openly apostate church goer?

by G

Just shy of a year ago I stopped attending church. I no longer believed what the church taught and had gotten to the point where sitting through three hours of it was both numbing and excruciating. But I think it’s time to start attending again. Not because my beliefs have changed, but because Sunday has become such a fragmented disjointed day for our family. Something has got to change and I have decided that I will be that something. So a couple Sundays a month I will attend with my husband and child. I will bring books to read and my journal to write in (a friend suggested an iPod, but that’s too obvious for my taste) to help get me through talks and lessons that would otherwise send me over the edge. Also, I think that perhaps I have had enough time and distance that there will not be the same painful cognitive dissonance that I used to experience; maybe I’m in a place now where I can be more generous about the things I disagree with and more open to catching the gems that do resonate. We shall see.

But my question to you has to do with my desire to be honest and open about who I am. Part of the discomfort from before had to do with the double life, the need to hide so much of my thoughts and experience. I’m done with that. But when I think about how that will actually LOOK, me being more open, I have a hard time imagining the line between honesty and disrespect. I don’t want to cross that line, I dislike making people feel uncomfortable.

Here’s me: I’m pretty agnostic with existential leanings, view the scriptures as man-made metaphors, don’t see much difference between the LDS church and other churches out there (i.e. no one true church with exclusive priesthood authority led by a prophet of God etc.). I don’t believe in necessary ordinances, don’t wear garments, don’t live the word of wisdom, etc. etc. etc.
Basically, I am rubbed the wrong way by most of what the church says (though I do believe in food storage).

So… I will just sit in the back and keep my mouth shut and read my book? (Unless talking about food storage?)
Those of you in my position, how do you walk that line?
And those of you who are believers, what are your thoughts about the participation of someone who just doesn’t believe in the church?

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68 Responses

  1. mb says:

    When I choose to attend a religious service that does not preach the things I espouse or hold dear I consciously choose to spend that time living principles that I do espouse and hold dear, i.e. in my case, consideration for others, kindness, respect for others’ right to worship differently, respect for the depth of their experience even though it doesn’t resonate with me, meditation, patience, gentleness with shortcomings I may perceive. temperance, etc.

    It means mastering my knee-jerk emotions and acting with humility and charity. Easier said than done certainly, but completely necessary.

    I don’t believe God is nearly as interested in whether I agree with those around me as God is interested in whether I love them and respond and act with charity.

    We live in a society that says that if you sit quietly and don’t say anything you must be acquiescing. That makes us feel like we must make our positions known in order to maintain our integrity and our individuality. And it makes us chafe when we try to be silent. Actually, the women I have the greatest respect for are the ones who are able to feel at peace with who they are enough that they can feel at peace in any place, thus freeing themselves to act with humility and charity rather than react with frustration or impatience.

    Still working on becoming one of those women.

    And as a believer in my own faith I welcome anyone who comes to services without belief but out of love for their family. I respect that. And I hope they will be able to navigate with aplomb and graciousness the few members of my congregation who will unwittingly pour on the fellowshipping faster and harder than is particularly desired.

  2. Caroline says:

    I have a few suggestions. 🙂

    a) don’t feel like you always have to subject yourself to lessons. I think hanging out in the hall and chatting with friends sometimes is a great way to pass the 2nd and 3rd hours. It builds relationships with other members, and it’s a good way to counteract frustration with bad lessons.

    b) a book works great for Sacrament meeting. Also, if you crochet, that also helps me a lot. Very therapeutic.

    c) Speak up in meetings with charity, generosity, and your own special take on the subjects at hand. I think that people often love a fresh perspective, and if you couch it in something like, “I love BY’s expansive vision of ______. It mirrors my own personal conviction that ________” Or Jesus works really well when it comes to springboarding into anything socially progressive and inclusive.

    I say this, but it’s hard for me to speak up these days. Ever since prop 8, I’ve been unwilling to put myself out there at all. I’m hoping, however, to eventually recapture that feeling that this is my church too, and that I have a valuable and unique perspective to offer.

  3. G says:

    mb, “We live in a society that says that if you sit quietly and don’t say anything you must be acquiescing. That makes us feel like we must make our positions known in order to maintain our integrity and our individuality. And it makes us chafe when we try to be silent.”
    yep. exactly my problem. thank you for putting a different perspective. that may take some work for me, but it makes sense.

    Caroline- I so need to learn to crochet! and, ya know, those couches in the foyer are SOOO much more comfy than the rest of seats in the building.
    😉
    thanks, both, for your kind words and suggestions.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    Great post, G! It probably says something about me that I don’t know which category I should put myself in 🙂

    I think the description of your spirituality fits me quite well. FWIW, this is what has helped me…before I go to Church each Sunday, I try not to focus on aspects of the Church that drive me crazy (except when I’m in a safe group with all you lovely people). I try to think about what we love and share (“faith, hope, and charity” is a frequent mantra of mine.

    Right now, that seems to help me get in a more positive frame of mind. And, books, crocheting, etc–distractions for the grating comments seems like a great way to go.

    That said, I would LOVE it if there was someone in my ward who has my same doubts (and I would suspect there is someone, but I haven’t found him or her yet). I often feel pretty lonely and just try to focus on parts of the Church that I love and can share with my ward friends.

    Might I suggest a Primary calling? Then, there’s no GD or RS. I feel much better about the Church now that I get to teach the basics (um, except for this month on families. But, 3 years and that’s the first problem I’ve had–not bad!).

  5. Aboz says:

    I think that it would do everybody else a favor for you to remain quiet, and will manifest your respect for the beliefs of other people if you do so. And who knows. Maybe you will feel the spirit again from attending a bit, and change your mind on a few things here and there. I don’t expect that you would entirely get your testimony back on the things that you totally disagree with, but you may find that there is something now and again in Mormonism that will once again resonate with you when you feel the spirit.

  6. JDD says:

    I’ve been thinking about this very topic lately. I even blogged about it at http://www.allaboutmormons.com/Blog/lost_testimony_churchi_love_lds_ENG_38.php . I do think there is a place in the Church even for the respectful unbeliever.

  7. Kaimi says:

    No membership card is required to attend church, G. I’d say that you ought to attend; be as honest as makes you comfortable (though you don’t have to be an open book to everyone, very few people are); benefit from the good that you see at church; and try not to pick any fights. 🙂

    Good luck to you, girl.

  8. You owe it to people who are there for worship and fellowship not to disrupt services. That includes remaining quiet if your comments are deliberately challenging or provocative or would interrupt what you must know are the teacher’s goals. That includes being so unobtrusive in your non-worship behavior that you don’t disturb anyone in your line of sight — if you’re reading something other than scriptures, refrain from holding the book up where your neighbors can see it, and turning pages noisily during the passing of the sacrament.

    I know that will set me up for criticism as a hard-nosed intolerant #*@&. So be it. People who truly attend for worship or learning have the right to do that without disturbance from someone who is there for baser reasons.

  9. Markie says:

    Ardis, I think that was a little bit hard-nosed. Not because you’re wrong (your advice is good for all, apostate or not), but because G has already made it clear that she has no desire to disrupt anyone’s worship (an ipod is too obvious for her – it doesn’t sound like she’s trying to flaunt her non-worshiping in anyone’s face). The whole point of her post is that she doesn’t want to cross a line into making people feel uncomfortable.

  10. Markie says:

    In my last ward, there were two or three fairly active, but openly non-believing, members who came with their spouses (but strangely, all of them were men). When directly asked about their beliefs, they were honest. But, they didn’t volunteer the information at every opportunity. They also weren’t afraid to comment in Sunday School when they had something interesting to contribute about the history or language of a verse, or even application of the principle to their own life. They were good additions to the ward, not at all distractions. I think if you keep in mind your twin goals of being honest and not being disrespectful, you’ll naturally find your own path.

  11. G says:

    ardis, thank you for the reminder and that is something I am sensitive to; I do not want to be (or be perceived as) someone disrupting, challenging, derailing the experience for others.

    Markie, thank you for sharing about the individuals in your ward who do negotiate this so well. it is good to know that it can be done.
    (Interesting that they were all men. I wonder if and how gender works into this.)

  12. Jeff Day says:

    I attended the LDS Church as a known apostate for a while. In my opinion, I think family unit is the most worthwhile subject to speak about here. Not just going to church together, but trying to get as close as you can to being on the same page spiritually with your loved ones. Maybe if you shared your insights with your family, they would also begin to see things your way, not take such a hard-edged view of the scriptures, etc., and you could find something to do together that would be uplifting for all of you. My wife and I, although we hold many different ideas from each other, have managed to reach enough consensus to be able to be spiritually “together.” As a result, we have essentially started a splinter group, posting many of our ideas online in hopes that they will help others, and have found a happy way to live our faith.

    If you think the church isn’t a good match for you, but you do think its a good match for your family, then you might try to contemplate why you feel that way? Sometimes a desire to protect people and keep them in their innocent, blissful status may not actually be the best for their eternal happiness.

  13. Grégoire says:

    This is only an issue in strongly authoritarian movements (called “cult” in ordinary language) like the LDS church.

    I go to a Reform temple and an Episcopal church on occasion. Everyone in both communities know I’m an atheist, and I’m there appreciating cultural traditions rather than superstition. Nobody in either of those cases has the slightest problem with that, and in fact people like myself make up a sizeable part of any service.

    It’s only in groups which demand absolute obedience and groupthink that dissenters are shunned or driven out. In more normative traditions, the diversity tends to be appreciated.

  14. stacer says:

    I have a friend from a ward I attended in Seattle who is a member, but her husband is not. One of the things she said before she agreed to marry him is that she wanted him to come to church with her and their kids, even if he didn’t believe. He’s an agnostic Jew, but wanted to support her in her beliefs. So they have this arrangement–she gets to sing in the choir and be active in her church callings, and when she’s leading hymns in sacrament he sits with their little kids (5 and 3) in the congregation. He sometimes sings with her in choir because he loves to sing.

    He’s never going to convert, and everyone in the congregation knows it. But he’s an active part of the community, and he knows and loves people in the ward and they know and love him.

    I think that makes their marriage more harmonious. And it’s a two-ways street–she supports him in various things that are important to him, and they go to celebrate the Jewish high holy days with his family. I admire how they’ve made it work.

    I’m a believer myself, but I get just as bored in church. I bring my knitting, and it helps me to concentrate on listening (and to have something to concentrate on when I’m bored).

  15. Sanford says:

    I am uncomfortable with idea that you are attending for baser reasons. We are all imperfect humans and sinners. I would hate to think that Mormon services are only for those who demonstrate an acceptable level of rectitude. You clearly have struggled with your faith and you are likely not in the same place as most of those you will attend with, but that doesn’t mean you should stay away or feel that you have no right to comment. I believe that Church services are enriched by a variety of ideas and levels of belief and candid discourse. It seems to me that too often some people sit back and coast during meetings, rather than actually engaging. Sure they don’t disturb others but they really don’t participate either. I think you can be respectful and honest and participate all at the same time.

  16. Caroline says:

    Well said, Sanford.

    Why is going to church to support and build cohesion within family baser than other reasons for going?

    I personally don’t see how it can be disrespectful to be vulnerable and carefully, lovingly share parts of yourself that might not mesh with ideas about stereotypical Mormonism. I think your ward could only benefit from thoughtful input, G. And goodness knows, you’ll make those people who have similar insights and perspectives in life much less lonely if you participate.

  17. Vivian says:

    This just doesn’t make any sense.
    If Sundays feel fragmented and disjointed,
    that’s not a reason to go to church. Plan
    something you enjoy and believe in.
    Sundays are not for torturing yourself!

  18. anon says:

    But why not compromise with your family? Why not attend twice a month, and twice a month they do something with you; another church (if you are exploring) or a picnic at a park, or a ‘family day’, something. I have a hard time when one parent’s belief is all that children are exposed to; your child has two parents, and your beliefs (or non-beliefs, as the case may be) are JUST as important and valid as his!

  19. Kaimi says:

    Well, I think that there are two separate issues here.

    On the one hand, there is the problem of being disruptive. If G were disruptive, that wouldn’t fly at an LDS church, nor at a Catholic or Adventist or anywhere else, pretty much. So the first step is to just not be disruptive.

    There’s a second question, though, which is whether her presence is a threat, even if she’s not disruptive. If people know that she has left the church, does her attendance broadcast a path out of the church? What message do other members (especially struggling ones) take from that? The question becomes, in essence: Is apostasy contagious?

    That’s a particularly Mormon question, because the LDS community is based on some level of theological agreement at a level that many other religious communities are not.

    I think that there are reasons, well grounded in LDS theology, why G’s participation should be fine. But if people object, I think it could easily be because they are worried that her apostasy could be contagious.

  20. Ellen says:

    Although I have a different take on many things at church, I am a believer. I think it is important for people like myself to speak up and break up the homogeny. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair for you to make too many comments. You admittedly don’t have the common ground of belief in the church, scriptures, or God. I find it odd that you would want to attend, but that’s beside the point. In all honesty, do you have a condecending view of the members and their beliefs? (I often do, so I can’t blame you.) It sounds like you’re a respectful person, so I’m not worried you will offend people. I just think you’re putting yourself in a situation where you will be tempted to disagree. I don’t think it would be appropriate. When I visit my friends’ churches, I don’t speak up. It’s not the time or place.

  21. G says:

    oh my… I’m contagious? kiami, my first thought was to snicker a bit at your comment, but actually that is perhaps an issue.

    See, I’m not the non-member spouse who’s simply not interested. I’m a return missionary, former MTC teacher, former RS president, former Temple ordinance worker, etc.

    Mostly I had been considering how this just makes my participation more emotionally charged on a personal level… But perhaps it makes my participation more problematic from the organization’s point of view?

    Not quite as benign as the Jewish/Catholic/Protestant spouse.

  22. Caroline says:

    ok, I’m going to try to shut up now, but I have to respond to one thing. I don’t think it’s accurate to compare G to a Mormon going to a Protestant church who as an outsider should sit there and be quiet. G is a Mormon. She’s a member. She’s put her time in and served in enormous ways. This is her church too, despite divergent personal beliefs. Mormons come in all different shades of gray, and how much more authentic would our experience at church be if people would feel free to respectfully contribute their own unique insights and perspectives.

  23. G says:

    caroline: ((((HUG)))
    big time.
    🙂

  24. Alisa says:

    G, what a good discussion you’ve started here.

    I would just like to say that mb’s comment (#1) seems right on. I especially resonate with, “I don’t believe God is nearly as interested in whether I agree with those around me as God is interested in whether I love them and respond and act with charity.” This is what I needed to hear today: I could learn from that.

  25. Dora says:

    Hmmm … the negative comments have raised many issues for me. I think that the LDS church sometimes can be so insular and exclusive, and that makes me feel infinitely sad. As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we should be inviting everyone to come unto Christ. If the only people who were allowed to attend church were the perfect ones, none of us would qualify. At some level, we are all unbelievers. There are some weeks when my belief has been sorely tested … does this mean that I should stay away because I may be contagious? There are some weeks when I just don’t feel the spirit at all … does this mean that I’m spreading viral unspirituality?

    I think that G has made a conscious decision about how to unite her family, in the most conscientious way that she can. I applaud her effort to be supportive of her husband and child, for showing respect towards the ward family, and for being open enough to share her thoughts in a place that is perhaps a little more appropriate than your average Sunday meeting.

    Besides, I second the use of time for journalling and knitting!

  26. Vada says:

    A few thoughts.

    First, I think you’re right in that you’re more threatening than a non-believer Jew, life-long atheist, Hindu, etc. It’s easier for Mormons to accept someone like that (especially since many of the hope that the continual exposure will one day make them see “the truth”) than it is to accept someone who has left the church (thus, has already rejected “the truth”). I think if anyone asks you about your beliefs, you ought to be honest. If they ask you about why you’re coming when you don’t believe, be honest about that, too — I think most people will greatly respect your efforts to do something to bring your family closer together. Try to be respectful rather than defensive when answering their questions (even though some of them will probably be attacking you).

    I think you have every right to participate, and I think there will probably be many instances where you will have something to share. I like the point mb made about charity. If you always comment with a feeling of charity (thus sharing something that has brought you joy or helped you, rather than attacking or deriding something you don’t agree with), you really can’t go wrong.

    I know this is asking more patience, kindness and charity of you than will likely be shown you by some of the members attending with you (though hopefully there will be large amounts of all three on their parts, too). If things are just too hard, or you can’t stomach something for another minute, don’t leave in a huff. Just quietly get up and leave, like you have to use the bathroom. Chats in hallways are great for community-building. And you can always vent later to a trusted friend or relative (I do so semi-regularly, about one thing or another).

    I think you’re doing a wonderful thing, making personal sacrifices for family togetherness and happiness. I wish you luck!

  27. Kaimi says:

    Hey, I’m not *endorsing* the idea that G is contagious.

    But I do think that, if people are objecting to G’s participation, that that may be the underlying concern. I’ve certainly heard discussion from members along those lines, regarding at least some other former members.

  28. Ellen says:

    Nobody thinks G should not come to church, or not say a word. I hate staw men arguments. Sure we need diversity. All of the advice here depends on what type of participation and comments G is considering. Does she want to antagonize and challenge people’s belief systems during lessons? She may have done her time, but that seems irrelevant if she wants to persuade people to believe the scriptures are metaphors, the church isn’t “true”, and God may not even exist, etc. G may not have any inclination to do this. We don’t know. I don’t think it’s fair to hang out at church – whatever your reasons, and openly go against everything being taught. Not cool. Respectful comments are always welcome. Of course, you don’t have to agree completely to be respectful.

  29. Grégoire says:

    Ellen,

    You seem to be writing from two different positions simultaneously. G should attend and is welcome to comment, so long as her attendance and comments don’t raise questions that you find uncomfortable? Doesn’t sound very welcoming to me.

    Most other traditions don’t promote the artifact that theirs is the *one true way* and that “all others are an abomination before [God’s] sight” etc.

    Mormonism is the creation of human beings, who were attempting to build a community and find a place in the world. God is the sum total of all those natural processes which lead us to a more civilized life.

    Those aren’t my words. Replace “Mormonism” with “Judaism” and they’re a quote by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan (see Judaism as Civilization). Even the leaders and thinkers in other traditions have diverse interpretations of religion.

    Mormonism is akin to Scientology, Sun Moon’s Unification Church and other movements which are currently losing members because they can’t get with the times. Most of us can’t imagine a life without sincere questions, that’s why there are only 2 million self-identified Mormons in North America, whereas the LDS church has 5.5 million on the records. (see Peggy Stack’s article in the SLC Tribune) Over half of the church has wandered away from Mormonism in the last generation. This groupthink/cult mentality has probably played a large part in the exodus.

  30. Caroline says:

    Gregoire,
    I’m sympathetic to any argument for inclusion and diversity within the Mormon Church. But please do be sensitive to the fact that you’re speaking to a bunch of Mormons, people who care deeply for the Church, even as we acknowledge its flaws. You won’t win anyone over by repeating the word ‘cult’ here.

    Please see our comment policy about being respectful of other people’s personal beliefs.

  31. Grégoire says:

    Dear Caroline,

    You’re speaking to a Mormon right now, and I care deeply about the church also. If you want to shun or excommunicate me for giving you a different perspective it’s perfectly O.K., and it only serves to prove my original point.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cult

    I think these cult-like memes (and cult is the only accurate word) within Mormonism are promoting its disappearance. The idea of following an infallible leader and chasing away anyone who isn’t in agreement with one particular interpretation of scripture is not something that’s attractive to most people. That isn’t me being rude or trying to hurt your feelings. It’s just the plain unvarnished truth.

  32. cchrissyy says:

    G,
    I don’t quite get why you’re going if you’re planning to tune out the meetings. Can’t you read and relax better at home? at a cafe? Or, if you’re coming to church to socialize, having your nose in a book won’t meet that goal. You’d need to situate yourself in the hall or something.
    I’m just not clear here, sorry 🙂 Are you mostly wanting to be listening and participating, and just worried about a stray annoying comment? If so, do you have games on your cell phone? 😉 how bout a walk in the halls or around the block at those times?

    One solution I’ve seen work well, as far as family routine goes, is for the whole family to go to the church together and some people go in while some people continue on to an alternate location and then pick them up at the end. It keeps the rhythm/routine together, if that’s what you meant about problems with the day’s structure.

  33. G says:

    Cchrissyy (and others who asked this question too), when I first stopped attending the LDS church it was with the specific plan to put some other spiritually enriching activity in it’s place.
    Occasionally this worked, but a fairly large logistical hitch turned out to be our 5 yr old son.

    For a while I would do my “thing” in the morning while hubby watched son and then hubby would go to church in the afternoon while I watched son. Son (lucky boy) got to avoid church altogether.

    My husband has not been inclined to take our son to church; it’s difficult to manage a 5 yr old during sacrament meeting and he openly declares that he “hates church” and if mommy is staying home it is hardly fair that he should be forced to go.

    While I am ambivalent and conflicted about what he will be taught in primary, the back and forth un-unified, not-together nature of our Sundays has been difficult on all of us (and provided very little opportunity for the personal exploration I thought I might find) and I am hoping that this step of attending together will help unify and strengthen us.

    And yes. I do plan on tuning out a great deal of the meetings.

    And yes… this plan is so full of holes, I can’t even start to name. It may not work. but I am willing to try.

    Staying for sacrament mtg then taking off during SS and RS is also an option.

  34. G says:

    hm, if my last comment came out a little strident, please take it with a grain of salt.

    I go back and forth between being hopeful and tense as hell about how this will all turn out.

    tomorrow being Sunday (first Sunday back) I am tense as hell.

    Bear with me.

  35. cchrissyy says:

    G,
    good luck today.

    If you’re going for the child, I’d not say to do sacrament and leave – do the reverse! skip the hour that’s hardest on him and make sure to be there for the two hours that are designed to teach, occupy, and socialize children!

    I know that sounds awful for those who say the sacrament itself is prime importance, or the constant attendance even if it’s boring is a huge virtue. but if I’m on the same page as you, those aren’t your reasons, it’s the hour you *all* get the least out of. right? So if you show up at the break, you adults get more freedom in the socializing/listening possibilities and he gets to attend the programing that is actually optimized for his developmental level and building friendships with teachers and peers.

  36. Alicia says:

    I really don’t know where i belong in the scheme of church society anymore. I have a strong belief in God, but the lines of constructed religion have really bound up my ability to experience God in a way that i am able to fully feel his presence. I am weary of the struggle to “fit in” and have similar religious experiences to the woman sitting next to me in Relief Society, or to have gained my “testimony” along a similar path tot he man sitting next to me in Gospel Doctrine Class. I have worn out my welcome in a ward I have lived in for ten years because I have openly expressed a different view or have been unashamed of personal choices that do not fit within the Mormon culture of acceptable personal expression. I have been respectful and careful about my comments and questions while trying to use my voice and my my view to broaden the palate of many discussions and have found that even so I am viewed as a dangerous member of the ward.

    I now attend my meetings when I feel a longing to be in attendance and have recently decided to contact the church across the street from me and join their choir. I bring a journal and when I have a conflicting thought or question that I would like to raise, I jot down the idea or thought from the lesson that has sparked the dissonance in my spirit and make my remarks there. I look in the scriptures, in ” secular” materials, talk to friends with similar struggles and meditate over the ideas, all the while commenting in my journal. When I have made a solid decision about what I believe then i feel that i can respectfully and positively contribute a comment to a discussion in Relief society or Gospel Doctrine whether it is in accordance to the traditional mormon experience or an expression of the “gospel according to Alicia”. I am less concerned with causing a little friction and more concerned with being authentic to my human and spiritual experience. I share this with my daughter who struggles with religion very deeply.

    Caroline, you regularly model a graceful and proactive path for me. G., your struggle resonates with me deeply, you are not alone in finding your place!

  37. Ellen says:

    Wow, this was a great discussion. I love it when someone’s question gets us all going. I’ll second the “good luck G”. Hope everything works out for you and your family.

  38. Jana says:

    How was it, G?

  39. G says:

    Just an update: Today was a good experience. Everyone was welcoming and friendly and I wasn’t bothered by the context of the talks or lessons. I read a bit during Sunday School, did a bit of writing/sketching in my journal during Relief Society and chatted with a few old acquaintances.

    We’ll see how it goes once the honeymoon phase is over. But for now, thank you all for your suggestions/advice and well wishes.

  40. Caroline says:

    Alicia,
    Thank you! I love what you wrote about the ways you thoughtfully cope with dissonance. I still have much to learn in that regard.

  41. Kiri Close says:

    Facebook is where I go to church during weekdays – simply type in your true feelings about an aspect you’ve been pondering upon, & wait for the fallout in responding comments (on my profile, it’s usually the typical zealots who are never clear in their argumentation). Ya oughtta try this–it’s lotsa fun! ;op

  42. mb says:

    G,
    Glad to hear it was a good experience. Thanks for letting us know how it went.

  43. Mom In Tuck says:

    I say go. Do what you need to do… but be ready for all those who will want to “save your apostate soul.”

    Just be prepared to be the “pet project” of many and “false friendship” of those who think you can be a notch on thier “I saved a soul” ladder.

    I totally get where you are coming from. My DH and I bring our DS to play during sacrament. 😛

  44. Ron Madson says:

    G,
    I have read your post and the followup comments with interest. Over the years (I am now 54) I have gained a whole new perspective that I am at peace with even if others are not. With time and experience I have come to see the Kingdom of God, as Christ intende, being radically inclusive, loving, tolerant, nonjudgmental and for sure non-creedal. When I was a mission counselor for several years I did the tough interviews. I not only felt the grace of Christ for those seeking acceptance and healing but more I also came to appreciate that doctrinal differences, beliefs/nonbeliefs should not as big a deal as we make them out to be. For example, one new hispanic baptismal candidate was such a charitable and sincere elderly man. He was totally convinced of trinitarianism. In fact he found evidence of such a position in the BOM (it is there plainly). A local priesthood leader insisted he not be baptized until he denounced trinitarianism. I decided to allow him (with MP permission) to be baptized anyway. It was funny though to see the members squirm when he did the sign of the cross when being baptized and confirmed—only to do it again when blessing the sacrament. So what… Now I am to the point that I am perfectly comfortable and probably far more comfortable with a-theist and agnostics members then those that are so insecure that they torture the rest of with the “uncertainty avoidance.” Several years ago while teaching GD, the buildup to the Iraq war was occurring. The OT was being taught. I suggested that the OT has a war and peace narrative and that when Christ came he rejected the “bullshit” (i did not use that word) made up war narrative where “god told us to kill everyone” fable…That week I was released and the teacher the next week reprimanded me essentially for not follwing the current prophet and past prophets. For me I could compartmentalize my faith in the restored church from all those that seem to need a fixed creed or retarded orthodoxy. But I can understand why many can’t. I have sat for the last six years and asked questions and little comments and one by one members have expressed their appreciation for my anti-war stance an some other unorthodox thoughts. This is not expressed to boast, but to confess that despite a sense of being marginalized since that incidence and also letting my pride get in the way, I have come to more fully appreciate the agnostics, the doubters far more then the “i got it all figured out crowd” and you better agree or else. I know this group is very astute and well read and you are aware of this quote by JS but here it is:

    “I stated that the most prominent difference in sentiment between the Latter-day Saints and sectarians was, that the latter were all circumscribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing anything not contained therein, whereas the Latter-day saints have no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.”

    In conclusion, the Kingdom consist for me of those of good heart, sharing attitudes and community of decency. It can and should embrace and listen to all voices—believers and non-believers–I think we are all to degrees non-believers. I for one would appreciate your voice and input no matter the comment. In conclusion to this long post, I see Christ as not being hung up on doctrinal boundaries or creeds in his ministry–rather teaching us to love even our enemies, be inclusive of all and just be decent to one another. I write for the Mormon Worker (anti-war stuff is my pet project) and some of the fellow writers are agnostic and I appreciate their contributions and would far rather spend eternity with them then some of the goose stepping self chosen ones….anyway, please come to church–I and others like me will find great value to your honest questions and thoughts.

  45. Ray says:

    G, I am coming to this late, but I want to thank you for the thoughtful way you addressed this topic.

    My input would be much like mb’s in the very first comment. I dream of the day when we just don’t care who worships with us – when we are open and accepting of all in ALL of our meetings, as long as they are respectful of us.

    I hope you are able to attend in peace, and that you can grow in whatever way works for you.

  46. DavidH says:

    Ron,

    Amen.

    G

    Thanks for continuing to bless the Church with your being there and supporting what you can.

  47. Lupita says:

    I haven’t met anyone who participates regularly in the church who is an apostate. I think your reasons are admirable (ie family unity). Yet, Sunday meetings would be tortuous if I didn’t bring with me the hope of edification. It doesn’t always happen but man, not even having the hope? That would keep me away.

  48. Natasha says:

    Lupita and others: you don’t know if you have met someone at church who is “apostate.” Have a little imagination!

    I have held several positions of leadership. I am known as an active, cheerful Mormon–and I am called when there is a need for service. I make positive comments in meetings.

    However, I’m fundamentally an unbeliever. I think that huge chunks of mormon theology are nonsense. And, like G, I am an RM, etc. etc.

    My husband believes, I like the culture and I want my kids to have some sense of caring for others and moral direction. I don’t like all of the moral direction of the church, and am careful to talk about values with the kids, but I think it is great to have other adults to reinforce moral values.

    You would never know that I don’t believe most of the essential tenents of the church, unless I trusted you enough to tell you.

    There are many of us sitting in the pews.

    I think that family unity is a beautiful, not “base” reason to go to church.

    I just wish you would move into my ward, G- I bet that I could learn a lot from you and your openness at church. Plus I would love to see the cool, artsy things you would be crocheting. I can already imagine the cool, woman-figures you would make.

  49. Lupita says:

    Natasha, let me be more precise. I do not know anyone who participates regularly who is an open apostate. Not quite sure how that shows any lack of imagination. I know plenty who have quit, others who continue under emotional or spiritual duress. Questioning? That’s one thing. Forsaking your religion? Isn’t that what an apostate is?
    It seems fundamentally dishonest to portray oneself as a believer if you are not. I have more respect for G who has no qualms with stating her loss of faith and trying to openly navigate a new course.

  50. Lauren says:

    G: I applaud your decision to go to church with your family, even if you aren’t sure how you feel about the whole thing. I agree that the family unit is a very important thing to protect, and if it would confuse them or hurt them for you not to attend church, you’ll always learn something from it, so why not go. I would offer some advice of my own on the subject… I’m a life-long member, BYU Grad, but I often have periods where I struggle with this or that aspect of the church. It started in my early teens. After I while I’ll “come around” and become fully invested in the church, and then I lull again. I have no idea why that happens, and I would love to just stay active or not. It’s definitely a strange and obnoxious, but constant cycle. My suggestion, based on that experience (and that I’m currently in a lull) is to try to base all of your decisions on spiritual intuition. Be it the Holy Ghost or something vaguer than that, try to listen to what your heart and soul tell you, and do that. Right now I’m only feeling motivated to go to church about once a month, and even then I don’t always agree or feel uplifted by what is said. I don’t feel any guilt or spiritual pain about not going the other 3 weeks, so I don’t. I don’t feel guilt or pain about not reading my scriptures or praying, so I don’t. But, I have been feeling very inclined to pay tithing, which isn’t a common thing for someone who’s barely active. So I’m doing it, and it feels right. So I would suggest that you don’t do what doesn’t move you, and do listen to any “pangs” or “promptings” that you might have. Regardless of what those choices do to your self-image… following them may reduce any cognitive dissonance you may have lurking in the back of your skull. Even if they seem odd, follow them.
    I hope it all goes well for you… and for the rest of us.

  51. Kelly Ann says:

    G, Thank you for sharing your perspective, opinions, and generating this discussion here. I have been on vacation for three weeks or would have responded to a number of points individually before.

    As a former BYU grad, RM, holder of many leadership callings, and temple ordinance worker myself, I feel your pain. I don’t have the same doubts and frustrations but it is safe to say that my testimony crashed after the election in California and I haven’t been attending regularly. But I go occasionally and I express my opinions in settings where appropriate.

    I had a conversation with the stake president regarding some of my concerns regarding prop 8 and related events. Although an ardent supporter (who took a big hit professionally for a substantial contribution), he told me that the church needs dissenters or those with different opinions. He told me that it was a great shame to see differences (whether politics, beliefs, or whatever) homogeneous the church and chase people who feel like they don’t fit in out. I have gained some peace to finally express my concerns and not pretend to be perfect.

    However, an interesting note is that in my recent travels, I passed by some of the areas where I served my mission. I was in that part of the world for other reasons for the first time since I returned almost a decade ago and decided not to miss the opportunity to see people I worked with, taught, and really loved even though I am currently frustrated and not really believing much besides there is a God and the power of prayer.

    But did I advertise my current struggles? no … Maybe it was because it made me want to believe like I believed or thought I believed before, although I recognize that I do not.

    It really was about the simple things – about life, love, and charity. When they asked me to pray, I prayed. The church has transformed their lives for good and I didn’t want to break that. Also, I guess I didn’t tell them “I’m inactive” or don’t always speak up because at this point it is still hard to articulate my thoughts. For that, I come here.

  52. JR says:

    I don’t know what your current beliefs are but it sounds like being kind to others is probably in there (the whole concern about the ipod being too obvious). There was a great idea in conference about going to church to help others, and I thought of you. When you go to church, instead of focusing solely on the things that are difficult and painful for you, you could instead try to go with a mission of finding someone to help. Maybe someone just to smile at or say hello to, something simple like that. Not that I’m advising to just ignore all the things that are difficult and you disagree with, but it just might make church a little easier to live among the pain if you find some kindness to surround yourself with, even if it’s your own you’re sharing.

  53. Rebekah says:

    You are so clear in your short post, in a way I could never be. Everything came to a head for me today and I came here and found this, coincidence or fate? After spending a lot time reading all the comments made here so far, and realising how many of you that are out there and have similar views to, why is it that I sit at church and feel so alone? I am also constantly rubbed the wrong way, and my current calling is RS teacher! The only way I actually manage this calling is with help from this site. And when I read the comments from some women that I know have posted lessons to this site, I realised that I am not alone. Every month when I stand up, I feel like such a hypocrite. I have to keep my personal feelings out of the lesson, stick to the material and make my ‘testimony’ (if you could call it that) at the end, very specific!

    I think I too need to learn to crochet. Although my 11.5 month old is currently a great distraction. I’m actually worried about what will happen when she’s old enough to attend nursery with my just turned 2 y/o.

    My mother left the church 16 years ago, and of the 5 children in my family, I am the only one left active (more physically than spiritually). My father is also active although no longer married to my mother. My mother is terminally ill with cancer and if I am to believe the opinions of some in the church, she’s pretty much going to hell. However, my experiences with her as a person tell me that she has more charity, kindness and love for her children and others than my father does.

    THis has taught me that it’s more about what is in our heart than what we do out in the open that we make sure everyone sees (my father). Although I still worry about what is in my heart, and do need to learn a lot of the tolerance and non-judgementalness that others have spoken of.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say to you G, is that I admire you. Your courage and strength is an inspiration and along with Caroline and EmilyCC, you give me the feeling that I am not alone. THANK YOU.

  54. Brenda says:

    G
    Have you always believed the way you do? Or did you use to believe and now you don’t?

  55. G says:

    brenda- I used to sincerely believe in the church with my whole heart and soul.

    which is why, I think, the doubts and questions etc became so painful.

  56. Lorrie says:

    I just read every post on this feed with great interest. My husband of 31 years feels a lot like G and others who have posted here, but has never articulated it to me in the way some of you have here. I am a believer and regularly feel the Spirit when attending church meetings and I admit I don’t always respond with empathy when my husband speaks negatively about church, although I try to understand. He has kept attending I think to keep our family together and maintain cohesiveness for our 4 children, 3 of whom are active adults and the last, an active 17 yr. old. He likes the church and the idea of what it stands for and has accomplished, but without having that spiritual conversion he also suffers through meetings. Your descriptions of feelings are at this moment helping me see through different eyes your (and his) experience and now that I think about it I can think of others in my ward who must be experiencing similar feelings. Wow, I think I believed it was just my own family situation.

    I was touched by mb’s comment, “Actually, the women I have the greatest respect for are the ones who are able to feel at peace with who they are enough that they can feel at peace in any place, thus freeing themselves to act with humility and charity rather than react with frustration or impatience.” I think many of these so-called “apostate” church-goers must be at this place, and I applaud you. I can say that I so much appreciate my husband’s willingness to be there for our family religiously — the kids, in-law kids, grandchildren all love him without measure and we do practice all things religious together as well as gather often for shared family time and events.

    You got it right again mb, God is most interested in how we love those around us, charity is the pure love of Christ.

  57. Rebekah says:

    G, you are so right that the doubt and questions are so painful. Since I’m still in limbo, how do you move on from that either back in or out?? Do you ‘come out’ or do you just let people think what they want? Had a chat with my husband the other night and he wants me to keep attending church in either instance but not sure if that’s to save face for him, or whether he has more honorable intentions.

  58. G says:

    rebekah- good questions. I wish I had more answers but I am still working it out myself as I go along.

    Plus I think the answer is unique for each situation. I wish you the best on your journey.

    As per husbands and saving face and intentions, there is really something about that: I do think there exists a bit of an implied shame for the good priesthood leader of the home if he is unable to keep his wife from losing her testimony. (my cynical mind wants to insert here the phrase “keep her in line.”)

    And yes, I do believe that my own beloved has struggled a bit with the idea that our friends and extended family think less of him somehow because of my “apostasy”.

    He has dealt with it well, but is it obviously a force to be reckoned with.

    Again, I wish you the best of luck.

  59. Brenda says:

    You know, I order a lot of religious books searching for answers to questions that I have about the church. I like to read others ideas which help me form my own. None of the books I’ve bought have really contained what I was looking for until I bought Shaken Faith Syndrome by Michael R. Ash. I actually bought it for a family member and thought I’d read it first to see if it contained anything good. This book has completely changed me and how I view the church. I have peace about a lot of things I didn’t before and now I’ve been able to move past that and really start finding answers on my own that I’ve never been able to see before. I don’t even think the book answer the questions I had directly but maybe the ones I didn’t know I had. I hesitate to summarize the book b/c I don’t think I could do it justice, but I’ve been recommending it to others I know who have questions. I’m in no way affiliated with the writer or anything, I’m just really excited about how it’s helped me and what I’ve been able to see and discover since reading it!! If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you think!!

  60. G says:

    thanks for the suggestion brenda (i always love a good tip on a book), I’ve added it to my stack of “to read” books.

  61. Alex says:

    I noticed that you said that you didn’t believe that there was any difference between the LDS and other churches…so would you be willing to give other churches a try? I believe that it is the Holy Spirit of the Living God and a relationship with him that makes it worth going to church. The church is not perfect and is filled with imperfect people, and that is why we need a perfect Savior, who came and showed us the way and is still living and active today to restore live, and to give them purpose and meaning. I pray that you are directly visited by him in some way, be it through something said by a pastor, a friend, His word (which he promises will not return void, or in visions and dreams) May his presence bring your peace, hope, and purpose in this life!

  62. Laura says:

    I was a convert when I married my husband (Member) and attended church, was sealed and currently hold a reccommend. I am struggling with going to church as well. I was always skeptical, but have learned much about the church that I can not tolerate. I don’t want to lose my connection with my Husband and children as well, but we have to be true to ourselves. I wish we could just go to church without being harrassed by the members.

  63. LDSBeliever says:

    G. If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God. James 1:5. My dad once told me that you could ask 10 people a question about religion and you would get 10 different answers. If you want the right answer for you, ask God. Good luck.

  64. Eleanor J. says:

    Interesting article and comments. I’m a fourth generation member and am in my 60’s now. I’ve always remained faithful to gospel principles. I don’t always want to go to church; I sometimes find it boring and a waste of time. However, whenever I feel that way I always come back to the question: “What is it that I’m not doing?”. And know that sometimes this sounds trite, but it’s true because I’ve proven it time and time again. I’m I being faithful in reading and searching the scriptures and saying my prayers. And usually I’m not, so back on the bandwagon I get, and all is well with the world – again. Sometimes we get in the way of our own progression within the church. My philosophy is to serve and sit back and enjoy the ride.

  65. Kathy says:

    I have a question for those of you who have had doubts about the church and even, perhaps, have left it. Many of you seem to have very understanding and supportive husbands. Has anyone had other experiences? Husbands that are hurt, angry, or remove themselves emotionally? I am on the very beginnings of a new spiritual quest(after 20 years in the church) and it has been a bumpy road so far.

  66. hainesak says:

    this is from a guy’s perspective. for a couple of years i struggled with alot of the teaching of the church and christianity in general. my belief in god or any sort of higher power was nonexistent. i saw no logic at all in christian theology and didn’t even believe in life after death. i am fairly well read, having read everything from the encyclopedia of mormonism to the illustrated book of mormon. i’ve always been a thinker (perhaps not an understanderer) but i like to think. alot of the teachings of the church stopped making sense to me, things seemed monotonous at church, i got bored, and i stopped believing.
    the only reason i went to church when i went was for my wife and children. great example of a priesthood holder, huh? when we were first married and dating, we talked about the gospel all the time; everything from the bible to conference talks. i don’t know what happened. i know it wasn’t overnight, but i just stopped buying what was being sold.
    it’s taken years for me to come to terms with myself, my relationship with Christ, and find peace and reconcilliation with the church.
    i didn’t have a single epiphany that led me back. it’s been a long and rocky road and difficult for my wife who has the ability to accept things on faith that i require evidence and proof of. i’ve had to come to terms with the fact that God exists, that he is aware of my struggles, and He knows more than i do and there are some things that i just cannot know. i had to start at square one with prayer. i just remember praying and praying and praying and then praying some more and trying to understand if i was feeling what i was feeling because i wanted to feel it or expected it, or if it was from above.
    doctrine and convenants section 9 has been crucial in me finding some semblance of peace in my life again.
    pray during boring lessons. pray during sacrament. pray in the toilet while hiding from members or skipping classes. i just had to pray. the great irony as i look back is that when i started to have doubts and fell out of belief, it all started about when i stopped praying. i had to pray to find out if God existed. i had to pray to find out if i should be going to church, if the bible is true as well as the book of mormon. i had to pray to find out if my marriage was truly valid. i prayed to find out if the leadership of the church was under His direction. i prayed to know if there was more to life than what i was experiencing. i especially had to pray to find out about life after death and the true nature of families. it was a struggle that took years.
    am i totally cured of doubts and questions? no. am i at peace? yes. do i believe that satan was rejocing in my disbelief? abso-freeking-lutely. i felt physical as well as spiritual resistance on my road back. it has truly sucked at times. the comfort and peace i feel now though is awesome.
    god bless and good luck.

  67. Lilly says:

    Time to face the music armed with this great inriomatofn.

  1. April 17, 2009

    […] I have begun attending the lds church again but refrain from partaking of the sacrament.    Also I plan is to continue visiting other […]

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