Where have all the apostates gone?

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?

__________________

  1. 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.

Comments

  1. I wonder–is it really true that most apostates, or unbelievers in Mormonism, or whatever, really go in the direction of agnosticism? I do know at least a handful of people who’ve left in the direction of Protestantism or Catholicism.

    Could it be that there are different types of departure from Mormonism? Different people who take different paths away from our community? And perhaps the history-based path you’re talking about here leads toward agnosticism, maybe because of the kinds of personality that it attracts?

  2. Actaully, I have been thinking about that. You are probably right, of all the people that leave the church, most probably just leave without much of a sea change. I mean, with current self identification rates, there are a lot of folks out ther who have left. Also, I think there is likely a demographic aspect…I see more agnostics, becasue those I most likely know are more vulnerable to agnosticism.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    I agree J. Most people I know that have left the Church aren’t replacing it with something else — they just move on, a little emptier. I am not sure, but a part of me feels happier to see people leave the Church in favor of another faith or something spiritual. Instead most people I know are just shuffling along in the day-to-day, missing the sure answers of the past but not looking for any new guide.

  4. MikeInWeHo says:

    If the threat of secular humanism drives Mormonism and Evangelicalism to reconcile, then we’ll know that securlarism is truly ascendant.

  5. Interesting history.

    If I wanted to muck my car up with bumper stickers, I’d get this one:

    http://www.northernsun.com/n/s/5320.html

  6. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

    What are they supposed to learn J?

  7. I know when I left the Church, I immediately set out on a journey to find something that worked for me. Losing belief in the church did shake my belief in Christianity, but I think that is only a natural reaction to a life-changing event. When people discover things about the church that make belief impossible, many will not be as willing to invest blood, sweat and tears into anything else.

    Of course i’m only 20, so whadda’ I know?

  8. anonymusing says:

    I’ve always felt if Mormonism isn’t correct it’s probably all wrong. My mom left the church to become catholic, and I have two sisters who are pagans, though one of those recognizes the church as true, just “not for her.”

    I wonder if their respective stages of life had an impact on where they each went. My mom left in her 40’s, after she’d raised a family and found community and belief structure that worked for her. My sisters, on the other hand, left as teens at a time when they were rebellious and vulnerable to peer pressure.

  9. My sister left the church and for the longest time, she doubted a belief in God. She’s started to change that now, and believes in God–just not in any religion.

    If I were to leave the church, I don’t think I could take second best. All the other Christian churches out there are so…..bland, when compared with the richness of the knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’d honestly be bored, start debates and contentions and soon realize the error of my way and come back into activity. So I think I would just leave religion all together and consign myself to living out the rest of my life in misery and await Judgment Day.

    The problem for me, if I ever left the church, is that the knowledge I’ve gained would always be in my head, and the Spirit would continue berating me in my heart, bringing up all sorts of things to show what I’m missing out on.

    I was at a point in my life when I considered briefly leaving the church, but what kept me in was the possibility of the Celestial Kingdom. Baptists and the like say that the eternities are all one big sing-fest where we’re angels surrounding God singing praises to him. I don’t know about y’all, but if I had to do that for eternity, I’d probably take the misery of hell instead. There is something very attractive to a guy like me in what is, to this point, described as the Celestial Kingdom. I’ll suffer through this life just to see that possibility. If I don’t like it when I get there, I’m sure God is not going to force me to stay there if I want something else. God has never forced us, nor will he in the afterlife.

    So basically, I think I am the kind of guy who is pretty much fully converted. (I know there is nothing man can bring up that could change my view regarding this church). Not only that, but I’ve already been challenged from within the church, had my tests of faith. I know I invite Satan to bring it on when I say this, but I know this is the truth and will stick with it through the thickest of thick and the thinnest of thin.

  10. nonamethistime says:

    I find that in this kinder, gentler PC world, fewer Mormons are willing to gloat about the apostates’ eventual demise the way they did even one or two generations ago. Remnants remain in hymnody (“the wicked who fight against Zion will surely be smitten at last”) and in doctrine (only married Mormons–married here or in the afterlife–will make it to the super duper special level of the Celestial Kingdom, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah), but in practice, for the most part, Mormons just don’t cackle and heckle like before.

    Why is that?

    Is it pity? Political correctness?

    I think it’s because fewer Mormon families are the perfect, Celestial-Kingdom-penthouse-bound models they used to be. Nearly every Mormon family now has an inactive father, wayward sister, gay-and-partnered uncle, apostate aunt–not to mention that there are increasingly more families of divorce and therefore the whole who’s-sealed-to-who nonsense makes it difficult to fully believe in the “Families Can be Together Forever” primary song model.

    As more traditional models push the edges of their belief and more admit they DON’T know what will happen, exactly, in the afterlife, why is the “apostate” designation even necessary or important? Who the Telestial Kingdom cares?

  11. A couple of sisters of mine have left the Church, though I don’t know if they’ve ever made it official. They didn’t leave because they performed intellectual examination of the faith and found it lacking. They left partly for the sake of rebellion against my then overbearing father, partly to be free from what they saw as exacting demands of the Church, and partly to fit in in the whatever social groups they found themselves in. But both of them seem to believe in Christ, though. I think one of them is participating in Catholicism since her marriage to a Catholic. Neither of them can make a case that the Church isn’t true, just that it’s not for them.

    If I were to leave I have no doubt that I would transition to agnosticism. My belief in God and Christ have foundations in the same still, small, easily doubtable voice of the Spirit that my belief in the Church is built on. By purely intellectual examination both the case for God and the case for the Church fall far short of convincing. The same goes for all churches. So if I were to lose confidence in what I interpret as communication from God, I would have no reason to believe in anything, and I wouldn’t.

    This is what makes me frustrated with those from Bible churches who scoff at the Joseph Smith story. All of Christianity is unreasonable.

  12. Beijing says:

    “I’ve always felt if Mormonism isn’t correct it’s probably all wrong.”

    This idea was taught explicitly and firmly in my Primary, Sunday School, and seminary classes growing up Mormon in the 1980s in the Bible Belt, and in several of the classes I took at BYU in the 1990s. I remember a Primary teacher telling us how silly and confusing the doctrine of the Trinity was…three in one, and one in three–ridiculous! An unbroken line of priesthood starting with apostle Peter, even through all those schisms and all that corruption–absurd! My mom took me to the Baptist church wedding of a family friend who had left the LDS. There were beautiful music and flowers and vows, and Mom whispered to me occasionally, “This is not real! They’re not really married forever! She’s going to regret this! Maybe someday she’ll learn!” A seminary teacher saw one of my friends performing the sign of the cross. My friend had seen it in a movie, and asked us out of curiosity which shoulder is touched first, and then the rest of us started trying it to see if we could figure out the answer. Next class, we all got a long lecture about the spiritual dangers of focusing on Christ’s death. One of my professors of French at BYU loved to mock the “mysteries” of Catholicism…every point of grammar that had not been explained was “un mystère” until the teacher provided the answer via “révélation.” I could go on and on.

    My parents and several of my teachers who taught me to mock and dismiss Christianity’s doctrines and practices, like Steve Evans, have said they would be “happier to see [me] leave the Church in favor of another faith or something spiritual.” I think they should have thought of that before they filled my head full of stern whispers and mocking voices that would echo throughout my life. I have no idea whether without my particularly anti-nonLDSChristian upbringing I would find myself attracted to Christianity, but that was the largest factor in my not pursuing it further.

    But you don’t need to worry about my life being “emptier.” I still experience the still, small voice. I have joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation that gives me lots of opportunity for service and community. Et cetera.

  13. Beijing says:

    Sloppy grammar above. I meant that the quote was from Steve Evans, not that he mocks or dismisses Christianity.

  14. I don’t plan on being agnostic, or a Jack Mormon, or any other words like that. I plan on getting some rare illness where I can’t have stress and must rest a lot. I’m thinking about it as we speak because hopefully I’m getting released from the visiting teaching soon and I think that’s earned me heaven. My kind of heaven, not everybody’s.

  15. Seth R. says:

    Beijing, I’ve followed your comments in past threads and know you’re fairly reasonable.

    I’m sure there was a little more to your decision “to leave” than the mere fact that you had the misfortune to grow up among many fine specimens of neurotic Mormonism. I mean, I don’t think anyone leaves the Church solely because “the members torqued me off.”

    Am I wrong?

  16. Seth R. says:

    J Stapley,

    I think your point that Mormons tend to go agnostic or aetheist rather than converting to another religion might be on to something, although it’s really only backed up by annecdotes and an old newspaper article of dubious credibility.

    Perhaps once you’ve critically taken apart Mormonism, you naturally find it equally difficult to seriously countenance Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or whatever else. After all, all the other world religions rest on just as shaky scientific and historical ground as Mormonism.

    As for myself, I tend to regard the evidentiary angst over Mormonism as a “tempest in a teacup.” I’ve been hanging out here for almost two years and I’ve heard a lot of stuff. None of it has really fazed me. I can understand how it might upset and bother some. But it’s a complete non-issue for me.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    If I were to leave, and I freely acknowledge that such might be a possibility some day, I think I would be an atheist. I love and respect several other Christian traditions, especially the high-church ones that are so different from our low-church Protestant-tinged style of worship. I could be a Lutheran, for example. But I couldn’t reject Mormon belief and at the same time accept Lutheran belief. If I were going to try to be a Lutheran, or a Catholic, or whatever, it would be for cultural reasons (love the music!), and if I were going to go to church strictly for cultural reasons, I would probably just remain in my own LDS culture, where my family has been for five generations.

    I can’t see myself leaving over some intellectual issue. (I already know where all the bodies are buried, so anti-Mormonism has little effect on me.) Indeed, the intellectual diversity and adventurousness of Mormonism is one of the things that keeps me actively engaged.

    What Evangelical-style anti-Mormons fail to appreciate is that their rhetoric against the LDS Church, if taken seriously and applied equally, would be the death knell for any Christian church. If the Tanners, for instance, stopped using a double standard and were to bring their rigidly fundamentalist expectations to their own bland form of Protestantism, they’d become agnostics or atheists, too.

    I don’t expect to leave the Church, ever, but if I were to do so it would probably be out of annoyance over the hella-bureaucracy and too free use of management by guilt trip. Those are the arrows that have the potential to pierce my love of the Church.

  18. MikeInWeHo says:

    Beijing’s story rings true to me as well. Once I left Church activity 20 years ago, I never really connected with anything else although I occasionally attend services at an Episcopal congregation. Don’t know if post 8’s opening sentence remains the prevailing ethos in most wards, but imo that all-or-nothing approach is the primary reason the Church has basically stopped growing (and maybe…HERE’s an apostate comment….has already started shrinking). There is way too much historical baggage for “It’s either all true or it’s a fraud” to be a sustainable position. From what I can see here, most bloggernacle-ites have moved beyond that mindset already.

    It will make me sad if these folks who say “It’s the great sifting!” prevail and the Church withers into some marginal little conservative sect over the next generation or two. The message of the Restoration is compelling in its own right, though, and perhaps other bodies will come for the fore. I have hopes for the Community of Christ now that they’ve popped out of their decade long theological chrysalis as a liberal-leaning, free-thinking church. Maybe all the people like me and Beijing should check them out.

    I don’t think most ex- or inactive members are any more “miserable” than the average active LDS. One can imagine that a person coughing up 10% of their pre-tax income to SLC might have a strong need to believe that they are, though! : )

  19. What are they supposed to learn J?

    First, I hope people recognize that I was trying to be cute not condesending. Mostly, I was hoping to outline the continuity or cyclic nature of “apostacy” in our history. There is perhaps a taste of condesension, though, because I am not agnostic.

    I agree with nonamethistime that it is probably a good thing that we don’t attack the apostate in modern Mormonism – this does however have some historical precident. After a few months, the church gave the Godbeites an official silent treatment. They were not mentioned in discourse, newspaper, or periodical. There was still general rhetoric about apostacy, though.

    You are correct, Seth, we really don’t have any data (as I mentioned in comment 2).

  20. Randy B. says:

    One of my wife’s best friends has recently decided to leave the church. It took us completely by surprise. She and her family (husband and five young kids) have done as good a job of truly living the gospel as anyone I know. Their family is a model of love and righteousness.

    As to whether by leaving she will just be “moving on, a little emptier,” as Steve says, the jury is still out. As near as I can tell, she is leaving because there are some things she simply cannot swallow (like historical and eternal polygamy, the First Vision, etc.). There are answers to her concerns, in my view, but she does not seem particularly interested in them at the moment. In any event, she is leaving this baggage behind, taking what she loves about the gospel (focus on family, the atonement, etc.), and moving forward. If she continues to live her life as before, but now can set aside those things that strike her as false, is she really any emptier?

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Beijing, what the hell! I never said that stuff!

    ……….er, maybe I did. But frankly, I’d prefer it if nobody left the Church, thanks.

  22. Mike,

    I didn’t mean to imply that others leaving would be “miserable,” but I would. I know myself better than anyone except God. I would be miserable if I left. I’m sure many others would be very happy, probably relieved of the stress. I know my sister felt happy after she left, but for myself, if I ever leave (which will probably not happen), I would be miserable.

  23. Daniel, after having personally occupied most possible positions on the “apostasy” continuum (from hyper-orthodox to totally apostate and roughly everything in between), let me note that none of us ever quite knows what we will experience later on down the line. When I was the kind of Mormon who thought of doubt as sin, I felt that losing my testimony would lead to total despair and loss of belief in God. But when I lost my testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, I–after a long period of pain and depression–experienced the final moment of letting it all go as a revelation, a moment of pure and total emotional joy. In my current mode, in which my project is one of intellectual reconciliation and of spiritual communion with the body of the Saints, I find that I understand both of my experiences better: the joy of relinquishing a rigid social and intellectual commitment that was coming between me and God, but also the fear and pain of losing a religious community and institution that very much does connect me with God.

    I don’t mean by saying this that you’re in some way doomed to repeat my experience, or that you would feel what I felt if you were to do so. I only mean that it’s hard for us to know what we would feel if we were to become a different kind of person–without becoming that kind of person.

  24. By the way, here’s a website of people who left Mormonism by the “other” path–conversion to something like fundamentalist Protestantism on the basis of comparing Mormon teachings to a literalist reading of the Bible. I have no way of comparing the number of these folks to the number of Mormons gone agnostic after working through historical and textual evidence or whatever–but both routes out do seem to exist.

  25. RT/JNS,

    you’re probably right that at some point I would find joy, but I cannot honestly ever see myself no longer believing Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. I cannot deny the Holy Ghost that witnessed that to me in prayer one night, 12 years ago. That’s where my misery would come from, speaking just of myself. It would require a whole and complete mind wipe in my case, methinks.

  26. rleonard says:

    People leave for different reasons. Here is the list in my view in no particular order.

    1. Decide LDS is not true after examining historical issues

    2. Teenagers and single people going inactive but not severing all ties over Chastity. This seems to be pretty common.

    3. Burnout.

    4. Offended by somebody

    5. Conversion to another faith. I knew a guy in Chicago who decided to become a Catholic.

    6. Revert back to pre-baptism faith. This is more common than realized by most LDS

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    rleonard, re: your number 5, if his initials are OW, you and I know the same guy.

  28. I have it on good authority that one can be a good Anglican and an atheist/agnostic at the same time. So maybe there would be no need to choose.

    I second Kevin’s comment about the “hella-bureaucracy”; we have a wonderful, wonderful message that is utterly suffocated at times by the stifling strictures of central management and poorly trained leaders.

    It’s the old cliche of Church vs. Gospel. I would love to tell my friends about the joys of the Mormon lifestyle and the wonders of the Restoration, but I know that Sunday meetings would bore them silly, or worse, horrify them. And when D-Train tells us his Bishop won’t let him have a temple recommend because he doesn’t support the (defunct) CMA, I just shudder at the thought of inflicting such guilt-trip-buffoonery on my friends.

    So yeah, I will never leave because of the Kinderhook plates, and Mormonism at its best is a sight to behold. But the cogs can be very grinding. As I tell people, you’ve just got to learn not to care. Or be an Anglican agnostic. Great music.

  29. my sister started as a #4, then turned to a #1. and she did it while i was on my mission, so i couldn’t help her. :(

  30. rleonard says:

    Kevin I cannot remember his name right now its been 6 years

    It was in Arlington Heights Ill. He apparently went on a trip to Rome and that is where it started. True active LDS to some other faith seems to be rare.

    There is a inactive Hispanic family on my street here in TX where the kids come occassionally but the parents are back to the catholic church. This is pretty common in my exp.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    rleonard, yep, it’s the same guy. He is a friend of mine (and my tax accountant); in fact, he took my Biblical Hebrew class when I taught it for Institute. Although he later went to Rome, his conversion experience actually started in England when he attended an Anglican service.

    He had a very narrow, archconservative upbringing by his family in the Church, and he is naturally a very bright guy. In my experience, that is a bad mix and does not bode well for long-term involvement in the Church.

    (Although I’m naturally a bright guy, too, my upbringing in the church was more laissez-faire than rigidly doctrinaire.)

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    It occurs to me that our mutual acquaintance has posted his conversion story on the web, here.

  33. rleonard says:

    Kevin,

    What was the outcome? We moved. Did he actually fully convert over? He was still coming to Sac mtg when we moved.

    What did his wife and kids do?

    I agree with the kid raising opinion.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    To see the beginning of his conversion experience, you need to scroll down near the bottom of the link I gave, to a sublink that says “My life changed in 1992…” I tried to link directly to that page, but it just comes up as his general “questions to gospel answers” site.

    Yes, he fully converted to Catholicism. Big time. I would say he is probably one of the best Catholics in the entire American church. I think his Mormon lay involvement upbringing coupled with his newfound Catholic faith is a good mix, and I suspect rather unusual for most converts.

    His immediate family is still active LDS, sons gone on missions, that sort of thing. I don’t think he still goes to sacrament meeting anymore the way he used to. His name is still on the rolls, though, so technically he’s both Mormon and Catholic. (grin)

    He’s a very good guy, and I’m happy for him that he found a faith that he can embrace so fully without reservation.

  35. Aaron Brown says:

    I suspect it is the nature of Mormon teachings themselves that leads the disaffected into agnosticism. Mormonism puts the question “Which is the true Church?” at the center of all religious inquiry; note that for many non-LDS, this is a strange question. Those who eventually decide, for whatever reason, that Mormonism is “false” or “not for them” have probably concluded that Mormonism doesn’t meet one or more criteria of “true church” that they have written down on a checklist in their head. It seems unlikely that any other Christian denomination is going to meet all those criteria any better. So they throw out the very concept of a “true church,” at which point there is little point in adhering to some other Christian sect.

    Mormonism teaches that religious affiliation should ultimately be a matter of finding out where God’s “true church” is and joining it. Even when one rejects Mormonism, this belief in the nature of religious affiliation often still holds true, and every other religious option out there is inevitably going to seem unsatisfactory.

    Aaron B

  36. Seth R. (15), I was most certainly not saying that I left the church because of those experiences I recounted–not even partly because of them. I’m surprised that you would read my comment that way. I said nothing about why I left the church.

    I was referring to the time after I had already left the LDS and had begun investigating Christian churches. At that time, the firmly-entrenched idea from my upbringing that “if Mormonism isn’t correct it’s probably all wrong” played a big role in preventing me from feeling comfortable in Christian churches or from feeling a great desire to learn to become comfortable there. But even then, I did not place all the blame on my upbringing; I admitted that I might not have been attracted to Christianity anyway, even if parents and teachers had not stacked my personal deck against it, though it’s impossible to know that for sure.

  37. If I left, my guess is that I’d end up in another Christian tradition. I feel like my spiritual connection to the Church is grounded much more in basic Christian teachings than in teachings that are peculiarly LDS; in fact, it’s the teachings unique to the Church that I tend to have the most difficult time with. So I can at least imagine myself continuing to accept Christianity while rejecting a Mormon version of it.

    Of course, despite all my unresolved concerns I haven’t left yet. (And there’s stuff unique to the Church that I like, too.) So if something did push me over the edge, it might push me in an unanticipated direction.

  38. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 24 Not to offend anyone here, but Mormons who leave to become fundamentalist Christians (and put up web sites like that one) tend to make the most iron-rod Mormon look like Norman Vincent Peele by comparison. Moving on….

    re: 28 Agnostic Episcopalianism, on the other hand, has a certain appeal especially at holiday time. Many of my friends fall into that category. I’d join them, but I’d rather spend my time blogging and going to yoga class on Sundays.

    Ronan (or anyone), do you know the punchline to this joke:

    Why can there never be four Episcopalians in a room?

  39. anonymusing says:

    Beijing–

    I hadn’t intended my comment quite that way, though I certainly see your points. I didn’t have the same sort of upbringing at all, at least not that I remember.

    I do remember a number of discussions with my father about religion, generally of the “did God create us or did we create him?” variety. Honestly, I think it’s 90% or more probable that when we die we simply cease to exist. But I shake in terror in my very core at that thought, so I embrace this gospel because of the blessings of eternity promised in the temple. Actually, the thought of God as watchmaker who set things running but essentially leaves everything alone doesn’t bother me much either, so I suppose I could lean agnostic.

    The main issue I see with Christianity is that it doesn’t have a good way of dealing with other religions. Mormonism gets around other religions with ordinances for the dead. Really, there aren’t too many religions out there that offer much to those who don’t adhere to them, which I see as a gross failing. I don’t believe God would condemn his children simply becuase of upbringing. So, either Mormonism, with its option of salvation for those who don’t hear the gospel in their lifetimes is correct, or religion in general is something men made up to, first, combat the despair of recognizing our own mortality, and second, demarcate tribal relationships for economic and social purposes.

  40. MikeinWeHo, because where there’s four Episcopalians, there’s always a fifth?

  41. My favorite Episcopalian joke is “‘Episcopal’ is an anagram of ‘Pepsi Cola.’ Both are the real thing.”

  42. Kiskilili says:

    Really, there aren’t too many religions out there that offer much to those who don’t adhere to them, which I see as a gross failing. I don’t believe God would condemn his children simply becuase of upbringing. So, either Mormonism, with its option of salvation for those who don’t hear the gospel in their lifetimes is correct, or religion in general is something men made up

    Actually, quite a number of other Christian denominations get around this by doubting ordinances/sacraments or even explicit belief in Christ are necessary for salvation. In many ways, they’ve solved the problem much more tidily than we have with our proxy ordinances.

    I would add to rleonard’s list above the possibility of leaving because doctrine is offensive. In our post-Enlightenment intellectual climate, we naturally focus on “what is real?” or “what is true?” I have enough intellectual questions about what the church teaches to fill volumes, but they aren’t primarily what’s threatening to drive me out. In other words, whether certain doctrines are true or false is not my most pressing concern. My most pressing concern is that certain doctrines are painful. If I leave, it will be for emotional rather than intellectual reasons–and not because an individual Church member offended me, but because the Church’s image of God offended me.

    I’ve been flirting with the idea of having my name removed for some time, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to go through with it (though I may yet). I had a much easier time holding onto the Church in spite of doubts when I had a firm conviction of God’s love. That was the center of my commitment. When that belief was thoroughly compromised, I lost the foundation of my faith.

    There may be nothing I love more and nothing I hate more than this Church. I don’t know what to do with that sort of ambivalence.

  43. The main issue I see with Christianity is that it doesn’t have a good way of dealing with other religions.

    I have a rather different take on this. The question of how to deal with pluralism, with people in other religions, has been intensely discussed in Christian theology in the last half-century, and people have come up with a variety of possible ways of thinking about it. Pretty much all the mainline Protestants and Catholics I know believe in at least the possibility of salvation for everyone; I don’t think Mormons are actually all that unique in that regard.

    Tying this back to Beijing’s comment (#12), my observation is that Mormons often think they wouldn’t be happy in other Christian traditions based on what they’ve heard about those traditions from Mormons. However, that’s somewhat akin to evangelicals assuming they’d never be happy as Mormons based on what they’ve heard about Mormons in their churches. I realize of course that there are plenty of exceptions to this, most obviously people who’ve converted to Mormonism from other Christian traditions. But much of what I learned about “mainstream Christianity” from my LDS upbringing turned out to be wrong.

  44. What I don’t get is why people who leave the church hang out in the bloggernacle. Not that I don’t want any of you around–it just seems weird to me. I don’t hang out with Mormons, and I’m a solidly active one. If I left the church, I couldn’t imagine continuing to read any of this stuff!

  45. Amen Susan!!

  46. ‘much of what I learned about “mainstream Christianity” from my LDS upbringing turned out to be wrong’

    I have found the same to be true in my experience as well, though I have given up trying to explain the specifics on the Bloggernacle because it always ends up with people thinking I’m an evangelical troll (LOL!). For me, even though the facts and non-facts about Christianity are gradually being sorted out, the feelings and memories are still very strong.

  47. People who leave, in whatever degree, sometimes wear the apostate label as a badge of honor. It’s certainly preferable to “sinner who couldn’t cut it.”

    However, I have seen elsewhere that some spouses of those who have left abhor the term “apostate.” It’s quite painful for them; it’s a reminder of all they believe they have lost.

    It has long been my contention that ex-Mormons don’t really change much when they leave the church. If they were aggressive missionaries, they stay aggressive missionaries, but argue the other side. If they were seekers, they remain seekers – they just look in different places.

    As the Bloggernacle’s cuddliest apostate, I like to think of myself as still seeking truth wherever I might find it.

  48. I hate the tendency among church members to sit in Sunday School and say “all Catholics believe X” or “all Protestants believe Y” when X and Y are always vastly caricatured views. And since I’m the EQ instructor, I get to impose this view on others. :)

    Alas, it doesn’t always work.

    Just a few weeks back, the scheduled lesson from the McKay manual had a paragraph from Pres. McKay specifically saying not to bash other churches and not to talk about what we think they believe. It was great. It was _in_ the lesson manual. And I read it, and focused on it, and tried to generate discussion.

    One of the first comments from a class member: “Yes, we shouldn’t talk negatively about what other churches believe. That’s because their beliefs are just too incoherent to even talk about.”

    Sigh.

  49. Elisabeth says:

    Susan and Steve – if weirdness were an exclusionary factor for participating in pretty much any activity – I think we’d all be in trouble!

    I hope people who leave the Church feel welcome to comment here.

  50. Kaimi,

    As EQ instructor you should know that we’ve since switched to the Woodruff manuals. :)

  51. Steve Evans says:

    Elisabeth, don’t get me wrong — I’m not looking to exclude anyone. I was just thinking that if I ever stopped being Mormon, I can think of a lot of other things to do than to hang out in the Bloggernacle.

  52. rleonard says:

    I have been thinking of some more….

    7. Divorce. a lot of people leave during or after a divorce for a variety of reasons. Divorce serves as a catalyst. I have home taught numerous people who left during a divorce. Lots of times they are mad at a Bishop/SP and mad about rumors, gossip etc.

    8. Politics. More left leaning types sometimes just can’t take it any more. We will see this one more and more as our political culture gets more polarized

    9. Offended at doctrine. Can be connected with #8 &10

    10. Singleness in a married church. This happens. See 8&9.

    11. Church of the NFL. Could be golf, fishing etc. Usually they go inactive not name removal. (this could be me someday) This is a male issue

    12. Treatment of Homosexuals. Usually they either have a family member or a friend that is gay. (Funny my in the closet at the time gay best man at my wedding has been treated well by the church according to him. He gets to meet with apostles etc. FP members answer his letters call him etc)

  53. I can tell you why I stick around: y’all are the hippest Mormons on the planet. And I’m still a Mormon, sort of. I think that the bloggernacle has been the single biggest influence in keeping me in the church.

    I was seriously considering resigning after the amendment announcement. But then D. Fletcher weighed in on being Mormon and gay and made me cry, and Kevin posted “Why I support…” and I figured, well, maybe I’m not such a freak after all.

  54. Tim,

    Yep, mental slip up. Not sure where it came from, probably from composing a comment too fast.

    The Woodruff quote I was talking about, btw, is here:

    “When you go into a neighborhood to preach the Gospel, never attempt to tear down a man’s house, so to speak, before you build him a better one; never, in fact, attack any one’s religion, wherever you go. Be willing to let every man enjoy his own religion. It is his right to do that. If he does not accept your testimony with regard to the Gospel of Christ, that is his affair, and not yours. Do not spend your time in pulling down other sects and parties. We haven’t time to do that. It is never right to do that.”

  55. Elisabeth says:

    Ann – I have never met you and really don’t know much about you at all, but I love reading your posts (at Ned’s) and your comments. Thanks for sticking around.

  56. Kevin Barney says:

    Ann, thanks for your generous comment. You made my day. I’m glad you are here.

  57. NoNameNedra says:

    It’s interesting that people assume that once a Mormon leaves the faith, s/he should disappear completely, never again to follow, study, explore or talk about his/her heritage.

    Among many other things, it was the Mormon certainty that “(their) way (was) the highway” that helped to nudge me out. People are different. Some ex-Mormons may want to “eave the Church alone” never to return. Others enjoy studying from the other side of the fence, and even still enjoy the sociality of Mormons on some level. We don’t all have to be alike…It’s the exclusivity of the Mormon club–her and in the super special tippy top level of the Celestial Kingdom–that turns many people off from the Church.

  58. That’s a great quote, Kaimi; thanks for pointing it out.

    Also, I enjoy hearing the perspectives of those who’ve left the Church but nonetheless haven’t had their names removed from the records of the bloggernacle.

  59. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re 40: Yep, you got it! Usually of gin…..

    Re 44: It seems weird to me, too, and I am one of them. Even though I haven’t been to a sacrament meeting in twenty years, that whole time I’ve felt a connection to the Mormon experience (just ask my partner, who has been dragged to every visitors center and temple open house west of the Mississippi).

    Has BCC ever done an online poll of its participants (+tr, semi-active, inactive, ex-, outer-darkness or bust, etc)?

  60. Ann,

    I’m pretty cuddly myself, but for the time being I’ll concede the title to you.

    Susan M,

    For me personally Mormonism has just been too big a part of my life and identity to merely shrug it off. I think this is especially true for people raised from birth in the culture. Although my level of activity in church has dropped way off, I still have a lot of Mormon friends and family and so am still very connected. Also, I am fascinated by the religion and must admit that I am still trying to come to terms with what it means to me personally to lose my faith in Mormonism, and then have to reconstruct my worldview. So I come to the Bloggernacle to try to understand the whole phenomenom better, and how different people deal w/ it.

  61. That makes sense.

    I’ve never fit in with Mormons (I’m a convert) and don’t socialize with many (I can think of one, and I’ve been to her house once), although I have a lot of ex-Mormon friends. In fact, I’ve stopped reading most of the bloggernacle because it doesn’t appeal much to me. So you can understand why I’m puzzled by it.

  62. Mark IV says:

    Susan M., you’ll probably find that you can leave the bloggernacle, but you just can’t leave it alone.

  63. I know Steve and so follow his blogs once in awhile.

    I may have moved on, but I wouldn’t say I’m a little emptier. Certainly Steve’s faith is something he values and he suspects he would miss it if he no longer had it. I really don’t. I miss the people. That’s about it.

    Apostasy is way of saying, “You got the story wrong. Here’s how it really is.” But I don’t feel the urge to find some other story to replace Mormonism. I think Mormonism is pretty much the best case you can make for Christianity. It’s basically a Christianity expansion pack, fixing the bugs in the previous versions and adding new features and character classes.

    I’m not really taking advantage of relativistic humanism. I still drink more Diet Coke than cocktails at cocktail parties. I’m pretty hot, but no one’s trying to lure me away from my wife. But I don’t have to get caught up in the more arbitrary points of doctrine, like pretending I should care if anyone is gay or not. I even produced a gay movie.

    As for my consolation when faced by the big questions, like “Why is there something instead of nothing?” Well, man, I don’t know. But it doesn’t freak me out.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    Dude, your movie’s not a gay movie. It’s about a gay man who becomes sexually aware and….

    wait. never mind.

  65. Sean (63),

    You need to ditch your wife and come run away with me, man!

    (And there you have it. Leave the church, and the next thing you know, people will be trying to lure you away from your wife . . . :P )

  66. Matt Thurston says:

    “mike” just described me to a T. Ironically, I spend more time reading about, thinking about, praying about God/Religion/Mormonism/Faith/Death/Love now as a Doubter than I ever did as a True Believer. Although I remain an active member and have a calling, I receive more fellowship, support, intellectual and spiritual stimulation on the Bloggernacle in one week than I do at Church all year. So that’s why I hang around. If I didn’t, I’d go crazy.

  67. Beijing says:

    “I was just thinking that if I ever stopped being Mormon, I can think of a lot of other things to do than to hang out in the Bloggernacle.”

    That sounds like my mom right after I moved out of the house. When I’d visit, she would often wonder aloud at why an active, independent young woman like me would still want to hang out with my boring old parents, surely I had a lot more interesting things to do, etc.

    My transition out of the church has a similar effect on many of the members who stay. They could understand if I remained under the church’s roof. They could understand if I cut off all contact. But for some reason, it’s awfully hard for them to understand that I have my own house now, and I’m still willing to come over for Sunday dinner.

  68. greenfrog says:

    MikeinWeHo wrote: “…but I’d rather spend my time … going to yoga class on Sundays.”

    This is me, too.

  69. Seth R. says:

    Re #63 Sean,

    An expansion pack huh?

    So …

    You discovered any cheats or secret levels? And do you know where to find Wirt’s Leg?

  70. Hold on to Wirt’s Leg when you find it. You’ll need it to open the portal to the Secret Cow Level. But anyone who paid attention during their own endownment already knows that.

  71. my in the closet at the time gay best man at my wedding has been treated well by the church according to him. He gets to meet with apostles etc. FP members answer his letters call him etc

    I was wondering what I had to do to get the First Presidency to answer my letters. Now to go get sufficiently drunk…

  72. Steve Evans says:

    Sean, anyone who reads Hugh Nibley knows there is no Secret Cow Level, despite what Facsimile No. 3 says.

  73. anonymusing says:

    Actually, quite a number of other Christian denominations get around this by doubting ordinances/sacraments or even explicit belief in Christ are necessary for salvation.

    yes, my point exactly. either it’s all true and the ordinances and sacraments and keys are all necessary for salvation, or none of it’s true and we just made it up. If it’s all made up, that suggests to me either God doesn’t care, or God doesn’t exist. Thus, if I were to reject mormonism, I’d have a hard time accepting other christian religions as more true.

    That said, I could see how someone might accept mormonism was made up, while some other christian denomination wasn’t, I’d just have a hard time with it myself at this point in my religious evolution.

    Kiskilili–I’m with you there on the emotional turmoil of some doctrines. I’ve followed some of your posts in other forums, and while I haven’t struggled with the same issues I see where you’re coming from and I can appreciate your responses.

    (sorry to interrupt the sacred cow/mormonism as a video game conversation going on, entertaining as it is–I was hosting a party last night and so couldn’t contribute to the discussion earlier)

  74. “I had a much easier time holding onto the Church in spite of doubts when I had a firm conviction of God’s love.”

    I agree that a conviction of God’s love and mercy and salvation is core to religious experience and community.

    “Mormonism puts the question ‘Which is the true Church?’ at the center of all religious inquiry.”

    I think this is accurate and unfortunate. To observe how accurate it is, listen to the typical, uncoached testimony of a primary child, which is almost always two statements: “I know the Church is true and I love my family.”

    It is wonderful that the second statement, about love of family, is part of a typical testimony of a child (even though, for some reason, some Church leaders have implied that expressions of love and thanks are not really part of a “true testimony”).

    I have some reservations about the first statement–the Church is true–being the core of a testimony, rather than an appendage or a part of it.

    To me, as suggested above, a key part of my religious conviction and communion is a faith, hope and quiet assurance of God’s love for me personally with all my faults, and for each and every one of God’s children and creations.

    Through my own life’s experiences, my views of God and the Church have changed. That is, at one time I believed in God because I believed in the Church. The Church was almost a “mediator” between God and me. At this point in my life, however, I believe in the Church because I believe in God and God’s love. That is, I believe this is where God would have me be in my journey of life and faith. I believe that God loves me warts and all and, accordingly, I feel much more comfortable embracing the humanity and divinity of God’s Church, warts and all.

  75. rleonard says:

    #71

    Its true. It started with a letter to Elder Scott. Elder Scott called him and they started meeting regularly. Then the FP started to respond to his letters as well. Pretty much ignore that counsel to not send letters to the FP Q12 is the lesson I took from my friends exp.

  76. I have found that Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity. I have been Catholic now for about 16 years. I help to teach other adults interested in becoming Catholic in my parish. I help moderate an exmormon-catholic group on yahoo with over 100 members. There is life after Mormonism.

  77. Wow! I posted here only because I get the second highest hits from this site and I wanted to know more about it. Kevin, your words brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I am very much still Catholic. I’m back teaching RCIA again this year. We have a class of 12 adults. Over the years I’ve helped over 50 adults prepare to receive the sacraments.

    Here is the direct link to the page that talks about my journey of faith, the page that Kevin tried to point you to in his post: http://truthseeker.tripod.com/LIFECHANGED.html

    I can’t tell you how surprised I was to find myself drawn to Catholicism, which in my conservative Mormon upbringing was the Church of Satan as we can read (or as it was read to me as a child) in I Nephi 14.

    I owe much to Kevin in my journey of faith in teaching me Hebrew and giving me the chance to see that the Bible was not as badly translated as I had been raised to believe. Thank you.

    I want you all to know how very sad I became when I went to Rome and stepped into St. Peter’s through the Porta Santa in 2000. Why? Because I believe the construction of that building was the spark that ignited the divisions in the Body of Christ in the West. Without that building we could very well all be Catholic today.

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