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Who do we want to keep in the church?

April 28, 2009

So, the latest report that people are buzzing about is the Pew study that suggests that more people are drifting around from faith to faith. I guess the reason people are buzzing about this is not from this conclusion, but from the reasons and explanations for this conclusion. Many people are leaving because of a gradual spiritual drift; they just cease feeling that their spiritual needs are filled by one congregation, so they go to another. And while many may temporarily become unchurched, the data suggests that once unchurched doesn’t mean always unchurched — these people still have a spiritual bone in their body.

So, Times and Seasons was discussing this issue from an LDS standpoint, and in many ways, I think the church should be happy to have these kinds of statistics, because the church thrives on converts (especially from other Christian denominations — I’ve heard…but I don’t have any numbers on this, that the areas that the church does best is in areas that have had established Christian populations). However, the nagging question is…how does this churn affect the church?

The answer comes out to be something like a “Who knows?!” because the church’s official statistics are probably not so reliable on who leaves the church. But what’s always exciting is seeing how the different personalities justify different explanations.

My reading from the Book of Mormon and my own experience convinces me that the causes and solutions to drifting faith are directly related to the baptism covenant.

LDS can acquire the gift of the Holy Ghost if they will seek to fulfill their baptism covenant. If they do in fact receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and remain faithful they will not be moved out of their place by the challenges of life or the ordeals of death. The Lord promises to give His followers the gifts of the Spirit so that they can’t be deceived (D&C 46:8-9) , and also promises to support those–who put their trust in Him–in their trials and troubles (Alma 36:3).

…With these experiences I have learned that faith in the long run is an individual responsibility and not the churches.

You’ve got Jared. Jared, bless his heart, is so predictable (but this is a good thing; consistency is good [notice how his comments use scriptures, just like he wanted].) His answer is: the churn seen throughout the churches is not due to the failings of churches (although, maybe he would say that the churn from non-LDS churches is to blame on their not having the ‘true Gospel’ ), but due to the failings of people.

It’s particularly interesting how occasionally in other posts, he’ll pursue an argument strategy suggesting that people who do not believe in the manner that he does can be expected to not truly experience the Holy Ghost. I see his setting up this argument every time, but I know there is nothing I can say: after all, according to his perspective, I’m prime example of someone who failed.

No matter. I see it coming a mile away and stay out of his path.

T&S commenters seem to have this strange affinity (and intense distaste) for “Cafeteria Mormonism” or “New Order Mormonism.” And so, Bookslinger writes:

I think the drift within the LDS church is also illustrated in the bloggernacle, not just those who’ve formally left the church, but also new order Mormons and middle-way Mormons. There are also those who claim to be solidly in the Mormon camp, but still attenuate some core beliefs. In addition to the cafeteria style “I’ll take a full serving of this, and some of this, but none of that,” people now seem to be nuancing, or adding shades of grey to, things that I had previously thought of as black-and-white, go-or-no-go.

Rather than admitting that one can’t or won’t comply with requirement “X” of the gospel (or of church policy), some people nuance away or diminish “X” as non-essential, or even as an incorrect element.

Rather than figuratively beating one’s breast and admitting a lack of faith/shortcoming/sin, the item is just dismissed or nuanced away.

I just hate that term “nuancing,” but I must admit it seems to be rather popular. I wonder what Bookslinger would think about a post like this?

My initial reaction is to loudly proclaim, “Why would you be against people making the church work for them?!” Who cares about liberal Mormons, cafeteria Mormons, and NOMs?

…but then, when I read further, I question how liberal can this church be before you’re just joking yourself.

So, my question would be…who do these guys want in the church? I mean, I guess their ideal answer would be, “Everyone should be a member of the church, believing the ‘right’ doctrine [I wonder how coincidental it would be if the 'right doctrine' just happened to be the one they personally subscribed to...].” But this isn’t a place for ideals. Would these kinds of commenters rather have cafeteria Mormons who (even THEY admit) “claim to be solidly in the Mormon camp,” or would they have these members feeling that since they are not comfortable with every item in the buffet, they should leave?

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4 Comments
  1. Andrew S.–

    I don’t believe in atheist.

  2. So, Jared, what do you believe in concerning those who claim to be atheist?

    Do they just not exist or…?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Who Should Go to Church, Anyway? at Mormon Matters
  2. Public service announcement: Atheism is not saying “God is impossible.” « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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