The disaffected Mormon problem. My 2¢.

There is a recurring question posed on this blog– What can be done about disaffected Mormons who leave Christianity?

I was first attracted to this Blog about five years ago by this post on the subject: We Push Them Into What? followed up with “Challenged by Jesus” among many others.  And it comes up routinely ever since. David Clark had recent suggestions regarding the problem in  “The C & E Problem“, “Be Positive, Be Christian“, “Consider Christianity(Forgive me if I don’t have any other blogosphere references to this topic  but strangely enough, this blog is the only one I read or comment on with any regularity besides cagepotato.com.)

Tim’s most recent thoughts on the problem are found in “More Than a Bible” I thought I would post my thoughts separately because I wanted to propose an alternative view of the nature of the problem from a post-Mormon, not-at-all-traditional follower of Jesus.  (Plus my comment was just way too long.)

In “More than a Bible” Tim pointed out that statistics show that only 11% of former Mormons identify as some other type of Christian.

I can appreciate the problem that these statistics raise for Evangelicals.  Here  you have a stream of Bible educated one-time very faithful people leaving Mormonism and NOT choosing the real Jesus. This seems like a big failure and lost opportunity for Evangelicals.

Tim suggests more pro-bible apologetics and less anti-bible rhetoric is a solution. The argument seems to be that if those leaving Mormonism believed in the Bible more, then they would still believe in Jesus when they leave Mormonism. Thus, the problem is being laid at the feet of the Church, who claims to want to be part of “regular” Christianity, but consistently undermines the sole source of authority of Protestantism.

First, I don’t think most Mormons believe that the Bible has a hard time standing on its own. Although Mormons talk about inconsistencies and problems with the Bible, they rarely do anything other than read it very closely and as authoritative.  (Surprisingly similar to how they view Church leadership.) Mormons hold very reverential, sometimes literal, and sometimes even fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. I think most Mormons think the Bible is true and reliable in all matters of faith, essentially infalliable. The big problem for Mormons is not what is in the, but what is not.

Even if rhetoric that undermined Biblical validity was common, I can make these observations that may explain the phenomena better:

(1) The Church argues effectively that the Bible supports distinctively Mormon doctrines. Bolstering the Bible to avoid defection from Jesus doesn’t work for those who originally based their faith in Mormonism on the Bible and those who are taught that the Bible best points to Mormonism as the answer. The church reasoning on these points holds regardless of whether Joseph was a prophet or not. The Church does a good job of poking gaping holes in the Protestant interpretations and raises lots of issues, plus, it provides genuine spiritual experiences. Mormons who become disaffected see Protestantism and Catholicism as LESS Biblical than Mormonism. They reason that if the most reasonable option for Christianity is not true, then it puts all of Christianity into doubt.

(2) Ostracism of LDS from traditional Christianity discourages disaffected Mormons from becoming traditional Christians. Mormons are looked on as weird by traditional Christians and especially Evangelicals. A disaffected Mormon, who may hold some reasonable Mormon interpretations of the Bible simply won’t feel comfortable in other Churches. The separation leads people not to investigate Evangelical options.

(3) The Trinity and the doctrine of hell and salvation are not attractive or compelling to disaffected Mormons (or any non-traditional Christian). Whether or not the Trinitarian perspective is supported by the Bible is a very open question to anyone who was a Mormon. Even if you believe the Bible is absolutely true, it does not end the debate. If the disaffected can’t accept that the Trinity is the most important element of Christianity then its hard to fit in with traditional Christians. In addition, as reflected by my first comment on this blog, its hard to swallow the “believe in Trinitarian Jesus or Hell” concept.

(4)Perceived differences in Church Culture prevent Mormons from wanting to attend other churchs. Many disaffected Mormons can’t get or accept the church culture of other denominations. Mormons, trained in “reference” and taught to pray in King James English, don’t mix well with contemporary worship. The stereotypes fostered by separation  other Christians play into this: Evangelical and Protestant churches are seen as equivalent to TBN televangelists, Catholic and Orthodox are seen as corrupt or anachronistic.

(5) Mormon Culture keeps the disaffected from other Christian churches. Strangely enough, in my experience, moving to a new Christian Church causes more of a stir within Mormon families than simply falling away. By joining a non-Mormon church, you would have to be prepared to explain your decision against the arguments of Mormonism. By becoming an agnostic, the disaffected can remain a part of Mormon Culture, and won’t feel any need or obligation to argue religion with your family. They may still believe in Jesus, but affirmatively identifying and attending another church is a bigger step than simply stopping all attendance of the LDS church.

So, to me, it seems like there is a mish-mash of reasons disaffected Mormons don’t join other Christian faiths and do not identify as Christian, and rhetoric against the Bible is a minor one.   Some of them Evangelicals have some control over.

Because I don’t really care if Mormons become Evangelicals, and I think I understand Mormons, I have a suggestion to Evangelicals on how to solve their problem.  I think that closer acceptance, tolerance and friendship with the Mormon people by Evangelicals is really the only answer to the problem Evangelicals face. There are all kinds of causes that Mormons and Evangelicals could cooperate in that would not threaten either’s theology. If Mormons felt that Evangelical’s and other Christians were going to welcome them with open arms, it would go a long way to demonstrating that Christianity is alive in other churches.  Closer friendship might also allow migration and acceptance of Evangelical worship practices amongst Mormons, leading to a greater cultural similarity. I think Tim’s efforts may be a step in that direction. See also Jack’s suggestions: Faith & CommunityLetter to a Christian Pastor.) I think closer connection and personal acceptance (i.e. love) would lead Mormons to tone down their anti-protestant rhetoric.  Its hard to bag on somebody’s Christianity when they act like a true Christian towards you.

In general, my suggestion would be not to “resist” the “evil” of Mormonism, or prevent the flaws Evangelicals see in Mormonism from opening up a fuller fellowship. Mormons, of course, would be all over this.

Of course these directions are riskier, by moving toward the Mormon people and showing some tolerance for “weird” Mormon beliefs, Evangelicals risk losing some of their own to the Mormon camp. However, I have to think that Evangelicals should see this as no risk at all. If their faith is what they claim it to be, they are going to inevitably absorb Mormonism one Jesus-believer at a time.

About these ads

41 thoughts on “The disaffected Mormon problem. My 2¢.

  1. I like these points. I think that point (2) is one of the biggest ones…but at the same time, I feel like this entire conversation is not my conversation. Even though I’m a former Mormon, yes, and an agnostic/atheist/secular person to boot…I don’t feel like I would be a good “target” for whatever evangelicals like Tim are trying to accomplish. Unfortunately for Tim, I think that many secular/agnostic/atheist ex-Mormons would feel the same.

    Here’s one major thing: I haven’t read the research too closely, but I’m willing to bet that many of the secular disaffected Mormons either started out with liberal/progressive politics or transitioned to having liberal/progressive political beliefs in several respects. Even if they didn’t disaffect over gay rights, or feminism, or whatever, I would think that more secular post-Mormons are pro gay rights, pro-feminism, etc., than not.

    So, evangelicals have a bigger problem than the fact that these ex-Mormons don’t transition into non-LDS Christianity. Rather, their problem is that evangelicalism has many of the pain points that Mormonism had for them. Evangelical Christianity, for example, isn’t much of an improvement for gay Mormons.

    As long as evangelicalism is associated with socially conservative politics, I think that’s going to prevent it from being much of a perceived alternative in the minds of many disaffected Mormons. And there really is nothing that Tim or any other evangelical can do about it because they believe their conservative/traditional beliefs are *good* things.

  2. Another reason Mormons tend to not go to other Christian faiths is the same reason that kids who’ve seen their parents divorce are reluctant to get married themselves, and the same reason divorcees are over-cautious about new relationships.

    Once-bitten twice shy.

    Once you’ve had your faith destroyed once, it’s easy to see the same problems everywhere else. The people at CARM don’t get this – the bitterness and hostility they promote in the thinking of their participants EASILY bleeds into other areas of the person’s life. Once you start getting cynical about one particular religious belief, it’s easy to start doing the same with other religious beliefs – including Protestant ones.

    And as much as Evangelicals like to protest otherwise, their faith is pretty-much based on exactly the same things Mormon faith is – the internal feeling.

    I know – Evangelicalism is supposed to be based on “evidence” and Mormonism is supposed to be based on “feelings.”

    Baloney.

    You’re both based on touchy-feely stuff. Once you poison that well, it’s not hard for the bitterness to infect every aspect of your life.

  3. Both good points.

    I think the turn-offs for gay Mormons are exponential. With notable exceptions, Christianity receives gays the same way it receives Mormons.

    It would also be interesting to see the gender breakdown in the statistics.

    Once you’ve had your faith destroyed once, it’s easy to see the same problems everywhere else.

    Leaving a faith often involves a complete mental shift away from from trusting something implicitly. I think you have to have maintain this mindset if you want to be a devoted believer in any organized religion.

  4. JARED:
    I can appreciate the problem that these statistics raise for Evangelicals. Here you have a stream of Bible educated one-time very faithful people leaving Mormonism and NOT choosing the real Jesus. This seems like a big failure and lost opportunity for Evangelicals.

    MY RESPONSE:
    Really? Most of the instruction I received as a Mormon was superficial. I had no idea about hermeneutics, exegesis, and textual issues until I became an Evangelical. I have family members who are Mormon Seminary graduates and have never read the Bible. Most of the time, the leaders tend to beat you over the head with DAILY Book of Mormon reading. My spouse used to get upset if I read the Bible and NOT the Book of Mormon.

    JARED:
    First, I don’t think most Mormons believe that the Bible has a hard time standing on its own. Although Mormons talk about inconsistencies and problems with the Bible, they rarely do anything other than read it very closely and as authoritative.

    MY RESPONSE:
    Again, I must have gone to a different branch of Mormonism than you did. I was taught that the Bible was a good book of parables and stories, but ultimately corrupt.

    Look at this recent statement from the First Presidency:

    “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical translation is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.”

    http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies?lang=eng&fb_source=message#21.1.7

    If that is not enough, than compare these statements:

    “You believe Adam was made of the dust of this earth. This I do not believe, though it is supposed that it is so written in the Bible; but it is not, to my understanding. You can write that information to the States, if you please—that I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the Christian world do. I never did, and I never want to. What is the reason I do not? Because I have come to understanding, and banished from my mind all the baby stories my mother taught me when I was a child” (Brigham Young, October 23, 1853, Journal of Discourses 2:6).

    “The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and com­mandments of God, given to a generation under one set of cir­cumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time” (Orson Hyde, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:75 ).

    “The Book of Mormon is translated correctly because an un­learned man did it by the gift and power of God. It took him less than sixty translating days. The Bible abounds in errors and mis­translations, in spite of the fact that the most learned scholars and translators of the ages labored years on end over the manuscripts of antiquity to bring it forth” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Bible: A Sealed Book,” a BYU speech given to LDS Seminary and Institute teachers, August 1984).

    Those assertions definitely seem to tear away at the Bible’s authority, in my humble opinion.

    JARED:

    The Church does a good job of poking gaping holes in the Protestant interpretations and raises lots of issues, plus, it provides genuine spiritual experiences. Mormons who become disaffected see Protestantism and Catholicism as LESS Biblical than Mormonism.

    MY RESPONSE:
    Gaping holes? Please specify. It seems these are huge generalities. “Genuine experiences?” Hmm. A dry from of aberrant Pentacostalism?

    JARED:
    Ostracism of LDS from traditional Christianity discourages disaffected Mormons from becoming traditional Christians. Mormons are looked on as weird by traditional Christians and especially Evangelicals.

    MY RESPONSE:
    Mormons ARE looked at with strange eyes by folks of all walks of life, not just Evangelicals. After having walked away from the LDS Church and looking at it objectively, I can’t understand how I could have ever consumed the “Kool Aide.” Believing I could be God, living on my own planet, believing the Indians were really Hebrews and growing up with the idea that the lost tribes would come out of the ground in the north– ehem! Yeah– with all due respect, that’s pretty weird. I shake my head at my formerly strange beliefs. I don’t know how conditions are where you live, but in many places LDS folks are WELCOMED to attend services. We love the Mormon people, just despise the doctrine.

    JARED:
    The Trinity and the doctrine of hell and salvation are not attractive or compelling to disaffected Mormons (or any non-traditional Christian).

    MY RESPONSE:
    Again, this shows Mormons are not Christians. Mormon soteriology has much more to do with Gnosticism and Universalism than with Christianity. You say also seem to suggest that it is possible to reject the Trinity and be a “non-traditional Christian.” Such a definition is impossible, as it falls outside of orthodoxy and Biblical tests.

    JARED:
    Perceived differences in Church Culture prevent Mormons from wanting to attend other churchs. Many disaffected Mormons can’t get or accept the church culture of other denominations. Mormons, trained in “reference” and taught to pray in King James English, don’t mix well with contemporary worship.

    MY RESPONSE:
    Not all Evangelical Churches have contemporary worship. I must say in my own case, it’s liberating. I love going to a weekly spiritual pep rally, and love worshipping our Triune God with contemporary music.

    JARED:
    Strangely enough, in my experience, moving to a new Christian Church causes more of a stir within Mormon families than simply falling away. By joining a non-Mormon church, you would have to be prepared to explain your decision against the arguments of Mormonism

    MY RESPONSE:
    Yes, it does stir the pot, but I am more than happy to explain my decision to leave the Church and argue against the tenets of Mormonism using the Bible. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and willing to contend for the faith.

  5. My thoughts on this issue are simple: disaffected Mormons don’t turn to Christianity for the same reason that disaffected Christians don’t turn to Judaism. Christianity does not teach Judaism and then add Christianity on top of it. Our understanding of the Old Testament and the practices contained therein are entirely filtered through the revelations of the New Testament. Our worship and way of life is nothing like that found in Judaism. We feel no closeness to Judaism—neither theological nor cultural—so if faith in the claims of Christianity are lost, Judaism is never even a consideration.

    Likewise, Mormonism does not teach traditional Christianity and then pile Mormonism on top of it. It just doesn’t. All of the things which Mormonism ostensibly has in common with traditional Christianity—belief in Jesus, belief in the Bible, belief in salvation and heaven, etc.—are carefully filtered through uniquely Mormon revelation. Our mode of worship and our lifestyle is (in most denominations) significantly different from that that has been experienced by Mormons. So when belief in uniquely Mormon revelation fails, it all goes.

    The main thing that evangelicals can do to change this would be to try and foster cultural closeness with Mormons. I don’t believe that tweaking our teachings to make them more appealing to Mormons would help much (there are already points on the evangelical spectrum that are much closer to Mormonism than others). The disconnect there is largely the product of how Mormonism operates and there’s little we can do about it.

  6. With the exception of the rant from Just Me, I agree with almost everything that has been said so far.

    My observation is that those who would be most likely to consider evangelicalism are those who have a close friend or dear relative who is an evangelical. Such Mormons typically will say positive things about evangelicalism, such as that they have much truth or that they have a genuine (although incomplete) relationship with God. Otherwise, the prevailing attitude is one of suspicion and/or a belief that evangelicalism shallow, weird or misguided.

    Just Me said:

    Believing I could be God, living on my own planet, believing the Indians were really Hebrews and growing up with the idea that the lost tribes would come out of the ground in the north– ehem! Yeah– with all due respect, that’s pretty weird.

    I agree, that’s pretty weird. I don’t believe any of those things either.

  7. Andrew said:

    I don’t feel like I would be a good “target” for whatever evangelicals like Tim are trying to accomplish. Unfortunately for Tim, I think that many secular/agnostic/atheist ex-Mormons would feel the same.

    I agree. I’m hoping the “target” can be moved up to a point in which a Mormon isn’t even thinking about disaffection with the LDS church at all.

    Here’s one major thing: I haven’t read the research too closely, but I’m willing to bet that many of the secular disaffected Mormons either started out with liberal/progressive politics or transitioned to having liberal/progressive political beliefs in several respects. Even if they didn’t disaffect over gay rights, or feminism, or whatever, I would think that more secular post-Mormons are pro gay rights, pro-feminism, etc., than not.

    I think there are some chicken and egg dynamics here that are difficult to generalize about.

    FWIW, my church attracts and converts homosexuals on a regular basis.

    Seth said:

    You’re both based on touchy-feely stuff. Once you poison that well, it’s not hard for the bitterness to infect every aspect of your life.

    Interesting choice of pronouns. Are you not identifying yourself as Mormon any longer? Or just not in this instance?

    I acknowledge the role of touchy-feely baloney in my faith but I don’t by any means think it’s the only thing my faith is based on. I reject fidiesm.

  8. Tim, maybe it just reflects my feelings of being a bystander between two camps.

    I still identify as faithful Mormon though.

    Mormonism rejects fideism as well. We have far too much regard for tradition for that.

    Jack, if what you are saying is true – doesn’t the question become a lot simpler?

    All the Evangelical has to ask is: “Which would I prefer my neighbor be? A Mormon? Or an atheist?”

  9. Mormonism rejects fideism as well. We have far too much regard for tradition for that.

    I think there’s a tension between Mormonism’s epistemological narrative and actual Mormon epistemology in practice.

    But I don’t think that kind of tension is unique to Mormonism by any means.

  10. JUST ME:

    I think you are confusing the Mormon interpretive method with the status of the Bible. Evangelicals are scandalized by most anyone who does not reverence the Bible, rather than simply consider it true. Mormon criticisms of the bible are full-on reasonable.i.e. its very reasonable to believe that the Bible was changed in minor ways over time based on theological agendas or mistranslated in some areas. The outrage you express makes you seem like you are not interested in having any conversation about reasonable disagreements.

    I don’t know how conditions are where you live, but in many places LDS folks are WELCOMED to attend services. We love the Mormon people, just despise the doctrine

    Most Mormons don’t feel your love. Acceptance means more than just saying “We would love it if you give up your faith for ours.” I think in order to really love a person you have to attempt to understand their perspective and respect their position rather than simply ridicule them for being weird. I personally think that many Evangelical beliefs are ridiculous, for many reasons I choke on that Kool-aid. That said, I understand that Kool-Aid is a refreshing drink, and can be very satisfying for you, even if I would prefer a beer. My guess is that for you to feel any sort of acceptance and love from me, I would have to show you that I don’t think you are brainwashed by your nutty Jesus-freak bible-worshiping cult with a watered down self-serving theology based more on Greek philosophy than scripture or revelation from God.

    Jack: I like the Judaism analogy. I think its pretty plain that ostracism of Jews kept many them from Christianity, at least in Europe. Its easy to remain separate when few want to have reasonable conversations about the differences in belief, and you are routinely ridiculed for what you believe is sacred. Seeking connection, fellowship, and common ground seems the only way to influence the Mormons. The good news is that Mormons are generally open to this sort of connection. They want to be included, and some degree of inclusion seems like the only opportunity for real influence.

  11. Yeah, Just Me’s rant is definitely…just him (her?).

    I know that for me, when I was grappling with whether to stay in the church or leave, the thing that ultimately didn’t work for me about evangelicalism was inerrancy. But it doesn’t have anything to do with Mormons bashing on the Bible; in fact, I did and still do take the Bible very seriously.

    The issue is that once I began to realize that a belief system I’d once regarded as THE SOURCE of all truth really wasn’t, my paradigm completely shifted. I realized that pretty much anything that claims to be the End All and Be All probably isn’t. I saw the world with new eyes.

    Now, for me, this didn’t mean abandoning faith — not by a long shot. But it did mean that leaving one religious system claiming Ultimate Authority for another religious system claiming Ultimate Authority (just through a different means) didn’t make any sense, because, fundamentally, I no longer believe that Ultimate Authority is a real thing. Authority is a real thing. But not this ultimate exclusive stuff.

    Well, except for God. He’s ultimately authoritative. But the rest of us are just muddling around down here the best we can.

  12. Tim,

    I agree. I’m hoping the “target” can be moved up to a point in which a Mormon isn’t even thinking about disaffection with the LDS church at all.

    Can you clarify this statement?

  13. Jared –

    Good to see someone still sympathetic to Mormonism write one of these.

    Cal –

    Yes Pew has data and I have it on my site. By far the most destination for disaffected Evangelicals is mainline Protestantism, the 2nd most common is non religious and Catholic the 3rd most common and Black Protestantism the 4th.

  14. Jared,

    How would you define fellowship between evangelicals and Salt Lake Mormons?

    I ask because since WWII there has been a general ecumenical movement inside conservative Protestantism, some have identified this as neo-evangelicalism. This Protestant ecumenism takes the “fundamentals” high view of the Bible, Trinity, virgin birth etc. as the critical doctrines for fellowship, ignoring divisive doctrines like sacraments, ecclesiology, eschatology etc.

    If the 60 year trend in American evangelicalism has been broadly ecumenical and cooperative and Salt Lake Mormonism still remains outside of fellowship there seems to be little evangelicals can do short of abandoning their own beliefs about better relations.

  15. Andrew-

    My dream scenario is not necesarrily to see Mormons leave the LDS church. Instead I’d like to see the LDS church leave Mormonism.

    As CD-host just explained, when Evangelicals become disaffected they don’t tend to leave Christianity. Jack and I have both had “issues” with various churches we’ve attended (some of them doctrinal). It wouldn’t occur to us to leave Christianity over those matters. Mormons claim to be Christian, so I have some expectation that they would do what all other Christians do when they feel they’ve somehow been hurt or betrayed by their church.

    So by “moving the ‘target’ up further” what I’m suggesting is that Mormons indeed feel such (doctrinal and epistimological) kinship with the Christian family that they find their ways into other Christians churches when they are disaffected. Jared’s story shouldn’t happen. It might be worth having a short conversation on but Mormons should be more comfortable with Prostestant attendance than Mormon inactivity. Would Mormons prefer people to be Evangelicals or Atheists?

  16. Could we expect to hear Thomas Monson say “I understand that many of you struggle with the history of Joseph Smith and the LDS church. Hold fast. But if you can not, do not let us get in the way of your committment to Jesus. Please find a way to devote yourself to a community of other Christians. Remain in service to our Lord.”?

  17. Seth said

    All the Evangelical has to ask is: “Which would I prefer my neighbor be? A Mormon? Or an atheist?”

    The problem with this scenario is that my neighbor doesn’t live in a bubble. If he’s a Mormon he’s going to seek to teach others to be Mormons. Perhaps 80% of the time he’s going to find his converts from Christian denominations. Because I believe Mormonism offers false scriptures from a false prophet I expect people to become disenchanted with it. My experience show that the disaffection doesn’t lead back to Christianity but rather to Atheism. Mormonism leaves a bad impression of faith in Jesus in it’s apostates. Atheism does not.

    I would prefer to not see Christianity corrupted by a false prophet or his followers. If we’re going to lose people to atheism and agnosticism, I’d rather it happen without the Mormon additives. I do not value pious frauds.

    I think Atheists can be just as “good” as Mormons. Being nice gains a man nothing.

  18. Gundek,

    I don’t see the fellowship I am suggesting as Protestant ecumenism. I don’t think either Protestants or Mormons can re-interpret their beliefs enough to see eye-to-eye on almost any doctrinal issues.

    What I am suggesting is an effort to include Mormons in fellowship and seeking to understand them without attacking them or trying to change them, fully acknowledging real differences. I think Mormons would do well to do the same. Mormon refusal/resistance to acknowledge fundamental differences between the faiths also puts a damper on the whole relationship.

  19. Could we expect to hear Thomas Monson say “I understand that many of you struggle with the history of Joseph Smith and the LDS church. Hold fast. But if you can not, do not let us get in the way of your committment to Jesus. Please find a way to devote yourself to a community of other Christians. Remain in service to our Lord.”?

    Its possible, probably as likely to hear protestant Ministers declare that even if you can’t buy the Trinitarian theology, and the priesthood of all believers concept, stay close to Jesus, even if you are a Mormon. I don’t know if it would be particularly effective. If I decide Monson is not a prophet, I am not going to give a lot of weight to what he says.

    I think the likely positive outcome of greater friendship would be more acknowledgment that those of the other faith have real experiences with the Spirit of God and Jesus, i.e. Jesus and God still listen to and answers prayers even if you are caught up in errant theology.

  20. “Being nice gains a man nothing.”

    Absolutely right.

    In the grand scheme of things, I’d have to say that I would prefer my son or daughter to be a real (full blown) sinner, and to realize such, and for them to know that they need a Savior from their disobedience…than that they be upright and pious and devout and relying on their religious performance in some manner (in conjunction with Christ, maybe) to please God and obtain a measure of righteousness by ‘what they do…or don’t do’.

  21. Jared,

    Are you talking more about individuals one on one? I am 100% behind loving my neighbor without holding a theological exams first.

  22. Tim, I have almost never encountered a Mormon who had as vilely anti-Evangelical things to say as the atheists I’ve encountered.

    They’re not even in the same ballpark.

  23. “Being nice gains a man nothing.”

    Just shows you’re already not thinking like a Christian. You’re focusing on what’s in it for you.

  24. “Being nice gains a man nothing.”

    Stuff like this makes Christianity sound crazy. For reals.

    I heartily recommend Martin Luther’s book “Good Works” on the subject. It’s the best explanation I have read which deals with Good Works from a Protestant perspective. The quick summary is that while grace does do away with the need for good works, it’s grace which also makes good works truly possible. If good works don’t play into your salvation, then doing them is a sheer act of love, both for those they benefit and to God. It’s a way of solving the conundrum of how can a good work be truly good if the doer of the work expects to benefit from it in any way.

  25. I’ll have to check it out, David.

    Though I think I’d probably say that all good works are God working within people, whether or not they recognize it. That’s grace, too.

  26. Amen to that. Grace isn’t just for Christians.

    I’d also say that good works do have a bearing on our salvation, although when I say that I’m using “salvation” in a broader sense than many evangelicals do. I think Paul put it quite well in his letter to the Philippians: “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.” (Philippians 2:12-13, NET)

  27. When I mentioned being “nice” I wasn’t really talking about grace and works. I’m pro-nice, but it’s by no means the goal of my religious hopes and dreams. I want something more for myself and my neighbors. I want self sacrificial love. I want agape.

  28. Got it, Tim. :-) So maybe it’s not s’much that being nice gains a man nothing, but that being merely nice is just scratching the surface of what’s available.

  29. More so than any of that; Seth thinks I should want a Mormon neighbor rather than an atheist neighbor because the Mormon is more likely to be nice. If all my religion can do is make people nicer, more financially stable, more nutritiously minded or physically fit then it’s entered the realm of lifestyle enhancers. God damn the day Jesus is merely a lifestyle enhancer. All of those things are great but you shouldn’t need Jesus to obtain them.

    If I’m supposed to prefer Mormonism over Atheism because it makes people “polite” consider me unimpressed and uninterested in safe-guarding it. My neighbors deserve better.

  30. No, you’ve misunderstood Tim.

    I consider atheism to be a far more spiritually and socially harmful trend in society than Mormonism will ever be.

  31. As a disaffected Mormon, I agree with the early comments about losing faith in organized communities. I have a hard time identifying formally with most communities these days: I feel vulnerable and unsafe, no matter how nice people seem to be. I see every church from a cynical perspective (who is making money here? what do all the nice words come down to in practice?). Unlike some people, I don’t see atheism as a great threat to moral stability (necessarily: it could turn into a threat, but that depends on what kind of atheists people become, just as the goodness or awfulness of Christianity as a social phenomenon depends, in my new view, on what kind of Christians people choose to be). Some of the few people I have felt really comfortable with have been atheists: this comes largely from the fact that they are individuals, not groups, and they do not come at me with an agenda that I am supposed to swallow. We have arguments, and they have opinions, but these discussions are personal, allowing me to push back without running into the brick wall: “Why must it be this way? Because God said so. End of discussion. Now are you saved or damned?” I hated these discussions even as a believer. Today I am glad that I feel no compunction about avoiding them entirely. No more missionary work for me, please and thank you.

    It is really hard for me to envision the kind of mass conversion of Mormonism that Tim seems to hope for. In my case, I actually liked things about Mormonism that made it distinct from “traditional” Christianity (by which I mean non-Mormon Christianity in America over the past 100 years). Some of the things I still like. Going back through Christian history, I often find myself agreeing with heretics: recently, I have read a lot about the dispute between Thomas Muentzer and Martin Luther. While my disaffection has taught me to respect some of Luther’s position more than I did as a blue-blooded Mormon, I still disagree profoundly with his exaltation of scripture as an absolute. I am sympathetic to Muentzer’s theology of the Spirit (which represents an anticipation of Joseph Smith). To me it seems that religion is fundamentally about learning the root and nature of the good that is inherent in the person and his surrounding world. I don’t like the idea that this good can only be approached through one collection of books, guarded by authoritative interpreters. I find Muentzer’s arguments against the scholars (including Luther) to be compelling here (even where they are quite crude, the way everything was back then). I support the anticlericalist streak that runs strong in Mormon rhetoric (even though the brethren at the top seem not to realize how it condemns them as well as all others who demand obedience in the name of God).

    I am not opposed to people worshipping God. I think there is good that comes from worship, but I would be very hesitant to define that good, or to connect it necessarily with creeds (of any kind, including the non-creedal creeds that Mormons profess). I am not joining the anti-God crusade, except where God is invoked by one group of people to impose unjustly on others. From my perspective, divinity seems to exist as a concept that eludes definition. Left undefined, it can be useful, allowing people to create and integrate ideas about goodness, truth, and beauty. But any effort to make any one of these ideas supreme quickly makes God a devil. This is true when Mormons push their idea(s) of God as the only true ones, when other Christians do it, when Jews do it, when Muslims do it, when Hindus do it, etc. From my point of view, the real God, assuming for the moment that he exists, must be beyond all this fighting–which is stupidly petty at best, stupidly dangerous at worst. Given the course of history, I would guess that He is perfectly fine with different people thinking about Him very differently: why else would he allow so many very different religions to exist over such a long period? The things He really cares about are the things that all believers (or all the best humans) end up agreeing on: the need for community, moral integrity, justice, beauty. My community does not have to be a carbon copy of yours. My moral integrity need not be a carbon copy of yours to be real, and valuable, to me and to the human race. My justice and beauty may not be yours, but they are close enough to allow for a mutually acceptable harmony: otherwise, we lose the things that bring us all closer to God (however we imagine Him). If the final clause of anybody’s gospel is that I have to accept their God and renounce my own or be damned, then I am not converted. No matter how much sugar you put in that pill (no matter how compelling your reason or charming your emotion), it is poisoned. For the record, my God takes a lot from Mormonism, along with Deism, ancient paganism, non-Mormon Christianity, and anything else I have interacted with seriously over the past 20 years (including atheism: my God is perfectly at home with atheists, as such. An atheist qua atheist is no more likely to be an immoral asshole than a Christian or anybody else).

  32. If the disaffected can’t accept that the Trinity is the most important element of Christianity

    Then the disaffected maybe liked the teachings of Jesus better than all the stuff that you added onto them.

    I consider atheism to be a far more spiritually and socially harmful trend in society than Mormonism will ever be.

    Everything atheists do wrong — exclude people for having and acting on needs they don’t share, dictate the one true way (not) to relate to God, privilege their Unverified Personal Gnosis over everyone else’s and use it to attack theirs — they share with nearly all Mormons and most Christians. Y’all are atheists and are just as nasty as they are, you just accept one more god than they do and exclude LGBTs on top of believers in !Jesus.

    If you’re attacking them for anything else, you’re either un-self aware or your moral compass is screwed up. Sorta like the “Trinity or GTFO” people, who would’ve harrumphed through the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus didn’t mention it (or that you need to be saved) even once.

  33. Tim asked, “Could we expect to hear Thomas Monson say ‘I understand that many of you struggle with the history of Joseph Smith and the LDS church. Hold fast. But if you can not, do not let us get in the way of your committment to Jesus. Please find a way to devote yourself to a community of other Christians. Remain in service to our Lord.’?”

    Tim, I think your point here is good.

    CD- Host, thanks.

  34. Why should President Monson have to say that?

    That’s like saying – “we know we suck, but don’t give up on Jesus because we botched it.”

    You ask waaaay too much Tim.

  35. Tim said:

    My dream scenario is not necessarily to see Mormons leave the LDS church. Instead I’d like to see the LDS church leave Mormonism.

    If by Mormonism you mean various fundamental distinctions such as the corporeal nature of God, the Restoration or the pre-existence, it ain’t going to happen.

    But for those who would like to see a greater emphasis on Jesus and grace, the recent General Conference should have been encouraging. Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, already the discussion of another post, and Elder Holland’s talk could have been given in just about any evangelical church without raising a concern about false doctrine. We’ll never be Calvinists, but I’d venture to say that the majority of the talks given emphasized what makes us Christian rather than what makes us Mormon. Is that something new? I don’t know, but my subjective observation was that there was more than the usual amount of talk about grace (we often use the word “mercy” instead) in this session.

  36. Tim –

    I think in this conversation you need to be careful about Christian vs. Protestant vs. Evangelical. The question Cal asked was what happens to evangelical Protestant’s who leave and the order: Mainline, Non-Religious, Catholic, Black Protestant holds for them. That’s not the case for all Christians.

    For example Catholics in America, who don’t marry Protestants tend to fade away slowly continuing to identify with Catholic even while refusing to attend church, having no prayer life, being angry or disappointed at the church… and yet still baptize their children Catholic and marry in the Catholic church. It takes till their grandchildren till they aren’t formally Catholic. You don’t see behavior anything like this among evangelicals. This sort of behavior is even more striking with ethnic churches in the Orthodox tradition.

    Moreover the fact that in de-conversion behavior Mormons don’t act like evangelicals does not mean they are not Christians. For example among Catholics about 1/2 site a disagreement with the church on a matter of doctrine as being the primary reason they left religious practice or became Protestant. You don’t see doctrinal disagreement driving away Protestants since Protestants offer a wide doctrinal menu.

    It is absolutely fair to say that Mormons don’t act like Protestants on conversion behavior. But Protestantism is not the only form of Christianity. Given that Mormons including x-Mormons seem to like the mystical aspects of Mormonism, I’m hard pressed to see how evangelical Protestantism is a good choice religiously. The dialogue with 4solas going on is a good one. Mormons, even x-Mormons, think Luther’s theory of justification is ridiculous. They mostly, as far as I can tell, have a mostly Catholic theory:
    grace leads to faith, faith plus good works lead to justification;
    vs. Luther’s
    grace leads to faith, faith leads to justification and good works.

    Evangelical Protestantism seems to change the things that Mormons like about Mormonism I don’t find it surprising at all Mormons don’t see that as an acceptable alternative religiously. Were it not for the fact that Mormons are American conservatives I’d argue that evangelical Protestantism is likely to be one of the worst fits religiously even for X-Mormons, for reasons Mormons repeatedly explain.

    Things Mormons do like about Protestantism are things like Children’s programs being far better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s