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10/9/12

In Defense of Your Believing Friend



This is a post written by my friend Sarah. I met Sarah on BYU London Study Abroad. (The Study Abroad that every famous blogger goes on, apparently. You hear that, Sarah? We are famous!) Anyway, Sarah is a Republican, an active Mormon, owner of a home in Utah County, and my friend.

Currently, Sarah lives in Thailand with her two daughters and her husband Rocky. When I wrote my last post, I knew I wanted her to write a response, and her post reminds me of a need to be kinder and more loving. Maybe even to swear less. Thanks for your post, Sarah, and thanks for being my friend.

In Defense of Your Believing Friend:


Mormons aren’t perfect, far from it. We’re just like everyone else, building our careers, raising our families, and living our lives. We’re just doing it with different beliefs and rules. Sure, we screw up. Sometimes we are hypocritical or offensive—but the truth is, we’re just trying to do our best. So next time you talk to your Mormon friend and they say something that you disagree with or find hurtful, cut them a little slack. They don’t mean to upset you.

Steph asked me to make a list to correspond with her list, “What not to say to your faith crisis friend,” and here is what I have. Really, it could be titled, “In defense of your believing friend” but to make it a response to hers I’ll call it, “Things to keep in mind when talking with your Mormon friend.”


1.      Don’t be offended if they try to talk about the gospel.  The gospel is very important to us. It’s like when you meet someone who’s never read your favorite book. (Middlemarch by George Eliot and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, thanks for asking.) You love that book so much, it’s so important to you, it may have changed your life or shaped your way of thought, when you recommend it to someone you do so hoping they have a similar experience. This is the way we feel about the gospel—the happiness and the peace it brings our lives.

This is why we talk about the church with our inactive and nonmember friends. We aren’t trying to save your souls in an attempt to gain some kind of celestial advantage. We are only trying to help you find the happiness the gospel has brought us.

If you don’t want to talk about it, just tell us, we’ll stop. We can’t read minds. We won’t know it bothers you unless you tell us. Politely please, because it is very special to us. We’re your friends, not the vacuum salesman at the door. We have other things in common, let’s hold onto those things and stay friends.

2.      Your believing friends are not naive, ignorant or brainwashed.  My testimony is a personal thing. I don’t have a testimony of the gospel because I don’t know better or because “I didn’t get out when I had the chance.” I have a testimony because I prayed about the Book of Mormon and received confirmation that it is indeed another testament of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony because I see the change for good the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings to my life and to the lives of the people around me. My testimony is not based on lack of knowledge—it’s based on faith and knowledge. Don’t patronize me by acting as though you know more than me because you’ve left the church.

3.      Don’t trample the things they think are sacred.  In Thailand, I am surrounded by tiny temples, raised on stilts, filled with daily offerings of food and juices.  All part of living in a Buddhist country. I would never affront the people around me for worshiping idols. I would never insult Buddha, Confucius, Hindi gods or Muhammad (I know what a fatwa is). I don’t agree with their teachings but I will not make crass comments about the things they believe are holy. Religion is sacred and personal. Lack of religion is sacred and personal.

If you’ve been a Mormon, or close to one, you’re more familiar with the things we believe are sacred—temples, covenants, religious leaders—don’t throw mud. I’m not saying you shouldn’t disagree, you’re welcome to, I’m just saying you can disagree without being offensive and tactless.

4.      Don’t think your friend sees only sunshine and happiness. I see the crap in the world today. I see the man sitting cross-legged at my train stop, holding a tin can with stubs that don’t reach his elbows. I’m torn between giving him money and the knowledge that chances are, he was maimed as a child and placed there to collect money for the mafia.  I studied Polish history, further evidence that I understand pain. We know life is awful for many people. We have seen sadness, death and lives lost for inexplicable reasons. But we still believe in God.

We keep smiling. That doesn’t mean we don’t mourn. I live by the Tolstoy quote, “God sees the truth but waits.” God sees the baby stretched out on the beggar’s legs. God saw the people pushed into the cattle cars in Poland. He will give them their reward. He sees me. Born to a stable family, in a developed country, at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and He expects more of me.

This is what keeps us happy. This is what strengthens our faith. We know in the end, all wrongs will be right and in exchange for our advantage in this life, we will be expected to have helped others in theirs. Don’t assume our happiness is born from oblivion to the pain in the world. Some people’s happiness does indeed stem from ignorance and oblivion but being Mormon does not make you unaware of hardship.

5.      All Mormon women are not repressed. We aren’t held captive by some evil, restrictive patriarchy. Sure, in our church the roles for men and women are different. WE’RE OKAY WITH THAT. If we weren’t, we’d leave. It’s that simple. You may have been repressed or offended with patriarchy—this does not mean we have. Accept that we are okay with the church as it stands today. This does not make us less of a person or a woman.

It’s the twenty first century—roles between men and women are aligning and becoming more equal than ever. I applaud the advantages made for gender equality while accepting God has a different plan for women than he does for men. I don’t know why women don’t have the priesthood or the answers to any of those other hard questions. What I do know is the church is true—it is true as it stands today. For me that is enough.

Basically, this whole list could be summed up with—agree to disagree, respectfully.

And a quick note to Mormons who have friends struggling with the gospel:

 If you have friend who going through a faith crisis, don’t shut them out. You don’t need to save them; you just need to be their friend.  Your friendship probably has some rooting outside the chapel doors, find that and keep being their friend. (Steph and I share a love of celebrity biographies, all things British and Ronald Reagan.) And to be honest, I hate that Steph’s going through this.  I hate when the people in my life don’t make the choices I want them to. Chances are very good I will die of a nervous breakdown when my kids are teenagers.

People are always going to like different things, act different ways and make different choices. Diversity makes things great. Diversity makes the church great. Accept that your friend is challenging something personal and sacred to you but they are still your friend. The last thing they need is for you to stop talking to them. Apostasy isn’t a contagious disease. Your testimony should be founded in Jesus Christ, not in your peers. Besides, if anything, maintaining a friendship and talking about the gospel will only make your testimony stronger. Keep them in your prayers, love them. That is what Christ would do…is doing.




39 comments:

Jessica said...

Love this! Sarah put into words everything I've been thinking but didn't know how to verbalize. I especially love #2 and #5. Great post.

Steven and Wendy OBryant said...

I love this! Great idea to have Sarah write a response. Wish I could write half as well as the two of you. Great thoughts Sarah! I could learn a lot from both of you. What to say and what not to say. Love you girls!

bluestocking said...

please reconsider the "I wish I could control my friends' puppet strings" thing. Too much like Satan's plan of getting us all to do what he wants. Profoundly upsetting, and a way of replicating the trauma that caused some of us to doubt the church in the first place.

rml said...

Well done, Sarah. I'm glad to know you smart, compassionate people. Truly. One quibble, though:

Sure, in our church the roles for men and women are different. WE’RE OKAY WITH THAT. If we weren’t, we’d leave. It’s that simple.

Is it, though?

This presents a paradigm where all the people who have concerns leave, which implies that having concerns necessarily causes a loss of faith or a loss of desire to be connected to the community. I think the truth is far more nuanced than that. To assume that any Mormon woman who experiences cognitive dissonance over women's issues (or anything else) will simply pick up and leave belies the complexity, soul-searching, and heartache inherent in a decision to leave the church or a decision to stay in it. I work, socialize, and attend church with lots of active Mormon women who have concerns--ranging in intensity from casual to grave--about gender dynamics in the church. But they choose to stay because they continue to believe that the gospel of Christ as articulated in the LDS Church has real redemptive power or because their experiences of the Divine within the church keep them tethered to it. Or perhaps because they have hope that things will get better or because the church just feels like home. Or for a hundred thousand other intimate reasons. As you aptly note, religion is sacred and personal.

As such, I would add a #6 (not directed at Steph, because she is great at this already): You want your believing friends to respect your decision to leave; you must, in turn, respect their decision to stay. They may understand, sympathize with, or even share some of your concerns. But for whatever reason, continuing to participate and engage with the church feels right for them, just as your path feels right for you. And that has to be okay.

Di said...

I came to comment only to find "rml" has said everything I wanted to say and more. I love the addition of #6.

SGOT said...

@all of you London peeps. I loved reading these responses and I loved reading Sarah and MCB's posts. It was like walking down Bayswater during our semester abroad.

Well written. I do not have anything to add but that I am grateful for religion and the opportunity to worship how, where, or what I may. I do believe that everyone deserves to do the same regardless of their race, gender, social status, etc.

Sarah said...

rml: I love #6 too. Thanks for adding it. Post after post could be written about gender dynamics and choosing to leave or stay because of your feelings towards the church's views--I'm sure I did to address it nearly as well as I should have. Thanks for you input.

Sarah said...

bluestocking: You're right. That is exactly Satan's plan. Which is why I don't control any puppet strings--evidence: my potty-trained, four year old just peed on the floor.

It's human to want people to make the same decisions you do. It's only through real compassion that we chose to love people regardless of our differing views. Something at which we, in the church, do not always excel.

bluestocking said...

It's human to want people to make the same decisions you do.

Says who? I have felt very little need to tell other peoples that they should make the decisions I have, on anything from diet to career to personal relationships. Why is it something YOU feel is a fundamental part of who you are?

It's only through real compassion that we chose to love people regardless of our differing views.

You make it sound so hard. Perhaps it is, for you. And yet, I managed to do it all the time when I was still a Mormon. Part of the problem of my mission in Asia was that as I got to know them better, I felt there should be no real need to convince the people I was teaching to join the church. They were good and happy and moral and interesting people without being Mormon or even Christian. it seemed so arrogant and lacking in compassion to want to change them. Why couldn't heavenly father love and accept them as they were? Why did he have to have a plan where everyone conforms to a fairly narrow range of beliefs and attitudes and behaviors?

I left the church in part because I realized that the church's plan of salvation is NOT compassionate, and that the church makes compassion harder, not easier, because it teaches people that they SHOULD want others to make the same decisions they do, that only the decision to join the CoJCoL-dS is truly acceptable to God and truly likely to produce happiness. The church's approach to life actively undermines the ability to have compassion you say is necessary to love.

It therefore creates as much misery as happiness, and it produces people who are stunted in fundamental ways, such as imagining that it is somehow human to see your loved ones as puppets who you would, if you are honest, like to control.

Jennifer said...

"I would never affront the people around me for worshipping idols"

Actually, they think that they are worshipping God. It's a western Christianity thing to label it idol-worshipping and we, as westerners, historically have had problems with other forms of worship and some might argue that we have tried to "impose" our beliefs on others in a less than respectful manner.

Fortunately, they don't label our worship as they accept that we are all worshipping God in different forms and it isn't part of Eastern spiritual beliefs to convert others.

Just something to think about.

Aunt Spicy said...

I want to be best friends with both of you!

ps. another London Study Abroad Alum right here!

MamaBear said...

I disagree with the idea that telling my Mormon friends to stop trying to convert me will make them stop. I have never known a Mormon who would shut up about it. Ever. Sadly, this means I don't talk to a lot of people I would like to talk to, because they pity the poor damned girl and need to save her.

I try very hard not to badmouth the LDS church. It really would be nice if I still had a single friend from when I believed in it. But I don't.

MamaBear said...

Oh, I take it back. One sister (of my parents, not church) doesn't push, and accepts, and doesn't judge. and I loves her best!

Mary said...

@rml: I think you are very well-spoken in your question to Sarah. You bring up an excellent point, and, I'm guessing, a core issue for women who have crises of faith. May I add something?

I think if a woman feels that the gender-dynamics in the church are fundamentally wrong and not of God, then they probably wouldn't be able to support such a religion, and would, on principle, need to leave. I don't know Sarah, but that's how I read it. Sarah, feel free to correct me :).

I consider myself a feminist, though some would disagree. I, however, have never felt that to be "equal," I needed to be able to have the priesthood, mainly because nothing in my study of the gospel has led me to believe that the priesthood gives men any more "power" or status than women. As I understand it, it is one way for men to serve God and others. Keep in mind, I am no seminary teacher or any kind of doctrinal expert. I just have my own brain and personal revelation to rely on here.

Other women will see it differently and that is ok. I have a serious problem with misinterpretations of the priesthood being upheld. I also have a serious issue with the lessons I received in young women's classes, from church sanctioned manuals, that suggested that if you don't get married and have children, you are failing in your "role." Again, I think those things bring up hard questions I don't know how to answer. I keep seeking answers though, and I think God is ok with that.

Do men and women mistake what the priesthood means? Absolutely. Do they abuse and misinterpret for their own ends? Sure. That is wrong. That should not happen. That makes my blood boil.

However, I do feel ok with the idea that men and women each have different roles in this life. Keep in mind, I say this as a single woman in her 30s who has never used her uterus to make a baby. I'm not sure what my role in this life is really supposed to be, other than making myself a better person by educating myself and serving others the best way I can, but I'm ok with the fact that it's not exactly the same as somebody else's. Does that make sense?

Sorry for the long-winded response...again. Stephanie, you bring out the thinker/talker in me.

Julie said...

Sarah makes some beautiful points! You two are so opposite, but in a good way... like two halves to a whole. I think it was brilliant to have a her write a follow up... to see a different perspective.

I disagree, though, that women who still go to church don't feel smothered by patriarchal leadership. It IS possible (and I'm saying this from personal experience) to have serious problems with that particular aspect of the gospel, but still believe that the gospel is true as a whole. Its something I struggle with and something that causes me a lot of heartache and frustration. And I know I'm not the only one.

Other than that, Sarah's message of giving more love and kindness to those who are struggling or see things differently than ourselves, is perfect. Its something we could ALL do more of!

I love you both!

Sarah said...

@bluestocking Maybe it's just something I personally struggle with. Believe me, it's something I'm working on. Clearly you are better at this than me.

Though I have met plenty of people of differing religions who are fantastic people, I believe the gospel can help bring them closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people. I'm sorry that you see me as some kind of evil puppet master, that is not what I intended by my analogy but I respect your disagreement.

Sarah said...

@mamabear I am sorry people consistently bother you about the church and I am sorry your Mormons friends have left you. I wish it hadn't happened that way for you. It's definitely not the way the gospel of Christ is intended to be lived.

Sloane Phillips said...

First- I love your "back away from the computer, mean commenter person reminder."

Second- thank you so much for everything you write about on your blog and for requesting a response to your previous post. I loved reading both entries and needed reminders from both of them.

Third- Sarah, I agree "it's only through real compassion that we chose to love people regardless of our differing views." Charity and compassion are such prized Christlike attributes because of the fact that they are not necessarily easy for us but because we can strive to attain them.

Again- thank you both for your entries.

Grace said...

Sarah said...

Though I have met plenty of people of differing religions who are fantastic people, I believe the gospel can help bring them closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people.


What gives you the authority to judge the closeness of another beings relationship with G-d?

bluestocking said...

I believe the gospel can help bring them closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people.

Yes. We all know that this is the standard Mormon line.

The point is, you might be wrong.

Being Mormon might have made you not a better person, but a worse one.

And being Mormon might not make anyone else a better person, either.

Regardless, people shouldn't have to tell you to stop "sharing the gospel" with them. You should assume they don't want you to attempt to convert them--unless they ask you to in the first place or explicitly encourage you in the second.

it's sorta like sexual assault that way, particularly since many people have experienced their interactions with Mormons as types of spiritual rapes.

Your decision to blog on this topic needs to teach not only your readers but YOU something about this. Keep in mind that many of who have left the church understand YOUR position, because we lived it at one time, or at least observed it in others from inside the church. You need to try to imagine our position, and you've already admitted that you're not really that good at such things. Please reread your original post and think about what sort of assumptions that go into writing a paragraph like this:

This is why we talk about the church with our inactive and nonmember friends. We aren’t trying to save your souls in an attempt to gain some kind of celestial advantage. We are only trying to help you find the happiness the gospel has brought us.

In the case of talking to your inactive friends about the church, you are still trying to get people to embrace again something they've rejected. You can try to spin it as generous all you want, but it takes a lot of insensitivity and lack of curiosity to keep talking about YOUR perspective on something and assuming that if you just do it long enough, the person will come around to your way of thinking.

I mean, instead of waiting for the person to tell you to stop doing something you are well aware they may find offensive, why not wait for them to ask you why you still attend and what about the church makes you so happy? Hmm?

Or, better still, why not ask them why they quit going and then respect and think about the answers they give you? Seems to me that's what someone who was really trying to be a friend would do.

You said that "We won’t know it bothers you unless you tell us" so I'm telling you: You should stop painting your aggressive interest in talking about the church as a virtue borne of generosity. To pretty much everyone but other Mormons--in other words, to those you really want to reach--this is a flaw borne of selfishness and insensitivity.

Mary said...

Um. Please don't compare people being open about their beliefs with rape or sexual assault. Sarah made it clear that most Mormons are not trying to convert you. They are just talking about something important to them.

If you're going to be offended by whatever she, or any active Mormon, says, then maybe you shouldn't pay attention to it and move on. You're twisting her words to be something they are not.

Sexual assault is a violent act, done to gain power over another. Speaking about your beliefs comes from a place of love and joy.

LC said...

It's interesting to me that so many comments indicate active members are out to fundamentally change who you are as a person, save you, or invalidate everything you've cultivated in yourself up to this point.

I haven't lived your experiences, and don't mean to diminish them, but please consider that there are those of us out there who genuinely want to share what makes us happy. We know you're absolutely entitled to take it or leave it and we'll love you either way. Compassion, love, and a need to withhold judgment ought to go both ways.

bluestocking said...

I believe the gospel can help bring them closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people.

and

please consider that there are those of us out there who genuinely want to share what makes us happy.

So what?

How would you feel if you had a friend who said to you, "I feel bad that you aren't as happy or as moral or as Christlike as I am, so I want you to start believing what I do believe and doing what I do."

Would you think, "Wow! What a good person and good friend she is, to make it clear to me that she thinks my way of being happy is inferior to hers, my way of being moral is inferior to hers, and that she's willing to help me be more like her"?

Or would you think, "That person's a jerk. Who is she to tell me I'm not as happy as I should or could be?"

How would you react if someone said, "I know you THINK you're happy, but the fact that you've never gotten drunk means you can't be. Plus, your sex life is so boring! You need to make the decisions I do. And hey--don't get mad at me! I'm only telling you this because I care about you and want you to be happy, and I know that no matter how happy you think you are, you're not as happy as I!"

Please understand: we are trying to get you to understand how unattractive, unpleasant and annoying your behavior is because we want you to stop alienating and offending all your non- and ex-Mormon friends, and we want to help you be better people.

I assume you're totally OK with it now. After all, I'm following your example and doing to you what you do to others, and setting an example is part of what Mormons are all about, right?

LC said...

You know, bluestocking, I'm happy my interactions with my non-member friends have never been as ridiculous as you describe. It sounds like you have had some appalling experiences.

Two years ago, one of my dearest friends invited me to her twins' infant baptisms. It's not a practice I uphold, but I happily attended because I love her as my friend and this was an immensely special moment for her. I was glad she wanted me to be part of it. There was no need for me to spoil a moment like that with any kind of commentary. I do hope she'll be equally as pleased to attend my eight-year-old's baptism and share with us in our family's happiness that day.

All I'm saying is to realize there are those of us out there with common sense. I wasn't about to engage in a war with my friend over whose version of baptism is correct. We can be friends because of, and despite differences, no preaching necessary.

Grace said...

Mary said...

Um. Please don't compare people being open about their beliefs with rape or sexual assault. Sarah made it clear that most Mormons are not trying to convert you.


Hinckley stated that it's members duty to bring in new converts and even put out a call for them to do so.

Are you saying that most Mormons ignored this?

You guys need to have a group meeting or something, too many discrepancies.

Mary said...

They are just talking about something important to them.


www.lds.org/ensign/2003/03/the-role-of-members-in-conversion

Members simply must take a more active role in our missionary efforts at every stage: friendshipping those who are not of our faith; sharing Church materials; sharing feelings about the gospel; inviting friends to Church activities, service projects, and meetings; giving the missionaries referrals to visit our friends; inviting those friends to be taught the gospel in our homes; and fellowshipping and strengthening new converts.

Some members do not actively participate in sharing the gospel because they don’t feel comfortable starting a religious conversation or they don’t know what to say. These feelings can be overcome as we learn how to introduce the gospel to our friends and acquaintances in simple, nonthreatening ways..


O.o

Mary said...

If you're going to be offended by whatever she, or any active Mormon, says, then maybe you shouldn't pay attention to it and move on. You're twisting her words to be something they are not.

Sexual assault is a violent act, done to gain power over another. Speaking about your beliefs comes from a place of love and joy.


I don't think bluestocking twisted her words at all. JMO.

As for the rest, flipping through any history book will yield example after example of horrible acts being committed by people who felt that they were coming from a place of "love and joy".

Good intentions don't negate bad behavior.

Good intentions don't mean you're exempt from being held accountable when you hurt others.

Mary said...

We do feel it's important to share what's important to us, both spiritually and otherwise. I never said we didn't. However, if a Mormon decides to withdraw from a friendship because someone isn't converted, that's their personal decision, not a doctrinal command.

Grace, your use of Ensigns are great. We are happy when people convert to our faith. We don't deny that. We feel joy when we get to share in that conversion. I don't think that's "bad behavior."

People on this thread are picking apart everything we say and searching for ways to turn it into hypocrisy. I've got news for you. I often do things that are wrong, that my religion says are wrong. I'm human and I make mistakes. So, yes, I'm a hypocrite sometimes, like everybody else on the planet. I don't consider being open about my beliefs to be hypocrisy.

I talk about my religion because it's a huge part of my life. If my friends ask questions, I answer them.

My point is, you are making it sound like members are spending all their time planning how to "get converts" to the religion. We aren't. It is coming from a place of love and joy. The love doesn't change (for MOST of us), if you aren't interested or don't believe.

None of us believe that hateful acts of violence committed by members of the church (church leaders included) are sanctioned by God.

I'm not going to say anything else, so you can have the last word, if you want.

bluestocking said...

Please don't compare people being open about their beliefs with rape or sexual assault. Sarah made it clear that most Mormons are not trying to convert you. They are just talking about something important to them.

If you're going to be offended by whatever she, or any active Mormon, says, then maybe you shouldn't pay attention to it and move on. You're twisting her words to be something they are not.

Sexual assault is a violent act, done to gain power over another. Speaking about your beliefs comes from a place of love and joy.


I have been sexually assaulted. I served a mission for the LDS church. I know what I'm talking about.

Speaking about your beliefs CAN come from a place of love and joy.

It can also come from a desire to gain power and control over another.

I had experiences in the MTC and the mission field that involved abuse. I saw missionaries treat their investigators in ways that were abusive. I make the comparison both to shake people out of their complacent sense of righteousness and because it fits.

If you cannot handle the truth of another's experience, then perhaps you shouldn't participate in conversations but anyone who agrees with you on everything.

So, just to reiterate: many people experience being forced to hear about how great Mormonism and how it will make them happy if they can only find the right mindset as a kind of spiritual rape. It feels abusive and therefore intolerable, which is one reason people should be more cautious about doing it.

bluestocking said...

My point is, you are making it sound like members are spending all their time planning how to "get converts" to the religion.

It always surprises me when active members talk to us inactives as if we didn't sit through lesson after lesson, sacrament meeting after sacrament meeting, family conversation after family conversation, about these topics.

Members DON'T spend all their time planning how to "get converts" to the religion.

They're just told that they SHOULD spend MOST Of their time planning how to "get converts" to the religion.

I went on a mission, Mary. I listened to talks about the importance of missionary work. I had family members who were on the ward mission committee. I know how this works, and I know that you are lying, either to us, or to yourself.

Mary said...

Ok I should reply to this. I am not lying, nor can I not handle the truth of your experience. I am truly sorry your experience has been so horrific. Never in my comments did I claim to know you or your heart. You also do not know mine. Yet, you claim to. My experience has been different than yours.

I will not list everything I have experienced, both good and horrible. I only meant to say that you cannot clump all Mormons into one box, just like we should not make assumptions about people who have left the church or non-members.



Stephanie said...

I think it really is important to respect the experiences of others.

I was raised in the church, but for whatever reason (I did not serve a mission, for one,) I didn't get a lot of lessons in church about converting people. Yes, conference talks, and the odd lesson every year or so, but not all the time. I can't speak for that experience, but I know it is true of others, including bluestocking.

But, I think that when people say they were not taught that way, I can be their truth.

That said, during my faith crisis, I have experienced behavior from individual members that mirror verbal assault.It was heartbreaking. There is truth in that experience too.

I think we need to respect the validity of everyone's experience. There is a wide range of behavior from both sides.

bluestocking said...

My experience has been different than yours.

Perhaps that is because you are lucky, or perhaps that is because are not paying attention.

The LDS church has the largest proselytizing force in the world. That force is organized, aggressive, deliberate, concerted.

The LDS church counts among its goals converting the entire world to Mormonism.

So whether Mormons do indeed spend ALL their time trying to convert others, the fact still remains that the church states that it exists in order to bringing everyone unto what it considers "the gospel," and that it also teaches its members that people who are not active members of the CoJCoL-dS are not, as Sarah states explicitly when she wrote "I believe the gospel can help bring [non- or inactive Mormons] closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people," as moral or as righteous as Mormons are.

I may not know you personally, Mary, but I know the Mormon mindset pretty well, having inhabited it. It takes willful dishonesty to imagine that you truly respect people when you really feel that they are less moral than you because they do not belong to your church, and it takes willful dishonesty to imagine that the church's aggressive and concerted efforts to convert both those who are no longer and those who have never been active Mormons are experienced by those who are the target of them as something other than aggressive and concerted.

If it offends you to be called a liar, then please imagine how offensive it is to be told by people who have never walked in your shoes that you are not as happy or as moral as people whose choices you deliberately rejected precisely BECAUSE you suspect that they make most people LESS happy and LESS moral, in part because you KNOW they made you and many close to you LESS happy and LESS moral.

In other words, many of us rejected the church because we see and are distressed by its immorality--including the extent to which it enables people to glibly assert that "sharing the gospel"--or expecting others to want to hear how they should believe and act just like you--is something joyous and kind Mormons should always be admired and applauded for doing. It's not.

bluestocking said...

Just to reiterate: Sarah doesn't know anyone's heart. But we're somehow, we're all supposed to think it's OK when she writes, "I believe the gospel can help bring them closer to Christ and in so doing, make them better people."

That's a pretty strong judgment. That's a pretty strong assumption that she knows A) that others aren't "better" people and B) that the LDS church is what will make them "better" people.

But because it's the church's official line, and because active Mormons are so used to saying and hearing it, and because saying and hearing it is one of the ways they make them feel good about themselves and their efforts to "share the gospel," we're all just supposed to nod and say, "Oh, how nice."

It's not so nice. It's a judgment that presumes to know others' hearts. It's a judgment that says, "I'm better than you."

It's offensive and hypocritical and unchristlike, and the unwillingness to even entertain that fact is a specific reason why many others do not respect or trust Mormons.

just a little bit mo said...

Thank you for this. I would like to add that as Mormons sometimes we don't act in *perfect* harmony with our ideology. Please find it in your hearts to forgive us for when we stumble. Forgiveness has helped me overcome a lot of bitterness toward myself and others. I remain friends with many who have chosen to leave the church, despite mis-steps and moments of tactlessness.

Yes, the Church urges us to share the gospel. The thing for member and non-member alike to remember is that an invitation is only that, an invitation -- not an obligation. I'm sorry if anyone has ever felt "pressured" to be a part of the church. Being "pressured" or "obligated" to do anything, let alone live life in accordance to a set of tenants you're not sure you believe or want to believe is NOT part of the true gospel.

So, if you believe in Christ, believe his words that we can each choose to "Come unto Him" or not. His invitation is to everyone, but it is up to each individual to choose whether or not to actually take Him up on that. An invitation, not an obligation.

bluestocking said...

I only meant to say that you cannot clump all Mormons into one box

unless of course it's the box that says that Mormons aren't 'spending all their time planning how to "get converts" to the religion. We aren't. It is coming from a place of love and joy.'

Mary, If you will withdraw your statement clumping all Mormons into the "we share the gospel because we come from a place of love and joy" box, and if you'll admit that the basic the assertion that the church will make others "better people" is a way in which Mormons presume to know the hearts of others (something you say you object to), I will withdraw my assertion that you are lying to yourself about the basic situation.

But if you continue to maintain contradictory positions about the inappropriateness of clumping Mormons into one box and of presuming to know others' hearts, I will continue to maintain that you are lying to yourself and refuse to see the situation honestly.

bluestocking said...

The thing for member and non-member alike to remember is that an invitation is only that, an invitation -- not an obligation. I'm sorry if anyone has ever felt "pressured" to be a part of the church. Being "pressured" or "obligated" to do anything, let alone live life in accordance to a set of tenants you're not sure you believe or want to believe is NOT part of the true gospel.

just a little bit mo:

Consider the following statements, which are conveyed both explicitly and implicitly by Mormons to people outside the church:

1. "If you leave the church, you can't go to your siblings' or children's weddings, and you can't be with your family for all eternity," and
2. "if you are not a member of the LDS Church, you will be denied, for all eternity, many blessings,"
both of which are communicated both explicitly and implicitly to non- and inactive members

I invite you to understand that anyone who thinks that statements like those are not ways of "pressuring" someone to be a part of the church, is either unwilling or unable to face certain fundamental realities about human psychology.

Mrs. Clark said...

Thank you, Stephanie, for hosting this very thought-provoking discussion. I appreciate all the commentary, as well.

As a convert to the Church, I can assert that following its precepts have made me grow into a much better person than I would have been had I not embraced what I believe to be the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

My parents have never joined the Church, despite my (relatively) good example and that of the family I have raised. Am I perfect? Of course not. And I still have a very long way to go to fully implement the pure love of Christ in my life. But these posts have helped a lot. Thank you all, so much, again.

Christine Marie said...

What I think is interesting is how often people who leave the church bring the attitude of "the way I have chosen is the only way, which means the way that you have chosen is wrong" with them when they leave. It's hurtful and ridiculous in both an LDS and non-LDS context. Plus, it never comes from a place of love. Usually, I think it comes from a place of insecurity.

I enjoyed this post a lot, though. It was written—and thought out—well. Especially as a follow-up to the earlier one. Well done, both of you ladies.

Elizabeth Downie said...

Some of the comments on this post are such a bummer. I really enjoyed the post itself though.

Gretta Whalen said...

"What I think is interesting is how often people who leave the church bring the attitude of 'the way I have chosen is the only way, which means the way that you have chosen is wrong' with them when they leave. It's hurtful and ridiculous in both an LDS and non-LDS context. Plus, it never comes from a place of love. Usually, I think it comes from a place of insecurity."

Two things. Number one, I think the same can be said for people who stay in the church. (And just for the record, I have stayed, even though I have intellectual and emotional problems with many points of doctrine and culture). And number two, it does come from a place of insecurity, since people who leave are often angry, hurt, confused, etc. because they feel they have been duped/mistreated/lied to. And whether believers can understand them and empathize or not, those who leave have every right to feel what they feel.

Also, add me to the list of fully active Mormons who does not believe that the gender inequalities and traditions in the church are particularly fair or doctrinal or inspired. There are hundreds of others just like me. And we haven't left. Although sometimes, we get the message that we should.