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10/2/12

Things Not To Tell Your Apostate/Heathen/Inactive/Questioning/ In- Faith- Crisis Friend


Back when I was a great Mormon but a mediocre human being (it happens, when you focus on the rules and not necessarily the pure love of Christ,) I tried to convince a male friend to go on a mission. Male friend, (alias Mike,) openly questioned his belief in the church, faced extreme pressure at home to conform to the “ideal Mormon male” prototype established by his very righteous siblings, and battled severe depression.  While sympathetic, I insisted that the only way to fix his deep unhappiness involved spending two years preaching a party-line he didn't believe.

 I did this because my belief in the Mormon Plan of Happiness hinged on the belief that traditional Mormonism offered a perfect blue-print for living. If you obeyed the Word of Wisdom, dressed modestly, went on a mission, got married in the temple, and produced at least three kids, you would be happy for the rest of your life. If you weren't happy, (because even then I recognized I was not,) you could at least achieve happiness in the next life. Just. Stick. With. It.

 Fortunately, Mike disregarded my advice. He did not serve a mission, and later left the church. I sincerely hope he found happiness, but I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to Mike because our relationship evaporated shortly after my attempts to convince him to serve a mission. When my friend needed a confidant, unconditional love, and support, I only offered conformity, the appearance of happiness, and the satisfaction that comes with making sure everyone follows the rules, even if it kills them.  I don’t want to be friends with that person, and neither did Mike.

Regarding relationships with my own friends after my Faith Crisis, I've lived the other side of friendship with a questioning Mormon. People concerned for my salvation offer the same advice I once offered Mike: Just. Stick. With. It. Most of their advice comes from a place of love, some of frustration, and most all of it ineffective.  “Endure to the end” quickly loses its appeal when it means a lifetime of cognitive dissonance and sadness. 

For the betterment of both species, the believing friend and their questioning counterpart, I've developed a list of things you should never, ever say to a friend in Faith Crisis. If you are my believing friend, and said some of these things, don’t feel bad. I've inevitably been a jackass in response, and I promise to follow up with a list of things not to tell your believing friend too. (As soon as I find a believing friend who is still speaking to me to guest post. Kidding.)


1.  “Move out of Utah!”  I hear this all the damn time.  I hate it.

First, I cannot just “move out of Utah.” Spouseman and I own a home and a business here. I am licensed to teach here.  Moving out of Utah would mean subjecting ourselves to potential poverty and financial ruin, and I like eating, and Clara likes having a place to live.

Secondly, what exactly happens outside of Utah that makes it so much better? Is the church still a patriarchal institution in Minnesota? Do Mormons in Nebraska benefit from complete transparency fom the church regarding spending practices? Are women and members of the LGBT community allowed to progress spiritually in a manner equal to their straight male counterparts? No? Then moving to Maine won’t solve my problems.

I find the suggestion to “Move out of Utah” offensive because it implies that I am just offended by Utah Culture, not dealing with serious issues of doctrinal discontent. Yes, I’m sure the Sunday School discussions are better in Tennessee. The Bishops more liberal, the Modesty Gestapo more like regular Police.  It doesn't make how I feel in the temple go away, or how I feel about my Gay brothers and sisters.  I’m not inactive because I hate shade shirts and bump-its.  It took a lot to truly question the faith of my childhood, and I didn't deeply hurt my Spouse and make my mother cry because I didn't like the “culture” in Utah.  Your friends who struggle with their faith crisis can’t just move, and by offering a false solution, you aren't respecting the validity of their feelings.


2.“The Church is perfect, the people are not.”  Blargh. Really? I reject the idea that the Church is somehow a mythical monolith that is self-run and therefore perfect.  The church is made up of people, who are flawed, so mistakes will happen. Beyond that, a little thing called history proves that the Church, just like everything else, is a living social structure that changes over time. If the church was perfect, we wouldn't be lifting bans on priesthood, altering conference talks that are offensive, and revamping manuals to get rid of outdated ideas.


3. “The Gospel is perfect, the people are not.”  See previous mini-rant, but the gospel evolves. Claiming the gospel according to Mormonism is perfect denies the church and its members the ability to progress and grow. Don’t be that guy.


4. “Do you think you are smarter than the prophet?” Well, do you really want me to answer that? Because rumors of President Monson’s dementia are pretty well known. But no, I don’t think I am smarter than the prophet, but I do think I am entitled to personal revelation. Answers to prayers can be different. Prayer is a constant companion for me, and has been for the duration of my faith crisis. But I got a very different answer than you regarding my relationship with the church. I will respect your faith journey if you respect mine.


5. “But if you don’t stay and fight, how will things change? You just can’t just leave and come back when things are good again!” Says who?

But seriously, the choice to stay in the church and hopefully make improvements is a noble decision, and I respect the people who choose this life path. That is still an option for me in many ways. But for some people, waiting and yearning for change when one (especially when one is a woman,) can do little to enact improvements on a permanent and broad scale represents a slow and painful death of the soul. The decision to stay, leave, leave and come back is personal, and there is not a right answer. I will quote my good friend e.e. cummings: “Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” I spent years “Unbeing dead” in the church, and it didn’t make me a better Mormon, a better Christian, or a happier person. For some, the need to be alive supersedes the desire to wait it out.


6.  If you are dealing with a Feminist in faith crisis, female or male, do not assume that “You clearly had a bad experience with a Priesthood leader!”  Or, more insidiously, that you experienced some form of abuse by a Church leader. For the most part, my Church leaders, past and present, are nice people. Assuming that you are simply “offended” by a person invalidates real and complex feelings stemming from what you believe as a person, and what you learn in church. I’m a petty person, but again, not petty enough to leave a church I spent the majority of my life devoted to because a Relief Society President was catty or a Bishop was insensitive.  Alternately, assuming the only reason a person could leave is severe abuse makes us non-believers feel like freaks. We already feel bad about not loving church, no need to make us feel weirdly guilty about not being abused in order to justify our totally normal feelings.


7.  Lastly, and this one slays me a thousand slays, “Well I never felt that way. I never felt inequity between men and women, I never felt unnecessarily confined by traditional gender roles, I never felt cognitive dissonance between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of the Church. I didn't feel that way about that talk/proclamation/policy, etc.” I am so glad that your church experience is a positive one. Truly. Keep on keeping on. But just because you don’t personally relate to a friend’s struggles with the church doesn't mean their problems don’t exist.  I don’t know the heartache of not being Latin-looking enough to get the Hispanic vote like Mitt Romney, but it doesn't mean Romney isn't an enormous dickalope who doesn't know how to run an election.  Respect the struggles of your friends even if you cannot relate to them personally, they are real, and they are important, just like your friend.


8. Um, I had to add this after the initial posting because it also enrages me: "If God wanted XYZ to happen, it would happen."

Tell that to starving children, rape victims, and people with terminal diseases and see them laugh you off the planet. I'm a big believer in God wanting us to help each other, and to figure out our own shit. As Elie Wiesel once said, (incidentally, I bet Wiesel believes in a God who wept when things like, say, THE HOLOCAUST  happened,) " Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.” If we want equality to happen, if we want the world to be a better place, we need to make it happen. Waiting around for God when you could have righted a wrong or eased a burden yourself seems irresponsible of a people allegedly devoted to the teachings of Christ. END ADDENDUM RANT. 




So what can you do for your friend who suddenly goes heathen on you?

Love them. It seems so simple, and so saccharine, but your friend’s world is falling apart at the seams, and they need you to love them. They need love if they stay, if they leave, if they are only sometimes active and wear pants to Relief Society.  They do not need preachy email forwards, accusations, or threats.  I wish deeply that I had been a better friend for Mike during a difficult time in his life. I am grateful for the friends, both believing and hell-bound, that supported and loved me in the years post faith crisis. I don’t know what I believe sometimes, but I hope there is one thing believers and questioners can agree on: Love conquers all. 



*Corrections: I changed the line about using tithing dollars and malls to a question about financial transparency from the church. We don't know how the church uses all of its funds.

**I also changed the line about President Monson from reports to rumors. There are not official reports, just rumors.

I should have been more precise in my writing, and I apologize.


67 comments:

Tristin said...

Beautiful as always, Stephanie. Love is always the answer, and not just for those struggling with their religious beliefs. I hope you find yourself surrounded by supportive and loving friends no matter what happens. Thanks again for publicly living a struggle many of us share.

lifeofdi said...

Yes to all. And may I add a 6b) of don't assume sin is a reason for doubting and leaving?

Not everyone who leaves has committed the "sins" people attribute to leaving (drink, drugs, sex, porn). And many, many more people would have left if sins were the cause, because just as everyone poops, everyone sins and makes stupid choices, but it does not mean that is why they question.

smalldog said...

Brava! To all of it!

Brandee G. said...

I've been a quiet stalker of your blog for quite some time. Some times I have a hard time digesting what you say :) And other times you validate everything I'm feeling! I'm so tired of my mom telling me, "You're just looking for an excuse not to go to church." No, Mom, I'm not, I'm really struggling with the beliefs that I was raised with. I'd love to send her a like to this post :)

Whitney said...
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Angela Baarz said...

My favorite parts:
"I was a great Mormon but a mediocre human being"
"I did this because my belief in the Mormon Plan of Happiness hinged on the belief that traditional Mormonism offered a perfect blue-print for living."
"It doesn't make how I feel in the temple go away"
"I got a very different answer than you regarding my relationship with the church."

I feel like the church is all about "gaining your own testimony" as long as you come to the same conclusions as us. And if you haven't come to the same conclusions you "haven't gained a personal testimony yet"

You seriously brought tears to my eyes. I remember being that great mormon but crappy human being, believing in the Mormon Blue Print. There is so much more I want to say, but I feel venting to a stranger (and other strangers who may read this - and to people who could potential read this and actually know who I am) is not the best option right now.

Thank you for sharing!

Sarah Clark said...

I've tried to follow this advice all of my life in regards to friends who choose another way than the LDS way. It has kept relationships alive that I would have lost otherwise. AND when some of these same people began thinking they'd like to consider coming back to the church, they told me they felt comfortable talking to me about it because I never held it over their heads. They often swore me to secrecy from the people who had pushed them during their crisis because they didn't want an "I told you so" or for someone else to take their change of heart as some kind of personal triumph. I realized that in JUST LOVING someone regardless of their feelings or beliefs about my religion, I could be a force for good whether or not they ever decided to return. And they could continue to be a force for good in my life because I would not have pushed them away during a trying time.

theirondaisywrites said...

I've had a few friends/family members who have left the church over the years and I have always just loved and accepted them for who they are. The truly sad thing is watching people, who called themselves friends, walk away from them because they didn't sit on a pew each Sunday. One friend told me the only time one of the neighbors talks to them anymore is when they become "the project" at church. Yeah, all this scorn and abandonment is really going to make people come back to church. That might make them a great Mormon, but a terrible follower of Christ. Loved this post.

lightstumbler said...

Very well said. I think it is human nature to try and put complex issues, especially those that we are not dealing with, into neat little boxes. This isn't helpful to anyone.

Jenny said...

Loved this. I honestly got the move out of Utah one today. Done that, and guess what, it wasn't any different, just a little more racial diversity.

Sherise said...

You knocked this one out of the park, Stephanie. Way to go!

Angela Felsted said...

Loved this. Sister, you rock!

Crystal said...

Why does it seem like you always have the right answers. I had a friend disown me (from Facebook...) recently because my opinion on modesty (specifically in regard to that stupid real men vs. pigs you posted a while back) differed from hers. It has been pretty hard considering this friend of mine has been friends with me since we were in the 4th grade. THE FOURTH GRADE! I had no idea that my friendship with her and her love for me was conditional in the fact that I HAD to be Mormon and I HAD to have the same opinions on modesty as she. She literally gave me every one of those answers (except for the Utah one, considering I live in California) which just infuriated me even more.

So thanks for this. I will keep it in mind when I come in contact with those who are struggling with their faith, questioning the church and come to me for comfort.

alex said...

Ah, yes, this, exactly this. Thank you.

Mitch Mayne said...

Very well said. I've either heard personally or overheard these same things said to others. My take--have all the questions you want, and choose the path that's right for you. Our Savior's table is a big one, and He plans for everyone to make it there--so thinking you have to live inside a tiny box of perfection is a mistake. If the faith works for you, terrific! If there's another path for you, equally terrific! Our relationship with our Savior belongs to us, and is as rich, deep, and meaningful as we make it--regardless of what brand of faith we ascribe to, or none at all. Heck, if He can be that open minded, I sure hope some of us who like to think we emulate Him can stretch our minds a bit, too. Bravo, sister.

PS. If you ever make it to San Francisco and you're inclined to come to church, you're sitting next to me. :-)

Marie said...

This is right on. Thank you so much for posting this, I have linked it up to share it because it is just too good.

Katrina said...

Love. I wish I had the guts to post this on my wall. But not sure I'm ready for that potential outpouring of concern.

Ashley said...

Steph, so good.

Christine Marie said...

I understand that you have a real life and a job and a child and spouse and all that, but we would all really love it if you would blog more often. Because every time you do, it is golden. Thanks for stuff like this, and especially for this post in particular.

Ruby Johnson said...

I am sorry about all the negativity you are experiencing regarding how you have been treated. I truly am. The only other thing I wanted to say is that the church's tithing actually did not go towards paying for City Creek, I am not posting this to throw it in your face, only to correct that false information. I hope much peace and love comes your way! Good luck on your journey:)
"The Church first announced three years ago it was planning to redevelop the downtown area to energize the economy of the city that houses its headquarters and to bolster the area near Temple Square. No tithing funds will be used in the redevelopment.
The entire project is being financed through the church's commercial real estate arm, Property Reserve, Inc. These funds come through for-profit, tax-paying businesses owned by the Church.
This Deseret News article has more information on the construction and financing:" " Money for the project is not coming from LDS Church members' tithing donations. City Creek Center is being developed by Property Reserve Inc., the church's real-estate development arm, and its money comes from other real-estate ventures.
- Doug Smeath, "Downtown renovation project", Deseret News March 27, 2007."

Stephanie said...

@Mitch

I'd be honored. :) Thanks for all you do.

Stephanie said...

@Ruby: Thanks for the correction!

Ryan said...

*bows down, posts to facebook*

Emily Young said...

Thank you so much. If I weren't at BYU and flying under the radar, I'd post this all over my facebook page. This is everything I've wanted to say to everyone I've shared my story with.

I'd only like to suggest that in addition to not assuming that people leave when they're offended (false, according to the Mormon Stories survey last Spring) and assuming that abuse happened, how about not making ACTUAL abuse sound like a mere one-time offense. If someone leaves because they have felt abused (or bullied, etc) that doesn't mean they were offended, and that doesn't make their reasons for leaving any less real or valid.

Thank you for writing it. I want to paste it all over BYU. Well done.

Unknown said...

You put into words everything i have been feeling. I love your writing too. Wish I had an awesome friend like you!


Leah Vanessa said...

Thank you!

Shauna said...

This is good. Enjoyed it.

marshall p said...

I'm an active Mormon now, but when my friend left the church I was truly happy for her. She's happier now. You know?

Julia said...

Thank you for that. I don't live in Utah, but I hear a lot of the others.

I am inactive because I do not believe in the church. No amount of concerntrolls simpering at me in preschool-teacher voice is going to make me believe it. Trying really hard and praying to have faith for three decades did not convince me, so no, a plate of cookies and a smile probably won't, either.

But I still get people telling me I just need to exercise faith to believe, and I wonder why I would WANT to believe in a church in which I am, at best, a third-class citizen. No thanks. The lovers of conformity won't believe it, but I am happier now.

I like your openness in discussing this stuff, and the lovely lucid way you say the things you say.

CK said...

Love conquers all, I agree ;)

Tiffany said...
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postmormongirl said...

Spot on - this is so familiar. I realized a lot of things after leaving, the least of which how weak the arguments for staying are. (And I did get a lot of those arguments, except for the "move out of Utah" one.)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

What a wonderful essay! I'm glad someone recommended your blog to me. Glad I found you.

Melanie said...
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Melanie said...
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Melanie said...
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Melanie said...
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Melanie said...

Excellent!
The one that I got, "Well, if you aren't living your life the way God wants you to, you will lose the Spirit." Assuming that I have "sinned" or broken a Mormon rule and am not worthy of God's love and companionship of the Spirit simply because I am questioning is both arrogant and ignorant. I have since left the church and still feel the identical comfort and warmth when I pray that I always have. The arrogant, ignorant Mormons would probably tell me that Satan is disguising himself as the Spirit.

DefyGravity said...

Bam! Nailed it! Seriously, this is so spot on. Thanks for putting this all into words.

Samuel Fullmer said...
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Samuel Fullmer said...

read this from my facebook feed. Its wonderful. I am one of the gay-mormons and I'm trying to find my place in this small place of a religion. So, I enjoyed it tremendously. Thank you, thank you. Its true, one thing that is always true for me is suffering and love. Everything else is up in the air for me. Who be it to decide otherwise? I was discussing with my bishop last night and found out I'm his new "project." I smiled. Little does he know...anyway, not to blog-comment you to death, but just a very big thank you. Thank you for your message.

Stephanie said...

@ Samuel Fullmer.

You're welcome. I tear up hearing about my comrades in arms. Best wishes to you in your journey.

@Everyone else: welcome. I am glad you are here.

Justin Haxby said...

"Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breast; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."

I have, without fear or approbation given the seed place, and the fruits have been wonderful. Am I always happy? Please. All I know is that I am happier in the church than I am out of it, and I have been both in and out.

Mrs. Price said...

So I have been occasionally following your blog for awhile now but have never commented until now. I just wanted to tell you that you're not alone. I have recently discovered that I no longer believe. It has been a liberating and terrifying experience and not a decision I have come to lightly. So far I have only told a few people because I know that people will jump to all sorts of conclusions that aren't true, and I'm kind of dreading the potential fall out. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with all this. Anyway, thank you for your thoughtful posts and your honesty. It takes guts!

Stephanie said...

@ Mrs. Price

Welcome. This is such a crazy, scary road. But hopefully it leads to peace.

jen said...

Great post. I don't believe but still attend church with my kids. My husband quit going a few years ago. Sundays at our house are so relaxing now. My husband wakes up & makes us breakfast. He cleans or does yard work while we are at church. I love it! I've had people tell me our eternal salvation is on the line & everyone thinks my husband must have been offended. Nothing offends my husband. They just don't get how I could possibly be ok with going to church without the help of my husband. It would make more sense to them if I was sad & depressed. Guess what? I'm happier than I've ever been. I'm relaxed & have let go of the pressure of giving a crap what others think. -k bye. Thanks for a lovely post:).

shawna zurmely said...

When I decided to leave the church, it was a matter of prayer and I felt so much peace when I made the decision. If I hadn't had that peace, I never would have been able to survive the months of conflict, depression and isolation that would've followed.

It would've been easier to stay.

But then, I would've been a liar and a hypocrite. Easier isn't ever better.

Thank-you for writing this. It took a lot of courage.

Mrs. Clark said...

Thank you, Stephanie. Love is the only way we can truly reach other people, regardless of the situation. I appreciate this a lot.

Mary said...

I really love this, and I have to say, it can go both ways. I have been struggling with my beliefs (quietly, because I wanted to come to my own conclusions and not be influenced by others), and have come to the conclusion that I truly do believe the doctrine.

When I have said this out loud, some of my friends who don't believe (either never have believed or have left the church) talk to me like I'm an idiot, or like I'm some naive person who is just conforming. They are belittling my journey, which is the same thing they would hate for me to do to them.

So, I think love, like you said, is the answer for both sides of the issue. Love those who choose a different path than you. Love those who struggle and hurt. Love those who believe in the church, but say ignorant, hurtful things. Love those who think the doctrine of the church is wrong. Love those who are gay. Love those who are straight.

I have been struggling for some time, and probably will struggle again. I have been told I simply need more faith. I have been told my attitude needs adjusting. I have been told to move out of Utah. I have also been told I need to evaluate my choices to make sure they are in accordance with the commandments. All of this while I was studying my scriptures daily, attending the temple, going to church every week, and trying my hardest to be a good, compassionate person.

People simply do not want the difficulty that comes with questioning. They want an easy answer. They want what they have been raised with to be right because it is simpler than paving your own path.

So, in this very long-winded response, I agree with loving people through whatever path they choose.

Vicki said...

Move out of UT. Sometimes we hate hearing the things we need to hear most. Just leap. You won't get hurt.

Donna said...
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Donna said...

It is all about the Savior. If we would leave everything else behind and just remember that....and He doesn't make up the difference, He is the difference. And He truly loves us no matter what we do, what we believe or anything else. I am so sorry that you have had even a moment of pain, but I know as you turn your thoughts toward nothing but the Savior you will find the peace you are craving. and the answers....I recently met with sister in my ward who had not been to church in 5 years, she greeted me with the expectation that I was going to castigate her, guilt her into going back to church. I sat on her porch and rolled up my sleeves to try and convince her that I was only there to love her. That is all. She didn't know what to do with me. She wants her daughters to have religion...so I asked her to start reading the new testament...read the Saviors words. Just that. I know that He heals...takes anger away...I am so sorry that you have not been able to find peace in your own hometown. Work your questions through, don't forget to pray...and forgive the people who taught you so much false doctrine about how if you do this, you will get that. They do it out of fear....they just want to control their lives...they also have no concept of grace. Mormons deal with a concept of earning things...it is an offshoot of a good teaching that got messed up. Thank you for your honesty...please know we are a community of Christ. We serve each other, pray for each other, love each and accept each other.

Stephanie said...

@Donna

Thanks. Learning how to love like the Savior would is such a noble goal. Thanks for sharing.

Tara said...

I stumbled upon this blog tonight and feel like I have found a soul sister. I will definitely be checking back often. I was also married at 20, teach high school English, and am an "apostate/heathen/inactive/questioning" Mormon.

Stephanie said...

@Tara

YES! You do sound like a soul sister. Teachers for the win.

Esther Alene said...

You didn't define what "love" you is. What exactly are people supposed to say as you ridicule, complain and blame what others hold sacred. As you question, on the basis of what you precieve as "rational" thinking, how is it that people are supposed to discuss your concerns? Are asking questions that come from a different perspective, somehow unloving? How does challenging your thinking and exploring your concerns somehow not show love? Is love agreeing, ignoring, accomodating and encouraging thinking that may be perceived by someonw who loves you deeptly to be narrow and ill considered? In your searching for broader perspectives why is the "in church" perspective somehow not okay? " We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions" is an adage I use in workshops on conflict. I feel that I have , becuase I have violated these "10 commandments" been judged very harshly by you.You have inferred that I am misguided, ill intended, deluded, thoughtless,insensitive and above all that I do not love the person that I have said these things too. My heart has been ripped out and continues to bleed, for loss of closeness and this severly altered relationship that this "quest" has created. I am now no longer able to be myself and to share thoughts and feelings about what I care most deeply about, my testimony of Jesus Christ. I do not take it lightly and I do not , not love. I resent this judgement. There is another side and I do not see it represented. Perhaps that is becau
se we all like to surround ourselves with people who see the world just as we do.

Stephanie said...

@Esther

I don't think I ridiculed the gospel. I did not make fun of the concept of the Atonement, or the idea that we have Heavenly Parents who love us, two things that I think make up the most important doctrines of the church.

I did poke fun at the way some members treat people who think differently.

I think you can absolutely share the gospel with others in a productive way. Notice the 10 Commandments I posted are all based on another person putting their own "words" in a non-believers mouth. They must believe themselves smarter than the prophet, they must have had a bad experience with a church leader, etc.


If you really want to love someone, I suggested you listen to them, without judgement. Without trying to make them see your way. By agreeing to disagree and maintaining a friendship regardless.

I am married to a wonderful person who is an active member of the church. He holds callings, pays tithing, attends the temple, and believes. We manage to have a loving relationship and friendship because he does not tell me how to think, claim the church is perfect, or assume I was a victim of some type of abuse.

I am sorry this post caused you to feel unhappy. I am not a soft-spoken person and I recognize that this can be painful for some people.

However, if you are saying some of these things, and they aren't improving your relationships, maybe consider why. If your relationship with inactive or questioning friends are great, then this post does not apply to you. Go in peace.

Thank you for your comment. I hope I have provided more understanding.

Stephanie said...

@Esther

One more short comment, that I feel answers your question better. If you want to discuss concerns with a questioning person, and share your own perspective, I would suggest the following talking points:


1. When someone brings up a concern, ask "Why do you feel that way?" Instead of assuming the concern comes from a place of sin, arrogance, or abuse.

2. When you disagree, instead of claiming that your perspective is the only right one, say "This is what works for me, and my family. I understand and respect that you think differently."

3. Explain why your perspective works for you, even if it doesn't work for your inactive or questioning friend. For example, saying that your calling helps you serve in your community, instead of saying that your activity in the church makes you a better person.


I hope that answers your question better, and I hope that you are not in a place of defensiveness or hurt that you don't see this.

Kimberly Wilson said...

I don't think you are ridiculing the gospel, but are expressing frustration with personal experiences where you feel people didn't really hear you & weren't a soft place to fall (which would be the Christlike thing to do) when you needed that most. I really get the gist of your post, that you're asking for love, empathy, respect, & validation that you aren't struggling based on inconsequential or petty things.

However, I had a similar reaction in that I was flabbergasted by the end of this post, wondering what was left TO say, even if I really only wanted to show love. I see some of the no nos and see why they really are not effective nor genuine. But a true friend will challenge your thinking, and explore your concerns because they love you. Is the difference ever that if you felt someone's sincerety, even some of the comments above would not be so offensive to you or others? When you felt like people just tried to defend themselves and/or the church, belittle and explain away your sincere struggles, then did their words felt invalidating and shallow? Like sound-bytes ready to spit out because they were nervous and din't know what to say, or how to handle a “questioner,” so they didn't actually digest what you were saying?

I worry about being able to be myself as well, wanting so desperately to really hear friends in faith crises, love and respect them, but actually be part of the discussion, hopefully for good. I don't want to sit and worry that I might say the wrong thing. For instance, if I didn't see something the way they did, I want to be able to express that without them feeling like there's something wrong with them for having a different perspective.

Another example is that I have spoken to people about the gospel being perfect while the members aren't (though not in a context where I was trying to tell them the gospel is real and they were wrong for questioning). I very sincerely believe that the doctrines of faith, repentance, baptism, personal relationships with God and path to live with Him again are constants, or “true-north” principles. I think we progress and grow *through* those constants. My intention was not to invalidate them or explain away their frustrations, but to express my perspective that we as church members, even leaders, and yes, even prophets, see the church through differing filters, biases and perspectives. We are an imperfect church, led by imperfect people, who “sustain” each other by giving each other turns at trying to interpret scriptures, church talks, and personal revelation in regards to our callings. To me, it's a messy church, where we as members are all learning heaven right along next to each other. If someone sees the church as this mythical monolith, then they have a long, hard fall ahead of them when cultural and traditional practices get rooted out over time, and fallible members mess up in so many ways when we give in to our natural man or just even misunderstand gospel principles.

Kimberly Wilson said...

I really, really hope that if I'm in a conversation with someone who is struggling (and I have plenty of my own questions), that they will feel that I love them and don't judge them, and thus not see me as simply trying to defend myself or the church if I do venture comments that could potentially seem fake or unfeeling.
Not trying to make you see my way. Just offering my own perspective to take as you will.

p.s.: “However, if you are saying some of these things, and they aren't improving your relationships, maybe consider why.”
Thanks for this. It's helpful—a good litmus test. Thank you also for offering things TO say and do/ways to genuinely interact so questioning friends don't feel judged. VERY helpful. #1 & #2 rock!

But I don't understand #3. I feel like explaining how something works for me that doesn't work for my friend could come across the same way #2 in the above post does, that I'm being judgmental of the friend for the church not doing the same for them. Or that I'm implying that something is wrong with them for not getting the same outcome as me. Will you further explain that one? I also didn't understand the example. I don't see how saying the church helps me be a better person is any different from saying that my calling helps me serve my community. They seem like equally similar statements.
Thanks. : )

Kimberly Wilson said...

Oops-- two corrections. First is that when I said I hope to be a force for good, I want to clarify that I mean that I am helpful to that friend in time of need, regardless of whether or not they stay in or leave the church.

Secondly, in my p.s. section, I meant that your third suggestion to Esther seemed like it could still come off wrong like suggestion #7 above, not #2. Oops.

LC said...

Your counsel to remember to be kind is wise. It makes me think of the "kindness begins with me" lyrics from Primary. Very smart, those kiddos are.

However, I'd like to suggest that the people who use these arguments do find them valid, and it is our truth (and I think we're all inclined to "push" our truths on others now and again, even if we are sometimes misplaced). I believe this church is perfect. I also believe that Heavenly Father has asked plain old humans to help run it and we're going to foul up sometimes. For me, that doesn't lessen the truthfulness of the church, or that we are here to learn and try to do better next time.

Your suggestions to Esther in an earlier comment are very useful both ways.

Brenick said...

thank you. i am currently going through this myself.... being the non-conformist/feminist/inactive mormon deal. it is definitely strange, and at this point only my husband (and possibly neighbors/ward people are guessing), but our families dont know anything... and I kind of never want them to, even though i know they will eventually. (like when they see me not wearing my garments)

Grace said...

<3

Cynthia said...

I really enjoyed this post. I still attend church and I still believe the core principles of the church. But I do question a lot of what others say, I am a feminist, and I am a liberal - usually at church I remain silent and worship in a way that is pleasing to me but I am trying to find my voice and stick up for what I truly believe is right.

This past year has been a struggle - I wear a cross, my father is/was catholic; now mormon, and apparently I offended someone who went to the Bishop instead of me. And the Bishop brought this up to my husband, when I was not present and basically said I needed to remove it or have my calling taken away as I would not be a good example to the girls I was teaching. I refused, I kept my calling, but it caused me much heart ache and to this day I still do not feel like I have been truly accepted by my ward family. Most weeks I only attend church because my boys love primary. I am hoping to find my place in a new ward when we move next week.

I applaud you for standing up for yourself and having the courage to say what you need to say. Knowing there are others who have faith struggles helps the rest of us find our own voice.

Janice Adcock said...

First time I have visited your blog. Just know that no matter the faith community, we all ask questions. I am almost 66 and am still questioning things. Having come of age so to speak during the 1960's and 1970's what I hear in your voice is a Sister in Christ. A fellow Sister searching for the best use of the gifts and voice given by our Creator. For me great comfort came in my journey when I figured out God created me to make people laugh. I could just see the Creator chuckle,smile and then Janice Elaine Rogers Adcock was created. "Bham" cause God, well She is a good cook from Louisiana. (joke) May God bless your questions with a few friends to listen!

Erin said...

I do not often comment but, Cynthia, I felt led to respond to your comment. I am LDS, born and raised, and understand the general cultural feelings about crosses. Yet, I wore a small cross pendant for many years. it had (and still has) very significant meaning for me, and I would have been absolutely heartbroken had someone reacted to my choice in the way you describe. Likewise, I have a dear friend who was raised as a Catholic and joined the Church as a young adult; she chooses to keep her rosary from childhood. I would be appalled if anyone felt it was their place to question her choice or somehow conclude that she or I were a poor "example" based on these small symbols of our faith. I am so sorry that some people in your ward have behaved so badly and I am impressed that you have stood your ground and refused to give in. I pray your new ward is more understanding and that you quickly find loving and supportive friends there.