolism and ritual. This seldom considered facet goes largely unrecognized within the church and unacknowledged. Yet it has the greatest potential to reach out to those with questions about the religion, as well as those firm in the faith. I have found that those who have doubts can reconnect through this perspective and the information it offers. As you experienced with the Book of Mormon, one can have questions about its historicity and still find its contents of inestimable worth. So it is with the corrected cosmology of Mormonism, as taught by Joseph Smith and manifest in our scriptures and our temples. I urge you to explore the tenets of this revised view of Earth’s planetary history and the scientific tenets that support it, such as the Electric Universe and plasma physics. I think you will find yet another way to reconnect with the religion you embraced at one time.
Interesting thoughts. I remain open to anything and while I don’t expect some of my views to change, I wouldn’t be surprised if others do. Whatever will be, will be. The best we can do as Latter-day Saints is work with what we have an, in sincerity of heart, work towards the ideals of the Gospel message.
Personally, I’m not terribly interested in “wheat and tares” as I figure God will sort all of that out in his wisdom and mercy.
Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Interesting post, Seth. Glad to have guys like you here (in the pews) with us.
Anthony E. Larson,
I’d be extremely interested in learning about this, Anthony.
As am I Anthony. I consider myself an academic of Mormonism and of Christendom and would love so read into your suggestions.
As for the “Narratives” post, thank you Seth for articulating something every Mormon and everyone associated to Mormonism needs to read. One topic I would like to see springboarded from this: How an intellectual can face his questions (as you do, I presume) and faithfully participate in weekly worship. Personally, this is an issue for me compounded with the trouble of being a leftist in a rightist world. As a member of a “minority” group, if you will, I feel that, not only do I not have a voice on Sunday in the public forum, but that I will also be “quieted” in one way or another. This makes it hard for me to want to participate in church, let alone go to the second and third hours.
I have to admit that levels of Church participation can wax and wane based on local leadership and ward dynamics. I have found that some leaders are more understanding of heterodox views than other leaders may be. I don’t put this out as a criticism. We’ve got thousands of lay ministers who have been raised with a specific Mormon worldview. Encountering one who may have a different view but who still claims to be part of the “group” can be disconcerting, I am sure.
I figure that 1) it is my choice to participate in Church and as such, I need to take the Church as it is and not as it “should” or “may” be. The Church ay change and it may not. Regardless, I remain committed to Mormonism and its people.
This is the kind of tune-up I needed to receive, Seth. In reading your piece, I realize I have not taken a pastoral approach with family members experiencing a faith crisis (in short, I have not embodied “a manifestation of the love characteristic of Christian discipleship”), but instead have sought to answer point-by-point their truth claim deconstructions. I need to focus on reinforcing my OWN love for the gospel and the Book of Mormon and sharing it than pondering the disillusionment of others. I feel instructed and edified–thanks for writing so powerfully and effectively.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. When something is important to us, our natural response is to defend its veracity. This is a very very western mindset but it is engrained in our culture — especially in Mormon culture. As such, I don’t fault anyone who seeks to provide a defense of Church truth-claims. For many, such answers play an important part in working with faith.
What I have observed, however, is that timing is important. Someone in the throes of doubt is not likely to be terribly interested in textbook answers, as it were. Above anything else, as we share our spirituality and even the rationale for our metaphysical particulars, honesty and sincerity is the key. If we can explain why Mormonism is important to *us*, who can argue with our position?
Seth, my eyes are damp after reading this insightful essay. My first grandchild was born this summer and I have been profoundly changed by her birth. My children have left the church due to the many issues you have alluded to, but even they agree being raised LDS gave them a good basic foundation of Christian values. They are agreeable to allowing me to take my grandchild to church because it means something to me. I finally, in my 50’s, have had to take the things I stuffed and put on the shelf down – “do I really want to expose another generation to Mormonism” with all the problems that have no answers? Your essay really resonated with me…
Back Pew Mormon,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know some within my family worried as my faith became non-traditional. However, over time they realized that I am still the same brother/cousin/son I was before the change. The same ideals and ethics instilled in me during my Mormon youth remain and, are something I am very thankful for.
More important than anything else, in my view, is the idea of remaining faithful to our heritage and the many wonderful aspects of being a product of Joseph Smith and the restoration movement. Some may come to realize that this may not be important and as such, they “move on” to what is most appropriate for them. For folks like you and me, I am supposing, abandoning Mormonism isn’t appealing. As such, we are left to struggle with questions and figure out what our faith means in light of the proverbial “shelf.”
An upcoming issue of Dialogue will contain my essay dealing with these issues in greater detal — especially the sociological context for contemporary ex-Mormonism and more detail on ex-Mormon narratives and the notion of pastoral apologetics.
I don’t know what issue it will appear in but I think it should be published in the first half of 2014.
I agree that many ex-Mormons leave because of pain. My doubts didn’t make me want to leave. I was planning on staying as a secular Mormon when I stopped believing. I didn’t decide to resign until I realized that I was a second-class citizen in the LDS Church as an atheist.
For many of us ex-Mormons, it’s not just that we’ve been sincerely hurt on an individual basis in the LDS Church. It’s that we realize this hurt is systematic, that the LDS Church systematically discriminates against transgdender people, homosexual people, asexual people, women, divorced people, single people, jack-Mormons and doubters–that we’re second class citizens based on widely accepted official doctrines and policies within the LDS Church.
Thank you for commenting.
“I was planning on staying as a secular Mormon when I stopped believing. I didn’t decide to resign until I realized that I was a second-class citizen in the LDS Church as an atheist.”
Sadly, I have seen other go through something similar. While some of this treatment may be malicious, I think a lot of it is out of ignorance and discomfort. How does a believer interact with a non-believer in a setting geared towards belief?
A very difficult situation to navigate and sadly more common that any of us would like to think.
“For many of us ex-Mormons, it’s not just that we’ve been sincerely hurt on an individual basis in the LDS Church. It’s that we realize this hurt is systematic, that the LDS Church systematically discriminates against transgdender people, homosexual people, asexual people, women, divorced people, single people, jack-Mormons and doubters–that we’re second class citizens based on widely accepted official doctrines and policies within the LDS Church.”
Again, I can’t argue.
The good news is that organizations can, and do, change. The Church’s attitude towards homosexuals, for example, has softened significantly in the last 30+ years. Will it continue? Who knows.
What I do know is that if good people work together in kindness, whether or not LDS Church policy/leadership are in agreement, good things can happen.
I don’t want to leave the impression I wear rose-colored glasses. There are problems and my hope that pastoral apologetics can be the opening gambit of a very important, and long-overdue, dialogue.
Your conclusion that apostates leave not because of glaring issues of history or doctrine but because they were hurt or mistreated by members and/or leaders alike is cut from the same mythological cloth apologists and church leaders have spun for centuries. It is rather ironic, and just a smidgen hypocritical, for an organization that puts a premium on ‘feelings’, ‘burnings in the bosom’ and ‘knowing by the spirit’ as a basis for ‘truth’ and ‘evidence’ to accuse ex-believers of not being rational when they arrive at a different conclusion from believers.
Also, the claim that “…Mormonism can be a big tent that accommodates divergent views and motivations for fellowship” goes very much against the church leadership’s vision and, indeed, its very mission of conformity, uniformity, correlation and mantra of ‘obedience’, ‘follow the prophet’, and ‘when the prophet speaks, the debate is over’. Mormons are simply not allowed to question. Examples abound: BYU policies for both students and teachers, the excommunication of those among the rank and file who question, the excommunication of scholars and historians who write true church history the recent “Swedish Rescue” mission by Elder Jensen and historian Turley, and several more.
Many are questioning but decide to stay, not because the LDS church is a great place to raise kids (a plethora of issues abound here alone), they do so under threat of divorce and/or persecution by spouse and kin. Fear and trepidation are mere feelings to be sure, but those in this situation are making very rational decisions given difficult circumstances.
Thanks for commenting. You said:
“Your conclusion that apostates leave not because of glaring issues of history or doctrine but because they were hurt or mistreated by members and/or leaders alike is cut from the same mythological cloth apologists and church leaders have spun for centuries. ”
Charles, this is not my conclusion in any way, shape or form. My conclusions is that the *narratives* as literary form, were driven by the some sense of cultural estrangement and that, generally speaking, they were not driven by “glaring issues of history or doctrine.” If that point was not sufficiently clear here, it is/will be in my upcoming Dialogue article.
“Also, the claim that “…Mormonism can be a big tent that accommodates divergent views and motivations for fellowship” goes very much against the church leadership’s vision and, indeed, its very mission of conformity, uniformity, correlation and mantra of ‘obedience’, ‘follow the prophet’, and ‘when the prophet speaks, the debate is over’. Mormons are simply not allowed to question.”
I don’t believe this is accurate. Besides, regardless of Church leader intentions, inasmuch as they can be surmised, Church members are adults who choose Mormonism for a variety of reasons. I have more faith in the intellectual and spiritual maturity than to think Mormons are mindless automatons.
“Many are questioning but decide to stay, not because the LDS church is a great place to raise kids (a plethora of issues abound here alone), they do so under threat of divorce and/or persecution by spouse and kin. Fear and trepidation are mere feelings to be sure, but those in this situation are making very rational decisions given difficult circumstances.”
My wife is a Buddhist. I have no “social” reason for staying in terms of my job, wife, family, etc… I choose to remain a Latter-day Saint because I find joy in being with my fellow Mormons.
So, while I am sure what you describe applies to some, it certainly doesn’t apply to all who choose to remain LDS.
I’m sure this piece was written in sincere good faith. Essentially, it can be reduced to this: “I was surprised so many people left the LDS church for emotional and not intellectual reasons. Mormonism has its flaws like every other church does, but you can still find value and meaning there and should stay if you can. Regardless, Mormons should treat everyone better so that fewer people will leave.”
As others have pointed out, this is essentially a feelings-based approach to religion. And while Mormonism urges its members to judge its truth by their feelings and not by facts, ultimately such an approach clashes with Mormonism’s non-negotiable foundational claims which must be judged as factually true or false because the church itself makes them as such. Either it is God’s one true church and the sole repository of his divine authority, or it is not. Either the Book of Mormon is a literal history or it is not. Either its prophets actually speak for God, or they do not.
Feelings aren’t facts and are useless as guides to judge the veracity of such claims. One example is that so many people get so many contradictory “answers” to “Moroni’s promise”. But their feelings either way don’t change the historical reality of whether there really were or weren’t Nephites. That’d be like saying Santa Claus is an actual living breathing person who lives at the North Pole because I just really really reeeeeeeally believe and feel it to be so “with “every fiber of my being.” Meh.
Others’ mileage may vary, but in my opinion, when a religion asks as much of its members as Mormonism does BECAUSE (it claims) it is literally, actually, factually God’s true and only church and humanity’s sole source and conduit for the highest eternal blessings, then its worth cannot be judged by feelings alone. There is too much at stake, by the church’s own claims. It must be judged by every rigorous test possible, subjected to full evidentiary analysis. It gets no free passes from the most demanding scrutiny possible. Many of its leaders have invited just such analysis.
And in my opinion, the LDS church’s truth claims fail such testing. Objectively, factually. Therefore, any residual purpose or merit that may nonetheless be found in Mormonism is a purely individual and subjective thing, no better than what could be found in any other Christian church.
This of course flies in the face of LDS truth claims. Which is why I find this piece’s premise well-meaning but paradoxical. Because it tacitly acknowledges that the LDS church may not actually be what it claims to be (which is technically heresy), but then advocates staying with it even so because one can still find “meaning” there.
In matters of such moment, I’m not interested in devoting endless hours of my life or 10% of my income to a demonstrably fraudulent organization with the record Curtis Penfold has described, just because it might be possible to find “meaning” there. As Emerson said, “Give me truths, for I am weary of the surfaces.” If I want “meaning” in life I can find it in countless other organizations or pursuits which in my judgment are far more meritorious, do far more actual good for living people, impose far less guilt and stress, and do far better in following the two great commandments which, as Christ said, are ultimately the only things that matter.
Thanks for your thoughts.
“As others have pointed out, this is essentially a feelings-based approach to religion. ”
No. This is a Pragmatic (capital P) approach to religion. Big difference and separated by a gulf in terms of metaphysical assumptions and claims.
“Which is why I find this piece’s premise well-meaning but paradoxical. Because it tacitly acknowledges that the LDS church may not actually be what it claims to be (which is technically heresy), but then advocates staying with it even so because one can still find “meaning” there.”
I advocate that everyone stay LDS? Where? What I advocate is that LDS members be ready and willing to share what Mormonism means with them with those who may want to remain LDS — even knowing all of the problems of doctrines and history. Some people want to stay. Some want to go. Each person must do what is best for them.
I must admit some amusement at those who choose to leave taking issue with those who chose to stay even in the face of serious doubts or questions. The fact that you and I may agree that X != Y, does not necessarily mean that we should take the same course in terms of our relationship with the institutional Church, or Mormonism as an idea.
I would never fault someone for leaving the Church and find it ironic that those who leave sometimes find fault with those of us who choose to stay.
Actually, Seth, I didn’t say “everybody should stay LDS.” That was your assumption but not my intent.
You “find it ironic that those who leave sometimes find fault with those of us who choose to stay.” Your remark suggests you believe both choices are equally valid. I will explain why I and others disagree. I do not mean this as a personal attack on anyone, but you opened the door here, so I will respond honestly.
While individuals may try to choose “different courses” in their “relationship with the institutional Church, or Mormonism as an idea”, there is only one “idea” of Mormonism approved by the church itself, only one proper “course” to follow in a “relationship with” it.
In the words of its president Gordon Hinckley, “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. Now, that’s the whole picture. It is either right or wrong, true or false, fraudulent or true.” And thus, the proper “course” is to accept the church as such, truly “the most important thing in the world”, to be followed at all costs.
Thus, the prophet himself confirmed that Mormonism is not just one of many valid choices on the religious menu with which one can craft an individual “relationship” with one’s own “idea” of the church. Its truth, worth, validity, authority and value are all a matter of one simple question: is it actually, factually true, or is it false?
Feelings or “ideas” about one’s “relationship” to Mormonism are irrelevant to that question. I, like countless others, left because I realized the church’s claims are false. They do not withstand full and honest scrutiny. I took Hinckley at his word and am quite satisfied that the LDS church is “a great fraud.”
Again I quote Emerson: “Give me truths, for I am weary of the surfaces.” I don’t care about feelings or “ideas” about or “relationships with” this or any church. I care about truth, “the fairest gem that the riches of worlds can produce, . . . eternal, unchanged, evermore.”
If many who leave the church seem to “find fault with those who stay,” it’s because we believe they are wasting their lives and money on something demonstrably untrue while claiming to be not only true, but exclusively so. They are being lied to, and they are choosing to accept the lie. Anyone who does that is either uninformed, in which case they should learn more, or else their highest priority is something other than the truth. In my opinion, both approaches are mistaken and deserve criticism, and while I must respect people’s right to choose, I do not have to respect their choices.
I hope this clarifies the reasons for the “irony.”
This is wonderful stuff. Thanks for your work on it and explanations of it.
So do we need to start a “pastoral apologetics” wiki? I can’t stop thinking about a way to implement this online in some alternative way to FAIR or the Interpreter. Apologetic information without attempts to defend or explain everything combined with accepting narratives for those who are questioning. There is so much of this already on the web, but no central source for the new searcher to find it and search it by topic.
Thanks for the kind words. I like your idea for a Wiki or central source for information on pastoral theology and apologetics within an LDS context.
Will you email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org ? Perhaps we can brainstorm and come up with a workable idea.