I was broken. I was mad. I was frustrated. I was sad. I was at an impasse and I prayed for the Church to create real space for truth seeking. Please….. Please…… Make a safe space……. I need you and hope for you to truly honor my questions by having a vulnerable conversation about them. Please hear my heart. Please hear my soul. I am begging for you to be real with me and all the others who are hurting.
First Presidency Statement:
We understand from time to time church members will have questions about church doctrine, history or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.
Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine. (June 28, 2014, First Presidency Statement)
Questions Are Honored Blog Post
(This Episode in a different version released to the public on May 1st 2017. It had been recorded in January 2017. Due to my discomfort as I re-listened to it in part due to its tone, the episode was pulled and edited and re-released. Over the next 24 hours, I edited a few small portions and re-recorded some sections. I believe this version is more in line with the tone I want the podcast to convey while speaking vulnerably to the hurt and pain of those in a faith transition)
The message I read
“My real dilemma comes when the church holds tightly to its need to be correct, its need to be consistent and its need to claim ‘unchangeable doctrine’ despite mistakes, inconsistencies, and doctrines that change.
Let’s look at what the church is doing now. The church has rolled out essays containing statements that will be surprising to members. They did so without any acknowledgment that this information is new and/or contradicts past curriculum. They put forth essays containing information that in the past would only have been available in the anti-Mormon literature they told members NOT to read and the church expects members to accept it as if it had been available all along and as if it is consistent with previous teachings.
The subtle message to members is this: Information we previously told you was anti-Mormon, we are now telling you is true. We are not going to explain why we misled you in the past. We are not going to apologize for our error. Even, though you now realize that you lied to others because you trusted us, we take no responsibility. Still, we expect you to trust us now and in the future. And we expect you to be honest in your dealings.
The method in which the church released these essays – without any acknowledgement that they contain information different than what they taught (and what they previously asked members to teach) – feels like a type of mental and spiritual abuse. The fact that these essays have been released without giving extra training and help to Bishops and Gospel Doctrine teachers seems unwise at best, and unethical at worst.
The church has presented these essays in a way that implies members should be okay with this new information. If a person is confused, the implication is that something is wrong with the member, not the information or the way it was presented. The reality is that this is traumatic information for many people. Many feel lied to by the church.
The church has completely placed the burden of reconciling this information on the shoulders of its people while it maintains a stance that there is nothing to reconcile.
And this burden will continue with our current curriculum – with these essays silently inserted – week after week…[Most] people are not leaving the church because of problems with Church history. [Most] are leaving because of issues of trust. They are leaving because they were taught one thing in their youth and are being told something completely different now with the expectation they can continue believing that nothing has changed. Most people cannot do that in a way that maintains integrity – let alone sanity!!!”
Now, I would also add these thoughts:
Anyone who has read the essays knows that something significant has changed, something at least as significant as the change in 1978. Yet as leaders are largely silent, some wards teach the old narrative while some wards are trying to bring in bits and pieces of the new. Nobody knows exactly what to do.
The issue here is more than one of trust. The new narrative has changed reality for many of us. And it’s getting in the way of our relationships because some members believe one reality while other members believe another.
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What happened? The statement is old.
WOW Bill…this was so beautifully articulated and constructed!
In the rare instance that someone actually wants to know why I stopped going to church, I will link to this podcast. Well done and thank you
As a progressive Mormon, and someone who wants to see change happen more quickly in the church, it saddens me when people leave it. Becomes it leaves the church worse off by every member who abandons it. The rest of the group becomes poorer.
Church really has the meaning that we give it, but if we render the church to be meaningless, then there is no reason left to church.
I hope you one day want to find your way back to the Church, because frankly the church will needs a lot more people like you. I don’t know, your story or what you have been through or what made you leave in the first place, but hopefully one day coming back to church just makes sense for you.
Excellent podcast, Bill!
Do you have a link to the quote about the essays from that lady you read?
I thought it was articulate and insightful.
Keep up the great work!
Thank you for another thoughtful podcast. I’m not sure what tone it was you didn’t like in the first version (I’d guess it came across as too angry for your liking?), but the tone I sensed in this second version seemed to have frustration, but even more so, sorrow.
Having joined the Church when I was a little older I just want to let the Church go (can’t fully because of family). I wasn’t raised in it. My family of origin never even became interested in it. So, this transition from believing is sad at times, but not the same as I imagine it is for those raised in it.
Being raised in it must make it more like home and family. Being raised in the institution and realizing it hasn’t been forthcoming and that it sometimes hurts some of the most vulnerable must be so much more excruciating. I’m sorry you felt this sorrow. I’m sorry for all the others who feel damaged by the Church. I’m sorry for my part in propagating any of its harmful or inaccurate teachings and traditions.
May the Lord warm your shoulders Bill,
Bill like I were both coverts to the church when we were 17, without our immediate families joining the church (which sounds like your case). RFM is also a young 1st generation convert.
In the end, I think the meaning of the church is more about what we give it in our lives, and the meaning we are told to give it is that it is the one and only true & living church. What that exactly means can always be up to you… but my guess is that it should be important.
Well said Bill! You articulated the tension between faith and facts very well. I will refer some family to this soon. Thanks for organizing and sharing your thoughts – Mormonism needs more people to speak up about these issues.
Hey Bill! Just want to say thanks for this episode. It spoke to me on many levels and articulated nicely many of the thoughts that I haven’t been able to put a finger on. Just wondering, is there any way to get a text copy of the podcast, or at least the letter you sent? I would love to review it more fully and do some personal investigation regarding the questions posed. Thanks for all you do!
Just kidding, just saw the link above haha. My bad!
But wasn’t blacks and the priesthood false doctrine?
I totally agree the Church has a long way to go with the need to be transparent on history and the willingness to allow such discussion within its walls.
I guess my one exception to your strategy is your mode in the attempt to initiate a question to a leader or even to the Church. From the content you provided it seemed to be a lecture vs. a question(s). You basically answer your own questions and assure any response of “faith” or “apologetics” will not be tolerated. A straw man at the least and no one could possibly answer such that would be satisfying. I’m not sure exactly what you would expect from this leader or any leader. I’m sure you have sincere intent but no answer is going to satisfy any of your inquires because the tone and MO will not allow such. Again, It really is just a lecture to the Church that it has to be your way or else. Jeremy Runnels did the same thing and it unfortunately didn’t end very well. Perhaps you already have your answers???
Data is only as good as the note takers. History is not a testimony and will only lead to more answers. Biblical and ancient history is absolutely opposite to what we today consider history. I’m sure many in the Church or out has a long road ahead to understand how to really understand what the ancient writers were doing. And especially what Joseph Smith was doing. We hopefully are in a new generation to understand these things and it will take time for many of us to transition out of our paradigms!
In conclusion I really do feel your pain and have asked all the questions you posed and more. As a matter of fact I still have a hundred on the shelf and assume I always will. Nevertheless, this search is mine and the Lord’s and I have chosen to take the initiative and responsibility. I can’t count on or expect my Bishop, Stake President, Area President….even the Prophet to answer such because they don’t have any answers than I can’t find on my own. And of course many times there is no good answer. Welcome to mortality and the veil of faith!! It’s hard and we all have our opinions on how it should be addressed. I don’t have time to lecture and wait on an institution to answer my questions. As for me I choose to tackle them one by one with the gift that God has given all of us…..our MINDS. The Church isn’t going to be able to replace mine!! Nor does the Lord expect that to be the case. It is time to stand on our own and go find that truth. Good luck on finding yours. May God bless you!!!
Bill, Thank you for what you’re doing, and for this episode in particular. It’s one of the best. I’m amazed at how well you can articulate exactly what I’m feeling but haven’t been able to find the words.
Bill–you don’t have the statement from the woman, that you read, in written form? Thanks.
Good episode, Bill! I understand your frustration and the sort of dual messaging by leaders of addressing the need to be more open, yet there’s no real desire to be open with the general membership. Puts people like you in a real bind.
But, while listening to your concerns, it occurred to me that the leadership has addressed all you concerns, and I think you answered them yourself. The gospel is based on faith, not on any particular set of tangible evidence. What question/answer combo could possibly lead you to the conclusion that Mormonism is false? Is there any? As you are open to a faith-based answer, why are you not satisfied with them? Unless you are not really open to one.
The faithful answers from leaders are simple: believe what you want, keep your doubts to yourself (because doubts aren’t sincere), ask sincere questions but often the best answer is unsatisfying, so just accept it. They are to give Joseph a break, stay in the boat, and don’t let doubts from unknowable or unanswerable historical items shake you faith.
You’ve a long list of items that show deception, deafness to current social problems, inconsistencies, and impossibilities yet you remain mormon because of faith. If these questions and their wholly unsatisfactory apologetic answers haven’t crushed your faith, what more do you want or expect? There are no better answers than the ones you have. The leaders do not have anything to add, there is no special apologetic answer they’ve kept in reserve waiting for the right moment. They’ve given all the validation they feel compelled to give with the essays, some changes to curriculum, and tacit approval of the new wave of apologists like Patrick Mason, the Givens, or R. Bushman.
It seems like you will continue to have a life full of frustration as long as you keep looking for answers that aren’t there, such as a reasonable, probable, apologetic answer to your list. Yet your faith doesn’t allow you to accept the reasonable, probable answers. Sometimes you need to have faith to not believe.