We each have our reasons for staying or leaving

I posted this elsewhere not too long ago, and it seemed to get positive feedback, so I thought I would share this experience here and get your thoughts about it.

During a conversation with my wife in the car after meeting some fantastic believing/disaffected couples for dinner last week, I realized something that has somehow completely eluded me until now. My wife and I approach the church very differently because it has fulfilled completely different needs for each of us.

I joined the church as an adult convert ten years ago. Previous to that, I had many deeply spiritual experiences as a Christian, but not in the LDS church. I did not join the LDS church because I felt anything special, or because I felt it met any particular spiritual or emotional need I had. If anything, I found the LDS style of worship definitely lacking in the profound spiritual feelings department.

Instead, I joined the LDS church because, based on my investigation, I believed it was true. Many of the beliefs made a lot of sense to me, and as I read much of the material that has been written about the LDS church, both pro and con, I believed I had found something that fulfilled prophecy and had the true gospel. Or at least something as close to such a thing as I was likely to find. Continue reading “We each have our reasons for staying or leaving”

Are you a Mormon?

We recently discussed the various names we use to refer to ourselves (liberal Mormon, NOM, post-Mormon, ex-Mormon, etc.) depending on how we each perceive our relationship with Mormonism. I’m interested in much more direct question, which I’m never quite sure how to answer. Are you a Mormon?

It seems like a straightforward question, but I find it surprisingly tricky because it’s not always clear what is meant by “Mormon”. If it means a member of the CoJCoLdS, then my answer should be yes, because I am still on the records as a member of that church. If it means someone who has ever had the experience of being a Mormon, then my answer is also yes. If it means a person who considers oneself a part of the Mormon culture or believes Mormon doctrine, then my answer should be no, because I am neither. For others, the situation may be reversed; you might not be a member of the church anymore, but still consider yourself part of the Mormon culture. So are you a Mormon?

In my own mind, I’ve pretty much moved on from Mormonism, but to answer either yes or no without further explanation seems strange. I tend to give a different answer depending on the context. If a stranger asks, I’ll usually just say no unless I’m interested in having a conversation about Mormonism. If I actually feel like talking about it and they seem interested, I might start with something like, “Technically I am a Mormon, but…” I’ve heard of others using the phrase “I was raised Mormon,” which I would love to use, except that I was an adult convert. Do the details really matter? Maybe the phrase “I used to be a Mormon” is an acceptable substitute.

However, there is one situation in which I always say yes: whenever I run into LDS missionaries. I’m not interested in arguing with them, and I’m not interested in their attempts to convert me, either. So I just say yes, I’m a Mormon; no, I don’t have any referrals; good luck, elders, and have a nice day.

When I sat down to consider this question, I was surprised to discover that my answer depends mostly on whether I feel like getting into a discussion. In a way, my approach feels a little shady, but I think I’m okay with it. How about you? How do you answer the question? Are you a Mormon?

General Conference predictions

Back in the days when I paid attention to General Conference, I always attended the priesthood session with my wife’s father and brother. I enjoyed the tradition of returning to report some fantastic fictional revelation to my wife and her mother. I call this a tradition because I did it every time, but I was the only one who ever did.

When I returned from the priesthood session in October 2000, shortly after I was baptized, I reported that President Hinckley had a revelation that all worthy women should be allowed to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, beginning on the next Sunday. They were flabbergasted and asked if that was really true. “No,” I said. “But he did say you’re supposed to wear only one pair of earrings.”
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Hey preacher, leave those kids alone!

I have a 6-year old daughter, and one issue that will start coming up soon is baptism. It’s not the actual baptism that bothers me; I basically see it as a rite of passage. I think eight years old is far too young to decide to join a religion, but if my daughter wants to do it, that’s great. What makes me most uncomfortable is the prospect of interviews with the bishop.
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The Ethics of Speaking Up

Hi everyone, I’m honored to join the Main Street Plaza crew. My name is Mike, and I chose the nickname Saganist because Carl Sagan has been a big influence on my thinking. Just a bit of background on me: my religious history is long and complicated, but I joined the LDS church in 2000 at age 22. I was a believer until between two and three years ago, when I finally admitted to myself that the evidence was pretty damning, and that I needed to fit my beliefs to the evidence and not vice versa. My wife is still a believer, and we get along great despite the occasional disagreement. I still go to church with her most weeks because wrangling our three little kids alone in sacrament meeting is a babysitting job from hell.

One thing that’s confused me ever since I joined the church is knowing when to speak up and how much to say. Before I was baptized, I did a lot of research on the Internet, and I learned plenty about peepstones, papyri, polyandry, and prehistory. But a big part of me wanted to join the church anyway, and I found other sites with possible explanations of the problems, plausible or not. Finding explanations became a real testimony building experience, even more so than if I’d never heard of the problems at all.

I wrongly assumed that everyone else in Sunday school had worked through the issues as I had. It was a little awkward the first few times I brought up topics like Limited Geography Theory and the Kinderhook plates, and got blank stares and raised eyebrows in response. This was in a singles ward, so maybe that was the problem. But I quickly learned to shut up about anything controversial. What was controversial? I was never quite sure. Frankly, I’m still not sure.
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