February 10, 2011

LDS Shades of Gray

I listened to Steven Fehr’s podcast on Mormon Expressions. This is a guy who lives with his partner, was excommunicated from the LDS church and yet remains active (as much as he can be active as an excommunicated member of the church). I was moved by his words and actions more than I anticipated and have nothing but respect for him-even if I don’t know him--mainly because given the circumstances; I don’t know that I would be able to do the same.

I’ve been hearing a resounding topic around the Moho blogsphere: “Don’t give up hope in the church, don’t throw the baby with the bathwater…it is possible to make change from within the church…” I hear what’s being said, I see points of view and I respect them--I really do even if I haven’t chosen the same path and I’m glad that if anything we have going in the Moho community is the sense of respect for each other’s decisions and how we got there. Arriving to a comfortable, personal decision is never easy.

One of the points made in the podcast (not sure if it was made by him or the facilitator) was that many members of the church—or a given church-- don’t really believe in some of the doctrines or might interpret them to their own liking (read advantage). This is something I’ve heard in my conversations with other members, some are very active, and some are semi-active and even a few jack-Mormons. I even had this conversation with my mother and she said the same thing. Oddly enough I don’t really hear that from many ex-Mormons…we seem to be the ones who believed it all…

Did I miss something while growing up? My experience in the church was not much different than any other kid in the 80’s (yes I’m old). I remember attending seminary, Sunday school, blah, blah, blah…and I’m trying to think of a time in which someone may have mentioned that they really didn’t believe in something—well publicly anyway— sure I squirmed a little when someone talked about polygamy, but other than that; was I naïve believing it all or was there a point when it was ok not to believe in something? What about hot or cold = yes and lukewarm = God would spit you out? Now I see that shades of gray are more real than I ever considered possible, perhaps it is one of the unspoken order of things…I’m having fun with the mental gymnastics! Certainly making temple covenants none of them say: “just keep the ones you like, the other ones are not as important” do they? Is there a Spirit of the Law lesson I missed somewhere? I believed in the concept of “Examine everything, hold on to the good” but I thought it only applied to things outside of the church, it never dawned on me that it may apply equally to church doctrine/principles and teachings from the leaders…silly me!

Now as an old man I realize that believing everything without question wasn’t such a good thing, just like rejecting everything is probably not the best either, but how then do we foster a culture in which people feel comfortable NOT believing something but also being able to talk about it? Is this something that is shared in confidence with non-members? Is this a topic of conversation for family dinner on Sundays? How does this get around, do people sit around talking about those who believe, while we’re serving for the 9th hour at church on Sunday and it doesn’t seem like we’ll go home anytime soon?
I’m a little perplexed at the contradiction and I struggle with this.  Having said that, would it be possible for me to go back to church, take a chance of being accepted, as an openly gay man possibly with a partner—yeah I understand I would have to be excommunicated and all—but still get the community and fellowship? I don’t know. Part of me would like to try the experiment because losing my religion was one of the most traumatic events of my life, but at this point in my life I wouldn’t find any real value in going back. If I can survive leaving my faith and a divorce, I’m certain I can survive anything! Yes, I’ve gone to the end of my rope and became a bitter ex-Mo, very vocal for a while, but I no longer feel that way, if anything I’ve learned to give members of the church the same respect I demanded from them for leaving it and that’s a very good thing and possibly the best I can do. I respect those who endure, in spite of what they may be openly told or behind their back; sadly I just don’t have it in me.

I suppose we’re all in different circumstances and want/need/get different things and after thinking about this a lot I come up with the same conclusion, but someone, anyone please feel free to chime in and/or add your own ideas. 


  1. I think the church demands the appearance of "black and white". Members start to shift into the shades of grey or at least those that have the integrity to admit that they see things more in shades of grey risk their "worthiness" and standing in the church.

    Like you I was raised to literally believe everything. There was no grey...

    The temple covenants of all things are pretty darn black and white. You promise EVERYTHING to church (kingdom of God on earth). I don't know how grey "everything" can become.

    I have been thinking about church participation a lot lately. I have come to the conclusion that there is no way I would be content to sit silently in a class and not be allowed to share thoughts or not be allowed to volunteer for a prayer... I realize those that continue to participate do so for their own reasons but I would never be able to do it. I have fought too hard to shed words like "perfect" and "worthy" to throw myself back in the fire...

    I really appreciate your words! Thanks for this post.

  2. Interesting post, my friend. We'll have to talk about it sometime...

  3. What made me finally leave officially was the support over the pulpit for laws and referendums (referenda?) which discriminated against gays. I can't give my money or my time to an organization that does something so wrong. I still have friends who are members - the real friends stuck with me. I have surrounded myself in a new community which includes more types of people. Sometimes I am still the conservative in a group which includes polyamorous, bi, gay and straight, cross-dressers, and religious/spiritual beliefs of every type, but we all seem to accept each other or not based on personality and personal reasons NOT based on labels and rules.