Why Mormons Leave the Church: A Comment from the Antipodes

John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories Podcast fame) has recently published the first batch of results from his survey on Mormon Disaffection. It makes for some telling reading. Dehlin received survey responses from over 3000 Mormons who no longer believe the church to be true. Despite the fact that many of us have been led to think that people leave the church because they are aching for a Pinot, they’ve been offended by the Ward Clerk, or they have a wee itch they need to scratch, it would appear that an overwhelming majority of people who participated in the survey cited issues with church history, or doctrine as the key factors in their disaffection. Clearly we Mormons need to have a bit of a chat!

I was 17 when I first read Fawn Brodie’s (1945) ‘No Man Knows My History’. I wasn’t necessarily looking for it, I just found it on the book shelf at home and read it from cover to cover. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘Joseph Smith was polygamous, how come they never taught me that at church?’ I was pretty excited about having a discussion about Emma Smith the next Sunday in Young Women’s and enthusiastically broached it with my Laurel’s advisor.

‘Joseph Smith was polygamous and how come we don’t talk about Emma Smith much?’ I queried her with excitement.

I was surprised by the reaction. I thought Young Women’s Presidents were up for anything! She wasn’t defensive or rude, she just looked deeply uncomfortable and said, ‘Well, we just don’t talk about those things’.

‘Why not?’ I responded, beginning to feel a bit deflated.

‘Because Emma did some things…..,’ came the reply.

‘What things?’, I pressed.

‘Well there are some things that we don’t talk about’.

‘Joseph married a teenager, her name was Fanny Algers. Emma threw her out of the house – I would too if I was her. I can’t believe she put up with that.’

No response.

‘I’ve read Lucy Mack Smith’s History and another book by Fawn Brodie. I thought Emma was pretty great. Heaps of her children died and she wouldn’t go West with the other saints after Joseph died. Brigham said lots of rude things about her. Why did he say those things?’ It all came out in a rush.

‘Well, its probably best not to dwell on those things.’

‘Why not????’, I demanded to know while inside I screamed, ‘If its true, why can’t we talk about it?’

I was getting no where and soon gave up, but not without a sense that something was egregiously wrong.

Up until then I thought everything was up for discussion. I grew up in the home of the Stake President who happened to be an historian as well. He subscribed to Sunstone, Dialogue, read Eugene England, bought every book about Mormonism he could afford on his trips to General Conference and was personally and professionally acquainted with Leonard Arrington.  He allowed me to read the General Handbook of Instructions from cover to cover without so much as a flicker of concern, and would listen attentively and sympathetically about my discontent with the Young Women’s curriculum. He occasionally grumbled about authoritarian church leaders who loved the sound of the their own voices, and bemoaned the tedium of Mormon meetings. So imagine my surprise and disconcertion when I started coming up against these brick walls.

Over the intervening 27 years I have had lots of time to think about being a Mormon because for all of that time (and the 17 years before that) I have been a Mormon on a daily basis. All of this thinking has lead me to ask myself on several occasions this one fundamental and concerning question: ‘Why am I part of a church that proclaims it is true, but struggles to talk about everything that is true? A secret, or a polite silence, does not a truth make’.

I’ve since discovered that one of the MO’s of Mormonism is to try not to upset the fragile and tender faith of the many by not airing its own dirty laundry. This somehow takes precedence over those who actually do have questions. Interestingly the survey indicates that the largest cohort of those leaving the church are educated family men. So clearly there is a bit of a miscalculation going on here. Educated family blokes who have questions seem to be battling their faith crises in a climate that supports conservatism, orthodoxy, and correlation – none of which I believe are entirely healthy for a church with aspirations the size of the world. As I’ve progressed in the church I’ve noticed a fragility in Mormonism that has caused a certain heavy handedness and protectiveness with respect to the questioning of its past. Unfortunately it does seem to me to be at odds with its own theological story of spiritual expansiveness and truth. In this respect I do believe that the church is shooting itself in the foot.

Last week Radio New Zealand did a 50 minute spot on Mormons. Probably on account of the excessive attention things Mormon are getting in the media in the US with the run up to the Republican nomination. It was OK, I suppose, but every Mormon who has been around the block some would have been able to anticipate every thing the missionaries were saying because it was laden with ‘Hyper PR self-consciousness’. It had this mechanistic, ‘Keep it glossy and they’ll all want to join the church’ flavour. But it came across as scripted and sanctimonious. The interviewer interrogated the missionaries about garments, and Kolob, and blacks and the priesthood but found himself rushing headlong into a warm pile nothing because they clearly knew nothing, and while they tried they had no adequate response except to say that they loved Jesus. Its times like that you really hope that CES will do a makeover because it had clearly let these boys down.

“What a wasted opportunity”,  I thought.

What we Mormons need to do is to talk. Lets just talk, lets really, really talk for once and for all about what it means to be a Mormon, to wear the badge of a missionary minded religious outsider but to be sympathetic to the real reasons people might close the door on our zeal.

To wonder constantly about the lack of literal evidence for a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, but to be spiritually compelled by this wondrous book all the same.

To hate the idea of polygamy with our whole being, and to wonder constantly if it really is still part of our faith.

To try to spiritually manage the brutalizing and spurious claims of past racist leaders, and to wonder how we went from religious apartheid then, and inclusivity now, without so much as a ‘sorry about that‘ in between.

To joyfully and emphatically sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer and revelator but to feel some worry at missing the actual prophecies and the translations, and to experience some confusion about the difference between counsel and revelation.

To wonder at the grace and beauty of the temple ritual but to have to reconcile it with its obvious roots in the Masonic tradition.

To have to negotiate this image of saccharin womanhood that keeps being thrown up to us from the pulpit, and to struggle to make those well intentioned but nauseating aphorisms mean anything that will make a difference at home when you have a meal to make, and kids you feel allergic to swirling around you bleating for food.

To be called as the Relief Society President but to really want to be called as the Bishop so you can sort out the blimin ward which sometimes feels like it was organised down at the pub during happy hour.

To love church and its weekly possibility of transformation, but to be bored to the core with its merry-go-round, recycled, four year curriculum that offers us spiritual twinkies while we are starving for a Sunday pork roast.

To hate American arrogance in global politics, American consumptive habits, American media spew, America’s shameless bigness, American racism, Americas absence of doubt in itself, the American sense of entitlement, but to cherish the church that had the resources to reach out to us in New Zealand precisely because it is American.

To enjoy loving relationships with your gay friends and family but to bare the shame of a pointless and embarrassing foray into state politics which we should have left well alone.

I say we share a conversation, and together try to work all of this out in the spirit of honesty and integrity – without rancour or fear.

I hope that we as a community can honestly get to the point where we can say, ‘Yes, I know all about those things. But I also accept that it is within the context of this church that my most profound spiritual awakenings have occurred. Its for that reason that I love the church even while I know the church . For me its home. And maybe, just maybe, its better for my staying’.

You can find the survey at:


For a discussion about the survey check out Mormon Matters podcast at:


  • Jay Jay

    One of the worst articles/blog/or ramble i’ve read in my life! Grammar check your work please. Starts off with a feeling of objectivity because you mention a survey…but that’s all you did spend a few lines on the survey then started rambling in a totally subjective manner about what? If someone was honestly to doubt the church based on the points you raised here, then seriously that person has some serious issues! And educated people are leaving the church? What educated in philosophy? Political Science? Some study-free degree? Seriously your article is weak because there’s no meat i.e. no mention of any details whatsoever…just a bunch of rambles!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Thanks for your feedback! You were quite right – the grammar was terrible and it was a bit of a ramble. That comes from clicking the publish button when it should have been the update button! I also think you are quite right to point out that some people in the church have some serious issues – that’s the point of this post! I don’t profess any other position than a subjective one -that’s why its a blog and not a journal article.

      If you want some details check out the survey yourself (the web address is at the bottom). Have a happy day!

      • amazing.

        this is absolutely THE most honest post on mormonism i’ve ever read from a member. cheers to articulating what NEEDS to be discussed.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    Yet another level of court has struck down Prop 8 (as was obvious it would be from the beginning). Much wasted time and effort which could have been spent on important issues.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    Ramble or not….all valid points to those of us who have considered leaving at one time or another. Lack of transparency both about church history and about church finances is a sticking point with many members. Good on you if your faith is strong enough not to question either. I find blind faith very difficult to do.

  • Jay Jay

    @ lpf42 did you know that churches are not required by law to disclose their financial position? It’s not unique to the Mormons, it’s actually counter productive for the governments, churches, and society as a whole to require churches to produce such statements.

    Simply by commenting to this blog you have exposed your low level of understanding for basic church agreements/laws set by governments, is it reasoning like this without the due diligence that causes people to leave the church? Anyways here’s an answer to your blind faith statement. Account for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I invite you to please enlighten me about how this Book came to be, if it was not through divine intervention. Basically if I understand you right, people will leave the church because something doesn’t sit well with them about the church’s history, prophet, or finances? Do people just forget about the Book of Mormon and it’s origins?

    As for church history, keep studying it and try asking the right people for the answers, not your “Laurel’s adviser” like the one who created this post. A Laurel’s adviser is a volunteer helper to the church that could be my grandma who’s got really bad memory but very sweet! Or it could be a member who’s only been a member for a few months or a year. Education is never a prerequisite for these positions, so seriously ask the right people!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I think you have missed the point. I am commenting from New Zealand in which the church IS required to disclose and publish their financial position for public scrutiny. I thought I made that point perfectly clear. The legal arrangement in the US is a Corporation Sole, here they are a charitable trust and those things aren’t the same.

      With respect to my refections on my Laurel’s advisor response, that was 27 years ago – it was a comment on my first awakening as to the stone walling one receives at church when asking about church history. I think its entirely understandable and appropriate for a young woman to ask her Laurel’s advisor -don’t you? In almost every other respect she was fabulous, but she had nothing for me in terms of talking through these issues, which at the time were incredibly interesting for me. It wasn’t the fact of the history that bothered me, that was all beside the point. It was the deafening silence that occurred as a result of my questions that I recall.

      In the 27 years between I’ve been a Relief Society President, a Young Women’s President four times and a gospel doctrine teacher and have ensured that if anyone needed to talk to me about church history I wouldn’t ever glaze over, shut anyone down, or become defensive. I think there are many people who have appreciated that over the years.

      With respect to the Book of Mormon, I don’t think I have ever given any indication other than I believe the Book of Mormon to be miraculous and compelling but I’m not above the engaging with and being aware of the many huge contradictions in the stories of its genesis. I think Church leaders understand and are aware of the hemorrhaging they are taking from the church from good faithful people who feel betrayed because for years the official story of the church did’t match the historical records.

      I’m sensing from your comments that you feel this is some anti-mormon site trying to recruit fellow apostates. Not so. There is a third space in which it is possible to love the church and to be faithful in the church while not being dismissive of the reality of the church including its cultural habits, its history, its finances etc.

      Are you American?

      • Jay Jay

        No I’m not American, why would you assume that? I know that certain business income of charities are captured in the New Zealand’s Tax Act 2007, but I haven’t heard of the Church preparing financial statements in New Zealand. Can you provide me with a link to the financial statements? I would like to see this for myself.

        As for my Laurel’s comment, as you say it’s 27 years ago and you still bring it up to make a point? And come on you were 17 years old! Not 12 or 13. If at 17 years old you are expecting a Laurel’s adviser to be well equipped with doctrine then you’re just kidding yourself. So what if you got silence years ago or even now, it’s your own fault for seeking it from people who didn’t know the answers and expecting answers from them. Most people in the church don’t read up on History etc because it just doesn’t concern. On the other hand there are plenty of people who enjoy reading up on those particulars of the church and would share a wealth of knowledge with you.

        I don’t feel as if this site is anti-mormon, it’s more of just a site where like minded people like yourself come and pat each other on the back and talk about doctrines that’s probably going to add zero value to you financially in terms of progression, and most likely even spiritually? IMO.

        Since you asked me if I’m an American, can I ask you, are you educated? And in what discipline/field?

        • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon
        • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

          Once again you are quite right – people of a like mind do come here to share, so I have to wonder why you are here? From my experience there are plenty of blogs and sites which cater to Mormons like yourself. You could have bypassed this as just another site for ‘those kinds of Mormons’ and found somewhere where you feel more at home. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is welcome but to be honest I’m a bit baffled.

          I thought you were American because despite that fact that I was clear about the different legal arrangement for the establishment of the church in different nations you seemed to be quite emphatic about the church not being required to disclose their financial position – which is in fact the case in America.

          As for your comments about my supposedly inappropriate Laurel behaviour 27 years ago – I simply don’t know what to say except ‘Silly, silly me. What an absolute duffer I was!’

          No, I’m not educated – but you sound like you’re incredibly well educated and I’m impressed. What discipline?

      • Jay Jay

        You’re right your site is for like-minded people. Have a good one.

    • http://gravatar.com/bidlet bidlet

      You know, as a church we don’t really air our dirty laundry, yet one of our fundamental doctrines is the Atonement of Christ and all that encompasses. To make that work we need to repent – say sorry and forgive – you know how it works and it’s fantastic. However, in my experience when many leaders make mistakes they very rarely apologize yet we are required to sustain them almost unconditionally. It seems to me to be a double standard and that is what I think the writer of this blog is trying to illuminate. Often these problems are on a very local level with inexperienced people but not always. This, in conjunction with some of our less miraculous church history, is a fact of life, but why don’t we just own it? To have open dialogue about past mistakes and how things have moved on is healthy, we do it in our personal lives to a point, to work through issues. How hard or bad would it be to do this about some of the more unpleasant parts of Lds church history? Other faiths have to wear it, why not us. Also, the fact is, not everything the ‘church’ does is from God nor is everything that comes out of the Prophet’s mouth prophesy or revelation. This in no way affects my testimony and in fact endears these wonderful men to me.I accept that some stuff we can’t fix and the important thing is to get on and serve and be more concerned with my own salvation but it is not wrong to question,debate and know things that are not part of the official curriculum. Thankgoodness we have authors like Nibley,Bushman, Maxwell,Black, Embry and countless others.

    • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

      Just because they are not required by law to disclose where the money goes is not necessarily a reason not to. ‘Something doesn’t sit well’ is a bit of an understatement to cover the fact that in some instances we feel we have intentionally been misled. Guess my low level of understanding is responsible.
      I am hanging in there in the hope that as the church leadership begins to realize that they now must deal with those beyond the borders of Utah, they will address issues of members who are not white middle-class Americans. The Gospel is true everywhere, but the church must be flexible enough to accept that there are cultural differences among its members. President Hinckley started the process and I do hope future leaders do not reverse it.

    • Jay Jay

      Just a side note thank you for the link, if I’m reading your statements correctly the church generates just under 30g a year on tithing for all it’s members in New Zealand? Wow that’s really low. Most people I know make well over that in 6 months. There must be a handful of people who actually pay a full tithe, interesting.

      But yeah ok thanks for the link. Oh I didn’t bother reading the “about you” site. So yeah I’ll just leave it at that. Best of luck with what you’re trying to accomplish, I’m sure there’s plenty of like minded people out there.

      • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

        Actually, what are you trying to accomplish other than being insulting?

      • Kassie

        I agree with lpf43.

        For all your education, you seem kind of ignorant. I wish you good luck, you’re going to need it if you deal with everyday life with as much closed-mindedness you have exhibited here.

      • Mars

        Jay Jay, I think you have been very rude in your dealing with lpf43. She asked you a straight question if you were an American or not. You only limited your answer to no. That sounded like you were trying to hide something……I do not give a rat’s a…… who you are or where you come from. I am a former member of the LDS Church and left the Church also because of people like you. You sounded very snobbish and unsocial. I found Jesus without the help of any religious organization,or people like you. lpf43, I wish you all the best and I heard New Zealand is very beautiful. My greatest mistake in life was not to move there when I was younger. Enjoy, your very special corner of Paradise, and thank you for your comments on the LDS Church. To be educated makes us better human beings.

        • BLUE EYES

          I, like you, am wary and weary of religious institutions who really mess it up …..

          So i agree with your comments

  • http://gravatar.com/bidlet bidlet

    I have read ‘the about’ site and seems to me that a Doctorate in Journalism counts as educated. I wonder how you would define ‘educated’? I know a number of people who read this site and most of them have degree’s, some have multiple degree’s including myself …… what is your point? What is your point in reading this blog, cos you don’t have to! If you clarified something or corrected something wrong fair enough but you haven’t. You have just been rude, arrogant and insulting. Futhermore, I suggest to you that Kiwimormon is trying to talk about things that we don’t talk about at Church on sunday and this is probably a more appropriate forum to do so. Yes some things are provocative but there are also really important and relevant subjects that I wish were talked about more, and this blog provides me space to do so or just read what others think. Like I said before, you don’t have to read it but many others will continue to do so with or without you!!!!!!

    • Jay Jay

      Many others? Seriously come on. My point is that with so much material/doctrine out there and responsibility we have to family, children, and progression, it baffles me that members chose to engage in these types of discussions. But thats fine with me its your choice. And degrees are not that difficult to attain, it obviously depends on your field of study. It matters to me what you study because that generally sets the stage for how one thinks and reasons.

      Sorry for any spelling mistakes if any im typing on my Sg2 can be tough. Ok I’m done, I get your point you just want like minded people to comment. I was simply trying to point out that people need to take more responsibility for their own lives and not blame others. The church operates at a macro level and does a good job at it. You guys are missing the big picture.

      • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

        It is so obvious that we poor females must bow to your obvious intellectual superiority. I know the writer of this blog, and if she chose she could eat you for breakfast….’unworthy’ degree or not. I sincerely hope you do not have daughters.

        Poor baby…only an Sg2????

      • Jay Jay

        @ Ip43, I wouldn’t be surprised if thats the most educated person you know, I’m not you so we would be at different standards of what is education, and therefore what is dominance in an intellectual perspective. Sg2 stands for Samsung Galaxy 2,its the latest smart ohone.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    I am convinced you do not read what we write. Your answers have almost nothing to do with what we have said. I bow to your delusions of adequacy.

  • Jay Jay

    Why are you sarcastically saying that you should bow down to my knowledge? Aren’t you like 50? And that’s the best you could come up with? I do read what you write. Did you not say that your friend would easily out match me? And did I not reply by saying that you don’t know my abilities, therefore, your conclusion and statement is flawed? Do I honestly have to write it out for you to understand?

    It just appears to me and most likely others who read your posts that you guys take a very pessimistic approach to certain doctrines. Instead of actually helping your course of action you probably come off as annoying to most people besides yourselves?

    In addition, I feel as if you like to blame church leaders for things you are not comfortable with, instead of being empathetic and understanding towards them. They don’t get paid for what they do and they are still only human and doing the best they can, with what they’ve got. I understand that you want the church to be more open with certain things, hence your site. But there’s so much to consider that I think you are not. For example, how the church market’s itself. It appears as if you want the church to talk about polygamy and errors leaders did 20, 50, 150 years ago?

    What do you mean by “Poor baby…only a SG2?” I’m assuming you have a IP4S?

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I suppose there are some here who are a bit peeved that you have bought the kind of intolerance and dismissiveness that has driven us to an online forum in the first place. I understand that you want to defend the church, but seriously, there are ways and means!

      I think you are quite right. Lets leave it there shall we?


      To JayJay

      I think you are an arrogant man convinced of his superiority ….

      It is people like you who make other people hate religions.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    Does your wife know what you and your little SG2 do late at night?

  • Jay Jay

    @ Ipf43, I’m not sure where you are going with your last statement, but an Sg2 is only one means of internet access we have? She did read a few posts but quickly lost interest. I never post on these sites as I’m very busy with work, I’m in corporate finance with a leading global firm. The only reason I posted on here is because a friend of mine who’s a recent convert read some posts from this site and started asking silly questions. He’s not university educated and he doesn’t have any long term church experiences to draw from so basically he’s very vulnerable to taking things out of context unintentionally. Hence my postings.

    I don’t know why you are taking cheap personal shots at me? Saying that I hopefully don’t have a daughter. I do have a daughter and I think she’s very lucky to have hard working parents. FYI, I’m in my late 20′s and my wife is in her mid 20′s. We have worked extremely hard to put me through my bachelor’s degree and post-graduate degrees. I’ve supported her in attaining her bachelor’s degree and I’m also supporting her with her desires to start Medical school mid next year to become a doctor. All this we’ve accomplished while raising our two young kids, a boy and girl.

    Further, I did not know who was the creator of this site until I read the “about me” link, out of respect for the sites creator I’ll leave my comments at this, but I don’t retract my previous statements. I know who the creator of this site is and FYI I don’t believe she could “eat me up for breakfast” in terms of doctrinal knowledge. I too can read you know, and I made a choice to also read a truck load of church and secular material, what appears to be the difference is that I interpret them in a different light, which doesn’t involve “blind faith”. I left my email address on this site so i’m sure your friend can identify me for you, for the purpose of verifying my above statements in this particular post.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    While i admit to the cheap shots accusation, what kind of responses could one expect from someone whose first comment on this blog was ‘One of the worst articles/blog/or ramble i’ve read in my life! Grammar check your work please’ From that point on, there could be no point in trying to have a dialogue with you.

    I have apologized to Gina for having turned this exchange into an exchange of playground insults. While it has been fun, it also means I have allowed myself to sink to your level of communication. I do know better.

    Hmmmm- working in corporate finance…now that really puts you up there in the realms of being able to tell all the rest of us that we are stupid.

    It is interesting that just last night I had mentioned to a friend that my guess was you are mid-twenties, male and married with young children. Do try not to be so predictable in future. I did miss though on thinking you are a BYU-graduated American.

    I quit. You win.

    • Jay Jay

      @ Ip4f3, you’re the low one. If you read my posts im addressing the context and train of thought of the writers blog not personal shots at the actual person, that’s what you did to me. I didn’t bring anyones family or make extreme comments of that nature, i simply questioned the context and contents of the blog and requested the educational background of the poster.

      • Jay Jay

        P.s I think that’s why Gina’s first response to me was not personal, she obviously recognized the fact you missed, I don’t blame you though.

        And note I was only rude in my comments because I was unaware of who the writer was, hence, the change in my tone when writing. She’s a wonderful person and extremely bright, unlike you lol sorry for the cheap shot but im only in my 20′s, whats ur excuse?


      Hey Jay Jay,
      Plus college degrees does not mean we necessarily see things with clarity and fairness. And why should only people who have a college degree or who have a good command of their language, as English here, be the only ones to have a right to speak their mind. We are all intelligent people whether we have a degree or not …. and capable of judging things. The arrogance of people with degree or some position are only a true indication of their stupidity and their puffed up sense of self importance

      Oh I forgot that in addition to having degree, you are also a man …. or more appropriately a god in the making with special gifts and special connection with God, capable of performing miracles, God’s mouthpiece..

      And since your church tells you that in the afterlife you will be a God, king of his own planet, surrounded with goddess that will be your servants and whose wombs you will impregnate to create baby spirits, no wonder you dont want to lose your prerogatives and special powers ….

      No wonder many people want to be out to such an outrageous religion and away from such arrogance and stupidity….

      Jesus Christ loved the poor and downtrodden and a good individual who tries his/her utmost to be the best he can has more chance to be one of his favourites than the arrogant self centered and disgustingly assured person that you are …i dont know any saint in this world, and you certainly are not one …. so return to the illusion that you are something special and know more than any other human soul in this world, one day you will find out just like the rest of us that you are just a mortal full of illusions

  • JohnnyS


    I wonder if we could can the insults for a second and perhaps examine the core issue here without rancor or fear, as kiwimormon called for. I think this post points to a fundamental crux for people of any faith, and that is (in the specific Mormon context) how to find/access the faith to sustain one’s testimony even as one asks questions about various church doctrines, church history and church leaders. There is, I think, an unhelpful binary that we often employ when examining such matters, and that is the whole faith vs. knowledge binary. IMO, it would help if we didn’t see this as a binary at all and rather accepted that truth can come from different sources and may not always be easily reconciled. The question of who (if anyone) ordered the Mountain Meadow Massacre, for example, may be an issue that could lead to someone leaving the church if they believe the (relatively flimsy, I think) evidence that Brigham Young may have had something to do with it. If, on the other hand, they believe that no prophet of the Lord would ever have anything to do with such a thing, the matter is less apt to be troubling.

    To put it bluntly, I don’t think it’s the conflict of different kinds of truth that end up causing people to leave; rather, it’s the insistence that there is only one truth and that one must always choose the correct one that leads more people to leave. It’s always struck me as funny (or maybe tragic) that the church tells us it’s perfectly fine to question, to ask questions, to search for answers on our own as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, but when we come to conclusions that are not absolutely in lockstep with the current doctrines/views, we are called apostates. If, for example, I spend a great deal of time researching polygamy and if, after doing so, I pray about whether polygamy was Heavenly Father’s doctrine and not man’s, and I receive the answer that polygamy was not the true doctrine, that answer automatically is dismissed because it’s not the party line. I could never say such a thing from the pulpit or while teaching a class or while giving a home teaching lesson without likely having some sort of formal proceeding happening, or at least a reprimand from the bishop. It’s just such a contradiction of, on the one hand honoring personal revelation and on the other demanding a rather narrow and uninspired kind of conformity that likely makes the church untenable for many folks. I’d be curious to hear others’ thoughts on this.


    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for bringing it back – much appreciated!

    • Jay Jay

      @ JohnnyS,

      I think this post points to a fundamental crux for people of any faith, and that is (in the specific Mormon context) how to find/access the faith to sustain one’s testimony even as one asks questions about various church doctrines, church history, and church leaders. – I understand there’s a struggle but keeping in mind the Book of Mormon is true and that we as people can get it wrong, helps a lot doesn’t it? My wife doesn’t bother with stuff we don’t understand, she believes there’s much more to doctrine then we know, so concluding to certain things now that are not apparent can be counter-productive. This isn’t blind faith, it’s an educated decision because she doesn’t focus on one aspect of the church’s doctrine, but rather see’s it in the light of her total understanding, hence, less “struggle” in the process and more accomplished both in her educational pursuit and church calling.

      “There is, I think, an unhelpful binary that we often employ when examining such matters, and that is the whole faith vs.knowledge binary”. – Can you better define “knowledge binary”? My understanding is that there can be multiple paths to truth rather than singular, however, you’ve used Brigham Young as an example and said that the evidence is that he “MAY” have given the order. The term “May” denotes uncertainty, therefore, it would be disregarded as truth. Can you please clarify your statement?

      “I could never say such a thing from the pulpit or while teaching a class or while giving a home teaching lesson without likely having some sort of formal proceeding happening, or at least a reprimand from the bishop. It’s just such a contradiction of, on the one hand honoring personal revelation and on the other demanding a rather narrow and uninspired kind of conformity that likely makes the church untenable for many folks.” – If I were a bishop and heard a member on the pulpit talk about polygamy and how they’ve received personal revelation which contradicts standard doctrine, then I’d be concerned too. Simply because there’s a time and place for everything (think of the children and youth present). I don’t think Sunday school or the pulpit is an appropriate place to voice your personal revelation for the church. Home teaching is organized to make sure people’s basic needs are met and simply report that back to the Bishop, so yeah that wouldn’t be a great place to talk about “your” personal revelation too.

      “…but when we come to conclusions that are not absolutely in lockstep with the current doctrines/views, we are called apostates.” – Members have actually called you apostate? Was it a bishop? Even if so you can’t conclude that this resembles the church’s approach as a whole right? It’s just that your posting reads as if you are stating the church as a whole calls you apostate, and that can be quite misleading to the average leader.

      • JohnnyS

        Jay Jay,

        A few things to try to answer your comments/questions:

        Re the faith/knowledge binary. The binary I was talking about was the unhelpful (and I believe, false) between the assumption that truths must be arrived at either by intellectual processes or through faith/prayer/revelation. I probably should have said REASON/faith binary. That would have been more accurate. It is a false binary, of course, because as we are told in D&C, reason and faith should work in concert: we study things out in our mind and then we take them to the Lord to ask if they are true. That’s a relatively straightforward, though often not simple, process. Privileging reason over faith or vice versa is a mistake, I think, and may, on the one hand lead to an unhelpful, stagnating blind faith and on the other to an implicit belief that if we just apply enough logic, we can solve any (even theological) problems. Again, it’s clear from scripture that these two things are to work in concert.

        I applaud your wife for working through things the way she does. That it appears to work for her is wonderful. Not everyone approaches questions of doctrine or faith the same way, though. My point is that it’s a mistake to assume that what works for one person will work equally well for everyone. We’re all on our own and, I would assume in most cases, doing the best we can, even if we are coming at issues from different perspectives. Note that my point about Brigham Young was just an example of something other folks might struggle with because of the (again, supposed and specious) evidence that he may have been involved with/known about the massacre and how it could possibly contradict/conflict with their views of how a prophet of the Lord is supposed to conduct himself. That particular example isn’t a problem for me personally because whatever B.Y. did, it doesn’t affect my own testimony of the Savior and His church, so I don’t know a lot about the evidence on either side.

        re the polygamy issue/public declaration, I think you are right that things have a time and a place, but, as kiwimormon pointed out in her initial post, if there are no places in the church’s formal structure for asking potentially controversial questions, for having a true dialogue and exchange of ideas, then how are we supposed to have a community conversation about these important things? I of course have many friends in my ward to whom I talk in private about these things, but I do think that the church is more about establishing and holding the party line than it is about encouraging members to really seek answers and then share them with the community. That’s basede solely on anecdotal evidence from my own experiences. Maybe it isn’t the church’s job to encourage us in that way, but I nonetheless find it troubling that we talk so much about the importance of individual revelation and we simultaneously discount it if it at all deviates from the party line. We can’t have it both ways, IMO.

        And finally, I respect your opinions and ideas as you’ve expressed them, but the thing I most strongly disagree with is what is implied about audience/the youth in your discussion about personal revelation/the pulpit. Often, when I have wanted to say something that might be controversial, even if it’s been a carefully arrived at conclusion, be it in planning a lesson or in giving a talk, I try to run it by at least one priesthood leader to get his perspective. Often, I am told something along the lines of “well brother _____, that may be a good point, but think of all of the people in the ward who haven’t thought about the issue as long as you have. You could damage their testimonies if you talk about things that they haven’t even thought about.” This is almost a verbatim response. While I understand that people’s testimonies may be fragile and that it really is our responsibility to raise the youth up in righteousness, and while I usuallly err on the side of caution in these matters, I also believe that it is absolute bullshit to make me responsible for other’s potential failings. My testimony is my responsibility and their testimony is their responsibility. And if their testimony is so fragile that one different voice will cause it to crumble, then excuse me, but they probably didn’t have a testimony in the first place. Same thing with our youth. Are our youth more likely to be strengthened by being asked to think about difficult/thorny doctrinal issues from their early days on? Or are they more likely to be strengthened by being condescended to and protected from any controversial idea? I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, but I think it’s easy to guess which side of the coin I’m on there.

        All Best,


  • JohnnyS

    Whoops. Sorry abou the profanity. I had meant to blot it out. Apologies to all. kiwimormon, please feel free to do what you like with the word.


    • Jay Jay

      I see your point, I guess for me I am very cautious about others feelings and testimony because I’ve come to understand that that is the Gospel. I think that’s why there’s such a focus around serving others, not just physically but mentally too and in a considerate and empathetic way. I’ve found the most growth I’ve had and the times I’ve got answers that satisfy me and are sustaining are when I serve others and put their needs before my own, as corny as that sounds its the truth. I know not many peoole think the same or actionalize the gospel the way I do because it’s difficult and I often fight back my pride and tiredness. But at the end of the day I look back at what I’ve accomplished and I’m simply so thankful it becomes easier. I’m Samoan, was born in a small village, did a lot of procrastination as a youth and only when I decided to accept the church for all its good and bad did I see changes in my life. I guess for us immigrants its all about perspective. Just this week I performed a compliance audit for an entity with assets of over 18 billion, I constantly find myself asking how the hek did I get here? That’s what I mean by my wife and I focusing all our energy on growth doctrines. I also have two little children and if my attitude was like their testimony is their problem, not mine, what type of parent would I be? I’m not going to let my kids fend for themselves, by saying what I want to say, so I won’t allow myself to treat others the same unless they want to battle and thats fine with me. I’m very quick to be condescending to those who I perceive as complicating things which shouldn’t be, but in my defence I’m very helpful to those in the church who are just trying to get by. I think I’m still young and learning more about the gospel each day, hopefully one day I’ll be able to swallow my whole pride and be more empathetic to all members.

      But anyways thats my views, i.e. We become what we focus our energy on, so I chose to focus it on being financially able to send my kids to top line Universities something I wish I could have afforded, or being able to feed hungry people. We dont really have much time on earth, I just dont want to die and say Lord this is what I did with the time you gave me, I thought deeply about poloygmy and if B.Y gave that order. I’m hoping to retire by 50 and serve as many full time missions with my wife as we can afford. That’s what we are working for and that’s why things all ways work out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and not being condescending to me.

      • Michael

        Jay Jay, please ask Kiwi Mormon to pass along my email to you, or maybe she will do it for me. I take it you work for a public accounting firm somewhere. I am looking for a Compliance Analyst to work on my team where I work. If you might be interested, get in touch.

  • bidlet

    To JonnyS, thanks so much for your comments – I totally agree!!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself – probably because my degrees don’t warrant me educated enough as they are only Arts degrees. Funny thing that, I come from a family where we are all university educated with most of us having multiple degrees including both both my parents. In fact my dad was an academic his entire working life, he went to the best universities in England (Cambridge and The London School of Economics) and is still a Professor Emeritus. I proudly admit that I don’t have a degree in Business or heaven forbid, a degree in accountancy, sorry JayJay couldn’t resist, since I’m guessing that might be your field. Remember, Bob Jones has always said he would employ an Arts graduate over a Commerce or Business graduate because they know how to think in a certain way; are usually commenably literate and well read, and have good research skills. I think Kiwimormon illustrates that well. The timbre of a person is not about how much money they can make but how they live their life and treat those around them. Money is the means to an end but not the end result.

    • Jay Jay

      Good for you :)

  • Jay Jay

    @ bidlet ok so you want to joke around? lets joke around then. Arts degree’s well read? good thinkers? My Honours degree from the University of Canterbury is in Accounting research methodology and epistemology, so ummm yeah I read to and research at a high level too you know :P! Here’s a link read it and understand what type of education is actually needed to make it in finance these days,
    http://www.acis.canterbury.ac.nz/degrees/bcom/ It’s not bean counting anymore, get with the times man!!!!!

    My accounting honours reserach methodology class is headed by Marcus Miline he’s got a B.A and post grads in commerce, so technically I’ve been well schooled in the B.A way of thinking at the honours level.:

    Ask your friend Gina about him, he’s reputable and extremely bright having his work published in many mainstream journals.


    And, FYI my I have two minors with my bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, it’s English and Psychology, Psych class is where I met my wife. Bob Jones? who’s that? Can you say Big 4 Accounting firm? Why the would I care about Bob Jones? Can I please ask what you do?

    • Jay Jay

      Don’t take my last post to heart I’m just having fun like some of u guys

  • Jeff

    I’m late to this thread I’m afraid. I had a look at the whymormonsleave.com website and went through the methodology of the survey and it was conducted as I suspected – via dissemination through various social media sites and blogs. The survey publishers admit that their methodolgy was not scientific. The respondents were self selected and heavily represented by people who have left the church for doctrinal/church history reasons. We need to read the results of the survey in this context. I’ve been reasonably involved in trying to reactivate less active LDS in Christchurch for the 26 years of my life as a home teacher (aged 14 onwards) spent in wards in Christchurch. The vast majority of people I visited with in my capacity as a home teacher, young mens leader or on the Bishopric or High Council were no longer active in the church due to the more traditional reasons of feeling unable to live the church’s standards or leaving over a personality conflict with a church leader or fellow member. The same is true if I were to go back over all the various people I have known and been associated with the church in NZ (and Australia and the US) over the decades. A tiny fraction of these people left the church over a doctrinal/historical beef. That said it is still a problem but dwarfed in my opinion by the church standards/hurt feelings reasons.

    I sit in an unusual spot compared to the average member. To more liberal academic and questioning LDS members I probably seem more of a traditionalist in accepting LDS doctrine, belief and heirarchy and yet, unlike most members who are in the this traditional camp, I have made a lengthy and thorough study of anti Mormon literature and I periodically engage in on line debates with anti Mormons on certain blog sites in the US. I have also read almost all of the reputable and well researched apologetic material and keep somewhat abreast of the ongoing battles between the anti Mormons and the apologetics. I find it relatively easy to discuss and deal with the thorny issues of doctrine and church history such as polygamy, Joseph Smith’s polyandrous marriages, the Mountain Meadows massacre and blacks and priesthood to name but a few. Over the years I have learned quick and succinct summaries of the truth of these issues and how to rebutt the attacks by those whose motive is to paint the church in a negative light.

    I realise however that many members are oblivious to this war of words and can become quite disconcerted by finding out about certain matters doctrinal and historical. I think it is fair ro say that for many years the church did try to sweep these issues under the carpet choosing rather to concentrate on uplifting its members with positive messages and service. I have however noticed a sharper edge to the church’s response to controversial matters. Its official spokespeople more readily enter into commentary on controversial matters, parts of the church’s website (the Newsroom in particular) now offers quite extensive links to the higher quality apologetic material and the church (officially and unofficially) has tried to build bridges and make apologies for past actions seen to be insensitive. Some of these include the Mountain Meadows Massacre apology and memorial, the outreach to African American communities via public gift of the archived slave geneological records and outreach to the gay LDS community in the Bay Area by Elder Anderson.

    I think the church should do more of this because having gone deep into the messy trenches of the vicious world of anti Mormon invective, I have come away with a sense of the power of our position and the increasing evidence that we have to show as to the truthfulness of our message and the veracity of the Book of Mormon. The church is blessed to have in its ranks a rapidly growing number of excellently credentialed academics who have received degrees from prestigeous institutions and whose research into ancient origins of the BOM and a vast array of esoteric issues of interest in what could be loosely termed as defence of the faith has been met with almost muted silence from even the more reputable anti Mormons. Whilst anti Mormons continue to purport to find new damning evidence of the church’s perfidy and fraud, the reality is that almost all literature and material made available is different versions of a familiar range of anti Mormon themes all of which have been thoroughy and comprehensively rebutted by reputably educated and credentialled people.

    The strength of our position on almost all issues should enable church leaders to encourage members to read and be more appraised of the soft underbelly issues so that more members are prepared for what might be thrown at them.

    I think you sum up well the frustrations in dealing with some of the contradictions and undeniable problems with past positions. Some of your comments in the last section raised a chuckle or two! But I do think the church as it matures and grows, it IS getting better at dealing with these isues albeit painfully slowly. I would invite you and other occasional skeptics to delve more deeply into the higher quality so-called apologetic research some of it done not necessarily to become part of the war of words but merely because someone had an area of interest and published fascinating findings that end up bolstering the church’s position.

    And to Jay Jay a word of advice – its Gina’s blog and its her way of working through some of her anxieties and if you’ve know her, you’ll know she has a confrontational in your face style. But however much you might disagree with her, it pays to keep the insults and suppositions to a mimimum. I read things that I disagree with and yes she makes an occasional claim that isn’t true and when I ping her on it, she’s gracious enough to admit. We view the world and the church through quite different ideological lenses but I utterly respect her right to express her views in this manner because the dialogue around these issues is very important.

    • Jay Jay

      I’m sorry will do. I’ll conduct myself much better in the future.

  • Gap

    We are all entitled to our opinions and seeking for truth is what the gospel is about and by gospel I am not necessarily referring to the church but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some of the people posting comments are here are so scathing that I felt attacked, as Kiwimormon reiterates my feelings almost to a T. How dare anyone believe they are entitled to invalidate that. If there was more transparency in the church which kept with the admonition of Paul as quoted in the Articles of Faith perhaps there would be no need for me to be reading this blog. As a born LDS who has spent 40 odd years going back and forth trying to reconcile my position with integrity I find the attack in these comments highly offensive and wish to point out that Christ was not formally educated so why u even brought that into things indicates to me your Understanding of this spiritual in nature. So back to your 1830 cave and let those of us that are dealing with our spiritual matters find a place where we can resolve our issues and hopefully get to a place where like Kiwimormon we love being Mormon again and aren’t ashamed of some of our unchristlike past!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Hey there Gap – welcome to the blog! Honestly, its fine. When you ‘out’ yourself as a faithful questioner it always ruffles a few feathers and draws criticism. I figure however that there are many, many out there who have sat quietly and increasingly resentful in church for years who need to know that they aren’t alone and that a conversation is taking place in which they can be involved which won’t see them feeling isolated. So, I (and many others like me) are doing this for folks such as yourself and naturally we get criticized – we’ve just had to develop a thick skin. Conservative, literal, ‘true believing Mormons’ have held the ground for generations now. But if the church is to survive and be relevant and not grow to look like an multinational oil company or the far right religious arm of the Republican Party we need to harness the energy and confidence of thinkers and questioners such as yourself!

  • http://mycognitivedissonance.blogspot.com Katie

    Thanks for this lovely blog and particularly this post. Thanks to you I’m up way past my bedtime. :) Navigating some Mormon-related quandaries, it definitely helps to be reminded that there’s an entire universe beyond the binary “either it’s all true or it’s all false” thinking. I wish I could go to church and worship among other inclusive, kind, open-minded, and thinking people but the Episcopalian service is too early in the morning. (HA, just kidding. Did I mention I’m up past my bedtime?) My ward has lots of lovely people who I like, but who would be incredibly offended and defensive if I brought up the honest questions I have about the church, which means the one place I can’t go to get answers about the church… is church. Thank god for the internet to give me a community of people who support and respect each other during difficult transitions of faith and the choices those lead to.

    You deserve praise for handling the criticism and personal attacks with grace and humour where I would probably cry myself to sleep. Keep up the fight. And also, write a book. I’ll buy it. You could call it Tips For Being a Badass Mormon Woman in the Face of Mansplaining and Other Woes.

    • Gap

      Katie.. Mormon Stories has a closed Facebook group in NZ.. U should join … Very few on it at the moment but if we grow perhaps we can find real life non orthodox Mormons to develop real life friendships (rather than just online ones) with which may help us all! I wish I had known years ago that there were like minded people out there and it was actually through someone in USA that I found this blog! Hooray for people like Kiwimormon !

      • http://mycognitivedissonance.blogspot.com Katie

        Gap, I’m a member of the general Mormon Stories fb group, but I don’t live in NZ (regrettably). I did travel to NZ as a teenager with my dad who at the time was representing Zespri kiwifruit in legal battle with a California kiwi company. NZ won, btw. :)

        But as soon as I move to NZ I’ll join!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Great to hear from you Katie! Yes, my next blog might just have to be ‘Malevolent Mormons and their Mean Mouths – strategies for nice Mormons and their good questions!’

  • 35Piswhatibe

    My favorite part in all these comments where when Jay Jay started having a “look! my phone is cool!” penis-size comparison fight.

    The best thing about people who argue in the comments section in a blog post is that all the tactics they employ to puff themselves up in the real world look even MORE insecure and deluded in print on the internet.

    That being said, I’m more and more rapidly becoming a fan of this blog. I really feel like my life has been going down a quite similar intellectual road…the difference is, I feel like I’m opening myself up a little more to step out of the Church box and find out what’s really going on. A whole lifetime of growing up in the church and a mission to Japan have really just fueled me with a lot more suspiciously unanswered questions and struggles to squelch doubts, concerns, questions, and honest issues than anything else.

    • Gap

      Not quite sure where I stand… Part of me feels I should just walk away but then there is the question of where would I go to. The one reason I have never walked before is the fact that Mormonism at least allows all our ancestors and people who live in parts of the world who had never heard of Christ the opportunity to accept him unlike other Christians faiths who to my understanding damn everyone who isn’t Christian to hell. I can’t accept that any Almighty is that cruel! But i find the history and lack of honesty of the organization very difficult to reconcile either. So where to now? The guilt created by a church that labels anyone who questions them “apostate” and excommunicates people who have printed the hidden history after searching their family history as instructed and reading journals kept by obedient LDS ancestors leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth.
      But Mormons are my tribe and majority of my family are TBM. One set of issues for another! But at least now I am able to look at how I feel and not have those feeling invalidated by believing I am just not valiant enough to accept the “truth”. Do I wish to create this problem for my children – no!? But although this is a tough journey, it is one that I have to see through as I have walked this route too often and given it up as too difficult.. That total unravelling of self but my hope is to find a place of peace like Kiwimormon where I don’t have to walk away completely!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/cwhumphreys Charles William Humphreys

        Hello Everyone.

        I am a little like you Gap. Sometimes I feel I should walk away but I realize that if I was to do this then my four daughters and wife would then loose whatever stability they may find within our home “status quo!”

        I tried to bring up having a fireside or a cottage meeting in HP’s Group today to help talk about the things which really we can’t cover in a Sunday School class or Priesthood meeting.

        The HPG leader then said that we could never do it and then spoke about the Church distancing itself from statements like “Man will never set foot upon the moon”. What disappointed me was that he didn’t see that I was hurting inside – that I need to be comforted and spoken to – this is why I am here today. I just need to write this down before I go mad. I already comment too much in Sunday school – boy …if I was to add apostasy as well …………….

        I don’t have an issue with the Church having a history where the memory is a little colored or blurry – I mean we talk about 200 years ago, I say to myself “well how accurate is our bible?” Any document really that is more than a week old – can I truly rely on its clarity? I have memories that differ from what I wrote in my journal 20 years ago and I was the one writing it :-)

        Does anybody have any solid doctrinal/physical answers to this video on the “the Lost Book of Abrham” ? here is the Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcyzkd_m6KE

        This is not anti-mormon literature. I have found FARMS to be a little lacking and I came across this on the net about a year ago it has troubled me since, but I have stayed active and have continued to Family History and have put many names through the Temple.

        When I was in the MTC I was told by the teacher that a Prophet doesn’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord!” But then my HPGL today said that a Prophet must say “Thus Saith the Lord” in order for it to be considered doctrine………… and then made me feel stupid by saying “I learned that when I was 18!” Well bully for him, I am still questioning and I will continuing the questioning.

        BTW Kiwiwmormon I enjoyed that blog and your participation in that podcast about the priesthood/temple ban. I had a friend of yours recommend this site and you and he said my HPGL was a friend of yours.
        So thanks for doing this.

        • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

          Kia ora Charles! Thanks for your comment mate – its awesome to be able to share and work through our concerns as a group of people who feel similarly troubled and in pain. It is painful and distressing and at times I have literally thought that my head might explode at church. Yesterday I gave a relief society lesson on sustaining your leaders, and I thought I made a pretty good case from the scriptures for the ultimate authority being Christ, only to face an attempted shoot down with a couple of people brandishing the manual at me telling me that we are subject to Christ only through prophets. I thought it was a failure until quite a few women came up to me later to say thank you and expressed how much they enjoyed it and appreciated that perspective and were relieved that it wasn’t yet another barrage of ‘do as you are told’.

          I do think the winds of Mormonism are changing however. It can’t be allowed to become a retreat for the conservative and the orthodox and remain a cherished and vibrant religion for all. It has to find a way of accommodating all or it will become irrelevant for many.

          If the HPGL is who I think it is – I can understand your frustration. He’s a good man – but he studied commerce and he votes for National so what can you expect!??

          With respect to the BoA – yes its a huge elephant in the Mormon room and joins a number of other highly problematic ‘doctrines’ and ‘former doctrines’ of the church. John Dehlin’s study is a good indication of what is happening as a result of these very problems – its sad but understandable.

          Once again, I’m so glad you commented! Before you bail however, give yourself some time. This time a couple of years ago I cried almost every Sunday morning before I went to church wondering how on earth I was going to do another 3 hour block and not have my brains explode all over the chapel! Now I look forward to church (with all of its silliness and- notwithstanding the few bullish members who are so very, very certain!)

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