Why I Stay Away
A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even tell you what a progressive Mormon was. I would have thought it was a Mormon who had liberal political ideas. In an op-end in the Salt Lake Tribune, Julienna-Viegas Haws gives her definition:
Although no official definition exists of what constitutes a progressive Mormon, one could loosely define progressive Mormons as those who are less likely than traditional Mormons to believe in (1) obedience to authority above personal inspiration (2) the LDS Church’s unique restoration claims (3) literal interpretations of scripture (4) strict traditional observances (i.e. Sabbath observance, modesty, tattoos, Word of Wisdom, etc.) and (5) the unquestioned authority of the leaders of the LDS Church.
I consider that a pretty good definition. I would also add that progressive Mormons are much more likely to be accepting of gay marriage. Something else I didn’t know a year ago is that there are many progressive Mormons trying to stay active in their local ward. Most of these people can’t openly admit their true beliefs about the church. How well would this statement go over in a Sunday School gospel doctrine class? “I don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be historically accurate. I agree with some things taught in the Book of Mormon, and there are some I don’t.” Or how about this one? “There is no way polygamy was a commandment from God. I think D&C 132 should absolutely be de-canonized.”
So why do progressive Mormons try to stay if they don’t think the LDS church is true? First of all, they reject the black and white thinking of the “all or nothing” proposition. In their eyes, the LDS church isn’t the one true church, but then there is no one true church. They see both good and bad in the church, just like any church. Progressive Mormons usually have friends and family that they love who believe in the church, and they want to stay close to them. They might enjoy serving other members of their ward. Perhaps they hope they can help others become more open-minded, so that the black and white thinking can begin to change. They might see how the church instilled good values into their lives, and want the same for their kids. Maybe they want to keep a temple recommend so that they can go to the temple weddings of friends and family. They might love the way LDS church does its worship service and feel strange when going to another church, because they’re not used to anything else.
I appreciate all of those things that keep some progressive Mormons going to the LDS church. Everyone has to decide for him or herself what works. For me, the church doesn’t work right now. When I go I very rarely feel uplifted. In sacrament meeting sometimes I feel sad, frustrated, bored or even angry. But very rarely do I feel inspired. I recognize there could be people in the same meeting who feel very uplifted and strengthened, so I’m not blaming anyone for the way I feel. So what are things I don’t currently like about an LDS sacrament meeting?
The talks are often about subjects that don’t inspire me anymore, like missionary work, obedience, food storage, the priesthood restoration, Joseph Smith, traditional families, salvation of the dead, etc. These might be perfectly fine topics for traditionally-believing members, but they are not topics a progressive Mormon wants to hear. So some progressive Mormons will just try to get what they can out of the talks and ignore the parts they don’t agree with. So far I’m not very good at that, and the talks can be painful to listen to. Once in a while I will hear an excellent talk that I’m really grateful for, but that seems to be the exception for me.
I’ve been visiting some other churches lately, and it blows my mind how much I have enjoyed the sermons. They have all been centered on topics like being more like Jesus, being kind and loving to everyone, serving others, and making a difference in the community. I can sometimes hear these topics in an LDS church, but unfortunately it’s not often enough for me. I have particularly enjoyed going to the Bellevue Presbyterian church. The music is upbeat, and the pastor is dynamic and inspiring. I feel like both my faith and my knowledge grow whenever I listen to him.
My favorite part of church has always been the music. But with my faith transition, many of the LDS hymns are now painful to me: songs about praising modern prophets instead of God, like “Praise to the Man”, “We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet”, or hymns that seem to talk about “us vs. them”, like “Hope of Israel”. There’s a whole lot of fighting going on in that hymn! That hymn used to be very dear to my heart, but I no longer like that kind of mentality. We should be looking to work with others, not trying to fight them off. There are still plenty of LDS hymns I love and enjoy singing, but sometimes there are hymns I just don’t want to sing anymore.
As I’ve visited other churches, the music seems more upbeat to me. There are no somber sacrament hymns like what we have in the LDS church. Even though I’m not always familiar with the new songs I’m learning, they inspire me to live a good life and be more like the example of Jesus as we read in the Bible.
My whole life I assumed men had to wear a shirt and tie to church, and women have to wear a dress, no matter what. Not that this is wrong, it’s just one way to do things. Some might feel it shows extra respect for God, and I understand that. But when I visit other churches, no one cares what anyone is wearing. It’s just not important. It gives me more of a “just come as you are” kind of feeling. To me it’s a very refreshing attitude.
Are You Not Entertained?
I don’t expect to be entertained when I go to church, but I do hope to be inspired. If whatever you decide to do for church doesn’t inspire you, why go? As I’ve said before, if the LDS church works for you, please keep going! I’m not inspired when I go to the LDS church right now, so I’m choosing other options. I will continue to love those who enjoy going to the LDS church, and I hope they won’t mind if I choose to worship somewhere else.
Thank you for your post. First off… to me, the “progressive mormon” thing sounds like someone wants to be a non mormon, mormon. You don’t believe in what the church is saying or even the fundamental teachings of the church ( the restoration, book of mormon, preisthood). Also, you don’t want to “believe in strict traditional oberservances”. So you do not only not believe in the base principals of the church but you also dont believe in the modern teachings of the church. So what about the church do you believe in? There is nothing Mormon about progressive mormons. It seems they are just looking for a perfect sanitized church with no rules or morals. It just doesn’t make sense. The whole “personal revelation over church authority” is just a clouded statement, stating that “I will only listen to the church if i agree with what they are saying”. If i don’t agree, then i am right because i received “personal revelation”. Yeah i agree, if you went into sunday school and said things like “I don’t believe in the book of mormon” they would probably say that you are in the wrong church… The community of christ (RLDS) doesnt believe in the book of mormon anymore because to receive funding from mainstream christian churches, they had to say that they dont believe the book of mormon was historically accurate. They basically sold their beliefs for money. You seem so certain when saying” There is no way Polygamy was a commandment from god”. How do you know this for certain? Did god give you “personal revelation” that this was true? If you look at the churches whole doctrine, they are an “all or nothing” church. Due to the belief in the restoration, living prophets, and preisthood power directly from god, they are either a true or false church. There is no room for a middle ground. It is not compatible with the churches doctrine. As for the talks, why would you feel sad or angry? The people talking are great people who are trying their best to live a life like christ. It’s not like their are talking about some super controversial stuff. haha… “they are not topics that progressive mormons want to hear” Sorry, the church isn’t around to conform to your “progressive” beliefs. Basically all the topics you mention are pretty core beliefs and since you lost those beliefs, they hold no interest with you. That may be true to you, but there are 300 other people in the room that love those topics and find them important. Again, the church does not conform to you, you are supposed to conform to the church. I am sorry if that offends you but it’s the way it is. And for the Presbyterian church, those sermons better be good because that pastor is making an average of $90,000 http://www1.salary.com/Pastor-Salary.html.
You seem to forget that the people who speak in sacrement, general conference and other speaking activities have no degrees in religion, don’t make any money and are not experts in what they are speaking in… they are trying their best to be like christ. I don’t think in need to remind you about all of the scandals and corruption that there has been with many preachers and other christian churches. I am proud in the fact that there is virtually no corruption in the leadership in the church… Name the last time we were hit with a scandal? It is one small thing that affirms my faith.
As for the hymn “Hope of Israel” and all of the fighting in it. I bet I bet William Clayson (1840-1887) and Joseph L. Townsend (1849-1942) would have loved to work with other chruches and people but lets look at what was happening in their lives… Oh yeah the church was being persecuted and hunted down by just about everyone. I bet they didn’t want to fight anyone off either but thats what the day was like… In conclusion, i think the world is going through a great progressive change… The church is not. It makes me roll my eyes when people present evidence of early church history being fraud because of how someone said something to someone else or something along those lines. We were never know surely of the everything that went down back then. Sourcing from rocky times when not everything was recorded properly or when accounts of things were given years, even decades later, is dumb… No historian would ever use any of it as definite proof of anything. The fact is, is that the church will never be provable and there will always be questions. But the amount of great things the church has done has out weighed the questionable by a million
Thanks for your comment, John. I agree with you, the Mormon church that progressive Mormons are looking for doesn’t sound very much like the Mormon church that you and I know. It’s a big reason why the church doesn’t work for me right now. I know a lot of progressives hope the church will change, but I don’t think I will see that change in my lifetime. I hope I’m wrong.
As for the eye rolling at church history that some see as evidence of fraud, I understand where you’re coming from. Not everyone sees the evidence the same way. But I would say that most people who dive deeply into church history never see the church in the same way they used to before they started their research. They find out Joseph Smith married girls as young as 14, married between 30 and 40 women (all of that confirmed by lds.org’s essays), married his own foster daughters, and then lied about all of it to his wife, the church, and the world. Many people can’t help but wonder that even if Joseph Smith were at one time a prophet, maybe he lost his way at some point. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. And yet progressive Mormons have learned all that history, and they would still like a way to make it work in the LDS church. It’s a tough place to be.
I am certainly not criticizing the good members of the church who do their best to prepare and give good talks. I did the same for many years. It’s interesting you were able to look up how much the pastors make. Yay for financial transparency! Let me ask you, how much money are the apostles given? Members of the 70? The church has called it a “modest stipend.” Where can I look up how much they make? I can’t, because the church’s finances are a black hole. We just have to trust that they’re making good use of the money. That reminds me, I haven’t ever done a post on the church’s lack of financial transparency.
Anyway, thanks for dropping by! Take care.
The study of church history does change people, but not always in the way that it changed you. Even though there are some ignorant members who don’t want to look at the controversial points, there are many historians that do and come to a different. If Joseph Smith married all those women for the assumed sexual reasons then why were no children ever born to any other women then Emma? The Joseph Smith polygamy argument is the weakest ever conceived by the anti crowd. Can you provide any specific examples of Joseph Smith lying to the world or Emma about polygamy? there is evidence of Joseph not telling Emma about the extent of the sealings but you must remember that many women just wanted to get sealed to the prophet. The women did not live with him and I believe that the whole temple and sealing concept was still not fully understood at the time. I don’t know why the 14 year old girl thing really matters. It’s not like he was having sex with all these young girls or anything, lets not be stupid about this. You say you still want to make it work with the LDS church after you discover that it was a fraud? That concept doesn’t work in itself. It would be like discovering a politician being totally corrupt yet still voting for them. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s funny, when you are called to be in the 70 or an apostle, you give up everything. Your house, hobbies and toys, move to Salt Lake and devote the rest of your life to humble church service. The apostles who recently died were in church meetings up into the day before they passed away. These men are not corrupt pastors who hold out for money and steal from congregations. That much is clear
Here Joseph lies to the world on May 26, 1844, just a month before he was killed: “I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can. This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man does not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this…I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are – whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” –History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 410-411
From the lds.org essay on Nauvoo polygamy: “Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well. But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings. She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it.” I suggest you read “Mormon Enigma” to see how hard polygamy was on Emma. The church essay has really downplayed how much Emma hated polygamy, but she really did, and JS had to keep a lot of it secret from her. After JS died she tried to pretend it never happened because it was so hard on her.
I don’t think polygamy was all about sex, although he certainly had sex with some of the wives, and without Emma knowing about it. As per Brian Hales’ web site (he’s a very believing polygamy researcher and apologist): “Overall, evidence supports sexual relations in less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions, and available documents indicate that such relations were infrequent. Two children are known to have been born to Joseph’s plural wives, but only one lived to adulthood, a daughter, Josephine Lyon Fisher.” (http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/faq/sexuality-2/)
And even with knowing all of that (and a lot more…it’s a fascinating trip down the rabbit hole for those who dare to go down there), some members and historians can still see Joseph Smith as a prophet who restored polygamy as a commandment of God. Others can’t make that work, because they don’t think God would deal in deceit and coercion in the name of religion. Can you at least empathize why some members have a hard time with that?
As for some members believing JS made a very big doctrinal mistake with polygamy, and still wanting to stick with the church: people in this boat often come to the realization there IS no one true church, that all churches have been created by men to try to tap into the divine. But there are parts of the LDS church they do like, even if they don’t agree with every single thing the church teaches. Do they really have to throw it all away just because the don’t have 100% orthodox LDS beliefs?
Actually you make a pretty good point with corrupt politicians. When Bill Clinton was caught lying under oath, did the American public abandon him? On the contrary, a big majority of the people decided it didn’t matter and that they liked him as president. Some Republican voters couldn’t understand how people could see it that way, but I think people are more forgiving than you realize. Joseph Smith was just a man. He could make big mistakes, and he did. It doesn’t mean there isn’t good to be found in the LDS church and that people should necessarily just get up and leave.
One more thing, I hope you’re not implying all pastors are corrupt. If a pastor earns $90K for dedicating his life to his flock, don’t you think it’s fair he gets paid for it? It’s his or her only job. It’s not a part time job like a bishop or stake president. And I notice you didn’t tell me how much the G.A.’s get paid. Let me know when you find out because lots of people would like to know. (You would probably have better luck hacking in to the CIA, though, so don’t try too hard.)
I think the whole Financial transparency thing is a joke. I can look up the average salary of a preacher because that is a job title. Being in the quorum of the 70 is not. The LDS church is a private institution along with all other churches. I can’t go look up exactly what the preacher at Bellevue Presbyterian makes because what they pay their preacher is completely their business. No, I am not saying that all preachers are corrupt. There are great people who devote their live to the gospel of Christ. What I am saying is that there is a lot of hypocrisy within Christian churches and scandals. The LDS church is virtually free of that, which speaks for itself in my opinion. The Mission President Handbook was leaked and it goes into what the church will pay for. Obviously they are going to take care of their leaders but there is nothing scandalous or anything out of line. I also think that the Polygamy was hard on Emma. I bet there was a lot of confusion at that time and I know that at the beginning, Joseph didn’t want to do it. Take that for what you will but I don’t believe that he was a monster in any way and that he loved Emma dearly. You must remember that back then, sealings and marriage were very different from what it is today. I think your argument about still being LDS but not believing in the standards doesn’t work. Another religion such as the RLDS would work better for you. But that’s none of my business ;)Especially with the people you would be dealing. The members in the church have a lot of responsibility, there is no room for halfers. It’s kind of a all in church… That’s just a fact. It’s like people who say they believe in evolution but not pre human evolution… It’s kind of contrary to the laws of the theory in my opinion.
I don’t think JS was a monster. I believe that HE believed he was doing what was right. He believed that God wanted him to do polygamy. But I don’t believe God actually told him to do that. When I read D&C 132:54 where it says Emma will be destroyed if she doesn’t go along with polygamy, to me that’s not something God would ever say or do.
You’re right, I much prefer the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) church right now. They don’t care what your beliefs are, and they don’t think they are the one true church, or that any one true church exists. But like I said in my post, I know a lot of progressive Mormons who are trying to make it work in the LDS church. I don’t know if they will ultimately be successful, but they’re trying. Only time will tell.