There seems to me to be an emerging battle in the church. The emergence of this has nothing to do with how recently this has become an issue for the church, but how recently this has become personally an issue for me. The issue is the acceptance of those with heterodox views and faith struggles in a church with strict orthodoxy in teachings.
I hold many views which would not be considered orthodox. There are several simple examples. Same-sex marriage is a prominent one at the moment, and in my previous blog I shared data with showed that 23% of Mormons surveyed supported the heterodox position of marriage equality. Literality of scripture is another simple example. I don’t believe in the story of the creation and of Adam and Eve as told in Genesis as I see modern scientific discoveries to be completely incongruous with this story. Others will disagree with me, but I am still in a position that is not aligned with the accepted doctrine of the church.
Those who know me personally will know that over the last few weeks, my position in our ward and stake has been brought into question over my heterodox beliefs and my discussion of these issues on various support forums. This raises a key question – am I wanted in the church despite my unorthodox beliefs and opinions? It would be nice to know which of my beliefs has caused such an issue, but I am constantly faced with family and leaders who for whatever reason, don’t wish to discuss these with me in any detail. The overriding impression I get is that people are generally afraid to tackle these issues. It’s no wonder really that the church is facing the “biggest time of apostasy since Kirtland” (Marlin K Jensen).
We are brought up to believe that this is the one true church, the only path to true happiness and the only way back to a loving Heavenly Father. Mormons generally have a natural intelligence and studiousness, which in turn leads many to question the church when they discover inconsistencies, inaccuracies and misguided policy. The vast majority of these members wish to stay in the church. I know I do. I’ve been asked so many times recently if I’m leaving the church, and my answer consistently is that I would have gone a long time ago if that was what I really wanted. I’m trying to make my faith work.
I keep going back to an excellent study that was conducted last year titled ‘Why Mormons Question?’ (http://www.whymormonsquestion.org). The results are eye opening. The people who are struggling with faith and heterodoxy are disproportionately well educated, in high income brackets, have previously held strong leadership positions and have wide ranging issues with the church and its policies. I can only see these issues becoming bigger in the future. Many expressed issues with the way they were treated once their struggling belief became known to leaders. Below are some comments from respondents as well as a link to the data analysis and the presentation of the data to UVU. This data has been presented to high level church officials. I hope this makes a difference for some people and shows how those of us with heterodox beliefs and faith struggles often feel sidelined in the church.
Comment from Respondent 243 (Male): Please allow members that are trying to believe as much as they can to attend the temple, baptize their children, etc. Please don’t treat doubt as a sin.
Comment from Respondent 135 (Male): Welcome me as an equal in the community and culture, even if I can no longer testify that the church is the only true church on the face of the earth. Create and embrace forums for nontraditional Mormons like me, to allow for free and open discussion of ideas, and exploration of truth and happiness.
Comment from Respondent 1803 (Male): I feel that I am at a good place with my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I just want permission to remain, to belong. Just because I don’t see things eye to eye with my brothers and sisters does not mean we aren’t still family.
Comment from Respondent 548 (Male): Please make sure the Church encourages its believers to avoid ostracizing a fellow member for such member’s disbelief.
Comment from Respondent 1736 (Female): The way that church leaders demonize people like me at conference is so upsetting. I try to participate so that our family can be together at church, but it is so hard when there is such a negative attitude towards people who have lost belief.
Comment from Respondent 394 (Female): Please create a place in the church for women like me. I love the gospel and desperately want it to be true, but I have a hard time believing in a church that rejects critical thinkers and feminists as “too willful” or “dangerously intellectual.”… Thanks for all the good you do. I don’t hate the church, and I truly believe that its leaders have the best of intentions… I’m just having a hard time seeing how I fit into it, and don’t see how God could possibly create a church that doesn’t have a place for all of his children.