MMTP: Suspicious Activity Edition

Your Monday Morning Theological Poll:

True of or False: If someone wishes to leave the church, it is because they have some grave, unconfessed sin.

Please explain your reasons, preferably with juicy details, below.

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  1. StillConfused says:

    I chose false because I am looking at it from the parishoner’s point of view. But in the Church’s eyes, and in the members’ eyes, I think the answer would be true. As far as God’s eyes, I personally think he sides with the parishoner.

  2. False. Which is to say that it could be true, but not necessarily.

  3. There are a couple of possible assumptions behind this poll. One is that most people who leave the Church do so because of sin. The other is that most members of the Church believe that to be true. Both assumptions are incorrect and offensive.

  4. My answer based on life exp would be “sometimes”.

  5. I voted “false.” In my Ward, we have an older sister who has stopped coming to Church since the first part of the year. She has no hard feelings against the members, but explained to the Bishop (and to me) that she just got tired of coming each week and feeling like she didn’t accept most any of the doctrine being taught. To her credit, she has been very gracious about her departure. And to our Ward’s credit, I haven’t heard one single busybody gossiping about her and how “if she left the Church, it must be because of some unresolved sin.”

    This folk doctrine that people only leave the Church because of sin is a pernicious one because it further isolates the departed. I’m so glad that my Ward seems to have rejected the idea. One day, this sister may come around, and I hope the Ward stays a hospitable place for her.

  6. You just made my son laugh.

  7. Jami,

  8. I said “true,” but I thought the question was a joke.

    In my experience, people who leave are either offended by someone in the church or just get tired of all the responsibilities involved with being a member of the church.

    Maybe bishops see more instances of “grave, unconfessed sin” causing people to fall away, but for the rest of us, supposing someone leaves due to sin is usually either gossip or supposition. I mean, how often does your friend tell you, “I watch porn all the time, and I don’t want to stop, so I’m leaving the church”? We may know people who commit grave sins, and they may leave the church, but how often do we know that they left because of the grave sin?

  9. I voted False, *but* one could argue that wishing to leave the church is itself a sin, so…

  10. Martin Willey says:

    Church members like to believe that the answer is “true.” But it is not always true.

  11. None of the above? Would anyone really speculate about that? I don’t think most people would. I think my problem is I tend to assume, “Most people who leave the church got offended about something.”

  12. Katherine says:

    I might lean towards Matt’s response (#9). If we put pride and laziness (sleeping through 8am church…) and other such things in the sin category, then maybe. I don’t know.

  13. #8: Sloth is a sin, right? ;)

  14. I’m with MCQ in #3. Did we run out of controversial theology so soon?

  15. I just like that the poll asks “True of False”—still trying to wrap my mind around what that means….

  16. I assumed that by describing the sin as “grave,” the poll question referred to since capable of preventing a person from attending the temple, or at the very least taking the sacrament. Since “wishing to leave the church,” “pride,” “laziness,” and “sloth” do not qualify, I didn’t consider them in my response.

    If you do consider all of these to be “grave,” unconfessed sins in the context of the poll question, then the only time someone left the church for a reason other than a grave, unconfessed sin would be if it was completely random and non-premeditated (or if they confessed). These broad definitions of “grave” sins would make the poll question meaningless.

  17. “since capable of preventing” should read “sins capable of preventing”

  18. I think the main reasons are apathy and burn out. I also think both are way more common than we think!

  19. It’s insulting when someone assumes that I would give up the only religion I’ve ever known and the possibility of an eternity with my family because of some sin (that one can probably be forgiven of with repentance, mind you), or because I had a petty disagreement with someone in the bishopric or relief society. That might be true for some people, but give the rest of us a little credit, please. I left because I can’t/don’t believe it anymore. If someone you know leaves the church and you want to know why, try asking them. It works a lot better than gossip and assumptions based on the very little you likely know about their lives. Oh, and try not to avoid them like they have a contagious plague,

    I’m not a bad person hiding a terrible sin or embroiled in a dumb feud with Brother or Sister So-And-So. But try telling that to my former ward.

  20. False – based on no data and just my gut, I would think people who have gravely sinned are more likely to want to stay within the fold and seek repentance.

  21. Mel– I think we all know this is a problem. Hence I even pointed out that this was “my problem”. It’s insulting that you think we are so self-absorbed that we really believe that is why people leave the church when we think about it. I haven’t read even one comment that says they truly believe people leave the church over some grievous sin–just posts that are self-righteous and think the main body of the church does, as if the bloggernacle is above such things–being the deep thinkers they are.

  22. Who knows what the percentages are, and there are surely some folks who suffer from apathy and burnout (I know some who still go to church but don’t really care.) There are probably a lot of folks who are not converted or compelled by the gospel, and I suppose that could either be their problem for not being in tune enough, or perhaps it is an indication that the gospel is not a good fit for all people. [gasp!]

    But I think the more common reason which forces members to assume sin is when someone leaves out of principle. I am talking about those folks who not only don’t believe the truth claims, but who also feel that LDS lifestyle and activity is destructive. If you really felt that staying Mormon was hurting you and/or your family, which would be the moral choice… to stay or to go?

    If you replace “staying Mormon” with “staying Catholic” (or some other faith), I think we know what an LDS misionary would tell that person.

  23. Eveningsun says:

    Mel: I left because I can’t/don’t believe it anymore. Absolutely. But for many of us off the reservation it’s more than just ceasing to believe in the BoM, etc. In my own case it is also the feeling I get in conversations with the theologically orthodox that they’re just not arguing in good faith (e.g., being unwilling to acknowledge even the most obvious implications of their statements, or insisting that 2+2 equals 5 if one has a testimony to that effect), or that they’re insulting your intelligence, or that they just don’t know their LDS scriptures and history very well. There are times in such conversations when I can just feel my IQ dropping. More than anything else it’s that feeling that keeps me off the reservation.

    As for the poll question–given its categorical nature, it’s pretty hard to answer with anything but “False.”

  24. mmiles,
    This poll was suggested to me by someone who is dealing with a relatively recent decision to stop attending church. This person is wondering if people think this about this person. FWIW

  25. Eveningsun,
    Comments to the effect that “talking with people with whom I disagree actually makes me stupider” are the comments of trolls. You are on the edge of that. Please watch your words.

  26. ola senor says:

    False – because of the “unconfessed” qualified. Without meaning to be intentionally offensive, I believe that failing to live up to the commandants made at baptism are a grave sin. Grave because of the seriousness, and “sin” in that it is something that will keep us from God. So a loss of belief would be a “grave… sin”. I know people hate to play word games like this, but I think it needs to get out there.

    That said – do I think that there is some salcious immoral act that caused people to leave the church? No.

    Evening Sun #23
    “There are times in such conversations when I can just feel my IQ dropping. More than anything else it’s that feeling that keeps me off the reservation.”
    I feel this way about lots of groups. When I went to my green party meetings, in my college classes, and many other places. Lets face it, not everyone is a genius. And most people really aren’t all that interested in history or theology, church members included.

  27. JohnC-
    It appears you can tell this person few people will think that. Although, I am reminded that some very close friends of mine left the church about a year ago. They told me it was because they were offended. I sometimes wonder if it is disagreement with doctrine. I have a friend who did tell me she thinks one of them committed adultery–which is 100% speculation on her part (Nevertheless she’s convinced herself it’s true)–and quite gossipy. So I guess we come in all stripes.

  28. People leave the church for a million different reasons.

  29. StillConfused says:

    Threadjack – So yesterday I went to get some bark for my back yard (shopping on Sunday, working on Sunday — probably grave sins, though freely confessed). I pull up to my side yard. Two doors down I see a family getting in the car for church. Big family. Coming out of the house last were the mom and a teenage daughter. Apparently the mom was not happy with the daughter. She yells at her and then starts hitting her. In the front yard. In their church clothes. Just the day before, I saw the missionaries visiting the family across the street. Hope that family didn’t observe the spectacle.

  30. Eveningsun says:

    John C. #25 (Comments to the effect that “talking with people with whom I disagree actually makes me stupider” are the comments of trolls. You are on the edge of that. Please watch your words.”: I understand your concern. However, you did ask for people to explain their reasons, and it’s just a fact that, justifiably or not, I sometimes feel that way (honestly, don’t you ever feel that way?) and that the feeling is one of the things that keeps me away.

    FWIW, BCC is one of those places where I don’t feel that way–where in fact I always feel I’m in intelligent and fairminded company.

    ola senor #26 (I feel this way about lots of groups. When I went to my green party meetings, in my college classes, and many other places.): Agreed. And if you don’t feel like going back and once again being part of those groups, well, that’s exactly my point.

  31. OpaqueDream says:

    I don’t think that many people would choose to go through the pain of forsaking their beliefs and rebuilding their lives just because they sinned. It’s not that easy to leave.

  32. Peter LLC says:

    Can’t be true. I sin like a m*********** and still drag my sorry a** to church on a regular basis.

  33. Peter LLC FTW!

  34. Ola senor says:

    Evening Sun #30 i realize my comment didn’t make this point explicit – so let me try again. My point was that a variety of people exist in all groups, and that we shouldn’t judge something else by their failure to articulate it. The existence of people who don’t “get it” doesn’t make the “it” less true.

    Or in other words – the existence of or prevalence of weak consonant arguments should not negate the correctness of the principle. For example, when my son says that an apple falls from the tree because “it wants to go down”, does not mean that the principle of gravity does not apply. Similarly, my failure to expound upon the awesomeness that is U2 and the dynamism between the Edge and Adam Clayton, does not negate the power of the band.

  35. John (7), my son is fourteen and apparently the thought of anyone committing undisclosed major sins or that anyone would speculate that someone else had u.m.s. just cracked him up which just cracked me up.

    My experience with people who leave the church is that most of them just don’t feel like coming anymore for a variety of reasons, with boredom topping the list.

  36. Actually, it has been conclusively shown that people who leave the Church are those who believe that people leave the Church because they have some grave, unconfessed sin.

  37. False, with a big ole’ cherry on top.

  38. I had no idea this opinion was widespread in the church. I have been considering leaving the church for a couple of months now. I can assure you it is purely because of my unanswered questions regarding any number of topics, but not because of serious sin. I have been a very active member of the church for 13 years, 10 of which I have been endowed. I finally confided my feelings to my husband this weekend and a good LDS friend today – My husband I trust, but now I am wondering, should I have kept my questions to myself instead of talking to my LDS friend?

  39. Nebraska says:

    I answered ‘true’, but I really wanted to answer ‘mostly true’.

    My experience…While a bishop I excommunicated many men (priests) and many women. Some of these were for people who also requested name removal. I also processed many additional requests for name removal.

    In every single case of name removal, there were sins involved that could/should have resulted in a disciplinary council. I don’t think the sin led to the desire to leave the church. Maybe it went like this – struggling with testimony > loss of testimony > no reason to care about the rules > serious sin occurs > may as well have my name removed.

    I don’t consider porn use, by itself, to be a grave sin. Certainly not a disciplinary council type of sin.

  40. MikeInWeHo says:

    From a faithful LDS perspective, is it possible for anyone to leave for a good reason?

    I think that may be the case for me. I was only an active member briefly, maybe a year. I did not commit any major sins during that time, not at all. Nonetheless I had the strongest feeling: “I need to get out of here before something bad happens.” One day I just walked away.

    Fast forward a few years and I finally deal with the fact that I am gay. I never went to the temple, never got pressured to marry a woman (which would have been disastrous for all involved), never faced church discipline…the list goes on. I became a friend of the Church, and very unlikely occasional defender of the Mormon faith. I’m a successful professional with a great family and a happy life.

    Things might have been very different had I tried to stay active back in college. Of course, I could be completely deluded. What do you think?

  41. MikeInWeHo asks “From a faithful LDS perspective, is it possible for anyone to leave for a good reason?”

    Good question. The way I define “faithful LDS perspective,” yes, I think an honest answer would have to be that there ARE good reasons to leave the church. I think of marriage as analogous. In some instances, there are good reasons for a spouse to leave a marriage. In fact, our last Stake President once famously counseled a couple in our Stake to get divorced. What? you say? Well, their relationship had deteriorated so much that the mental and emotional health of the husband and wife was at risk. After several long years of trying to make it work, this wise Stake President finally told the couple, “Just end it.” The two have now moved on with their lives and seem to be happier than when they were together.

  42. MikeInWeHo says:

    I like that analogy a lot, Hunter.

  43. My BYU Institute teacher (who works in the Church office building and thus frequently rubs shoulders with General Authorities) often tells stories about various experiences he’s had with Church leaders. A few times he’s mentioned Jewish friends he’s worked with. I believe it was President Kimball who was meeting with a prominent man in the Jewish community, and he said it was better for him to be outside the Church. I took that to mean that he had work he could do outside the Church that wouldn’t happen if he were to become a member (not that the prophet was saying his soul would be better of if he didn’t get baptized). I don’t know if he meant things in terms of building bridges, or just faithful service among people who related better to someone outside the Church. In any case, I would suppose that if there are good reasons for people not to join the Church, there are also good reasons for people to leave the Church. Clearly, this man was friendly with President Kimball; by the same token, I would hope that if someone leaves the Church, he or she could continue a relationship with it on friendly terms.

  44. sorry, I’m a latecomer to this thread. . .
    I think you wouldn’t get such slanted results if you didn’t ask such leading questions

  45. Karl Zanhem says:

    Perhaps the better question to ask would be:

    “Do you believe that some people leave the church as the result of an honest, sincere personal quest for truth and meaning?”

    I make no assumptions about most members of the church. I do know, anecdotally, that there are many who automatically assume that my departure can be for one of only two reasons. I’ve had the question asked to me on many occasions, always setting up the dichotomy: Was there some commandment I couldn’t live/sin I failed to resolve, or had I been offended by someone within the church. With those people, there can be no meaningful dialog about it. Very little of that mentality, however, can be found on this website. I find that refreshing, which is why I pop in from time to time.