Member perception of happiness

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DarkJedi
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Member perception of happiness

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Oct 2020, 08:43

The title for this one is tough and doesn't really say what I mean.

In another thread Roy said:
...they may in fact be very happy but it makes me feel better to imagine that they are not...
That statement jumped out at me and I don't totally know why. I do often take issue with members of the church (including Q15 members) who seem to indicate that only people in the church are happy and no one else could possibly be happy because it's the only way to happiness. I'm sure I could find a quote or two from the most recent GC that indicates this line of thinking. In one way it's kind of a Utah-centric idea, but I hear from members outside Utah as well. I'm a convert and I have lived most of my church life in areas where Mormons are a very tiny minority (we're less than 1/10 of 1 percent where I currently live - and that's counting the inactives). It's very obvious to me that there are plenty of people in the world who are happy and who are not Mormon, or even Christian (but most Mormons and Christians I know are happy too).

So, is Roy's quote really what I'm supposed to be hearing when church members go on about happiness only being found in the church? Do those members really know what I know but choose to "feel better" by imagining others are not happy for whatever reason? Or are those members truly deceived or at least misperceiving?
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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Arrakeen
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by Arrakeen » 06 Oct 2020, 10:41

I think most members who aren't completely in a bubble recognize that there are many happy people outside the church. Mormonism is a high-demand religion, and it's easier to justify all the work you put into it if you believe that not only does it make you happy, but you couldn't possibly be as happy doing something else.

The idea of missionary work is another reason for this I think. We may know a lot of non-members who are happy, but somehow we're supposed to convince them that they need the gospel. So then there's this idea of "sure, you may be happy now, but it's nothing compared to how happy you could be with the gospel" which then leads into thinking that the gospel is the only path to true happiness.

But I still think most people know that others find happiness outside the church. I remember at the MTC my teacher asked us if people could be happy without the gospel. He said the answer was yes, and that we would meet many people who were already happy without the gospel, but that the point of missionary work was salvation and eternal life. The problem I see is, many people nowadays don't really care much about salvation. So then a lot of the church's messaging focuses on happiness. But if the church is the one true church, and it's main message is how to be happy, then it would need to be the best or ultimate source of happiness or else it's not special any more. So I think there's a level of conflict between knowing that happiness exists outside of the church, and also thinking that the church is special.

Minyan Man
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by Minyan Man » 06 Oct 2020, 10:51

Arrakeen wrote:
06 Oct 2020, 10:41
...I remember at the MTC my teacher asked us if people could be happy without the gospel. He said the answer was yes, and that we would meet many people who were already happy without the gospel, but that the point of missionary work was salvation and eternal life. The problem I see is, many people nowadays don't really care much about salvation. So then a lot of the church's messaging focuses on happiness. But if the church is the one true church, and it's main message is how to be happy, then it would need to be the best or ultimate source of happiness or else it's not special any more. So I think there's a level of conflict between knowing that happiness exists outside of the church, and also thinking that the church is special.
I like that a lot. Thanks.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by DarkJedi » 06 Oct 2020, 14:37

Arrakeen wrote:
06 Oct 2020, 10:41
But I still think most people know that others find happiness outside the church. I remember at the MTC my teacher asked us if people could be happy without the gospel. He said the answer was yes, and that we would meet many people who were already happy without the gospel, but that the point of missionary work was salvation and eternal life. The problem I see is, many people nowadays don't really care much about salvation. So then a lot of the church's messaging focuses on happiness. But if the church is the one true church, and it's main message is how to be happy, then it would need to be the best or ultimate source of happiness or else it's not special any more. So I think there's a level of conflict between knowing that happiness exists outside of the church, and also thinking that the church is special.
I like it too.

And I agree that most people don't really care about salvation or at least not the way we (and many other Christians) define it. For most of us it's all about rules and obedience - do X and Y will happen. I don't think that's what the gospel is really about, and I take a much more universalist approach.

And your point about the church being special is also well taken. I'm sure all of us who served missions and many who have just tried with friends and associates have discovered that some people already have the gospel and understand it and our rules have nothing for them. Authority? Where the heck does it say anything about that in the Bible? Did Jesus ever mention it? And that's just one example of some of the things we try to use to make us seem special/different. The happiness or "more happiness" idea is another. Truth is I don't think we're all that special - but we have to keep trying to convince ourselves and others that we are.
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."

My Introduction

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On Own Now
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by On Own Now » 06 Oct 2020, 14:49

Some thoughts:

1 - I think we all feel this way to some degree, church or not. And let me illustrate this with differing views of a vacation to the Caribbean. For some people, the ideal vacation is to sit by a pool and read a book; no interruptions, no decisions, just relaxation. For others, it is to get out and have an unlimited number of exhausting activities; parasailing, scuba diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, zip-lining, etc. For others still, it is party every night into a state of drunkenness and sleep 'til the afternoon. My guess is that each type thinks he/she has the ideal form of the vacation; the one that would make everyone the happiest, even if they do acknowledge that others might be pretty happy doing what they do. In my own case, I'm in Group 2, and I feel sorry for people in Group 1, who obviously are wasting their vacation. I often comment that they should just sit next to a heat lamp and read a book back home; saving the airfare and hotel bill. I cognitively understand that they enjoy doing that, I just don't get why and don't think they could possibly be having as much fun as me.

2 - I was happier before my faith crisis than I am now. There's nothing for it. I am at-peace, and I have found a good way forward that works for me, but the fact remains for me — I was happier then. If God would end his silent treatment and reveal to me that the Church is, in fact, true, I'd go back to my old state in an instant.

3 - I would say, based on what I have read here at StayLDS, that the contributors here generally feel that they are better off than people who are still in the Church, and that no one in the Church can attain the level of true Christianity/humanity/fair-mindedness/kindness/tolerance/awareness the way we have. Is it justified? Sure. Because we come to that conclusion based on our own life-experience; just the same way that they come to their conclusions.

4 - Whether a person is in the Church or has undergone an LDS Faith Crisis, or is a conservative or progressive, woman or man, millennial or boomer, modern art or impressionism lover, fan of football or soccer, I think we all create a narrative that supports our situation. We self-validate by telling ourselves that the OTHERS are not in as good of a place as we are.
- - -
“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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DarkJedi
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by DarkJedi » 07 Oct 2020, 05:11

On Own Now wrote:
06 Oct 2020, 14:49
Some thoughts:

1 - I think we all feel this way to some degree, church or not. And let me illustrate this with differing views of a vacation to the Caribbean. For some people, the ideal vacation is to sit by a pool and read a book; no interruptions, no decisions, just relaxation. For others, it is to get out and have an unlimited number of exhausting activities; parasailing, scuba diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, zip-lining, etc. For others still, it is party every night into a state of drunkenness and sleep 'til the afternoon. My guess is that each type thinks he/she has the ideal form of the vacation; the one that would make everyone the happiest, even if they do acknowledge that others might be pretty happy doing what they do. In my own case, I'm in Group 2, and I feel sorry for people in Group 1, who obviously are wasting their vacation. I often comment that they should just sit next to a heat lamp and read a book back home; saving the airfare and hotel bill. I cognitively understand that they enjoy doing that, I just don't get why and don't think they could possibly be having as much fun as me.
True, and my daughter recently experienced a real life example of exactly what you're saying. She went on a vacation with a colleague and they were both stressed out with work and needed to "get away." However, the vacation turned into a disaster because DD was more of the type who wanted to get out and do things while her friend wanted to sit at the hotel and read/do nothing. I get how this applies to happiness (DD did not understand the point of going to a hotel to just sit at the hotel either) but I'm not sure how it applies to church/religion specifically unless we're talking much broader - like Muslim vs. Christian vs. Judaism. I know many Christians have a hard time understanding how Jews could not accept Jesus as the Messiah and continue in seemingly pointless rituals. But it's a little harder for me to understand Christian vs Christian because what brings happiness is supposed to be (and mostly is) the same.
2 - I was happier before my faith crisis than I am now. There's nothing for it. I am at-peace, and I have found a good way forward that works for me, but the fact remains for me — I was happier then. If God would end his silent treatment and reveal to me that the Church is, in fact, true, I'd go back to my old state in an instant.
This was definitely true for me for a long time, but it's not any more. I do agree that if God were to send an angel or whatever and make it clear to me the church was indeed what it claims to be I would revert to my former state. I can't say I am unhappy in my current state nor that I was happier before the FC, however. I am at peace with where I'm at and that's at least in part due to my being able to give up false guilt/fear that the church tries to apply (generally successfully).
3 - I would say, based on what I have read here at StayLDS, that the contributors here generally feel that they are better off than people who are still in the Church, and that no one in the Church can attain the level of true Christianity/humanity/fair-mindedness/kindness/tolerance/awareness the way we have. Is it justified? Sure. Because we come to that conclusion based on our own life-experience; just the same way that they come to their conclusions.
Agreed, both for those of us who maintain some degree of activity or connection with the church and those who don't. My life experiences up to that point in my TBM phase brought me there, life experiences were a big part of my FC, and my current more (Fowler) stage 4/5 views are also based on life experience. In one way, the above referenced angelic visitation might not actually return me completely to my former state because I know what I know. That's the old "if I knew as a teenager what I know now things would have been a lot different."
4 - Whether a person is in the Church or has undergone an LDS Faith Crisis, or is a conservative or progressive, woman or man, millennial or boomer, modern art or impressionism lover, fan of football or soccer, I think we all create a narrative that supports our situation. We self-validate by telling ourselves that the OTHERS are not in as good of a place as we are.
Agreed, and we often seem to have to make justifications, at least to ourselves, why our own way/belief is better than our neighbor's.
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."

My Introduction

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On Own Now
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by On Own Now » 07 Oct 2020, 13:38

Just to be totally clear, I consider myself to be quite happy. It's just that I'm probably 0.9x the level of happiness I was before all this happened. I'm in a great place, and I am glad for that. I simply say that I am not as happy as I once was, and I don't think I ever will be again. My situation works better for me, because of my beliefs, and I have found plenty of the new to enjoy; but I would trade if I could.
DarkJedi wrote:
07 Oct 2020, 05:11
But it's a little harder for me to understand Christian vs Christian because what brings happiness is supposed to be (and mostly is) the same.
That's true for many, but I would argue that many Christians think of their brand as more fulfilling in some way or another.

One way to be happy with our circumstances is to embrace what we do have with gusto and love it. Another way is to tear down what other people have (which artificially raises our own situation). That latter is far more common that you might think. Listen to the way people talk about others who are not in their in-group, and you'll see what I mean. Church members do this about us. We do it about them.
- - -
“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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DarkJedi
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by DarkJedi » 08 Oct 2020, 04:37

On Own Now wrote:
07 Oct 2020, 13:38
One way to be happy with our circumstances is to embrace what we do have with gusto and love it. Another way is to tear down what other people have (which artificially raises our own situation). That latter is far more common that you might think. Listen to the way people talk about others who are not in their in-group, and you'll see what I mean. Church members do this about us. We do it about them.
Very true, and in relation to this topic church members do it about other Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and [fill in the blank]. One way to make our way appear better to to make another way look worse. Politicians, of course, always do it.
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."

My Introduction

Roy
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by Roy » 13 Oct 2020, 10:36

I think that there are several key components to members' sense of happiness.

1) Purpose - I do not believe that it can be overstated how much a sense of purpose can make hardships more bearable. Mormonism has a very good sense of purpose.

2) Community - I believe that having connections/connectedness matters both in quantity and quality. They say it takes a village to raise a child. The village also helps adult individuals to achieve a state of happiness.

3) Belonging - One of the difficult things about having a FC is the loss of belonging. But when it works it can really work well. A local Christian church that I admire has rebranded themselves as "A place to belong." I assume that this was done after some market research determining that a desire to belong was a strong motivator for potential church goers. LDS multi-generational families can amplify this sense of belonging by tying together church and family heritage.

4) Clean living - There is some truth to the standards of the church preventing some personal decisions that might result in less happiness. The focus on stable families can produce environments where happiness is more likely to occur.

5) Narrative/Culture - I also believe that there is some pressure to portray ourselves as happy. We repeatedly hear about how the gospel brings happiness and it is less acceptable to talk openly about our struggles. We culturally highlight the positive. We want to be like a shining city on a hill or the light in the high place. We are all missionaries and want to show by our own example the happiness that can be had by our friends and neighbors by following the gospel. We are encouraged to talk about how happy we are and to correlate that happiness with church membership.
"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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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Member perception of happiness

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 15 Oct 2020, 03:18

I agree, Roy, especially with Number 5. I think that's one of the reasons why the brethren weren't always so open or honest about our church's history. One thing I've noticed in the standard works is that although the ancient prophets were showed with weaknesses or sins here and there, mostly they seem more like 1-2 dimensional fictional characters than real people. That is annoying.

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