Throwing Stones

"Faith" by David Linn

Nine years ago today, I waded down into warm blue tiled font while my wiggly baby watched from his dad’s arms, and my husband’s uncle recited the simple yet beautiful prayer and submersed me in the waters of baptism. I have little recollection of right before other than warmth, and I cannot for the life of me tell you what we did as a family afterwards- I assume food was involved. But what I do recall vividly is the feeling of rising up out of that water. It was fleeting, like a hummingbird on a flower, but it was a moment of singular perfection. The perfection lay not in me, but around me- bathing me, for the briefest moment, in what I can only call the light of heaven. I knew there would be no perfection for me in this moral veil of flesh- not ever- but I was given the barest glimpse of the potential.

In the nearly decade since then, the seasons have passed over my fields, sowing and harvesting, adding babies, death, loss and taking what I thought was going to be one life and instead giving me a whole new one. The husband is gone, children are growing, and I haven’t yet figured out what kind of blossoms that new life will bear, but it’s sprouting and finding out will be fun. My faith has matured, and I understand full-well how fragile and human our hands are as we endeavor to do good in the world, to show mercy and tenderness to our sisters and brothers.

In a strange upside-down world, my own journey into the church has been mirrored by a dear and beloved friend’s journey out. My own family, at my baptism, had painfully told me I could not be a Mormon and still be claimed as family, while my friend, now at the nadir of what would be baptism, is facing disowning by family upon leaving. While we may stand at opposite poles, the churning pain and loss of family, community and acceptance is identical.

Why do we do this to each other? At either pole, I wonder- but I find it especially painful, baffling- and even anger-inducing- in my coreligionists. In his post in response to the media around Mormons earlier this week, bhodges wrote:

Being called a cult member reminds me how it feels to be excluded on the basis of my beliefs. I suggest we refrain from doing the same thing to family members and friends who leave the Church, or even to folks who have general theological disagreements with us. “You are weird, we are normal. Because we said so, and a lot of people agree.” This ought not to be.

And yet it keeps happening. And it has me thinking…

There are tremendous social, spiritual and cultural markers as Mormons that serve to keep us part of the flock. As is often pointed out (at least to new converts) Mormonism is not something you practice on Sundays and then go back to your real life the rest of the week. Despire this being uncomfortable shotgun snark at other churches, there is truth in the words. Being a Mormon does require a lot of its adherents. Along with those expectation and social markers come the cautionary tales of those who fail to listen and adhere to the cultural, social and spiritual demands of their faith- whether chosen or inherited.

We are told not to date outside our faith. Told to be in the world, but not of the world. We are cautioned to keep ourselves above the dangerous levels of society. At our baser level, it can become Us verses Them- and we’d better dig in our heels and retrench if we want our children safe. It’s fear. This breeds a lot of interesting ideas, and some strange bedfellows, but the idea I find most damning is that people who are not Mormon, not “us”, are somehow less. It’s never explicitly stated- we’d never do that- we love the people of (fill in the blank).

As I look around at the friends I have who lie outside the Mormon idealized situation of member parents, temple-sealed, returned missionary, stay-at-home mom, working dad, and undisclosed number of children, I do see the families who fall short of this mark falling away. But we’re putting the cart unfairly before the horse if we assume it’s simply because they have chosen to live outside the normative markers for what we blithely and narrowly define as “the ideal”.

What I’m seeing are families who are different becoming weary of always being reminded of where and how their family is somehow less than the family in the next pew. They tire of platitudes about teaching correct principles, which are easy to toss off, unless it’s your child that’s being hit. And when those families eventually become bruised and sore and stop coming to church, instead of looking honestly at our own narrow narrative of what is acceptable and taking responsibility for the bruises we may have caused, we trot out the cautionary tale about what happens when you marry a non-member. Or what happens when you get divorced. Or what happens when don’t marry in the temple. And on the crazy calliope music goes…

My friend who is leaving is being ostracised from family, home, community and church. The withdrawal of love and support is heartbreaking. In this situation, my friend’s parents are well-regarded and hold high callings- the loss of a child mars the entire family. The narrative must be maintained- if you leave, if you chose differently, if you fall short of the mark in a visible way- this is what happens to you.

When we treat our sisters and brothers with such heart-wrenching callousness, we are guilty of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. We are guilty of hanging out with the ninety-nine and throwing rocks at the one. Our stories say this is what will happen to you, and come hell or high water, we’re going to make damn sure it stays true. It’s cold, false comfort, and we’ll eventually have to answer for our rock throwing and the bruises caused.

This is my church. I have had enough experiences that cannot be discounted that I will never leave- I found God here, and I can never forget it. I remember that brief glimpse of heaven as I rose form those warm waters and that sustains me as I stumble and trip through this rocky landscape. My prayer is that those rocks stay firmly under my feet where they belong, and never find their way to a fearful hand eager to toss.

Comments

  1. vote: most important post of this year.

  2. Peter LLC says:

    the idea I find most damning is that people who are not Mormon, not “us”, are somehow less. It’s never explicitly stated- we’d never do that- we love the people of (fill in the blank).

    Although it’s certainly not the rule, I have heard this idea expressed explicitly often enough. Once it was a 5th Sunday lesson by a single sister in tears imploring us not to “settle for a non-member” when it comes to marriage. Another was a gospel doctrine lesson about marriage in the covenant that devolved into rounds of self-congratulation alternating with non-member bashing. I’m probably more sensitive to these things than most since I attend church with my spouse who is a member of another denomination, but for being such a missionary- and family-oriented church we can be remarkably oblivious to the possibility that there could be those among us who haven’t yet secured their place in the starting line-up.

  3. Jenny in NC says:

    This article really hit home with me. I am the new RS president in the ward. In the past 3 weeks I have learned of many people who are struggling/leaving/not committing, and the common concern they all seem to share is that they are not good enough. I am wondering: how do I teach people about perfection, but at the same time, help them understand that they don’t have to be perfect yet?

    Also, I really dislike the phrase, “they got offended.” I hear this all the time when a person leaves the church because of doubts or misunderstandings or problems. It’s an easy way for the rest of us to place blame on the person who left, rather than examining ourselves to see if perhaps we threw a few stones at them.

  4. Now, you’d also think that this kind of thing is more prevalent in areas of higher Mormon concentration. You would be very wrong. I’ve lived in areas of high and low concentration, and I’ve seen that it really makes no difference.

    It also becomes a problem when someone is away from church for a while, and decides they might want to go back. It’s amazing that even when they go back to church, others will still look at them funny and they are made to feel uncomfortable for doing what they thought is right.

    Thank you for this article, Tracy. I think this needs to be taught over the pulpit far more than it is.

  5. proud daughter of eve says:

    Submit this to the Ensign, please!

  6. As true and motivating and eloquent as anything I heard in conference and I imply no criticism of conference.

  7. Tracy, this is really wonderful. Although I come from a family that in many, many ways did/does not fit the ‘ideal’ I actually find myself in one of those families now (at least by the check-box criteria you mention of sealing-mission-SAHM-children). My fear is that I am guilty of throwing some of those rocks. I have found this call to rethink my narrative important.

    btw, I love David Linn.

  8. Thank you, Tracy. This is beautiful and I second the above comments.

    I have a daughter who is “in” the church on paper, in name only. She has turned her back and walked away from the Church as an institution and many of the teachings. Her memories of gospel truths are fading, what she once knew– even primary songs and Book of Mormon stories– is slipping away. We always look to ourselves for reasons and I’m no different. The “was it my fault?” often slips into any open spaces in my thoughts. Our family experience is much different, however, than what you describe and for that I am grateful. Somehow it was easier for us to keep her close and maintain our family relationships. Her siblings and I (father chose to leave the family) have realized that church teachings and experience, while enriching to us were painful for her. While not comprehending how that can be, it has been more enriching in every way to hold hands tightly with each other in the family circle of which she is a part.

    Our belief is strong that this life continues beyond death and that she and we are all going to be making corrections in our journeys as we go. Ours will be different from hers but isn’t that the way we all are? Every single one of us will be making adjustments (some major). I could go on about the Atonement but that’s too big for me here and now. I’ll simply say that harsh and demeaning criticism, judgment and rejection have no part in the compassion, love and fellowship of Christ-like behavior.

  9. I love this so much. To say anything more would just take away from the beauty of your post. Thank you.

  10. thank you

  11. Lovely.

    I fit the mold of the 99 (even though I think the ratios don’t bear out). Happily married, four active kids, spouse and I actively engaged in callings. This post reminds me that even though my words may not be stones, that my actions certainly could be.

    I don’t feel guilt for my circumstances. But I am hopeful that I can act like Jesus in my interactions with those that may not fit my mold. Even if those individuals happen to be those closest to me.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  12. As a returned missionary, temple-sealed to a stay-at-home mom, with an undisclosed number of children, this leaves me feeling a bit scapegoated. No matter, with my perfect life and lack of suitable wounds on display, it’s a trifling thing that will pass as soon as I turn from this. That’s what well-developed callousness does for a person.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Tracy, you’re the best ever.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Great stuff, Tracy.

    My family for some reason sort of has an ethic of letting those who want to leave do so gracefully without any drama. (I freely acknowledge that this probably would not have been the case if my father had lived.) Of my five siblings, only one is engaged in the church, and neither of my two children is engaged in the church. And that is what it is; they’re family, and for us that trumps all.

    (As a sometime apologist, one thing I worry about is that when we make it so danged hard for people to disengage, we are forcing them to justify their decision to us. And so they go looking for ways to do just that. We in essence are creating at least the potential for our loved ones to become bitter antagonists of the Church. At least in my family’s approach there is no bitterness about it, and there is continued respect for those of us who choose to remain engaged. It just seems a lot healthier to me)

  15. Thanks for writing this Tracy. As a member married to a non-member, believe me, I’ve experienced some of the weirdness. After I got married for example and the requisite, “where’s your husband?” conversation ensued, I would get simply grief stricken, but I’m sure well meaning, looks from them, and the comment, “I’m sorry!” as if someone died rather than a congratulations on getting married. Ad nauseum over the next 23 years…

    On the other hand, in some twisted way I can sort of understand the lack of compassion these perfect families have towards those who leave. I think it stems from their fear that if they freely continue to give their love to that child, friend, etc., it give a tacit permission to others. Like, gee, there’s no consequence for leaving from mom; maybe it’s not such a big deal. Do you think that could be part of their way of thinking?

  16. Such well said wisdom here. I would like to use this as a sacrament talk. Thank you!

  17. Thank you, Tracy. This post hits a bit to close to home to comment at length, but it’s beautiful and true.

  18. I don’t think I know people who try to ostracize their family members if a family member leaves the church.
    I read your posts and I try to be hyperaware.

  19. JKS,
    I don’t think people consciously try, but sometimes it’s a default they aren’t consciously aware of.

    Tracy,
    You are such a great writer. Beautifully said. I love this line, “It was fleeting, like a hummingbird on a flower, but it was a moment of singular perfection.”

  20. I quit attending church just over a year ago. It hasn’t been easy to leave but it was the right choice for me. I am endlessly grateful that my family have made the choice to continue to love and support me in my journey. Rest assured family members have expressed their sorrow at my leaving, even called me to repentance (literally), but I have been reassured in the knowledge that there is no ultimatum in their pleas. They love and claim me whoever and whatever I am. Just like Christ they love me first.

  21. I’m in the early stages of trying to come back. I’m coming back because of the Book of Mormon. But every night as i offer my (still tentative) evening prayer, i ask God if it is worth it. Those stones hurt, and i’m not sure I have the strength to withstand them any longer. I feel like I’m being punished for having had honest doubts. I seems like both members and leaders (and my wife’s family, for that matter) don’t think I have suffered enough, and they have taken it upon themselves to gauge the “fair” amount of punishment and exclusion I can endure before they can pretend to be happy that I, the most prodigal of sons, can return to the fold. I hope I have the strength.

    BCC has helped me more than you know. Tonight, perhaps you could all remember to mention us “stragglers” in your prayers.

  22. Bro. Jones says:

    Thanks, Tracy. You’re awesome.

  23. Tracy: Do you know Dar Williams song, “The Mercy of the Fallen”? You’d like it. We could rewrite it as “Mercy of the Flawed” or “Mercy of the Floundering” or “Mercy of the Fabulous(ly Non-Ideal).” Because the gift I can give as, say, an inter-faith marriage member and you can give as a divorcee and someone else can give as a ______________ is (if we are lucky) and extra measure of mercy to the majority who think they are the minority. ‘Cause I there are so many ways to be “non-ideal” that most of us have at least one of them covered, right? The Samaritan was wounded but beautifully alive, just in need of someone to take her to a safe place of shelter till she got back on her feet.

  24. The key in throwing stones is good wrist action.

  25. When family or ward members appear to be “ostracizing” someone who’s beliefs don’t line up, I don’t think it’s usually out of judgment. I think it’s out of self-preservation. We look to family and friends for solidarity, for support, as people we can trust, based on the things we share in common. We assume a level of intimacy with our fellow ward members that’s greater than justified by our personal connections because of our presumed common faith. When that presumption proves false, we suddenly worry about what other presumptions are false, and our sense of solidarity is gone. We feel betrayed and even threatened — they’re rejecting the basis for our intimacy, after all — and we want to circle the wagons to protect ourselves. And even when they return from inactivity, it can be hard to take such people back. Kind of like taking an unfaithful spouse back to your bed, only to a much lesser degree.

    So in a sense, I think embracing our “stragglers” can be more about learning to forgive rather than learning to withhold judgment.

  26. darn it, “…someone whose beliefs…”

  27. When family or ward members appear to be “ostracizing” someone who’s beliefs don’t line up, I don’t think it’s usually out of judgment. I think it’s out of self-preservation.

    Absolutely. This is what I was trying to say when I said we would make sure, come hell or high water, that the story stayed true. It’s founded on fear and self-preservation. And forgiveness is the lesson, to be sure. For all of us.

  28. Tracy, this post was beautiful and completely hit close to home.

    As a still-active wife of a ex-Mormon husband, I experience this type of unspoken ostracizing and judgement from members . I am not one of them anymore, and it hurts every week to have to face that false reality that’s mostly unconscious on the members’ parts. I think that’s what makes this type “us vs. them” mentality in the church so harmful. Most don’t seem to realize how harmful and judgmental it is to throw people like me or my husband under the bus of strict orthodoxy because we dont fit the prescribed mold anymore. They’re perpetuating a cultured behavior without thought as to the real damage it causes and without realizing how truly un-Christ-like it is.

    And yes, one day when I reach my breaking point and stop coming to church, I’ll be turned into a cautionary tale: here’s what happens when you (a) marry somebody who was whisked away from the church by Satan and then (b) succumb to the selfish dangers of “being offended”. *sigh*

  29. Sharee Hughes says:

    I have a very good friend who, for most of her adult life, I believe, has been inactive in the church. Her own daughters will have little to do with her. She recently spent over a year in hospitals, rehab centers and care centers. During that time, her local daughter did not visit her once. I visited daily when possible during the 6 weeks she was in the hospital, and a couple of times a week after that. Finally, she was able to go home. One day, she asked if she could go to church with me. I gladly said yes; then she fell and broke her tailbone, so sitting in a church pew would not be comfortable for her at this time. Then she asked if anyone would mind if she attended the Friday morning Book of Mormon class in my stake. I agreed to pick her up for that and even bought her a Book of Mormon, which she has been reading faithfully. Unfortunately, that class has been postponed because there is no teacher for it yet, but yesterday she started attending a study group in my ward that is studying Jesus the Christ. She is a good person, an intelligent woman who can converse easily on amost any topic. Her children have been missing out–and perhaps their attitude has contributed to her staying away from the church for so long. I have been her friend for just a few years, and have accepted her as she is. I have not tried at all to push the church on her, although she has been aware of my activity. But now, she seems to be ready to start on the road back. Maybe that’s all we need to do with friends who have “strayed.” Just continue to love and accept them until they are ready on their own to come back. Some of them will, others may not.

    Another good friend of mine had her name removed from the rolls of the church some years ago. She never did come back. She has since passed on, but we remained friends until her death. We cannot turn our backs on people just because they choose to believe differenlty. Leaving the church does not make someone a bad person. There is no way we can know for sure just what it was that took their faith away, even if they try to describe it. We just have to accept–and continue to love.

    Thank you, Tracy, for a beautiful post. I agree with the perso who suggested you submit this to the Ensign.

  30. Beautiful. I have never read here before and this was sent to me by a friend. Beautifully stated. I have stopped going to church, for many of the reasons you expressed in your post. My “friends” from church–haven’t seen them in 8 years. I am not good enough for them any more. I have moved on, however, and have found true friends that love me for who I am and don’t focus on what I am not. Thank you.

  31. Thanks to both Tracy and Jenny for your comments. I am one of 8 siblings, 3 of whom no longer attend LDS services, 4 who do, and 1 who not only still attends church, but is rabidly sanctimonious. (Although it easily could have been otherwise, the sibling who is most invested in the church is also the most judgmental, the least kind, and the only sibling who doesn’t bother to maintain connections with the rest of the family.)

    My parents, who have given their all to the “upbuilding of the kingdom,” continue to love and affirm those of us who have “gone astray.” Consistent with Jenny’s observation, I’m sure insiders would say that we left because we were “offended.” But no. We left because of intellectual/spiritual dissonance. Mormonism no longer adequately represents our values.

  32. Tracy- I had a close friend recently leave the church and eventually come back. He said similar things to those in this post. He said he felt he would be ostracized and judged and hated for what he’d done. (Left the Church for Buddhism). What actually happened was he was here, and we loved him and were glad he was there, he left and we loved him but cared that he was gone, and he came back, and we loved him and were glad we was back. His fears were unfounded.

    While I don’t know the situation of your friend, I hope it is the exception rather than the rule, and that my friend is the rule, rather than the exception.

  33. Mommie Dearest says:

    I can’t think of what to write; this made me cry. I can’t think of anything to say. My church attendance has been slipping because I’m worn out from going, seeking the Lord, and finding this instead.

  34. I’m happy to report that in every case of family, friends, and ward members leaving activity that I’m familiar with, I haven’t observed any stone-throwing. At least as far as my (anecdotal) experience goes, the members seem to have a generally high level of love and friendship and concern, regardless of activity status, martital status, obedience to commandments, whatever.

    I’m not trying to claim that all is well in Zion — and if ostracism happens even once anywhere in the Church, it’s too much — but at least as far as my experience goes, the members seem to handle things right.

  35. About a year ago our RS President was giving a lesson, during which she talked about her son being diagnosed with a terminal illness and how she realized that he wasn’t going to get the opportunity to serve a mission or get married in the temple or achieve any of those “milestones” of faith; she realized that her job, as a parent, was to prepare her son to meet God, and her comfort in his death was knowing that he was ready. During that same lesson, someone in the class mentioned that she didn’t know how to teach her daughter the importance of a temple marriage when there were so many examples in our own ward of women marrying non-members and having it all work out. (It just so happens that our ward has seen many part-member families end up with spouses getting baptized and everyone eventually getting sealed in the temple.) The RS president responded that the most important thing for us to do as individuals is have a personal relationship with God, and he will guide our choices for the best possible outcome for us. I thought it was the most important thing ever said in a RS meeting and I wished it could have been heard around the world.

  36. Tracy, thanks. So much to chew on here.

    My own experience with my children: when the first one stopped attending, I was devastated, thinking about what I would lose because he was not with me. After #2 and #3 followed him out the door (#3 was sort of half-in/half-out at the time), a sister spoke in sacrament meeting and reminded us that in heaven we’d be organized by families, not by church units. I had a “hammer on the head” moment of inspiriation (I was sitting on the stand, and I still wonder if people saw the light bulb go on over my head…) and realized that if I wanted my kids forever, I’d better help them to feel welcome in my family. It suddenly became more important to have them next to me at the dining room table than in sacrament meeting.

    Over time, I’ve observed that often parents who turn away from their children who leave are doing so mourning the loss of their children. While it is not what I think is the best response, it is about the parents’ pain and grief, and much less about the child’s feelings or views. I’ve come to understand that the healing power of the atonement can help me to the turn my focus outward, away from myself and more toward my children. But it did not happen for me over night.

    I don’t think my view was colored by my ward’s particular culture; indeed others loved my sons even though they had walked away. They contacted them, showed interest, inquired after them, and sought to support them in other non-church related activities — not by assignment but out of love and friendship. And I reacted to others who had left in the same way. But when it was my kids and my feelings, it took me longer to find my way.

  37. Tracy, thank you for such a beautiful post. I very much want our church to be more open and accepting, our members humble and forgiving. I know I’ll try and fail, and others likely will too, but having that as a worthy aspiration means we’ll make some progress, and perhaps, through grace, we’ll come ’round right.

  38. Tracy, thanks again for your writing.

    jsf, thanks for your comment (#21). It brought tears to my eyes. As I reflect over the last year or so, I am surprised at how BCC has helped me through. This community has become important and influential for me.

    Nama, you said, “And yes, one day when I reach my breaking point and stop coming to church, I’ll be turned into a cautionary tale” and it resonated with me. I can feel myself moving further and further away from the mainstream. I go to church and wonder why. My husband and I wonder aloud whether the time will come that we stop going, whether we can just take a break from it for a while. Even as we say the words we know that if we leave to take a break we will likely not come back. When I stop and think it over, I always come back to Jesus and the Atonement. That’s why I go. For now, that’s enough. I don’t know what the next years and months will bring, but for now that’s enough and that’s all I’ve got.

  39. Paul! Wow! Help them feel welcome at the dining room table . . . thanks for sharing the light.

  40. Wow – so much complexity here and certainly one of the central challenges to the culture of the church. I can’t add much except to say that I’ve seen this problem from every angle and don’t know what the solution is: Do the best you can. Stay close to the Lord. Reach out and love those who are lost; and somehow it will all be worked out by the infinite atonement of the Savior. Here’s a feel-good nugget to help:

    http://wp.me/p17kmb-18

  41. I see appeals here to send this off to the Ensign for publishing…before that, some of the wording with the notions behind them needs to be cleaned up, as in
    “… the idea I find most damning is that people who are not Mormon, not “us”, are somehow less. It’s never explicitly stated- we’d never do that- we love the people of (fill in the blank).”
    What is so damning? Is it that in spite of the truth in it, we do not state it explicitly…(throw rocks)? OR, is it that non–Mormons are not somehow less because, in fact, they choose remarkably, astonishingly to survive with less spiritual capital – content that only two of their twelve cylinders are firing.

    Sorry, its not damning to me or my Church the paths others choose.

  42. The idea I find damning, Robin, is that any of us think anyone who is not “us” is somehow “less”. Non-Mormons are not less than we are- they are simply not Mormons.

  43. I’m married to a non-member, and I go to Church occasionally. I can relate to feeling like Tracy does, but then I wonder what it is that I really want the stereotypical families to do? Stop being so typical? Stop trying to do what they think has the best chance to make them happy?

  44. Sophie, I think perhaps you misread my feelings.

    In no way do I want the families who fit the Ideal to stop being who they are or striving for happiness. I simply want the narrative to be kinder, more tender, more inclusive of those of us who do not meet the imaginary Ideal. This post was not written as an addition to the “us” vs. “them” mentality, and I tried very hard to chose my words carefully. I hope I succeeded.

  45. Peter LLC says:

    I hope I succeeded.

    Here’s one data point: yes.

  46. Lamplighter says:

    Your friends parents haven’t lost their daughter, they’ve thrown her away.

  47. It was a lovely thought-provoking essay, and I hesitate to comment for fear of detracting, but I find that some of the assumptions are troubling to me.

    “Along with those expectation and social markers come the cautionary tales of those who fail to listen and adhere to the cultural, social and spiritual demands of their faith- whether chosen or inherited.”

    I don’t remember ever covenanting to adhere to any cultural or social demands. Indeed, when I was called as RS president the first thing I said was, “I don’t shave my legs.” And I was assured that it was not required. So all that really matters is the spiritual demands.

    “I do see the families who fall short of this mark falling away.”

    Of the list given, I don’t see any of those things as being worthy goals in and of themselves. They are merely the side-effects of following church teachings. Since more than half the church are first generation, many cannot serve a mission in their youth, so clearly those who aren’t returned missionaries are in good company. And anything else on the list…

    “What I’m seeing are families who are different becoming weary of always being reminded of where and how their family is somehow less than the family in the next pew. They tire of platitudes about teaching correct principles, which are easy to toss off, unless it’s your child that’s being hit.”

    I guess this depends on where one lives/worships. I like to think that *every* family is different. In the Primary class that I teach, more than half of the kids are from blended or single-parent families. It is what it is. When we had a lesson that touched on grief, the manual mentioned that grief is not confined to grieving for those who are dead, so we talked about grieving that you can’t live with someone you love. Throughout this year, it has stressed time and again how during his mortal ministry, Christ used his power only to serve others, never for his own benefit. When we talked about that being the model for them when they get the priesthood, one boy said, “My dad doesn’t have the priesthood.” Another commiserated, “Neither does mine.” I shrugged and said, “Some dad’s do, some don’t, but if they do….” and we got back to the lesson. And some mentioned that they had a grandfather or big brother who brought the priesthood into their family.

    I dunno, it also comes back to the idea of whether we should all be on eggshells, or even stay home ourselves, for fear of offending someone.

    “In this situation, my friend’s parents are well-regarded and hold high callings- the loss of a child mars the entire family.”

    That is not church teaching, though–not even close. Mars the entire family? Then why did they call President Kimball to be prophet, even those some of his children chose not to be engaged with the church? Well-regarded by who?

    We Mormons believe in free agency. What a child chooses not to be engaged with the church, it reflects only on them. Howard W. Hunter put it well in Oct 1983 conference when he said, “A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught, and ministered to the needs of a child. If you have done all of these and your child is still wayward or troublesome or worldly, it could well be that you are, nevertheless, a successful parent. Perhaps there are children who have come into the world that would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances. Likewise, perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother.”

    I think the Lord cares more about our hearts than the size or shape of our family. One of the single parents at church insists on referring to her family as “broken.” I keep correcting her: “Unique.”

    I can appreciate that the pressure to conform varies from place to place, though.

  48. Tracy, of course I agree with you that we should try to be kind, tender and inclusive. In my experience, though, saying that the ideal is imaginary is not going to fly with the typical members I know.

  49. #47: Naismith: nicely done. Thanks for that comment.

  50. Sorry, that came across poorly. I really do wish that I felt less like the ‘other’ at Church. But that feeling is not, when I’m being honest, because of shunning, unkindness, or intentional putting down by people in my neighborhood. It’s more an internal struggle of dealing with cognitive dissonance that comes from realizing that I have made choices that have really made me happy, but that those choices are very different from what the majority of the Mormons I know have made, and encourage their kids to make.

  51. Naismith, I’m to tired to point out why and where I disagree with you, and where I think you’ve extrapolated things I didn’t say.

  52. Naismith, I’m not sure why you are taking such a contrary tone. It sounds like you think church should be (and often is, at least where you live) a place that welcomes all regardless of whether families fit some kind of cultural “mold,” which you feel is not part of the core gospel and covenants. That sounds exactly like what Tracy is saying. The only difference being that she wishes more people in the church felt that way too, whereas you seem to think everything is already fine.

  53. Mommie Dearest says:

    Naismith, if only the church were full of members like you, it’d be a far more perfect community.

    One of the main reasons why I remain mute about this issue is that I know that unless I am brilliant at choosing how to say it (I am more a foot-in-mouth kinda gal) people are just going to feel defensive and retreat into thinking that their wonderful family/life/marriage/successful choices is being attacked, and that’s just not it at all. What is wrong is the idea that those who are not a shining example of Mormon expectations are somehow not equal. Damning is exactly the word for it. Leave it to Tracy to come up with that.
    I have never felt like someone else should walk on eggshells around me. My peers who were far more amply blessed than me fully deserved them, as far as I gave it any thought. I love other’s successes, and I don’t lean toward envy. It’s just that I include myself as one of them, and too often I find that such inclusion is not reciprocated. It’s not at all about your perfect appearance or your blessings, it’s about the fact that some people will judge themselves as better (or more worthy — or something) than you, and like it or not, sometimes that person doing the sinful judging is you. Sometimes, to my horror, I have found myself doing it to the poor sister who was making, in my estimation, another bad choice in who to marry. Sometimes I witnessed my RS president doing it to a needy woman in the ward with severe depression. I learned to keep quiet from that. Sometimes, Naismith, even you do it.

    The truth is that we are all more or less the same before God, but we have this damnable (accurate label) habit of sorting out who we find to be respectable and righteous from the fallen, in a way that puts ourselves in the first category.

  54. I believe this is a very important post. At the same time, I think there is one question worth asking. This is not meant to be rude in any way, nor point fingers. I am only asking in naivety.
    How much of this is attributed to reality, and how much to hypersensitivity?

  55. Mommie Dearest says:

    Josh, what some people see as hypersensitivity is, to other people, reality.

  56. Naismith, I’m not totally clear on how your comments pertain to what Tracy has written. Her general idea seems to be that sometimes Mormons send boundary maintenance-type messages to each other in the things we say. More than that, some Mormons even ostracize people who stop attending church, and this is especially hurtful when it occurs between family members. You seem to think you are contradicting her by pointing out that diversity exists in the church, or that we need not be beholden to certain cultural norms which are not part of the covenants we make at baptism. Tracy wouldn’t suggest otherwise. What really interests me is whether you think it’s a good thing for Mormons to shun, or even look down on, people who leave the church. I doubt you do, so I don’t understand your response.

  57. I will attempt to answer my own question. Perhaps only an unbiased judge can fully answer this question. For the rest of us, “judge not.”
    Mommie Dearest, I wholeheartedly agree.

  58. Tracy, your writing is so beautiful it hurts my heart to read it.

  59. Beautiful and timely. Thank you.

  60. wreddyornot says:

    95.6-4.4

  61. “Naismith, I’m not sure why you are taking such a contrary tone.”

    I don’t mean to be contrary. I did question some of the assumptions, which I put in quotes. But it wasn’t clear to me whether Tracy was saying them because she believes them, or saying them as quoting others. (For those of you who have been fortunate enough to meet her in real life and hear her voice, this is probably more clear, but just reading the words in black-and-white is harder to discern.)

    “It sounds like you think church should be (and often is, at least where you live) a place that welcomes all regardless of whether families fit some kind of cultural “mold,” which you feel is not part of the core gospel and covenants. That sounds exactly like what Tracy is saying.”

    I don’t know. She twice mentions “cultural, social, and spiritual,” once regarding cultural markers and once with demands. And yes, I reject the cultural and social as not being an integral part of the gospel. So I have a hard time truly understanding why someone would worry about not fitting a “mold” or “ideal” that I don’t believe exists. And how they could be “less” than something that doesn’t exist.

    And I do agree with Deborah that,
    “‘Cause I there are so many ways to be “non-ideal” that most of us have at least one of them covered, right?”

    Yeah, I think the ninety-and-nine ARE those who are struggling in some way. Aren’t most of us?

    I don’t get the concept of “markers.” But perhaps I am just stupid that way. I see my challenge is to develop my personal spirituality and teach my own children. I am not worried about others on their own paths. Granted, it is entirely possible for me to trample over them because I was watching my own feet, and I don’t underestimate our ability to unintentionally wound one another.

    But each of us is seeking our own perfection, not someone else’s perfection. Each of us is trying to be the best parent to our own children, not anyone else’s. How could we judge another?

    “The only difference being that she wishes more people in the church felt that way too, whereas you seem to think everything is already fine.”

    I don’t think everything is fine. Not even close. I know that people are hurt every Sunday.

    But I also know that our relationships can be a minefield. I have a church friend who used to be very physically active, who is now mostly housebound. I thought I was being sensitive by NOT telling her about my recent vacation that involved climbing mountains, kayaking, etc., which I thought would be rubbing in that she can’t do it. Her roommate kindly pulled me aside and explained that I had offended her by not sharing all the details–she actually loves hearing about every detail. So I typed up eight pages.

    “Naismith, I’m not totally clear on how your comments pertain to what Tracy has written. Her general idea seems to be that sometimes Mormons send boundary maintenance-type messages to each other in the things we say.”

    I was questioning whether the social/cultural markers that she referenced do or should exist.

    “What really interests me is whether you think it’s a good thing for Mormons to shun, or even look down on, people who leave the church. I doubt you do, so I don’t understand your response.”

    No, I don’t think it is a good thing for Mormons to shun or even look down on, people who leave the church and certainly not their own family members. I don’t see how that can be justified by church teachings.

    I don’t think that the “entire family is marred,” and it wasn’t clear whether Tracy thinks that, or if she is repeating something that others have said.

  62. And yes, I reject the cultural and social as not being an integral part of the gospel. So I have a hard time truly understanding why someone would worry about not fitting a “mold” or “ideal” that I don’t believe exists.

    You may “reject them,” but I’m not sure what rejection would entail. Some things that go on at church are a part of our culture and need not have any basis whatsoever in the canon, manuals or lessons. Social norms and expectations, while they may not be “doctrine” still impact the way people feel and interact at church, as you also noted.

  63. Shiny.

  64. Yes, social expectations exist in our church, and previous conversations here have well established why it is important to not ‘torpedo’ yourself. At the same time however, that’s really got nothing to do with why we go every Sunday. We go to Sacrament Meeting to grow closer to God, and that’s it. So this ties back into people’s attempts to find friendships at church. Once a friend is found, it is best if socialization is taken outside of the Church as far as possible.

    While these secondary pressures exist, they are just that—secondary. I feel it can be eliminated, as Naismith has suggested, by a personal change in perception. This is not always possible in close family situations, and as Tracy has discussed, we can all try to do a little better. It reduces pain and frustration… a lot of it. But, #62, social pressure is never an excuse for individual agency. Not even in this case. There may be an impact, but 9 times out of 10 it probably should have been there.

  65. edit: “should not have been there.”

  66. Tracy, you know I love you. And I wrote a post about this exact same thing not long ago, so you know I agree with you 100%. Mormons don’t always treat people who make different life choices than they do very well (although I’m not sure that’s unique to Mormonism, but that’s another post altogether).

    But I did want to say this. Those “ideal” and “model” families–truly, I’m not sure they exist, and if they do, they are much fewer and farther between than you think. Everybody goes to church with something that isn’t perfect. All it takes is a few honest conversations with some folks before you realize that everybody is struggling with something hard and yucky. Those shiny kids with the perfect parents may have a dad who struggles with pornography. That perfectly coifed RS president may be dealing with a verbally abusive husband. And that pretty wife who is wondering if she should get pregnant before she loses that 10 pounds she still is carrying from the last baby may have a husband who is cheating on her. The lessons that hurt your heart may not be the same that hurt your neighbor, or even your neighbor’s children, but I’m be shocked if you could find a soul in the church who hasn’t left a RS lesson aching because of something that somebody said in the name of the “ideal”. I’m not saying this to be contrary–I’m just saying when you’re hurting, that there’s a good chance you’re not alone.

    And I think this would make a fantastic Ensign article. Or a RS lesson.

    As to the hypersensitivity issue, of COURSE people are hypersensitive. When a person is grieving or in pain, life itself often feels like walking through a briar patch–everything hurts. There’s not always much the rest of us can do about that life feeling, but that doesn’t mean we are allowed to dismiss their feelings in the name of hypersensitivity.

  67. A++. The second plus is for not only including David Linn, but my favorite David Linn.

  68. TP, it’s mine as well. Breathtaking.

  69. One of the best posts I have ever read… on any blog. My very non-traditional LDS family thanks you.

  70. Awesome work, Tracy

  71. I think that Naismith isn’t as off as some of y’all are saying. I was going to write an explanation of why I see her point of view favorably, but is now long enough that it’s turned into a post by itself, so it’ll have to wait a couple of days.

  72. I’m 98% sure that a discussion with my Stake President about why I wasn’t married in the temple and remained unsealed to my wife led to my being called as bishop. I only wish he had ostracized me. Setting that anecdote aside, however, I entirely agree we need to seek after the one.

  73. I dunno, it also comes back to the idea of whether we should all be on eggshells, or even stay home ourselves, for fear of offending someone.

    I don’t think this line is as fine as you make it out to be.

  74. Tracy M and bhodges and Sister Blah- Why are you shunning Naismith?

  75. I absolutley agree with what you are getting at… and there is certainly a better way we can talk about ideals without stone throwing at everyone else. But us it really pissible to now have the pebble throwing in a religion that teaches bad, acceptable (but not ideal) and better behavior? If the issue is handed gently it even just accurately its downgraded from stone throwing to pebble throwing… but a lot of pebbles can still break a window.

    How do we deal with all the bad or as the case may be not ideal choiced we make when we need to teach against such behavior or strongly encourage other behavior?
    Missions, temple marriage, children, premarital abstinence, Sabbath observance, even scripture reading. Are all things we talk about that have a “One should do Xyz” that is ever so easy to view as a stone throw against the one who doesn’t live up to that ideal… I guess for one we can remind people that they aren’t perfect either and just because you went on a mission or married in the temple doesn’t mean you aren’t condemned for ever lasting fire on account of refusing to help the immigrant or that person in need last week.

  76. Ha… possible… it might be the other too

  77. “You may “reject them,” but I’m not sure what rejection would entail.”

    Mostly, it means asking “Is this what the Lord would have me do?” and NOT “What will people think of me?”

    As far as the “checklist” of ideal in the OP, we’ve been in many of those situations, but it was never to check it off or fit a mold. “SAHM” is on the list, and I’ve been a fulltime mom during two different seasons of our lives. But that decision was NEVER motivated by a desire to fit into a mold or fulfill an ideal. It was simply our decision, after prayerfully decided was best for our family. Other times we did other things, and it never bothered me to be an employed mother of preschoolers, because we were doing the same thing as when I was at home. I never thought of myself as “non-traditional.” I never worried about what other people thought, and always assume that others are doing the same.

    It would be horrid if people go on a mission only because it is expected, or stay in an abusive marriage because of fear of being divorced. Why would one turn one’s free agency over to the people around them?

    “Some things that go on at church are a part of our culture and need not have any basis whatsoever in the canon, manuals or lessons.”

    Exactly. And thus they should not matter. I guess I don’t have the high expectations that some do for having friends etc. at church. (The year one daughter was born, she was the only baby born, so I had to make friends outside the ward for her playgroup.)

    “Social norms and expectations, while they may not be “doctrine” still impact the way people feel and interact at church, as you also noted.”

    I don’t deny that people’s feelings are hurt at church. I agree that we should try to avoid pain to others whenever we can. Hopefully, in making that attempt, we avoid torpedoing ourselves to the point where we cannot serve others.

    But the only “social norm” that should matter is whether one is trying to live the gospel to the best of their ability. Since we can’t and shouldn’t judge that, we should accept all who walk into our doors. Things like marital status, maternal employment, and past service are mere details that only add to the richness of our diversity. It would be a boring world if the only flavor of ice cream was vanilla.

    But I admit, I apparently didn’t “get” what Tracy was saying, so I apologize for the distraction.

  78. Why would it be horrid to do something because it was expected? The mind boggles.

  79. Matt W.: if I was shunning I wouldn’t be seeking clarification from Naismith through discussion.

    Naismith, I like your desire for diversity

  80. “Why would it be horrid to do something because it was expected?”

    What I actually wrote was “only because it was expected.” We all do things that are expected, because they also happen to be worthwhile things that we believe in. And hopefully each of us prayerfully comes to the conclusion that we should indeed be doing that thing.

    But to do something like go on a mission ONLY because it was expected?

  81. I apologize for my last comment, it was unhelpful and judgmental.

    I find myself frustrated by this post and Blair’s previous post. Perhaps it is because my experience tells me that the “Shunning Mormon” is a strawman who doesn’t exist. I feel like we make these judgments of others, that they are judgmental and cruel, when in fact they are not.Perhaps this is the crux of the post.Maybe it is I who needs to change, and it is not a call for anyone to change but me. I judge too much. I judge members. I judge ex-members. I judge the family of ex-members. I judge non-members. I judge anti-mormons. I judge in all I do.

    I appreciate the call for charity more, and I am sorry to have been the one to kick against the pricks. I see now it is not just the member leaving the church who needs charity and acceptance, but the family who is struggling with her leaving the church.

    Like so many other situations in life, this post leaves me with the cold realization that I do not know what is best. I do not know how to best express charity in any given situation. I am not certain what is God guiding me and what is my own wishful thinking, I am unclear on whether my ability to judge is of any use. So I do nothing. And the frustration of my own inability wells up inside me.

  82. Comments in this article such as:

    “And yet it keeps happening.”
    “At our baser level, it can become Us verses Them”
    “It’s fear.”
    “the idea I find most damning is that people who are not Mormon, not “us”, are somehow less. It’s never explicitly stated- we’d never do that- we love the people of (fill in the blank).”

    Are unfair.

    Some Mormons are that way — just as some people in other Churches are that way. And some people in other Churches are not that way, just as some Mormons are not that way.

    But this article is not written as though this were an aspect of human nature, but rather it makes this behavior sound like it is a more common *feature* of Mormonism.

    Which is absolutely not my experience. In fact, I have never, ever, in my life, seen any Mormon family cut someone off for being non-Mormon. Never. Ever. In over 35 years.

    Now, the fact that I have not seen it, does not lead me to believe it never happens. But it does lead me to believe that this article is emphasizing some sin that she observes in a particular instance and is generalizing it to a larger population.

    Which, as I said, is unfair.

  83. What I don’t get is the sense that doing something expected is worthwhile almost in spite of its being expected.

    I doubt you could find anyone, outside the madhouse, whose life and activity aren’t in majority part a matter of conforming to cultural and social expectations.

    The cults of authenticity and individuality are too much with us.

  84. Thank you for yet another wonderful post.

    Two thoughts:
    1) I know a family with something like 10 children, two of which are living openly gay lifestyles. Yet I see family events, pictures on FB and the like with the parents there, hugging their gays sons and smiling and loving them. At a family funeral I heard the mother bear her testimony, and what she said included a few things that I think hinted at her hope that her sons would eventually return to the Church (something I think only those aware of the situation would have caught), but she also was SO loving of all her children in her testimony–and that love was palpable. If her sons ever return to the Church, it’ll be in large part because their mother never, ever stopped loving them and embracing them.

    2) I believe that fear draws Satan to us. We’re told that perfect love (ie, Christ’s love, His spirit) casteth out all fear. So any time we start living in a fearful manner (like the girl I knew in HS who feared everything from the alcohol in vanilla to PG movies to discussing female puberty issues), we draw darkness to us and lose the Spirit–even when we’re afraid of things we could be justifiably afraid of. Moving forward with faith, not fear, is something I know I need to work on, and I believe it’s something that would solve a lot of issues in the Church.

  85. I am baffled at the direction some of you have taken from reading my piece. This is my church and I love it. Just because we haven’t had the same experiences does not mean anyone’s are invalid. I put my reputation and the collected body of my writing on the table as evidence of not only the validity of my experiences, but my love this gospel and of this church.

  86. Matt W.:

    Perhaps it is because my experience tells me that the “Shunning Mormon” is a strawman who doesn’t exist. I feel like we make these judgments of others, that they are judgmental and cruel, when in fact they are not.

    I don’t know how common it is, myself. I can only think of maybe one or two instances that I’ve been aware of personally, not through the grapevine. Like you I wonder about the “whole story,” because some of those grapevine examples came via the person who left, and their acerbic way of handling things made me wonder how much of the “shunning” was due to their own arrogance. I tried to hint at that in my post on cults.

    More often than shunning, I’ve seen instances where a person leaves the church and they are treated quite differently after that. They feel a withdrawal, a cold shoulder, etc. Sometimes they might be imagining it, but I’ve also seen it happen for reals. I blogged about this a while ago:

    http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2010/02/i-leave-church-but-they-wont-leave-me.html

    Basically, it can be really hard to hear over and over that you should come back to the church, or that your life might be better if you came back, or etc. It makes love seem conditional on church activity. I have no idea how widespread it is, but I’ve seen a few cases of it and heard enough people talk about it to believe that it’s something we all could do a little better on.

    I want to emphasize that I don’t think this sort of problem isn’t unique to the Church, and it isn’t a necessary outcome of the teachings of the Church, and there are plenty of teachings, admonitions, and scriptures that try to pull us in the other direction. Matt, your feeling of not knowing what to do was really well stated, and I’ll bet most of us, at one point or another, feel that same way.

  87. *I want to emphasize that I don’t think this sort of problem is unique to the Church, rather!

  88. Steve Evans says:

    #82: superb reasoning: I haven’t witnessed it, therefore the OP is faulty and unfair. You’re right! All is well in Zion!

    Lemme guess: RM, white, male, married, kids…

  89. #47-#77 Naismith

    I support your comments. And I see the back and forth between you and others
    .
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    I have thought about social “things” in being a member of the Church that seem to really bug people. I have to admit, I am sort of immune to those feelings — they never encroach and so I am not exactly able to relate. But I have observed them.

    I can think of a person. This person is a somewhat judgmental man and while he does not say things in the meanest ways, they can even sound almost nice, still he can be mean and unkind. He has hurt people’s feelings — which to some people is a worse sin than adultery. In addition, he has been involved in some illegal and unethical business dealings that landed him in Prison for a stretch.

    Despite that, he is presently on the Stake High Council.

    It is my personal opinion that he has a Psychopathic Personality Disorder, which does not allow him to feel toward people the way we all believe and the way we are taught that we should feel, one to another. (I don’t blame him for this. I consider Personality Disorders to be like a physical handicap — something that is nearly impossible or fully impossible for the person with the problem to fix)

    There are some people who (as far as I can tell) would see some actions of his and be horrified. They would run around, upset and certain that the Church or its leaders are corrupt. In some cases, they would gossip about him and seek to destroy any possible good influence he might achieve.

    Little do they realize that they are, in essence, sinning as much or more than the target of their wrath.

    He owns a company and recently I talked to a woman who had worked there for many many years. For no particular reason, he had his manager fire this woman. No particularly good reason — the company was making money, the woman was doing her job. But he fired her anyway. I spoke with her and expected to hear the same sort of bitterness that other people have expressed toward him.

    She was not the least bit bitter toward him. She said, “Working for him was horrible — he manages things so that it creates a bad atmosphere. But we all have problems and we are all working on them. That is what the Gospel is about — trying to become better people. We don’t really know all the issues in his life and we should not judge him. We work on ourselves.”

    I recall the instance of a Bishop, who had a non-member come to him to complain about a neighbor who was a Mormon. The Bishop listened patiently as non-member neighbor listed a pandora’s box full of all kinds of negative behaviors — from not maintaining his lawn to drinking beer and cussing. The Bishop told me that after listening to all of this his first thought was to say “Yeah, that’s all pretty bad, but just think how much worse it would all be if he were not a Mormon! Why he might even be a gossip and backbiter on top of all the rest!”.

    Many years ago, I was a member of a Bishopric in a struggling ward — a ward that had such huge issues that the Stake Presidency didn’t recommend anyone moving to the Stake to move to that ward. But I purposefully did so because as I said “I want to labor where the work is needed the most”.

    Well, that Ward was definitely a challenging area!

    In trying to be helpful at a Stake training meeting, I said something that could easily and not unreasonably be construed as statements where I put myself, mentally, morally, emotionally or intellectually above the other members of the ward. That was absolutely not my meaning or intent (I was seriously clueless), but my words could have been taken that way — and were.

    I was horrified when I heard my words repeated back to me in anger and shown how they affected the person who heard them — a woman that I really liked a lot. I apologized. Profusely. I assured her as much as I could that I never meant them that way — that I was trying to help in an effort the Stake was putting out that might not fit in our ward.

    She would have none of it. She hated me. She ran around the ward telling people all about how horrible I was. It divided the ward. (Some people were angry at her for speaking badly about me!) I asked the Bishop to release me, he refused. I got up in Church and made a public confession and apology, but that did not help. Some people left the Church, never to return.

    Its the worst, most horrible experience of my Church life.

    My words, ignorant and unfeeling, were hurtful. But I was not trying to destroy. I was trying to help. I erred. I will always be sorry about that and I learned a lot from the lesson about the power of words to build or destroy, and the need to watch what you say — that intentions are not enough, you must actually do good. But this woman could have helped make things better and instead used my error as a weapon against the Gospel — to which she would claim allegiance.

    I am just another member, striving as hard as I can to live according to the standards of the Gospel as best I know how. But to some people, I am evidently that “bad” man, prideful, who is a hypocrite, lording his righteousness over other people, using power and influence badly or who knows what else people have said about me that I do not know about, particularly at that time. I hope that these are misperceptions. If they are true, all I can offer is that I am trying to be a good person and working with the limitations of who I am. I certainly do not want to hurt people.

    But that other people cannot read my mind and do not know the intentions of my heart, did not stop some members from imagining that they could and thereby judging me — in a way that was very destructive, not just to me but to the work of the Lord.

    Since that time, whenever I have heard stories of horror and abuse and betrayal and so on by leaders or members of the Church toward other members, I always feel a bit torn. Sure I want to be sympathetic toward the person who feels hurt and abused. But I also know that I am not able to read the mind of the offender, I do not know what issues they are struggling with, I do not know what facts they have that I do not have — I do not, and generally cannot know both sides and the full story behind the dispute. And so I end up feeling that I cannot, in fairness, think much less talk about the offender in a way that would support the negative feelings of the person who is complaining about their injury.

    If we know people who are bitter or abusive towards someone who has left the Church — simply for the fact that they left the Church (and I do not personally know anyone like that) — then we need to be every bit as kind and non-judging toward them as we would be toward the person leaving the Church — or perhaps even more so.

    This is not to forgive sin. But it is to not overstep the bounds of our own knowledge and sit in a judgment seat to which we were not appointed. Let’s not talk and gossip about such people. Let’s not murmur behind their backs and make innuendo about the true nature of their spirits or faithfulness.

    And when we encounter people who are gossiping, murmuring or otherwise complaining about how they are the lost, the forgotten, the overlooked, the abused, in the Lord’s Kingdom, lets help such people find a better way to view themselves and others in the Kingdom! I suspect that if they knew the hearts and minds of the people that they believe have hurt them — how much we are ALL struggling — they would be more spiritually generous!

    Let’s forgive one another — let’s even forgive those people who ostracize the people who leave the Church or who seem to abuse us.

    Lest, as Jesus said, the greater sin remain in us.

  90. Tracy, thank you for sharing this absolutely beautiful post!

    I think that the real problem is that we oftentimes forget that we, as good ol’ Latter-day Saints, are God’s covenant people. Does that make us special? Heck no. It only means we have something special. The gospel only changes us if we allow it to. There will always be those within the church who look down upon those who are not in “the ideal” situation, but they are in very deed throwing stones that will bring upon their own damnation so to speak. As God’s covenant people here in our day we forget that, historically speaking, God’s covenant people are always a bunch of murmuring, sinful hypocrites. It was that way in the Bible. It was that way in The Book of Mormon. And it’s been that way in our dispensation (the Law of Consecration comes to mind). As disciples of Christ, who have covenanted to take upon His name, we are to love those who hurt us, defame us, criticize us for our un-ideal situations, and to especially love those who are “leaving us”. The Savior loves everyone equally and unequivocally. His people though…we could all use some work.

    I am sorry for your friend, and hope that through it all they might feel the Savior’s love and find their way back some day.

  91. #88 I specifically said “the fact that I have not seen it, does not lead me to believe it never happens.” Would re-reading my post, and recognizing that I am not doing what you accused me of doing, change your response? Or does it not really matter what I said?

  92. Steve Evans says:

    #91 not really.

  93. I stand with Tracy.

    That is all.

  94. Well, Steve, at least you’re honest. Since I’ve come out about being a close-minded douchebag my life hasn’t improved much, but maybe your experience will be different.

  95. “Since I’ve come out about being a close-minded douchebag my life hasn’t improved much, but maybe your experience will be different.”

    Really? My life has majorly improved since I came out.

  96. #92. I don’t understand your thinking or your ways. Everyone is different.

  97. Chris H.,
    I blame my family for being insufficiently accepting.

  98. I know it is only tangentially related to the post, but I know from firsthand experience that the “Shunning Mormon” exists. My wife and I experienced it to the point where we had to move to another state to get away from the shunning, led and encouraged by a branch president, district relief society president, and high councilor. On the way out, I promised the district president I would not name the place publicly again.

    At my workplace, I have my two diplomas from BYU on my office wall, so the question naturally arises whether I am a member. During the last couple of years at this town, I would quickly change the subject, since I did not want to introduce any of my work friends to the atmosphere I faced at church every week.

  99. Steve Evans says:

    All you haters who claim that mormons don’t shun each other could learn a lot by watching my admin style.

  100. I belong to an obscure sect called the Shunners. At our meetings we sit silently until moved by the Holy Spirit to not speak to each other.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Adam, I thought you were a Shaking Shunner.

  102. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’ve been tempted to be discouraged by some of these comments, but I think instead, I’ll take it as an instructive experience.

  103. I hope I never am guilty of ostracizing a friend or family member who wanders away from the Church.

    I also hope I am never guilty of testing the tensile strength of the heart strings of my family and friends, by wandering away from the Church.

  104. Oh, and a bit of a side issue, but this “equality” concept troubles me. It is manifestly obvious that all souls are of immeasurable worth to their Father. It is also manifestly obvious that no two souls are equal in any sense of mathematical identity. I for one would not wish to be treated exactly the same as any other person, becuase I am not exactly like any other person.

    So far as human affairs go, “equality”, like “fairness”, is a term fraught with meaninglessness.

  105. JM,
    you’ve never violently bleached some Godbeite’s blue collared shirt?

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