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Thursday, February 03, 2005 

Do I Have to Say the Words?

I think as members of the church, you lead a somewhat sheltered life. Especially growing up in the church. I think that when you take a step back (for whatever reason) and look at the big picture, THAT is when your true self is defined and decisions are made. “Recovering Mormon,” “Jack Mormon,” “Non-Member,” “Inactive,” “Non-Practicing Mormon”…they’ve all been used this week. The hard thing is that I’m not exactly sure which category I fit into. Is that necessarily a bad thing? “Hey, JP…are you Mormon? “Well, actually I’m in LIMBO…thanks for asking.”

Most people don’t understand my limbo-ness. They don’t understand how I can not denounce the church but that I still don’t live my life as a “good Mormon” would. I don’t go to church. I don’t necessarily follow the guidelines of the church. It’s not because I think it’s a bad idea, its just not the way I choose to live my life right now. I still hold true to my beliefs in God, the scriptures, etc. I guess I just live in a very “generic” Christian way instead of a very specific Mormon way. That disappoints my family and some of my friends. It makes them sad, but I think all of us have to get over that and move on. The ironic thing is that I still have parts of my life that I keep to myself. Maybe I just don’t give “The Mormons” in my life a chance to accept me in all ways because I think I just got tired of disappointing them. It’s such a downer. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be what was expected of me. I essence, I’ve created my own baggage of being Mormon.

But to be perfectly honest, I don’t get asked if I’m a Mormon very often. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but nobody at work seems to care and all my friends and family pretty much know my story. Plus, I didn’t go to BYU or live in Utah…so that never factors in. But when I do get asked, I usually say that I “grew up Mormon” or that I’m “not active.” I just want other people to make up their own minds about the church and not have my (bad) example taint their view. Everyone should have their own opinions…it’s not my job to sway them either way. I've gotta make my choices and decisions...so do they.

Do I think I’m a bad person? I used to. Do I go to church? No. Do I follow the “rules” of the church? Not really. Have I completely ruled out returning to the church? Not at all. Am I happy with my life? Indeed I am. And I know I’ve been blessed. Do I give off the “appearance of evil?” Well, I don’t think so…but I certainly wouldn’t be asked to speak at any fireside, either.

I think you do a fine job of living your life in a way that will make you happiest.

And it's a good thing I'm not in charge of firesides... I'd totally ask you to speak! 

Posted by Kaycee

As a former member I understand the attitude to be gentle in discussions. And I really do not engage a dialog of who is right and wrong. I am happy to see this blog it is refreshing that people are people. And that I am clueless to life. 

Posted by Rodrigo V

Well well.. I love the “get over it and move” on part, I think my own family has done this very well and I think it is because being a family is more important to every single one of them then trying to force me to be something I am not and judging me, this doesn’t mean that I don’t make them sad, I am sure I do, I just appreciate that they don’t “if only” me all of the time… occasionally it is okay because I know it is out of love. (I am not at all saying your family isn’t like mine, Jess is proof that your family is great).

I feel like I am robbing Marta of her comment so I hope that she expands on what I am about to write, but on numerous occasions she and I have discussed how interesting it is that we, atheists, must be cognizant of a believers (all kinds, not just Mormon’s) feelings, respectful to their religious beliefs, yet the same respect is not required of towards people who don’t believe in anything. Of course I don’t find that here at VSoM, well possibly on occasion, but I don’t think it is ever done intentionally. Regardless, I wonder why this is.

I suppose this is because people believe that if you don’t believe in anything it isn’t possible to be insulting or condescending, if life were only so simple.

You are a wonderful Limbo Mormon. I really respect your honesty towards your limbo-ness. 

Posted by Rebecca

I wouldn't say I'm in limbo, but I haven't cut all ties.I have seriously contemplated having my name removed from the roles of the church. But, for some reason I don't. I figure if I change my mind, I'll stll know where it's at....I don't forsee this happening, pretty much ever. 

Posted by herevilsister

Today's blog has really stirred my emotions, I'm sure it's because I JP to want to "be active".
Girls, what is wrong with being Mormon?
I started a list of pros vs. cons but back-tracked. You have your free agency. What a precious gift it is. But I know that there is a wonderfulness of living the gospel. I'm far, far from being a perfect Mormon (just ask JP). But I will continue to strive to do what's right and keep covenants I have made.
I'm trying to keep my comment from being too lengthy, but you've pushed me this week and I'm about to burst. Sarah, Kaycee, JP, Rebecca, & Kaycee's not so evil sister: 4 out of 5 of you have known me for 20 years. You know I'm a regular girl, with regular trials and temptations. But I love the gospel, and I know all of you have in the past.  

Posted by Jess

You know Jess... If I am not mistaken I think there is not a single one of us that is saying there is anything wrong with being Mormon, in fact it seems that each of us are saying that to it is absolutely okay to be Mormon, but wouldn’t it be nice if our Mormon friends and family could say, “and it is absolutely okay for you not to be!” This goes back to the Marta/Rebecca discussion, why isn't it okay for me to not be religious? Really, I am happier now then I have ever been in my life, who knows what has contributed to this, I can't say it is the lack of religion in my life and you can't say that I would be happier if I had it... it is something that just can't be proven because with each change in my life I am a different person… who could ever pin point the contributing factors. Regardless I am okay with the fact that I don’t have a testimony, with not believing in a God and for that reason alone shouldn't you also be okay with it, just as I am okay with you believing in the gospel?

I know, heavy questions. I hope they don't sound attacking at all because even though I don't know you by your face I still love and respect you. We are looking at this differently, why is that?

Posted by Rebecca

Jess, I have never said there was anything wrong with being a Mormon - which is good... SINCE I AM ONE. I mean, I go to church every Sunday, I fulfill my calling, I even go to YSA dances sometimes *shudder*. I am a card carrying member friend. It's just it is not the ONLY thing in my life. I will not be friends with JUST Mormons, I won't feel sorry for people who choose to be something else, I won't be sad because someone doesn't believe. I WILL love them. I will hang out with them be it at their house or a lesbian bar. I will be so glad that I get to have them. I will want nothing but happiness for them. I know I am happier when I live the principles of the gospel, I really do. I know that I want to be married to a worthy preisthood holder in the temple. I know what is the right thing to do. Those things that I know doesn't make it any easier to live this life. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Rebecca: I understand that you are happier.
I also understand that some people experience extreme circumstances that forces them to question their beliefs. I pray that I don't have to go down those roads.
The next sentence won't come to me. BOOKMARK. I'll be back. 

Posted by Jess

I must echo Rebecca. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being Mormon. NOTHING. I love the way I grew up. I love my background, history or whatever you want to call it. But there's also nothing wrong with me (or anyone) taking a step back or a break. ("We were on a BREAK!") I have absolutely NO problem with saying that I'm Mormon or being Mormon. But I also have no problem saying that I'm not active.

Jess. I knew my post would be hard for you to read. Your pros and cons list is a fabulous idea, but it would be YOUR list. Even the most active member of the church would have a different list. Heavenly Father created us with differences for a reason...that doesn't mean he loves me any less. (I believe.)

A friend of mine said it perfectly. She is very active in the church and wakes up every day trying to make sure that her and her family can be together forever. Making sure that she does what she feels is right and believes in. She also said that my choices and my decisions are truly MINE. She may dissagree with me and my choices but that those are my decisions to make. She tells me that I've gotta do what I've gotta do. Does she wish I was active? Probably. But does she make me feel bad that I'm not? nope.

I think we talk about things on VSofM that usually doesn't get talked about...publically. I think it can be hard to read sometimes when you believe so passionately about something. I don't ever want to hurt my family and friends with the choices that I make. But I also want them to be okay with me as me...even if they don't agree with my choices. 

Posted by JP

For the record I didn't experience any extreme circumstances... I just didn't feel it, I didn't have it the testimony of the gospel that you do have.

Bookmark noted. 

Posted by Rebecca

Do you think that you would still be mormon, if you had not been born to your particular parents. What if your parents were babtist? Would some other belief system make you as good a person and just as happy? I would hope that the answer to this is yes. That said,
I struggle with the notion that if I just start believing, I will be happier. Just as if I told you that you could be as happy as I am, if you just gave up the gospel. Anyway, I do find that there is a lot more believers trying to convert, than non-believers trying to have people renounce their faith. (this is a generalization on the outside world, not about this blog community) Is it that the athiests/agnostics of this world not responsible for bringing others around, while religious scriptures widely encourage conversion (missions etc.)?

Posted by marta

JP: I know that you knew this would be rough for me.
1.) I don't sit around passing judgement. Your lives are your lives. We will always be friends.
2.) I'm sorry that I make you feel bad for not being active.
3.) I don't want it just for you, but also for your children. 

Posted by Jess

oooh, oooh, oooh. I wanted to say one more thing! With my very limited knowledge of the Mormon church, I gather that the way things were laid out at the outset were done so to make you guys stronger, more cohesive, bonded, and a real community. I think at the outset boundaries between being in/out were much easier to enforce. You had less volume/membership. As time/history has passed, your faithful have moved to other states/countries and come in contact with VERY different people and circumstances. Some of these are not addressed, and all you have to refer back to are some "ancient" rules that don't always make sense. I think all religions have struggled with this. Do you think there will be some sects that branch off?  

Posted by marta

I'm going to be tied up the rest of the afternoon. I just wanted you to know that I'm not off pouting. 

Posted by Jess

This week has been a very insightful read. And a lot of the time, I've been at a loss for what to say.

I can distinctly remember thinking something similar to what JP has said in her post and wondering why my family couldn't just "get over it" when I was inactive.

They never could, though. They wouldn't necessarily say something, but, it was in the way they would look at me sometimes.

I knew my parents were putting my name on the prayer roll in the temple. I knew that they were fasting for me. I knew they were shedding tears in prayer. I knew it was hard on them when I didn't re-new my temple recommend and couldn't go with my brother when he received his endowments before going on a mission. I knew all those things, and it didn't make a difference at the time (except to annoy me).

Now, as I look back on it, I see that it was a family who was just trying to love me the best way they knew how.

I don't know. I'm rambling now because this topic is difficult for me. So, I apologize.

But, I do hope that if I ever say anything that makes one of you feel bad, PLEASE let me know. I hated it when people would say things to me (even when it was accidental).


Posted by Lizzy

I really just want to hug every one of you!!

I was raised with religious fanatics, it was not about love and acceptance it was about judgement, duty, fear, hell fires. As a child I had nightmares thinking that perhaps I would never be good enough for heaven. Through all of that I had my own ideas of Who and what God was (he and I had a secret relationship and it was about love). As I got older I started to see the cracks in the foundation and knew that these were bad places. I searched and searched for a place that represented the love I was looking for.

I know at one point I mentioned somthing about being morman for about a week. I converted to mormonism in 1989 and was a baptized practicing mormon for a year or better. I am agnostic now and extremely happy with that choice. But I never felt more love from a congregation then in the mormon church.

What you all are doing here moves me...sometimes to tears, to see agnostics, traditional christians, mormons come together with all of this love. I know it sounds corny...but I really did used to dream about this. 

Posted by EJ

EJ just send chills down my spine and I feel so proud of the uplifting manner in which we discuss all of these things. I think all of us, active or non active in the church, just want to be loved for who we are. FOR RIGHT NOW, this is who I am. I have an amazing family who loves me and I adore them. I am blessed.

Jess. You don't make me feel bad for not being active. I just wish that I didn't make you sad. That's all. I worry about my children too...daily. But I don't worry about their relationship with God. I think I work with them a lot on that. I want them to be a part of this too. I honestly can't say that I know what the future holds. I just know that I'm happy in the space I'm in.

Lizzy, thank you for helping us all see that those that are closest to us just want us to be happy. When I am happy because my children were just the sweetest little bugs I wish everyone could be happy because their children were the sweetest little bugs. Its just who were are. We want to "share" the happiness and want others to be happy "just like us." But we also need to remember that we can be happy just the way we are. I love that about ALL of us. 

Posted by JP

Besides Rodrigo it is a ladies day! What is up with that?

Marta asked a question about groups that break away. The only sects I know about have taken some of the LDS teachings and begun anew are the fundamentalist Mormons, the polygamist, the Reorganized LDS, etc… I am not familiar with a group that considers themselves more liberal, lenient, adapting with societal changes… is this the Reorganized? Or is there not one?

Please someone help me out here.

Posted by Rebecca

Wow. This is a tough one to touch. I've been thinking about this a lot. There is so much I want to ask each of you, and be able to respond to everyone individually. I wish we were sitting around someone's living room instead of the internet right now.

Having taken in every post and comment made so far, here are the thoughts circling my head. I'm not addressing them to anyone in particular, and I'm not intending to offend anyone or their beliefs. I really hope I don't. But, to get where I'm coming from, I consider myself fully active in the mormon church.

A question for people who have been members of the mormon church and have a solid understanding (not necessarily a belief) in the doctrines and principles of the gospel (ie. faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, and possibly covenants made in the temple)-- Don't you *want* to believe that all of these things are true? Only good things (blessings) are supposed to happen to you (including necessary trials that make us stronger) if you try to make and keep these covenants. The way I see it, Mormonism is the "best deal" God is offering. If you do not feel like you are or want to be active, or you are agnostic and have no desire to be active, do you sometimes *hope* these doctrines are true?

I really do want to know your feelings about that. I'm hesitant to bring up my real-life example, but here goes: Last Sunday the husband of one of my best friends from college was killed in a car accident. She is left with 4 children to raise on her own, the youngest just 9 months old. If this were to happen to you or someone you know and love (maybe it has), wouldn't you *want* to believe in the the blessings the mormon church believes in? --Like a very real, productive afterlife, being together forever as a family, not to mention that there must be a very specific *reason* he was taken from the earth at this time, knowing that God is in the details of our lives and it couldn't just be "an accident"? My friend is mormon, was married in the temple, and tries very hard to keep all of the covenants she has made with God. She has said that she has felt an amazing amount of peace this week. I would want that for anyone in the world! That is why *I* desire others to accept the same doctrines - so they can enjoy the same peace and happiness in this life (and the life to come). I fully realize there are mormons out there who share the gospel for "other" reasons.

I respect everyone's gift to make their own choices. And regardless of events or pressures in your life now or in the past...do you wish it were true?

I have a "part 2" to this question, but it'll have to wait.  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

Wow, lots of good comments this week- I don't know that I really have much to contribute- however- in response to Rebecca asked about whether the RLDS church is more liberal -
yes. as we have seemed to run somewhat parallel to modern conservative protestantism, they have done the same with liberal protestantism- they have had some break off groups as they have become more liberal that really didn't like that. But you can tell from their website http://www.cofchrist.org/ they are a fair bit different from the modern LDS church.

But really, the RLDS and us have been seperated for so long that there is a huge cultural difference and one seeking a more liberal mormon community probably wouldn't find what they were looking for there.

Ther are some liberal split off groups from us- the one that comes to mind is the Restoration Church which ahs some affiliation with Affirmation. http://home.netcom.com/~utahdude/rcjc/rcjc.html 

Posted by Mike

This is all very interesting to me because I believe that most people that break off from the Church are liberals. I for one think that I am a liberal with some conservitive ideas.

In a spiritual sense is it not important to be correct in your judgement to one's spiritual choice of religion. Because with valid information one can be certain that one is closer to the goal of some type of salvation. We are talking about eternity of heaven or hell or one of the 3 realms of heaven that mormons teach.

Geting back to groups that break away from the church. I do not know of any recently new groups, it would be like starting a new religion which could be dificult in an age of instant information by the internet. But for some reason I what to say that people that are more liberal break away from the church. 

Posted by Rodrigo V

I must be a misnomer to your theory Rodrigo V. I am pretty darn conservative, with few exceptions. While it's true a lot of conservatives are really into their religion, the same could be said of liberal's. Politics and Religion, always two topic's that push people to brink. As a dear friend said once, bringing up one is alright, but throw in the other, and out come the fangs and clas. 

Posted by herevilsister

I do know of one liberal break-away group, the New Order Mormons. T & S gets linked from their site sometimes, and they seem nice enough when they link us, though I don't know very much about them. They're at http://www.newordermormon.org/ . Their approach seems to be Unitarian-esque rather than heirarchical, they're more a loose cluster of people rather than an organized church.

Other than them, and Affirmation, I don't think there's much of left-leaning break-aways. My vague impression from reading about September 6, etc, is that a lot of left-leaning scholars who leave the church tend to go to New Age-y religions -- perhaps one or more of those are closely enough tied to Mormonism to be considered a left-leaning breakaway, but I'm not so sure.  

Posted by Kaimi

Kaimi- I seem to remember Nate posting about this over at T&S a while ago, but I don't remember exactly when. 

Posted by Mike

Here's the problem with having a crazy week and commenting late, no one will know or care. But I think we are avoiding a major part of our beliefs in these discussions.

You know how some people go on a spiritual quest. They climb mountains, fast, hike for years at a time in search for ULTIMATE truth. Some people belive that the truth about God and our existence is out there. That there is a principle of truth in the universe that governs everything. Most religions believe this, so the purpose of organized religion is to discover that truth and then complete the necessary "steps" to be a ble to return to God.

Some people don't believe this. They might believe we are purely biological. A miracle of physics. I don't disagree at all, personally. But ultimate truth and a supreme being don't play a part in those beliefs. While it's technically not a "religion", it is a valid set of beliefs.

I believe in truth. I believe in God. I believe that God wants us to find him, and to come back to him "from whence we came." I don't practice Mormonism because I think it is a good idea, or that it will necessarlity make my life good and happy (I think this is a by-product). I am a Mormon because I have seen and studied what's out there, and I personally feel that I've found the truth. The whole truth.

Am I happy when other people find what they think is true elsewhere? Sure. Are they as entitled to think they've found the truth as I am. Sure. But that's my basis for this belief, lifestyle, religion. I believe that it is true. 

Posted by Carrie Ann

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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