not in Primary anymore

understanding our differences: younger mormons and leaving the LDS church

I recently presented on a few panels at the Salt Lake City Sunstone 2013 Symposium. This is essentially the blogged version (same ideas, slightly different articulation) of my presentation at the panel on the pants quilt. Recordings of all the panels will be made available shortly. 

woman leaving home

I do not speak for my generation- this is my personal opinion. What follows is a very over-simplified and generalized framework for understanding some of the differences between younger and older generations and how they handle faith crises. I started Young Mormon Feminists with the feeling that there was a difference in the way that younger Mormon feminists approach questions about the church, and perhaps it’s just confirmation bias that I think I was right, but I’m going to share my thoughts anyways.

There is first and foremost one undeniable difference between my generation and those older, and that is how the September 6 excommunications in 1993 have affected our perceptions of Mormon scholarship and church discipline. Many people who had been plugged into Mormon scholarship and research particularly on issues like Heavenly Mother and female ordination saw the excommunications take place and became scared to speak up again for fear of similar retribution. The September 6 cast a shadow on openly speaking up and discussing Mormonism from a critical perspective for at least a decade.

However- I was born in 1993; I found out about the September 6 my freshwoman year of college. It has not played the same role of warning and source of fear that it has played in so many other older progressive Mormon’s lives. The same is largely happening with the rest of my generation. We do not have a memory of people who speak up about the church being expelled for their beliefs- we’ve only heard rumors or interpreted various warnings at our own discretion. In my opinion, this factor- along with the internet- has emboldened my generation to speak up on issues that concern them when past generations may have felt more trapped to silence their doubts.

The second difference is more subjective and thus I will do my best to flesh out my thoughts as best I can. Through my participation with Feminist Mormon Housewives, I’ve noticed that group and blog to be filled with women with reasons to stay. They were raised in the church or joined it of their own volition, many of them attended church schools and many of them attended seminary and dedicated many hours to church attendance and service; they married in the temple, they have raised or are raising beautiful children, and they now look back on their life as being inseparable from their connection to Mormonism. But they start to discover things, study them, and have been disturbed by reasons to leave that appear before them. They find themselves hurting and struggling, and despite all the reasons to stay- childhood, family, faith, others- they find themselves on the lookout for the one reason big enough to leave.

But I see the opposite situation happening in the Young Mormon Feminists community. YMF is filled with younger people who have not yet dedicated many years or decades to church attendance and service; most have not yet made covenants in the temple or married an eternal companion, and most have not had any children. They are thus relatively unencumbered by these other considerations, and at a time in their life when they are making other major decisions (“What do I want to do with my life?” “Where in the world do I want to live?” “Who do I want to marry?”), the decision of what they believe in is just another major aspect of self-discovery with which they are already grappling.

And they have many, many reasons to leave.

Why should young people, who increasingly have realized that gay people are not evil and that being gay is not evil and that to deny gay people the same personhood and respect as straight people is morally wrong, stay in a church that continues to defend bigoted practices and attitudes towards the LGBT community? Why should young people stay in a church that continues to not only speak selectively about its history but actively ignore or hide uncomfortable events and statements? Why should they stay in a church that continues to be led by elderly white men when the demographics of the body of the church do not reflect that? Why should they stay in a church that has excommunicated scholars and intellectuals who were simply speaking honestly about their studies?  Why should they stay when the corporate nature of the church fails to be transparent on how it uses its funds, when it builds a temple to consumerism in Salt Lake City, when it does not allow many women in their employ to keep their jobs once they have children?

But more specifically- why should young women stay? I’ll speak only for myself here. Why should I stay in a church that seems to place my worth as an individual on my virginity, on how much I cover my body, and on whether or not I use my body to create another human being and raise it in the church? Why should I stay in a church where my leaders will always be male and where a patriarchal order implying women’s relatively lower station in terms of spiritual authority is preached as the order of the heavens? Why should I stay in a church that, for all its praise of motherhood, is complacent to be silent on our eternal Mother? Why should I stay when I will be constantly pressured to marry with undertones of my incompleteness without a man? Why should I stay when to marry a man in the temple will result in me making covenants to him that he does not return to me? Why should I stay in a church that seems to care more about whether I get a third piercing in my ear than in whether or not I have a testimony of the teachings of Christ?

There are so many reasons to leave, and for the most part, I see younger Mormon feminists looking for that one reason big enough to stay. That’s why it’s the opposite problem. Many at FMH have all these reasons to stay and just need one big enough to leave, whereas many at YMF have all these reasons to leave and are looking for one big enough to stay.

But the problem is- reasons to stay don’t come on one person’s timeline. On rare occasions, someone stays because they have a single powerful experience. But for the vast majority of people, they stay because they have invested and benefitted from that investment. They stay because they have discovered or decided that the church helps them find spiritual nourishment. They find beauty in doctrines, community, potential for progress, family, service structure, and spiritual nourishment. They find ways to cope or even come to peace the hierarchical nature, the gender imbalances, the 1950s rhetoric, the historical concerns, etc.  But I see young people all around me trying desperately to find that one reason big enough to stay, not finding it on their time, and under such a barrage of reasons to leave, they do it.

I am in NO WAY pronouncing judgment- I myself intended to leave the church for a while. Thanks to the fact that I was still at BYU and thus had no true escape, I was able to still be open to the idea of God and came back to believing through my own experiences. I’m grateful that it worked out for me that way, though I would never have been able to say that when I was going through the darkest times of my faith transition. But my point is that at least for the community of YMF and generally my generation that participates in online progressive Mormon discussions, I see this trend towards not finding good enough reasons to stay and deciding to go ahead and leave.

It has never been my M.O. to get people to stay Mormon; I want whatever is best for individuals, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. But I worry that many younger Mormons are going through a very difficult and at times traumatic break from the Mormon church without resources and support that might have better informed their decision about staying or leaving or anything in between. I don’t think that the majority of progressive Mormons and definitely not the church leadership understand what it is like to be a young person going through a faith transition right now, with the internet at our fingertips and an increasingly conservative, orthodox, and hardline religious community clashing with values and beliefs that we develop and hold on to on our own.

My message to younger Mormons who are grappling with questions about staying in the church is this: I feel you. There are so many reasons to leave, and if you decide to, I respect that and I’ll always support you in whatever way I can. But if there’s something, anything, that makes you pause on your way out, I want you to know that you are not alone in your indecision. It doesn’t have to be a dichotomy of orthodoxy vs apostasy. You are your own individual full of complexity, unique life experiences, and a powerful sense of self, and you can make whatever choice you feel is best for you- including a range of options like being fully active and believing, being active but disagreeing, inactivity but maintaining a connection, leaving, resigning your membership. There are so many people in all those situations and more who can be a lifeline for you to help you find your truth in this messy and messed up world. You have tools- online communities, many good books, perhaps even people in your everyday life- and you can be empowered to figure out what you believe on your own, and to discover if that includes the Mormon church and gospel of Jesus Christ.

But please remember that you’re not the only or the first one to discover these things, and it’s okay if it takes some time to figure things out- we have our whole lives ahead of us. I hope you don’t feel like you have to settle this score right now or on a timeline, and I’m so sorry that there are overwhelming pressures for you to figure it out before missions, marriage, college, etc. I’m here for you, there are a lot of people here for you, and we will support you no matter what. Just keep us in mind, friends.

115 Responses to “understanding our differences: younger mormons and leaving the LDS church”

  1. Roseanna

    Love this! Just want to add a couple of my own ‘tipping point’ questions to the list:

    Why should I stay when I can find spiritual nourishment elsewhere? and when staying seems to add to the list of things that are uncomfortable for me on a regular basis? (church attendance can be exhausting, even/especially when I’m trying to find the good in it and not worry about the negative.)

    Why should I allow my name to be connected in any way to an institution that perpetuates harmful beliefs about my dear friends (especially LGBT friends! and also all females…). I know there is something to be said for being part of the change and a good example, and I also know that there are many harmful institutions that I can’t immediately opt out of and that I am still complicit in. But I imagine myself bearing the name of Mormon throughout the world and some of the things that represents to people, and I don’t want to be that.

    Anyway, the first one was the biggie for me. Because I found spirituality in a non-mormon and even non-religious framework, it eventually made me feel like I had no compelling reason to stay. Other than the 3 (eventually 4) years I had left at BYU. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Lee Ann Renfro

      To Roseanna, Hannah and all…

      The real questions are: was Joseph Smith a prophet, is the Book of Mormon the word of God, and thus is the Church Christ’s church restored to the earth with authority to act in His name? If you answer in the affirmative to those questions, which I do, all things fall in order. God has spoken to the earth once more! We are led by prophets and apostles! We are blessed as women to be part of this great restoration! Embrace the blessing of being who you are. We are not in a competition with men. We are equal partners with unique and wonderful roles to play in our Father’s plan for His children!

      Reply
      • hannahwheelwright

        Hi Lee Ann,
        Those are indeed issues that could become questions, but they are no less real than any of the questions I posed. They might not be your questions, but they are mine and many others, and the fact that you do not share them does not make them any less valid.

    • Destin

      May I ask stupid questions? Jo Smith claimed he did more works than Jesus Christ, then why Mormons don’t worship Jo Smith? If Jo Smith already told the mormons that they all are going to be gods, why do they need Christ?
      I am not Mormon and had never been either, but I am just curious.
      Jo Smith insulted Christ for saying that he did more work than Christ but why Jo Smith’s followers pray to Christ? I knew few mormon friends who used Mormon Church for their own advantage (they told me, and said they never believed Jo Smith at all), but how about the fanatic believers? Jo lied about the Book of Abraham, why the elite mormons still deny? They
      make more than 30 billion US dollars just collecting 10% from the members , what more do they want? I am not even asking about his multiple wives and among them were children from 14 yr old, and their mothers, and other men’s wives.

      Destin

      Reply
  2. Kate

    The following is my personal responses to several of your questions you listed in paragraphs toward the middle of your post.

    The church challenges us to be our best selves. Just because its hard, or just because we look different/ stand out while following the church standards doesn’t mean the church doesn’t understand our generation. The church would never leave us on our own without guidance and reassurance!
    have you read these?—-

    https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?lang=eng

    The church is open about its position on same gender attraction!! http://www.mormonsandgays.org/
    Although the church is majority white, OF COURSE there are all kinds of races in our church leadership!! http://s492.photobucket.com/user/mydumpster/media/Screenshot2011-09-23at10818PM.png.html
    Money- during the Saturday afternoon session of every single general conference, the church Auditing Department reads off the yearly report. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/church-auditing-department-report-2012?lang=eng . A more detailed report is open to the public’s eyes following the conference. Nothing is hidden! and we spend so much on temples because they are the Lord’s house. The place we may feel most close to him on earth. Out of respect for the services that are done there, they are as beautiful and clean as we can possibly make them.
    “The church speak selectively about its history but actively ignore or hide uncomfortable events and statements?” …what is this ghastly conspiracy you think the church is involved with?? The gospel is perfect, but the people are not- of course there are few sad parts of our history, there are in every religion. We’re not pretending to be a perfect people, and we’re not hiding any part of our history! That statement is definitely a stretch.
    There are plenty of things I could show you to back up why church standards are the set the way they are, but these facts are some of my favorite to refer to when I think about why I follow them– http://littlefanpages.com/99880

    I’m close to just ranting now, so I’ll stop. But honestly, this post is driving me up the wall. I guess I’m mostly just shocked by it. It is sadly, so negative, and extremely one-sided.
    The church gives so much to its people. It especially supports and focuses on the youth so much!
    We are not and should never feel left alone.

    Reply
    • Tyler

      Kate, I believe you have gotten to the heart of the matter. The author of this post has greatly misrepresented the church in her article. Whether that is because she sincerely is not aware or she is purposely being antagonistic is not clear (and probably not important).

      To support your point about the fact that the church does not hide unpleasant facts about its history, I’d like to add some anecdotal evidence. I recently visited the Church History Library, which is situated on Temple Square across from the Church Office Building and the Conference Center. On prominent display in the main lobby are academic and scholarly books regarding every “sore point” in church history you could imagine. I stopped to look through one that offered a detailed analysis of the Mountain Meadows massacre based solely on primary source documents. There was another about Brigham Young and polygamy. There are hundreds of books available in that library about every imaginable topic. The church also archives every article or paper written about them in the news, good or bad.

      I think when people say “the church hides parts of its history” what they mean is “the church doesn’t include church history in its Sunday School curriculum.” The purpose of our Sunday Services is to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Doctrine. Not history.

      Basically, a claim that the church hides its history or obscures facts is a dead giveaway that a person has not done their due diligence.

      Reply
      • Jessica F.

        I think one could argue that that church has in the past done a very good job at hiding its history. How many people have been silenced for writing about MMM a few decades ago? Just because you can go into the church library now and see some books does not mean that they have always been so open.

        The argument that the church does not teach history in Sunday meetings I think would be very surprising to most of the past church leaders.

        I really doubt most people in my ward have any idea that there are multiple versions of the First Vision, and that they differ greatly. I think your post is condescending and comes from a place of blind privilege.

      • Rachael

        Yeah I have to disagree with you and Kate. This year in SS we are doing D&C, no? My gospel doctrine teacher focuses almost exclusively on the history. And the truth is, some of the stories in the manuals are not historically accurate. To me, that is the church hiding or misrepresenting its history. I have to give my teacher props because he does a decent job of acknowledging this, but not every SS teacher does. It is foolish to think every mormon understands our history clearly, because what we teach each other is often not accurate. And while I agree that doctrine is the most important thing to learn at church, history packs a punch. There is a reason so many people struggle once they figure out the real details. It is hard not to feel betrayed when what you have been taught your whole life is not exactly the whole story, or even the true story. And please don’t be so condescending to say that those who don’t know the whole story just need to do their homework. Most people don’t have time to research church history, and I don’t think it is crazy to expect that what we are taught at church should be accurate.

      • isaksea

        Julia,

        The Church does not open its records to the public or even to its membership. However, surveyors and those who have leaked information suggest the mall cost approximately 4 billion dollars. That is more expensive than the building of Mall of America or any other mall in the US.

    • isaksea

      Kate, I think you misinterpreted “temple to consumerism.” The author was not speaking about actual temples, she was referring to City Creek Centre–the msot expensive mall per square foot in the world that was built across the street from Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

      Reply
      • Julia

        The most expensive? Do you have a source for this, because I can guarantee you that there are other malls that are wayyyy more expensive, such as the Mall of America.

    • Jack Hughes

      People like Jaime are not intelligent enough to understand the irony of their own statements.

      Nicely done Hannah!

      Reply
      • Sijunpen

        …// //இந த இந த த வ , ப ர ப பனர , த ர வ ட வ மர சனங கள வ ட த த ந ங கள தன மன தன க உங கள ப ற ப ப கள ல எத ய வத ந ங கள வ த ட ம மக கள க க க ச ய வத ன ல ஒன ற ய வத ச ல ல ங கள .// //தன ப பட ட ம ற ய ல என ன ச ய த ம என பத ம ன ப ன த ர ய த, தனத அட ய ளத த மற க க றவர கள டம எட த த க க ற ம த வ ஏத வத இர க க றத ?ச த அட ப பட ய ல ன ஒட க க ம ற கள என பவ – தன மன த க ரணங கள ல ந கழ பவ அல ல, அவ ‘ஒர வர அவர இன ன க ட டத த ச ர ந தவர ‘ என பதற க க ஒட க கப பட வத ய ம ச ரண டப பட வத ய ம க ற க க றத .ப ர க தம ச ய பவர உயர ந தவர , ச ர ப ப த த ப பவர த ழ ந தவர என பத ன அட ப பட என ன? தன மன தர அல லத க ட டம ? ச ர ப ப த க க ம க ப ப ச ம உயர ந தவன , ச ர ப ப த க க ம ம ர யப பன த ழ ந தவன என ற இர க க றத ?ந ங கள நல லவர க ட டவர என பத ம க க யம ல ல . ந ங கள உங கள அட ய ளப பட த த க க ள ள ம க ட டம எத தக யத ? என பத த ன ம க க யம ஒத க கப பட வத தன மன தர கள அல ல – க ட டம (This is group discrimination – not iundvidial discrimination).

    • Moss

      We all know people with cancer. We may even have it someday ourselves.

      It is our job to love each other.

      People who are struggling: I hope you decide to stay. This church needs your unique gifts, no matter what its members say.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      This is an example of the closed-mindedness that the church needs to get rid of. Questioning is the best way to get things straight and figure out what is important. We can’t be a Church of unquestioning automatons; that is the road to fanaticism.

      Reply
    • Brittany

      Intelligent. I think that is a direct quote from Christ, in Matthew, if I’m not mistaken. “Wherefore, you sucketh, and I wanteth no more part with you… get the hell outteth my church.” People like, you, wow… they have it all figured out. So easy in your world. Preach to me!

      Reply
    • Frank

      What. Jaime, please…there’s room questions in the church. That’s…kindof the point actually.

      Reply
    • Jane

      All the more reason for her to stay and help it implode from the inside. It is a corporation who spends your money on land, malls, radio, and lucrative businesses. It is time for it to deconstruct. Jesus does not approve.

      Reply
      • Jessica Stuart

        That is the best reason to stay that I’ve ever heard! Helping the church implode from the inside.

  3. Austin

    Wow your misunderstanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is abounding. You believe that God cares more about how you look than who you are. If that is the case, you apparently never actually learned anything the LDS Church teaches.

    I also want to point out that you are saying that those who follow conservative marriage beliefs are bigots. Let me give you my reason for doing so. God said gay marriage is wrong, therefore I accept that. If you don’t want to accept what God has said, then that’s fine. But just keep in mind, calling God a bigot will probably not bear well for you later on in life.

    Reply
    • Jessica F.

      God has also said that slaves were ok, and stoning people, and raping women and cutting them up into pieces, and the list goes on, I think we need to consider what God actually says and what people think they want God to say

      Reply
      • Austin

        You’re talking about the Old Testament. I’m talking about very recently. This is why the prophets advised us to fight for the passage of Proposition 8, and it is why in the most recent General Conferences, you have messages from church leaders about homosexuality, such as this from Boyd K Packer:

        “We need to be careful of the “tolerance trap” so that we are not swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity.”

        The homosexual agenda is the legalization of immorality and that which in God’s eyes is abominable, namely homosexuality. Plain and simple. It is Satan’s current tactic to try to destroy the family and the Plan of Salvation. So if you wish to stand with Satan you can, but don’t call us bigots for standing with God.

      • Mel

        I am flabbergasted every time a person quotes Pres. Packer concerning the “tolerance trap”, as later that conference Pres. Monson said the following (which I view as a correction occurring):

        “We are a worldwide Church, brothers and sisters. Our membership is found across the globe. I admonish you to be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own. May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. The Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women. May we ever follow His example.” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/until-we-meet-again?lang=eng)

        Despite being taught that the Prophet can correct anything that is said in the other conference talks, which clearly Pres. Monson is calling for tolerance and kindness to those who don’t share the LDS believes or standards, many people like to forget what the Prophet said in this instance, because it’s inconvenient.

      • Michael Worley

        I really think President Packer’s and President Monson’s comments are compatible. Look at what President Monson said in Aoril 2008 about tolerance .

        Before pitting one prophet against another, let’s try to be obedient to both!

    • isaksea

      Austin, do you have a signed letter from God to know exactly what God is trying to say? I sure don’t. We speak all the time about what God does or doesn’t want but the fact of the matter is that we simply don’t know. We have what mortal men have interpreted to be God’s teachings–scriptures included–but nowhere do we have direct words from God stating The Will of God. For one, Jesus, who didn’t write the Gospels himself, never made any mention about gay marriage so I think it would be wise for us to pull back statements about “God says ____________________.”

      Also, per the comment about the Church caring more about who a woman is than what she wears: Please attend Young Women’s some day or even just listen to the Young Women’s broadcast. I can assure you there are at least as many references made to modesty as there are to Jesus…probably more. It may be true that the Church cares more about who we are, how we treat each other with kindness, how we learn to become more Christlike, etc., but that’s not what the amount of rhetoric on individual matters suggests.

      Reply
      • Austin

        isaksea, you obviously misunderstand the role of a prophet. The prophets and apostles words in General Conference are essentially letters signed from God stating His will. If you don’t believe that, you should reevaluate your understanding of how God works. And in General Conference, on more than one occasion, there have been references to homosexuality being a sin and immoral and an abomination in the eyes of God. The Bible also says the same thing on numerous occasions in both the Old and New Testament. So yes, there are plenty of ways to unequivocally know God’s will. You are just choosing to ignore them.

        You also miss the point of modesty. Modesty is not about what God wants you to do. It is about you showing self worth. If you want to dress in skimpy clothing and bikinis you can do that, but when guys treat you bad and like an object to be had, don’t question why. It is because, when you dress immodestly (and this goes for men as well), you are saying to the world that you have low self worth and are nothing more than an object of sexual desire. The truth is you are a child of God with infinite and divine potential, and that should cause you to want to dress in a fashion conducive to someone of the heritage of a King.

        The true test of our conversion is not in whether we live the commandments or not. It is in our understanding of the commandments, and whether we desire to live them. You will become converted when you stop saying things like “God says I have to dress modestly” or “I can’t drink or smoke” or “I can’t date till I’m 16″ and begin a life of living to please God. Then your comments sound more like “I want to live the law of chastity” or “I don’t want to drink” or “I want to treat my body as a Temple.” I hope you can see the difference.

      • isaksea

        Austin,

        Question: Did God change his mind about Black people in 1978? Joseph Smith ordained Black people (and also, likely, Emma Smith–a woman!) to the priesthood. Did God get it wrong and decide to end that? Or did the mortal man of Brigham Young and other prophets purport to speak for God when actually they actually spoke for themselves?

        I’m going to suggest that God 1) probably doesn’t only speak English and therefore anything we’re receiving as mortals is only our approximation of Their will and 2) sometimes we get it wrong. I’m not suggesting that the Church’s stance on homosexuality is going to change (though, it already has over the last 50 years…) but I *am* suggesting that the phrase, “God says _______” is a laughable statement.

      • vickzorz

        Austin,

        I’m going to have to challenge on your statement here: “The prophets and apostles words in General Conference are essentially letters signed from God stating His will”. Well then, how do you explain the differences between the spoken Conference version and the Ensign one (because they do edit it, like when Packer referred to the Proc as “revelation”, only to have that statement redacted in the Ensign). Furthermore, according the Church’s own Newsroom, not everything said by a prophet or apostle is doctrine; rather, it is a “personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.” Official doctrine includes the Standard Works and Articles of Faith, but not much else.

        http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

        True, both Old and New Testament say that homosexuality is bad, but they also say that women should be silent in church and that slavery is ok too…. whereas Jesus and the BoM, the major cornerstones of our religion, are zip on the matter of homosexuality. That’s pretty telling to me.

      • Miriam

        “when guys treat you bad and like an object to be had, don’t question why.”

        I loves me some victim blaming.

      • Austin

        Vicksorz, the reason why the Ensign and spoken General Conference sometimes have differences is because what is put in the Ensign is the translation copy of a talk as written before Conference ever begins. One of my friends worked for LDS Church Publications and dealt directly with this. Words and phrases are then added in the moment by General Authorities which don’t make it into the Ensign. That doesn’t change the fact that the words of the prophets and apostles as spoken in General Conference specifically is as binding as the Bible or Book of Mormon or the words of Jesus Himself if He were here.

      • Scott

        The role of the prophet is oftentimes to communicate cultural Mormonism to those Mormons beneath them. The role of a prophet is oftentimes to speak as a man. In other words, the prophet is oftentimes one to be… ignored… if it so strongly clashes with ones’ own inner morality.

    • katherinemk

      Austin:

      I must ask you something– do you really think that saying “Wow your misunderstanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is abounding” is really going to help anyone? Do you really think that this is what Christ would say to a “lost sheep”?

      re: “you believe that God cares more about how you look than who you are.” Actually No, that’s not what Hannah believes at all and you have misinterpreted this post. A vast majority of the Mormon Feminist population has come to the understanding that our Heavenly Parents do not care what we look like, how we dress, what kind of piercings we have– yet the church continues to put so much emphasis on appearance, especially with the youth. When I was in YW & Seminary I received countless lessons on “appearance standards” and modesty. Why should the church spend so much energy on something that doesn’t matter? <– that is the question that many people struggle with.

      re: "calling god a bigot." You have jumped to a lot of conclusions about the statement about bigotry, let me clarify. No one is saying that religiously defining marriage between a man and a woman is bigotry. An example of bigotry is a sunday school lesson that spends time teaching falsehoods about how evil the LGBTQI community is. Saying that you personally don't believe homosexuality to be good is not wrong in and of itself, but the second you turn around and try to impose your own religious morals on someone else it is a different story. YOU are the only person who has called our Heavenly Parents "bigots."

      Reply
      • Austin

        Katherine, here is the quote directly from the article that I am referring to:

        “Why should young people, who increasingly have realized that gay people are not evil and that being gay is not evil and that to deny gay people the same personhood and respect as straight people is morally wrong, stay in a church that continues to defend bigoted practices and attitudes towards the LGBT community?”

        Tell me, how is this saying anything other than anyone who believes homosexuals should be denied the right to marry is a bigot? The wording is very clear. I, and other conservative minded people like me, are being called bigots by not conforming to the evils of an increasingly wicked society. Like I said, God is very clear in his directive that homosexuality is against His preordained purposes for marriage. Therefore, homosexual marriage is nothing more than making sin acceptable by the laws of the land. God still opposes it. Therefore, if all people who wish to deny homosexuals the right to marry are bigots, so is God. That is only a logical conclusion. Your argument is with Him, not me.

        In another sense, Satan wishes to destroy the family as ordained of God, since the traditional family (husband, wife and children) is the backbone of the Plan of Salvation. He has used adultery, pornography, and other means to break apart the family. The homosexual agenda is just his newest way of doing so. And he has done a great job of recruiting youth and young adults from the Church of Jesus Christ to do his bidding in this. We are the very people who should be standing up to this kind of evil, but not only are we tolerating it, we are fighting for it. Why would you want to choose Satan instead of God?

      • katherinemk

        The definition of bigot is “obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions.”

        How could the churches practice be anything BUT bigoted?

      • Austin

        Actually Katherine, the defintion of a bigot according to dictionary.com is “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.”

        Under this definition there is no way to rationally describe the LDS Church as bigoted in any way. In fact, the LDS church is essentially the opposite. We welcome opposing viewpoints even though we may see them as incorrect. You aren’t excommunicated in the LDS Church for supporting gay marriage, though you are wrong for doing so. And the LDS Church is welcoming of gays who are willing to live a celibate and single lifestyle or marry into a heterosexual marriage. If the church was bigoted, it would promote gay bashing, call gays inferior, not allow gays to worship in the churches and temples and be altogether like the Westboro Baptist Church.

        And I also want to point out that by your own definition, by being intolerant of my viewpoints and believing me to be a bigot because I support God’s views of marriage, you are also practicing bigotry. The secular world and liberal media would never say that, but it is true. So you should really look inward before casting stones.

      • katherinemk

        I’m pretty sure that not allowing two consenting adults to enter into a binding legal agreement solely because the God you worship forbids you falls under the definition of bigotry you cited. For the record, my definition came from the Oxford dictionary. If you engaged your critical thinking skills you would see that the word functions the same under both definitions provided, but we can argue syntax if you really want to.

        I definite intolerance as trying to make decisions for other adults. For example, not allowing gays to marry is intolerant. You can defend your religious definition of marriage without imposing that same definition on other human beings.

        re: ” If the church was bigoted, it would promote gay bashing, call gays inferior, not allow gays to worship in the churches and temples and be altogether like the Westboro Baptist Church” While the church has come forth in the last year screaming tolerance (with the exception of Packer, but let’s not talk about him) their past behavior is quite different– just look at all the money they pumped into prop 8. In addition their are individual attitudes of members that are quite appalling (not speaking to their own gay children, telling gay people they are going to hell). I also know personally several individuals who have been asked to stop attending sacrament meeting for their sexuality, and some have even been disfellowshipped and excommunicated. Inclusion within the church has gotten better in more recent years but it is still a game of what I like to call “Bishop Roulette.”

        Also I am not telling you to no longer define “true marriage” “traditional marriage” or “God’s sanctified union” as between one man and one woman, I am simply telling you to stop imposing that on other people (by not allowing them to legally marry.) I’m calling you out on your douchebaggery but I’m not saying that I’m better or that you can’t practice your heterosexual lifestyle. If you really want to play the “that makes you a bigot game” then we can go ahead and say that YOU saying that my saying “you’re a bigot” makes me a bigot then in turn makes you a bigot– but at that point the argument comes really convoluted so I don’t think we should venture there. /s

      • Austin

        Katherine, please explain to me how I can in any way defend God’s definition of marriage by bending to the will of less than 10% of the population. Sure maybe it is more when you include heterosexuals, but they aren’t going to be participating in homosexual marriages, so really we are talking about less than 10% of the population that this really affects. If I bend to the will of the homosexual agenda and support it like you are essentially telling me I should do, then I cannot be supporting real marriage anymore.

        Plain and simple, since the beginning of time, marriage has only been between a man and woman. It has only been in the last few decades that the idea of that has changed at all. However, those who support a homosexual agenda are under the influence of Satan, since it is him and him alone who has created this issue as a way to try undermine the Plan of Salvation. It is as destructive to the conservative family as pornography and should be treated as such. That isn’t to say homosexual orientation is, but to act on it, and especially to legalize and permit that sort of immorality is demoralizing and destructive to our society.

        In the New Testament, we are warned about those who will call evil good, and good evil. This is a perfect example of this. LDS Church members, but especially youth and young adults, are permitting this sort of behavior when we should be the ones most vocally against it. How many times have the prophets said that we are part of a chosen generation? We were reserved for this time because we can combat this sort of evil. We are supposed to be some of the strongest advocates for good this world has ever known, but instead Satan has gotten the heart of you, and the hearts of many who support this immorality. You are calling good evil by screaming intolerance at those who stand with God, and are calling evil good as you stand with Satan promoting this homosexual agenda.

      • katherinemk

        The same way you defend your position on alcohol consumption. I’m assuming that you aren’t petitioning to make alcohol illegal.

        Or the same way you defend that sex should be between married individuals only. I’m assuming here as we’ll that you hold that view, yet you aren’t hoping that consensual sex will become illegal.

        It is entirely possible to hold a view and not expect the law to enforce your code of “morality.” This is not a difficult concept.

      • katherinemk

        Also, marriage has not always been between a man and a woman. Remember polygamy? Or how about all of the Old Testament?

      • katherinemk

        Re: the homosexual agenda.

        You bet I support consensual sexual activity between two adults! I’m so behind the homosexual agenda (figuratively, that is. I’m not actually *behind* them)

      • Kathryn

        @Austin: Being gay, I think I’m at least a little qualified to talk about a “homosexual agenda.” Guess what, my only agenda is to live a normal life, get married, have a family, raise children–only not to be forced to do that with a man who I could not love. Gay people aren’t sabotaging straight marriage or families, it’s straight folks like you destroying *our* families and chance for a little happiness. And I resent the implication that being gay is of Satan–I believe God made me this way, that I was gay in the premortal life, and will continue to gay after death. Being a lesbian isn’t some imposed mortal trial to overcome, but a key component of who I am, just as central to my identity as gender.

      • Austin

        @Kathryn: I don’t believe being gay is of Satan. I believe gay marriage however is. I also don’t believe it sabotages heterosexual marriage, but it can sabotage the growth of children who are raised in it. Children need a mother and a father plain and simple. You can call me intolerant all you wish for it, but I do not believe gay couples should be allowed to adopt or raise children. I saw firsthand growing up how bad single parent households can be for children, and the need children have for both a mother and father. Allowing homosexual couples to adopt puts those kids at risk.

        I don’t believe that you were homosexual in the premortal life, or that you will be homosexual after this life. God doesn’t do that in my opinion. I also don’t believe you can’t love a man. Would there be a sexual attraction, no. Obviously not. But can you love a man with all your heart, absolutely. I’m not saying you should enter into a heterosexual marriage because you can’t love a man is ludicrous. I’m sure you have male friends and family who you love, so don’t make blanketly false statements like that.

        I also want to point out that legalizing homosexual marriage is a slippery slope in America as well. When that becomes legal across the country (since it is only a matter of time with how wicked and liberal our society is becoming), what happens when a pastor of a small church refuses to marry a gay couple? They will be sued for discrimination and probably go bankrupt, lose their church and their livelihood. How many thousands of pastors will that happen to? The LDS Church will lose its tax exempt status because it will not allow gays to marry in the churches or the temples. So on and so forth. You don’t have a forward thinking view if you don’t think that homosexual marriage isn’t a danger to our society. What good that is left in society is due to Christian churches outreach, and when the homosexual agenda essentially shuts down thousands and thousands of small Christian churches, that will slowly go away and our society will continue to deteriorate.

      • vickzorz

        Austin, your argument might be a little stronger if you avoid such subjective and politically charged terms like “wicked and liberal”. And if you actually take a look at the research done by the American Psychological Association and other reputable organizations, children raised by gay parents are no more at risk than those raised by straight ones, so your claim has absolute no proof behind it. (http://www.apa.org/about/policy/parenting.aspx).

        Furthermore, it seems that you haven’t actually looked at countries that have legalized same sex marriage, like the Netherlands or my own country, Canada. It has been legal for several years, but because of religious freedom laws (which are not nearly as strong here as they are in the USA actually), private organizations such as churches can deny the right to marry two gay people— just like how our church can deny to marry people who don’t follow the word of wisdom, who don’t pay tithing, etc. It seems to me that your claims have zero evidence to back them up and are rather a product of sensationalized fear-based rhetoric that seems so popular with religious Americans.

        You want to stop the deterioration of society? Why not focus on the issues that are actually proven to cause harm– y’know, abuse, high divorce rates, addiction–– and start realizing that you have no right to deny two consenting adults from entering a marriage.

      • katherinemk

        Wow. Really?

        I’m actually just sad for you right now.

        To your first point- I can only assume that you are also rallying for single mothers to have their children taken away? It would only make sense by your logic. I personally know multiple people who were raised by same-sex couples and they turned out FINE. I also know many, many people who were raised by single parents and turned out FINE. Your argument on that front is bullshit. Children need contact comfort and structured environments to thrive, that’s it.

        Austin, could you love a man? Homosexuality is no less real then being heterosexual, and the thought of you being with a man is gross, am I correct? It’s just as unthinkable for Kathryn. I am really shocked that you have the audacity to explain to a stranger on the Internet that you know more about their sexuality than they do. You are wrong. Never do this again.

        Re:the slippery slope. Have you actually researched this? Every single state that has legalized gay marriage has provided exemptions from religious institutions so sorry, no slippery slope. Further more, do you REALLY equate a church being tax exempt as more important than equal rights for all American citizens? Your privilege is showing.

        Austin I want to ask you a question that I don’t mean In snark- do you KNOW any members of the LGBTQI community? I don’t mean “have you met them” or “do you know of anyone” I mean really KNOW, as in are you friends with them? Do you mourn when they mourn? Have you had the sobering experience of watching them sob because of the hatred and discrimination they face?

  4. erinlindseymoore

    I love the concept of looking to leave/looking to stay, and while it may not apply to everyone it certainly resonated with me. I think providing a supportive community is one of YMF’s most basic functions, but you’ve shown here that it’s also one of our most important. Kudos.

    Reply
  5. Jenna

    I hear what you’re saying, Hannah. As a young Mormon feminist myself, I do feel tied to Mormonism despite my youth. Perhaps I would feel less so if I were a few years younger. I got married young like a good little Mormon girl, so I have met a few of those milestones you listed. So I’m identifying more with your description of our older sisters.

    That may have something to do with the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my Mormon upbringing, and bought into everything 100%. Well, 95%, because I’ve always identified as a feminist. Mormanity has given me some wonderful things; therefore I am indebted to it. I can see that what you’re saying may be more representative of young people who owe less to the church.

    I wish I could have heard you at Sunstone. Maybe I’ll travel back to Utah for it next year. And don’t mind the trolls; they’re just on a completely different plane of thought, aren’t they?

    Reply
  6. Brad

    I feel this entire post is misguided. You make some very large assumptions about the Church and many of them are blatantly wrong. I could see a few of your viewpoints as being attributable to ignorance and lack of knowledge beyond a superficial spattering of Church History, but the majority of this is evidence of extreme spiritual immaturity. I wish you the best in life and hope you continue to be thoughtful in your opinions. I would challenge you to save a copy of this blog post and reread it in 10-20 years and see if you still hold the same opinions. I’m sure you’ll be able to recognize the naivety and that you’re placing progressive social issues before the Gospel as if the “natural man” is justified in existing the way that he wants to and not the way that He wants him to.

    Reply
    • Amy

      Three years ago, I would have written exactly what many of the negative commentators have written here. Three years ago I was as devout as they come. I accepted all things the Church taught as truth. And then? Well, then I left Provo, Utah and my husband and our family made an international move to a metropolitan area where I met people of many, many different faiths. What I discovered is that these platitudes of “the church is perfect, the people aren’t,” “I’ve had a spiritual witness and it looked like __________” and just about everything that is used to hold up the validity of the Church were said in every.other.faith. All claim to hold the authority (and have organizing narratives much like ours) to act in God’s name, and all those who choose to leave the faith of their youth receive the same warnings that they were “misguided,” “cancerous,” and “mislead.” Almost all religious institutions are self-protecting and almost all claim damnation for those who leave. In other words, spouting off these litanies is playing in to the idea that religion is man-made, tribal construct. If we are to be a godly people, getting rid of this judgmental rhetoric would be the first step.

      I still classify myself as a believer. However, my testimony is much more nuanced now and I realize that spirituality is an entirely personal and varied experience. This is why I am concerned about the negative comments here. Hannah has very clearly captured the feelings of many members of the Church who have been struggling to reconcile the history taught to them as youth (let’s call a spade a spade here. The Church even recognizes its manuals are deplorably out-of-date. If they were only teaching “the doctrines of Christ” those would never need updating. The truth of the matter is that the internet has been a game-changer and the history that was largely concealed in the past no longer can be, so the Church is working on updating their manuals. For example, If you learned that Joseph Smith translated directly from the gold plates, you were taught incorrectly. End of story. Even active, fully believing historians will tell you that you were taught incorrectly), the status of women on a caged pedestal, the rhetoric around LGBTQ, etc. Many, many people are struggling to find a place in the church and telling someone they are a cancer and should leave is absolutely deplorable! Didn’t Christ call all to come unto Him? Who are we as mere humans to decide that we can tell each other who belongs and who does not? God surely isn’t the one saying that. Only humans could be so cruel.

      I found this post to be incredibly optimistic–there are reasons to stay and there are reasons to leave. If there weren’t, there would be no agency. I honestly don’t see either of those decisions being the “right” one for any and all people. It is intensely personal. Hannah has shared a beautiful experience–incredibly personal, I might add–in order to help those who are wondering, “is there a place for me?” and has done so beautifully. Feel what you like about someone else’s spirituality but to judge another for where they are on the journey is heinous. Perhaps better energy could be spent doing the things Christ actually taught, like mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.

      Reply
      • vickzorz

        Why don’t you enlighten us with your oh-so valid opinion, rather than shutting down other peoples’ thoughtful words?

    • Victoria

      Does anyone else really hate being “challenged” to do things? It’s so irritating. Challenge not accepted.

      Reply
      • katherinemk

        It seems like you’re the one who has “no idea” as you cannot provide a single opinion or piece of information other than “shut up.”

    • J. Smith

      I feel your assumptions about the way the church works is misguided and based on perpetuated false doctrine and inflating the opinions of men to be the word of God. You seem to have a very limited view of church history and I would challenge you to look back 10-20 years from now when the church you now believe to be so perfect corrects itself, like it has countless times before. I’m sure you will be able to recognize the naivety and that you are placing conservative social issues before the Gospel and will realize your self-righteous attitude is the “natural man.”

      Reply
  7. Dorothy

    You have articulated the generational differences very well. I would love to leave, but feel bound to stay for my family, some of whom would be devastated if I left. Currently I am relatively active, but i continue to minimize my participation. I have realized that the church is so entwined with so many aspects of my life that even if I left it would not be a clean break. I am very curious to see what will happen in the next few years. There is much discussion on blogs such as this, but institutional changes are discouragingly glacial. It is too little, too late to make me a believer again.

    Reply
    • Brad

      You’ll become a believer again after making a singular decision to stick with it and sacrifice for what you obviously know to be a greater cause than your own gratification or to remain in your personal comfort zone. Your intentionally complacent perspective of the Church and your relationship to it is the real danger, not whatever external causes that you blame or use to justify distancing yourself from full membership.

      Reply
      • Melyngoch

        Brad, I hear exactly this rhetoric from fired-up ex-Mormons all the time: You’ll change your mind (i.e., agree with me) just as soon as you do X, Y, and Z. I find it disrespectful to Hannah’s (or any YMF’s) experiences and interpretation of those experiences, just as I find it disrespectful when I hear from ex-Mormons that they’re sure I’ll be out of the church in ten years.

        I’m also baffled by the phrase “intentionally complacent perspective.” The struggle of faith transition, and the struggle to find a place in the Church when one feels fundamentally at odds with many of its teachings and practices, is hardly a practice of complacency. It seems a little like you think anyone lazy who isn’t making the specific sacrifices and doing the specific kinds of work that you personally value.

      • dorothy

        You are right, of course, anyone can be a believer if they make a decision to be one. But that is the whole point of this blog, isn’t it? Making that decision. I no longer find the positive aspects of the church compelling enough to justify the necessary effort to be fully engaged. The greater cause I sacrifice for is my family, not the church, and that does not even require a decision, nor does it feel like a sacrifice.

      • rah

        Brad (and the other commentors that identify with him),

        You really need to take Elder Uchtdorf’s advice and “Stop it!”. I know you think you are “defending the faith” and “defending the church”. However, you are doing far more harm than good, both to those you are “trying to help” and to the church itself. Attidudes, declarations and the treatment of people you have demonstrated across the comments is a perfect example of what not to do, both as a Christian and specifically when trying to interact with those like Hannah. You come of as smug, naive, insensitive and arrogant. You may not want to but you do. Individuals like Hannah sacrifice more than you probably ever will by showing up to church week in and week out dealing with people like you. It says far more about your insecurities and immaturity than anything. Go read the Elder Uchtdorf talk, pray about it and then come back here and read your comments again. It should also be noted that your particular type of smug self-assurance tends to be a particularly male Mormon trait. The presumption that your perspective and experience self-evidently trumps those of others.

      • dorothy

        Which, by the way, is not in any way to denigrate another person’s decision to stick with it or their ability to find joy and fulfillment in the church.

      • Steve

        All I’m hearing is other people judging him, instructing him to broaden his perspective and be more understanding/compassionate…as if Brad is the one that has issues with faith and membership. He didn’t really make personal judgments on anyone. It’s merely a statement of fact that if you’ve lost the desire to improve or progress in faith and are now “continuing to minimize participation” in the Church and are “curious to see where it goes in the next few years” it displays an attitude of complacency with your level of activity. By drawing attention to it and then making no effort to improve it, that complacency is now intentional. He judged no one, just summarized her comment.

      • dorothy

        I have to agree with Melyngoch that “the struggle of faith transition, and the struggle to find a place in the Church when one feels fundamentally at odds with many of its teachings and practices, is hardly a practice of complacency.” Complacency implies smugness, while I would say that at this point I am simply worn down from years of wrestling alone with all the issues Hannah mentions. What remains now finally is indifference, which, yes, is intentional. I don’t feel that this is something I need to “improve,” but I know that some people would strongly disagree. I do hope that the faith journey for others leads them to a church that is more broadly accepting of various people and various levels of belief.

  8. mandy

    Hannah, thanks for posting this. Though I have been married in the temple and am raising a toddler, I still feel very torn about if staying or leaving is the best thing for me personally or my family. It feels like such a big decision with such huge consequences, especially socially. Anyway, judging from the comments, there are a few readers who are not in the same place. Lucky for them. But a lot of us are right there with you.

    Reply
  9. Nicole

    So many of these comments are undeservingly negative; it seems as if a bunch of people missed the entire purpose of the post. Of course there are great things about the Mormon church, if there wasn’t, no one would hesitate to leave. But we are hesitating, because there is so much good. But then there are the things Hannah talked about that make it hard to stay.

    I am of this younger generation except a little older (born in 1988) so I have been sealed in the temple and have a 1 year old son. Since my son was born, I see more value in going to church; he has given me a tie like those of the FMH. In the last few years I have struggled at church because it feels like all I hear is the same statements over and over again, the same lessons over and over again. But my son has never heard these things and so I want him to have the opportunity to learn about his Heavenly Father and Mother and Jesus Christ.

    On the other hand, I sort of feel like I am imposing a religion on him. What about his agency? He is still young enough that I wonder if I’m making a bad decision to go to a church that I don’t fit into that he will attend and also probably not fit into. There are lots of factors to think about.

    Despite some of the previous comments, there is more depth to Mormonism than the tag lines statements made in conference and reiterated at church. There are culture and beliefs and patriarchal structure to consider. Ultimately I think I do believe in the important things, but what about the rest?

    Reply
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      Reply
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      Reply
  10. Lynn in Europe

    As one of the older generation, and as someone who is acquainted (more or less well) with every one of the September Six, I can’t say that the outcome silenced me — far from it. What ultimately led to a prolonged period of indifference and inactivity was the realization that the patriarchal paradigm is unlikely to shift anytime soon, and I needed to be spending my energy on things other than smacking my head repeatedly against the hierarchical wall.

    I appreciate your essay, and wish you well… and observe that the same kinds of self-righteous, intolerant voices are clearly the same now as they were when I was doing rhetorical battle against the forces of LDS sexism in my time.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Love this post, Hannah. I understand the struggle to remain in a patriarchal, oppressive organization. Despite this, there are many good things that do leave me looking for a reason to stay. I do want to stay, though it is hard when other people try to impose the all in/out dichotomy. I believe a personal balance is possible–I’m still figuring out what this looks like for me.

    I’m disappointed in the lack of compassion from many of those commenting. As I understand it, one of the biggest obligations we take on in the gospel of Christ is the call to mourn with those who mourn. That means hearing others’ experiences and trusting that they share them in good faith. If you don’t understand, listen. Don’t tell them what they should do to fit into your paradigm. Don’t predict the future–right now is where they are hurting, and as painful as it is, try to sit with them through the pain without offering a quick fix. (Those don’t work, anyway.) To immediately denounce someone’s experience as ill-intentioned, deceived, or “standing with Satan”, even when we disagree with their actions, is dismissive and belittling, and it’s not Christlike.

    As for “LEAVE YOU ARE A CANCER” and the like, let me refer you to Paul: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/1-cor/12.12-27?lang=eng#11

    Reply
    • Brad

      An argument can be made for lack of compassion, yes. But mourn? Mourning is to express sadness, sorrow, or regret with someone over the loss of a person or a thing. The only thing lost here is ones testimony and desire to endure to the end. It does make me sad. But not a sadness of understanding or born of a desire to comfort and console. It’s a sadness that stems from an irritation at hearing so many people play the victim as if the patriarchal organization of the Church is some grand scheme to oppress and force them into roles no better than breed stock to be kept at home preparing Primary lessons and raising children. Where’s the understanding that men are culturally pressured to leave the home, get a college degree, and spend the majority of their lives at some company as a conscript where labor is exchanged for the means to make mortgage payments and buy groceries? It’s not sexism it’s gender roles. Life and biology are not gender-blind like so many feminists wish the world was. Men and women are fundamentally different and are therefore predisposed to perform certain functions better than the opposite gender. I could write a scathing blog post about my lack of patience in waiting for the Church to allow me to bear children or nurse them from my own breasts but such complaining is immaterial and runs counterproductive to my own personal spiritual progress. The author of this as well as the commentors who support it need to put aside their petty quibbles and study what it means to endure to the end. You are not victims and if anybody intentionally disparages you based solely on the type of chromosomes you were born with then just take it in stride and realize they’ll have to answer for that some day…just not on your timetable.

      Reply
      • Rachael

        *don’t engage don’t engage*

        UGH BRAD. Ahem. All I will say is this. My ability to have children and my husband’s ability to wield a penis are biological differences, to be sure. But it ends there. Every other “difference” is a man made construct. I am physically stronger than my husband and a lot of men I know (every man in my ward comes to mind.) I make more money than my husband. I am more aggressive and more proficient at leadership roles. He is a better nurturer. He is more patient. He is kinder.

        Gender roles are man made. Please don’t get science wrapped up in this. Science does not agree with you.

      • isaksea

        It has only been since the Industrial Revolution that there has been any discourse concerning women working outside of the home. To that point, ALL family members worked within and without the home. The conversation is largely one of a post-Industrial era–ergo, man made. The ridiculousness that is talking about priesthood = motherhood has got to end. Of the women of valor in the Bible, how many of them were mothers? Ruth, Esther, Deborah–there were not the Holly Homemakers and stay-at-home moms that are shared when we talk of “Godly Women.” Jesus was one of the most radical feminists known to mankind–teaching women as his disciples which the rabbis of the day saw as highly offensive to women’s role, speaking to the Samaritan woman, and even suggested that to be a homemaker was not what was important. What was important was to seek after Him. What we learn from Jesus and from many of the women in the scriptures is that to be a woman of valor often means to be an envelope-pusher, patriarchy-challenging, incredibly courageous women. When we speak of Mormon Feminists, that is _exactly_ the kind of women we aspire to be, not walking Pinterest boards.

      • curtispenfold

        “The only thing lost here is ones testimony and desire to endure to the end. ”

        The only thing lost is an ENTIRE COMMUNITY. The only thing lost is one’s ORIGINAL WORLDVIEW.

        Do you know how hard it is to go through a faith transition and to leave the Church of your childhood?

        No, no you don’t, Brad. Because it seems you have no interest in understanding where ex-Mormons and transitioning Mormons are coming from.

  12. Rachael

    Ugh comments, right? Great post, Hannah. I think it resonates with more people than we know. I would argue most people are conflicted about the church, especially when you look at activity rates. I just had dinner with the missionaries and they showed me their ward list–there were probably 60-70% of the names that are inactive. We can sit and spew self righteous rhetoric all day at each other, but is that doing anything but hurting each other? I don’t speak for Christ, but from what I know of Him, I’m pretty sure He would be disappointed in us.

    There are too many comments to even respond to, I just can’t. Cancer? Really? Let me challenge you to look at this in 10 years? AND YOU WILL AGREE YOU ARE WRONG THIS I KNOW. Huh. And every time I hear someone talk about the “homosexual agenda” I think of really good shopping trips and decorating ideas.

    I just….ugh. You aren’t helping anyone. Every time I read comments on a post like this, my heart hurts. As someone in a faith crisis, I can promise that you–faceless, mean, condescending commenters–are not doing the good, or “God’s work” as you say, that you think you are. And I don’t believe that God would back you up.

    Reply
    • vickzorz

      Agreed through and through. It really makes me sad when such genuine words are met with “Well I know better than you cause God told me so” and such dismissals.

      Reply
  13. Jack Hughes

    Whether someone agrees or disagrees with the specific points of the post is not as important as the facts, such as the fact that many church members do experience faith crises; the fact that their pain is real, no matter how much one may try to dismiss their concerns; the fact that the church is hemorrhaging young adults and has a general member retention problem.

    Hannah was writing mostly from personal experience, which by definition is much different from mine or anyone else’s. But it is no more or less valid than anyone else’s honest account.

    Great work, Hannah, keep it coming!

    Reply
  14. Anna

    Thank you for your post. For those who say just leave the church follow the prophet… Maybe you weren’t taught about personal revelation but in my experience that is just as important as what they say. It is essential to know for ourselves what is true. This will not be the same for Everyone because we all experience and view the world differently.

    I am part of the LGBT community and the LDS community. I am trying to find a path where I feel like I fit. I have to find the balance between both parts of my identity that I believe are essential to who I am and who God wants me to be. At this point I don’t fit in any culture or even principle or moral. I am far between being LDS and LGBT. As of now I adhere to the church doctrine and expectations but why do. Still get treated like I am less of a person. I did not choose this and Dallin H. Oaks supports that in his statement on mormonsandgays.org. I did not choose this but I still get treated like less of a person and as though I can never know Jesus Christ and God. Which is very much untrue.

    But it really doesn’t matter what others think because I am doing my best to follow What I feel is right. I have learned that really it is all about being Christlike and becoming mire like Christ. Everything we face should bring us closer to Christ or to truths we feel resonate with us. Also agency and the ability to choose was and is essential to this life. So essential that heavenly Father let 1/3 of his children choose to follow Satan.

    I wish we could all be respectful of each others experiences triumphs and failures. Christ is the only one who can judge us and condemn us and it is no one else’s responsibility to condemn. You can observe what it is like to walk a mile in my shoes but you can only really partially understand. Christ is the only one who has a perfect understanding which means He can and does walk in everyone’s shoes. He still has the capability to love, understand, to forgive and to call to repentance.

    I will get off my soap box now but really thank you for sharing your feelings Hannah. I know it is not easy to find a path but a path is there and I truly have learned that even if the path does not seem clear the path is there even if we have to build it as we go.

    Reply
  15. Melyngoch

    Hannah, this is a lovely post, and on a topic I honestly hadn’t thought much about. I feel like I’m smack between generations — I was eleven when the Sep 6 happened and didn’t know anything about it at the time, or ever feel the shock of it personally, the way that Joanna Brooks (and some of my own family members) talk about. But I do remember feeling terribly worried while I was a BYU student that, as I was discovering feminism as an academic pursuit and doing close-readings of GA devotionals, I was setting myself up to eventually get ex-communicated; I had the vague sense that too much intellectualism doomed one’s church membership, even if I didn’t know the history behind why I would have thought that. Now that honestly seems laughable — the Church can’t afford the bad PR of a round of high-profile intellectual ex-coms the way it could twenty years ago. (Just look at how fast documented modesty-shaming from the BYUs goes viral online.)

    I feel like I came of age intellectually in a period of quiet feminist despair– it just seemed hopeless that anything would ever change and verboten to talk too much about it; there were no Mormon feminist role models, no voices of dissent. It’s been fantastic to watch that change with the emergence of online Mormonism and its attendant atmosphere of possibility — that even if the church institution changes slowly, we can make spaces where all kinds of people can be all kinds of Mormons and thrive. Here’s hoping this makes the faith journey easier for all the young Mormons deciding where to go next.

    Reply
  16. Kathryn

    You forgot another reason some leave the church. Some of us, like me, are forced out for being gay or transgender. Going after feminists may no longer be in style, but heaven forbid you’re born queer. And sometimes not even respectable excommunication either, just simply, “don’t come to meetings.”

    Reply
  17. Jaime

    Any organization will dismiss whistle blowers or those that defame their organization. Don’t act like the church should be any different. Secondly, if you really have this many problems with the church, why stay? If you cannot reconcile your own beliefs with the beliefs of the church, why stay? If you really believe it is that corrupt, why stay? The church does not force anyone to practice. Please stop deceiving people about what the church is and what it is about. Those of us who do have testimonies are growing tired of your constant whining.

    Reply
    • vickzorz

      Jaime, you might want to start by not making grand assumptions about someone’s testimony. I know many who have a testimony of the Gospel, but not of the church because of its harmful, exclusionary policies. But many still stay because they wish to get closer to Christ and to their fellow man, and help their church do the same.

      And if the “whining” bothers you so much, just don’t read these posts, I’m sure Rameumptom misses you.

      Reply
    • Emily Bell

      Because in spite of my questions and apparently grand disillusionments about the church and organization, I believe in Christ and His gospel. And if I believe in Him and revelation and any shred of knowledge that we do have the fulness of His gospel in any capacity, then I have to figure out how to stay.

      Jesus is why I stay, Jaime.

      I most certainly DO NOT stay for the people who tell me in no uncertain terms that my personal testimony of Him is not reason enough.

      Reply
  18. leftofmormon

    Thank you, Hannah, for this thoughtful consideration. There are indeed some vexing questions in today’s Church history/culture. Sometimes, I have similar concerns… and I’m from an older generation–I was at BYU in September 1993 and remember the anxiety and even anger felt and expressed by some of the English faculty.

    I often times find some odd sense of comfort in the fact that Alma 5 and Jacob 2 & 3 were delivered to the members of the church and that the narrative arc of the Book of Mormon and the two Testaments is actually one of failure (structurally, they are very similar [a group is called from the world to be “separate” and “chosen” but ultimately cannot live up to the charge]) . Those societies ultimately failed to really embrace the Gospel and be transformed by it. Certain generations or groups seemed to “get it”–for example, the People of Ammon–but the majority did not. I think the odd comfort I find in these realizations is that despite the odds, transformation can, in fact, happen.

    In my spiritual life, I find myself focusing on those times when the Spirit touched me and I am convinced it was something beyond me and I try to let those moments guide me. I feel that Joseph Smith was, indeed, a prophet…an imperfect man, by his own admission, and a prophet. I feel that the priesthood is real…though I don’t understand why women are denied it outside the temple and it disturbs me deeply that many worthy brothers were denied it for so long (I believe that had more to do with the imperfections and blindness of the members than with anything else). I believe that homosexuality is a far more complicated issue than we heterosexuals can really understand (and I’m grateful that a BYU professor, whom I shall not name, expressed this thought as well when I became concerned about the topic and brought it up in an office visit). I believe the Church can offer the world a lot of good in spite of the fact that we tell a rather uneven story to ourselves and the rest of the world–there are, thankfully, many Mormons who are willing to pitch in and try to help alleviate acute suffering…would that more would be as concerned about chronic suffering as well.

    I have come to believe that we are operating in a “by the skin of our teeth” drama. I believe that the Gospel and Truth (yes, I’m using the capitals consciously) will win out eventually, but that the victory may be rather messy and we may not recognize it as such in the actual playing out. I always keep in mind a wise insight a fellow missionary once said. I was having a very, very difficult spell and was struggling with some deeply “existential” questions (I still have yet to find an apt adjective), and this elder said, “You know, God is infinite in love and mercy. We don’t even really know what that means since we are so imperfect in those two qualities. It will probably be worth hanging on to find out what that means.” In my life since then, I think I’ve had fleeting glimpses of what a perfection of those qualities may be like; just enough to keep me going. (Yes…God is also perfectly just, but the Atonement was wrought to give us the chance to escape perfect justice.) I also try to keep in mind that the Lord has instructed on many occasions that love and mercy are supposed to be the guiding principles in our existence and I clumsily try to follow the Savior’s injunction.

    That’s part of the view through my glass darkly. I think that sticking with the Church requires and will continue to require an act of will. Those of us who do stick with it trust that this act of will shall eventually be born out by the eternities/universe.

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    Thank you Hannah for this post. I c inverted to the church as an adult back in 87. I went through the September 6 generation. I find your post very inspiring and full of love and support. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  20. E.D.

    Thank you for this post Hannah. Like Melyngoch, I feel like I’m between generations. I did have a fairly clear picture of non-correlated Church history and didn’t internalize a lot of the negative cultural messages as I grew up, but the conflict between church doctrine and culture and who I am (temple married, have a testimony of many things AND feminist, Democrat, PhD, childfree by choice) is difficult to navigate.

    I am going to continue to be the change I want to see, but I totally understand the mental exhaustion, frustration, and despair that comes with making the stay/leave decision.

    Reply
  21. Michael Worley

    I am disappointed, and thus must point out– that no one has mentioned Elder Holland and his talk–directed exactly to this age group– addressing the concerns Hannah raised

    “With this tender scriptural record as a backdrop, I wish to speak directly to the young people of the Church—young in years of age or young in years of membership or young in years of faith. One way or another, that should include just about all of us.

    “Observation number one regarding this account is that when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. …

    “When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes…

    “The second observation is a variation of the first. When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your ‘unbelief.’ That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”
    “Last observation: When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of ‘real intent,’ pursued ‘with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.’ I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief.”

    I know we have prophets and apostles on the earth today. Our journey of faith–and we all have such journeys– should start with what they say on topics such as this. I think it is unfortunate it took three days for someone to point out this important talk.

    Reply
  22. Brittany

    Just gotta say… what exactly is “open policy” to some of you? I believe the author mentioned the September Six, a.k.a. the group that was excommunicated for voicing truth, or a version of it, anyway. How is what happened to them any sort of pretext for a healthy, honest dialogue?

    So how exactly DID Joseph Smith REALLY translate the plates? What about how he wasn’t such a “sheep sent to slaughter,” so helpless, in Carthage? What about his polygamous wives, some of which were 14 years old? Until people learn the truth and can accept it from the damn source, you know, OUR OWN ORGANIZATION, how the hell can some of you say we’re transparent and honest? Some of those prized, oft-told stories in your sunday school manuels? Crap! Embellished or unfounded. And I learned this from a history class at BYU! To me, it’s like finding out you were adopted by some stranger on the street instead of from your parents. We’re taught to look in our own books and resources, but I don’t want the Candyland, dumbed down version of our history. Like Joseph Smith, I believe the truth as we know it is transitory, because we are constantly learning and growing. So let us grow, and help us to do it in a safe, non-judgmental enviorment! That would be my plea to church members and leaders alike.

    Reply
  23. SamIAm

    I have to say, I see the church right now doubling down. They are denying women entrance to the priesthood and they are citing the percentages that enough women don’t really want the priesthood as reason. They aren’t afraid enough of bad press to change. Their biggest fear is their youth base leaving. If youth stay, then the will believe they don’t really need to change. Fear of loss is the only thing driving policy change right now.

    Reply
  24. Multiplying Talents: Mormon Women in Global Church Leadership

    […] To say that we need more women in global church leadership is not to accuse global church leadership of being incompetent or unrighteous. It is to respond to a real and growing need. As Elder Uchtdorf acknowledged in his talk, the Church is not perfect because it is run by imperfect people. We must all work together despite our imperfections to solve the problems before us. One of these problems is this widely acknowledged problem of large-scale defection from the church (here), especially young women and single women who leave because they perceive that the Church does not have anything to offer bright, ambitious, capable women (see one perspective on this problem here). […]

    Reply
  25. Sunny

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the structure
    of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve
    got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so
    people could connect with it better. Youve got an
    awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

    Reply
  26. Erin

    For me, why should I stay in a church that cares more about the length of my shorts/skirt than if I come? Why should I stay in a church that constantly judges my best friend (he’s gay)? Why should I stay in a church where girls fake having a testimony at camp just to fit in?
    Most of all, why should I stay in a church that caused my mother to feel so judged and unwelcome that she’s on antidepressants because of it?

    I’m 13 right now and currently planning on leaving once I turn 18 and graduate high school. I’m done with the judgementalness

    Reply
  27. Julienne

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  28. Frank Staheli

    Hannah: As with another article of yours that I read, I have been very impressed with your insights in this one. I was especially taken by this:

    “I worry that many younger Mormons are going through a very difficult and at times traumatic break from the Mormon church without resources and support that might have better informed their decision about staying or leaving or anything in between. ”

    I’m not sure if members of the LDS Church:

    (a) Don’t know how they are supposed to relate with those who leave or contemplate leaving the Church?
    (b) Fear that leaving the Church is akin to sentencing one’s self to eternal hellfire?

    If it is “a”, it would be helpful to have discussions about how to relate to those who perhaps seem to have rejected us in their questioning or rejection of our doctrines.

    If it is “b”, that’s sad. Ours is (or at least should be) a very inclusive Church, with a grander idea of salvation than any other that I’m aware of. The atonement can fix just about anything, so we ought to ourselves show grace to someone who leaves or questions the Church by caring for them just as much as we ever did.

    Either way, it’s something we need to work on. If someone leaves, they are always welcome to come back. And if they leave, they are no less a good person than when they were a member of the Church. Our annoyance at the questioner or the leaver is almost always a greater impediment to their search for truth than their questioning or leaving is.

    Therefore, leaving or questioning the Church should not be seen as some sort of treason or other attack or sign of weakness. Actually, it should usually be seen as a sign of integrity. What do I mean by that? I mean that often people question because they feel it is important for them to honestly be able to say that they know. And if they don’t feel that they do INSIDE the Church, I don’t see a problem with them searching OUTSIDE of it, as people with great integrity are wont to do. In fact I celebrate such people expanding their search. Regardless of whether that search eventually brings them back to the Church or not.

    Thanks again for your insights.

    Reply
  29. Katherin K. Platner

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  30. friend app

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