There are many good and bad things in Mormon history. Some people leave the Church over these issues. John Larsen of the Sunstone Podcast puts Rick on the hot seat and asks why he stays in the LDS Church.
John: So why are you still Mormon?
Rick: (Chuckling) So you know, at Sunstone they have that, Why I Stay series.
John: It’s the most popular session.
Rick: In my case, I would say, and I think Claudia Bushman said this, so I can’t claim credit for it. But why would I leave? I mean, there’s a lot about the LDS Church that I love. I love a lot of the theology. I’m not a fan of polygamy. I love the Book of Mormon. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. My Dan Vogel [interview], we got into the first vision narratives. Are there some problems? Absolutely. There are some problems. Are there problems with polygamy? Absolutely. Are there problems with Mountain Meadows massacre? Absolutely. But everybody has problems. There’s no perfect church. There never was, never has been. I know John Hamer has said, “If you were to start the perfect church today, tomorrow, you’d make a mistake, and it wouldn’t be perfect anymore.” So, I think that’s kind of how I feel. My Church isn’t perfect. I know that. The imperfect parts are the stuff that interests me. (Chuckling)
Rick: But it’s a good church. There’s good values. I believe in the restoration. So why would I leave?
We talk about other issues, like how Rick handles Mountain Meadows Massacre, polygamy, and other issues. Check out our conversation….
What advice would those who struggle with faith give to members of the Church? David Ostler reads a couple of letters from people struggling, and I think they are really impactful.
David: Can I read just one more story?
GT: Sure, absolutely.
David: So this is a guy named Mike, and I put it at the end of my book. I introduced him in the first chapter, but I put him in the end of the book, because he wrote me a follow up email about six months after I first interviewed him. I told him, I was just about to conclude the book, and when he gave me this, I threw away the conclusion, and rewrote it to include his story. He’s in a faith crisis, unsure whether he’ll stay in the church. It’s hard for him to participate. He feels still alone and isolated, even though he’s been in this particular state for more than two years, I believe. He just gives us advice on what to do. He’s thought about it because he’s felt it.
David: He said, “When I was in the dark night of the soul, there are a few things that could have really helped me. I needed someone to just listen, and then after listening, let me know and help me really believe that they trusted me and loved me, no matter what conclusion I came to. I needed someone to show me that it was love that was the strongest and largest cord that bound us together, not our common belief in the church. I needed someone to not only listen but to encourage me to seek answers and say, ‘Great, I don’t know where that journey will take you, and it’s your own journey. but whatever conclusion you come to, I will absolutely respect you, and if you want someone to walk with you for a while on your journey, call me. I’m there for you.’ I needed someone to let me know that they have never experienced what I’m experiencing, so they won’t pass judgment. I needed to feel from people, not just hear words, that they trusted me and viewed me as a worthy, intelligent and spiritually sensitive human being. I needed a different space after sacrament meeting to be nourished spiritually, and if that wasn’t available, I needed an invitation to leave during the rest of the church block to seek spiritual nourishment elsewhere. (I still need this.) I needed someone to ask me, “What would you like to do in the ward that will help you thrive here?” For me that would have been teaching. I love to teach, but I became an unsafe person, and so I haven’t taught since coming out. I used to teach and speak frequently. I also needed someone to listen and then push back a little. I needed someone with whom I could engage in healthy confrontations. This is this faithful place I was talking about, because after resolution of these confrontations, relationships can blossom.”
David also mentions some of the challenges in an international church. To hear the final segment, sign up for our free newsletter at https://gospeltangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link! Check out our conversation….
What are the biggest takeaways leaders of the Mormon Church can take away from the largest public survey of Mormon attitudes? Dr. Jana Riess and Dr. Ben Knoll will give their answers.
GT: Let’s just pretend that the brethren are here, and you can tell them anything. What would you tell them?
Jana: You have to have equal representation of women. You cannot continue having meetings in which decisions are made that affect women’s lives directly without a woman in the room, at least one woman in the room. And not just a little token woman who like, in the leaked video that I was talking about, at the very end, like in the last two-minute Hail Mary pass of the meeting, someone asks for Sister Beck’s opinion. She gives it. The meeting breaks up, no one even responds to what she said. I mean, it’s entire tokenism to have her there, to ask her opinion and then totally disregard it. So yes, that’s hugely important. It’s important to women.
There are a couple of different narratives that I think we need to keep in mind. The narrative that the church wants us to believe, is what Gordon B Hinckley said, which is “Mormon women are happy, and they’re happy with their role.” Statistically, he’s right. Because most Mormon women who are still in the church don’t seem to have a problem. Younger women are a bit different. But the majority of Mormon women are fairly satisfied, apparently, with their roles in the church. The other part of the story, though, the other narrative that needs to also be told is that women’s roles ranked as the third most common reason for leaving for all women. So, for some women, this was an important enough issue that it was a catalyst to their departure, and we need to keep that in mind as well. We can’t just say that Mormon women are happy with the way things are, because if you weren’t happy, you’re gone. What would you say?
Benjamin: So I suppose in addition to that which I agree with, would be that all humans are subject to our cognitive biases and the way we see the world. We tend to take our experience as the norm and project it on to everyone else’s experience. Good faith people who are in leadership positions, of course, don’t intend to do that, but often times do it. And I’m just as guilty like everyone, that’s what we do, right? That’s what human beings do. One thing that this research offers is an opportunity to hear about what the experience is like from people who don’t match your own experience. And that’s really hard, and I like that some church leaders, like Patrick Mason wrote in his book Planted, he’s like, “I get it.” Right? From a leadership position, this worked for you your whole life. You’ve always felt happy here. Why could anyone possibly be upset? Or why would they not want to be here?
There’s just a lack of awareness on their part, not through anyone’s fault, but just simply because we all have different lived experiences. Could we take things from here and incorporate those kinds of messages, and carefully consider them non-defensively and think, “Okay, my experience might not be this, but this is experience that maybe not a majority, but that a critical mass of membership are experiencing. What could we do to create spaces where they feel like they’re fitting in better, even if that means that we perhaps need to change what we emphasize, or give greater room for those kinds of voices to be represented in both decision making, as well as scriptural interpretation? Or how we’re applying the stories about what it means to be a Mormon in today’s world or Latter-day Saints, etc.” Things like that, that would be one of the pieces of advice I could humbly and constructively offer.
Find out what else they had to say, and find out who our next interview is with! Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our other conversations with Jana and Ben!