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I should be happy with what was said…

May 16, 2009

Jeff Lindsay recently posted a rather charitable and kindly post at Mormanity about how a bad customer experience with a yogurt shop gave him insight about what might be going through some disaffected Mormons’ minds. And you know…I should be happy with what was said…it’s been one of a few reaches out he has made on the blog, which normally is an apologetic blog.

And I think the church needs that kind of accepting voice…that realizes that sometimes, the church does do things that alienate certain members. And sometimes, even as its members try to resolve the issue, try to improve the church, or try to fix things up, they don’t find comforting answers. They are rebuffed at every location, as Jeff was in his search to submit a complaint with the ice cream shop chain.

So, Jeff understands that…why am I not fully happy though?

I think I’m greedy. Perhaps I want it all. There are just a few lines and implications of Jeff’s post that I do not like so much.

He does make a good point:

Have you shared my frustration of seeing people who once were happy, vibrant members of the Church suddenly give up on it? There are all sorts of rough experiences people can have in a church without professionally trained clergy and numerous mortals among our members. In addition to problems with service (their interactions with others, including those running the local shop), some have problems with the quality of the product or the labeling. Some feel that they have been mislead and not informed about the tough issues and unanswered questions of Mormonism. We may not have good answers–we may not have anything more to offer than an apology, but they deserve attention and answers from those who can listen, understand and respond. Troubled members cannot be ignored, nor should their concerns be dismissed or equated with personal wickedness. We must never assume that the man or woman who is expressing doubts about the “product” of Mormonism is doing so because he or she is having an affair or has picked up some other serious sin. People with objections may have been offended by some interpersonal event, but they may just be having a sincere theological struggle or intellectual challenge that you may not appreciate.

So far, so good. He dispels the idea that exmormons merely do so because of some serious sin. He even offers the possibility that a member could be struggling because of a “sincere theological struggle or intellectual challenge.”

So, why am I not fully happy?

He further says:

Personally, I hope they won’t leave. I hope all of you who are members will grow in the joy that the Gospel brings, in spite of the puzzlements.

And then I realize…he is still just an apologist.

The very framework of his narrative, it seems to me, seems to accept the possibility of “sincere theological struggle,” but what seems implied is that in a theological struggle, the struggle is with the member to align himself with the truth that’s in the church. So, the correct answer is to eventually realize that the church/doctrine/theology was right and then grow in faith. The Gospel brings joy and going away from it brings misery.

If that didn’t make sense, let me translate into yogurt speak. Jeff didn’t like the sugar-free yogurt. He had a “sincere appetite struggle.” But the correct answer was not to try to find sugary, delicious yogurt (whether from that shop or from another)…but to realize that sugar is bad for you and you should find the joy and protection from diabetes that sugar-free yogurt provides.

I commented on his site, softly raising this point. He responded, saying that yes we may have different needs or taste, but sometimes, our needs are superficial.

Good questions, Andrew. If people can’t find what they really need in the Church and it is available elsewhere, then it’s natural that they should go where they can find it. As a caution, though, many times the things we identify as “needs” are rather superficial. I hope the real needs at the top of their list include things like truth (including revealed truth), authority from Jesus Christ, an understanding of the purpose of life, and guidance toward eternal life.

In yogurt speak, if the church provides sugar-free yogurt, then perhaps your need…your craving for sugary yogurt…is superficial. Your real needs should be your health, sugar-free yogurt, etc., As he concludes in the same comment:

In the case of, say, a person being unhappy with an official LDS practice or doctrine, that’s more difficult. Change is possible, but faith and a lot of patience may be needed. For those who were concerned about or directly affected by the policy on the priesthood prior to 1978, soul searching (and God searching) were needed. I appreciate the courage and faith of those who determined that they would put that burning and puzzling issue on hold, recognizing that it was still the Church of Jesus Christ at its core. I can understand why some may have left or refused to join over that issue, but as with many of the decisions we mortals make, that would not have been the best route, in my opinion.

This is why I cannot necessarily be happy with his comment. While he reaches out to exmembers, it’s from the vantage point that they should’ve stayed within the church or that they should come back. Regardless of unhappiness with LDS practice and doctrine or of happiness elsewhere, they should’ve made it work, had faith, and endured to the end.

And I mean…I should’ve expected this kind of twist…after all, his apologetic work, I suspect, requires him to take the position that Mormonism *is* best for everyone. And in a literal, real way, not wishy-washy metaphorical way. So to be so ecumenical, to be so pluralistic, would cut against this core imperative. I can’t really blame him (and I don’t dislike him for it), but this is where the regrettable disconnect remains.

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7 Comments
  1. Usually, I only take this stance in response to ex-Mormons who think I’m a freaking retard for still being in this religion.

    Some people really are dumb enough to think that just because finding out Joseph used a peestone ruined it all for them, it’s automatically going to ruin it for me too, and if it doesn’t… well… that must mean I’m “brainwashed” or, even worse, “an apologist.”

    For these people, they deserve exactly the response Jeff Lindsey gave them.

  2. and I guess I can’t even lie; there are a lot of such ex-Mormons.

    but I think that this just creates a downward spiral of the relationships between groups. yet i don’t know how that ever improves…

  3. Time and therapy maybe.

  4. “peestone” is my new favorite word.

  5. priceless.

    ^i considered strategically eschewing one of the letters in that word, but i decided it would be out of taste.

  6. Huh… I guess I did misspell that. I wondered what the heck you were talking about on that other blog Jack.

  7. Every now and then, the random crap I say isn’t actually random.

    But most of the time, it is.

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