6 Reasons Why Mormons Are Beating Evangelicals in Church Growth

by: Mormon Heretic

August 27, 2012

Graph comes from http://www.libertypages.com/cgw/2012/02/19/4089/

If you’ve been on the bloggernacle for long, you’ve probably seen some posts that note that growth in the LDS Church is flattening out, and these posts usually make the implication that this is simply an LDS phenomenon.  However David French (a Presbyterian evangelical) recently pointed out that in America nearly all Christian religions are experiencing declining growth, and he thinks that evangelicals could learn a thing or two from the Mormons.  French gave reasons why evangelicals are suffering problems:

  1. The church is overprotective.
  2. Their experience of Christianity is shallow.
  3. Churches seem antagonistic to science.
  4. The church’s approach to sexuality is judgmental and simplistic.
  5. They wrestle with the exclusivity of Christianity.
  6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.

I would assert that these same reasons apply to Mormons as well.  Here’s what French sees that Mormons are doing right:

  1. Mormons have bigger families.
  2. Mormons have lower divorce rates.
  3. Mormons share their faith.
  4. Mormons are “orthodox.”
  5. Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members.
  6. Mormons are less selfish.

Now, I think it is important to notice one other important factor when talking about growth rates.  French says

Simply put, when America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious“, we have a problem.

So yes, we do have a problem.  But I think the problem could be much worse.  Here are some important questions to ask in relation to why Americans are becoming less religious:

  1. If “the church” was less overprotective, would that make a positive difference in growth?
  2. What can “the church” do to make Christianity/Mormonism deeper and less shallow?
  3. Can “the Church” be less antagonistic to science?  If so,  would that make a positive difference in growth?
  4. How can “the church” approach sexuality so that it is less judgmental and simplistic?   Would this lead to more lax attitudes toward sex?  Would that make a positive difference in growth?
  5. Should Christianity/Mormonism continue to assert exclusivity?  If not, why would that make a positive difference in growth?
  6. How can “the church” be more friendly to those who doubt?  Why would that make a positive difference in growth?

If you want to read the entire article, here is a link to French’s article.  With all the talk of the Mall, I have to say I was intrigued with NBC’s recent coverage of Welfare Square, and French’s assertion that Mormon’s aren’t selfish.  If we tried to address why people are leaving religion, would that increase growth?  What are your thoughts?

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51 Responses to 6 Reasons Why Mormons Are Beating Evangelicals in Church Growth

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on August 27, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    The laxity on sex seems to lead to “none.”.

    Not to mention a culture where dating = sex.

    It was a huge issue for some Baptists I knew.

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  2. NewlyHousewife on August 27, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    I think it’s the fact that you can’t be everything for everyone, and since the current role in religion is to make your mind for you, it’s doomed for a reduction in numbers until greater emphasis is placed on thinking for yourself. A perfect example: politics seeping in. Prop 8 was a great example for Mormons, the Bush election is a great example for Evangelicals.

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  3. Mormon Heretic on August 27, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    Steve and NewlyHousewife, I agree. It is interesting to see the reasons that people choose to be unaffiliated with religion, but I’m not sure that certain accomodations would lead to church growth (whether talking Christianity or Mormonism.)

    There is a culture out there that wants to believe that pre-marital sex is fine. I don’t see our church ever embracing that stance, nor do I see a benefit in that. Sure, the church could be more open about sex in general, but if “the church” were to say that pre-marital sex was honky dory, I don’t see that as leading to growth.

    I also don’t see “the church” abandoning exclusivity. If Christianity is no different than Islam or Buddhism, what’s the point to join Christianity? Such a concession woul lead to further decline.

    Now, I do think “the church” could be less overprotective. For example, if the Catholic church publicly excommunicated and prosecuted pedophile priests, instead of covering up for them, I think that would at least encourage some Catholics to stay. I think our Church could also be more open with history, and lead to fewer losses (though I’m not sure that equates with more growth.) I think the church could be better about melding faith with science, instead of thinking that they must necessarily oppose each other.

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  4. Nick Literski on August 28, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    French says: “Simply put, when America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious“, we have a problem.”
    So yes, we do have a problem.

    Why? Because French says so?

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  5. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    Nick, are you advocating that we should all be non-religious?

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  6. Nick Literski on August 28, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Not at all. I’m simply questioning the assumption in the original post. Why is it a “problem” that America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious?”

    For that matter, I believe I’ve read the same factoid elsewhere, but more clearly described as “spiritual but nonreligious.” Since “religious” in that context means attached to a church or particular religious tradition, is “spiritual” inferior to “religious?” The OP would suggest so, but I’d hesitate to agree.

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  7. Andrew S. on August 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    I have to agree with Nick here…and I’ll go further…why is it a “problem” if the percentage of atheists (who do not consider themselves spiritual-but-not-religious) is growing as well?

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  8. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Oh you guys…don’t you understand that atheists are evil? :)

    I see your point, but people often conflate atheism with lack of spirituality. Would you agree that there are some non-spiritual atheists? Would you agree that is a problem?

    But from French’s point of view (and most religious people), of course religious people would see that Christianity is the best course, so that’s why it’s a problem. From a religious person, choosing atheism, even if one considers oneself a spiritual atheist, would be less than ideal.

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  9. Andrew S. on August 28, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    re 8

    MH,

    No, MH, I obviously do not agree that there are some non-spiritual atheists. I don’t see it as a problem if spirituality is in decline, just as I do not see it as a problem if religiosity is in decline.

    So, i guess your answer to Nick’s question is, “yes, it is a problem because French says so.”

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  10. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    Andrew,

    Would you consider Lenin a non-spiritual atheist?

    I think it was you that said there were different kinds of atheism. On one extreme, we can look at someone like Lenin, who actively persecuted religion. Can we agree that Lenin’s approach was a problem? On the other end of the spectrum are agnostic atheists, who believe that it is unlikely that God exists, but assert that they could be wrong (I think this is your position.) In my view, agnostics are a different kind of atheists than hostile people like Lenin. Lenin is a problem (according to me and French.) Do you see Lenin’s hostility to religion as not a problem?

    So, to more fully answer Nick’s question, Why is it a “problem” that America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious?”

    Perhaps many people conflate “nonreligious” with atheism. Any atheist that chooses to persecute his fellow man is a problem. Likewise, any religionist that chooses to persecute his fellow man is a problem. But I would argue that religion teaches and causes people to have better ethics (as a general rule) than atheism. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but atheism has yet to develop a widely accepted and practices ethical standard. So that’s a problem.

    The idea of why atheism is a problem comes from the Book of Mormon: “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Now this may be a caricature, but that’s what people think of when they think of stereotypical atheism. Have sex as much as you can, be a hedonist, etc. Sure there are ethical atheists, but a life of hedonism would be a problem, and that may be an unfair portrait of atheism, but it’s the first thing that people of religion think of when they think of atheism as a problem. It’s also what people typically think of at “nonreligious”.

    For me, a non-religous but spiritual atheist would be preferred over a hedonist atheist.

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  11. Andrew S. on August 28, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    re 10,

    MH

    Since I know that you’re not making the argument that I would so hate for you to be making, I’m going to answer accordingly.

    Would you consider Lenin a non-spiritual atheist?

    Sure, why not. He was religious at some point, but I hear he become atheist. I don’t have any reason to doubt this.

    On one extreme, we can look at someone like Lenin, who actively persecuted religion. Can we agree that Lenin’s approach was a problem?

    There was nothing wrong with Vladimir Lenin being a nonspiritual atheist. There was nothing wrong, even, with Vladimir Lenin persecuting religion. At most, what you could say was wrong with Lenin’s approach was that it ended up being authoritarian and totalitarian (despite whatever his ideals may have been).

    So, blame authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Unfortunately (and pardon the pun), these traits are religion-agnostic.

    Do you see Lenin’s hostility to religion as not a problem?

    Nope. I do not see Lenin’s hostility to religion as a problem. I can see how hostility in general is a problem, but 1) there are plenty of religious folks who are hostile to each other and to nonreligious folks and 2) there are plenty of nonspiritual, non-religious folks who are not hostile.

    Take your “agnostic atheist.” Agnostic atheist does not mean spiritual, but non-religious.

    I think that religions fully need to be challenged. Good lord, you take the monicker Mormon Heretic — you cannot say you fall hook, line, and sinker with the narrative the institution would seek to provide, without challenge.

    But I would argue that religion teaches and causes people to have better ethics (as a general rule) than atheism.

    If you look at opposition to “gay marriage,” you are going to find more religious people there than atheists. That’s as a raw rate, and as a percentage. That’s ethical failure. I’m sorry to all of you religious folks who think that you have moral ground on this issue.

    OK, OK, so gay marriage is controversial. OK, so let’s not go there.

    If you look at the parents who would kick their child out of their home for being gay, or for becoming pregnant while unwed, you are going to find more religious people in that category than atheists. That’s as a raw rate, and as a percentage. That’s ethical failure.

    If we look at secular, non-religious European nations and compare it to spiritual, religious nations(pick your poison: America? The Middle East?), pick any metric: who’s doing better?

    Now, since I know you’re not making the argument that I would so dislike for you to be making, I will just point out that everyone should be aware that people can be pretty terrible regardless of their religious or non-religious status. And when we look at national or local or community statistics, it’s probably saying stuff about a whole lot of other traits than religion (for example, education, economic standing, cultural homogeneity, etc.,) and so as informed people, we should be able to recognize that spirituality and religiosity (or lack thereof) is a huge red herring in this discussion.

    But if I suspected you were making the argument that I know and trust you are not, then I would probably lob a statement back that, “The reason that nonspiritual, nonreligious societies do better on most, if not all positive metrics is because they recognize that they cannot rely upon an afterlife to make things better…as a result, they make things better in this life.”

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  12. Nick Literski on August 28, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    #8:
    Would you agree that there are some non-spiritual atheists? Would you agree that is a problem?

    No, I wouldn’t agree that is a problem, and you’ve said nothing to support such a judgment. Such a claim sounds like something Sarah Palin would say.

    #10:
    Any atheist that chooses to persecute his fellow man is a problem. Likewise, any religionist that chooses to persecute his fellow man is a problem.

    Then why didn’t you simply assert that persecution of one’s fellow human (not just “man”) is a problem? Religion, or the lack thereof, has nothing to do with that premise.

    But I would argue that religion teaches and causes people to have better ethics (as a general rule) than atheism.

    On what basis do you argue such a thing? Some religions teach and promote principles that many would consider entirely unethical.

    Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but atheism has yet to develop a widely accepted and practices ethical standard.

    Religion has ALSO “yet to develop a widely accepted and practiced ethical standard.” Furthermore, you argue as if atheism is an organized “body” to which people belong, and which promulgates some sort of “doctrine.” That’s just odd.

    So that’s a problem.

    Once again, why is it a problem? You keep asserting that things are “problems,” yet you give no support for that judgment.

    Sure there are ethical atheists, but a life of hedonism would be a problem…

    Why do you consider ethics and hedonism mutually exclusive? Why is hedonism a “problem,” other than your unsupported judgmental declaration?

    For me, a non-religous but spiritual atheist would be preferred over a hedonist atheist.

    Why? Hedonism, by definition, seeks the greatest pleasure and comfort. In many cases, behaviors which religious moralists consider “ethical” are entirely supported by hedonistic concerns. I would be more comfortable and experience more pleasure by staying out of jail, thus hedonism supports my desire to obey the law.

    Is this OP really written by “Mormon Heretic?” It doesn’t begin to approach the thoughtfulness with which she usually writes.

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  13. Stephen R. Marsh on August 28, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    “Mormon Heretic?” — “he” Nick.

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  14. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Interesting rebuttal Andrew. At this point, we come down to a question of definitions. Religion and Atheism are going to define ethics differently. I mean you’ve got some valid points there about ethical failure of religion, but until we can agree on “the metrics”, then I think it’s going to be hard to properly decide who has the better metrics on ethics.

    Let’s look at your example of “If you look at the parents who would kick their child out of their home for being gay, or for becoming pregnant while unwed, you are going to find more religious people in that category than atheists. That’s as a raw rate, and as a percentage. That’s ethical failure.”

    I can see how you would view that as “ethical failure”, and in a lot of ways I can agree with that. But a lot of people would have different ethical definitions than atheists do.

    To use an example, I wouldn’t want to support the lifestyle of a child that sleeps around with multiple partners, doing drugs, and one-night stands. If an atheist supports fidelity in marriage as an ethical standard, would the atheist be guilty of an ethical failure for kicking out such a child living recklessly with one-night stands?

    I mean I think an atheist probably wouldn’t support a drug addict under their roof either. It wouldn’t be an “ethical failure” to kick out a child engaged in drug abuse, would it? There are plenty of therapists that would support a parent kicking out a child for drug abuse.

    Now, to your example, an atheist and a religionist are going to have different feelings about a gay son/daughter. At that point, it becomes a contest of who gets to properly define whether gay sex is ethical or not, and a religious person may have a different definition than an atheist. You would argue that the atheist has better ethics, while Mr French would argue that he does. What metric is there to get the atheist and religionist to agree?

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  15. Andrew S on August 28, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    re 14,

    Mormon Heretic,
    The first thing I’m going to say is that “religion” and “atheism” are not the proper comparison. The complement to “atheism” is “theism”, of which you can have religions (or, shall we say, “worldviews”? “Philosophies”) in both atheism and theism. (hence we have this whole “spiritual, but not religious” thing.)

    So, moving on from here…whether you want to talk about “theism” and “atheism” or “atheism” and “religion,” you have EXTREEEEEEMELY vague terms.

    How does religion define ethics? Depends on which religion you ask. (How does a theist define ethics? Define what theist you ask. How does atheism define ethics? Define what atheist you ask.)

    So, we could say Wahabi Sunni Islam defines ethics differently than Mormon Christianity. “Religion” tells us nothing about ethics, because it is a superset of hundreds of very different religions. “Atheism” tells us nothing about ethics, because it is a superset of hundreds of different worldviews.

    I can see how you would view that as “ethical failure”, and in a lot of ways I can agree with that. But a lot of people would have different ethical definitions than atheists do.

    But I am willing to bet that many middle-to-upper-class mainline protestant Christians would have similar ethical definitions to atheists, than they would to Saudi Wahhabi Sunni Muslims. To make this about “religion” or “theism” or “atheism” misses all of the other factors that can impact a person’s ethics.

    To use an example, I wouldn’t want to support the lifestyle of a child that sleeps around with multiple partners, doing drugs, and one-night stands. If an atheist supports fidelity in marriage as an ethical standard, would the atheist be guilty of an ethical failure for kicking out such a child living recklessly with one-night stands?

    Yes, they would be just as guilty If you don’t support the lifestyle of a child that sleeps around with multiple partners, doing drugs, and one-night stands, kicking them out of your home into the streets is not an appropriate solution for them. It will not resolve sleeping around, doing drugs, or one-night stands. It is an INCREDIBLY immature response.

    There are plenty of therapists that would support a parent kicking out a child for drug abuse.

    And many of these therapists have dubious or outright bogus credentials. (See: religious therapists who do not have real professional credentials.)

    Now, to your example, an atheist and a religionist are going to have different feelings about a gay son/daughter. At that point, it becomes a contest of who gets to properly define whether gay sex is ethical or not, and a religious person may have a different definition than an atheist. You would argue that the atheist has better ethics, while Mr French would argue that he does. What metric is there to get the atheist and religionist to agree?

    “What matric is there to get a Wahabi Muslim and a Mormon to agree?” <– but both of these guys are “religionists!”
    “What metric is there to get a Christian Democrat and a Christian Republican to agree” <– but both of these guys are “religionists!”

    We cannot agree as long as we come from very different foundations. That is why we need people — religious and non-religious — to challenge, to question, to argue, to discuss, to debate, whatever you want, the various foundational assumptions and presuppositions and axioms that people have. For example, we have to challenge the idea that what a two-thousand+ year old book says is always relevant or sound for giving acceptable moral instruction in the 21st century. We have to challenge the idea that the interpretation to said 2-thousand year old book (adjust the ages for Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and pearl of great price, Quran, or any religious test) given by our preacher or our pastor or our bishop or our Prophet on Sunday or Saturday or any given day of the week in 2012 is an acceptable moral instruction.

    And I’m fine if we challenge the idea as well that a two-thousand+ year old book is never relevant or sound for giving acceptable moral instruction in the 21st century as well. But we have to have those conversations. There has to be the engagement, and yes, sometimes, it won’t be pretty.

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  16. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Andrew, I really enjoyed your response, and I’m all for having these conversations, and I agree that “sometimes, it won’t be pretty”. Sorry for my clumsiness of language (adding to the unprettiness).

    I hate to take this off-topic, but if you’ll pardon the threadjack, please tell me this. If you don’t kick out a child that sleeps around with multiple partners, doing drugs, and one-night stands, just what exactly is the “mature” way to deal with this? I mean I worked at a drug treatment center for about 4 months and realized that wasn’t the type of career I wanted. It certainly wasn’t a religious drug treatment center, but that seemed to be the message of several social workers, psychologists, and counselors. So, if these people with a Masters Degree and PhD’s are treating patients in an “INCREDIBLY immature response”, what pray tell should they be doing instead? And if treatment providers at a drug treatment center are incredibly immature, what hope does Joe Citizen have of giving a better response? I mean we all hear about “tough love”, and I witnessed some major tough love in that treatment center. What is the mature way?

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  17. Andrew S on August 28, 2012 at 7:26 PM

    re 16,

    MH,

    It’s your post…so you can define what’s on- or off-topic, and at any time, we can take this behind the scenes, of course.

    Anyway,

    If you don’t kick out a child that sleeps around with multiple partners, doing drugs, and one-night stands, just what exactly is the “mature” way to deal with this?

    Well, these words are talking about priesthood power, but maybe we can get something else out of them:

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

    43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

    44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

    45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

    The reason why “kicking out a child” doesn’t work is because what kind of stuff is on the streets? I see a lot of this behavior as a *response* to despair, as a way to drown out whatever bad stuff they find in their lives. It’s a pleasurable escape.

    And you know what: being homeless means you will definitely need to escape from a lot more serious stuff.

    I feel bad for not having a bunch of science journal articles that can detail these things — maybe I’ll have to look it up later, but Tough love does not work.

    I mean, maybe if you want to find alternative approaches, you can peruse NIDA’s website for example. None of the behavioral-based options will be, “throw your kid out on the street.”

    There definitely should be a lot more education on the subject, which is why evidence-based approaches are super-critical. I would say that “Joe Citizen” has a lot better chance of giving a better response if he talks to professionals rather than his Bishop, but of course, different professionals can have different levels of actual understanding.

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  18. mh on August 28, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    I know that bishops as counselors is an easy target on the bloggernacle, so I want to give a few more details about my former employer. Tuition for patients was in the neighborhood of 10k per month and average stays were 4 to 8 months, so in was a considerable investment. They boasted low recidivism, but I don’t know if it was any better than any other program. I did see a few patients return in my short time there, so I don’t think it was as good as they advertised, and recidivism is poor for drug addicts anyway.

    Few middle class families have such resources and I question how effective they are, especially given the cost. I would be careful to judge a family that kicks out a drug addicted child because they can’t afford 80k to rehab them in a questionably effective treatment program in which the outcome may result in a drug overdose anyway. Just look at Andy Reid’s son that died within the past month. Andy did everything money could buy to help his sons addiction. He wasn’t on the street, yet ended up dead anyway.

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  19. Andrew S on August 28, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    re 18,

    mh,

    p.s., in the link that I had on evidence-based behavioral approaches, I didn’t check them all, but even the ones that featured therapy sessions were outpatient-based…

    For whatever it’s worth, the priciness of addiction treatment (and the fact that this is something that is muchly a privatized system) is really something to address with politics…I mean, we have this war on drugs where we criminalize folks, instead of spending that same amount on rehabilitation, research, etc.,

    But let’s take things back just a bit.

    Kicking out gay children.

    The funny thing about that is no one NEEDS to spend any amount of money trying to get “treatment” for a kid that is gay because, guess what: homosexuality is not a problem!

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  20. Ray on August 28, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    Of course, the writer would see the rise in the non-religious segment as a problem that “we” (the people for whom he wrote) would see as a problem. He was writing for an evangelical audience.

    I think it’s interesting how quickly this post was threadjacked away from its original point. Even if the LDS Church isn’t the fastest growing denomination in the world, it still is in the very top grouping according to every study I’ve seen – and trying to figure out why, especially for a “competing” group is enlightening, just as much for what it says about assumptions regarding “others” as it does about how we see “our own”.

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  21. MH on August 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    Andrew, interesting scripture, and it is interesting to see Joseph’s application of it. I agree that “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” should be used. Could it not be argued that some families have been long-suffering in dealing with an addicted family member? Could it be that they are “reproving betimes with sharpness” by kicking out a wayward child when long-suffering has been tried? I mean Joseph did excommunicate even Oliver Cowdery, WW Phelps and others, and then following this “reproving” he did “[show] forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved”, welcoming both back into the church (though I do think Oliver came back under Brigham’s watch). Or did Joseph not practice what the scripture preaches?

    I mean we can look even at the prodigal son. Maybe dad kicked him out (though the scripture seems to support the idea that the son chose to leave), and the son became homeless–he ended up on the streets anyway. Many therapists say that a person has to “bottom out” before therapy works. The problem is that some people bottom out at death, while others get really close and make a true recovery. It could be that there is no way to “fix” them externally, whether we try the tough love approach, or throw money at the problem with expensive non-religious rehab centers. I mean pro athletes and celebrities are full of people with addiction problems (Darryl Strawberry, John Drew, Len Bias, Whitney Houston, the list is endless) who never completely recover inside or outside of religion, tough love, or rehab. So I don’t know that those scriptures in the D&C can fix every problem, whether we use them from a religious or non-religious point of view.

    I do think it is important to challenge assumptions as you and Nick have said. Perhaps atheism fulfills the “opposition in all things” component that keeps theism healthy. Maybe it is good to have both in our society. But if I had my druthers, I’d hope for an increase in theism (and Christianity) than non-religiousness or atheism.

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  22. Mark D. on August 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    It is David French, not Roger French.

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  23. Mormon Heretic on August 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Oops, thanks. I just fixed it. I guess I got him mixed up with the BYU Offensive Coordinator of a few years ago. ;)

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  24. Andrew S. on August 29, 2012 at 5:57 AM

    re 21,

    Could it be that they are “reproving betimes with sharpness” by kicking out a wayward child when long-suffering has been tried?

    I’m not an expert, since I’m just a silly apostate, but I don’t think long-suffering is something you “try” for a little bit and then say, “Well, that didn’t work, so I guess I abdicate all responsibilities I have to the person WHOM I BROUGHT INTO THIS WORLD.”

    And that scripture doesn’t end there. The very same verse has

    and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

    When you kick your wayward child out, in what way are you “showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him”? Even if you say: “OK just kidding, please come back,” what kind of environment have you established? Personally I would’t see that as “an increase of love.”

    “You know, Gaga, trust is like a mirror…you can fix it when it’s broken, but you can still see the cracks in that motherf***er’s expression…”

    Or did Joseph not practice what the scripture preaches?

    Depending on how you feel about a lot of things that Joseph did (e.g. polygamy), you could argue that he was not practicing what he preached a lot of times. In any case, do not confuse Joseph (a flawed human being) with Jesus (whom your religion alleges is perfect.)

    Many therapists say that a person has to “bottom out” before therapy works.

    Many therapists are quacks. And so?

    Why do you keep saying bullshit that you should know isn’t true…the entire purpose of interventions are that you can start treatment before anyone “bottoms out.”

    I cannot believe we are having this conversation. I can’t believe that you are actually saying, “Maybe there is no way to fix some people, so it’s justified for parents to “cut their losses” ON THEIR MINOR CHILDREN and abandon them.”

    Eh, I guess some parents would cut their kids off for different reasons. I guess if I don’t have a problem for euthanasia for various debilitating conditions, then I should’t have a problem with parents kicking kids out. They might as well go ahead and kill those kids though — then, they can prevent the suffering (from the kid or from outsiders) of a bottoming-out experience completely.

    Perhaps atheism fulfills the “opposition in all things” component that keeps theism healthy. Maybe it is good to have both in our society. But if I had my druthers, I’d hope for an increase in theism (and Christianity) than non-religiousness or atheism.

    At this point in the conversation, I don’t believe religion or a lack of religion can help at all. There are absolutely terrible people on this world, and whether they have gotten that way because of their religion or not, one thing that is for certain is that they will not be helped either way. Religious or not, they will continue to be completely terrible people.

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  25. mh on August 29, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    Well this conversation just turned ugly. Maybe you should become a therapist so you can correct all those quacks.obviously you’re much smarter than Dr Phil.

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  26. Andrew S on August 29, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    re 25,

    mh,

    …I hope you are aware that Dr Phil does get a lot of complaints from plenty of psychologists and psychotherapists for offering advice that is either simplistic or downright contrary to evidence. He does not practice (and has not practiced it since the 1990) psychology. He is an entertainer.

    But, back to the topic of the post.

    I had see French’s blog post a while back (on Patheos, but it appears to be similar, if not the same, as the one you’ve linked here), and it appears that French’s analysis is a “grass is greener” sort of thing

    4. Mormons are orthodox. What? No self-respecting evangelical can call Mormons “orthodox,” right? Well, of course they’re not “orthodox” in the “Apostles’ Creed, no books but the Old and New Testament” sense, but they are orthodox within their own faith tradition. In other words, members of a Mormon church tend to know and believe their faith. Go to a Baptist church (or my own Presbyterian church) and you’ll find very wide divergence. Nationally, 84 million people self-report as evangelicals, but of that number only 19 million actually have orthodox evangelical beliefs. In other words, the evangelical church does a pathetic job in transmitting even the most basic Romper Room-simple elements of the Christian faith from generation to generation.

    Mormonism doesn’t have as wide a range of “must believe” propositions as an evangelical church has, so this comparison is apples and oranges

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  27. Mormon Heretic on August 29, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Sure, Phil has critics, but he has proponents too. Same with Phil’s critics–they have critics too, and as yet, there is no universal approach to deal with how to handle drug addicts. Garret Reid and Whitney Houston are both dead, and they participated in expensive non-Dr. Phil programs, so count me a critic of these other approaches. But I’m happy to let this particular issue rest.

    As for French, I don’t understand (or perhaps I don’t agree) with your characterization of “must believe.” As I read that quote, he is crediting Mormonism with its members “know[ing] and believ[ing] their faith”, but “the evangelical church does a pathetic job in transmitting even the most basic Romper Room-simple elements of the Christian faith.”

    He is saying Mormons know and believe Mormonism, but evangelicals don’t know and believe evangelicalism because they are doing a crappy job of teaching evangelicalism. I mean I agree. I served my mission in the Bible Belt, and it was apparent to me that I had a better knowledge of basic Bible stories. It was apparent to me that I read the Bible more than they did. More than once I was able to refute someone with a bible scripture, leaving them speechless.

    In fact, I dated a Lutheran woman after my mission, and I was shocked when she told me she didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection. Since she had been taking me to her Bible study classes, I knew her pastor pretty well, and arranged an appointment to see if Lutherans really didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection. I was ready to pull out Job 19:26 “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God”. He beat me to the punch and pulled out the exact same scripture and said that yes, Lutherans do believe in a bodily resurrection. Then he said, “am I surprised that a member of my congregation doesn’t know this? Yes, and No.”

    I do think that the average evangelical doesn’t know their own doctrine, and French agrees, so I’m not sure I agree or understand why you think this is an apples to oranges comparison.

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  28. Nick Literski on August 29, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    All this angst over kicking your “wayward” children to the curb is amusing, in a sad way. LDS-ism (and christianity as a whole, for that matter) centers its faith on a deity who allegedly kicks his children to the curb forever for having one item too many in the “pissed me off” column. Ergo, what else do you expect “faithful” eartly parents to do? They’re simply following the ideal they’ve worshipped.

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  29. Mormon Heretic on August 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Nick, I know that the LDS Church (and Christianity) are your favorite punching bags. I will even grant that they deserve some of your punching sometimes, but I have tried to use non-LDS sources for therapy as much as I can to show the the tough love is advocated by non-LDS and even non-religious folks.

    I was listening to Cris Carter, the former Vikings NFL reciever on ESPN radio in the past month. He received the “tough love” approach while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and credits it with saving his life. When coach Buddy Ryan discovered Carter with large amounts of ecstasy and marijuana, Ryan kicked Carter to the curb and cut him. Carter lost his livelihood.

    According to Carter, it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He straightened out his life and thanks Ryan for cutting him.

    Now, Buddy Ryan is no therapist (nor is he a good football coach or a good Christian IMO.) He used tough love, and it worked. I’m not saying that tough love is the only approach (nor is the LDS Church), but the fact is that it does work for some people. The fact is that it fails for some people. The fact is that drug rehab didn’t work for Garret Reid or Whitney Houston, who didn’t have the tough love treatment.

    All I’m saying is that there are choices out there that we are all faced with. Some may chose tough love, some may choose another route. Neither approach is foolproof. I don’t think Carter would call Ryan’s treatment of him as “unethical”, and even credits Ryan for helping him.

    So let’s not unfairly use the church as a punching bag, or I get to make Lenin the poster child for atheism.

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  30. Nick Literski on August 29, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    What did I say that was inaccurate, MH?

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  31. MH on August 29, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    Nick,

    Try this on for size.

    All this angst over kicking your “wayward” children to the curb is amusing, in a sad way. [Athei]ism centers its lack of faith on [mankind] who allegedly kicks his children to the curb forever for having one item too many in the “pissed me off” column. Ergo, what else do you expect “faith[less]” eartly parents to do? They’re simply following the ideal they’ve [created].

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  32. Nick Literski on August 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    MH, your cute attempt at rhetoric makes absolutely no sense. Atheists, after all, do not “center their faith on mankind.”

    Now, MH, why not actually answer my question? I’ll even break down the bite-size elements of my statement, so you can more specifically address the truthfulness of each:

    (1) LDS-ism centers its faith on a deity.
    (2) LDS-ism teaches that said deity allows certain of his children to return to his presence/kingdom forever.
    (3) LDS-ism teaches that said deity prohibits the rest of his children from returning to his presence/kingdom forever.
    (4) LDS-ism teaches that whether or not a person is allowed to return to the presence/kingdom of diety is directly dependent upon repentance, which is itself made possible by a sacrificial “atonement” by Jesus Christ.
    (5) LDS-ism teaches that those who fail to take advantage of said “atonement” by repenting of all their sins prior to final judgment, will be forever denied the precence/kingdom of diety.
    (6) Faithful LDS members endeavor to follow the example set by their deity.
    (7) An LDS parent, in truly following the example of their deity, as described above, would banish a child from their home for failing to “repent” from “sin.”

    Now, MH, kindly tell us which of the above statements (numbers 1 through 7) are inaccurate, let alone “using the [LDS] church as a punching bag.”

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  33. Frank Pellett on August 30, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Nick, your conclusion (#7) is inaccurate, because your preceeding points are incomplete.

    – Faithful LDS members know that they will never be in a position where they can determine that their child should at any time recieve their “final” judgement.
    – There are many, many instances of God forgiving and/or delaying judgement of His children, in favor of mercy.

    So your conclusion, #7, is inaccurate and misleading, condemning those who preach and pray for mercy, as they are continually instructed to do.

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  34. Nick Literski on August 30, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Frank, you’d be right if my #7 referred to an LDS parent banishing their child forever from their home. That’s not what I said, though.

    Clearly, many LDS parents who would kick their own child out of the family home for being “sinful” would also welcome them the child back in once he/she had proven sufficient “repentance” to soothe the parent’s “righteous indignation.”

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  35. Frank Pellett on August 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Clearly, eh?

    Look, we are continually told how we should teach our children, and it does not involve kicking them out for being sinful. We are told to be patient and welcoming, as we hope they (and God) would be with us for our own sins. Thos who do choose to kick out their child for something they would consider to be sinful would be wrong, and not at all following the direction we continue to be given on it.

    Your #7 was wrong because the assumptions were incomplete, not because you didn’t use the word “forever”.

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  36. Andrew S on August 30, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    re 35

    Frank,

    According to MH’s practice of religion, parents can reprove with sharpness “by kicking out a wayward child when long-suffering has been tried.” So, wouldn’t MH’s religion teach that yes, you should be patient and welcoming, but after that doesn’t work, then you can kick out a wayward child?

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  37. Nick Literski on August 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    #35:
    Thos[e] who do choose to kick out their child for something they would consider to be sinful would be wrong, and not at all following the direction we continue to be given on it.

    Frank, you and I agree completely on this point. I’m not for a moment saying that the LDS church tells parents to kick their children out of the house for sinful behavior. That said, it certainly does happen. MH has essentially advocated such a practice in the discussion above.

    More to the point, studies claim that approximately 40% of all homeless youth in Salt Lake County are GLBT teens, who were specifically kicked out of their parents’ homes for being GLBT. This doesn’t just include sexual behavior, either. These youth include many who were disowned and kicked out of the family home just for “coming out of the closet.” Some report that they were kicked out the very day they told their parents they were gay or lesbian.

    That’s a sick, perverted parody of true religion or spirituality, but its one that does exist among ostensibly “faithful” LDS who genuinely believe they are following their faith by engaging in such a shameful, hateful act.

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  38. Frank Pellett on August 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Andrew,
    I can’t speak to MH’s practice of religion. I’ve only been speaking to what MH’s religion teaches, which may be a different thing.

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  39. Frank Pellett on August 30, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    I’ll amend that – I can only speak to my own understanding of the MH’s religion teaches (which I’m assuming is LDS).

    To the OP, I think part of the reason for LDS growth (or at least less shrinkage than other Christian faiths) is due to this teaching that we should not be cutting off anyone who commits any of our “unspeakable sins”, but we should be welcoming and do what we can to direct them toward the ideal for all of us, Jesus Christ.

    Tough love may work for some, but I don’t think its the best option, nor do I beleive it is (or should be) part of LDS church doctrine.

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  40. MH on August 30, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Now, MH, kindly tell us…

    Interesting choice of words there Nick, especially the “kindly”. I don’t have many interactions with you online. From what I have observed, you often don’t engage in “kindly” interactions. You love to tweak people by condescending to them with phrases such as “cute attempt at rhetoric”, “is amusing”, or referring to a guy who’s avatar is a bearded man as “she.” (see comment 12.) Cute Nick. You are so clever, and I find such tactics not “kindly.”

    If you want a kindly response, then quit acting like the playground bully trying to pick a fight, distorting my words, or Marguerite Driessen’s words, or the Church’s position or whomever you disagree with.

    You ask “questions” which aren’t questions at all, but a rhetorical device to win an argument. These are the tactics of a bully who does enjoy verbal punching. /rant

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  41. MH on August 30, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Now, to “kindly” answer your distorted questions, though Frank has already done a pretty good job.

    (1) Actually, this one is ok. No problem.
    (2) and (3) There are many that assert what you’ve said as true. There are others who don’t. I just had a conversation with a former seminary/institute teacher that believes in a progression from kingdom to kingdom. With baptism for the dead, and the ability to repent after we die, who are we to really judge as to whether a person will repent before final judgment? As for “forever”, Joseph Smith talked about “endless punishment”, and said that it is not necessarily endless, but God’s punishment. So our concepts of time are not the same as “diety”/God. So no, I wouldn’t necessarily assert that 2 and 3 are as you’ve presented, but would assert that the matter is open (despite anything Bruce R. McConkie asserts.) I’ll grant that some believe what you’ve said, but I am not in that group. It could be that God has a plan of which we are not fully knowledgable in which we will have “forever” to repent even after this life is over.

    (4) Ok, no real problems here.
    (5) See my explanations on (2) and (3)
    (6) Ok, but all fall short of the example of diety in this life.
    (7) Another distortion. Parents are going to be all over the map on this. I presented my opinion, and never ascribed it to diety. In fact, I went out of my way to talk about non-religious people that use said technique: Buddy Ryan, Dr. Phil, etc. Some religious people may use a tough love approach, some may not.

    Now, I did say when Andrew quoted D&C that “it could be argued”, but Andrew’s interpretation “could be argued” as well. Nobody has to believe that my interpretation or argument is correct, and I never represented it as being “the only” answer. It is only a position. So let’s not ascribe me as official Church spokesman. I am a heretic after all, so I never claimed to argue that my opinion is the Church’s opinion. It is my opinion only.

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  42. MH on August 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    I do have a question for both Nick and Andrew. A former co-worker of mine (I’ll call her Sue) has an unemployed son who lives with his girlfriend in Sue’s basement. Both the son and girlfriend are unemployed. Sue has encouraged them to get a job. After considerable time, the girlfriend did, only to be fired a week later for showing up late or not showing up at all (or perhaps both–I’m not sure of the details.)

    They are of age to be “responsible” adults, but choose not to be. One day, Sue came home, looked for her mother’s wedding ring, and it was missing. It turns out that the girlfriend pawned it (supposedly with the intention of getting it back before Sue noticed, but without a job that would have been interesting to see how she pulled that off.) This is just one of the problems that Sue has been putting up with, and there is no indication that son or girlfriend have any intention of changing their ways. Similar items are coming up missing with greater frequency. I could detail other complaints, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

    So Andrew and Nick, how would you handle the situation?

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  43. Andrew S on August 31, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    re 42,

    MH,

    Adult child? You mean, an adult who is at the age of majority??? And an adult who is not even a child (the girlfriend)?

    …Do you not see where this scenario starts from the BEGINNING as a scenario with RELEVANTLY different circumstances?

    Adults can definitely handle things like theft in court. Without a job, Sue’s NON-minor NON-child live-in girlfriend-of-son should have some reservations against that possibility. And the RIGHTS of a parent to their children definitely change when you cross minority to majority.

    (and I’m not speaking to the possibility that this story may be lacking some other necessary details — for example, if Sue’s dear son and DS’s girlfriend have any psychological, social, or other conditions that impede their abilities to be gainfully employed.)

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  44. mh on August 31, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    Ok Andrew, are you saying that it is ok to kick a child to the curb at 18 with no known psychological, social, or other conditions?

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  45. Andrew S on August 31, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    re 44

    mh,

    No, it is never ok to kick a child to the curb. That is called battery. It is a crime.

    But I am saying that parents do not have the same fiduciary duty toward adult children that they do toward their minor children.

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  46. mh on August 31, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Perhaps we are having a major problem with terminology. When I say”kick to the curb”, I am saying “kick out of basement.” I didn’t think I implied a violent crime, and I am unsure where you got that implication.

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  47. Nick Literski on August 31, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    #40:
    MH, I sincerely apologize for offending you by thinking that you were a woman. I was under the mistaken impression that I knew exactly who “Mormon Heretic” was in “real life.” I was obviously wrong. I do, however, find it troubling that you consider it an insult that someone might mistake you for a woman based on your genderless nom de plume. That, of course, could be a separate blog post all on its own.

    #41:
    There is no doubt, MH, that many early Mormon leaders taught that there would be progression between the degrees of heavenly glory. Personally, I find that teaching (along with many other early Mormon teachings later discarded by Brigham Young’s successors) attractive. Nevertheless, it is certainly not the teaching of modern LDS-ism. Don’t get too worked up over that, though. All it takes is one odd-sounding comment from Mr. Romney in the media, and the LDS Public Relations Department will issue a press release, yet again changing the doctrine (while pretending it’s always been as they describe, of course).

    In short, my above statements were clearly labelled as reflections of modern LDS-ism. Arguing against them by means of long-repudiated early Mormon doctrine is rather pointless in that context.

    #42:
    As Andrew has wisely pointed out, you’re now attempting to compare oranges with apples. We’ve been speaking of children, i.e. minors under the age of 18 being thrust out from their parents homes for “sinful” behavior. While your co-worker’s story is tragic, it nonetheless reflects her personal choice to be abused by adults living in her home—adults to whom she owes nothing whatsoever in the way of shelter, protection, or financial security.

    MH, your flailing attempt to justify unconscionable child abuse is duly noted. We can only hope that this is a matter of theory for you, and that you’ve managed to avoid casting your own children out to live on the streets. In the event that you ever carry out those repulsive parenting views, I’m sure that any deity worthy of worship will grant you precisely the same loving care.

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  48. mh on August 31, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    I am completely mystified why anyone reading this post would think I would EVER condone child abuse. Where did I ever say that?

    I have always talked about adults being kicked to the curb. Cris Carter, Oliver Cowdery, WW Phelps…

    Talk about a major misunderstanding. Jeez.

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  49. Andrew S on August 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    re 48,

    mh,

    I raised relatively early on the point about LGBT teen (teens = MINORS) homelessness, and you pointed out that “a lot of people would have different ethical definitions than atheists do,” which was precisely my point — their religion gives them a different idea of ethics that quite frankly should be criticized and yes, persecuted, by folks who disagree with it. So, yes, I do think that religions and the religious should be challenged on statements like, “religion teaches and causes people to have better ethics (as a general rule) than atheism” when this condones the systemic evils that religion perpetuates. And you know, for someone who will say, “well, a lot of people would have different ethical definitions than atheists do,” that REALLY doesn’t make things comfortable. So if a lot of people think it’s OK to kick out their teenagers for being gay, then we should just accept that? And then even more, brazenly state that religion causes people to have better ethics?!?

    No.

    And from my standpoint, I was trying to use that as an example where you could easily see that that is wrong. I thought it was a no-brainer. Shows what I get for thinking…Instead of condemning this practice, you instead rationalized it by suggesting that there would be other examples when parents might be justified in breaking their duty to care for their minor children — e.g., if they do not follow the parent’s rules on sexuality and have one night stands, if they do drugs, or even worse, become addicted to said drugs.

    So, I apologize if in response to your comment 44, I take your words extremely literally, because now I have no idea what the moral foundation on which you stand is. Because you know what, there are people who also believe it is completely ok to physically beat a child to “teach them lessons”. How’s that for “tough love”?

    I will concede from another read through of this thread that it’s possible that we have been using “children” in two very different senses — one in the sense of “the offspring of parents” and another in the sense of “humans who have not yet reached the age of majority”.

    But even with another read through of this thread, the overall pattern of comments is not helping my nausea.

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  50. Ray on August 31, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    “But even with another read through of this thread, the overall pattern of comments is not helping my nausea.”

    Andrew, fwiw, that’s what often happens when a thread strays this far from the point of the OP. Good opportunity for a good discussion totally lost and replaced with your nausea and MH’s frustration – and Nick’s obligatory input. (*grin*)

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  51. Andrew S on August 31, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    re 50,

    Ray

    You are right, of course. What a mess.

    Anyway, let’s try to start from scratch.

    If “the church” was less overprotective, would that make a positive difference in growth?

    I do not think that this is a factor that relates to growth (e.g., if you’re less overprotective, you will grow more)…I think this is a factor that relates to loss (e.g., if you’re less overprotective, you will lose less.) In Mormonism, I think that this correlates (no pun intended) to the idea of “inoculation”.

    What can “the church” do to make Christianity/Mormonism deeper and less shallow?

    I think that for all that correlation has done for the church, there is a lot of stuff that is uncorrelated, but that would be really engaging to members. That being said, when we talk about depth, these are the things that the Barna report classifies under that subheading:

    A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).

    Unfortunately, I think that many of these same statements would apply to Mormonism. Interestingly, while I could see people saying that “church is boriing” or that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (your mileage may vary…), I think that Mormonism could tend to do better than Evangelicals on the “faith is not relevant to my career” point, precisely because Mormonism is very corporate. This point is often used in a bad way, but in a positive sense, Mormonism builds up managerial competency, competence at public speaking, at organization, etc., And I mean, this is BEFORE we consider what skills missions raise.

    Can “the Church” be less antagonistic to science? If so, would that make a positive difference in growth?

    At this time, I do not wish to address this question…I think there’s a lot more complications to this.

    How can “the church” approach sexuality so that it is less judgmental and simplistic? Would this lead to more lax attitudes toward sex? Would that make a positive difference in growth?

    Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I really REALLY REALLY think the church needs to get a grip on homosexuality, masturbation, and pornography. You know: I don’t care if the church continues to insist upon absolute utter celibacy outside of marriage, but *lifelong* celibacy just doesn’t really work out in Mormonism, where so much is focused upon companionship and relationality.

    And I guess that many people just aren’t going to agree with that, but whatever.

    Should Christianity/Mormonism continue to assert exclusivity? If not, why would that make a positive difference in growth?

    For whatever it’s worth, I think the Mormonism has a better position wrt exclusivity than other Christian denominations…I think that the church could give up its rhetoric on “one true church” (and finally put any and all talk on other churches being of Satan/”whore of Babylon” to rest), but that probably won’t happen. I think the church needs to just humbly offer, “Hey, try this…we think it can improve your life” rather than saying, “Well, try this, because it’s the truth, so what you feel doesn’t matter.”

    How can “the church” be more friendly to those who doubt? Why would that make a positive difference in growth?

    I think the church just needs to emphasize (on all levels…I guess this is mostly a local problem…where depending on your bishop/SP/etc., you can have different reactions) that doubt and disbelief is not the end of the world. I mean…We need to have more nuanced discussions on faith — the comments to my earlier post on faith highlighted that a lot of people have really interesting ways of looking at faith, but you know…I just never heard it stated that way when I was going to church.

    Again, I don’t think that this is a factor that will necessarily attract more people…but it’s one that can stop repelling people if you do it right.

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