I want to have a typed reference of my thoughts on a great podcast I recently listened to on Mormon Expression. So here are the 10 reasons given by the good folks over at Mormon Expression for leaving the church along with some of my thoughts on each one. Here goes;
10. Church is boring. This is very true. I suppose if your goal is to overcome insomnia, then church meetings could be considered useful. Otherwise, it seems that most meetings and church gatherings are very boring. It is the same old stuff that is droned over and over again and reverence has become a word in my vocabulary that is synonymous with boring. On my mission, I actually attended a bible study group with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Honestly, I don't remember very much (if anything) about what was said there, but I do recall being very surprised at how little actual interaction or questioning went on there. It seemed very boring to me at the time because of the complete lack of questioning of what was being stated by the facilitator as it was read directly from their tracts. I am also amused at the times that I have gone to church to see so many people closing their eyes and nodding off during lessons and sacrament meetings. I teach adult education classes for work and I go for 2,3,4 or even 8 hour stints as the instructor and see less people sleeping or nodding off when talking about insurance ethics than I do at church.
9. It’s damaging to family relationships. Tearing up of families seems to be condoned when one member of the family is out of, or does not believe in, the church
while others are in and are taught to believe that apostates are evil. In my situation, for example, I only see it as a matter of time before my children begin to feel that my authority as their father is marginalized when they get some well meaning teacher or leader at church emphasize the importance of having a "worthy" penisholder in the home. Worthiness will then be equated with belief which, in my opinion, is a dangerous association to make. I'm not sure I even like an emphasis on worthiness since it seems to encourage judging. Even so, according to the teachings of the church - outside of church (or church meeting) attendance, participation or serving in a calling - I am every bit as worthy as any other father in the church that claims to have and exercise priesthood authority for their family members. The only difference is, I don't believe the priesthood is real. It is not a question of worthiness for me, but a question of belief. It is unfortunate that worthiness is so heavily emphasized by those in the church since it is only borne out in justifying criticism of others when assumptions are made about worthiness, when worthiness is not the issue at all.
8. The church fosters and promotes an us vs. them mentality. The church essentially highlights falling into one of 3 different groups;
1. Members of the church (the "elect" or "chosen" group of God's anointed) 2. The “world” or all those that are non-members, but not fixed against the church because they simply haven't found the "truth" yet, and 3. The apostates. These are those that are in danger of being cast into outer darkness at the day of judgment because they choose to actively fight
against the church. I guess I would be considered an apostate since I care enough to try to detail the issues I have with the church. The problem is, the world is just not that simple of a place. You can't really place people in such broad or general categories because the lines are just too blurry. There are people that are members of the church that live a life of hypocrisy. They show up at church on Sunday and participate in everything expected of them, but outside of their church lives, they do all kinds of things that would be considered unbecoming of members of the church. You can also find apostates who are good people and just leave well enough alone because the church just doesn't work for them. My point is, there are people that fall all over the spectrum and the church tries to paint people into very specific categories with a very broad brush when that is just not an accurate representation of the way people are.
things the church emphasizes are not relevant or meaningful to me in my life. This reason for leaving is certainly the most practical. I can see those as members of the church saying that these people are selfish, if they leave for this reason, but what if it's true? I mean, if somebody doesn't fit into the mold of what a Mormon is or should be, should Mormons expect that they should just conform? I mean, doesn't the church promote the idea of people having and exercising their free agency? The church would have people believe that their way of life will work for everyone...if they will just sacrifice a little bit of who they think they are. The problem is, it is assumed that if you think differently than the members of the church you are automatically wrong. I say, why not allow people to be who they are and still be good people even if they hold beliefs that are different from yours.
6. Financial reasons. It is expensive to be a faithful member
of the church. Especially when the definition of tithing remains purposefully ambiguous so as to allow people to believe that they can best demonstrate their devotion by paying 10% of their gross income. Or even allow the debate to go on about whether or not it is better to pay 10% of your net or gross income. While those in the church that advocate a different view of what amount of 10% you should be paying tithing on, in my experience, these people that hold such views are in a very small minority. People are encouraged to pay tithing even while they are in desperate financial conditions and can't afford basic necessities of life. If these people dare to question the teaching that they pay so much of their income in tithing, they are told that they are being selfish. I think believing members of the church should look into what the history of tithing is what it used to be defined as or how other churches define it. It used to be defined as 10% of your increase. That meant after all of your expenses were paid, the money that is left over is your increase. It was openly believed in times past, even among the leaders of the LDS church, that tithing (or 10%) should be paid from this amount, but certainly not from your gross income. That would have just seemed foolish to them. It seems foolish to me now, but nobody in the church wants to hear what I have to say on the matter.
5. The church is active in discrimination. This discrimination is still contained in the canons of LDS scripture. There is no redaction, no apology. Just a simple statement that what was practiced (and believed) before is no longer. I am talking about discrimination against blacks (or anyone that has a color of skin that is not white for that matter), against women, against homosexuals. The list could go on but those are the most significant.
4. The church is anti-scientific. The church is not passive in this area, it is ACTIVELY anti-science. The church maintains a world view that is completely incompatible with science, but it continues to define that stance as the position of virtue. People who want to study and embrace science and use it to figure out how things work in this world must keep all of their religious views and scientific views in a box where the two cannot be combined. If they were to be combined, one would have to be discarded in order to keep mental stability in tact. The other reaction I see among the faithful is to keep a position of ignorance or selectivity about what is accepted in the scientific community. These folks have to keep jumping from one position to another to try to keep their views in tact. If they pause to think too deeply about the ramifications of accepting all the implications of their beliefs in one big package, I think that would just be too painful. Of course, I can't really back this up with any specific examples, it is just a general observation when talking about science with believers.
3. The church is misogynistic. I actually had to look up what this word means. It means espousing hatred towards women. And, on the surface, most women in the church don't feel hated on since they have been conditioned to accept their role as the inferior sex in life. There are certainly things that women enjoy in life that men cannot do (like breastfeeding for example) and these things are used by women of to justify the position and teaching by the church that they are not eligible to hold the priesthood or any significant leadership role in the church. One thing that was brought up in the podcast is the definition of auxiliary. Women can only be leaders of auxiliary units in the church. These positions are often held up by the male leaders of the church as having some significance. However, when we learn that the definition of auxiliary (as made apparent by the way the church treats auxiliary units) is not essential and not truly independent of male oversight, it only spells out that women are not to be trusted with any real authority themselves. On the podcast they also asked listeners to compare the behavior of female executives with women in the church. When women do speak in general conference, for example, they speak for shorter periods of time and give talks that are geared towards children or younger audiences. It is apparent that women know and accept their place in the church as 2nd fiddle to the men. While, I suppose, some may enjoy that position it is not difficult to argue that the church is indeed misogynistic in its outward behavior towards women.
2. The number 2 reason to leave the church is to avoid psychological damage. Of course this feeling is not the same for everyone. Some people thrive on the culture of the church and do very well in it. Others seem stifled and really damaged psychologically by it. I would further think that social minorities in the church would not do well because of the continual reminders about how inferior they are. While those in the majority may not see the damage they are causing in the things they say and do, it does not make the affects any less real. Many people feel so low because they feel inferior for thinking or feeling something different than what the church teaches is the "norm" that they literally feel the need to kill themselves over it. It is so sad that this happens, but it is even more sad to me that it is allowed to continue.
1. And the number one reason to leave the church is that you don't want to support a dishonest organization. Whether it is in covering up past teachings or practices of church leaders or modern day memes that are found in the church, honesty seems to very much be something that is encouraged by the leaders concerning the members but is not practiced themselves. Church members are encouraged to pay a "full and honest" tithe, but the church doesn't have to disclose how much it gives to charitable causes around the world. Some have estimated that this amount is somewhere in the neighborhood of less than 1% of the tithing revenues received by the church. But there is no way to document this because the church won't release its financials. The church encourages members to "declare" their tithe paying status but the church doesn't ever declare anything about its financial status. What if the church were suffering financially and on the brink of financial ruin? Shouldn't you be entitled to know that? If there is a "righting of the ship" that needs to occur for the church to literally survive financially, shouldn't you be aware of it? The problem is, while full disclosure and an "accounting" is required of the members, the church follows no such thing itself. While members are being told that the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California was entirely being paid for by members and volunteer contributions, we later found out that the church was actually funding the campaign itself to the tune of hundred's of thousands of dollars. Shouldn't members be told the truth about how their tithing dollars are being allocated? Shouldn't members be able to expect that the church would be honest about what is going on behind closed doors? Finances is just one area where the church could stand to be more honest, but the rabbit hole of dishonesty goes much deeper than that. The church is guilty of "white-washing" most of it's history so it is comforting and sanitary for the digestion of the members of the church. While fundamentally dishonest, there is no meaningful accountability for the actions taken by the leaders of the church. If you don't like it, apparently you don't have to enjoy the benefits of eternal salvation that the church claims to be able to provide for you. There is no ability to offer up your dissent, because, frankly, they don't care what you think. As a member of the church, you are nobody to them and they don't feel any duty towards you whatsoever. If you don't think this is true, check out the response of a church leader to the idea of criticism.
Next time I hope to highlight reasons to stay in the church. Stay tuned.