What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

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On Own Now
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What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by On Own Now » 15 Jan 2014, 14:14

I don't know if the Church really understands why people like us "fall away" (their term). I believe most faithful members, when the see an empty pew that was formerly the realm of a member of the Church, they assume that the person "lost their testimony" and attribute it to sin, lack of faith, personal offence, etc.

Although I don't expect it, I think the Church could learn a lot by trying to figure us out.

I wish the Church understood that for many that suffer a faith crisis, it was something that they neither sought out nor expected. I wasn't a repressed sinner who couldn't wait for an excuse to go off the deep and start drinking and watching R-rated movies, which is how I think most of this stuff is viewed.

While all of our stories are different, I know that many are like I was. I was a fully-faithful member. I bought into it all. I defended the Church when it needed defending. I worked to strengthen the Church. I paid a full (aka gross-based) tithing. I fulfilled my callings with gusto. When I was a YM, it wasn't uncommon for me to go to Sunday School by myself, while my parents stayed home. I served in the presidency of every YM quorum, including the top position. I made Eagle Scout. I was the Seminary Class President, I served a faithful mission, which I loved, working harder than at any other time in my life, and was grateful for it. I married in the Temple, graduated from BYU, did my home teaching, attended the Temple regularly, studied the scriptures. I have served in a variety of callings across all disciplines. I have taught Gospel Doctrine in three states. In all this, I have also supported my wife and kids in their callings. I have volunteered beyond my specifically named calling. I have closed out the Kitchen so many times that I can't count.

Ultimately, though, I came to a point where I realized that the Church was not what it claimed (at least not entirely)... and that was a tearful realization that hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. I have since tried earnestly to make a go of it. I tried for a long time to talk to people that could help me overcome my doubts. I tried to read the BofM, I tried to pray, I tried anything that could help. In prayer, I begged God to show me the way, and I got silence in response to my pleas.

I didn't "drift away". I didn't "lose" my faith or my testimony. I didn't "fall into sin". I wasn't "led away by Satan". I wasn't overcome by "the cares of the world". Most importantly, it wasn't my choice... I couldn't simply return to faith by wanting to.

The Church doesn't know what it lost when it lost the hearts and minds of people like us, IMO. My Bishop looks at me puzzled. He's a good guy, but can't figure me out. People in my ward... the ones who have only known me for a decade or so, have no idea that I wasn't always a barely active member.

I wish the Church understood that it is bleeding not just people, but very good, stalwart members of the Church. I wish the Church understood that it is often the Church itself, rather than the member, that is the catalyst for the "fall". I wish the Church would spend some time looking in the mirror and asking itself hard questions about certain topics like gender roles, defense of polygamy, infallibility of leaders, hard-line stances on same-gender issues, and black & white thinking. One thing in particular that I know from listening to the voices here is that many or most of us still want to find spirituality or an opportunity to make a difference for good. It's a shame that the Church gets so dogmatic that it forgets those essential tenets of why people seek out God.

I do see signs of progress, but it is way to slow to stem the tide of the tens of thousands of really good people that will leave (physically, spiritually or emotionally) in the next decade.

I don't know what the answers are. But I do think that the Church has an enormously valuable resource in us that it leaves untapped, while guys in white shirts ask themselves why we are "losing our testimonies", and then answer to themselves that it is because of a "lack of faith". There is so much good in the Church, but also so much completely unnecessary baggage.
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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
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"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
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DarkJedi
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by DarkJedi » 15 Jan 2014, 14:28

Well said OON. My experiences, though I wasn't raised in the church, parallel yours very much. One thing stood out to me here:
On Own Now wrote:I didn't "drift away". I didn't "lose" my faith or my testimony. I didn't "fall into sin". I wasn't "led away by Satan". I wasn't overcome by "the cares of the world". Most importantly, it wasn't my choice... I couldn't simply return to faith by wanting to.
I have said this to my wife and a couple others. They just don't get it, and I think that's partly because the church leadership does perpetuate the myth that one or all of these things have to have been the case. I recall Old Swivel Hips ( :D - sorry, I couldn't resist, I will never see him the same again), I mean Elder Packer, saying that the reason people fall out of the church is the same reason people fall out of bed - because they weren't in far enough. I think that is possible for newer members, and the point is taken that newer members must be fellowshipped and given responsibility, etc. I did not fall out because I wasn't in far enough, I was in there and snuggled in.

I agree that change is coming, but it's slow and maybe too slow. Again, Pres. Uchtdorf gave great hope and I think he gets it - "It's not that simple." I wish more of them understood.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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nibbler
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by nibbler » 15 Jan 2014, 14:32

On Own Now wrote:I wish the Church understood that for many that suffer a faith crisis, it was something that they neither sought out nor expected. I wasn't a repressed sinner who couldn't wait for an excuse to go off the deep and start drinking and watching R-rated movies, which is how I think most of this stuff is viewed.

While all of our stories are different, I know that many are like I was. I was a fully-faithful member.
I'll take it a step further. I think that the catalyst for my own personal faith crisis was the result of being too vested in being a fully faithful member of the church. That is to say that if I were more relaxed (not so strict in my obedience) my faith crisis may never have happened.
DarkJedi wrote:I have said this to my wife and a couple others. They just don't get it, and I think that's partly because the church leadership does perpetuate the myth that one or all of these things have to have been the case.
Very much this. Most people that I've told view a faith crisis as a simple doubt that once resolved you can happily go back to the way things were.
The wound is the place where the light enters you.
— Rumi

Curt Sunshine
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by Curt Sunshine » 15 Jan 2014, 15:21

Although I don't expect it, I think the Church could learn a lot by trying to figure us out.


They are trying, and they are trying to get lower level leaders and members to understand better - and the top leadership understands better than the vast majority of members realize. I know that, without question. Seriously, I know that - for reasons I won't share right now. That's one of the main reasons this general topic has been addressed so much more often in the last decade or so than in the previous 50 years. Suppositions that have taken decades to solidify can't be changed completely in a few years, and the top leadership is trying to change quite a few suppositions right now - simultaneously. It's a very difficult balancing act - again, as much as I would like to hear more on an even more regular basis about this specific issue.

I hope the top leaders continue to address it (over and over and over until more traditional members understand and accept it) - and I believe they will continue to try. However, I also appreciate deeply that most of them appear to get it - and President Uchtdorf, particularly, does a great job talking about it.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Roy
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by Roy » 15 Jan 2014, 15:43

Ray Degraw wrote:Suppositions that have taken decades to solidify can't be changed completely in a few years, and the top leadership is trying to change quite a few suppositions right now - simultaneously. It's a very difficult balancing act - again, as much as I would like to hear more on an even more regular basis about this specific issue.
I agree. I think that the statements that are coming out about the priesthood ban and other things are shifting people's expectations. Sometimes these shifts are in the form of disillusionment. Sometimes and when introduced in slow, small, managable steps - the new information can be assimilated into the worldview.

I think that is what the leadership is trying to do... managable doses.
On Own Now wrote:I didn't "drift away". I didn't "lose" my faith or my testimony. I didn't "fall into sin". I wasn't "led away by Satan". I wasn't overcome by "the cares of the world". Most importantly, it wasn't my choice... I couldn't simply return to faith by wanting to.
I think this point is hard for the church. We enshrine agency as the founding principle. I know that I was surprised to discover how much of my life was limited by outside factors beyond my choosing. There is confidence and determination in believing that we can command our own destiny - but it doesn't work for everybody. It is a mistake to think that if this model doesn't work for you then you are not doing it right.

I am reminded of a quote from a church leader when he dug deeper into the FC issue. He said that it is our best and brightest that we are losing.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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On Own Now
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by On Own Now » 15 Jan 2014, 16:00

Ray, I do appreciate your optimism and insight on the issue. I agree that the Church is trying, but I would argue that it isn't trying anywhere close to hard enough. I love the articles (for the most part) that the Church has recently published, but the term "publish" is a bit of a stretch. I've spoken to active members of the Church that knew nothing about them. The Church, apparently, has recently produced new Temple films, but language offensive to women still exists. Seriously, it wouldn't require any doctrinal change to remove that. Every person in the Church can plainly see that women serve a subordinate role to men when it comes to running the program. It's the 21st century, but the Church seems unwilling to look for creative ways to break out of this. The recent article on polygamy struck me as tone-deaf. The continued banging of the drum that marriage is only between man and woman, without actually asking God about it strikes me as uninspired... literally.

Obviously, we all formulate our opinions based on our own observations. In the 20 years of my faith transition, in which I have been very open with local church leadership... number of Stake Presidency members that have have asked me what the Church could do differently to help people like me (aside from helping me to get my faith back): 0. Number of Bishopric members: 0. Number of Elders Quorum leaders: 0. Number of ward members: 0. Number of home teachers: 0. I don't believe they are interested in seeing it from our perspective, only from theirs.
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
- - -

Curt Sunshine
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by Curt Sunshine » 15 Jan 2014, 16:08

OON, our perceptions are based on our observations. It can't be any different. I understand that.

I also understand that I have been fortunate to have had a very different experience than what you just described. I have had leaders who want to understand and have taken measures to make it easier for people who struggle. (certainly not all of them, but a pretty large number of them)

I think it's important to point out that people who come here generally have had experiences more similar to yours than to mine - and that there are thousands upon thousands of other members who might have been looking for this type of support with different leadership but are happy in their involvement simply because their own experiences are closer to mine than yours. We don't hear from them. Thus, we get a skewed perspective here, since we tend to get regular participation highlighting the negative experiences and don't hear nearly as many positive experiences. It can't be helped, unfortunately, but we need to recognize it, at least.

I know you know that, but it needs to be said occasionally, even among those who know it when they think about it.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

church0333
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by church0333 » 15 Jan 2014, 16:12

On Own Now, you have sum up so well my life in the church and some of my feelings as of late. I want it to be true, I want it to work out so bad that it hurts at times and I pray to get back that assurance but nothing. I can't read the BofM much anymore because without faith the book just doesn't ring true, let alone even plausible and after studying what critics say about the book, the more I read it the more I feel the it was a 19th century work of fiction. The same thing with the D and C, how JS made up stuff to get people to do what he wanted or to promote his ideas. This does not mean that there aren't wonderful people in the church and a lot of good but that doesn't make it all true either.

Even if the church mades a lot of changes with SSM and gender roles or gives the women the priesthood and comes clean with it's history I don't know if it would help people like us or at least like me because it would just confirm the new believes I have that the church is pretty much man made like every other church or religion. I think that I would still be involved if the church admitted that it was not as divine as it claims but everything would change at that point and the LDS Church as we now know it would cease to exist. I guess the the LDS Church as I once knew it has ceased to exist for me. I miss it but I am not sure I would want it back and I know it will never be the same for me.

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On Own Now
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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by On Own Now » 15 Jan 2014, 16:43

DarkJedi wrote:I did not fall out because I wasn't in far enough, I was in there and snuggled in.
That's a great way to put it, DJ. I think that's what makes it so tough for so many. For so many, It's not something they wanted. I was very happy all snuggled and warm. One of the things I find kind of frustrating about the "fell out because not in far enough" concept is that it blames the person having the faith crisis and deflects all responsibility away from the Church.
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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
- - -

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Re: What I Wish the Church Understood About Us

Post by Orson » 15 Jan 2014, 16:52

I agree with the core of your message, as I think most of us here will.
On Own Now wrote: Ultimately, though, I came to a point where I realized that the Church was not what it claimed (at least not entirely)...
There was a day when I would have phrased that thought in the same way. Today I see those words a little like trying to nail jello to the wall -- what exactly does the church claim to be, and how is that conclusively proven to be false?

In my opinion a much more reliable statement is "my personal expectations and image of the church and past leaders was shattered." I think this type of statement can also go much further in discussions with the average faithful member. "The church isn't" is an offensive claim that will put up walls. Remarks about personal views can invite questions such as: "what expectations did you hold that could not stand up against your inquiry?" It is this type of meaningful discussions that will over time begin to change the landscape of our culture.
On Own Now wrote: I do see signs of progress, but it is way to slow to stem the tide of the tens of thousands of really good people that will leave (physically, spiritually or emotionally) in the next decade.
On the other hand, to be fair I think we also must acknowledge how the limited openness we have seen recently has led to some new struggles by church members. People are realizing that prophets words are not cast in stone and they are having a hard time with it. If the leadership opened the floodgates to lift our boats there would be others that drown. Everyone cannot be saved at the same time, this is why change is slow.
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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