Gone agnostic everyone. It makes sense to me, I guess. You turn the critical lens on Mormonism and are unable to have faith because of what you see. Mormonism is close; fresh even. Our proclivity for record keeping cuts both ways for some. You then turn the lens on Christianity in general. And you thought Mormonism was hard to swallow? Even God quails under such focus.
I have seen it in several stakes, even among our cyber compatriots. I apologize if you are one of these apostates…I use term endearingly. I think back to Nate calling his mom a “harmless apostate.” His mom is the coolest; wonderful, even.
Sure, there are a few that revert to mainline or fundamentalist Christianity; but, if I had to wager, I’d say the vast majority go agnostic, if not down right atheistic. It is, however, curious that this phenomenon is not seen throughout our history. According to the March 28, 1876 Salt Lake Tribune:
Mormon children who have never known anything but the faith of their parents, when they apostatize usually attach themselves to some of the Christian churches; but those apostates who were Mormons by conversion, almost without exception accept spiritualism.
In the 1870′s, several prominent Mormons joined the spiritualist Church of Zion, or Godbeites. Amasa Lyman, Joseph Smtih’s councilor and member of the Twelve; Ron Watt, Brigham Young’s recorder and publisher of the Journal of Discourses; Andrew Cahoon, a forty year member and eighteen year bishop; and many others left Christianity entirely for the mystic seances of spiritualism.
The Salt Lake Tribune was run by the Church of Zion and Utah became a locus for spiritualism in the States. According to Ron Walker, a longtime historian of the period:
Both belief systems represented a radical reformulation of traditional Christian thought, displayed their social consciousness at times in communitarianism, and possessed a lively sense of world mission. Each claimed truth wherever it might be found, asserted the spirit-body duality of man, believed in a pre- and post-mortality for eternally progressing mankind, experimented both with marriage relationships and dietary health codes, and shared a belief in a Father-Mother creative ethos. Even their forms and practices were at times similar. Spiritualistic trance speaking and Mormon “speaking by the Spirit” each ignored formalized delivery and relied upon a source outside the speaker himself. Mormon patriarchal blessings had their counterparts in phrenological, psychometric, and physiognomic readings. Both the Mormon and the spiritualist healed by “casting out devils,” although their respective beliefs ascribed priesthood authority and animal magnetism as the empowering force. (1)
The Godbeites were progressive and intellectual. They held an equality of race, color and sex. Moreover, spiritualism affirmed the reality of the spiritual experiences of the Mormons. Joseph was a seer that had been tinted by his Christian upbringing, but this new movement was the apex of this power.
Perhaps the modern movement towards agnosticism isn’t therefore different. Secular humanism offers an explanation for every event. Accordingly, the spiritual is biochemical. Now, very few have to rationalize their tongue speaking or miracles, just the still small voice. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?
- Walker, R. W. (1982) When the Spirits Did Abound: Nineteenth-Century Utah’s Encounter with Free-Thought Radicalism. Utah Historical Quarterly. vol. 50, no. 4, pg. 305.