Thoughts On Why a Mormon Might Leave the Church for Another Faith Community
By Ken K. Gourdin
Introduction: In response to a thread at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion Board about why people might leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for other faiths, I hypothesized that they might seek out a faith community that doesn’t demand as much commitment from its members as the Church does. Unfortunately, at least a couple other posters imputed a reading I did not intend—that I devalue the devout service and commitment of people in other faiths—to my comments. I wrote a version of the following in response to that implication, as well as directing readers to my post “Toward Interreligious Oneness” in another post on the thread on which this response appears. My “interreligious oneness” essay provides what I believe to be a useful lens through which to view the commitment of adherents to other faiths; it’s available at this address, and last was accessed today: http://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/toward-interreligious-oneness/
If I don’t have (or do not seek) a testimony of Temples, of Temple work, or that Sealing can create an Eternal Family unit [for example], I’m not going to value those aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus, laying aside, for the purposes of this discussion, normal human frailties to which we are all subject (and for which we should all extend sympathy to our brothers and sisters, whether we happen to share their particular failings or not), I’ll probably have a difficult time conforming my conduct to the standards necessary to enter the Temple. (As an example, if I don’t have a testimony of the Law of Tithing, a law which I am required to keep in order to enter the Temple, I’m probably going to have a much more difficult time paying Tithing than I would otherwise.) Does that mean that I think people who don’t pay Tithing, who otherwise are reluctant to conform their conduct to the standards required to enter the Temple, [who have difficulty doing so], or who contribute to their church or to some other worthy cause—are bad people? No. [It simply means that they have different priorities.]
If I don’t have (or do not seek) a testimony that my Bishop was inspired to issue me a calling having to do, e.g., with building maintenance or with finance (despite the fact that I don’t have much, if any, background in those areas)—or if I don’t have a testimony that Bishops or other LDS leaders are inspired generally—I’m probably going to have a much different reaction if he tries to extend me a calling than I would if I felt he was inspired. And even if I accept such a calling despite my doubts that he is inspired, I’m probably not going to perform it as well as I would if I had a firm testimony that he was inspired to extend it to me. Does that mean that I think that LDS members who turn down callings, people who would rather not be required to be that committed, people who render service in other churches, or people who render service in other worthwhile causes and organizations are bad people? No. [It simply means that they have different priorities.]
And yes, if any or all of the conditions described above apply to me, I might seek out an environment that I believe will demand less of me (whether that perception is true or not is, as responses in this thread have shown, a different question). And yes, one or more of these conditions might be perfectly valid reasons to believe that someone might cease his participation in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and opt to find fellowship in a different faith community. If one doesn’t understand why the Church of Jesus Christ builds Temples, and/or if one doesn’t value Temple worship (and the ordinances to be found therein and the requirements necessary to enter) one might, for example, think that building such Temples is a waste of money that would be better spent elsewhere (that’s not an uncommon attitude even among members of the Church). As a result of having reached the conclusion just mentioned, one might opt for a different faith community that doesn’t place so much emphasis on Tithing, on Temples (or other sacred spaces with strict entrance requirements), and on other features which, while not necessarily unique to the Church of Jesus Christ, are considered much more a part of orthopraxy in the Church than they are in most other faith communities.
Bottom line? As fervently as I may believe that those who leave the Church of Jesus Christ are forsaking saving ordinances and authority by joining another faith community, I must accord them the respect of not imposing my paradigm on their faith choices. After all, who, in their right mind, would leave those ordinances and that authority behind if they attached the same importance to them that I do? And as much as I might miss their fellowship, if they sincerely believe that they can find greater meaning, purpose, fellowship, and opportunities to be of service elsewhere (however much I might believe otherwise), who am I to argue? It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to suggest that God use only me and my fellow Latter-day Saints as instruments in His hands. I can only wish those who leave happiness and fulfillment on their continuing faith journey.