From the workshop….

  • The essay.
  • The audio recording of my August 2007 Sunstone Workshop entitled, “How to stay…”
  • The PowerPoint file from that presentation
  • The audio and video files from that presentation
  • The PDF from my October 2007 Sunstone Workshop entitled, “How to stay…”

=========

For those interested, I’m hosting a 3.5 hour workshop on “Staying in the Church After Becoming Disaffected” at the Sunstone Symposium this August. I don’t pretend to be an authority or anything, but I do know that many people who get hit hard w/ church history or culture come to the unfortunate conclusion that leaving the church is their only option — and that this can often hurt all parties involved (the church included). And so I’m hoping to share a thing or two I’ve learned over the past 2 years, as I’ve personally counseled over 200 people in this situation. This session is intended to be both for those who are struggling, and/or for their loved ones trying to cope with the situation.

I’d LOVE to meet some of you there!!!

Date: August 8, 2007
Time: 2:00 – 5:30 pm
Location: SALT LAKE SHERATON CITY CENTRE HOTEL, 150 WEST 500 SOUTH, SALT LAKE CITY
Cost: $25 (all proceeds go to Sunstone)
How to Register: To pre-register, fill out and send in the registration form included with this program, visit WWW.SUNSTONEONLINE.COM, or call the Sunstone office, (801) 355-5926.

Abstract: Thousands of people leave the LDS church each year. However, many who have left or are considering leaving feel a great deal of ambivalence towards this decision, since
leaving the Church often has very serious familial, social, occupational, and even psychological implications. Many members caught at this crossroads consider only two paths:
(1) stay active as a full blown, traditional member; or (2) resign from the Church and cease all meaningful affiliation. In addition, though there are some exceptions, many who
have left or resigned from the Church do not find the joy and fulfillment they anticipated when making that decision. Religious ties, especially in traditions like Mormonism, are
extremely deep and complex.

In this workshop, John Dehlin and other presenters will discuss “middle way” strategies for maintaining Church involvement even when one is disaffected and feeling out of the mainstream of Mormon life and belief—a third road to consider. The workshop format will consist of short presentations on various reasons that lead to members’ feeling disaffected, accompanied by group discussion.

Advisory—Please note that this workshop does not encourage Latter-day Saints who are content in their relationship with the Church to pursue a “middle path.” This workshop is intended for those who currently find themselves at this crossroads in their own faith journey or who want to be supportive of a loved one who is seriously considering abandoning Church activity. Some possible strategies discussed in this workshop will feel somewhat radical while others, much tamer. No particular strategy will be recommended as right for everyone. The workshop’s ultimate goal is to provide support, insight, and information about what has worked for others as they seek not only to survive but thrive as Church members who have a different outlook than most others who fill up LDS Sunday meetings.

46 Comments

  1. Lincoln July 17, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I may look into going. I think my journey is entering the decision-phase, like Richard Dutcher’s eventually did, where I have to choose honesty and integrity or family heritage. Thanks for putting on the workshop John. With the unofficial estimates of over 100,000 resignations reaching the Church Office Building each year, I would assume that the Church is taking a kind view of your Workshop. I sure hope that there is room for a middle way in Mormonism, or the next few years of my family’s life might be very, very difficult.

  2. Geoff J July 17, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Hey John,

    Looks interesting. So it seems that you are taking it as a given that staying in the church after becoming disaffected is good for both the member and for the church. I’m curious why you feel so certain about that… Isn’t it possible that breaking from the church might be better for both parties? (Assuming the member can leave without becoming an anti-Mormon I guess…)

  3. John Dehlin July 17, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Geoff,

    Sometimes a break is better for both parties. Sometimes it isn’t.

    I’m not trying to tell people what they should do.

    I only try to help people see that they have options. Sometimes this isn’t as clear as you might think.

  4. Non-Winter Meat Eater July 17, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    John,

    I’m just curious to know how many of the 200 people with whom you’ve spoken about leaving the Church have been located in Utah. My Church experience has varied significantly depending on where my ward has been geographically located. Sorry to diss Utah, but most of the annoying experiences I had happened to be while I was living in Utah amongst the Utah Mormons–whom I’ve found to be significantly different from the California Mormons, Colorado Mormons, and Virginia Mormons I’ve also lived amongst.

    I suppose someone might say that geography is irrelevant because they claim intellectual reasons for their disaffection, my experience has been that those “intellectual reasons” also just so happen to coincide with social conflicts or personal disagreements with Church members–or just their general annoyance by the closed-mindedness and hypocrisy that seems to be more abundant among Utah Mormons.

    So maybe the best way to avoid becoming disaffected, or to recover from being disaffected, is to move out of Utah?

  5. John Dehlin July 17, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Non-Winter Meat Eater,

    It’s probably been 1/2 and 1/2, actually. I’ve counseled with folks in Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, Oregon (several), Washington, Texas (several), California, Arizona (several), Nevada, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Oklahoma, etc. (you get the picture).

    In my experience, it’s rarely about the ward cultures. It’s more about church history, church culture/standards overall, and top leadership stuff.

    It’s all just that (some) people are just plain bored and uninspired. Or, they just didn’t get the confirmation they were seeking.

    I summarize the primary causes here:

    https://mormonstories.org/HowToStay.html#Your_story:_caring_too_much.2C_not_too_little

  6. Anne Hutchinson July 17, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    John,

    Due to distance and family responsibilities, I will not be able to attend the symposium. I have pre-ordered a set of ‘electronic recordings’ and noticed that the set will not include the workshops … so I won’t be able to be a ‘distant’ participant (listener) either.

    Questions : Do you forsee a follow-on article, based on the discussion that occurs during the workshop, that could be published in an upcoming issue of Sunstone ? Perhaps as a ‘stand-alone’ article or in conjunction with Jeff Burton’s Borderlands column ? I think the topic of ‘middle way’ strategies for staying connected to the LDS Church would be helpful to a broad range of people.

  7. Square Peg July 18, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Hey John,

    I’m really hoping to make your workshop. There are so many sessions I really want to attend at Sunstone this year that it has become pure torture trying to pick and choose and work around my hectic work schedule.

    I do have one question for you: Is your primary goal for the workshop (and all your other efforts in this area) to convince people to stay in the church after they become disaffected? Or is it more about helping people understand all the options and reach a wise, careful, and thoughtful decision about the best course of action??

    I know the difference is subtle, and I realize that staying in the church is often the wisest decision for disaffected people. But I also know enough people who have thrived emotionally and spiritually after they’ve left the church that I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea of helping people consider all the options and make the best possible decision–rather than assuming that convincing them to stay is always the best option.

    From most of what you’ve said and written, it seems fairly clear you’re more about helping people make the best decision, but the title of the workshop sort of seems to favor the “staying is almost always best” position.

    Anyway, thanks in advance fo the clarification!

  8. John Dehlin July 18, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Square Peg,

    Definitely the latter of the 2 choices.

  9. Gary July 23, 2007 at 11:22 pm

    John,
    I will try to attend with my wife and another couple who have also recently become “disaffected”.

    My wife and I are trying hard to take the “middle way” and take the church on our terms. We are finding some success, but it’s definitely a challenge.

    The thing that makes it most difficult for me is the insistence by church leadership that there “is no middle ground”. President Hinckley, Elder Oaks and Elder Holland have recently spoken on this topic.

    They have made it quite clear that those of us who attempt to stand on the middle ground are not really welcome. They would prefer that we are either hot or cold. Given those choices-I must choose cold.

    If I attend the workshop and have an opportunity to discuss this topic, I will certainly bring it up for discussion.

    I guess the question would be: “Why should we stay (or choose the middle way) when our own prophet and other authorities reject us for that choice?”

  10. Pete Howlett July 29, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Revelations 3:15-17 talks about hot or cold. All that Church leaders are doing is qualifying this scripture. And I am not so sure that any Church leader is telling you to make that choice and ‘rejecting’ you. In my experience, leaders do everything they can to keep people. When someone is unprepared to follow ‘rules’ it is only naturtal for them to feel uncofortable around those who are living a different standard. That’s why there are many ‘mansions’ the location of which we determine in this life by our willingness to be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. I always thought my membership involved looking forward with a bright hope, doing my duty, looking for no reward and enjoying service. With all that going on I haven’t the time to become disaffected! Sorry if this sounds sanctimonious.

    It might also be that here in the UK, most of the wards and branches I have served in have been small and struggling so as long as someone is breathing and has a testimony they get to serve in a significant way… When I lived in Ohio however, I was glad to be on the back row, doing nothing much.

  11. Gary July 30, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I’m glad the church works for you Pete. Enjoy your “mansion”.

  12. Gary July 30, 2007 at 10:03 am

    “Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”

    Gordon B. Hinckley
    General Conference
    April 2003

    I don’t know what kind of middle way there could be on the Book of Mormon. Either it is a translation of an ancient record under the gift and power of God, or it was written by a mortal. What’s the middle way on that? I don’t think there is a middle way. I think where it came from is either this or that. It’s either what it claimed to be or somebody wrote it.

    Dallin H. Oaks
    Interview with Helen Whitney after the recent PBS documentary “The Mormons”

    I think it’s clear that church leaders at the highest level reject the idea of a “middle way”.

  13. John Dehlin July 30, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Gary,

    Church leaders (of course) can’t publicly endorse a middle way. It would vastly undermine things if they did. However, I could cite you several talks given recently in general conference encouraging folks to put family and work first, and moderate their activity levels. In many ways, any argument we might have would be one of semantics.

    And regardless of what you and I might say, the middle way exists, and is real — and probably represents a silent majority of active members, not to mention inactive ones (who represent the largest block of baptized members, by the way…as I’m sure you well know). Most members pick and choose things like home teaching, callings they can accept, tithing, temple attendance, etc. All we’ve done is give a name to something that in many ways dominates church wards and stakes. I’m not saying that it’s ideal — only that it’s a reality.

    It is also my opinion that positions like yours tend to only push more folks towards inactivity — by making people feel like that is their only choice.

    If you are opposed to moderate approaches to Mormonism, there are lots of web sites you can visit that will support your approach. Please don’t come here and talk down to, or deride those who are trying to find a moderate approach that will allow them to maintain at least some fellowship.

    You’re welcome to remain, but only if you’re willing to respect the choices of others. We definitely support yours.

    As always, thanks for stopping by.

  14. Gary July 30, 2007 at 11:04 am

    John,

    I think you have misunderstood my position. As I mentioned, I am trying hard to find a middle position that works for me and my family. For me, and many others, I think it’s a viable option. For the most part, I AGREE with you and your approach.

    You said:

    “It is also my opinion that positions like yours tend to only push more folks towards inactivity — by making people feel like that is their only choice”

    This isn’t MY opinion John. This is what is so disconcerting to me. This is the opinion of President Hinckley and Elder Oaks. THEY are the ones who have made ME feel like this is my only choice. This is exactly my point.

    I, like you, have chosen to disregard their public pronouncements and have chosen a middle path that works for me and my family.

    My response was really to the previous poster, Pete, who stated:

    “I am not so sure that any Church leader is telling you to make that choice and ‘rejecting’ you.”

    I cited the statements by Pres. Hinckley and Elder Oaks to demonstrate that they reject the idea of a “middle way”. Maybe they don’t reject ME per se, but they certainly don’t advocate the “middle way”

    I was surprised that you felt that I was “talking down” to anyone here or pushing for resignation over choosing the middle way. I don’t see that in any of what I have said.

    I look forward to attending your workshop. I would very much like to hear what other church leaders have said regarding a middle way.

  15. John Dehlin July 30, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Gary,

    Crap! I totally misread your comment. My bad! Shoot!!!!

    Please forgive. Now I totally see where you are coming from.

    Ok…I would have written a totally different response entirely. SOOOO sorry.

    I guess the only thing I’d say is….the brethren can never publicly endorse a 3rd, moderate way…it would weaken the church too much. And so they hold the line publicly on this.

    But what they do and say in private, is another matter entirely.

    I guess what I’m saying is….I don’t think that we have to take Oaks and the others at their word (in terms of how validated we feel about in levels of engagement). They have to set a high standard…but they know far better than you or I that the vast majority of the church falls far short of this ideal.

    And I do believe that they will take….gladly so…whatever offering you and/or I are willing to make. Would they turn down a 5% tithing check for example? Some calling vs. none? Temple once a year vs. 12?

    That’s just my feeling. But I totally see your concerns.

    Sorry again for the misunderstanding, and I can’t wait to see you next week!!! Please don’t punch me. :)

  16. Gary July 30, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    John,

    This exchange highlights the need for your workshop. The internet is amazing, but nothing can replace personal interaction and exchange of ideas in real time!

    See you there.

  17. John Dehlin July 30, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    You’re a good man, Gary.

    Can’t wait!!!!

  18. Clay July 30, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    “I guess the question would be: “Why should we stay (or choose the middle way) when our own prophet and other authorities reject us for that choice?””

    My opinion is that the Gospel, and even the Church, belongs to God, not them. Therefore, in my life, the church is mine and the gospel is mine in that it exists for me to connect with God. Every person can say the same.

    The Middle Way is actually self-justifying. If you consider that one of the factors of the Middle Way is that you acknowledge the humanity of prophets and apostles, and thus that not every word they speak is God’s word, that sometimes it is just opinion, and you are responsible for your own choices and beliefs; then the fact that some leaders have said the Middle Way is not valid actually carries no weight at all for someone in the Middle Way.

    You alone are responsible for determining the validity of your path. Rejecting your path based on their words would not release you from that responsibility if that path is actually the one you have truly been lead towards.

  19. Pete Howlett July 30, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    I don’t understand the ‘middle way’. It’s not something I see here in the UK. Of course there are those who don’t always accept callings, don’t do their home teaching etc. The difference is, there ain’t that much public philosphising about it – it doesn’t seem to grip the soul to the same degree as it appears to in LDS communities in the US. I guess we don’t have ‘cultural Mormons’ over here or I have my head so far in the clouds that I can’t see them…

    BTW Gary, your remark was unnecessarily cutting. I am no better than you or any other man or woman when it comes down to it. I am sure, no certain it will be a tough call when I’m knocking on heaven’s door!

  20. Clay July 30, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Pete,
    I’ve never heard of the middle way in real life either. Its not something people talk openly about at church or around friends, until they know they can share without being judged. It may well exist in the UK but you wouldn’t necessarily notice it.

    I also don’t project it much at all at church because I’m not trying to disrupt the experience of others, as well as trying to maintain my family’s comfort.

    BTW, choosing the middle way does not automatically mean turning down callings and not doing home teaching. Its about coming to a crisis of faith where you can’t accept every aspect of the church the way it is currently presented, and then choosing to find a way to remain in the church anyway. There are many ways that people do this, but collectively they are called the Middle Way because they are neither traditional faith nor complete exodus. There are lots of people in this nebulous middle way that are quite active in appearance.

  21. Pete July 31, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Why stay? Sorry Clay, I just cannot relate to the condition. For me it’s all or nothing. In fact I’d probably run the logic down like this:

    If I can’t pay my tithing, I can’t have a calling. If I can’t have a calling why go to Church. And then… gosh in no time I’d be casting around for a whole bunch of commandments to break which up ’til now have been dismissed tempatations.

    I’m weak. I need the rigor of rules to give me purpose and a reason. Whenever I have been critical, lax, uncaring etc the Amen and Priesthood thing rears its head and I am truly left to ‘kick against the pricks’.

  22. Clay July 31, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    Actually, you can have a calling even if you don’t pay tithing, just maybe not leadership level callings. I’ve been in wards where they gave callings to non-members who were just very involved in the ward because of their family. But I get your point anyway.

    I certainly understand where you are as I have some friends who have expressed the same sentiment. I actually used to say the same thing, but then I became confronted with the actual challenge itself, not just the idea, and it became much more complicated. Lots of people to get hurt or impacted deeply by your choices, etc.

    Hopefully you aren’t still under the general impression that a crisis of faith automatically results in the desire to start breaking commandments. Hopefully someday the message can reach the ears of all faithful traditional LDS, that there are many people following this middle way that got there because they loved the gospel too much, not too little.

  23. Ryan August 1, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Integrity is a character trait that many value deeply. Some travel through life with little integrity and no problem with that fact. Others strive for integrity as a way to stave off the absurd in their life. Those who strive for integrity must make hard choices along sharp philisophical lines. I personally could not remain a member and maintain my integrity. I would feel that my life was so full of absurdity and a lack of coherence that I wouldn’t have a moment of peace. I would suggest that only those who enjoy absurdity should continue to be a member once they realize how absurd membership is.

    I’d like to make it very clear here that I don’t judge people based on this choice. The compulsion to live a life that is or isn’t absurd is a personal decision and it certainly isn’t a “right” or “wrong” decision. It is “right” or “wrong” only at the personal subjective level.

    Have happy lives. One of the great problesm of religion is the promise of something greater beyond this life. Most people hear that promise and allow it to make this life seem pale in comparison to the life they look forward to after death. Might I suggest this is robbery. You have been robbed of the joy you might have in this life, the only life you’ll likely ever have. Take care of yourself, take care of the day. Enjoy your life and those around you. Don’t count on one after this.

  24. Mandy August 16, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Two forces at play today are at odds with the “middle way.” 5 years ago my ward was a pleasant enclave with a variety of perspectives that were represented. However, over the past several years, the families and individuals that I most related to have each chosen to leave. The result of this mini-exodus is that not only are the liberal and intellectual voices are no longer represented, but the backlash of the exodus has caused those that remain to become even more insistent on the traditional storyline. The level of orthodoxy is beyond painful for an individual with any real training in LDS church history and theology. After one concludes that the Book of Mormon is not what they were raised to believe and hope, the whole story line becomes dark and even the songs become haunting.

    I agree with many comments on this thread and also wonder how it is possible to maintain personal integrity, intellectual honesty, and meaningful spiritual growth by pursuing a middle way. To me, the middle way is the last alternative to keeping your family together when your spouse still believes.

  25. Dude August 23, 2007 at 11:06 am

    All I can say is, I don’t personally agree with a middle way in my life, because I know that by remaining in the Church I’m keeping the commandments, and that works for me.

    What I’m really saying is, I don’t agree with the middle way, personally, and I am not sympathetic to some of the philosophies that you came up with to justify it.

    On the other hand….

    For you people that have a hard time, and that believe that you have found what works for you, I’d say that the so-called middle way is for you if it helps you. I’d say do whatever you have to do to stay in the Church, because staying is preferable to leaving, period. And John, if you can help people stay, then do whatever you have to do to help them stay. Souls are precious. Also, it would be best for any so-called “middle way-ers” to keep quiet and go about their business and beliefs, to not attract attention to themselves. If you keep quiet, you don’t qualify as an “apostate” as Elder Dallin H. Oaks defines the word. He said

    “Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned. For example, if one were to teach that the Lord requires you to practice plural marriage in this day, it would be apostasy. And the third point would be to affiliate and belong to apostate sects, such as those that preach or practice polygamy.”

    “So, we go back to the first cause of apostasy — open, public and repeated opposition to the Church and its leaders. That does not include searching for a middle ground. It doesn’t include worrying over a doctrine. It doesn’t include not believing a particular doctrine. None of those are apostasy. None of those are the basis of Church discipline.”

    “But when a person comes out publicly and opposes the Church… when you go out and begin to “thump the tub” and try to gather opposition and organize opposition and pronounce and preach against the Church — that can be a basis for Church discipline.”

    (https://www.ldsmag.com/churchupdate/070726oaks.html)

    Therefore, when the Brethren say there is no middle way, what they are really saying is that the Church teaches that there is no middle way. If you believe that middle way exists, then you believe something different than what is taught, which might qualify as “false doctrine” according to Elder Oak’s definition. But as long as you don’t say anything to anybody about it, then you are OK, and Elder Oaks is saying you aren’t apostate.

    So what I’m really saying is, I don’t believe in a middle way. I don’t sympathize with a middle way. If you choose to believe that, and it helps you stay in the Church, then more power to you, just don’t go against Elder Oaks definition of Apostasy, and you can stay in the Church and retain your blessings. If the so-called middle way helps you as a tool to not go against Elder Oaks definition of Apostasy, then there must be good in it in the sense that it keeps you from going apostate. So it might not be an orthodox tool, but at least it works for you.

    I hope this makes sense.

  26. Dude August 23, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    These statements from Bruce R. McConkie to Eugene England are particularly instructive in this as well. If you keep quiet about your “third way” or “middle way”, then you have nothing to fear, as long as you don’t seek to set in order the Church…

    “Over the months various hearsay reports have come to me indicating that you are presenting and championing the views you sent to me. I have now reached the conclusion that it would be wise for me to depart from my usual custom and send you an answer to your letter. I do so out of respect for your parents, G. Eugene and Dora, and for your own personal well-being and for your guidance where your teachings and discussions with others are concerned.”

    “I shall write in kindness and in plainness and perhaps with sharpness. I want you to know that I am extending to you the hand of fellowship though I hold over you at the same time, the scepter of judgement. My office door is open to you and if you feel the need for discussion with me, my secretary will be pleased to set up a mutually convenient time or times for such.”

    . . .

    “It is not in your province to set in order the Church or to determine what its doctrines shall be. It is axiomatic among us to know that God has given apostles and prophets “for the edifying of the body of Christ,” and that their ministry is to see that “we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:16) This means, among other things, that it is my province to teach to the church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent. . . .”

    “Now you know that this does not mean that individuals should not do research and make discoveries and write articles. What it does mean is that what they write should be faith promoting and where doctrines are concerned, should be in harmony with that which comes from the head of the Church. And those at the head of the Church have the obligation to that which is in harmony with the Standard Works. If they err then be silent on the point and leave the events in the hands of the Lord.” (Bruce R. McConkie to Eugene England)

  27. John Dehlin August 23, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Dude,

    I love Bruce R. McConkie. I respect him as an apostle. When he speaks, I take it seriously.

    But in no way do I feel compelled to agree 100% with his views/opinions. As I’m sure you know, when he came out with Mormon Doctrine, he was told by President McKay himself to stop publishing the book because of the plethora of doctrinal errors (among other things).

    So again….I respect these words…but I do not necessarily hold them as scripture.

    And finally — I do not hold myself up as someone trying to change the church, or to even tell people how to live.

    I only try to be there, as a friend, for folks who are struggling in their faith journey. Just to let people know that they are not alone, and that others have traveled similar paths — can mean the world to people in this situation (especially when bishops and family members are not equipped to support them).

    In the end, what folks believe, and the paths they take (in my mind and heart) are completely up to them.

  28. Dude August 23, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    To me, integrity is a lot more than not living in absurdity. It has a lot more with being truthful in what you do and say, following what you’ve been asked to do, and observing what you’ve promised to do. Then the expected result according to God’s justice is blessings, which I have received, and therefore, I know of the reality.

    The putting up with perceived absurdities of doctrines one may not agree with are secondary to keeping covenants and commandments. In my mind, I am active and doing what I am doing because I want to keep my covenants and I want the blessings.

    I know through spiritual confirmation that the Book of Mormon is true historically. Hypothetically, for example, if I did not have that confirmation, and if I were afraid that perhaps the Book of Mormon might not be historical, that issue has nothing to do with whether I keep my covenants. I have a choice as to whether I will keep my covenants or not, regardless of tough issues. And if I do keep them, and keep the commandments, then that is the true measure of integrity, not some absurd doctrinal thing or whatever.

  29. Dude August 23, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    John,

    I understand. I don’t agree with Bruce R. McConkie on some doctrines as well. That’s not my point.

    I’m just saying that I’m happy that for some people, a middle way will serve them to help them stay in the Church, and therefore, they will keep their covenants hopefully.

    For people that walk away, unfortunately, they are not keeping covenants and commitments.

    For some, they perceive that they have a higher calling outside or whatever to some perceived sense of integrity to being true to self. And that is ok too.

    We will all be ok in the end wherever we end up. Sons of perdition are the ones that are really in trouble.

    But for any of us concerned with exaltation, the way is clearly laid out, that covenants and commandments must be kept.

    My point is that if you keep quiet, you can believe whatever you want if you are within the parameters of Dallin H. Oak’s statement on apostasy. So the middle way fits within that framework. And being a middle-way’er you can still keep covenants if you are within that, regardless of what you believe.

  30. John Dehlin August 23, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Dude,

    Good points. I tend to agree. Covenants are important.

    Christlike living is most important of all.

  31. Dude August 23, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I agree John. Its good to agree. :=)

  32. Dude August 23, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Clay said, “there are many people following this middle way that got there because they loved the gospel too much, not too little.”

    People like me are starting to understand that, and are starting to understand that having different beliefs doesn’t make you apostate.

    Another comment on this other previous comment:
    “The thing that makes it most difficult for me is the insistence by church leadership that there “is no middle ground”… those of us who attempt to stand on the middle ground are not really welcome. They would prefer that we are either hot or cold. Given those choices-I must choose cold.”

    Wait a sec… I think that you have misinterpreted what they were saying. Was it not Elder Oaks that said that the precise definition of apostasy “does not include searching for a middle ground.”? Certainly they *teach* that there is no middle way. Certainly they would *encourage* you to believe what they teach. Certainly they would *hope* that you believe what they teach. On the other hand, if you do not, Elder Oaks has outlined parameters that, if you keep your life within them, you can still keep your covenants, and believe whatever you want. Do you really believe that they don’t want you? I don’t think that is the case at all. I think that if you talked with them personally, they would plead with you to stay, and ask that you simply not voice publically your beliefs, and not oppose them publically, just as Bruce R. McConkie plead with Eugene England. Otherwise they wouldn’t care to define that definition of apostasy as precisely as they have.

  33. Gary August 24, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Dude,

    I appreciate your reference to the Dallin Oaks interview with Helen Whitney. I had previously cited portions of that interview to demonstrate that church leadership rejects the concept of a “middle way” But I completely missed the portion you quoted when Oaks said that “searching for a middle ground” does not fall under the definition of apostasy. I must admit that I was a bit surprised that I missed it in my first reading–and even more surprised that Oaks actually said it!

    This small statement by Oaks means a lot to someone like me who is searching desperately for even a tiny piece of middle ground upon which to quietly stand.

    While I understand that Oaks is by no means condoning the “middle way”, he at least seems to be signaling a softening by church leadership toward those who, like me, have difficulties with doctrine but are not interested in “thumping the tub”

    Maybe there is hope for a middle way after all. I think that for the church to flourish in the internet age it must make more allowances for “middle grounders” like me. There seem to be more of us every day!

  34. Josephine II August 24, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Dude,

    I am living the middle way, but I am not doing everything as before (i.e. paying tithing, wearing garments, occasional cup of coffee). You mentioned the importance of keeping covenants, however you have to keep some things in mind.

    I don’t keep all of my covenenants anymore and I don’t feel there is a problem with that. Obviously, after researching church history, I don’t have the same beliefs anymore, and don’t feel it is necessary with the facts I now know.

    I look at it this way. I made covenants in the temple and at the time I did not realize that I was not fully informed beforehand. When you make a committtment to something, you should know all of the facts and what you are getting yourself into BEFOREhand. However, I was not told all of the facts about the church history, new scientific evidence that disproves some things that we now know (Book of Abraham etc) which has caused me to question the truthfulness of the church.

    As I said, I am living the middle way. However, since I feel I made covenants without knowing the facts and true information surrounding the church history, it was making a promise after being given information that was not completely accurate. If I had known all of the facts at that time, I am pretty sure I would not have gone through the temple in the first place.

    In a court of law if I promised to do something, but then I found out that the person I made the promise to was not forthcoming and did not tell me all of the facts, covered them up etc. before I made that promise, I would not be held to that promise under those circumstances. That is how I see it.

    I think God knows my heart, he knows I am trying to do the best I can. I am dedicated to my family, live as Christlike as I can, and I do not believe I have done anything wrong- I have just been seeking truth. I have not been given any witness that the church is true….therfore, with the current evidence, how can I possibly be held accountable for breaking covenants that I made under false information.

    Josephine

  35. Dude August 24, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Glad it helped! I am starting to understand that, although the brethren have set standards, they have made allowances for quiet “wiggle room” to allow for freedom of thought. The point really is, I think, don’t organize or rebel against priesthood authority, don’t speak evil of it or of those in authority, and quietly believe what you want, and all will be well.

  36. Dude August 24, 2007 at 10:55 am

    One poster put this on a previous message about Richard Dutcher’s leaving the church:

    “While it is true that some people may believe that their reasoning for leaving the Church is “complex” it always boils down to a simple fact that something to them has become more important than subjecting themselves to submission to the brethren, which is something very simple to do. One simply uses ones free agency and one makes a decision to follow the brethren. It isn’t a matter of complexity to make that decision. . . . The fact of the matter is, they were the ones that made the decision using free agency. Nobody is ever forced out, period. They leave because their church membership isn’t the most important thing to them. Period.”

    This is a bit over-the-top. While I agree with this to some degree, I think that it is a bit too judgmental, and the poster was making the assumption that obeying the brethren is to be equated with believing everything they teach. I don’t think that is necessarily what it means at all.

    I think obeying the brethren means keeping covenants.

    I think that the “wiggle room” I’m talking about helps one preserve one’s free will and freedom of thought while still making a decision to obey within the parameters of Elder Oaks’ statement on apostasy. Therefore, obeying the brethren doesn’t mean abandonment of free agency and freedom of thought. But it does mean not being in open rebellion to them.

    This is probably the difference between people that sided with Satan and those that did not in the council of heaven. Those that were in open rebellion and open-defiance in pre-existence were those who were cast out of heaven. Perhaps others may have believed the same things that Luciver did philosophically, but were willing to keep silent and submit to the will of the Father.

  37. Clay August 24, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Dude,

    I’ll second the thanks for posting the contextual Oaks comments. The zinger that has gotten so much run was absolutely taken out of context, booo on PBS (not Helen Whitney) for the nasty editing trick.

    On the subject of covenants, here’s the hard part: In some ways, certain covenants I made in the past with the LDS church were like signing a legal binding contract with large print that gives one impression, but which impression is very different when you read the fine print. Only, when the contract was signed, the pages with the fine print were not even presented for me to read. I think I’m an honorable person. I take my commitments very seriously. The question is… can a person be liable in an honor code to be bound to a covenant where the terms of the deal were not disclosed when it was made?

    I try to be reasonable about the church’s responsibility in regards to disclosure. There is a lot of speculation and even fact that veers a little into dirty laundry out there. When making a covenant with someone, I don’t need to know that person commited some foible in their past. However, if he is telling me that a temple ceremony was dictated directly by God and that I must learn it verbatim for my salvation, I deserve to know that the cermony was heavily influenced by Masonic rituals, before I make enter into very serious life-altering covenants.

    In regards to criticism and covenants, when being baptized or going to the temple we are not told that church leaders are only men trying to do their best and serve God, and make lots of mistakes just like we do, but that we should be accepting and forgiving and support them anyway and not criticize (even constructively). In those interviews, there is no definition for “sustaining” them. We are given the distinct impression, even if its only a cultural thing, that leaders have a pretty direct conduit to God and that their counsel is always the right thing to do. So we commit to not criticize them because we think they will never deserve it.

    I say that just to paint the picture so you can understand. Personally, I choose a life of operating within the church and trying to be accepting and forgiving of those leaders, hoping that real change will come through love rather than revolt. That is my middle way, which is different than other middle ways. Everyone has their own story, and most of them are very reasonable and understandable if you open your heart and mind.

  38. Garry August 25, 2007 at 8:38 am

    The catch 22 to living the middle way is that on the one hand we are taught to respect and obey the words of the current Prophet and General Authorities. Yet to successfully live the middle way requires one to disregard much of what they say.

    That’s what I have done. I have chosen to ignore (almost completely) what the church leaders say and just live my life in a way that works for me.
    My new mantra to help me cope has become: “It’s just church!” That’s not as easy as it sounds. It was only a couple of years ago that I was a hundred-percenter and in the Bishopric! It goes against everything I’ve been about my entire life, but I can tell you that for me it’s a much more peaceful way to live.

    The difficulty with living this way within the church is that the vast majority of members will incorrectly assume that a person who chooses this path does so in order to live a more “sinful” life. This is generally not the case. Most of us simply want to live a more authentic life.

    The irony is that I believe that since I have taken this approach, my “spirituality” has increased dramatically. My search for a middle way has resulted in far less need for religion, and a greater longing for spirituality. Some of you will know what I mean. Most members won’t get it.

    Many members of the church mistake “religion” for spirituality and cannot fathom that a non-religious person can nevertheless be a very spiritual person.

  39. Dude August 27, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Well Clay, I’d say that since you are on this site, you are aware of the reality that the Endowment was influenced by the Masonic Ceremonies, etc. etc., and finding that out for yourself, you already know what you need to know. And you can go forward with your life with your “eyes wide open”, allowing leaders in the Church to do what they must to maintain order. I’d say that you are all set and ready to go, armed with knowledge and truth, and also a knowledge of what you must do to keep covenants. Garry, if you haven’t left the Church, and you’re doing the best you can, then at least you are making progress and haven’t gone backward. That’s all anyone can ask, is whatever you are willing to give.

  40. N8Ma August 27, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I’m with the Dude on this, and appreciate the comments he has made. I would also like to add a few of my own:

    I think this “middle way” will suffice as a kind of holding pattern, but will probably not fully satisfy someone for the duration of their lives. It buys people time to fully consider whether they want to continue in the work or not. Without question the Lord and any General Authority would want someone with doubts who is trying to make sense of it all to regularly attend meetings, hold a calling, etc. (Elder Packer, who I assume is a regular target for LDS on the fringe, gave a great talk about the importance of getting confirmation for the testimony YOU bear, and that it is preferable to just getting confirmation that the words of someone else are true)

    There is nothing wrong with asking questions. With asking any kinds of questions, from whether God actually exists to whether the temple ceremony is a carbon copy of Masonic ritual. But what matters is where one goes for answers. Fundamentally, if any individual is going to decide to stay in this church, that decision must come about as a result of a spiritual confirmation. So I have a simple question to ask: will this meeting open and close with prayer? Will it allow people to bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or the restoration? I know from a previous posting that John Dehlin is committed to helping people make up their own minds, which I fully support. I just hope that these questions are given a proper spiritual framework for resolution.

    I have a brother in Utah who would greatly benefit from such a meeting, if I could ever concince him to go!

  41. N8Ma August 27, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Oh and perhaps some people would find the following talk by Brigham Young useful. I don’t mean to open a can of worms by quoting the Journal of Discourses, but this talk does speak to the issue of people leaving the church. Two points I found interesting I will quote below, and the full link to the talk I’ll leave at the end. Both of these quotes (perhaps taken out of context?) seem to advocate pursuing this “middle way” as some here seem to interpret it. Enjoy!

    “Suppose that in this community there are ten beggars who beg from door to door for something to eat, and that nine of them are impostors who beg to escape work, and with an evil heart practise imposition upon the generous and sympathetic, and that only one of the ten who visit your doors is worthy of your bounty; which is best, to give food to the ten, to make sure of helping the truly needy one, or to repulse the ten because you do not know which is the worthy one? You will all say, Administer charitable gifts to the ten, rather than turn away the only truly worthy and truly needy person among them. If you do this, it will make no difference in your blessings, whether you administer to worthy or unworthy persons, inasmuch as you give alms with a single eye to assist the truly needy.

    Again: Suppose that you are required to do ten pieces of work, but of the ten only one is necessary for the promotion of the kingdom of God; which had you better do-perform the ten pieces of labour, to be sure of doing the right piece, or neglect the whole ten because you do not know which the right one is? Had you not better do the whole ten pieces, that you may be sure of performing that which the Lord does really require at your hands?”

    “Much of Joseph’s policy in temporal things was different from my ideas of the way to manage them. He did the best he could, and I do the best I can.”

    But then again there’s this warning:

    “When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostacy. Every man in this kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. If he succeeds in saving himself, it has well occupied his time and attention. See to it that you are right yourselves; see that sins and folly do not manifest themselves with the rising sun. I repeat that it is as much as any one can well do to take care of himself by performing every duty that pertains to his temporal and eternal welfare.”

    So anyway, take 30 minutes or so and read the whole talk. Perhaps you’ll take something helpful away from it:

    https://journalofdiscourses.org/Vol_08/refJDvol8-3.html

  42. John Dehlin August 27, 2007 at 11:24 am

    And just to be clear….I don’t offer “the middle way” as an end point….nor do I offer it as something good for the church, or for all members.

    It’s a coping strategy for a very specific group of folks (that would otherwise leave the church) at a very specific time in their lives (when all is crumbling down).

    And it’s definitely not a long term spiritual solution….

    For what it’s worth.

  43. N8Ma August 27, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Amen to that John and best of luck.

    My family is one torn apart by real-world issues and problems (father was drug addict and served a prison sentence for extortion, but in his day he was also a counselor in a bishopric, put in a shift at the temple baptistry, and taught a very popular gospel doctrine class…oh and most of these sins weren’t concurrent with his church callings, he kinda had ups and downs in his life) that has left two of four siblings keeping the faith, and two very far out of it. Things like this meeting, if they guide people to opening their hearts to the teachings of the Spirit, will hopefully be helpful.

  44. Non-Winter Meat Eater August 27, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    The Middle Way that John speaks about reminds me of a quote about marriage that I read in Readers Digest a few years back:

    “The benefit of marriage is that it keeps you together when you fall out of love so that you have an opportunity to fall back into love again.”

    When you fall out of love with the Church, the Middle Way just might keep you and the Church together long enough to fall back into love with it.

  45. Garry August 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    They also say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” I’m trying that program out right now just to see if my heart grows fonder of the church. Maybe, just maybe I’ll fall back in love with it.

    So far it ain’t working. I think I’ll give it another year. :-)

  46. Dude August 27, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Josephine,

    As you know from my previous comments, I feel strongly about covenants. I can’t agree with your comment about not keeping covenants, but I don’t condemn you. I’m at least glad that you can hang on to whatever you can hang on to. Please continue to hang on to whatever you can hang on to, and don’t leave. Please give whatever you are willing to give. That’s all I’m really saying.

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