An Open Letter to Current Active Mormons

February 20, 2013

Pardon the shorthand. Surely not all TBMs will end up on RfM, and not all on RfM were TBMs, but ambiguity is sometimes the nature of revelation...

Dear Fellow Active Members of the Church,

Please sign this prenuptual pre-crisis agreement now, promising that you won’t be an unhinged tool if and when you leave the church.

Surely, you’ve been warned a BILLION times about “leaving the church alone” when you leave it. You think that message is meant for people who have already left? NO! It’s for YOU, in case you leave! Once you leave, it’s too late, so you won’t be expected to leave it alone by then. The church will have had such a profound influence on most or all aspects of your life.  So you could not be expected in any normal way to “just drop it.”

Back to the agreement. Take a second and hearken.

If at least 4 of the 8 following characteristics apply to you, and cause moderate to significant distress to those around you (this includes your Facebook friends of the opposite political persuasion), you may be at risk for becoming an emotionally Unhinged Ex-Mormon (U-ExMo):

  • You’re epistemologically certain (“I know” is the phrase you use the most in your testimony)
  • You’ve always done everything you were asked by the church
  • You significantly gave of your time and/or money to Prop 8
  • You’ve held leadership callings
  • You haven’t given that much thought to church history, or don’t think studying history is that important
  • You couldn’t imagine how you would deal with your spouse leaving the church
  • You think John Dehlin is a secret agent of Satan to lead the church astray (if you’re the curious type, go here to see what this will look like when you’re on the other side)
  • You see your more post-modern Mormon friends as close to apostasy (i.e. you generally think things are either “good” or “bad” or “true” or “false”).

If you’re still not convinced, consider this warning from the prophet Alma:

“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis [of faith], that I will [be a nicer person]. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this [church], that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that [DAMU] world… For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your [becoming an emotionally developed person with a tolerance for ambiguity along with an internalized moral compass] even until [you leave the church], behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of [everything that makes people nice to be around] hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of [all those who meet the above diagnosis] who leave.”

Please, I beg of you, repent of your epistemologically certain, emotionally stunted, rigid ways before it is too late.

Sincerely,

Your Brother in the Gospel

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34 Responses to An Open Letter to Current Active Mormons

  1. SamanthaK on February 20, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Oh, man. This made me snicker. I’m a strident ex-Mormon with zero love for the LDS church. I was TBM to the core before I left ten years ago: Church employee (Church Office Building, SLC), temple worker, perfect church attendance, etc. I was raised to be a judgmental, supercilious prig. Anyone who demonstrably fell short of obededience was not worth my time.

    How true this post is.LOL. I can’t say I’d have it any other way, though. I love my life now. No regrets.

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  2. Taryn Fox on February 20, 2013 at 6:08 AM

    You know, at first I took this kind of personally, since I’ve had to spend a lot of time examining all these feelings I never got to acknowledge or express in the LDS church and I really don’t like victim-blaming language that makes this into my fault.

    In hindsight though, I’d already realized that the kind of Mormon you are largely determines the kind of ex-mormon you become, which helps explain why there are so many fundamentalist atheist exmos. Who don’t really care whether it’s *healthy* for you to be in or out of the church, or even decide on your own belief system, and just want everyone to see things their way because only their way is right.

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  3. Casey on February 20, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    I don’t really listen to Dehlin’s stuff but I never really considered that anybody could think he was a Satanic agent until I recently had a conversation with someone who forcibly asserted just that. They were absolutely convinced Dehlin was a wolf in sheep’s clothing bent on destroying the church from within; that just struck me as an odd thing to say about a dude running a web site called Stay LDS, even if his definition of LDS allows for a very broad doctrinal latitude. Later I stumbled on an ExMo discussion in which several people castigated Dehlin for hurting THEIR cause for (I guess) announcing his reactivation in church. Just so interesting how that all works: you really can’t make everyone happy.

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  4. Howard on February 20, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    The same simplistic unhealthy binomial mentality is polarized on both sides of the Dehlin question and both sides of is the church true? question. He’ll have a very full career helping his clients grow up by teaching them nuance and gray-scale. This is the difference between the letter and spirit of the law. The difference between pharisaical rules and gospel principles.

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  5. will on February 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    • “You’re epistemologically certain (“I know” is the phrase you use the most in your testimony)”

    Not me. I “know” when some people stand up it is time to ditch church early and head to the c store for a coke. I really don’t want to hear your personal problems, got enough of that as a leader.

    • You’ve always done everything you were asked by the church

    No one has, this is an impossible standard.

    • “You significantly gave of your time and/or money to Prop 8”

    Agreed with this and gave money. I don’t see how this relates.

    • “You’ve held leadership callings”

    Held many and I don’t see how this relates.

    • “You haven’t given that much thought to church history, or don’t think studying history is that important”

    Studied plenty of church history; I served as gospel doctrine teacher for many, many years. I realize Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and all others (prior and current leaders) were just men that made plenty of mistakes and said some stupid things. Don’t see how this relates.

    • “You couldn’t imagine how you would deal with your spouse leaving the church”

    I admit; this would be hard for me. I don’t see it, but you never know. If she did, I would someone else.

    • “You think John Dehlin is a secret agent of Satan to lead the church astray (if you’re the curious type, go here to see what this will look like when you’re on the other side)”

    Heard of him briefly, never read anything about him and really don’t care.

    • “You see your more post-modern Mormon friends as close to apostasy (i.e. you generally think things are either “good” or “bad” or “true” or “false”).”

    I don’t mind people with questions or concerns, I think that is healthy. The only thing that bugs me are the people that try to change things that are good and wholesome and are working. For instance, members saying the brethren are too old to serve; or are for same sex marriage, or people that think we are just another church.

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  6. Howard on February 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Will wrote: • You’ve always done everything you were asked by the church

    No one has, this is an impossible standard.

    I just wanted to say Like this part of Will’s answer.

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  7. Jeff Spector on February 20, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Very cute. Enjoyed it a lot.

    But:

    We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    And:

    “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

    If we all could just focus on and have faith in that and what it means to our lives, we’d all be better off.

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  8. shenpa warrior on February 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    @Samantha – Glad you enjoyed it! I am glad that it didn’t come across as blaming those who leave – as that’s really not whom I’m talking to here.

    @Casey – You really can’t – and trying to makes a lot of people UNhappy.

    @Howard – Agreed – thanks for your comments.

    @will – re: “no one has, this is an impossible standard” – You’re right – I was using this criterion more as an outlook or emotional state, rather than in the literal sense. Re: Prop 8, leadership, history & “I don’t see how this relates” – some of these criterion might not mean anything on their own, and I wasn’t commenting on the “good” or “bad” of any of them individually… only noting that these seem to be common things that ex-Mormons who are also unhinged seem to bring up, i.e. “I was a bishop” or “I supported Prop 8” or etc. re: “people think we are just another church” – You said that this bugs you – I’m curious – why?

    @Jeff – Amen. Indeed we would.

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  9. shenpa warrior on February 20, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Also, will, it seems you are only about a 3 or 4 out of 8, so you might not be in the high-risk category. :D

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  10. jmb275 on February 20, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    I love it shenpa! Well done!

    becoming an emotionally developed person with a tolerance for ambiguity along with an internalized moral compass

    Many Mormons do internalize their moral compass. But I think most do not. If you buy into Fowler’s research (it has its limitations to be sure) then most stalwart members of a church have not internalized their own moral compass yet…that doesn’t happen until stage 5 (a marked manifestation of stage 4 being an external moral compass but in the direction contrary to that in stage 3).

    It seems to me that a lot of the points in the agreement can be boiled down to how much one has paid to be a part of the group. If you’ve paid a lot (in what is a high barrier to entry church) by sacrificing “worldy things,” committed to marriage in the temple, avoid sins of omission, etc. your “stock” in the church is HUGE, and your possibly associated “faith crisis” is going to wreak catastrophe. The only way out of a situation like that is to have a true paradigm shift.

    Anyway, really loved it!

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  11. Mike S on February 20, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    At risk of making this seem like other blogs, great job !!!

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  12. Joy on February 20, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    The list fit me almost exactly which makes me very happy.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on February 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    -“You’re epistemologically certain (“I know” is the phrase you use the most in your testimony)” Definitely not.
    -“You’ve always done everything you were asked by the church” Mostly, but I wouldn’t do something I considered outrageous. It really depends what you include. I wouldn’t participate in polygamy. I wouldn’t move to Missouri. But I agreed to a calling in the nursery despite considering suicide as a means to avoid it.
    -“You significantly gave of your time and/or money to Prop 8″ Definitely not. Voted against AZ 102 which was similar. No one in my ward at that time talked about Prop 8 (or even AZ 102) nor were they encouraged to participate, and I wouldn’t have since it’s political.
    -“You’ve held leadership callings” Not many. Been YW and RS secretary. Usually in a teaching calling.
    -“You haven’t given that much thought to church history, or don’t think studying history is that important” I’m in the middle on this one, but grew up knowing a lot of the weird history from visiting church sites and reading anti-Mormon pamphlets that were everywhere. I’ve read about 50% of the usual book list. Yet I find I know more about this stuff than 99% of the membership (but perhaps average for the bloggernacle).
    -“You couldn’t imagine how you would deal with your spouse leaving the church” Not sure, but I know lots of people who’ve been in this situation.
    -“You think John Dehlin is a secret agent of Satan to lead the church astray (if you’re the curious type, go here to see what this will look like when you’re on the other side)” Clearly not, unless it’s the worst kept secret! Also, I would add something to your list about attributing things to Satan and God. I’m more inclined to attribute what happens on earth to human agency, not supernatural intervention. I suspect that’s another distinction for this list.
    -“You see your more post-modern Mormon friends as close to apostasy (i.e. you generally think things are either “good” or “bad” or “true” or “false”).” Definitely not.

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  14. hawkgrrrl on February 20, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Will said: “The only thing that bugs me are the people that try to change things that are good and wholesome and are working.” And this is the key reason that I think we have to go slowly with change. Perhaps not quite as slowly as we go now, but proceeding with caution and reason. It’s definitely not ideal to alienate the base.

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  15. ji on February 20, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    I hope I’m like Peter and his brethren in John 6:66. I will valiantly bear testimony. I do not want be wishy-washy or lukewarm, just to satisfy someone else’s determination that I cannot “know”.

    I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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  16. anon on February 20, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    Will said:

    “• “You’re epistemologically certain (“I know” is the phrase you use the most in your testimony)”

    Not me. I “know” when some people stand up it is time to ditch church early and head to the c store for a coke. I really don’t want to hear your personal problems, got enough of that as a leader.”

    I completely agree; even though I have never had a leadership calling I don’t care to hear testimonies about toilet training or medical/health problems, etc.

    Fast & Testimony is always the same wacko-doodles over and over. And if someone starts to cry then I really need to leave.

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  17. Brian on February 20, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    Another great post, Shenpa. Describes my entrance into the church at 17 and my exit at 57.

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  18. Jettboy on February 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Dear shenpa warrior,
    You don’t know my heart. You don’t know where I get my spiritual witness. You don’t know me. Your list means nothing.

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  19. Hedgehog on February 21, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    1. No, expressions of gratitude for the gospel, Christ and the atonement generally.
    2. It’s a person who does the asking I find, with whom I have a discussion about what is or isn’t required… Not quite sure what you mean, except I am able to answer the TR questions appropriately…
    3. Not relevant.
    4. Yes – if being a counsellor on the three auxilliary presidencies at one time or another counts, never been president.
    5. Not true – I really enjoyed the Junior Sunday School course back when I was 8. Missed out on the seminary course really though – that was the year I had to do early morning (I learnt much more from home study), and the only new information I picked up was that if I didn’t want to die of flu I should have packed cayenne pepper! I did read ‘Mormon Enigma’ as a student, but information is generally much easier to come by now.
    6. I don’t know.
    7. No. I tend to go with Hawkgrrrl on attributing things to human agency over Satan on this one.
    8. No

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  20. Mark A. Clifford on February 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Okay, okay. I promise.
    Now what do I get?

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  21. FireTag on February 21, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Hawkgrrrl:

    What do you have against Missouri? :D

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  22. Roger on February 21, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    FireTag—although their spectator venues are outstanding, the Chiefs and the Royals are unrivaled in terms of ineptitude.

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  23. FireTag on February 21, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Roger:

    In the REAL Zion, they put their brothers’ welfare first — or something like that. :D

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  24. Jared on February 21, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    You’re epistemologically certain (“I know” is the phrase you use the most in your testimony)

    Of course! It just as disingenuous to say you believe, when you know, as it is to say you know, when you believe.

    You’ve always done everything you were asked by the church

    Before God revealed the truth to me I had more in common with Alma the younger than Nephi.

    You significantly gave of your time and/or money to Prop 8

    Yes, I provided $$.

    You’ve held leadership callings

    Why not?

    You haven’t given that much thought to church history, or don’t think studying history is that important

    I’ve studied the difficult issues of church history and doctrine since 1972.

    You couldn’t imagine how you would deal with your spouse leaving the church

    Not possible. I am equally yoked.

    You think John Dehlin is a secret agent of Satan to lead the church astray

    Not at all, I think he is more honest than the typical testimony holding but unconverted Mormon.

    You see your more post-modern Mormon friends as close to apostasy (i.e. you generally think things are either “good” or “bad” or “true” or “false”).

    I see them as having a troubled “testimony”, and hope that they will turn to God with full purpose of heart and be converted.

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  25. Hawkgrrrl on February 21, 2013 at 9:03 PM

    At heart of a lot of these questions is motive. WHY do people say “know” vs believe (when we are talking about what is unprovablein the first place), agree to do whatever they are asked, not look under the covers at what is unsavory, etc? There could be many different reasons, not just that their investment is high, which it is, but why they do that:
    – loyalty / trusting. Then, in crisis, they feel betrayed.
    – seek approval of authority. Then, in crisis, they feel rejected and ostracized.
    – status or achievement seeking. Then, in crisis, they feel it was all for nothing, a waste of time and effort and money.

    In any of the above cases, the only antidote is to not be dependent on the church, its members, or its leaders, or even one’s spouse, but to make and own our own moral choices which we can do whether in or out of the church. For example, if someone would have lobbied, donated and phone banked Prop 8 even if the church was totally neutral on it, then it’s a complete non-issue. If someone participated just because they were encouraged at church, that’s a whole different ball of wax, and it indicates they probably did it for one of the above reasons. Those reasons never end well.

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  26. Jared on February 21, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    As we’re well aware, we see things through the lens of our life experiences.

    When it comes to experiences with things of the Spirit people differ greatly. Just as they do in other aspect of their lives (talent, intelligence, appearance, and etc).

    My point is that those who choose to follow Christ vary greatly in experience with the Spirit. Those in the 4th grade in experiences with the things of the Spirit ought not think those in high school are over the top and out of touch with reality.

    Those in high school look at 4th graders with greater understanding than the other way around.

    Lack of humility makes it more difficult to progress to higher grades. A 4th grader ought not to be too sure her point of view is superior–for the simple reason she lacks experience.

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  27. hawkgrrrl on February 21, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    Jared, I know you are but what am I?

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  28. Jared on February 22, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    I think it goes, “I’m rubber, your glue, everything bounces off of me and sticks to you”. I’m a grandpa, I need to keep up with these things.

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  29. Jared on February 22, 2013 at 7:06 AM

    Advise for all grades from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

    When I was called as a General Authority, I was blessed to be tutored by many of the senior Brethren in the Church. One day I had the opportunity to drive President James E. Faust to a stake conference. During the hours we spent in the car, President Faust took the time to teach me some important principles about my assignment. He explained also how gracious the members of the Church are, especially to General Authorities. He said, “They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you.” He laughed a little and then said, “Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.”

    That is a good lesson for us all, brethren, in any calling or life situation. We can be grateful for our health, wealth, possessions, or positions, but when we begin to inhale it—when we become obsessed with our status; when we focus on our own importance, power, or reputation; when we dwell upon our public image and believe our own press clippings—that’s when the trouble begins; that’s when pride begins to corrupt.

    There are plenty of warnings about pride in the scriptures: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”

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  30. Troth Everyman on February 22, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Love the tongue in cheek nature of this post. Well done!

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  31. bin on February 23, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Will:

    Did I read that right that you’d leave your wife if she left the church?

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  32. Matt on February 25, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Question: So, do you think it’s possible to be an “emotionally developed person with a tolerance for ambiguity along with an internalized moral compass” and still have 4 or more of those criteria still apply to you? Just curious.

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  33. shenpa warrior on February 26, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    @Matt – Totally possible. Those criteria (which are blunt, of course) are only an attempt at getting at possible risk factors for becoming a tool once you leave. A risk factor in and of itself may not “bad” at all.

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  34. Matt on February 26, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    @shenpa warrior – Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you.

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