Where Have All the 20-somethings Gone?

by: hawkgrrrl

December 21, 2010

A recent post at neighboring blog, BCC, talks about the rising percentage of 20- and 30-somethings who claim “none” as their religion.  Historically, the church has experienced a lot of attrition in this age range, either YSAs (Young Single Adults) who find the strict adherence to the law of chastity increasingly difficult to navigate or young married families who fall away before children are born.  Previously, many of those wandering souls would return as they began to raise families, longing for the child-rearing support and familiar environment of the church to give their children the same experiences they had as children.  Lately, we seem to be losing people in this age range and not seeing as many of them return when children come.  Why do they leave?  What can be done to improve retention in this age group?

First things first – why do they leave?  Generally, people like to assume that others leave the church for a short list of reasons, many of which reflect poorly on the character of the one that left.  Often, I wonder if people don’t just assume people leave for the reasons they themselves would leave.  Even so, some of these reasons are at the heart of why some people leave.  Here are some common reasons we hear:

  • They were offended.  Nobody wants to sound like they are petulant and had their feelings hurt, but truth be told, it sometimes happens.  Add to this that sometimes a local environment can be too difficult or even harmful for some people; the flip-side of someone being offended can be that someone behaved offensively.
  • They wanted to sin.  This is a chicken-egg scenario.  If you no longer consider yourself Mormon, you will probably drink alchohol, coffee, or tea like most non-LDS people do.  Did you leave because you couldn’t resist the smell of Starbucks?  Maybe some do, but that seems like an insufficient reason to change your entire lifestyle.
  • They were led astray by apostate or anti-Mormon views.  Another tricky one because often those who level this criticism may be familiar with basic apologetics, but may not be credible critical thinkers.  Of course, it also sounds like an insult, as if the person is an unwitting dupe.
  • They were lazy.  This is kind of like “they wanted to sin” but includes a mix of “they couldn’t even get out of bed to come to church.”  Do people just quit coming for this reason?  Sure.  But that also means going to church wasn’t compelling enough to that individual; there wasn’t a draw.

Reasons you don’t hear much of, but that are sometimes contributing factors:

  • Church was boring or unfulfilling.  “I just didn’t get anything out of it; my time is better spent doing [insert better activity].”  They found something else (including nothing) that resonated more for them.
  • They did not have a conversion experience.  “I never got an answer.”  This is a tough one to address. People who leave but have had a conversion experience are likely to return like the Prodigal son in time.  Those who have not will not feel a spiritual pull to return.
  • They did not accept commonly expressed worldviews of members.  “I just didn’t fit in, and I didn’t want to fit in.”  This is the old “the church is true, but the people aren’t” argument.  Some can feel repulsed by attitudes of superiority, intolerance, or judgmentalism.  Others can be embarrassed by associating with those who require literalism, are politically vocal, make war with science, or make ill-informed comments in general.
  • Society’s skepticism of religion is sometimes well-placed.  “I’m more spiritual than religious.”  Some religious people are judgmental, weird, hypocritical, etc.  Religions can be self-sustaining enterprises, which creates some skepticism.  To an extent, all religions do indoctrinate and request conformity and squelch dissent.

So, what can the church do to retain members, even through a trying age?  if churches want to reach people now, they need to do a few things really well:

  1. Provide opportunities for meaningful service.  People want to feel like their time investment is really helping someone in need, not just providing marginal benefits to those who don’t have much need (e.g. VT or HT can at times feel this way to some).  Folks become skeptical when all “service” is just a means to indoctrinate others (e.g. benefits the organization more than meeting individual needs).  Many megachurches do this exceptionally well.  You have to feel good about building houses for the poor or helping victims of an earthquake.
  2. Provide a practical gospel.  This means an interpretation of the gospel that is practical in a day-to-day sense and doesn’t require major suspension of disbelief (e.g. literalism or goofy ideas that make you sound like a whack job).  Something that is too esoteric or just plain weird to be explained to non-LDS friends can be a turn off.
  3. Engage members in leadership, especially from a young age, and including those who move in and out (e.g. don’t treat people living in apartments like second class citizens who have to prove themselves before they get any meaningful callings).  We need to avoid making limiting assumptions about what people are capable of doing.
  4. Don’t be out of touch with current societal views, technologies, or scientific knowledge.  People are turned off when they feel church does not have a good grasp on reality; even if it is designed to transcend the earthly experience, it can’t contradict real world views or experience either.  We can’t allow people to express anti-science viewpoints without correction.  We need to relate to people of all ages, not just always assume that older is wiser and the young people need to just shut up and go along to get along.  That played with many earlier generations, but not so much with today’s self-absorbed and better-informed adults.

So what do you think?  What can the church do to keep its young adults interested and involved?  Do you agree or disagree with any of these points?  Discuss.

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57 Responses to Where Have All the 20-somethings Gone?

  1. John Mansfield on December 21, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    Sunday, my Elders’ quorum meeting was stuffed with a dozen and a half young men under 30. They sure can fake activity well when visiting their parents.

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  2. Aaron L on December 21, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    I’m not quite sure how to fix the problem in its entirety, but I have a suggestion. Many young people approach their church experience and learning differently than previous generations due to one huge new tool that came on the scene around 15 years ago – the internet. Any young person can learn more about the history of the church including all the nasty parts in 10 minutes than they could spending hours in the library. At least some of those who leave do so because they see a continual disconnect between what they are taught in the church and reality. So the solution is simple – the church needs to destroy the internet. Just kidding. In all seriousness, the leaders do need to be more forthright about the church’s own history though. I see them making slow efforts towards this end, but for many it isn’t enough.

    I do see a bit of irony that so many of my “chosen generation” as it was so commonly referred are deciding for whatever reason to no longer be a part of the church. Maybe that was just something our leaders told us to make us feel good.

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  3. Jettboy on December 21, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    My own experience is that twenty-somethings are too much in the here and now. For instance the comment “I do see a bit of irony that so many of my “chosen generation” as it was so commonly referred” neglects this has been said for generations. They might look up the history, but they have little sense of heritage. They take the 60s mantra “don’t trust anyone over 30″ pretty much literally and become self-focused. They don’t know how to sit down and listen (to others or the spirit), but they love to talk, talk, talk.

    I still have no idea what “I am spiritual, but not religious” means other than some strange excuse for not going to church. Where, for instance, do they get their ideas about Deity or what makes them spiritual? Does it mean they “feel good about themselves” in some therapeutic, but self-centered, way? Maybe they go feed the hungry and give more of themselves to others on a daily basis, but I doubt it. My experience is those who say they are “spiritual” are just as hypocritical as those who say they go to church and act differently the rest of the week.

    What can the LDS Church do about this? Frankly, not much more than it is doing without failing its main (boring) mission; help people draw nearer to Christ. As Joseph Smith said, that takes a lot of mental and spiritual pondering. Today’s youth don’t have the patience. If they can’t get satisfaction McDonald style right now, then they have to go on to the next fad.

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  4. Course Correction on December 21, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Wonderful post! I’m one of the people who was bored from the church. Of course, I’ve found subsitutes to meet my spiritual needs–and I’m actually grateful the repetitive lessons pushed me into new areas of spiritual learning.

    I think the reasons so few people who leave return to church activity now are twofold: Many spiritual alternatives exist. Information about the inaccuracies of official chruch history and reasoned contradictions to church doctrine are easily obtained.

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  5. Jettboy on December 21, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    Course Correction, maybe you can answer my two questions above. Where do you get your ideas about Deity? What makes you spiritual?

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  6. M. on December 21, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Another reason we leave…if you’re single in your late 20’s and early 30’s, it’s very easy to become invisible and even dismissed at church. In a religion that is VERY family focused (not saying it shouldn’t be) it can be difficult to navigate as a single adult. In my experience, a lot of people in the LDS church are simply uncomfortable interacting with singles and this makes for a less-than-fun church experience.

    And I also agree with #2 regarding the internet and the dodgy bits of church history.

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  7. SilverRain on December 21, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    This kind of parallels the post I wrote recently.

    I think your #1 solution is the most relevant. #3 will follow naturally if you do that, and the other two things are almost as internal as they are external.

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  8. jks on December 21, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    Yes, the chosen generation. Maybe it refers to the ones who actually stick it out because it is a very, very tough thing in this day and age.
    But if you do it is so worth it. Anything worthwhile usually takes a lot of work. You just have to be willing to put God first.
    There is SO much in our society that pulls us away from Christ. So showing up and deciding it is boring because you have ever kind of Netflix movie on your laptop that is of course more entertaining.
    But if you go to church year after year and you look around and help others you get to learn the benefit of service.
    Single people have a harder time, yes. Because they aren’t investing in their own little family to serve and serve and then see how it pays off and how a community needs each other.
    Younger people don’t trust older people because the world has changed so quickly. I may not have internet on my phone but I know that staying active in the church is vital and important even when it doesn’t seem like it.

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  9. allquieton on December 21, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    To me, #2 and #4 are horrifying suggestions. They contribute to my sense that there are hijackers trying to change the course of the ship I’m on. I sometimes wonder why the hijackers don’t get their own ship, and go where they want to go.

    I’m a pretty inellectual, pretty well-informed 33 year old, with very old fashioned, conservative views. I think society’s views are vain, shortsighted, and getting worse. I don’t care if “normal” people are turned off by the church or the “crazy” things I believe. I don’t feel the need to make religion palatable for everyone.

    To me you seem to be preaching against some core elements of the lds gospel. Remember the great and spacious building? And how Christ constantly ridiculed the learning of worldly scholars?

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  10. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    On a related note:

    “They can leave the Church, but they can’t leave it alone.”

    This fact is often said with the unspoken implication that it says something about the validity of the Church — that there is something about the Church that leaves people unable to have an amicable breakup and move on.

    Unfortunately for that thinking, it seems the same dynamic operates pretty much across the board — from people who love other religions, all the way to people who switch consumer brands:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/a-bitter-break-up–when-consumers-dump-brands-2136787.html

    “The study found that consumers were likely to walk away from a once loved brand after what the researchers deemed a “critical incident” – a critical incident is something that changes the consumer relationship from love to hate and leads the consumer to react angrily by publicly criticizing their former favorite brand.”

    I get this. I can leave Wells Fargo and AT&T, but I can’t leave them alone.

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  11. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    “Remember…how Christ constantly ridiculed the learning of worldly scholars?”

    Not “constantly,” and not all of them. Scribes and wise men have their place, as well as revelators:

    Matthew 23:34:

    Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes….

    I’m not at all “horrified” by #4. Faith and reason, study and faith are both ordained by God. If they are seen to conflict, either the study is imperfect (it happens), or “faith” is poaching on study’s proper territory. I do think we ought to take a close look at whether we are insisting on holding beliefs that are contradicted by evidence that, in another context, we’d be willing to vote to hang a man on.

    There have been a handful of anti-rationalist statements by Church leaders lately, probably in response to scholarly challenges of the antiquity of Mormon scripture. My experience is that when you throw reason under the bus, you’ve lost.

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  12. Joseph Antley on December 21, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    As a young twenty-something, I thought this was a good blog post with some keen observations. Nice ejob.

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  13. LovelyLauren on December 21, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Jettboy,

    As a “twenty-something” I find your analysis a bit offensive.

    “Today’s youth don’t have the patience. If they can’t get satisfaction McDonald style right now, then they have to go on to the next fad.”

    First of all, it reeks of the older generation bashing the younger simply because we see and experience the world in a different way. Second of all, it’s a blanket statement that in no way represents the experiences of all of today’s youth. Before you insult the youth of today, consider what your grandparents said about your generation. It was probably the same kind of insult.

    I think the biggest reason that the church drives away so many young singles is that it is increasingly out of touch with the world today. The church in the 1950’s fit in with the world much better than it does today. It is a constant frustration to be told that the world I live, that I have grown up with, is the wickedest it has ever been and that it’s clothes, movies, music, and technology are wicked as well. I hate to say young people leave the church because it’s “old-fashioned” but when it’s led by men (and only men) who are sixty years senior to us, it’s no wonder that it feels so out of touch. Consider the President Packer talk and what we see in the world today. It makes it awfully hard to reconcile the church and the everyday. Church members often take pride in being a “peculiar people” but it seems that we are getting even more peculiar than we once were.

    My institute teacher (in a class on the Pear of Great Price) stated that he believes with great conviction that the Earth was created in 6,000 years ago (because of the Kolob theory) and that women probably weren’t involved in any council before the creation of the Earth. Am I really supposed to take this seriously? I took astronomy this semester.

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  14. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    “…the Pear of Great Price”

    The Royal Riviera, from the Harry & David’s catalog.

    Sorry — lame typo humor from a guy who makes lots of them. :)

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  15. Jeff Spector on December 21, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    LL, #13

    “It is a constant frustration to be told that the world I live, that I have grown up with, is the wickedest it has ever been and that it’s clothes, movies, music, and technology are wicked as well. I hate to say young people leave the church because it’s “old-fashioned” but when it’s led by men (and only men) who are sixty years senior to us, it’s no wonder that it feels so out of touch.”

    I’m afraid there is nothing new about this. The older generations thoughts about the younger have been basically constant since the beginning.

    So you can’t really use this as an excuse since your parents could have used it, as could your grandparents.

    Sorry.

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  16. Jeff Spector on December 21, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Hawk,

    I’m thinking that the Church’s deemphasis on social activities have led to a lot of this disaffection. It is doesn’t work socially for you, spiritually isn’t enough, I’m afraid.

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  17. LovelyLauren on December 21, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    Perhaps then the difference now is that there is little familial or social obligation towards religion as there used to be.

    It is true that my parents or grandparents could have also held disdain for the church for the same reason, but I think it can easily be said that today there is no shame in not belonging to or going to church than there once was.

    I know my grandparents reactivated when they started having children. I’m not so sure that would be the same today. There isn’t the social pressure towards religion to the same extent that there was in the past.

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  18. diane on December 21, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    In an article entitled,”Why do people leave religion?”

    The majority of people cited that the reason why they leave is because they feel that religious people are to hypocritical, judgmental and fake. Granted this article was from a Catholic source, but I would think the reasons would be the same for LDS youth and adults.

    The article also stated that church stances and scandals such as sex abuse, etc had little to do with the disaffection. I would say the same would hold true for LDS youth

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  19. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    I was once described, on the FAIR boards, by a certain professor as a “cultural Mormon stinking up the place.” (I returned the compliment by declaring him a “crochety old Jesuit,” so we’re square.)

    Jeff mentioned a deemphasis on cultural activities, which is a real issue. I wonder if Church leaders really understand just how much of the Church’s success has come from its being one of the last organizations able to provide the equivalent of a tribal affiliation, in the increasingly homogenized, mobile, impersonal Western world.

    Throwing away all the stinking cultural Mormons may result in a more dedicated Church, populated more or less exclusively with people who’ve had profound mystical confirmations of the Church’s magisterium — but it will also be a much smaller Church. Maybe a lot smaller.

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  20. Thomas on December 21, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    “The majority of people cited that the reason why they leave is because they feel that religious people are too hypocritical, judgmental and fake.”

    Take out the adjective “religious,” and it’s still an accurate statement.

    And what’s wrong with “judgmental,” anyway? Surely those same people would have no problem “judging” a vicious racist, or a “polluter,” or some other group it’s okay to hate. What they mean, is that people shouldn’t judge things that we do, as opposed to the other guy.

    The world desperately loves to find religious people guilty of hypocrisy. They want more than anything else to believe that it really is impossible to live up to high standards (which they long ago stopped bothering with).

    But for all the televangelists who get caught with their pants down, there are innumerable religious people who really do strive, with more or less success, to live up to their principles.

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  21. Mike S on December 21, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    Jettboy (and others):

    I think the young people in today’s world are amazing people. They are much less judgmental of others than previous generations. They are volunteering in increasing rates (for example Peace Corps, etc). It was announced today that teenage pregnancy rates in the US are at their lowest since data has been tracked starting in 1940 (with a peak of 1957 interestingly).

    Young people approach life differently, embracing the internet, social media, etc. But this is just a change in media. Previous generations embraced cars, telephones, etc. in a similar fashion. Recent studies have showed that people who use social media are MORE likely to actually meet up with their friends, etc (a study from BYU).

    So, people can bemoan change all they want, but change is constant. This leads directly to Jettboy’s point – How someone can be spiritual but not religious? It’s easy.

    Spirituality: Someone can pray/meditate and feel a closeness to God. Someone can volunteer and help the homeless. Someone can read scriptures. Someone can determine what in their life is bringing them closer to God and what is bringing them further away. Someone can be concerned for their body and health and the earth around them.

    Religious (at least from an LDS context): Attend all three hours of Church on a Sunday, as well as any other priesthood meetings. Pay a prescribed amount for donations. Complete a “service project” to clean the building. Learn how many earrings is an appropriate number, or about tattoos. Don’t have a single drop of wine. Read a home teaching message from the Ensign to an assigned family each month. Don’t see a movie rated “R”. Cover your children’s knees because someday they might wear garments. Cover your shoulders if you’re a woman. Etc.

    The “spiritual” aspects are more organic, are more self-driven, and are actually very much in line with the basics that Christ taught. His great commandments were to love God and love our fellowman. He taught core principles. He taught personal qualities.

    The “religious” aspects are more nit-picky. Although they are culture-driven in many ways, in reality, they define whether someone is a “good” Mormon. It is assumed that doing these things will make someone develop the personal qualities.

    So, it is very easy to see how someone can be “spiritual” yet not “religious”. The “spiritual” characteristics can be developed on a personal basis. In this regard, the Church is an organization that can help the person. As long as the Church is assisting a young person along their spiritual path, it is useful. But when the Church assumes the role of the spiritual path, it is more likely to be jettisoned by this generation.

    So, this generation is an amazing generation. They are good people. They are educated people. Access to information is widely available. If the Church chooses to focus on core spirituality in a way that appeals to this generation, it can be wildly successful. If the Church insists on clinging to “religious” nip-picky things that really have a minimal amount to do with “spirituality”, it will continue to lose young people. Older generations accepted the nit-picky things. The younger generation doesn’t “have the time”.

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  22. Jettboy on December 21, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    “Throwing away all the stinking cultural Mormons may result in a more dedicated Church, populated more or less exclusively with people who’ve had profound mystical confirmations of the Church’s magisterium — but it will also be a much smaller Church. Maybe a lot smaller.”

    And that, my friend, is my ideal for the LDS Church. I was impressed with what I read Brigham Young said, although haven’t been able to locate it since: He would rather have 100 faithful Saints in the Church than hundreds of thousands? who don’t believe or don’t follow the gospel and yet are part of the Church.

    “If the Church insists on clinging to “religious” nip-picky things that really have a minimal amount to do with “spirituality”, it will continue to lose young people. Older generations accepted the nit-picky things. The younger generation doesn’t “have the time”.”

    And thus this generation, for the most part, will lose their salvation. Evangelicals my dismiss and ridicule, but LDS teachings are clear that, aside from Christ who makes it possible, the Church and the Law are what Saves. If you don’t believe that then I have no problem you join a Baptist Church or none at all.

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  23. Aaron L on December 21, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    #9 – Heaven forbid I ask the church to be honest about it’s own history. If that’s horrifying to you, I apologize. Maybe it’s really better for some people just to put their blinders back on and get back in their little bubble. I for one believe what Christ said when he taught that the truth would set us free. i don’t see any reason to run away from the truth.

    #21 – I like what you said about what it means to be spiritual vs. religions. I see being ‘spiritual’ as living your life in the way that you think God wants you to on a personal level rather than according to what some religious leader says. One obviously has to be careful not to fall into the trap of just doing what THEY want and attributing that to God, but despite that potential pitfall I still think it is the more noble path to take. I think many young people share a similar sentiment and feel out of place in an institution that oftentimes pushes obedience and conformance at the expense of free thinking and action.

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  24. Jeff Spector on December 21, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    Thomas,

    “Throwing away all the stinking cultural Mormons may result in a more dedicated Church, populated more or less exclusively with people who’ve had profound mystical confirmations of the Church’s magisterium — but it will also be a much smaller Church. Maybe a lot smaller.”

    Actually, I think you throw away a lot more than that. I think you throw away some back benchers that aren’t 100% sure but hang around for the social aspects and the service opportunities. And I think you throw away the possibility that some fringe folks actually have experiences which draw them closer to the Church.

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  25. Mike S on December 21, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    #22: Jettboy

    I personally believe that God is successful. I think there will be far more people returning to Him than the 0.1% of the earth that are active LDS.

    I believe in the goodness of people. I believe that this generation will, for the most part, not LOSE their salvation as suggested but will ultimately return to their Father.

    I believe that what is in someone’s heart is what is most important – not how many earrings they have, what color shirt they wear on Sunday, if they checked off their home teaching box each month, or any of the other “nit-picky” aspects of the Church adn the Law that apparently are necessary to be Saved. This seems to be “straining out a gnat, but swallowing a camel”.

    I think this attitude is actually what is driving young people out of the Church in an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  26. Dave on December 21, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Fine post that raises interesting questions, hawkgrrrl. Demographics plays a role — 20- and 30-somethings get married later now. Prolonged singlehood is a tougher status for LDS activity than marriage. There is also the fact that the Church is not very good at changing with the times. Sometimes that can be a positive, but not always, and that can contribute to a sense of alienation among young adults.

    I know that the “they are hiding LDS history” meme is a popular justification or explanation. I think it is overstated, but it is an easy explanation for those who exit. It is often the case that individuals cannot provide accurate explanations for why they do things.

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  27. Mike S on December 21, 2010 at 10:29 PM

    I also think that it has to do with the nature of information. In the past, the weight of ideas relied at least in part on the person stating the idea. When information came from a published book or a sermon or a new anchor, the validity was accepted fairly easily.

    With the internet, anyone can really say anything they want and say they are whoever they want. Even here, no one really knows anyone else’s names. So ideas have to stand or fall on their own merit. This is the way in which many twenty-somethings approach information.

    In this context, it’s not enough for a church leader to merely say something – the idea itself has to also seem valid.

    Some ideas have fairly instant validity in and of themselves. Be honest. Love God. Don’t kill. Etc. Other ideas have essentially zero validity besides the particular office of the person stating them. White shirt. Multiple earrings. Etc.

    In the past, these ideas were valid merely because a prophet or apostle said them. Where I think “LDS history” comes into play is that we see that many things previous prophets and apostles have said are merely their opinions. And some are truths. It is therefore up to each of us to determine which ideas have merit in our lives and which make less sense.

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  28. brjones on December 21, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    Jettboy, I liked this tired rant better when Dana Carvey was doing it on SNL in the ’80s. Perhaps you don’t realize how petulant and presumptuous it sounds to pat your own patient and teachable generation on the back while disparaging others. Maybe the reality is that older generations were just taught to sit down, shut up and do, say and think as they were told. Not really sure the fact that you all did exactly what your parents did makes you either a) better than anyone else or b) qualified to issue trite and unimaginative critiques of a generation of which you clearly have no understanding.

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  29. diane on December 22, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    I’m really dismayed with the responses given in #1,#19,#20.

    If the 20 something’s came up against any of those responses and attitudes in real life no wonder they are leaving.

    I don’t think its’ anyone’s business to question how faithful, or active someone is period. We don’t know why someone is not coming to work. Some people have careers that make it necessary for them to work instead of attending activities. For anyone to say someone is, or is not being faithful they will be the one’s to be judged( by heavenly father ) more harshly.

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  30. diane on December 22, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    #29)

    Sorry, should have read we don’t know why people are, or are not coming to church.

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  31. Jeff Spector on December 22, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    “I know that the “they are hiding LDS history” meme is a popular justification or explanation. I think it is overstated, but it is an easy explanation for those who exit. It is often the case that individuals cannot provide accurate explanations for why they do things.”

    I found this to be the case as well. When i wanted to know something more about a particular historical event, I researched it and found the complete (as complete as can be) story. I found the additional details that are often lacking in the summarized or shorten or sanitized version.

    No different, in my mind, when I discovered the truth about the Panama Canal or the Spanish-American War.

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  32. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    “And that, my friend, is my ideal for the LDS Church.”

    Enjoy your little club.

    How many times have we heard “The Lord has his own timetable”? If it’s true, there are those among the Stinking Cultural Mormons that the Lord may reach in his own time. But what are the souls of people for whom Christ also died, to the ideal of a spotless Church?

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  33. allquieton on December 22, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    #23 “Heaven forbid I ask the church to be honest about it’s own history. If that’s horrifying to you, I apologize.”

    Not sure where you came up with this, but for the record, I absolutely do want the Church to be honest about it’s history.

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  34. Aaron L on December 22, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    #23 – Maybe I misunderstood your reply. What exactly about my suggestion in #2 was horrifying?

    Jeff – Governments and individuals can go a head and give whatever versions of history suit thier fancy and leave it up to the individual to sort out what really happened. As much as I don’t like that it happens all the time, it’s a reality that most people will try to distort the past a little bit (or a lot) to meet their own self interests and make themselves look good. I just expected more from a church led by God.

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  35. Aaron L on December 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    oops… that first reply was meant for #33, not #23.

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  36. allquieton on December 22, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    “We can’t allow people to express anti-science viewpoints without correction.”

    It seems to me that faith itself is anti-science. It goes against scientific principles.

    Also, the scientific community has been wrong over and over again. Why would we want them correcting our beliefs?

    If I thought the scientific community, and their interpretation of the evidence, was the highest source of authority, I wouldn’t be religious.

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  37. Mark N. on December 22, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    I think a major reason for the departure of so many youth from the church is that current modern life seems to render it irrelevant. I have the felling that civilization, as it currently works, is doing a masterful job of keeping us from thinking about the eternities. What is true? What is real? If, upon passing through the veil to the next step in the great adventure we find ourselves conscripted to teach other spirit beings who don’t know about the Gospel as much as we might, there’s going to be a huge case of culture shock that one will need to get over really quickly.

    But if some of the economists are right, we’re about to see the you-know-what hit the fan, and we may all be forced to come to grips with a far different reality than the one we’re currently embracing. Are the Book of Mormon teachings about the futility of waging war against a people whose culture is very different from one’s own, or its examples of political intrigue and polarization and the enslavement of large numbers of people leading to the end of an empire really not all that relevant to us? I fear that it might become much more highly relevant to us in the near future than it has ever been. Then we’ll get a feeling for what is real.

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  38. allquieton on December 22, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Aaron–I meant that the original poster’s second and fourth suggestions were horrifying. Not comments #2 and #4. Sorry for the confusion.

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  39. Aaron L on December 22, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    allquieton,

    I didn’t ever say that so you must have been referring to somebody else’s comment.

    I agree that in a sense faith is anti-science. Things hoped for, but not seen can’t be proven by definiton so they are disparate in nature.

    Lets not forget that religion (even LDS) has often been wrong about things as well so you really can’t use either one’s track record to prove who ought to be the ultimate authority.

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  40. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    “Also, the scientific community has been wrong over and over again. Why would we want them correcting our beliefs?”

    My experience is that when the “scientific community” and the religious community come into conflict, the religious community comes in second the overwhelming majority of the time.

    Seriously: When, ever, has science declared something about the natural world, and religion declared another, and it turned out religion was right?

    Religion’s province lies in metaphysics and ethics — the things that, by their very definition, science is not equipped to opine on. When it moves beyond that sphere, and tries to make declarations about the natural world — the age of the earth, its geologic history, the arrangement of heavenly bodies, the causes and cures of illness — it’s almost invariably wrong.

    Science is supposed to be self-correcting. Scientists being humans, this sometimes takes awhile — often for the last generation of arrogant scientists to die out and be replaced by cocky younger ones with a new theory — but still, over time, this process does tend to identify and eliminate error. Religion doesn’t work this way. It typically has to be dragged into change kicking and screaming.

    It seems to me that faith itself is anti-science. It goes against scientific principles.

    Then we have different understandings of the nature of faith.

    The “scientific principle” that I presume you think is opposed to faith, is the concept “believe nothing without evidence.” And in those areas where science is capable of operating — where our physical senses can gather evidence, from which we can draw conclusions — this is a true principle.

    But what of those metaphysical evidence where, by the very nature of the question being considered, science will always be unable of providing evidence? Take the question of whether God — a Being who, it’s proposed, exists outside of physical reality as we understand it — exists, or what His will is. Science is and always will be incapable of answering that question.

    I understand faith as a choice to believe things that science can’t measure one way or the other. It is not “anti-science,” so much as “trans-scientific.” It goes beyond science, into areas science (properly understood) doesn’t presume to weigh upon.

    So faith isn’t “anti-science,” any more than the Anaheim Angels are anti- the Utah Jazz. They’re playing in completely separate leagues. And if they’re perceived to come into conflict, it’s because somebody’s manager sent the team bus to the wrong stadium.

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  41. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    “I have the felling that civilization, as it currently works, is doing a masterful job of keeping us from thinking about the eternities.”

    I agree. Death was a much closer companion to man, even as near as a century ago.

    Religion may not mean it to come across this way, but sometimes it gives the sense of longing for an age where we lost half our children to diphtheria, so it could better concentrate our minds on eternal things. Or longing for the you-know-what to hit the fan, so the prophets’ perpetually dire warnings look better.

    I do believe that an eternal perpspective is vital — no less in prosperous times as in hard times; I see plenty of souls just as ruined, or worse, by the dishonest prosperity of the past two decades, as were by war or depression. But I see my own family, by taking just a few basic measures, enjoying the fruits of the Spirit despite the fact that our hardships have been lesser than those of previous generations.

    We should *not* be eager for purifying trials. God gave us minds — the means to mitigate the fact that the universe is trying very hard to keep us in misery and then kill us. Mother Nature’s ultimately going to win, of course, and we need faith to remind us of that and prepare us, but my sense is that carping too much about the evils of the modern world may blind us to just how unambiguously wonderful a thing it is, and how strong our obligation it is to keep the ball moving here on earth.

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  42. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    “Are the Book of Mormon teachings about the futility of waging war against a people whose culture is very different from one’s own….”

    I dunno — the Nephites had a thousand-year run, which is pretty darned good by geopolitical standards. And the person the book identifies as one who, if all men had been like him, the power of the devil would be shaken forever, warred quite handily against the Lamanites.

    If American civilization lasts as long as Nephite civilization, I’ll call it a resounding success.

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  43. Jeff Spector on December 22, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Aaron L.

    ” it’s a reality that most people will try to distort the past a little bit (or a lot) to meet their own self interests and make themselves look good. I just expected more from a church led by God.’

    I just don’t think the History as portrayed by the Church is as bad as some have made it seem to be. The fact that some didn’t seem to progress beyond the Primary versions is not necessarily the Church’s fault. And, I’ve yet to know anyone who left the US after finding out what really happened during some historical event.

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  44. brjones on December 22, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    #43 – Jeff, I don’t think it’s necessarily about people making the church’s hidden history seem worse than it is. I think the fact is that perception is reality. For some people, discovering certain things in the church’s history is catastrophic, whereas for others it isn’t a big deal. Everyone views and interprets such things in the light of their own unique sensibilities, experiences and values. I think most people could imagine something that is so bad that if they discovered it in the church’s history it would shake their testimony. For some people, the things actually in the church’s history are that type of thing. I personally agree that I find it hard to see someone leaving the church solely over finding out about church history, but I can see how it could be the beginning of the end, or a significantly contributing factor. I think it’s just really difficult to judge how other people react to such things.

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  45. diane on December 22, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    I personally, don’t believe that people leave over church history. I think and know from personal experience (friends of mine) people leave because of the people in the church. The attitudes that are displayed, people feeling that they can be people over the head with their own personal belief vrs what is actual doctrine.

    I also, think that women in particular leave because they have no voice. Some old nut insist that the person who they home teach confess things to him that he has no right knowing, but insisting that he does because he was once a bishop is a prime example of that.
    Another example, forcing women to wear skirts to church in the dead of winter when they are out walking in freezing cold temperatures, while men can wear pants and thermals under their pants is another example. It shows complete lack of compassion, nor does it show only forethought, yet if women do wear pants they are looked down upon as not being faithful enough.

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  46. allquieton on December 22, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    Thomas–

    Science and religion both make claims in both of the realms you talk about. I don’t understand how you decided that one’s claims are not valid in the other’s realm. You seem to be saying that b/c religion is wrong (according to certain scientists) about the natural world, that religion shouldn’t make claims about the natural world?

    To me, it doesn’t matter if the truth received from God concerns physics, morals, geology or ghosts—it is superior to knowledge gained by human observation and inference. And if science can someday detect spiritual matter, it wouldn’t surprise me. And scientists do conduct experiments on prayer. I don’t think there are two distinct realms.

    Do you believe the scriptures are true? Do you believe you can know if something is from God?

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  47. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    “To me, it doesn’t matter if the truth received from God concerns physics, morals, geology or ghosts—it is superior to knowledge gained by human observation and inference.”

    The sun doesn’t go ’round the Earth. Revealed truth says it does. The earth never flooded. Revealed truth says it does. Etc., etc.

    “You seem to be saying that b/c religion is wrong (according to certain scientists) about the natural world, that religion shouldn’t make claims about the natural world?”

    Yes. Because it nearly always gets things wrong.

    “Do you believe the scriptures are true?”

    Some of them.

    “Do you believe you can know if something is from God?”

    As well as I can know anything. That is, there’s always the possibility — as there is with anything fallible human judgment bears upon — that I could be mistaken. We go with what we have. If faith is less than perfect knowledge, then if we calculate that exercising faith is worthwhile, we should do it.

    But let me re-phrase that question. Do you believe that you can be mistaken, in thinking you know something is from God?

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  48. Thomas on December 22, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    “Science and religion both make claims in both of the realms you talk about.”

    When does “science” make metaphysical claims?

    If a scientist presumes to pronounce on issues of morality (for instance), or argue that science has disproven the existence of God, he’s not practicing science. He’s gone beyond the boundaries of his discipline’s competence, and can be ignored.

    That means you, Mr. Dawkins.

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  49. diane on December 22, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    Although in general a great post, I dislike the word petulant as it is being related to the post(i.e) being offended. It much more complicated than that. I finally verbalized it to my new bishop last Sunday. I shouldn’t have to feel like crap at church because some idiot wants to spout hateful doctrine from a former church and speak as if it is true Mormon doctrine. With the new year approaching I find it more and more difficult to walk away from ignorant people at church who want to tell me that I have Satan in me simply because I suffer from depression and anxiety. If people are leaving because they are offended, what they are really saying is that they are not being treated with the respect that everyone has precisely because of the atonement of Christ and because we are daughters’ and sons’ of heavenly father.

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  50. FireTag on December 22, 2010 at 7:20 PM

    Hawkgrrrl:

    Great post. I’d really love your suggestions, bot I’ve seen them before. The CofChrist has been there, done that, but did NOT get the T-shirt.

    I like the distinction Mike S. is making between spiritual and religious very much, and I think we’re in a generation where we are deciding whether religion is itself “churchy” or spiritual.

    Thomas thoughts about preserving a “tribal” identity also strike me as important. I’ve heard one of our Apostles (or more) talk about the message when we go to Africa as getting people to understand they now belong to the “tribe of Christ”.

    I think we want to be the tribe of Christ, but, I, at least, am one who questions things when human leaders show any tendency to become gatekeepers for the King instead of gateways to the King.

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  51. Brian on December 23, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    “If a scientist presumes to pronounce on issues of morality (for instance), or argue that science has disproven the existence of God, he’s not practicing science. He’s gone beyond the boundaries of his discipline’s competence, and can be ignored.”

    Which certainly tells us bloggers how much our words are worth.

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  52. Mike S on December 23, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    #36 / allquieton: Also, the scientific community has been wrong over and over again. Why would we want them correcting our beliefs?

    I don’t know that this is a good basis for determining the validity of “science”. Science is designed to change as knowledge increases. It is sometimes slow but truth eventually becomes accepted.

    I would be careful about making this argument because, when applied to religion, it can actually be detrimental. The whole essence of religious truth is that it is revealed directly to man from God and therefore eternal. If this were the case, and limiting the examples to just the LDS Church in just the past 150 years or so, the suggestion could be made that the “religious community has been wrong over and over again”:

    – Polygamy was once an eternal principle necessary for eternal salvation. It will now get you excommunicated from the Church and banned from the temple

    – Wine was used by Jesus, Joseph Smith, and many others. Christ even instituted the use of wine in the sacrament, the main ordinance we use to remember Him each week. Drinking wine now will now also get you banned from the temple.

    – Prophets and apostles taught us that blacks were inferior and fence-sitters in the preexistence and were banned from the priesthood. That is obviously different now.

    The examples could go on over and over, but using that fact that science changes as evidence that it is “wrong” over and over again suggests that our religion is “wrong” as it changes just as much.

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  53. Mike S on December 23, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Also, regarding scientists and morality, we shouldn’t be so smug there either. You may or may not like him as a person, or may not like his methods, but Sam Harris actually makes a very good argument in “The Moral Landscape” for a rational and scientific basis for human values.

    There is a good argument that there is a “best” way to act, independent of religion. And this isn’t a “new” concept either. Buddha taught a best way to live based on observation also independent on any set of creeds handed down from a Higher Being.

    While some may disagree that this is possible, that religion is necessary for morals, I would ask two things:

    1) Actually examine the premise of the book before attacking the idea as “impossible”

    2) See which religious set of values has been more “benign” to the world around them – Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism.

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  54. Mark N. on December 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Polygamy is still with us in theory, given that more than one woman can be sealed to a single man in our temples, provided he outlives all but the last one. I count my dad among the polygamists now for this reason.

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  55. Mike S on December 23, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Mark N.:

    Granted polygamy is still with us in theory, but my point is still the same. I think Brigham Young would have a hard time with people being excommunicated today for practicing polygamy. For all intents and purposes, the practice of polygamy here in mortality is now considered “wrong”.

    People continually bring up the “changing” nature of science as a reason why it shouldn’t be “trusted”. Religion is much less concrete than science.

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  56. Joseph Smidt on December 26, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    This is just ignorant younger generation bashing. Next time quote a real study if you are going to make such claims:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100826083620.htm

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  57. don't know mo on December 27, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    RE: #45

    In my case, the church’s history itself was not what caused harm to my testimony, as much as the church’s systematic white washing of its history. When I began to find out “the rest of the story” , I felt so betrayed by the church that had insisted I live my life being honest in my dealings with my fellow man.

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