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5 years ago  ::  Jan 29, 2009 - 5:40PM #1
UwishUwereMe
Posts: 2,352
I had some thoughts about those that "leave the Church" and here they are. 

I mean you have to do what you have to do, but seriously.  I see leaving the church as kind of a add thing.  I mean going inactive works for some, but the idea that something about the Church can't be reconsiled just baffles me.  What CANT be reconciled that is so crucial and crazy that you can't either ignore it or just move on?

I mean seriously, Just the things that happen in the Old and New Testiment alone are almost unbelievable to believers, and totally crazy to non-believers.  I mean Jesus magically turns water into wine?  How the hell did that happen.  His name wasn't Jesus Copperfield.  So if you can believe in talking snakes, talking flaming bushes(not the former president's gay cousin) water being turned into wine, Jesus being some form or another of G-d, Jesus being tortured to death then showing up at a party unannounced, etc.  Why couldn't an angel talked to Joseph Smith?  Why couldn't have JS had a tea party with diety in the woods?  Why couldn't JS have translated an ancient record of North American peoples?  Why is everything so probable for believers in the OT and NT, but everything that came from the "restoration" is so unbelieveable?  Don't you think that the OT and NT peeps thought the "miraculous religious happenings" of the day didn't raise a few nappy hairs?

I see quitting the LDS church and going to another church like going form the frying pan into the fire!
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 29, 2009 - 9:56PM #2
Ironhold
Posts: 11,380
From what I understand, a lot of people who leave do so either because someone has deeply offended them or peer pressure from non-members forced them out.
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 29, 2009 - 10:23PM #3
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

UwishUwereMe wrote:

I mean seriously, Just the things that happen in the Old and New Testiment alone are almost unbelievable to believers, and totally crazy to non-believers.  I mean Jesus magically turns water into wine?  How the hell did that happen.  His name wasn't Jesus Copperfield.  So if you can believe in talking snakes, talking flaming bushes(not the former president's gay cousin) water being turned into wine, Jesus being some form or another of G-d, Jesus being tortured to death then showing up at a party unannounced, etc.  Why couldn't an angel talked to Joseph Smith?  Why couldn't have JS had a tea party with diety in the woods?  Why couldn't JS have translated an ancient record of North American peoples?  Why is everything so probable for believers in the OT and NT, but everything that came from the "restoration" is so unbelieveable?  Don't you think that the OT and NT peeps thought the "miraculous religious happenings" of the day didn't raise a few nappy hairs?


Sounds like a comic book.

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5 years ago  ::  Jan 29, 2009 - 10:23PM #4
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

Ironhold wrote:

From what I understand, a lot of people who leave do so either because someone has deeply offended them or peer pressure from non-members forced them out.


Or their head hurts from the pressure of trying to contain all those contradictions.  Mormonism has inherited a lot of baggage from Christianity and Judaism, stuff Joseph Smith thought to question - outside the prospect of retranslating the Bible.  Those problems alone are enough to make you run screaming into the night.  The Restored Gospel papers over some of these issues but not all of them, and it imposes a set of new burdens, not the least of which is to thump your chest and bear solemn testimony that you know "the Church is true" at the drop of a hat.

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5 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 4:43PM #5
MMCSFOX
Posts: 1,529
LEAVING THE CHURCH

Ironhold posted
“From what I understand, a lot of people who leave do so either because someone has deeply offended them or peer pressure from non-members forced them out.”
*
Bill posted:
“Or their head hurts from the pressure of trying to contain all those contradictions. Mormonism has inherited a lot of baggage from Christianity and Judaism, stuff Joseph Smith thought to question - outside the prospect of retranslating the Bible. Those problems alone are enough to make you run screaming into the night. The Restored Gospel papers over some of these issues but not all of them, and it imposes a set of new burdens, not the least of which is to thump your chest and bear solemn testimony that you know "the Church is true" at the drop of a hat.”
*
Let’s not forget ego.
Sadly I do agree with Ironhold here that quite often members do and say some very stupid things to each other. Yet we also see members of families not talking to each other for the same reasons. I am not excusing dumbness here but possibly commenting on ego problems.

I have come to believe that contradictions are a necessity to agency.
I fully believe that agency requires there be an easily understood falsehood for every truth. Agency then REQUIRES US to SEEK out which is which. After all if the truth were easily found and understood without effort on our part there would be no true agency or test.

Ok I am 70 now and I can say that I believed the Church was true all of my life yet I did not really gain a testimony of it until sometime in my 50’s, so there is a vast difference in knowing, understanding and a testimony.

Of course in my teen years I was one of those who really just did not care and that is how I ended up in the service at 17. Which may very well have saved my life in Los Angeles.

Now lets discuss ego. I have some very smart cousins who have left the Church after serving missions and callings in their wards. One has had general authorities in his home and as a youth knew the truth. Yet these very smart and highly educated attorneys and doctors have simply left because of minor disagreements and their ego’s are unwilling to let them bend.

Lastly I just note that many of us have had events in our life at times that strengthens that testimony and knowledge yet we do not discuss those things in public or in public forums as they are sacred to us. We do talk about them sometimes in small groups among those who also have had these events in their life. So some of us are able to bear that solemn testimony that we know "the Church is true" at the drop of a hat.”

Lastly part 2: I do believe that it is our responsibility to those members that do leave the Church to continue to hold friendship sacred and maintain contact with them without pressing or being judgmental. Being a good example and friend is of the utmost importance, which I believe we will have to answer for if we make no effort.

Jesse F.
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Even if you be otherwise perfect, you fail without humility.
- Talmud: Kalla Rabbati
*
(wow I can’t believe I wrote that much. Bill must be rubbing off on me a little.)
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 9:18PM #6
moksha8088
Posts: 4,916
I have read quite a few posts elsewhere of what people who have left the Church describe as their reason.  The one item that is mentioned most often is that they learned things about the history of the Church that shook their faith.  However as Ironhold mentioned, there are other reasons as well.
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 11:44PM #7
Ironhold
Posts: 11,380

moksha8088 wrote:

I have read quite a few posts elsewhere of what people who have left the Church describe as their reason.  The one item that is mentioned most often is that they learned things about the history of the Church that shook their faith.  However as Ironhold mentioned, there are other reasons as well.


In fact, as I'm trying to explain over on another website it's alarmingly common for critics of the church to create fake "atrocity" stories to whip up sympathy for their arguments.

Among the more common stories is that they were somehow victimized by the church; they were either members who were traumatized or forced out for not being perfect, or they were non-members subjected to harsh (if not inhuman) treatment.

For these types of stories, it serves a secondary purpose: hide the real reason why they might no longer be members of the church.


For example, J. Edward Decker claims that he lost his faith in the church and was led to the "truth" by a female co-worker. In reality, Decker was a serial adulterer whose wife got tired of his antics; had Decker not left the church of his own volition, he'd have been ex'd for his assorted infidelities.

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5 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2009 - 2:50PM #8
li47
Posts: 856
Bill and Moksha have articulated my feelings petty well, and I hope it's ok for an exmormon to pop in and add a quick comment here.

I think the OP raises some interesting questions, and I think I understand the point he/she is coming from. It's very true that the old and new testaments are full of miraculous and "hard to believe" happenings. I think it should be understood that many Christians regard the stories of the bible as allegorical rather than factual, and that they serve the purpose of teaching us a greater truth - that's where I find myself. In other words, I don't feel any contradiction in my beliefs. As to those who do believe the stories as factual, but no longer believe in the truthfulness of the lds faith and the book of mormon, well, I'm not sure why they find one still believable and not the other. Belief is like that - it meets each of us in different ways and we live our lives accordingly.

As to the OP that asked what could not be reconciled or ignored, well, there are a lot of things for me, enough that I could not continue my membership in good conscience. I would have been living a lie. However, in changing my religious affiliation, I feel I haven't "jumped from the frying pan into the fire" but rather into a new frying pan that suits me better.

Hope it was ok for me to attempt to offer an answer to uwish's post. Thanks.
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5 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2009 - 6:47PM #9
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

Ironhold wrote:

In fact, as I'm trying to explain over on another website it's alarmingly common for critics of the church to create fake "atrocity" stories to whip up sympathy for their arguments. Among the more common stories is that they were somehow victimized by the church; they were either members who were traumatized or forced out for not being perfect, or they were non-members subjected to harsh (if not inhuman) treatment. For these types of stories, it serves a secondary purpose: hide the real reason why they might no longer be members of the church.  For example, J. Edward Decker claims that he lost his faith in the church and was led to the "truth" by a female co-worker. In reality, Decker was a serial adulterer whose wife got tired of his antics; had Decker not left the church of his own volition, he'd have been ex'd for his assorted infidelities.


With YouTube, anybody can watch just enough of The Godmakers to want to run Ed Decker over with a Winnebago, back up, run him over again, back up, run him over again, and keep at it until his heart has been "properly softened."

Ed Decker is a scumbag.  So are the Tanners.  So are a lot of people whose antagonism toward the Church is just a sideshow.  These people are exploiting the many who wake up one morning, realize that the honeymoon is over, and decide that the marriage isn't going to get any better.  Many suffer in silence.  Many negotiate some way of balancing things out.  Some have a second honeymoon and start over.  A fair number just leave - either informally (through inactivity) or formally (through resignation).  People like Decker use these people, and their non-member relatives who are concerned enough to buy all the accessories, as a cash cow.

But that doesn't make every person who leaves the Church another Ed Decker, a hothead, a weak personality or an egomaniac.  A fair number of people leave because they were sold a bill of goods.  They've called technical support.  They've tried rebooting the drive.  They've read the manual, called the 800 number, filled out the forms and reloaded the software.  Sometimes, even when you do everything everybody tells you to do, you just come to the conclusion that this is not the thing you thought it was when you hit the water in your tidy whities.

I, too, have noticed that when people leave the Church, they sometimes embellish their reasons for checking out.  Apparently, it's not enough to say they've had a change of heart.  It's not enough for them to say they no longer believe in the miracle - that the stories they always knew to be unlikely and implausible (but were nevertheless true) may, in the end, just be unlikely and implausible.  They need a rock'n'rolla reason.  They want to go out with a bang.

When I was a Southern Baptist, I noticed the same pattern - but with folks coming in, especially folks who felt "called to the ministry," especially the youth ministry.  It's really not very sexy to stand up and say, "My name is Bob.  I was raised by two very nice people who raised me Baptist.  There was a lot of love in our home.  My parents always hoped I'd become a minister.  When I was in college, I had an experience that brought that home to me, so I changed my major and I'm ready to serve."

People don't want to hear that.

They want Michael Bay.  They want Road Warrior stuff.  They want to hear another ripoff regurgitation of Paul's wayward life, along with his "got Jesus" moment on the Road to Damascus.  They want to hear that the person addressing them has committed every sin in the book, lived that rock'n'roll life, was "this far" from ending up in Hell, when God reached down and grabbed them by the throat and brought them back.  They want to hear about how this person was just like them but "saw the light."  Since then, their life has been one miracle after another.  They are now living a "Jesus-filled life."

Every pitch has its logic.  The more refined the pitch, the more effective it becomes.  The more times you hear the pitch - sharpened to the point of a pencil - the more you realize that you're hearing the same story over and over again.  And then you realize that it was always a pitch and nothing more.  You aren't witnessing something truly extraordinary.  You're just the studio audience.

So, if the day comes when you realize things are not exactly as you imagined them, and you're no longer willing to emasculate that part of you that senses the parallax, you can tell people as much - but whatever you tell them will be highly personal.  It might be something small but even little things can mean a lot.  The last thing that happened to me, before I totally went inactive, was that comedy of errors.  They banged on my door Saturday night, wanting me to make sure I was there on Sunday before church.  It sent a shockwave through the house.  I went in, not knowing exactly what they wanted.  Then, a member of the stake presidency sat down with me and told me I"d been called to be Ward Mission Leader.  In my stake, that's supposedly a big deal, as I live in Florida and every organization needs a "sales" department.  But I'd been a WML three times before - and in my ward - that was almost the only calling they ever  asked me to serve.  As he was going over the duties of the calling, the counselor thought to ask me if I'd ever done this before.  "Three times," I said, before he continued with the briefing.  Moments later, I was out of there and I could see them signaling each other in the hall outside the chapel.  "Did he say 'yes?'" they asked.  "Yes," said the counselor.

Moments later, I was in sacrament meeting when they asked me to stand as they said I'd been interviewed and found worthy to serve as a stake missionary, then called someone else to be WML.  My head was reeling as I sat down, just before they asked me to stand again.  Confessing they'd made a mistake, they announced they'd forgotten to thank me for teaching Gospel Doctrine.  I didn't even want the job of WML, a job I'd done so many times I was sick of it.  I just thought it odd that they'd interview me for it and then call me to be a stake missionary - especially since I already had that calling and was just a few months away from being released.  I can remember thinking, "Who's running this place?" 

Mistakes get made as one hand forgets what the other is doing, but after a mission of hearing two mission presidents swear up and down that their assignments were the result of revelation (not darts thrown behind their backs), this was one of those moments where the reality didn't match the rhetoric.  It reminded me of my discovery - at the end of my mission - that the mission office thought I'd been in Salt Lake for 6 months, rather than the 12 days I'd spent there.  I'd always wondered why "the Lord" had called me to spend a whole year in Ogden, at one tiny Spanish branch, but never to the branch at Logan, or to one of the wards in Salt Lake City, or to the one ward in Salt Lake City where I'd spent a total of 12 days.  I'd spent a good part of my mission trying not to feel like a kid whose parents had left him behind at the restaurant as the whole family got in their cars and drove off.  Discovering the error was just crushing.  It reminded me of that kid I'd met in Ogden, the one called to the Carolinas but whose mission was redirected to Seattle - because of one phone call from his micro-managing stake president, who'd heard the kid had family in the Carolinas and didn't think it was fair that this kid would have family nearby when others didn't.

I know what it was like when that kid got his call revised.  It sucked the magic right out of the experience, just as it did for me when I discovered that my mission office - which had kept me in the same branch in Ogden for half my mission - didn't know where I'd been assigned for at least a quarter of my mission.  Later, then, when the idiots in my stake banged on my door, hustled me off to a meeting, talked to me about a calling I'd done so many times I could do it in my sleep - only to call someone else and sustain me for a calling I already had - I didn't need much prodding to find my own way home.

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5 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2009 - 6:48PM #10
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
When I talked to my bishop about the whole thing, he said it happens.  He told me that nobody keeps records of what callings we do, other than to note the ordinances and ordinations.  Nobody knew.  Nobody cared.  They were just shooting from the hip.  I felt like Dorothy and her little dog, too.  That's when this pair of ruby red loafers hoofed it home and stayed there.

I didn't go inactive because they gave me a calling I had, or didn't give me a calling I hated, or because they didn't make me stake president or regional rep.  I went inactive because I hit a place in my life where the contradictions were causing me considerable distress.

Now, to anybody who doesn't know me, this chain of events probably sounds pretty stupid.  They have no reason to know or care about why I felt so wounded.  It seemed like a dumb idea, to begin with, to have somebody with testimony issues directing all of the missionary work in the ward - unless the Lord had some purpose behind it.  But, as it turns out, the Lord couldn't make up his mind what I was supposed to do, and my stake mission didn't help.  Truth be told, existential crises tend to be personal.  Nobody really "gets" why a certain turn of events is such a big deal except the person whose life is being turned sideways.  I've told my story to a few personal friends who laughed at the errors but didn't otherwise see why it hurt to be called to one thing and then sustained for another.  If I told the same story to my non-member friends, they wouldn't get it, either.  They don't make the fine distinctions, so irony is pretty much lost on them.

Which is perhaps why, when people leave the Church, they feel the need to turn their personal crisis into an E True Holywood Story.  Truth be told, I had a great conversion experience, which motivated me to make great strides in preparation for my mission.  It was all new to me, and exciting, so most people in my old ward saw me as a walking-talking encyclopedia of Mormonism.  I read everything.  I wanted to do everything.  I was gung ho all the way.  But about six months before my mission, as Gospel Essentials led to Gospel Doctrine, I had an Institute Class full of Mormons who liked to swim in deep, murky, waters.  I would periodically look around the room and wonder what I'd fallen into.  My Institute class was crawling with a bunch of nuts, and it tempered my enthusiasm.  My mission, however, was a great adventure, at least at first.  I loved going to Utah.  I'd never been there before.  I thought it was fascinating.  I had some great experiences sharing the Gospel with others.  On the other hand, I finished my mission feeling like a friend of mine whose time in the bishopric left him feeling he had seen things he'd wished he'd never seen. 

In truth, the threshold for disenchantment is different for Mormonism than it is for other faiths.  To lose one's faith, one need not be the victim of some parade of horribles.  One need only doubt the reality of the faith's extraordinary claims.  This can be a pretty good faith - by most people's standards - and still lose its people if those same people begin to think it's just another church.  For Mormonism, it's either a sequence of miracles or nothing.  Words like "ordinary" and "okay" are not enough.

Why is that?  How is it a Catholic can love his church, even if he has misgivings about it?  How is it an Anglican can laugh about King Henry VIII's involvement in the formation of the Anglican Communion?  Mormonism doesn't work that way.  Its claims are intensely historical, which is to say that Joseph Smith may make a great model for the person seeking truth, but you're supposed to believe he actually saw God.  There are people in the Church who see its history and mythology as pageantry, a parade of symbolic stories through which important spiritual truths are communicated and a community held together.  And as communities go, this one isn't perfect but it's definitely an institution through which much good is done in the world.

But if it turns out that the story is just another story, is it worth it to stay in for the perks of belonging to such a community?  There are lots of faiths I don't necessarily subscribe to but whose better practitioners might make me want to be counted among their flock.  I have enormous respect for the Quakers, for the Eastern Orthodox, for Reformed Jews, for Unitarians and for Buddhists.  But with Mormons, you're either all in or you're not - or you're hiding among the ranks.  I have a lot of respect for those who try to maintain their balance in a dangerous world, but I can't help but remember the punchline to that joke about the scorpion who bit the turtle after the turtle ferried him across the river - despite the scorpion's many promises not to do so.  As the turtle lay dying of the fatal wound, the scorpion said, "You knew what I was when you picked me up."

I don't want to spend my life serving a church that will just abandon me down the road because "You knew what I was when you picked me up."  I suspect there are others out there who are feeling the same way.  Some of them are people who weren't converts; they were people whose families and friendships are so intertwined in the faith that they can't even contemplate leaving without fearing they'll lose every important relationship they have.  I'm still here, albeit inactive, because I have a wife whose heart I would break if I broke ranks completely.  This means that I'm sentenced to a life of home teachers, snooping missionaries, endless nagging at ward activities and an increasing number of stares from people who wonder why this is about as far as I ever got in the LDS Church.  As happened on another thread, I occasionally get the accusation that I'm an apostate, a snake in the grass or a covenant breaker.

In the meantime, I can count at least a dozen LDS couples or families whom I've known since we moved back to Florida who are no longer together, either because Mom or Dad decided to take a walk on the wild side.  On the surface, everything was picket-fence great but - like that lawn in Blue Velvet - there there creepy crawlies in the unseen muck.  I'm not a great husband.  I put the seat down and do my share of dishes and dinner, but my socks are orphans and my yard is a mess.  I do church about one Sunday in four but I'm a confirmed skeptic, which makes me annoying to live with.  What I do have going for me is an aversion to hookers, jailbait, keg parties, cigarette smoke, casinos and lotteries, violent tantrums, verbal abuse, football, fishing trips and hot rods.  My vices are (1) headphones, (2) hi-fi, (3) skateboards, (4) movies, (5) iTunes, (6) blogging and (7) sleeping in.  My wife lives with that, wishes I were a better man, but doesn't nag me to death about it.  She cried when my mother died, cried for my sister, went back to work when I could no longer stand the law, and is someone I completely trust.  She'll never sleep around on me, though I don't ask her about any lustful thoughts when she's reading one of those Stephenie Meyers books for the 5th time.

Atrocity stories are the excuses made by those who don't think anybody will understand their departure without a great tale.  Nibley's daughter was a great example.  She wrote that memoir accusing her father of molesting her, an accusation that drew criticism from the family, not simply because of the scandal it created, but because of the sheer implausibility.  As one reply put it, the Nibley family home didn't afford the kind of privacy that would enable the great HN to get away with much.  I knew Hugh Nibley, though I doubt he ever remembered me.  He was so obsessed with his theories, it's hard to imagine him siring children, let alone molesting them.  In the meantime, his daughter - whose book became a big deal at Harvard - got lots of attention from the outside world by feeding it what it wanted to hear.  Write a book about Mormons who look and sound like the Osmonds and you'll hear nothing but snores.  But write a book about the Lafferty Brothers, cutting their sister-in-law from ear-to-ear, and you'll have a runaway bestseller.  Mormons have been living in a box called "weird and creepy" for a long time.  The easiest way to sell the faith is to sell an American version of The Da Vinci Code.

It's what people want to hear.  If you don't have an atrocity for sale - and your happy feet are the result of Mormons confusing politics with religion, DNA problems in the Book of Mormon, or some other tempest in a teapot - nobody wants to hear.  There's no movie deal in a story about how the Mormon Church is too much like every other church.
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