not in Primary anymore

a letter to the mormon on the fence

Sitting on the fence isn't always a comfortable experience.

Sitting on the fence isn’t always a comfortable experience.

Growing up Mormon, you’re taught you either have to accept everything the Church teaches or reject it entirely. And now, you’re on the fence trying to figure out which side you want to be on, trying to figure out if you believe the Church is true or not (whatever that means).

I am not writing this in order to be one more person trying to persuade you towards one side or the other. I am writing this, however, in order to tell you that I think the best option is to be yourself, to be honest about what you do or don’t believe, and to do what you think is best for you.

This isn’t some grand binary decision, some major either or. In reality, there probably is no fence, there probably is much more than just two sides when it comes to these complicated social and religious decisions.

I think the best thing is to find out what you believe about Jesus, what you believe about the scriptures and the priesthood and the law of chastity, what you believe about evolution and fate and psychology and gender and sexuality. You can address each of these subjects individually! You can find that you believe in Jesus but not in the priesthood. You can find you believe in the priesthood but not in the law of chastity. It’s O.K.!

And in choosing what you want to do, if you enjoy praying, pray. If you enjoy having a drink, have a drink, too. If you enjoy going to church, go to church. And if you don’t enjoy those things? Don’t do them.

I don’t think life is about total obedience or total rebellion. I think it’s about finding out what works best for you.

I think it’s best to address each decision you make as if it was an individual decision, each belief you believe as if it’s an individual belief. The important part is that it’s what YOU want to do and it’s what YOU believe.


It takes away your sense of individuality and self-discovery when you say, “I have to believe or do this because I’m in the Church,” or, “I have to believe or do this because I’ve left the Church.”

There are not just two choices when it comes to your actions and your beliefs: the choice of doing and believing what Mormons do and believe or discarding everything you’ve been taught your whole life.

In reality, there are thousands of choices you have to make as to what you do and don’t want to do, thousands of teachings and ideas you have to figure out if you believe or not. Before being Mormon or Ex-Mormon, the most important thing is to be YOURSELF.

Only you know what’s best for you. Only you know what you really want to do and what you really believe. It doesn’t matter whether you end up identifying as Mormon or ex-Mormon or heterodox Mormon or whatever you call yourself.

Label yourself how you please, but don’t let labels bind you down.

And if you want to accept all of Mormonism, accept it all. And if you want to leave it all behind, leave it all behind. And if you want to do something in between, rejecting some things and accepting others? Well, that’s cool, too.

You just be you. You do what you do. There’s nothing wrong with being different. People might not like you for making your own path. They may try to convince you that the path of Mormonism is straight and narrow and that you’re either on it or off of it. If they feel that way, that’s fine. That’s their path. But that path doesn’t work for everyone.

It can be hard choosing the road less traveled by, but there’s nothing wrong with being yourself. In the words of Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Moses choosing the road less traveled by.

Moses choosing the road less traveled by.

38 Responses to “a letter to the mormon on the fence”

  1. Julian the Apostate

    I asked myself a number of questions. “Do I believe what I was taught?” …no. “Am I treated with respect?” …no. “Was I given the truth as I understand the truth to be?” …again, no. “Was I judged?” …yes. I asked many similar questions and I realized that the LDS experience was one I was far better off not undergoing a moment longer. I went inactive and stayed under the radar for 37 years until one day, fortuitously, I learned of the name removal process and knew that to bring things to a complete end I had to do that, and I did. Never once since then have I regretted that action.

  2. Derrick Clements

    Loved ones of mine who are more orthodox than I am in their Mormon practice worry — they tell me — that I am a “cafeteria Mormon.” The idea that I might pick and choose what to believe and how to behave is uncomfortable and scary to them. My response to them has usually been to push back and say something like, everybody’s a little bit cafeteria. But I want to acknowledge something true about the worry: the fact is, when you take morality on yourself, you need to become more responsible. You own it. Once you taste of the freedom-producing tree of knowledge of good and evil, you inevitably get kicked out of the garden and find that it’s up to you to take care of yourself. And when you are your own police officer, you might be tempted to be less disciplined.

    Then, a few months ago (actually, during Conference), something about this hit me in a new way. When people say you shouldn’t be a cafeteria Mormon, you know, they’re right! A world in which nothing is true and everything is true is not the world I experience. To me, there IS absolute truth. There is a right and a wrong about tithing, about chastity, about etc. etc. The thing is, the Church is not always on the right side of those things. We all see through a glass darkly, but I find life much more meaningful when I think of truth as immutable and uncompromising, if nevertheless totally obscure.

    So: I allow myself to disagree with the Church, and I certainly am not going to judge people whose understanding of the Truth differs from mine, because they might be right. But I hold on to the idea that when two claims are in opposition, one is “more” right than another. And even though I am a firm pluralist, that stems from a sense that nobody can really know, not from a sense that nobody is really right. And so I don’t want to be a cafeteria Mormon. I want to be challenged by doctrine that I may not understand — or even agree with.

    • Han

      Derrick I feel like you are saying two different things in your post and positing them as the same. If one is a “Cafeteria Mormon” it doesn’t mean that they are solely the only decider of their morality. In essence you are saying exactly what Curtis’ post warns against–it doesn’t have to be all-in or all-out. So, if someone takes beliefs and practices that work for them and put those into action while leaving others behind it does not mean that they are no longer following God and are making their own moral compass.

      All Mormons are Cafeteria Mormons, that is just fact. It isn’t even possible to believe and practice everything Mormonism has ever had to offer because there are parts that are contradictory. So, we all choose what and how to believe at some level that suits us. That’s perfectly okay. As long as we are following the two greatest commandments everything else is just gravy.

      I don’t believe that all truth is absolute–as in there is always an absolute truth in every situation. I believe that absolute truths exist, but life is perspective and so absent absolute facts (gravity, passage of time, death, etc…) there is quite a lot that can be disputed. In the immortal words of Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar “What is truth? Is truth unchanging at all? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?” My answer to that is no, and I think that is wonderful.

  3. Brittany

    Awesome post. Love your open-minded perspective and non-judgmental personality. Thanks!

  4. Ben Scaro

    I know little about the church, though what I heard seemed implausible, but to be fair, maybe the ancient Christians seemed that way to the Romans … so ‘plausibility’ in the religion scheme of things may be neither here nor there.

    What I will say is that when a young Mormon joined my Masonic lodge, as soon as he had his first degree, the poor chap had an instant crisis of faith and was literally in shock … as he recounted it to us, he could suddenly see where a lot of Mormon ritual had been pilfered from.

  5. Natalee

    Great article. If all LDS thought this way there would be peace in Zion. Healthy thinking! It all wraps up in DON’T DENY THE HOLY GHOST…. which means BE TRUE TO YOURSELF… FOLLOW THE SPIRIT INSIDE YOU… THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN. Now if the Brethren would stop restricing our FREE WILL and take some advice from Joseph (we TEACH correct principles but let the people GOVERN THEMSELVES), there might be hope. Requiring obedience causes so much damage internally.

    • Mormonfeminists1

      To not require obedience is to not require change, as we are imperfect and Christ is perfect change is required to come to Christ , even though changes may be difficult. If we don’t preach how to come to Christ , what can we preach? We would have no church at all

    • curtispenfold

      Mormonfeminists1, I’m cool with the idea of total obedience to God. I’m going to be 100% honest here: I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that everything “the Church” teaches comes from God.

      Why? Because to me, it’s like saying “the Church” is God. I’m uncomfortable giving any human organization that much power.

      But that’s just me. Obviously, I’m going to do what I think is best and you’re going to do what you think is best, and it would be hypocritical of me to criticize your beliefs and actions too strongly here, unless I saw you harming people.

  6. Anonymous

    I like this article because it doesn’t give any answers, it doesn’t take a stance, other than against the church. There is no truth, no reality. Just whatever you feel like doing is what you should do. What if i have a natural inclination to steal? Should i ? according to this article, yes. its who i am, its how i was born, its what i feel like doing. i think thats fair to say since we have tossed out right/wrong and replaced it with our own impulses and feelings. What if I feel like I don’t like gravity? Will that have any bearing on its reality, on its effects? The same goes for the law of chastity, the priesthood and Christ, your opinion of whether or not you like it or want it to be true has no bearing on the reality of it. Your job is to find what truth is so you can live the principles of truth, not find what you like and do that. The brethren are no more restricting your agency by preaching the happiness of the gospel and the effects of sin than physicists teaching the effects of gravity. And the brethren do teach true principles and let the people govern themselves , the same true principles Joseph taught, namely Christ and how the organization of the church is designed to bring us closer to him.

    • curtispenfold

      I don’t think I wrote anything in this particular blog post that was critical of “the Church.” (What is the Church anyway?) I also didn’t mention “the Bretheren.” This article is about you and your decisions, not about theirs.

      Also, I never claimed there was no truth nor reality.

      I can see how my words can be misinterpreted in saying that I support unethical behavior and may be implying that I feel a person should do something that harms them and others if they enjoy doing so. I hope people do not enjoy unethical behavior. But if they do, I hope they don’t take my words to that extreme.

      I agree with you that everybody needs to find out what they believe to be true. They shouldn’t pretend they believe something that they don’t.

    • Anonymous

      Right on the money.

      I don’t know how people cannot grasp the concept of truth. Truth is constant and will not be altered. If God exists, he exists. If I choose to believe that he doesn’t – it won’t change the fact that he Does. If God doesn’t exist, he does not exist. If I choose to believe that he does – it won’t change the fact that he does not.

      If the law of Chastity is real, we will be judged on it if there is a judgement. Our beliefs about the law of chastity or the judgement will not change anything. Belief cannot render reality into anything else than what it is.

      But somehow people think that if they just choose to stop believing they’ll be held responsible for anything, they won’t be.

      • curtispenfold

        “If God exists, he exists. If I choose to believe that he doesn’t – it won’t change the fact that he Does. ”

        Like you, I also believe that there probably is a reality independent of our own beliefs. However, with so many competing beliefs, who has the right to say that what they believe is superior to what another believes?

        All I’m arguing is that one should figure out what THEY believe. Do you believe there’s a God? Do you believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong? Only YOU know what YOU believe.

        What you believe doesn’t change reality of course. But that doesn’t mean you should try to believe something that you don’t believe, or that you should try to shame somebody into believing something they don’t believe.

  7. Anonymous

    First of all I was addressing the comments as well as the article, since it takes very little to get through your article because you have no substance there. You couldve just used the dr. Suess quote on a newsfeed update and said just as much.Read the comments, most of mine pertain to them. I didn’t say you said there is no truth and do whatever you want, but that that’s the ultimate end of this article. FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, not find what is true, or even moral. My opposition was that stealing works for me. Will you tell me that’s wrong? Should I not be true to how I feel? Are you going to tell me this is wrong when I believe it’s right, or tell me I should do it because it (para 6)”works for me”. (Para 14) This is me, this is what I do. According to this article I should then do it, yes? You call it unethical behavior , but I say it’s ethical. It’s ethical because doing what works for me and being true to myself is the right thing to do, it’s ethical. I’m a thief , stealing is what I do. To deny who I am is wrong, yes? Will you tell me that stealing , despite being who and what i am , is wrong and i should stop? or will you condone this behavior because ive taken your advise and found what i believe and im doing what works for me( keeping in mind if you choose this you ought retract your comment about it being unethical) ?Or there is a law higher than myself that determines morality, that I should obey above any natural tendency?
    Sincerely anonymous

    • Andy

      Anonymous, I’m sorry you feel threatened by this post but your reaction is pretty immature. The whole point of it is summed up well in this sentence, “I think the best thing is to find out what you believe about Jesus, what you believe about the scriptures and the priesthood and the law of chastity, what you believe about evolution and fate and psychology and gender and sexuality”. Please don’t tell me you disagree with this. Or do you think we should all follow Satan’s plan and be forced to believe a certain way? Our lds faith is all about asking hard questions, pondering, and praying to receive personal revelation. The church has NEVER said to just take the prophet’s word for anything. We are instead told to seek personal revelation as we come to know what we personally believe. If your beliefs are perfectly in line with the church’s as of today, no one here is against you. Please let them have their own journey without berating them. if God truly is the way you think he is, they will find him through this process anyway.

      p.s. If you stop being so combative, maybe you’ll get some better replies. Just a thought.

      • Anonymous

        Andy, am I not asking tough questions? Don’t be confused, my argument is not religious. I’m not threatened by this piece, I’m highlighting its flawed logic. Once again it’s about finding what works for you. I have no problem with finding out what you believe about this or that, my contentions are that here it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as it isn’t something that bothers THIS group. So evolution and sexuality and Jesus , you don’t care what I believe is true. But if I use his own model, his own logic to showcase a belief of mine this group doesn’t like, I’m unethical,extreme , and combative? I thought we were open minded here? THE QUESTION REMAINS, is stealing ethical because I believe in it,(para 6) “it works for me” , or (para 5)I enjoy it . (Para 14)it’s me, it’s what Ido. If this logic is valid in making calls on your choices of sexuality and evolution, why can’t I use it to authorize stealing? My question (still unanswered) is can I steal or not? What makes stealing different then any other belief listed? Because you don’t like it? I belief this reasoning is EITHER wrong, there is a law above us that exists despite our beliefs OR it is right, in which case all beliefs and behaviors must be unconditionally accepted , provided you believe in them. In my case stealing, but all behaviors , including vulgar,illegal and “immoral” ones because it only matters if you’re doing what you have decided is right.

        So, is my stealing condoned by this group OR is the logic wrong and you need new ground to stand on to defend your beliefs?

      • Anonymous

        Ps, I’m not arguing my belief vs your belief, I haven’t even stated mine nor you yours, I’m arguing your footing. I’m saying the reasoning is saying if you believe what you do based on this philosophy , your entire belief system has an incorrect premise (unless its right and you accept all behaviors).

      • mediumharris

        Anonymous, I am in no way a spokesman for this group nor do all group members believe the same things. In fact, there is a LOT of variety of belief here. I’m not sure what your history is with the group, but I’m sorry you feel slighted.

        “So, is my stealing condoned by this group OR is the logic wrong and you need new ground to stand on to defend your beliefs?”

        I think you’ll find some might condone while others might not. Since you seem to be bent on an official group answer (I don’t think you’ll find one as there are varied beliefs here) and I already told you what I think about finding one’s own beliefs, I’ll let someone else talk. If you’re trying to somehow discredit or prove the entire group wrong with this line of thinking, your logic is flawed. That would assume that every member bases their beliefs on the same argument. This is simply not the reality.

      • Anonymous

        Medium Harris , I do t expect everyone to believe the same. I only feel slighted of a straight answer. I do not expect everyone to think the same. Obviously i am only talking to those who agree with this line of thinking, im a frequenter here myself. Im talking to the group that is agreeing with this article. I’m NOT talking about the conclusion, I’m talking about the foundation. I’m asking, is the authors premise wrong, or is stealing wrong? That’s all. Answer this question ; I feel like I’m gay. It suites me to be this way. I’m being true to myself and my beliefs. I feel the same about crime. Why am I supported in one and oppressed in the other? What’s the difference? I say there is none based on the logic expressed here. Am I wrong? Why? Based on Curtis’ logic in the article. I don’t want to hear anything else, so if you can’t answer don’t, please

      • curtispenfold

        Anonymous, if you participate in a gay relationship, YOU ARE NOT HARMING ANYBODY. If you participate in a violent crime of some sorts, YOU ARE HARMING SOMEBODY.

        Can you see a difference between the two?

        In fact, if you are critical of gay relationships, you are causing emotional harm against gay people, adding to a very harmful (and at times violent) message against them.

  8. Anonymous

    I think you should get off the fence. don’t just post fluffy air. What’s your stance on my last post? Details, please

  9. curtispenfold

    Anonymous, sorry for taking a few hours to respond back to you. I was at church and I don’t check Internet while I’m there.

    I want to make clear that for me personally, I try to see no fence. I just do what I think is best. I believe what I believe and try not to lie about it no matter what group of people I’m with. And if my actions and beliefs happen to fall inside or outside your interpretation of Mormon beliefs and behaviors, so be it.

    I also want to differentiate between BELIEFS and CHOICES. In my personal experience, I do not choose the beliefs I have. I choose to study the situation to the best of my abilities, but what I end up believing is beyond my control. All I was trying to say in this letter is that it’s O.K. to find that you believe differently than others want you to. Being honest with oneself, in my experience, is the best option.

    Now when it comes to ethics, there may be a law above us that exists despite our beliefs. That is possible. But does any of us actually know what that law is? Can we all agree to it? Welcome to the complexities of ethics. Or in other words, welcome to life.

    Everybody has to do what they think is right. You do what you think is right. I do what I think is right. If you think it’s right to steel, I just want you to know that I think it’s right to stop you. And I have society on my side, since we’ve collectively decided that steeling is wrong.

  10. Anonymous

    1, it’s steal. Not steel. 2, this not about what we believe, Mormons believe or anyone believes. It’s the haven’t thought through your whys. Why is it ok for you to believe what you do based on it being how you feel and not I? What would you do to stop me from stealing? Lock me up, hit me , kill me for my opinions? If its ok for you to do that, is it ok for the bigot to do the same to a homosexual? Does societies opinion dictate morality? I think youre better than that. Maybe to some one who can’t think independently. At any rate, most people are against gay marriage. Are the same rights that you claim to stop me afforded to the bigot to stop the homosexual? If your opinions dictate morality, all actions are moral.

    • curtispenfold

      Anonymous, it’s funny that you accuse me of not thinking through my why’s, because that’s the same way I feel about you. Which is probably O.K. We apparently see the world differently than one another. That’s just life for you. Life is complicated. Ethics are complicated.

      “Why is it ok for you to believe what you do based on it being how you feel and not I?”

      I’m confused by this statement. Do you believe things you don’t feel are true?

      See, I believe the best thing to do when you think somebody is harming another with their opinions or actions is to explain to them why you think their opinions or actions are harmful.

      I also see nothing wrong with being, to some degree or another, bigoted against bigots and to shame shamers, because well, they started it. (You may think that’s immature, but that’s my current opinion on the subject).

      If I think something is harmful, I’m going to dedicate myself to stopping it. And guess what? All societies ever think stealing is harmful. So not only am I dedicated to a cause that I think is correct; I’m luckily dedicated to a cause that MANY think are correct, too. So I have the power of numbers behind me.

      But a large amount of societies slut shame. They criticize those who are sexual deviants, even though sexual deviants are not harming anybody if all are consenting and of age and such. In this situation, I’m against society because what society sees as harmful, I see as being benign, and I think THOSE WHO CRITICIZE SEXUAL DEVIANTS are being harmful.

      That’s called life. Life is complicated. We disagree with each other. Ethics is complicated to. There’ll most likely be no consensus. How can we ask somebody to do something they BELIEVE is wrong? How can we ask somebody to believe something they don’t believe? I can only call out WHAT I THINK is harmful behavior and live with that.

      • Anonymous

        Curtis, the point is any rationale you use for anything you support, if that rationale is valid, MUST be afforded all parties AND ALL causes. Just like 1 + 1= 2 follows the same logic if I’m gay, straight, bigot, Mormon or anything else, your logic, to be valid, must be the same in all not arguing your cause. For all you know I’m running Provo pride.
        IF you say being honest with your self is good rationale to do something, then an thief who knows who he is and doesn’t not steal because of that is moral. So that logic is out.
        If society dictates morality thieves and gays Are both immoral, which I hope neither of us believes. At any rate there are approximately the same amount of people in prison, on parol and in jail as there are estimated homosexuals. So if its numbers they are equally valid yet both immoral.
        If morality is determined by harm you’ve opened up another can of worms. What if I don’t hurt anyone stealing? If they never even notice what I took? (Think the plot from office space) then it’s moral. But if a cop tackles me trying to flee, he is immoral. And what of the large majority against gay marriage? They THINK its HARMING our society, HARMS the participants spiritually. Note “THEY THINK”, don’t pin that on me. So that logic too, tossed out. Useless.

        I’m not saying your cause is wrong, I’m saying you have no valid reason to believe it is not. It’s not about us all agreeing, that will never happen. I don’t care if your final conclusion matches mine or not. But you need to be able to show why your cause is right, you need to KNOW why your cause is worthwhile.

        If you can’t provide sound logic, maybe you shouldn’t be involved. But in the event of giving your reasons for fighting for something, and someone you don’t like uses your same reasoning,saying ” we’ll , NUh uh! I don’t like that, your mean!” Isn’t gonna cut it here. If you use it, it’s fair and equally valid for them.
        I will not post again on here UNLESS you, Curtis, can defend your cause without me being able to use your defense for my stealing cause.

        We’re not in primary anymore,

  11. Han

    Anonymous, logic in fact does not dictate that all instances are treated equally, so thanks for the fallacy but you will have to try again. I know since it doesn’t suit your agenda that you are pretending that you can’t tell the difference between harming another human being, and NOT harming another human being. I can’t bring myself to believe that you are dense enough to not actually understand that concept.

    Your rights end where my rights begin, therefore you can feel that stealing is correct all you want, but you don’t have the right to do it. All your strawmen notwithstanding, you cannot compare apples and oranges and with a straight face try to claim that you are just “treating everything the same”.

    Also, get your facts straight, 53% of Americans support gay marriage–that’s what we who are not bogged down in an echo chamber call a majority.

    • Anonymous


      Good, another one who cannot read. I HAVE POSTED NO AGENDA. YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT I BELIEVE. I DIDNT SAY THE LIFE STYLES OR BELIEFS IN THE ARTICLE ARE WRONG. I vehemently support some of them even. You have no clue what I believe, you assume it’s not what you believe.

      Glad see you can use a search engine. you picked the first stat about gay support from google. 53% says yours. 30% say the first I saw. 49 is the second. 52 is the third. I saw one for 65%. Have you ever seen how political polls of this magnitude are taken? Not exactly unbiased.

      You say it’s fallacy, and leave it there? Give an example to show I’m wrong! If you can’t, perhaps google can help with that as well?

      Rules to be worth anything must always apply. If they apply to you, they apply to me. You cannot use a defense against me, and when I use the same defense say its invalid without invalidating your argument as well.

      It’s apples to apples. This IS a valid way to assess your life choices, or it ISN’T .

      It’s not is being gay right or stealing right, we are BEFORE THE LIFE STYLE. We are at the cause, and the defense.

      If it being natural to you Han, is a valid reason for you to live a certain way, and that being your only defense, you can’t deny me what’s natural to me.

      Han I can’t believe you are too dense to think you’re perspective is the only one there is. Like I say, many people ( not I, quit trying to assign beliefs to me) feel homosexuality harms the individuals participating, and society as a whole. You dismiss them, even though their only intention is preventing harm to their fellow man ,because you don’t like that idea. They don’t even register. Your perspective is the only thing.

      So defending people is a good argument for you, garbage for them?

      if you bring rights into the mix you’ve brought law. Am I bound to law as it is now? Then so are you. No gay marriage because that’s the law in most places now, forget the hope of your life style , or overcoming oppression. No matter public opinion. Speaking of “public opinion” just about everyone commits crime in their life.

      Law does not dictate morality. Your “rights” dictated by your government, the same government that says that in most places homosexuals cannot marry, does not dictate morality. I have a problem with any organization dictating to the people rights and wrongs 😉

      Try opening your mind to the world around. So busy trying to show how open minded and progressive and non judgmental you are you disregard everyone who thinks (or you ASSUME has different opinions) as close minded.
      To be worth acknowledging I must think like you?

      (Paraphrased) why must I change my beliefs to be considered tolerant?

      • curtispenfold

        I have a feeling we’re talking past each other, anonymous. This would be easier if we could more clearly see where you’re coming from and why you believe what you believe. As well as making clear what you actually believe.

      • Han

        Anonymous (if that is your real name!), Here is my suggestion to you: Take a moment, think about what you believe to be the truth, then write a thoughtful coherent comment about it. Then I will gladly respond. Hysteria-driven rantings with disturbing mixes of capital and lower-case letters is not something I am going to engage with. Get your head on straight, and then we will talk some more.

  12. curtispenfold

    Anonymous (the one who is critical of this article) is bringing up a valid criticism of moral relativism. If I say a person should do what they think is best, a violent criminal could use that to defend their crimes. It’s a slippery slope, right?

    Of course, moral absolutism is a slippery slope. If morality is an objective thing, WHO’S the source of said morality? What human being KNOWS what is right and wrong in any circumstance?

    In reality, both options suck to some degree or another. Both options have logic that can’t be applied thoroughly. But again, that’s life. Life is complicated.

    I would like to hear anonymous’s alternative to telling people they can only do what they think is right. Do you suggest we tell people to do what they think is wrong?

  13. Thomas

    Religion is not simply a way to be happy -in other words, a way of living. This misunderstanding is the reason why many people go inactive from this church. Essentially this article isn’t really talking about ‘finding your own truth’, it’s talking about choosing practices that make you happy. Now, religion never was just a way to live happily, Religion is a claim of truth. This article instructs us to select Only the practices that make us happy, those are our truth.

    When the LDS church says it’s claims are true or they aren’t, that is only logic that makes sense. One can make their own claim, but that’s not what the church’s “label” means now is it? So why would someone put on a label if they don’t believe in what it represents? Why would one profess LDS ideology, but throw out faith, prophetic guidance and it’s other pillars? Sounds to me like a different label. I personally believe this “label” represents the God-inspired truth, and not just a few lucky scraps of it.

    People can be happy with or without religion, but -what is the truth? (independent of how happy that truth makes you) That is really the important question. Gravity will pull me down whether I decide it’s a true law or not -or whether I Enjoy it or not. One can’t gain a real testimony by seeing what practices make him happy. He’ll fall away the second the Lord throws any faith in there. Faith isn’t about self-gratification, it’s about trust. Trust is about relying on previously learned truth when it’s not right in front of your face. Questions are Very Good, but God will not allow us to go through life without Some trust in Him -in other words- at least a few unexplained questions.

    1. Religion is not just a way of being happy, it is a claim of truth. It’s not our Decision what is true, but we can certainly Discover what is true. To put a fine point on it, the truth of something is independent of how happy it makes us.s
    2. We can’t wear this religion’s “label” and not believe in what the label Really represents – a connected set of inspired truths.
    3. With the mentality that every point of a religion is independent (that each one can be individually Proved and selected or rejected), one will certainly learn to choose atheism (albeit a very moral atheism), because by the nature of religion, it requires us to build-up trust in God and then make some decisions based SOLELY on that trust we’ve built up -faith.

    • curtispenfold

      Thomas, as I mentioned to an anonymous commenter above, I also believe that reality probably exists independent of our own beliefs, and that our own beliefs probably cannot change reality.

      My argument, however, is to find out what you really believe, and that we shouldn’t shame people into believing things that they don’t.

      The label “Mormon” means different things to different people. For some, it’s a certain belief system based around Joseph Smith’s radical theology. For others, it’s a culture that one participates in. I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be gatekeepers to who can identify themselves as being Mormon or not, especially considering Mormonism’s rich and diverse history.

      I personally think there should be a difference between religion and God. You can accept some parts of religion and reject others parts while still believing that you are accepting all of God. In fact, some people reject parts of religion BECAUSE they feel that God is telling them to.

      You might believe that they’re wrong. But who has the authority to say who’s wrong and who’s right when it comes to complicated and subjective experiences?

  14. SamIAm

    Philosophy rant: There is the epistemic fact of what we believe is morally right and then there is a separate ontological fact as to what is actually right in the world. We have to check them against each other to see if our beliefs are correct. One more important distinction: most people actually believe they are moral experts. So, unlike a doctor, when we say we think we have strep, and the doctor says we have a flu, we defer to her and say we were wrong and she is right because she is an expert. If we are talking to a preacher, and we say gay marriage is right, and he says it is wrong, we don’t just say – “you are the expert, I’ll go with your conclusion”. Usually. Mormonism encourages moral deference, and the belief that individuals aren’t moral experts – only GA’s. That is actually what Curtis is writing about. He is suggesting that epistemically we should trust ourselves to be expert enough to stick to our own moral compass and not feel a need to defer. It isn’t an argument that that what anyone believes is morally right will always be ontological right, or that if two people with contradictory moral opinions can both be ontologically right. Rather, this is an argument that a person should trust his or her own moral compass MORE than that of another person or an organization. You are all moral experts. Ok. End of philosophy lecture.


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