Page 1 of 2

A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 17 Dec 2013, 21:51
by hawkgrrrl
This is an idea I've been thinking about for a while, and it's not fully formed yet, but I wanted to open it here for consideration. It seems to me that the strategies for dealing with disaffection vary based on how "close" those issues are to our daily / weekly experiences in the church and in our spiritual lives. I'll list these in order from "nearest" to "farthest" issues. Also, when I say "issues" I think it relates partly to how safe and authentic you feel in relation to that geography.

Self. This geography includes things like your own sense of spirituality, relationship to God, and your own comfort with yourself. It can also be impacted by personal issues like depression or mental illness or even simple lack of confidence or uncertainty about your own views. The difficulty: It's very difficult to deal with disaffection if you are also struggling with internal issues. Some of this is circular, but getting your own personal situation clear is foundational to anything at the further geographic areas. Work on yourself first: your mental health, your self-awareness, your confidence. STRATEGY: focus on what you do believe, if there are things you know you don't believe identify them and move on, regain your self-confidence through self-awareness and knowing what you want.

Direct Family. This includes your marriage (if married) and children (if you have any) or those family members with whom you live or if there are some you see on a weekly basis. How comfortable do you feel within this sphere in being yourself, expressing your feelings and being accepted for who you are and what you believe? The difficulty: There can be a lot of pressure to conform within the family or patterns of communication that make it difficult to be open and authentic. If being open results in marital discord, it can be difficult to maintain trust and have a supportive environment. STRATEGY: focus on the equal relationships - the one with your spouse, find ways to focus positive energy into that relationship so you are being supportive and getting support, don't place a burden on minor children.

Extended Family. These are the people you see at reunions and funerals or monthly (or less frequent) dinners. How safe do you feel being open in this group? How accepted do you feel? The difficulty: People sometimes conflate their family's approach to the church with the church's approach, and yet different families are very different in how they live the church. STRATEGY: steer clear of drama and people who drain your energy, focus on your marriage partner as your primary ally, find common ground and operate on a don't ask, don't tell basis.

Local ward / stake. Do you have friends in this group who accept you and listen to your views without judgment? Do you feel OK expressing your honest views in this group? What is your level of discomfort? Do local policies and leaders create an environment that is uplifting to you? The difficulty: This is where we interact with the church most frequently, so this is our lived experience. STRATEGY: find allies among friends or family members, address local issues locally when they are unique and you can find evidence that they are not organizationally mandated, learn how and when to stand up to abuses of power if they exist, change wards if possible or reduce attendance to sacrament meeting only, set boundaries on callings if needed.

Organizational church. Do you feel that church leaders are good people? Do church policies feel comfortable to you, like they are Christ-like and postive? Does the organizational church feel moral and uplifting to you? If it is mixed, how important are the negatives and positives relatively? Are there supportive people closer to you (at the local ward, stake, or family levels) who feel similarly or with whom you can talk about your disagreement and feel accepted? The difficulty: These things can be embarrassing; this can be a problem with identity and affiliation. STRATEGY: find local allies, assess the relative importance of areas of concern, and sift current church leader statements closely to understand context and nuances of disagreement between leaders that allow you to see the flexibility inherent in an oligarchical leadership.

History. Do statements or policies of past church leaders make you feel disconnected? Do you feel past leaders were immoral or not acting in good faith or do you believe they were moral actors? Do you have concerns about historical issues that the church hasn't disavowed or addressed or about those the church has addressed? The difficulty: This strikes at our belief in truth claims. STRATEGY: dial down expectations of prophets, seek understanding of the context of historical statements or policies, realize that in time errors are corrected because we have an open canon.

Is this a helpful model? Which areas are most troublesome for you, and if so, why? I'll share my own below as the discussion continues.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 18 Dec 2013, 15:53
by Roadrunner
I really like this model and think there's a lot of truth here. I would like to see your final product. Having read your posts here and elsewhere I know it will be insightful and helpful.

It seems like you're including "God" in with "Self." That's probably true for many people but I think about Him as a separate entity from self. God is supposed to be personal and loving but yet personal revelations to me are rare. His interaction with mankind - or lack thereof for those who need it most - seems to be contrary to what I want to believe and what I'm taught. There's also the issue of science - how can I believe in God and acknowledge that the God of the Gaps is getting smaller. This is definitely not an issue specifically for Mormons. For me the question is "where is God in my daily life?"

For Self - it seems that many people including me struggle with intellectual honesty. In addition to mental health, self-awareness, and confidence, I think honesty with self for many is a big deal.

My $0.02.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 18 Dec 2013, 18:34
by Thoreau
Want to read this when I have more time.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 19 Dec 2013, 04:29
by SilentDawning
I like the geographic approach. It covers just about every concern a person might have about the church. I'm not sure the "Geographical Model of Dissaffection" title is positive though. I think it would be more aptly named a Geographic Model of Coping, or a Geographic Model of Adjustment or something that focuses on the positive outcomes rather than the negative antecedents.

The strategies are good brainstorming list. I think we could add significantly to them. For example, I find the local leadership option is best handled with privacy, providing vague hope of full activation again, and limiting interaction with local leaders. I'm not sure what you mean by local allies -- I find that they are hard to find in the local church and the search for such allies often leads to reputation damage. I think finding online allies is better because so far, there has been no backlash from local people that prevents a full return to activity some day. So far, it's relatively anonymous to the average local leader as well. Local allies could also mean community organizations that fulfill any leadership or service needs that cannot be met in the church due to ostracrization or damaged reputation due to open expressions of disapproval, belief, etcetera.

The idea of simply going with what you, as an individual believe addresses a lot of these categories -- even the historical/organizational/local leadership categories. Elevating honest personal conscience above the statements of any of the prophets or scriptural interpretations provides peace and liberation.

The scholar in me tells me this is only the first step -- you'd need to do a factor analysis to see if these represent the discrete factors that make up dissaffection. The coping strategies are useful but unverified. On the other hand, the practitioner in me says most people don't have the resources or interest in that...and "theories in use" rule the world anyway. So, overall I think it's a useful model of adjustment when a person starts having disaffection issues with the LDS church.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 20 Dec 2013, 00:35
by church0333
I think this is great. I have found that I can not pretend any more. I don't broadcast my beliefs to everyone but I give an honest answer when asked. That includes leaders, friends, and family. I have connected with other members from my stake that recognized my struggles by my talks as a high councilor and have come out to me. I have a few friends who are very strong in the church that I have opened up to and I have seen them give me a questioning look when certain issues are discussed in church and have even witnessed a change in their teaching at church when I am in the room. Several people have thank me for being open with them and it has made then think differently.

I agree that we need to be careful how much we share and respect others feelings and beliefs. If I notice some one is starting to feel uncomfortable I shut up and smile. Or at least I try. That what I love about online forums, I can be as honest as I need to be and know that I and the others on the forum will not being doing damage to each other.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 20 Dec 2013, 03:18
by Ann
I like that for each sphere there is the definition, the difficulties and the strategies. It helps me be clearer-thinking and solution-oriented. I came up with some new personalized strategies for coping. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 23 Dec 2013, 22:10
by Thoreau
I like it. I first pictured it as concentric circles but as I read more I could see some overlap between some of the issues.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 09 Jan 2014, 19:24
by hawkgrrrl

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 09 Jan 2014, 20:51
by mom3
I love this model. I am going to copy it because it opens me to better responses. I love that it has very clear separation. This allows me to sort out my feelings, put them in the proper catagorie, from there I use the difficulty description to help me assess my frustration, this will help me apply a better response in my heart (I hope) and keep me from getting stuck in a stage 4 circle.

Re: A Geographic Model for Disaffection

Posted: 09 Jan 2014, 21:20
by hawkgrrrl
I didn't actually answer my own question about where my concerns lie, so I will now:

Self. I am always a little on the fence about religion and god in general. I try to find what is practical and uplifting for me, but a belief in god isn't necessary to be moral or to improve oneself. I'm not one of those people who can't doubt the existence of god or who see his hand in all things. Sometimes god makes sense to me, and I believe. Sometimes I question it all.

Direct Family. Spouse's issues are different from my own, and mostly aren't that important to him. I have issues with culture and sexism that he doesn't mind or notice or agree with me about. He finds a lot of it boring and agrees about some of the thorny history, but it's not that important to him either.

Extended Family. There are people in and out of the church on both sides (mine and in laws). Mostly I don't think there's a lot of common ground with those in my family who've left or with those who are TBM; I really don't feel I relate much to either of these groups when it comes to my views on religion, so I mostly just don't talk about religion with them. I'm not that close to family, either geographically or in terms of intimacy.

Local Ward / Stake. We just moved back to our previous ward after living abroad. Our ward abroad was pretty great, lots of international perspectives, almost no US politics mixed with religion, loads of investigators and converts from non-Christian faiths. Now I find our ward here in the US has changed a bit while we were gone. There is a lot more groupthink. I don't find the lessons very uplifting, mostly boring, often ill informed. But I do have like-minded friends in the ward with whom I can commiserate, and I feel very comfortable being myself and saying what I think. It mostly works for me. And I can just read in class if it's not working on a given day.

Organizational Church. I have serious concerns about the direction the church is headed with regard to politics and how we treat others. I find some of our leaders more inspiring than others (I like Uchtdorf, Scott, Cook and sometimes Oaks which I think makes me an outlier; I'm not a fan of Holland or Nelson), but in general, it is a low bar that seems to be getting lower. Current strategy is that I avoid contact with this stuff for the most part (Gen Conf, Ensign). Maybe when some of these topics have blown over a bit it'll be better.

History. For me these fit into things I believe and things I don't. I view the founding church leaders as inspired but also very very flawed people who wouldn't be accepted today. I am on the fence about the BOM and consider it unprovable. I believe polygamy was as wrong as the race ban. Overall, though, this level is less important to me than the lack of inspiration (curriculum) and hobby horse topics today (limited role of women, gay marriage, political views mingled with scripture) when they infiltrate to the ward level.

That's a lot of information.