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Thoughts on (not) making middle way Mormonism work

November 5, 2018

In over a decade of on-and-off online Mormon discussions, I’ve met a lot of people undergoing faith crises who want to try to rebuild some sort of faith in between traditional belief and outright unbelief. But, although I’ve observed a lot of people attempting a “middle way” path, most have not been able to pull it off — even though they really wanted to make it work.

Late last week, several of my co-bloggers at Wheat & Tares had a series of discussions about Middle Way Mormonism. We got the idea that it would be really cool to have different writers write their takes on the Middle Way…what do we think about it, how does it work, why are some people able to live it and others not? So, over the weekend, I finally got around to writing a new blog post.

As someone who has for all practical purpose left Mormonism and religion entirely, I have spent a lot of my time trying to figure out why the people who can make it work do. I’ve started to get a feeling just from talking to a person briefly about whether it seems they will be able to make the middle way work, or whether they will struggle and chafe against it. And so, in my post, I wrote about what I’ve observed from people who have been able to live a middle way.

To summarize, I think that the middle way requires a particular calling to Mormonism combined with a certain spiritual independence. If one is still beholden to what the institution says or thinks, then they are going to have issues. But, if one does have a sense of spiritual independence but no calling to Mormonism, then they probably won’t see any value or reason to stick around.

I think that most people who attempt the middle way lack one or both of these traits. They may want to stay to preserve familial relationships, or perhaps to change the church, or a number of other reasons. However, I don’t think that those reasons are sustainable. I think that without the two traits I mentioned, it’s very likely that people will fall off due to attrition.

I wanted to try to communicate that I don’t think many people will have both of these traits, and therefore, I don’t think that the middle way will be sustainable for many. But I also wanted to hint that maybe the middle way isn’t for everyone. After all, maybe someone instead wants to find a community that is more likeminded rather than chafing against one that mostly isn’t?

I can say for myself that I haven’t ever experienced anything I would really consider a “spiritual calling,” so I certainly haven’t felt called back to Mormonism. My main involvement these days is low stakes online engagement where I can walk away from the keyboard at any time, as well as participation in events like Sunstone where there is more likely to be likeminded folks.

…but I do still participate in certain groups on Facebook and other social media that have a mix of progressive, nonbelieving, as well as more conservative, traditionally believing members, just to get a feel for that pulse.

Unfortunately, I still find enough about mainstream expressions of Mormonism to be insufferable to me. I probably wouldn’t last very long even if I wanted to go back.

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