Resign Already

I’m perplexed whenever I see LDS suggest to inactive LDS that they should resign from the church. This usually comes about when the inactive LDS has for all practical purposes left the church and abandoned the faith, but just hasn’t officially resigned (this happened to Kullervo and Katy on this blog several months back). Or occasionally when a Bishop wants to improve the activity rates in his own ward.

The reason I find this strange is in light of what I understand about LDS theology (and as always PLEASE correct me if I’ve got this wrong). It’s my understanding that Outer Darkness is reserved only for those that have had a testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a true prophet but have rejected that testimony and have left the church. Basically, Outer Darkness is for those who resign from the church. It’s also my understanding that real physical actions here on earth are of great importance. Baptism, for examples, needs to be physically performed for a person to receive salvation, it’s not just the state of a person’s heart that is important. So it would seem to follow that a true and real physical act of resignation is necessary to nullify a baptism.

If resignation is the only way a person can end up in Outer Darkness, then the LAST thing a loving person should suggest is that someone resign from the church. It’s the ONLY one way ticket to total separation from the Father. It’s basically telling a person to “go to hell”. At best, if someone is engaging in anti-Mormon activities I could see suggesting to their bishop that they be excommunicated, but why tell them to resign?


45 thoughts on “Resign Already

  1. Dando, I wholly agree with you.

    I imagine that the ‘just resign already’ sentiment comes from people who wind up thinking along the lines of, ‘if the church bothers you so much, just leave it.’… but I don’t think that resigning from the church erases the emotional impact and challenges that come from leaving the Mormon community. It’s a huge adjustment!

    I imagine that most people who leave the church probably go through stages–perhaps similar to the stages of grief–because you are removing what was once an important part of who you are.

    Or at least, that’s how it was in my case. And I extrapolate that to everyone because, like everyone else, I consider myself to be the standard of normalcy. 🙂

  2. Dando, loved this post. I do have to correct you, though. I don’t believe we really understand the concept of Outer Darkness. I believe it’s beyond just merely losing your testimony. I believe it takes a lot more knowledge that most anyone in the Church has to be assigned to that place.

    That’s the problem with taking some things that are beyond our understanding and trying to see where it all fits, in the here and now. There is a judgement that we pass on people who, for whatever reason, have left the church, have questioned the church, etc. and assign to them, a label. It’s only God and Christ who know their hearts. We have no right to judge what’s going on. I’m sure this is something that is found within many church’s, not just the LDS church. But since there is more descriptions of the afterlife in the LDS theology, then there is a bigger chance of trying to find where everyone fits.

    I’ve fallen into this myself, but I don’t think it’s an intentional thing. In fact, I think your post just saved me from a response that I may have regretted, so either you read my mind or were inspired to post it. Whatever the case, thanks.

    However, I do want to give the other side of the story as well. My perception of people, specifically those whom you described above, is that they want everyone to feel about the church how they feel about the church. Whatever misery they’ve experienced in the church is how everyone should have experienced, and if they haven’t, than they are being deceived. They want everyone to see the glass as half empty instead of half full, and we are criticized if we don’t.

    I disagree with this. I don’t see this great bleakness hanging over the church. It’s not about to crumble under the heals of apostasy. There have been many people who have been offended who are still active. There are many people who come to knowledge and understanding of historical and doctrinal things in the church that seem terrible, and still stick it out.

    I do not share in these people’s perception of Mormonism and it’s culture. In fact, it bothers me to have people tell me what Mormonism is when I’m an active member.

    Sumarizing: I think there are “victims” on both sides of the fence.

  3. But part of Mormonism is a insistance that the Church is fantastic and everything is great, even when it’s not. There’s a cognitive dissonance that is promoted, and it’sproblematic at best. And that’s why exMormons want to convince Mormons that the church is flawed. It’s not just sour grapes; it’s because they think the Church is really a problem.

    Anyway, the whole Outer Darkness doctrine and the “we don’t really understand the doctrine” line is one more instance of vagueness as spiritual abuse. It’s incredibly important- we’re talking about knowing if you’re going to hell with Satan for all eternity, and it’s completely unclear. In other words, it’s unclear enough that it might mean you, or your close loved ones. But there’s no real way to know. So you just get to worry.

  4. katyjane, I’m interested to know the stages you went through in your process of leaving, and if that “empty” feeling ever left you. I’m kind of going through a similar thing myself and I’m trying to interpret if that “empty” feeling is just psychological and goes away eventually, or if it’s what Mormons to believe to be the Spirit. Trying to decide whether or not to leave has been such a confusing process for me.

  5. Joe,

    I have DEFINITELY felt the Spirit since leaving the Church. Most assuredly.

    I joined the Church when I was 18, and made the conscious decision to do so. I felt strongly that that was what I was supposed to do. I moved away to college a couple of weeks later, and immersed myself in Mormon life and culture. I met the love of my life, convinced him to marry me, and we were a happy Mormon couple, active and strong in our wards. I could have stayed that way. One can rationalize away the problems or flaws in the Church, the logical gaps that one has to make in the Church.

    When I started doubting the Church, I didn’t want to. Kullervo had already started doubting, and we had long discussions of how we would live with me as a member and him as a nonmember. We talked about how we’d raise our son. I was determined not to fall by the wayside.

    But I started doubting too. And I started trying to understand the things I had always rationalized away, and really get to the bottom of them. I realized that there was a whole world of Christian thinking out there that isn’t discussed within the Church, and is in fact subtly mocked or looked down upon. (This might not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine.) Throughout my entire Church life, I would get angry in Sunday School classes when people talked badly about other churches–since the LDS Church is so quick to say that that doesn’t happen. I liked that practice, and wanted to promote it lol.

    When I was looking for answers to questions, I would turn to and search Conference talks and other stuff. And I would find basic gospel principles that did not have clear answers. I could find one apostle saying one thing, and another saying something totally different. Which one is right? How am I to know which one is right if both are speaking as apostles at Conference? How do I know if they’re speaking as apostles? None of it was canonized; does that mean that none of it is doctrine? If that’s the case, why don’t the do more canonizing? What’s the point of Latter Day prophets if they aren’t actually telling us anything beyond their opinion? I can do that. 🙂 And I’m not talking about opinions on what vegetables you should plant in your garden–I’m talking about things like faith vs. works. The doctrine of grace.

    Why couldn’t I find answers about polygamy and why did the Church lie about it when it first started happening? Why does the Church not talk about the polyandry that happened? Why was that okay? If it was okay in the 1800s, why can’t I marry someone else in the temple if Kullervo dies?

    I was asking questions, and nobody was answering. I was trying to be strong, and would try bearing testimony to strengthen it. Kullervo and I decided to give it an honest go, really praying and fasting and trying to get answers. No answers were forthcoming. And the Church promises that you’ll get an answer.

    Finally, we started trying out other churches. I was still trying to be active in Relief Society, and when we moved out here, we went to our ward a few times. I tried to develop relationships in Relief Society, with other young mothers, with the RS President, etc. I was doing all the right things. But still no answers.

    So we stopped going to the LDS Church. We tried out a bunch of churches. When we were at a Quaker meeting, I was praying (after all.. what else do you do in an hour of silence?), and had some really really strong answers to prayer. So strong that I had to take out a pen and write them down so that I’d remember everything to tell Kullervo later. Some of them were in direct conflict with what the Church teaches. And I felt the sweet peace of the Spirit–the same feelings that I had when I decided to join the Church, and countless times after that. (However, people have tried to tell me that that was Satan because God wouldn’t tell me to do things that weren’t in line with the gospel… but I digress.)

    That didn’t make it easy though. Mormon culture gets under your skin. It’s nice. I liked knowing all the inside jokes. I liked being part of the crowd. I liked having an automatic group of people who I knew would have to accept me. I went looking for the Mormons at my office, just to talk to them–all the while nervous to say that I was Mormon, because I wasn’t going anymore. I wanted to be their friend. Maybe I wanted to have my cake and to eat it too? I still don’t know why. I was attracted (in a totally non-sexual way, of course) to all things LDS. I wanted to be talking about it. I wanted to be face to face with it. I didn’t want to let go of that part of me.

    Maybe it was a fear of failure? Like, I made a decision that I then decided wasn’t right? I mean, talk about a piece of humble pie…

    I realized that I was going to other churches (especially the one we’re currently attending), and leaving the church really wanting to be a better person. I left church wanting to go home and read my scriptures–not because it was my daily duty, but because of all of the richness and flavor that I could find. I was becoming a better person. I became more tolerant. I don’t think that I was ever INtolerant–I really hope not–but looking back, I see that I wasn’t always very Christ-like in my attitude. It was a problem with me, and not the LDS Church, but it was happening because of my membership and activity within the Church, so it’s difficult to dissociate the two. I am, without a doubt, a better person now. (For the record, I was without a doubt a better person in the Church than I had been before I joined.)

    I drive by the temple every day on the way to work, as I drop off my son at his nanny’s house. For awhile it made me pensive and sometimes sad.

    Sometimes–less often–I still get sad. Or down. Sometimes I miss the inclusion factor you have from being a member of something. Sometimes I miss having all the answers. But those times get less and less as time goes on and as I separate myself from the church.

    I don’t know if that helps you any, Joe. I definitely went through (go through) feeling empty. And I don’t think that that’s the lack of the Spirit, because through all of this, I have never felt disconnected from God. My relationship with God is just that–a relationship.

    I imagine that some people can continue to grow and develop into better Christians in the LDS Church. I don’t think that at the point I’m at in my life that I can. I was becoming less Christ-like and more prideful as a Mormon.

    Good luck on your spiritual journey, and I hope that you get the answers that you’re looking for!

  6. Pingback: Mormonism and Me (in part) « Katy’s Blog

  7. I am not sure what all the other comments say, but for you to be sent to out darkness you must of had a SURE Knowledge of Christ, not a testimony, but sure knowledge. The LDS church preaches that very few, those that have out right rejected Christ afte being visited, taught and UNDERSTOOD the teaching go to outerdarkness. So those who fall away from the church probably don’t fall into that catagory.

  8. Kullervo,

    The Church is fantastic and everything is great for one who is keeping the commandments, or at least working on keeping the commandments. I’m not saying the whole Works vs. Faith thing. I’m talking about connecting to God in this life when you are observing the Sabbath, or paying your tithing, or studying the gospel daily not just at church, renewing covenants often (weekly) through the sacrament as instructed not only in the LDS canon but in the New Testament. I find that I am happier when I am in obedience to the Lord’s will and further from his influence when I am not living as he would want me to live.

    I find greater peace when I am working on not being prideful, having more patience with my family and my neighbors, placing my faith in God rather than man, which helps me not to judge others. I find that through the ordinances of the gospel, I have a clearer understanding of myself, my family, my relationship to God, and the heavens. Through a more eternal perspective only found in the LDS theology, I am able to better keep the First and Second great commandments.

    The fulness of the gospel is what I am talking about. Having all of the pieces of the puzzle to not only make it to exaltation, but to have peace and happiness in this life, and find that daily grace and walk with Christ. It’s only in the LDS religion that I have seen the gospel of Christ in action in every aspect of one’s life. From the Welfare system to Relief Society to the incredible youth programs, nothing of one’s life is left out if engaged.

    Other religions do not believe in keeping the commandments in order to make it to heaven. Fine. But what about keeping the commandments in order to become more Christ-like? What about keeping the commandments by overcoming your own personal weaknesses? You will find more on faith, repentance, baptism, HG, and enduring to the end in the LDS resources than anywhere else. What about Pride and learning to be humble? Look to the Book of Mormon and the D&C. What about forgiving others? Again, the BofM and D&C. Fasting, prayer, the sacrament, Sabbath observance, the Fall of Adam, grace, the importance of commandments & temples etc. etc. etc. all have a greater uniquiness and clarity in the LDS scriptures.

    Now, because I believe all of this, do I believe “all is well in zion”? No way. All is not well in Zion, but that’s what our goal is: to become pure in heart and create Zion here, now. That’s what every LDS member should be working towards. Unfortunately, every member is human. You have “good Mormons, bad Mormons, and everything in between” (-Todd Compton). Some who are a hinderance to others and some who lift up the heavy hands that hang down. Some who have that absolute assurance where they stand with God, what life’s all about, and where they are heading. Then you have some who are still drinking that milk and not able to take on the steak just yet, still searching for answers, looking for that “here a little, there a little” next step. We’re all in it together.

    Do I believe that important questions like polygamy, the God was once a man theory, blood atonement, MMM, etc. should be glossed over? Nope. But I’m not going to sacrifice my happiness in the Church for these unclear, foggy items that have no bearing on my faith in Christ. For the most part, I have found very satisfactory answers to these problems. For those that I’m unclear on, I’ll continue to do the research and use my own brain and not the brain of the Tanners.

    If the church is flawed, it is because people are flawed. The fulness of the gospel is not flawed.

    As for Outer Darkness, that was my own opinion. I’m sure with some digging I can find out more from the scriptures. So please don’t judge the church on my lack of knowledge. I believe Heather is correct on this. I believe it takes absolute knowledge of Christ, His personal appearance, and then an absolute denial, denying the HG and putting Christ to an open shame. At least I remember reading words along these lines. In D&C 76 it mentions that nobody truly can know Outer Darkness except those assigned there.

  9. Austin, I think you’re mistaken when you assume that other churches don’t teach that we should keep commandments to become more Christlike. Maybe they don’t teach that we should keep arbitrary commandments (like the Word of Wisdom), but that we should follow the example of Christ always, and try to become more like Him. There are some fantastic books written on living a life patterned after Christ, and some just mind-blowing observations and connections you can make when reading them. And they’re written by, and from the perspective of, non-Mormons.

    No, everybody in other churches isn’t doing the right thing–but neither is everybody in the LDS Church. And maybe what we should be doing is more subjective–but I would argue that the same holds true within Mormonism (like, for example, my nanny was taught in her temple prep class that decaf coffee is okay. Ummm… not what I was taught!).

    You don’t need the BoM or the D&C to learn about forgiveness or doing right. You can use the good ol’ Bible for it. And you don’t need any of them to feel that you should do right–it’s ingrained in most people anyway to begin with.

    I don’t feel that the doctrines you specified have a greater clarity in the Mormon scriptures. Of course, clarity is subjective, so if they are clearer to you through reading them… great! 🙂

    I always believed the same thing about Outer Darkness–that you can’t go there unless you actually KNEW the truth–like Brother of Jared knew–and then willfully rejected it. HOWEVER… that’s not totally clear. And lots of people don’t believe that–they believe that people who were baptized and then leave the Church are headed there (including some members of Kullervo’s family). And it’s not actually clear–or there wouldn’t be confusion about it. We can use the ‘gospel according to… whoever’, but if someone else is using the ‘gospel according to… someone else’, then we can debate all day, and still not have an answer.

  10. You will find more on faith, repentance, baptism, HG, and enduring to the end in the LDS resources than anywhere else.

    Yeah… that’s really not true, Austin. The rest of Christianity’s been talking about those things for 2000 years.

  11. katyjane,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think I am still very much in the beginning phases of the process you went through. The problem is my wife just refuses to doubt, so if I go through it, I’ve got to go through it alone, meaning I’ll still have to support my kids being Mormon some how. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard. I have had many of the same issues regarding conflicting words of Apostles, no further written word since Joseph Smith, conflicting views on polygamy, etc. as you. I do very much sympathize however with the original teachings of Joseph Smith. I guess I still have a testimony of Joseph Smith, just not sure about Brigham Young. So that brings me to wondering if either 1, the church fell away after Joseph Smith, or 2, the church is just under a lower law with less revelation than the times of Joseph Smith. That is of course assuming Joseph Smith was a prophet. In many ways I really like the views of the Strangites, who believe revelation through a prophet stopped after James Strang. Even they have some weird beliefs though that I need more answers to.

    I have always told myself that if I didn’t believe in the Mormon God, I didn’t want to believe in God at all, as the Mormon God I had the most answers for. So that brings me also to the issue of do I really want to believe in a God at all? Buddhism looks very appealing to me if that’s the case. Or is there a better explanation of God out there? Did we just not get enough from Joseph Smith yet? As you can see, I’m very confused, and it’s not leaving the church that has me confused (I actually still go to church and attend actively), it’s the church itself that has me confused, and I’m just not getting answers. I can relate very much to your situation. Again, thanks for your thoughts katyjane.

  12. Joe,
    It sounds like we are in a similar situation. I am an active LDS member and confused/skeptical/sad. I have just anounced that I’m ending my blog for a while (mormonstalk), but there are many discussions about issues I’ve been dealing with during the past year. Maybe they can help you. Members and non-members commented for and against the Church. Also there are members that commented that are less active or doubting. So you can get a taste of many viewpoints. I hope you’ll check it out, Good luck!

  13. Dando,
    You don’t go to outer darkness just for losing your testimony. I agree with Austin and Heather on that point. I don’t even think you go there if you are excommunicated from the LDS Church.

  14. Jay, the problem is that you’re talking about “the Gospel according to Jay.” Just because you happen to agree with Austin and Heather doesn’t mean your opinion necessarily reflects the belief of all (or even most) Mormons or the Church’s “official doctrine.”

    This is one of my biggest problems with the Church- there’s an insistence that there is one true official doctrine taught by the Church, but there’s no real consensus about what this doctrine is. However, there’s an insistence that there is a consensus, or at least each individual Mormon is convinced that their own understanding of the Gospel is the “official” one, in harmony with the Church’s teachings.

    I’ve met Mormons who say that in order to go to Outer Darkness you’d basically have to know beyond all normal knowledge that the Gospel was true, i.e. basically you’d have to have seen God and/or Jesus, and reject it. I’ve also met members who believed that if you had ever felt the Holy Ghost and then said you didn’t, then you had denied the Holy Ghost and were a Son of Perdition. And then there’s a pretty broad spectrum in the middle, with no clear answer from up top.

    Now alone, this isn’t troubling, and you’ll find similar doctrinal disagreements in most every Church. But it’s more unique in Mormonism because there’s this tension between the sort of Platonic Ideal, that there’s a one true official revealed truth that Mormons believe, have received, and share, and the reality, which is that Mormons in reality disagree on a huge spectrum of doctrinal points. However, debate is so strongly discouraged and the Church’s authority system so strongly prefers top-down statements of doctrine that everyone is stuck figuring things out for themselves (in the dearth of solid revelation since Joseph Smith’s martyrdom) while pretending that that’s not what they’re doing.

    And the lame answer to the Outer Darkness question is “well, if you’re bieng good and living the Gospel and keeping the commandments you don’t really have to worry about it.” What do you tell the faithful family members of exMormons then? For a faith that stresses the eternal family so much, it really leaves families hanging in the lurch as to whether their loved ones are going to be cast into Outer Darkness- that’s a big deal. And the best guidance they get from the Church is the individual opinions of local priesthood leaders, whereas in theory they should be able to access the one true official truth through the hierarchy of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

  15. There is doctorine about outer darkness and when I say a “sure” knowledge I am quoting from that doctorine. (Yes I know you want me to find it and quote it exactly, but in all honesty, I have two kids to run after today, so we’ll see what happens) But everything comes down to our personal understanding and faith. Do you believe that God does not understand that we are all human? That he knows we will have up and downs and doubts and believe in him, then not believe in him based upon our trials? That isn’t the God I believe in. He loves all his children and I don’t believe he would reject one of his children that got married at age 19 went through the temple then divorced a year later and fell away from the church (like one of my friends) To us from 8 to 90 we are all still His children, just like you would forgive a 6 year old from saying a bad word, God will forgive a 80 year old for falling away from him because only he knows his childrens knowledge about him and from hearing everyones previous storys, I doubt there has been a sure knowledge. Even those excommunicated will not be put lower than the lesser degree of glory. (Plus my God gives a chance to accept him when you die, again depending upon your heart and actions on this earth, only he knows our hearts) That is my belief, that is my religion. Will there be Mormons out there that disagree? Of course, that is the Human part of our religion and everyones religion out there. You will always find one or two Mormons, even apostles that disagree on certain subjects. My guide the scriptures, the current prophet and most important my personal inspiration that I have a right to recieve due to my relationship with God.

  16. Just to also clarify after reading my post, I can tell you right now I don’t even have a sure knowledge, I hit my doubs sometimes to, I am human

  17. You don’t go to outer darkness just for losing your testimony. I agree with Austin and Heather on that point. I don’t even think you go there if you are excommunicated from the LDS Church.

    Oh, if I implied that Outer Darkness is caused by a lack of testimony, I apologize. I haven’t heard anyone express that. It was my understanding that resignation is the path to Outer Darkness (and I agree that I’ve heard it explained that excommunication is not the end of the road).

    Heather, thanks for your thoughts on the need to have sure knowledge. I guess that makes me question why there is such an insistence in LDS testimony-giving to say “I KNOW”. Many LDS at the very least give the impression that they HAVE sure knowledge, so they would still qualify for Outer Darkness (unless they aren’t being honest while bearing their testimony). Do you say “I know” or do you face the storm of public pressure and use the more realistic “I believe”?

  18. Heather,

    While when I was an active Mormon I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly, the problem that I found with that was that the church teaches that there is ONE TRUE ANSWER for everything. So, if there’s the ONE true answer, and we are capable of knowing and receiving it… why do apostles have different views? Why doesn’t the First Presidency issue a message to the stakes to be read at the beginning of sacrament meeting that says, ‘By the way… Outer Darkness–you probably won’t go there.’?

    It’s easy to not worry about it when it doesn’t affect you. Kullervo’s brother has gotten some pretty strongly worded letters from his family letting him know of the Dire Consequences of his actions. My best friend who re-activated was always worried about what would happen to the rest of her family–who she’s incredibly close to–when they died if they didn’t come back. And the best answer that anyone gave was that ‘God would work it all out.’ Great–I agree with that. God makes those decisions. But why claim that we can know it if we actually can’t? Why bring it up if it’s not actually something that can help us with our spiritual progress? Why teach about Outer Darkness at all if it’s something that’s only going to happen to prophets (and I can’t be a prophet). Why was it part of the missionary discussions?

  19. Again I don’t have a lot of time, but real quick , they teach it just like the teach all of Gods plan, Outer Darkness is part of the plan, just like One Hell is part of other religions plan. Anyways what I wanted to write real quick before I head out the door, is I am sorry about husband the problems he is recieving with his family, that goes with the Human part of the gospel, not the actual gospel. The apostles don’t have drastic different views when it comes to the core gospel, and I really mean core, but you will hear many different views on birth control, divorce etc.. With that all being said, My mother in law is no longer active in the church, my father-in-law believes he has recieved his calling n election, my uncle is gay, and I don’t worry about a single one of them going to outer darkness. They are living their life the best way they know how with the knowledge they have recieved and the trials they have been given. They are good people. Heck my good friend in college killed himself, and you will hear many mormons, christians and others say he is doomned, I don’t believe that, only God can judge him and my God is fair and just.

  20. This is facinating stuff you guys!

    I’m sure there’s an official list of books Mormons are told to stay away from, but several years ago I picked-up a copy of “Beyond Mormonism” by Jim Spencer. I bet I’ve read it eight times. His story sounds like what I’ve been reading here regarding the spiritual journey some of you folks are on. Having been a member, Jim knows the LDS church from the inside out so there’s none-of-this business of not understanding the doctrine or the social structure of the organization. I’m not LDS but have studied it from all sorts of sources over the years. First of all I’ve come to the conclusion that Mormons don’t know what they believe. Second, the social structure of the LDS church has an overwhelming psychological hold on it’s members. Third, once the questions start coming, people can either do a “mind-snap” and simply stay with the program or they can push ahead looking for answers. It takes courage to seek answers to troublesome questions.

    I kind of went through this in my college years. I had been raised hard-core Catholic in the 1950s so that gives you an idea of how old I am. A lot of things started to not make sense to me once I went off to college. At twenty years of age I dumped the whole religion scene and lived like a heathen. It was fun! I had no conscience. I reveled in sin. But I longed for God. Through a series of interesting circumstances He led me to Himself when I was in my midtwenties. I don’t have a particular brand of Christianity, I don’t belong to a group, but I have Christ. He seems to be enough. I stick to about eight basic tenants of faith. I question everything. I enjoy feelings, but I don’t base my faith on emotional rewards. I put my faith and hope for the future in Jesus Christ…..period. Getting free from a religous system can be a struggle, but the end result is fresh air to breath.

  21. Noclaf, I think you’re mistaken when you say, “First of all I’ve come to the conclusion that Mormons don’t know what they believe.”

    I knew what I believed. Heather clearly knows what she believes. Most people know what they believe. 😉

    Whether or not what I believe (or Heather, or Kullervo, or anyone) is canonized doctrine is another story, and that’s where the waters get muddy. But to say that people don’t know what they believe… that doesn’t even make sense.

  22. I’ll chime in for a sec – thanks for everyone’s advice and comments. If it helps, Joseph Smith himself even skepticized that there could possibly be a time when even those in Outer Darkness would have the opportunity to live with God again. He cautioned the Saints about getting too focused on figuring out if this would happen or not though, and that God would work it out in the end – I don’t think he really cared one way or the other. Like I said – I think Joseph Smith made a lot of sense – I don’t get a lot of the latter prophets’ teachings though. They all contradict each other on many different things.

  23. Thank You Katyjane for your last comment, understanding and respect of others beliefs is such a key factor in a discussion.

  24. Noclaf,

    I think you need to read my “why we need to apologize” page. What I hear you saying is something many Evangelicals have said (self included). Usually it’s after reading what someone else says LDS believe, then when we ask LDS and they don’t agree with our source, we assume that LDS don’t know their own beliefs, rather than considering that our source had it wrong.

    I understand where the problem comes from. LDS doctrine is fluid (they don’t have a systematic theology) and is often passed on via an oral tradition. So it may very well be true, that LDS used to believe X, but we shouldn’t assume that the church still teaches it today.

    Regardless, EVERYONE knows their own beliefs. Their beliefs may not match up with what their church teaches, but they still know their own beliefs. We should engage people in their own beliefs, not what we might like to set up for them as their beliefs.

    Oh, and there is no official list of books that LDS should stay away from. They are told to beware of anti-Mormon propoganda, but there is no black list. That comment reflects a desire to saddle the LDS church with more legalistic control and brain-washing than they actually have.

  25. kullervo,

    I admit that there are many rumors that go around about this belief and that. However, I have been a member my entire life 30+ years and never once have I heard anyone say that a person will go to outer darkness for leaving the church. I think if that were widely taught doctrine I would have heard it by now. I have only ever heard the basic explanation that Heather and Austin gave.

    There is consensus on most doctrines in the LDS Church. In my experience the ones where people disagree are the ones that aren’t widely taught or not officially endorsed currently by the LDS Church (i.e. No Caffeine). I also believe that much of the confusion comes in when members try to justify why something was doctrine/policy (polygamy, blacks and priesthood, Book of Abraham). It is in this realm that people begin to use their imagination, which is good for writing stories but bad for explaning doctrine. The Church offers no official statement so I suppose they are free to do so, but many times their justifications get spread as gossip.

  26. The point of my “don’t know what they believe” comment comes from my impression of what I read on various postings on various sites from LDS members. That’s my impression. I’ll own it.

  27. Katyjane,

    Thanks for your kind rebuke. Sorry. I did not clearly express what I wanted to 20 comments ago. My intention was not to indicate that I believed there was no value in other religions. I believe all religions have truth in them. I often listen to, watch, or read non-LDS talks and try to find in them common ground and where we split ways. My intention was to indicate that I find an incredible amount of goodness in the LDS church, which all boils down to what has been revealed in the scriptures in modern times and brought to life by modern day prophets into this great big machinery of daily Mormonism.

    There is certainly the good, the bad, and the ugly in Mormonism. But for me, the good far outweighs the negatives. I would certainly hope that anyone who chooses to leave the LDS faith, at least takes with them some of the good too.

    As far as keeping the commandments, I’ve personally witnessed the rationalizing away of the commandments by my non-LDS associates and family. My view may be wrong, but it just seems like the commandments are no longer needed.

    I’ve not heard much on becoming Christ-like in other religions. Believing and accepting Christ? Yes. But the actual idea that Christ is not only our Saviour but truly our only pure example of how not only to live in this life but how to return to the Father. I see this in the different perceptions of the doctrine of baptism. It’s unclear where non-LDS Christians stand on this issue. Particularly when Christ himself was baptized and commanded his Apostles to baptize those they taught. Is it just a good idea to do once you’ve accepted Christ? Or is it more of actually following Christ because it’s really important?

    With regards to clarity in the LDS scriptures- I look at it this way: The Catholic canon is closed. The Protestant canon is closed. And the Jewish canon is closed. However, the LDS canon is NOT closed. A bit of reasoning would indicate that if there exists more scriptures, then there also exists more information. If the information given is followed with more faithfulness, then more information is given. In other words, the Heavens are not closed.

    One quick example of this:

    The current topic of Outer Darkness. I suggest that there are several scriptures in the LDS canon that speak on the subject. The problem is, it’s not a clear cut topic only on Outer Darkness. If one was to truly understand who is sent there, there would have to be a correct understanding of other related subjects- the LDS concept of Heaven (3 degrees of glory), Hell, damnation, spirit prison, baptism, temple covenant of marriage, sons of perdition, and possibly others. But it’s all there in the LDS scriptures. The Bible is either silent on these issues or quite vague.

    The problem is most LDS members haven’t done as they have been counseled to do and prayerfully search the scriptures. I don’t think members (or former members 🙂 ) should put the burden upon the Church to teach everything when we are perfectly capable of learning on our own through study and prayer.

  28. I’ve not heard much on becoming Christ-like in other religions. Believing and accepting Christ? Yes. But the actual idea that Christ is not only our Saviour but truly our only pure example of how not only to live in this life but how to return to the Father.

    Seriously, Austin. If you haven’t heard this stuff then you’re not really paying attention. Maybe in one or two particularly legalistic evangelical-end protestant denominations you’d be right, but as far as the whole of Christianity goes? You’re absolutely talking nonsense. Christianity has been talking about being more Christlike for 2000 years. If you’re not seeing it,. you’re just not looking very hard.

    In other words, the Heavens are not closed.

    This makes a great soundbyte, sure, but I’m not convinced it’s really the case in practice. The Mormon canon may be open in theory, but in reality, very little has been added since Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.

    You’ve got D&C section 136, which are Brigham Young’s marching orders (and which don’t really come across as revelation at all- more like inspiration), and you’ve got a dream that Joseph F. Smith had (section 138). After that you’ve got the Official Declarations, which are more policy statements than revelations or scripture. And even if all of those were revelation and scripture, that still adds up to a grand total of four revelations in 160 years, and leaves you with a truckload of “prophets” who basically don’t prophesy.

    Furthermore, the whole “heavens are closed” statement really distorts the belief and faith of other Christians. It might be easy to come to that conclusion if you’re looking at the rest of Christianity through Mormon eyes, but that’s hardly fair and hardly likely to lead to an accurate portrayal of belief.

    Again, the “rest of Christianity” you’re describing sounds a whole lot more like the classic straw-man caricature that the Mormon church sets up.

    The current topic of Outer Darkness. I suggest that there are several scriptures in the LDS canon that speak on the subject. The problem is, it’s not a clear cut topic only on Outer Darkness. If one was to truly understand who is sent there, there would have to be a correct understanding of other related subjects- the LDS concept of Heaven (3 degrees of glory), Hell, damnation, spirit prison, baptism, temple covenant of marriage, sons of perdition, and possibly others. But it’s all there in the LDS scriptures. The Bible is either silent on these issues or quite vague.

    The problem is most LDS members haven’t done as they have been counseled to do and prayerfully search the scriptures. I don’t think members (or former members 🙂 ) should put the burden upon the Church to teach everything when we are perfectly capable of learning on our own through study and prayer.

    Now I think you’re just not listening to what people are saying here. Of course there are a few scriptures that speak on it. The problem is that those scriptures require interpretation, and the interpretation has never been clear or consistent.

    If the members all just study on their own, they’re going to come to their own individual conclusions- which is what they already do! You’re implying that Mormons would understand true doctrine and agree more if they just all studied and prayed harder, and that’s ludicrous. Individual study is going to lead to individual conclusions, and those conclusions are going to be different.

    The problem is that Mormonism is held together by a strong deference to authority, and a belief that the Church itself (i.e. correct teaching as revealed through the prophets and apostles) is the source of official, true doctrine.

    Yes, that’s supposed to be backed up by individual study and the confirmation of the Holy Ghost, but those aren’t even relevant here- what if study and the Holy Ghost tells you something very different from the prophet? You’d better keep it to yourself. In any case, study and prayer and inspiration in the Mormon church are only treated as valid if they confirm what the Church hierarchy says. If study and the Spirit tell you something different, then it must not really have been the Spirit.

    My point is that since Mormons believe that there is one truth and that truth is taught by the Church, when the

    You say that the core principles of the Gospel are understood and that there is a consensus about them, but I absolutely reject that notion because it runs completely counter to all of my experience in the LDS church. Case in point- the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

    Again, you might think you know that “the Church’s true teachings on the atonement” are, but so do other Mormons, and I promise you that they don’t all agree on what the Church’s true teaching on it is!

    Bring it up in Gospel Doctrine of Elders’ Quorum and watch! Ask how much of our salvation and exaltation comes from Christ’s efforts and how much comes from our own efforts? And how do we get access to Christ’s efforts? This isn’t a peripheral- this is core to the Gospel. And I’m not talking about the mystery of it, how it works, but simply what are we required to do and what does Christ do and how do the two interplay with each other.

    (please don;t try to explain this doctrine to me yourself- that would be missing the point, because all you’d be giving me would be your opinion about the doctrine, and swearing up and down that it was the Church’s position and the true truth… which is what every Mormon thinks about their different opinions on doctrine).

  29. I’d like to respond to the idea that it’s not possible for someone to not know what they believe (any double negatives here). There are several topics that I don’t know what I believe because I haven’t clearly defined it for myself. Like what? The death penalty, what we should do in Iraq right now, comprehensive immigration, comprehesive sex ed as opposed to abstinence only, pretrib, posttrib, midtrib rapture of the church. I taught a couple of classes at a local college this past year and let me tell you I had plenty of students that didn’t know if they were on foot or horseback on all sorts of topics. I just read the post above by kullvero. I liked it! I rest my case.

  30. So I’m outa here, it’s been great, but this dicussion is turning into like so many others, a playground fight! “My Religion” …. “No, My Religion” Sorry it all comes down to Faith, and no one should tell each other their Faith is lacking, their belief in God is wrong. If you have any questions, comments you can always find me at!
    Have a good day:)

  31. Hmm. Heather, I completely disagree with your characterization of this discussion, and I’m frankly miffed that you’re so flippantly dismissing what are important issues for quite a few people.

    While many things are ultimately matters of Faith, not everything is.

  32. Kullervo,

    Obviously, you and Katyjane and Dando would know better than I if other religions are preaching following Christ’s example. I know several good, strong Christians who’s faith in Christ is inspiring, but sometimes their actions would indicate they believe in Christ but are not following him. This can be said of Mormons as well. But at least I know without doubt that our scriptures say Christ is not only our Saviour but also our Example.

    If you talked to ten different Christians about keeping the sabbath day holy in Christ’s way, you’d get ten different answers. If you talk to ten different Christians, you’d get ten different answers on baptism or the sacrament or tithing.

    This even goes along the lines of your criticism of the Church. If you talk to ten different Christians on family relationships in the hereafter, you’d get ten different answers. This was a recent discussion on one of these blogs, and even non-LDS couldn’t agree on that. If you talk to ten different Christians on Heaven and Hell, you’d get a huge variety of doctrines, all claiming to be right.

    I think your continued slam on the church for lack of clarity on your outer darkness and other doctrines, is seriously lacking in good judgement, when you are unwilling to apply the same standards to other religions. Christians claim to have the truth. Yet they don’t have all the answers, just a lot of opinions, books upon books on the subject, for 2000 years.

    Thank goodness the LDS leadership doesn’t feel the need to clarify every minute detail. We are already slammed as not having a brain and not being able to think for ourselves, just walking around saying, “Yes sir”, “Yes sir”, “I will do as commanded”.

    And yet now we have someone saying that the Leadership needs to say more. They have said more, and it’s either criticized, ignored, or followed by few. If they came out and said exactly what something is and isn’t, would you believe it and follow it? You’ve already made up your mind that you won’t.

    The anti-Mormon claim that there is no more open canon, no more revelation in the Church is false and is getting old. Obviously YOU haven’t been paying attention. The church implemented the very Inspired welfare program, second to none in the US. The Church has an inspired missionary program, again, rivaling anything in existence. The Church instituted the Family Home Evening, for certain absolutely needed in today’s society- quite a prophetic thing in my opinion. And many more such things can be named.

    Just because more “scripture” hasn’t been added doesn’t mean anything. Joseph Smith has revealed everything that is needed to return to God. Now the leadership is just actively “overseeing” this progression. We’ve been promised more scripture is coming, but we have to live what we have been given now, which we aren’t doing. With only 25% paying tithing, how can the law of consecration be implemented? With probably low numbers reading and applying what’s in the scriptures, it’s gonna take awhile. & etc.

    The great thing about Gospel Doctrine class and Elder’s Quorem/RS is that it’s full of people with a wide variety of opinions, experiences, and different levels of understanding. We have been commanded to teach one another the doctrines. I think it’s great to see differing, possibly conflicting, views on the doctrines of the Church. We’ve been given guidelines to follow, manuals with information, then it’s left up to us to work it out as our understanding takes us.

    In your situation, if your understanding takes you away from the Church, then I don’t think anyone has a right to judge you. I understand their need and concern to. And I think it’s only natural given the nature of things.

    Anyway, I’m sure we can continue to go the rounds on this. It’ll never take, on either side. Our perspectives and experiences are too different.

    On that note, I better get back to work.

  33. Austin,

    Other Christian churches don’t claim to be the ONE true church or claim to have all the answers about everything. They also don’t have a living, breathing Prophet who is supposed to clarify things left unexplained. We recognize that there is room for interpretation on some things and let people practice what they are comfortable with.

  34. Austin,

    This is why I have always said if I can’t believe in the Mormon church, I don’t think I can believe in any church at all. They all have the same issues in different means. The Mormon church has brought me the most happiness because that is what I’m used to and grew up with – it’s home for me. However I see the same issues in the Mormon church as I see in many other churches. I’ve grown to not like the term “The Church is the one true church”, but rather “The Church has truth”. Not sure I like that term either, because for any church or religion (well, minus maybe Bhuddism and similar), it all comes down to faith, which can be evidenced by reasoning, but cannot be proven by reason alone. This would not make it truth, but rather the perception of truth – “I perceive the church to be true, based on my experience and evidences in my life”. Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with that, just that almost all religions have similar weaknesses – and unfortunately it’s faith and absence of reasoning that bring out those weaknesses.

    Personally, I like the Mormon God better than all the other Gods because they actually try to explain Him with reasoning. It still comes down to faith, but it’s the closest and most personal definition I’ve come to thus far. Maybe that attempt to reason alongside faith gets us into trouble some times though and hence the reason it bothers others.

  35. Joe,
    I’m sorry for asking this question if it’s been covered before, but would you give me an explanation of who the Mormon God is? I’m really curious about this.

  36. I think Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse gives one of the most beautiful explanations:

    My favorite quote from it (which ironically is a quote Mormons often get criticized for – I don’t see why, as the concept to me is beautiful, what I would want a God who is my Father to be like):

    “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did;”

  37. Joe,

    I’ve had similar feelings. If, for some reason, I do not believe in the Mormon faith, where would I go from there? There is truly a something awesome that reels me in, in spite of some of the confusing issues.

    I think, like you, the idea and doctrine of God is incredibly appealing. I also feel that way about many other doctrines as well.

    I do not believe I could belong to another Christian church, though I would hope I still believed in Christ. I have an extended family member who not only stopped believing in the Church, but all organized religion. Even the Bible and the divinity of Christ became suspect. I was hit pretty hard with that one. He and I grew up together and were pretty close. I hoped he would at least keep believing in Christ, but eventually he became atheist.

    On the flip side, I know there are those who have left the Church and became “Christians” and are happy.

    I also liked your idea of the connection of faith and reasoning. I think reasoning things out is important. There is more below the surface on “such and such” a topic than what that statement(s) say.

    That’s one reason I like these blogs, though sometimes my line of reasoning isn’t all that great, as has been point out, 🙂 and of which I will agree in some cases.

    Thanks for your comments.

  38. The anti-Mormon claim that there is no more open canon, no more revelation in the Church is false and is getting old. Obviously YOU haven’t been paying attention. The church implemented the very Inspired welfare program, second to none in the US. The Church has an inspired missionary program, again, rivaling anything in existence. The Church instituted the Family Home Evening, for certain absolutely needed in today’s society- quite a prophetic thing in my opinion. And many more such things can be named.

    I don’t buy that one bit, Austin. Inspiration is not the same thing as revelation, certainly not from a Mormon perspective. And inspired programs don’t equal an open canon. Many Churches claim inspiration. A list of a few good institutional ideas is a far cry from evidence of continued revelation.

    In fact, “inspired leadership” is not the same thing as continuing revelation. And if it is, then Mormonism is hardly as unique as it claims to be. An open canon means more scripture. Or at least more revelation, but all we get are “inspired words” that are 1) nothing like the revelation of prophets of old or of Joseph Smith and 2) nopt realy different from the claims to inspiration that other religious figures make.

  39. I completely agree. I have held many leadership position in the church, and at some meetings we discuss people who no longer attend and ask for no contact whatsoever. Some people in the meetings recommend asking them to write a letter to request that their names be removed from the records of the Church. This is preposterous to me, and I always discourage it. Why would they want to help people draw further away from the Savior? Fortunately, this kind of response is fairly rare among the leadership.

  40. Dando, just thought I’d address the original point of this post since the conversation seems to have gone wayward.

    I think the sentiments of “if you don’t like it, just leave” are more held by the individual members than the LDS Church as an institution. I think you’re confusing the two.

    Among individuals, the love it or leave it sentiment is quite common. You hear political conservatives using it on liberals who complain about the bad points of their own country. You hear it in church. Heck, you even hear it among trading card game fans defending a particular rule change. Basically, you hear it from anyone who has a vested interest in defending the status quo.

    But that’s just individuals. The institutional position of the LDS Church is quite different.

    For that position, you have to reference to the Church Handbook of Instructions. This booklet is only given to ward leadership. The Church does not make it publicly available, tightly guards the copyright, and tries to prevent public dissemination (a rather misguided stance, in my opinion). The handbook includes a LOT of material, from the official stance on abortion, to how to run an LDS funeral, to administrative policies, and yes, what to do with the “lost sheep.”

    (incidentally, you can find a copy of the handbook online if you dig a little – no guarantees about whether it’s up to date though…)

    I’ve served as personal secretary to a Bishop and in the Elders Quorum presidency in various wards (in addition to being a missionary). I’ve had frequent opportunity to discuss how to approach wayward members and have looked through the handbook a few times (I had access to the full copy they give Bishops).

    I can tell you that the Church policy is that a person should NEVER be removed from the Church records unless they specifically request it, in writing. This actually tends to annoy some ex-Mormons, who wish the Church would just leave them alone. Neither are members encouraged to go around suggesting to the disaffected that they remove their names. I have actually heard of some members being harshly condemned for such practices when it is discovered by higher leadership.

    Yes, local rogue leaders may occasionally try to boot out the “dead weight” to boost their reporting numbers. I condemn this practice and, as far as I know, so do the leaders of the the Church. It is certainly not in keeping with official Church policy.

  41. At the same time, Church leadership has been known to drag its heels with regards to letting people leave the organization, which is a shady practice in my opinion. If I don’t believe that the Church is anything but a glorified club, why should I have to go through a lengthy and complicated process if I don;t want to be amember anymore?

  42. Yes, the Church gets criticized if it hustles you out and it gets criticized if it takes its time. It’s really a no-win situation for the Church.

    The wards I have been in have been pretty good about respecting the wishes of those on the records who have asked us to “buzz off.”

  43. Seth thanks for that clarification. I was indeed talking about individual members not the institution itself.

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