Friday, July 25, 2014
# 47: Doubters are Multiplying and Replenishing
Every day, another Mormon stumbles onto Mormon Think, and has his or her testimony dashed to pieces. Every single day.
The Internet is not going away, and the issues that cause people to lose their testimonies are not going away. In fact, the presence of the Internet is growing. And the research that calls into question the claims of the LDS Church is growing, and is being distributed more and more, every day. The doubters are multiplying and replenishing.
What do Mormons do when they lose their testimonies? Some leave. Some stay. There's no easy way to deal with the information critical of Mormonism so prevalent on the Internet. Leaving is hard, and staying is hard. Life is hard.
Those who stay, despite not believing all or some of Church doctrine, are sometimes referred to as cultural Mormons, or New Order Mormons, or cafeteria Mormons, or doubters. I like to say that I'm behaviorally orthodox but theologically unorthodox. Well... I like to say that in cyberspace. In real life, I'll probably give you the impression that I'm a happy Mormon sheep in the happy Mormon flock. And in some ways, I am.
I'm one of those who intend to stay, for the rest of my life. And I'm not muddling along in quiet agony. I'm not staying only until my family or work situation changes so that leaving is easier. I'm in this thing for the long haul. I find living the Mormon religion to be spiritual and meaningful, and there are many times when I feel that God wants me to stay. To borrow from a favorite hymn, "Stay Mor-mon, Stay Mor-mon, Oh, there's One who smiles on high, when we stay Mor-mon."
I feel God nudging me to stay. I've prayed a lot, not as much as I should lately, but, seriously, I've done deep and long soul-searching and studying and praying and thinking about staying LDS. (Religion is the most important subject in the world, and it deserves strict attention and serious study, and solemn hours of pondering.) And after all that searching, the conclusion that I've come to is that I should stay LDS.
And there are others like me. There are other people who don't believe everything they hear at church, who don't believe that the Book of Mormon is a literal book of history, but who keep going to church anyway, because they want to share the religion with their families, because they want to be a part of the beautiful Mormon community, and because of so many other reasons, some of which are enumerated on this blog.
I've met some of these people in real life, and I've chatted with quite a few of them on New Order Mormon and StayLDS.com. Again, I emphasize, there are more and more New Order Mormons being created every day.
Why is this a reason to stay LDS? Well, the more New Order Mormons there are in the Church, the more acceptable they eventually will be. And even if New Order Mormons aren't officially welcomed by the LDS Church, their increasing population will probably mean that there will be more positive changes in the church. These changes will make church more accommodating to New Order Mormons. What changes might there be? Well...
Maybe we won't sing "Praise to the Man," anymore. Maybe there won't be so much pressure on young men to serve missions. Maybe the Sunday School lessons won't be quite as whitewashed and dumbed-down. Maybe there will be more financial transparency in the church, and maybe they'll open up the vaults in Salt Lake City and let historians do their thing. Maybe tithing settlements will be discontinued.
I hope these changes are on the horizon. But even if these changes never come about, that's okay with me. Generally speaking, I'm happy with the Church the way it is. And instead of advocating for institutional change, like Kate Kelly, I think my time is more wisely spent doing different things. I'm trying to be the change I want to see in the church. I'm trying to do my best to bring out the best parts of Mormonism on a small, local level, as I participate in my ward and as I raise my children.
If you're going through a faith crisis, you may feel alone. And yes, there are few of us New Order Mormons, but again, our numbers are growing. I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that there are more and more doubters every day. Eventually, the Church will have to do something to make members like us feel more welcomed.