William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Doubting The Sincerity Of Those Who Leave The LDS Faith

In response to survey results which found that atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons scored highest on a religious knowledge survey, the comments were made:

"So, why do atheists take such a keen interest in religious knowledge?

LOL - just proves, you can leave the church, but you can't leave the church alone...

I mean, I don't believe in paganism, and therefore I don't read a whole lot about it, don't know much about their religious writings (except they believe in a female diety)... Why would anyone read about/study/know things about a subject that they claim they don't care about / don't believe in? .... o well."

To which one person replied:

"I know that it might go against the standard LDS response that those who leave the church do so because they just can't live up to the standards, but the truth is that many of us left the church after thoughtful study of the LDS church, specifically, and religion in general. If you had been born into paganism and taught throughout your youth that paganism was the only philospohy that held all the keys to truth and eternal bliss, then you might take more of an interest in studying and learning about paganism than you presently have done. Your study of paganism may even increase if you were to consider leaving that philosophy, despite the pleadings from your pagan parents, siblings, local pagan membership, etc. Many of us were heavily invested in the LDS church, and the decision to leave generally is not a light one, but done after much study of the facts, traditions, myths, stories, rituals and mysteries that surround the LDS faith.

If you were to leave the LDS church, would you do so without much study? Would that study be taken lightly given the consequences of the decision?"

To which the prior poster replied:

"I am a convert, am not following in the footsteps of my parents, and joined the church after meeting with / studying with many different religious groups from all over the world. Yes, many members grew up in the church, the premortal spirits are placed in families that they agree with, I needed the experience of life with and without the church, and that is what I got.

The difference for the LDS faith, is that the Spirit is real - members have spiritual experiences here, that is why I am a member, not through books/theological arguments - but because of a spiritual experience, and continued spiritual experiences....

I don't know that all members have had spiritual experiences, but for those who have, leaving is not about study - it's about going against what the Spirit testified to them is true because they disagree with God about something. There is a big difference between knowing something is true, and knowing where you fit into the big picture, ... difference between knowing God is real, and actually likeing/agreeing with God - knowing that He is loving... once someone has had a genuine spiritual experience, it's a whole new ballpark."

To which I responded:

There is, in my opinion, a great temptation for those who have perceived spiritual experiences to project that subjective experience on to others and assume that the only way others could come to a different conclusion is by sinning or lying to themselves. As your faith matures and you go through more of life, you will most likely realize at some point that your assumption is incorrect. In fact, were it possible to get all believers of all faiths to honestly communicate the spiritual experiences they have had, you would probably find stark irreconcilable conclusions about beliefs and doctrines, based upon equally strong sincerity and spiritual experiences/witnesses.

I think it is extremely rare that people knowingly "disagree with god." But people do reach conclusions that purportedly true revelations and doctrines are actually false and stem from the ignorance and prejudices of mankind (even church presidents). Most people who have been raised in the church have had it beaten into their heads from early on that any information or idea which tends to undermine church doctrine is suspect. They are, in effect, bred with an instinct to second-guess themselves if they find themselves starting to think that church teachings may not be true. For anyone who is sincere and intellectually honest in considering whether to leave the church, we can expect nothing less than that they would leave the church only after intense study and scrutiny of the church and its teachings, to satisfy themselves that they are not going astray by leaving. In fact, I think it is fair to say that those who merely "wish to sin" will generally go and do it; no study is necessary.

Aside from all of the above, you may want to take a step back and consider how offensive it is to insinuate, by using the oft-quoted phrase, "You can leave the church, but you can't leave it alone," that everyone who leaves is lying to themselves or is just looking for an excuse to sin, or has some personal vendetta against the church. If nothing else motivates you, perhaps you can at least appreciate that it would be much more difficult to persuade someone to return to church if you begin with the premise that they lack sincerity and intellectual honesty.

As for my own self, I have not chosen to leave the church, even though after much study, prayer, and contemplation, I have concluded that there are some very serious errors in current teachings. The main thing that keeps me holding on is the hope that some day, whether by the prophet's own initiative, or by the promptings of science, the discontented membership, and even the criticism of outsiders, the leadership will ask God the questions which heretofore have never been seriously asked, and will be open to the answers which for decades have been staring them in the face, with ever greater sternness and obviousness (as was the case in the history of discriminating against blacks).

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