Does This Add Up?

Several days ago I stumbled across this infographic that was being shared on Facebook.  I clicked on it and saw that right on the top 100% is the “percentage of sacramental worship services that focus on Jesus Christ”. 

But what about all those sacrament meetings that were about food storage, or church history, or prop 8, or something else?  I suppose they are using that same line I have heard from members before: “It’s all about Christ, because this is Christ’s church”.  Well, that seems like a stretch at best, and a (hopefully) well-meaning lie at worst.

It’s being willfully misleading to say that you can talk about any topic in sacrament meeting, and as long as it is church-approved, then it has to do with Jesus Christ.

Perhaps they were referring to “worship services” as the entire 3-hour block?  There must be something Christ-centered during one of those three hours right?  It just seems like more stretching to me.

When I think of Christ-focused worship services, I think of Easter Sunday sacrament meeting where we talk about Christ, His teachings, and how to love each other.  I don’t think of politics or #10 cans.

And then I came to the “77% of members attend church at least weekly, compared to 39% of the U.S. average” about halfway down.

I immediately wondered which population they were using for their 77% calculation.  They are referring to the U.S. only which is a smart move, considering the low retention rate in many other countries.  (We’ve all heard the massive number of baptisms in South America, coupled with low percentage of those still attending a year later, right?)

A friend of mine crunched some numbers when we were talking about this, and here’s what he had to say regarding the U.S. numbers: “14,131,467 members / 28,660 congregations * 77% attendance = 379.6 average attendance / congregation. To get this average, for every branch with 40 people attending they need a ward with 720 people attending.”

So I’m guessing that the only way they can get 77% is to only count active members of the church in wards and branches in the U.S.  Activity in the church is usually determined by whether or not you attend sacrament meeting once a quarter.

I understand that the church needs to worry about how it is perceived in the media.  I find the 77% statistic problematic, because I think we all know that it’s unlikely that we live in ward boundaries where there is a 77% attendance rate.  Another friend of mine also pointed out that it would be hard to read this infographic as the ward clerk and not think that the numbers for church attendance were a bit skewed.

I think the statistics have always bothered me, whether I was active or not, because they didn’t seem all that honest.

However, this isn’t what bothered me the most about this latest Mormon news.  The infographic is located at the bottom of this Mormonism 101: FAQ page that was released by the Church’s official Mormon Newsroom website.

There is a list of typical FAQ (frequently asked questions) text at the beginning of the post, ranging from Most of the answers I read I had little response to…until I read this little nugget here:

Do Mormon women lead in the Church?

Yes. All women are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Women and men are equal in the sight of God. The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In the family, a wife and a husband form an equal partnership in leading and raising a family.

From the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women have played an integral role in the work of the Church. While worthy men hold the priesthood, worthy women serve as leaders, counselors, missionaries, teachers, and in many other responsibilities— they routinely preach from the pulpit and lead congregational prayers in worship services. They serve both in the Church and in their local communities and contribute to the world as leaders in a variety of professions. Their vital and unique contribution to raising children is considered an important responsibility and a special privilege of equal importance to priesthood responsibilities.

Zuh?  I’m so dizzy I can’t even see straight after all that spin!  I suppose it reveals what I still care about when I say that this is what got my blood boiling.  I’m not surprised that the church’s PR department is honing statistics to make the LDS church look more mainstream Christian.  But I am surprised that they think that women will swallow this kind of patriarchal rhetoric anymore.  It’s 2012!

Women are not stupid, and they are not willing to pretend they are happy and equal when they are not.  We know when we are being placated with flowery words, and we know if we have any real equality or power.  Those two paragraphs quoted above are offensive and condescending.  Saying women are equal and then not giving them equal status is not equality.  Separate but equal is not equal.

As my husband sarcastically put it:  “Wow! Sounds like a lot has changed since I stopped going to church a few years ago! Back then, men led the meetings–you couldn’t even have a meeting unless a certain number of priesthood holders were there; men chose who prayed, prayed first in most meetings; men chose (“called”) who led each group (including which women “led” the women’s group); men set the budgets (including deciding how much money went to the groups “run” by women); men conducted worthiness interviews; men decided who could participate in ordinances, administered the ordinances; and, in general, only men were cited in teaching manuals and in talks (even in talks and lessons given by women, the women pretty much just quoted all-male church leaders). And all this was just at the lower levels of leadership. At the higher levels, I saw nary a woman do anything. What a difference three years makes!”

You just have to laugh at a certain point.  I mean, really!

Even some apologist friends of mine have condemned this latest PR move as embarrassing and shameful.  And that’s just the people I know who are Mormon.  I wonder about those “outside” the church who see these PR moves and if they can see through them as well as we who are Mormon can.

I hope that the church will learn, as soon as possible, that our internet generation doesn’t fall for this kind of thing anymore.  We can search the vast interwebz for all kinds of information, including fact-checking statistics, and finding other people who are thinking the same thing: do they really think we bought this?

Perhaps it’s my idealistic nature, but I think the church could be more forthcoming and honest and we would be better for it.  I have been saying that about church history, along with many of you, for years.  If they would have just told us the whole truth, I don’t think as many Mormons would be surprised by polyandry or peepstones.

Even in this hostile political climate with Mitt Romney in the headlines, it would be best for us, the Church, the PR department, the members, to just say it like it is.  I think Mormons are typically viewed as happy, clean-cut, go-getter people.  But they can also be seen as fake, eerie, and judgmental.  The best thing we can do is relax our fears of the truth and get real with people.

So what do you think of the statistics?  What do you think of the claim that women are equal in the church?  How do you think the PR department could do a better job?  Let us come and speculate.

Kendahl

kendahl is a queer fat left-handed INFJ synesthete mother warrior activist social worker abuse survivor unapologetically brilliant powerful witch

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51 Responses

  1. alex w. says:

    That quote about women leading in the church sure is a doozy. I can’t decide if who wrote it & approved it believes it to be true, or if they really were trying to spin it as much as possible in order to avoid sounding sexist. Too bad they painted a picture that doesn’t exist.
    Great breakdown of the infographic. I read it before reading the article, and I think you covered everything that popped out to me as unusual or surprising.

  2. Mike S says:

    I did have the same feelings when I read the Infographic. In reality, the Pew survey, from which that number was taken, only counted people who considered themselves ACTIVE MORMON, so it is very misleading. If they wanted to make the numbers consistent, they should have listed perhaps 5-6 million active members, of whom 77% attend religious services weekly. It is comparing apples and oranges otherwise.

    I, too, was bothered enough by some of the things in the FAQ that I wrote a post on it over on Wheat & Tares. The language used in the section on women bothered me, for all of the same reasons that you articulated so well above. I didn’t address it, however, because I focused primarily on things that seemed to be doctrinal changes from what I was taught when I was younger.

    I especially agree with this part:

    it would be best for us, the Church, the PR department, the members, to just say it like it is. I think Mormons are typically viewed as happy, clean-cut, go-getter people. But they can also be seen as fake, eerie, and judgmental. The best thing we can do is relax our fears of the truth and get real with people.

  3. Kip says:

    Just one quick comment on the sacrament meeting thing. I believe the primary purpose of sacrament meeting is to participate in the ordinance of receiving the sacrament. I find this to be a very Christ centered activity and hence am okay with the claim that 100% of sacrament services are Christ centered.

    • Kmillecam says:

      That’s a fair point. But it still seems a bit misleading since it would depend on the individual member and their experience.

    • Amy says:

      I fully agree, Kip, and I find that in the sacrament meetings I attend, most of the talks do center on Christ and his doctrines. I suppose that because we have members of the congregation give talks, that sometimes it may migrate from Christ-centered. But, I believe that the counsel given in the handbook is that talks should center on Christ. I think that if preparedness is talked about in sacrament meeting, it is fine, as long as it is related to Christ and being prepared spiritually as well as temporally.
      I agree that statistics can be spun to look a variety of different ways. Perhaps if they surveyed “active”mormons, then maybe that should be said. I am guessing when people think of “mormons”, they are often thinking of active, practicing mormons anyway. But, why is it so wrong for the church to want to present themselves in the best light? Doesn’t everyone? Curious, why is that so offensive if you proclaim yourselves to be a part of that group? I hope I am not sounding on the offensive, I am not trying to be. To me, the gospel is perfect, but we, who are carrying out His church on the earth are NOT perfect, and therefore, mistakes and misunderstandings are to be expected. I guess to me, that doesn’t mean that just because I have some issues with the imperfections, it doesn’t mean I need to air the dirty laundry. Does that make sense? Perhaps I am taking things the wrong way…it happens…I know especially when it is expressed in print and not face to face. But it seems like there are those who are just waiting to jump on any perceived problem or mistake or difference of opinion and really thrash the church and it’s leaders in a semi-public forum. It just doesn’t feel right to me. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have things that I am trying to work through with the church and some of it’s imperfect leaders. But, just wondering where you are coming from.

      • Kmillecam says:

        It’s not that you are trying to sound offensive. It’s simply that you are deflecting the problems I already specified in the OP by questioning my motives. My motives don’t matter, if the problems with this PR are real. Plus, if I consider myself Mormon, then that’s my personal right, not yours to question.

        It sounds like you want to know “where I’m coming from” to decide how seriously you would like to take what I have to say.

      • Amanda L says:

        Well, for one thing, it seems a bit disingenuous to take a typical controversial topic/question and re-word the question so that you can give an answer that makes the church look the best but doesn’t actually address the real concern people have when they ask the question.

      • CDK says:

        I am glad you feel that Sacrament meeting is Christ centered but that is certainly not a universal experience. I started keeping a tally of the number of times Christ was mentioned during Sacrament meetings (outside of the Sacrament itself) and was SHOCKED at the number of weeks there were no mentions of the Savior, or the Atonement at all during the talks. I would have to go and look at the numbers to get an actual percentage, but it was very low, and most weeks when the Savior was mentioned, it was through quoting Him, rather than having the talk be centered on Him.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Kip,
      That is what I assumed as well, although I think there is a lot of spin on this, too. The ordinance of the sacrament is maybe 15 % of the entire service, so you could say, “15% of each sacrament service is Christ centered.” Most people would just say, “Oh, they take communion every week.” That’s not the same as saying 100% of services are Christ centered.

  4. Maureen says:

    I apologize for the length but I am just so upset by this. It is hard to be coherent, so I’m just going to go at it as I can. Someone I know mentioned the infographic and said it was good to know this stuff, no questions asked, no greater understanding, just taking it as it is. That tears at me, not their simple acceptance, just the possible repercussions that could follow. What if they go through a trial of faith and then learn it wasn’t so cut and dry as assumed, that others could/should have seen what they didn’t and clarified? What if they use this “info” as justification to hurt another going through a trial of faith?

    The 77% statistic… not many think to go to the source and are satisfied to be wowed by numbers. I suppose I can’t be irate at it being an outright lie, because it’s not. But either the creator of the infographic didn’t understand what the number meant themselves, or they didn’t think how others would receive it, or they were specifically looking for spin. Which in my book counts as deception, very offensive coming from someone who is supposed to be a representative of the Lord of truth.

    I can understand withholding truth. The Lord does not grant us omniscience all at once. But trying to make something appear as it is not? No. I recognize that maybe not everyone is going to see something as it is (some will see the Church as a devil worshiping cult). And maybe I can see place for creating an image that will make it easier for others to receive the viewed as is, but I think really it would take the Spirit working upon their hearts and He can do that regardless of how another presents something. So, a focus on image, acceptance, and popularity really gets to me. To raise up a false image (idol) so others will accept it… how is that not undermining? Others willing to accept the false imagine aren’t really accepting the truth underneath.

    I wish PR would ask the question “Why are we not being accepted?” Is it because some don’t WANT to view the church as anything other than a devil worshiping cult? No amount of PR then would change their perception. Is it because some have only heard the rhetoric from the aforementioned people and have no reason to doubt them? Why would we need to present ourselves as anything more than we are and let that speak for itself?

    I just seriously don’t get it. Is the PR department so seriously ashamed of the lack of focus on Christ in sacrament talks that it has to spin the ordinance itself as the only worship or stretch that because anything in a talk is N degrees from Christ then that is our focus? Is it so ashamed of the lack of activity that they cherry pick a number from only self identified active members? Are these things really indicators of where truth and right is? I see nothing shame worthy in the truth of these things as they are. I see them being a part of God’s plan for his people. It pains me that members of the Church would (probably only subconsciously) hate it, themselves, and the lack of acceptance from others whose very nature would preclude them from accepting, enough to build up a lie and false image.

    • Kip says:

      Is it so ashamed of the lack of activity that they cherry pick a number from only self identified active members?

      .
      Just to clarify, if they’re quoting a statistic from a pew study, then it’s self identified members which may or may not be active.

      If they were truly cherry picking they might do attendance based on their own number of active members by whatever method they determine that, but that’s obviously not a good representation. Another alternative might be based on the church’s total membership numbers, but those numbers are often publicly criticized since basically anyone who’s ever been baptized is on there and many feel that method significantly over counts membership.

      What should they publish the figure based on? Part of the problem with any statistic is that it’s hard to know how the audience is going to receive it until you publish it. Everyone wants something just a little different. Given that they could expect a similar response to any kind of stat they published, I think picking one from a third party source well recognized for publishing unbiased data is a pretty good middle ground.

      • Maureen says:

        A quick Google search produced this: http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/2011/07/countries-of-world-by-estimated-member.html and this http://www.cumorah.com/index.php?target=main (pick any country then half way down the page it lists the activity stat).

        They list their process in more detail, but the numbers basically come from the missions, seminaries, institutes, and leadership themselves. That is not just some small sampling of self identified members.

        Plus, in the wards I have been in I have seen a head count done each Sunday by one of the priesthood holders. It’s hard to imagine that info not going to the head of the Church. It’s also hard to imagine the leaders of the Church not wanting that kind of information and seeking it on a grand scale so they can better discern the condition of their membership. They actually have as accurate information as possible, yet they cherry picked the Pew survey because it looked good.

      • Kip says:

        The more I think about it the more I think they just wanted to published something that’s actually comparable. If both numbers are from the pew study, the sourcing and method of count is the same, i.e. you compare apples to apples.

        The stats on the site you linked are collected by the church. As mentioned earlier, the church counts membership much more generously than many other religious organizations. The data for the church has the luxury of being a census of a large worldwide organization.

        I don’t know all that’s available from other churches, but it’s a big group. Most, if not all, will not number their membership the same as we do. While some are part of a large organization and some may keep stats on what percentage of members attend, I think odds would be against all of them doing so, especially among all the independent congregations.

        Basically what I’m saying is that it would be next to impossible to get a US number that you could legitimately compare to the 30% figure on the site you listed.

      • Maureen says:

        I see your point of comparing apples to apples. And if their sole aim was to compare weekly attendance of self identified Mormons to the weekly attendance of self identified Christians of other faiths in order to say “Hey, there’s something about us that makes it so more of those that self identify as our members attend more frequently, come check out why,” I take no issue with that.

        But in the same space they also list total membership as 14 million, without any qualifier to say no it’s not 77% percent of this number. According to the Cumorah foundation (not actually affiliated with the Church) the US statistic of activity is 40% (still more than what Pew has for other faiths). Whether an orange to an apple the discrepancy between 77% and 40% and the PR choosing the more appealing number concerns me.

  5. I’m so happy this is being discussed here! Thank you, Kmillecam.

    The section on women really disturbed me, for all the reasons you pointed out. It really bothers me, it makes me feel condescended to and less-than when church leaders spend so much time *talking* ad nauseum about how women are equal to men in the church, but don’t do much in the way of actual*action*. It hurts me that church leaders don’t even modify sexist practices and policies that have nothing to do with current doctrine (or at least this is very slow going process). I can live without the Priesthood, really I can. But I require a voice that carries as much weight and authority as any man’s.

    For goodness sake, just invite more women to speak in conference and allow women to pray in conference. This little change would speak volumes and might even serve a catalyst for further improvements.

    • Heather says:

      I simultaneously love and hate this list. Thanks, Taylor, for posting.

      And thanks, Kendahl, for your post.

    • Kmillecam says:

      That’s one of the best arguments I have heard made for feminism in the Church NOT equaling priest(ess)hood. It’s true. When it comes down do it, I don’t really want priesthood, I want a voice that is equally respected and valued and carries equal weight. It’s that last part that I think we really need to work on in Mormon culture, IMO.

      • Thanks, Kmillecam. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. It just makes sense to me to actually apply the rhetoric about women and put it into practice.

  6. Tay says:

    RE: The women leader part of the FAQ.

    I guess it just depends on what you mean by “lead.” I mean, yes, women don’t lead entire congregations/stakes/church or handle finances or whatever. Do you think “leading” can also mean leading in Primary, YW, RS on a ward, stake and higher level, and RS president participating in PEC? Perhaps is this just a glass half full/half empty situation?

    I’m just wondering what you think, so if you don’t agree, please don’t get angry. 🙂

    • Nate Curtis says:

      Women do have leadership roles, but they do not have leadership autonomy either in theory or in practice.

      Now the catch to that is that at the ward level, none of the men (besides the bishop) have leadership autonomy either.

      So what is the difference?

      Potential.

      Most men don’t get irritated by the lack of autonomy because they have the potential to one day have autonomy. That potential forces the entire church structure to, by default, respect the men, to trust the men. For example, as a man, I am always inclined to play by the rules and respect the men I work with because one day, any of those men might be the bishop or stake president and could make my life easier or harder as a result. However, there is no such potential for women, so I am motivated differently to respect and work with women at church.

      There is no position held by a women that has leadership autonomy. Bishops can, and do, regularly over-rule leadership decisions made by women with little or no counsel or explanation.

      However, bishops and stake presidents have no such restrictions placed on their leadership roles. Anytime a bishop or stake president is “over-ruled” it is only after careful and comprehensive discussion that includes the over-ruled party.

      So, for the church release PR indicating that women have leadership positions that are (assumed) equivalent to their male counterparts is a half-truth at best. In my opinion, it is wrong to a point that borders on deception.

      In addition, Kendahl started with the 77% math problem, and that is a huge problem. We all know that congregations do not have more than 200 people attending regularly, and that the average is probably much closer to 100. To suggests that there are an average of 300+ people attending church is just a flat-out deception.

      The attendance fallacy coupled with the other leadership half-truths (or out-right lies IMO) make this entire PR theme contrary to the teachings of the church. As a faithful true believer, I find this press release shameful and embarrassing.

      • Kmillecam says:

        What a great response. Thank you! I completely agree.

      • sdknewbie says:

        WOW! The potential argument is the biggest stretch I have ever heard. Since the Elders Quorum does much more “leg work” for the Bishop than the High Priest group, we would be the most affected by your “Potential” argument. Go sit in the average Elders Quorum meeting and see how much they “respect” each other. You won’t find a group who make more fun of each other anywhere in the church!

        In addition, every ward council I have been in has confirmed time and time again that MOST relief society President’s opinions are more highly valued on ward matters than the Elders Quorum President’s. If you don’t believe me, justify why their budget is ALWAYS 10 TIMES BIGGER!

        What Bishop is going to side with the Elders over the Relief Society on budget issues or disputes? Only the INSANE one! 20 years of practice proves that Bishops most often side with the women.

        Your “potential” argument is also flawed because it is based on fear. “… As a man, I am always inclined to play by the rules and respect the men I work with because one day, any of those men might be the bishop or stake president and could make my life easier or harder as a result”? Seriously? I have been in the Elder’s Quorum for over 20 years and I have never known anyone to operate that way.

        If anyone of us were put in a position of leadership over former co-equals and tried to “get back at them”, we would immediately have issues with section 121. Every member of the church, whether male or female, has the same recourse when someone exercises unrighteous dominion over them and is “making life harder” because of past grievances.

        The problem with the rest of your arguments is that you state exceptions as the rule in the church. The wrath of an over-ruled Relief Society President makes any Bishops job that much harder. These guys spend upwards of 20 hours a week doing stuff they otherwise would not freely choose to do. If they ever “over-ruled” without explanation to the women or men under their care, it would only make their job harder and is not in their self interest. Are there exceptions to this type of Bishop? Yes. Is it the rule or norm? No. Stop using such a wide brush to paint a group of men taking time from their families and activities to serve you.

  7. Nate Curtis says:

    Well put. This was a horribly bad spin-job by the church PR office. Someone needs to get that crew to take some training from the correlation committee.

    Apologists? If they consider the PR-spin shameful and embarrassing, they are not apologists (and I think that a good thing).

  8. Tom Haws says:

    It’s hard to comment intelligently on this PR job, but you’ve done pretty well, Kendahl. Keep it up. You seem somehow to manage mixing sunshine and grit, which takes talent.

  9. honey says:

    I’m equal in the church and at home! Lucky me

  10. Diane says:

    Amy,

    To me, the gospel is perfect, but we, who are carrying out His church on the earth are NOT perfect, and therefore, mistakes and misunderstandings are to be expected.

    This is exactly the reason why we as you say we need to “air dirty laundry.” To tell out side people that women have a equal footing is church is an all out lie. Sure, we give “talks” but,our contribution is no where near seen as greater than our male counterparts.

    For Church PR department to put something like this is just a blatant all out down in the dirt lie and isn’t that what we as Mormons are taught not to do. Yet, when leaders do it, its’ okay because its’ for the good of the Church. I’m sorry, but, I just can’t wrap my brain around it. If you can, God bless.

    What I’m waiting for is for the Church to actually publish the number of members who leave. It really seems odd that they continue to keep and publish records on everything else but that.

    And Amy. I’m sorry that this response seems to be a personal attack, its not meant to be. but, I really just can’t stand it when people say that line any more, its’ just as offensive as saying women lead. We don’t lead, we do everything under the direction of the Priesthood and there’s a big difference.

    • Amy says:

      Interesting thoughts, Diane, and I can tell you have strong feelings on this. I definitely think to call it an all-out lie is much too harsh. In my experience, I have seen that the Mormons I know do more charity and volunteer work than those not in the church. However, in my personal experience with my peers who are not of my faith- the difference isn’t as large as it would indicate in the study.
      As for the part about men and women being equal…I just don’t know how to feel about that. I definitely don’t feel equal in many ways, but I have seen the church trying to work on that. Some would say that it won’t be equal until women can have the priesthood, and to be honest, I sometimes feel that way. But, I also know that men will never be able to bear children either…and yes, I know that presents a whole other conversation about how there are many women, who for various reasons won’t and can’t bear children either. I don’t know how to make complete sense of that either. However, I don’t think the statement mentioned above was a lie in any way. So, while I appreciate the viewpoint, I still respectfully disagree and am grateful that we can hopefully still respectfully disagree in this forum.

      • Diane says:

        Amy,

        I have one question for you. How many people do you know, I mean really KNOW( Not just acquaintances) out side of the Mormon faith for you to base your response that more Mormons than non Mormons perform charitable works than any other religious or secular club performs? Can you provide proof of this?

        I see many organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, doing great works for humanity with people from all walks of life period and from all religious persuasions. With the recent tornado in Illinois you had people who were not Mormon traveling miles just to see if they could help with the cleanup, provide food and compassion.

        At any rate, things will not change unless things are talked about in an open and honest atmosphere. Without the fear of being labeled Anti-.

  11. Amy says:

    Wow- it’s really difficult for me to express my opinions on here without being jumped all over. I originally started reading and commenting on this blog because it seemed to feel like a place where we could openly discuss and try to understand things we don’t understand. I am now coming to see it is a place for people to come to get people to agree with them and my opinion is less than welcome if it doesn’t. I didn’t realize I had to PROVE my anecdotal experiences. Sadly, I will not be frequenting this site and will most likely discourage other from doing so. In MY OPINION, it is a bit hypocritical to call some not tolerant of your opinions when you are not tolerant of mine.

    • Diane says:

      Amy,
      This argument is not meant as a Personal attack on you. I’m sorry if you feel that it is.

      I , as well as others want you to come back to this site. But, please realize that part of this blog is meant for people to air out their concerns without being marginalized or dismissed because it is not what another person believes. If you truly believe that you lead, that’s fine. but, I know in my heart, in much the same way that you
      believe in yours that I do NOT have the same rights as my male brothers in HIS restored Gospel which was meant for all of us to share in equally.

      • Amy says:

        Thank you Diane and Maureen for your responses. I can definitely understand the need to discuss some things that just don’t always make sense and that church meetings are not the forum to bring these issues and feelings up. I know that to be on this blog for the most part means that we have felt attacked and in the minority at church or from people in the church. I definitely have felt that way. But, although I have had some good experiences reading and participating in this blog, FOR ME, I have had more negative experiences here when I try to explain my viewpoint if it is close to what the church’s view is. Diane- like I said above, I still have questions about what it means to be equal as men and women. I know that we are different and that God created us to be different. How I can figure out exactly how God wanted us to be equal, I am not sure what that means and how God wants that carried out…I certainly don’t think the church has it all right yet. I never meant that. However, I don’t know if I think that means women have to have the priesthood. The lines between church doctrine and what we do culturally are sometimes very thin.
        I will not discourage others from coming here, but I think for now, I will need to take a break from the Exponent. I am sorry to feel like I have to make this decision. I have made it in the past and have returned recently only to have my same misgivings I had before. I am happy for those that find comfort here. I just am not for the most part.

    • Maureen says:

      Amy,

      I hear that you feel “jumped all over” and discouraged. It can be hard to be in a minority and to voice an opposing opinions. I hope you can see that many here feel the same way when they are at church, and do come here to meet up and hear from others who do share their same opinions as a majority of the time they are confronted with the opposite, and that’s not wrong however unhelpful that may be for you.

      I personally have appreciated your courage to speak true to yourself, your feelings and experiences. It can be hard for others to understand the different experiences of others unless they themselves have been through the same. Even then profound or traumatic experiences can change one’s perspectives about what they have been through before, even if it was at the time a similar enough experience. But personally I enjoy discussion from varying view points though I myself have to reign in my own sense that disagreement necessarily produces painful tension and a sense of being attacked.

      Whatever you choose for yourself concerning this forum, I would really hope that you do not actively discourage all others from coming here. Had I found this place sooner, I might not be having such a difficult time with church. I have a strong testimony of church, but I have experienced the brunt of severe abuses from members as well. These abuses were not simply due to them just being imperfect members, but rather by imperfections that are supported and encouraged by church tradition, policy, and even generally accepted interpretation of doctrine. It is a real problem, and in trying to protect yourself by putting it off as just an imperfect membership problem you could actually be setting yourself up for a greater fall. I find here strength to stay with the church through others willing to recognize and voice their own experiences with spiritual abuse. Had this not been discouraged by others in the church I might well have been further along in my healing journey.

  12. EBrown says:

    Areas in the discussion I found problematic and unproductive:
    First, I have never met anyone who believed that Mormons were part of a “devil worshipping cult”; I consider that a straw man.
    Second, I have never met a single Mormon in any of the various charitable activities I’ve attended; doesn’t mean they weren’t there, just that I’ve never met one.
    Third, current statistical analysis suggests that there are fewer than 4,000,000 active members world-wide, with approximately half that number being tithe paying/recommend (sic) holding members. It is well known that memberships numbers are inflated by the presumption that members live to be 110 years old, that every child of record is a member, and not recognizing the hemorrhage of members world-wide as well as the United States.
    Fourth, appeals to reproductive distinctions in addressing equality is reductive. While it is true that women bear children, that process has up to now required sperm. Since the genetic contributions of males and females is identical (50% of the genetic material in the zygotes) the argument that bearing children somehow provides women with equality in the public sector, including religion, is logically indefensible.
    Fifth, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. It appears that the infographic includes all those elements.

  13. Jessica says:

    I once did a small study in my ward for 4 months. I counted every time someone even said the name Jesus, Christ, Savior. The results were horrible. The highest was 6 times, during a Fast and Testimony Meeting. The second place was 3, and the majority were zero. I did not count the “in the name of Jesus Christ at the end of prayers.

  14. Ziff says:

    Great analysis, Kmillecam! I particularly like your taking apart the 77% figure. I was vaguely bothered when I originally read it, but didn’t think twice about it; I appreciate you showing in detail why it must be false.

    I also agree about the 100% figure for sacrament meetings focused on Christ. Values of 100% are always suspicious. It’s like when Saddam Hussien kept being re-elected president of Iraq with 100% of the vote. Whenever some percentage is quoted as 100, it suggests that there’s no real analysis: the conclusion is foregone.

    And as to your major point, I can only say, “Amen!”

  15. LovelyLauren says:

    Personally, the 77% statistic didn’t bother me because I see no reason to count those who do not attend church at least sometimes. I have no problem with people who want to call themselves Mormon even if they don’t attend church, but I think in terms of membership it makes sense to only poll active Mormons and the Mormons I know who attend church at all do it far more and take it more seriously than church-goers of other faiths (in my experience, of course). I think that only considering active members when doing statistics is far more honest than the 14 million member statistic that is quoted so often.

    As far as Christ-centered meetings go, that is going to vary intensely based on area. One the largest roadblocks there is in discussing issues is that our local ward shapes so much of our experience two people can disagree strongly and both be right. I would say about 60% of my meetings focus on Christ, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. I think meetings on food storage are as boring as anyone else, but I rather enjoyed a talk on unity last week and another one on being single in a family ward.

    Did anyone balk at the “4th largest religion in the USA” stat? I can’t possibly see how that could be true.

    I did take issue with the Mormonism FAQ response on women. It seemed like any outright lie to me and anyone familiar with the structure of our religion should be able to see that.

    I don’t like infographics like that at all. They are intensely popular right now and I dislike the way they take something complex and nuanced and turn it into something glib and simple. I think complexity is worth taking into consideration.

  16. Sherah says:

    I don’t know if I’ve read all the comments, so maybe someone has mentioned this already. But it sounds like some are saying the numbers reflect only active members. So then, are they saying “77% of (active) members attend church weekly”? Is that not sort of like saying “77% of apples are apples”, and isn’t that kind of ridiculously tautological?

    • Kmillecam says:

      Lol! Yes, I believe that they are saying that. But after chuckling, I think it’s so interesting. You’d think “active members” would be MORE active than that. But then I have never been a ward clerk (don’t have the right plumbing), so I don’t have personal experience looking at typical ward activity rates among the active.

  17. Danielle says:

    I think that sometimes in the LDS culture we really do think we have the monopoly on good, loving parenting. I have many friends with big families for the reason that ‘more spirits could come to a good home.’ I’ve always found this to be a bit off, implying that if the kid came to a different family it would be potentially tragic.
    I think most people love their kids dearly and I know enough non-LDS protective, supportive, deliberate, parents to know that they love their kids just as much.
    (In response to the published stat that 81% of LDS say being a good parent is a top priority vs. 50% of the general public.)

    • I’m glad you bought this up. It is troubling. It’s sort of a “we’re better than you” statistic–but I think that’s the point of the infographic. I also wonder what the original poll asked and who was sampled. Anyone know?

  18. Diane says:

    SDK

    If anyone of us were put in a position of leadership over former co-equals and tried to “get back at them”, we would immediately have issues with section 121. Every member of the church, whether male or female, has the same recourse when someone exercises unrighteous dominion over them and is “making life harder” because of past grievances.

    I really don’t know where to begin with this statement. If what you were saying is true that when I went to speak to my Bishop about my home teacher telling to me (With my RSP present) that I had severe personality and psychological and emotional issues and they needed to be addressed both professionally and spiritually and the reason he is allowed to say this is because he was once a Bishop. My current Bishop would not have laughed in my face. My stake leadership would have and should have stepped to address the issue. I even went so far as to contact SL However, they never did.
    You want to say that it would be hard, even difficult to get work done, if we held on to past grievances. Yet, grievances can never be put in the past when they are never addressed. Your ‘potential” argument is a weak one because you fail to grasp what it is like to be a woman in the church who has little say, let alone any real authority because once a woman like myself does stand up we are immediately labeled.

    • I’d like to second that. If you’re lucky, you might get a Bishop or Stake President that understands your situation. Not always. I witnessed this first hand when my bishop kicked me out of the ward because I was “participating enough”. He sent my records to my home ward without my consent (I was not the only one this happen to, too). I tried to explain to my bishop I had been dealing with a long illness and I was also spending a lot of time with my mother and sisters on the weekends because my dad had just moved across the country to begin his new job while my mom stayed behind to sell the house. I was comfortable with my decisions, and I knew God was, too. But it he didn’t understand. This caused me problems later when I wanted to get married. To cut a long story short, neither my bishop nor my stake president understood why I was bothered by my bishop’s decision. I really don’t hold grudge, but the incident (and others) demonstrated to me that I am not taken seriously by church leaders because I am a woman. I know this is a generalization–that there are many wonderful bishops out there. But I worried about getting burned again if I remain in the church.

      • I should clarify. I’m trying to say that there are few recourses if mistakes are made. I’m not saying that my former bishop needed to be reprimanded, I just want my feelings and experiences to be taken seriously. I didn’t go into it here, but the issue was completely glossed over and ignored. And these things happen far too often. Of course humans are fallible, but to what extend is this excuse viable?

      • Diane says:

        Taylor,

        I’ve had the same thing happen to me. Except, it wasn’t the Bishop that transferred my records. It was his wife. Her exact words were, ” It’s very apparent that as a older student you don’t fit into our student ward. I’m transferring your records somewhere else.” That takes chutzpah

      • I’ll say. Geez. I’m sorry about that.

  19. Erin says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was completely unaware of this infographic and found it to be more laughable (if that is possible) than the “I’m a Mormon” campaign.

    Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of stats or even a good critical thinker could dissect this infographic fairly easily. The PR folks must think its audience are not critical thinkers, which speaks poorly of them. And of anyone who buys it.

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