“I’d never join the church … it’s a good thing I was born into it.”

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I have heard this same curious phrase several times over the last two weeks.

I’m wondering how many people also feel like they wouldn’t be a member of an organized religion if they hadn’t been born into one.

I’m not a practising anything so when I hear statements like the above I have to ask myself, “If you wouldn’t be a convert, then why are you still a member?”

So if you couldn’t see yourself converting … why are you still a member?

36 thoughts on ““I’d never join the church … it’s a good thing I was born into it.”

  1. A lot of people are critical of the mormon church, both from within and without. But I have very rarely heard anyone propose replacing it with another church that would be better. I think that is why when many people leave the mormon church it appears that they then do not go to any church. If not this church, then where? Where else are you going to go to hear the words of eternal life?

  2. “Where else are you going to go to hear the words of eternal life?”

    Well … the Dalai Lama speaks about eternal life pretty much all of the time. I hear Pat Robertson talking about it, and Billy Graham, and Jesse Jackson, and … I think you get the point.

  3. I don’t think that’s a good explanation, Eric, because there are many who leave the Church who do find a church that makes them happier.

  4. So what is it about all these other churches that makes them ‘better’? Let’s make some fair comparisons here. Is what Pat Robertson and the others say significantly better than what Joseph Smith and GBH have said?

  5. Do you really expect to get any answer that will satisfy you when you ask such a pejorative question?

    I’m sure if the shoe were on the other foot, and you were a devotee of Billy Graham you could ask the same questions of the LDS.

  6. I have a good friend that is a convert and has been inactive for the past several years. He has said that if he were to come back to church it would be LDS.

    “So what is it about all these other churches that makes them ‘better’?”

    From going to different discussion boards, I have found on popular reason that people leave to join other churches:

    Sometimes there is guilt about something they did, and the other churches don’t focus on the particular “sin” it was they were partaking in.

    I am sure there are many other reasons though.

  7. Rick:

    Yes I would ask the same of the LDS. And I would hope someone would send the missionaries to me. And I believe that what they would teach me would be far superior (in content at least :))to what a Billy Graham crusader would have to say.

    What I am mainly trying to say is that it is far easier to criticize something than to defend something. Especially when the one doing the criticizing is not proposing a specific better way.

  8. You guys are all missing the point. Once you are truly exposed to the LDS gospel and become fully acquainted with the fullness of the doctrine, it is extremely difficult to go back to any other religion. You can pretend you are finding satisfaction in other churches but as Ian has said, they are probably dealing with one specific issue that is not emphasized in their “new” church. They are most likely not finding a complete picture of salvation that answers all the questions.

    I joined the church at age 19 after a childhood of Irish Catholic teachings. I went inactive at age 34 but never found the common sense or doctrinal completeness in any other church. I have recently come back into full activity as a Latter-day Saint.

    In my experience, those who are born in the church have a much more difficult time in understanding how life-changing and powerful the gospel can be. The sense of satisfaction in having a complete picture of life and your place in it can only be realized if you have a personal conversion brought about by fervent prayer, dedicated scripture study, and obediance to the commandments. In my estimation, too many BIC members have never had to stand on their feet without community and family support. They rely too much on OPT (other people’s testimonies).

  9. Michael

    I was born into the Church and yet my testimony of the Gospel and understanding how life changing it can be is very much there. I have ALWAYS had a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel and never relied on other’s testimonies. Maybe that is uncommon, but it’s at least true for me.

  10. rick,

    Regarding your original topic, have you ever been dragged kicking and screaming into something that you ended up actually enjoying? Some of us love the Church, but feel that we would never have given it a chance without parental coercion.

  11. “Once you are truly exposed to the LDS gospel and become fully acquainted with the fullness of the doctrine, it is extremely difficult to go back to any other religion. You can pretend you are finding satisfaction in other churches but as Ian has said, they are probably dealing with one specific issue that is not emphasized in their “new” church.”

    Or maybe it’s difficult because the pressure to stay is too great. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have talked to people who have left the church who said that they wish people would stop assuming they left because of a moral issue.

  12. Based on what I know about myself, if I were not born into an LDS family, I probably wouldn’t become a convert. I am naturally skeptical. My natural inclination is to dismiss any claim that isn’t objectively verifiable. So if missionaries were to knock on my door and tell me the story of the origins of the church I doubt I would give it much thought before I dismissed it as nonsense. I think I would probably have the same attitude toward the restoration story as the South Park guys (“Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb . . .” and son on).

    BUT, being born into an LDS family in which dedication to the church and missionary service and all that was expected forced me to confront the question of whether or not it’s all true. In that kind of situation the stakes are very high. You can’t reject the Church without careful consideration because of the implications that decision has for family relationships. And you can’t just accept it (or at least I couldn’t) because of what is asked of you as a member. So you study and pray and work it out. I ended up gaining a testimony and that’s why I stay.

  13. Will,

    To be honest, I’ve never had that experience, though I can empathise with those who have.

    Micheal,

    When non-members hear someone say things like “Once you are truly exposed to the LDS gospel and become fully acquainted with the fullness of the doctrine, it is extremely difficult to go back to any other religion” most translate that to “religious blah-blah-blah”.

    Don’t you think that it’s possible that someone could experience the ‘fullness’ and then just apck up and leave?

    I think Tom mentions a very good point, in that the familial and social ties of born in covenent members are a significant factor in determining if they remain members or not.

    I’d argue that members who leave and don’t attend *any* other church would be people who have found that their religion was *so* different than other faiths, that once they have given up on the LDS belief system, they become disillisioned with all (most) belief systems.

  14. I was born into the Church. I have no idea what I would have done in an alternate upbringing. No one can know. We cannot separate our essence from what has made us who we are.

  15. Of course, enochville, you’re right. We can’t know. But we can always wonder and speculate.

    Rick,
    It’s true that social factors play an important role in keeping people in the Church, which I see as a good thing. Many skeptics would probably go further and say that social factors play a role in believers convincing themselves that they have a testimony. It’s the nature of the beast.

  16. This is a great question, Rick. The truth is that very few of us would probably be members if we weren’t born into it. I think the same is true of most churches.

    There are huge social costs in changing religions so I think it takes someone being very unhappy in their present religion to change. That is why there are so few converts, and most of them have no social network or a very limited one.

    I would leave Mormonism in a heartbeat, but the Church has made the social costs so high (telling my parents that they won’t see me in heaven if I leave) that I will have to stay for the lifespan of my parents (in name only, obviously).

    All churches make the social costs high so they won’t lose members, but I still find it distasteful.

  17. Well, Ned, I can understand the frustration, but to a believer providing disincentive to leave the Church is the right thing to do. More often than not I believe our efforts to help family, loved ones, and other church members stay in the Church are motivated by love.

    Of course, we need to be careful not to make our love and friendship contingent upon a person’s participation in the Church.

  18. “Of course, we need to be careful not to make our love and friendship contingent upon a person’s participation in the Church.”

    Good luck with that. :P

    As long as the church maintains the social (as opposed to doctrinal) rule that apostates are of the devil, it will be near impossible for members to differentiate between ‘friend’ and ‘active member’.

    They flat out ask you in your temple reccommend interview if you’ve been associating with these type of people … and you want your TR don’t you?

  19. I don’t believe that the temple recommend is witheld from people who are friends with people who have fallen away from the Church or even with people who actively oppose the Church.

  20. Oh, and I have had very good luck with not making my friendship and love contingent upon participation in the Church. My sister and I get along famously.

  21. Tom, I mean this in the most respectful way but what you believe and what is actually happening may not be the same thing.

    I love to hear anecdotal evidence that people who have left the church (or who are questioning) are being treated with love and respect – I’m just not convinced that this is the case in the vast majority of situations.

    As far as TRs being withheld for questioning, or associating with apostates – you might want to talk to Grant Palmer about it.

  22. Rick,
    “. . . what you believe and what is actually happening may not be the same thing.”

    Yes. That’s why I say “I believe” instead of “I’m sure.”

    “I love to hear anecdotal evidence that people who have left the church (or who are questioning) are being treated with love and respect – I’m just not convinced that this is the case in the vast majority of situations.”

    It may well be true that as a whole we fail at least as often as we succeed. But if we’re paying attention there is no doubt as to the ideal we should be liviing up to.

  23. As a convert who finds myself questioning things, I can say:

    It ticks me off that many in the Church assume I am under the infulence of Satan, because I am experiencing doubts. This makes me want to run further away from them. Just because I am looking critically at certain things, and examining my own conscience does not mean that “Satan” has his talons in me. The Lord gave me a big brain, and I intend to use it, and I refuse to believe I am under the influence of evil when I do so.

    It remains to be seen what my personal path will be, but I have seriously wondered it my friends will abandon me if I choose differently than they did.

  24. Eric said: “Let’s make some fair comparisons here. Is what Pat Robertson and the others say significantly better than what Joseph Smith and GBH have said?”

    Fortunately, Pat Robertson isn’t typical of non-LDS Christianity.

    That point aside, I (as a faithful member of the Church) would have to answer yes (at least to “the others”). There are areas where we can learn from other Christians, and there are areas where they have expressed the truth (or parts of it) better than our leaders have.

    Other Christians have done a better job than we have of separating the essentials of faith from the culture of faith. Members of some other churches have done a better job showing love to those who are different than we are. It was other Christians, not LDS, who were among the leaders of the civil rights movement. It has been other Christians, not LDS, who have spoken out against consumerism, sexism and unjustified war.

    Do I want to become a non-LDS Christian? No. (In fact, I’m a convert from such.) But in my view, to say that other Christians don’t have something to offer is shortsighted at best. Although I won’t be one of them, I can certainly understand why some LDS might be interested in looking elsewhere.

    I certainly believe that Smith, Young, Hinckley etc. were/are prophets and have spoken the truth. But they haven’t spoken _all_ the truth and should be expected to do so.

  25. I converted to Mormonism at 19 and was active for twenty years before I admitted to myself that it is a fraud. I resigned. Converting was the worst thing I’ve done in my entire life. Leaving was the best.

    mc

  26. I joined the church at age 24. I eventually realized that I would not have stayed in the church had I been born into it. The “discovery from the outside” process was important to me.

    I did gain a “burned in” and “clear as daylight” testimony of the restored gospel.

    I went inactive at age 30, about a year after I got back from a mission. Yes, there were issues with sin, and I didn’t want to repent. But I was also lied to, abused, manipulated and hurt by fellow church members, including leadership.

    It can be a crushing blow when the reality of church programs and leaders just doesn’t match up with what the apostles on the big screen during general conference say it “must be.”

    I never stopped believing the church was God’s official church. But I became convinced I didn’t want any part of it, and requested name removal after four years of inactivity.

    After 15 years of inactivity, God came after me and whacked me upside the head with his 2×4 and got my attention. To make a long story short, I came back to church, and started a journey of repentance and learning to resolve all the hurts and offenses. (Hint: repenting of your own sins makes forgiving others easier, and vice versa.)

    I still haven’t been rebaptized yet, and still haven’t fully recovered from all the hurts, but it’s in process.

    God still lives, and the church is still true. It’s just all those dang pesky Mormons that mess things up. ;-)

  27. Bookslinger

    Thanks for sharing that. Yes, one of the things it is hard to realise is that the church isn’t the members. We are all imperfect. Thank goodness the Lord is perfect.

  28. When people say this, I think they’re usually being modest. In essence, they’re saying, “Knowing what I know of myself, I doubt that I would have the courage, the character, and the spiritual sensitivity to seek out this truth and respond to it. I’m grateful the Lord just plopped it in my lap because I don’t know if I would have been good enough to make the conversion without that help.”

  29. While I agree that some people do not find a satisfying alternative to mormonism, and while I agree that some people leave mormonism because they choose not to follow its moral/behavioral standards, I would caution against assuming that all or even most people fall into these categories.

    I know many people who have found other, more satisfying religious communities after leaving mormonism. And I know many people who left mormonism even while they were temple-worthy in all respects except their belief/testimony. It is easy to confuse, I think, the cause and effect in such cases. From the outside, it is difficult for us to see whether someone who drinks (for example) left the church because they wanted to drink, or if they left the church because they did not believe in the gospel and THEN opted to partake in previously verboten behaviors.

    Sorry for the tangent. On the original topic, I am certain I would not have joined the church if I’d not been born in it. In my case, I have always been skeptical of the very existence of god, and without the kind encouragement of family members, I’d have had no incentive to keep trying to gain a testimony.

  30. Bookslinger Said:

    “God still lives, and the church is still true. It’s just all those dang pesky Mormons that mess things up.”

    How true… how true!! I can relate with a little of what you wee saying. I joined the church when I was 21-22. It took me a while too.. I checked out every nook and cranny and read every book I could find, including every issue of the ensign. The one thing that had me convinced was the consistancy in the doctrine. How every question I had was answered, and to this day I marvel at the clarity that can be found as you link together the doctrines of the gospel. No other church I investigated was able to do it. None.

    I have always based my testimony off of those teachings and have avoided as best as possible relying on the testimony and/or actions of others, as Bookslinger put it… pesky Mormons always mess things up.”. lol. I’m glad my testimony is based in Christ and his teachings and not his “people”.

    I am greatful I was not born into the church.. I see many jaded people who were born into it, but also many, many strong, diligent lifelong memebers. It’s a personal thing. :)

  31. Matt

    “I am greatful I was not born into the church.. I see many jaded people who were born into it, but also many, many strong, diligent lifelong memebers. It’s a personal thing.”

    Yes, I am a testimony to that. I was born under the covenant, never strayed, never lost my testimony. on the OTHER hand, I have 6 siblings, only one of which is active at this point and even she went off the deep end (actually she is only one of two that went off the deep end, the others just drifted and are rather jaded with the “mormon” church). She climbed back on though. The others…well, they have their paths.

  32. It seems as if the majority of writers on this thread are converts to the LDS church. My own observation has been the ward I used to attend was mostly converts and a few BIC. The converts choose the LDS lifestyle and the BIC have such strong familiy ties that being LDS is required to partake in family activities.

    When someone chooses a certain lifestyle or religion such as LDS, they accept the reality of being LDS. Being a BIC is totally different especially if your family is active. To quit being LDS means you are left out of family social situtations such as weddings.

    A BIC gives up alot to leave the church. That is way so many BIC’s are not “converted” yet they attend.

    As a BIC, I find that I do not trust any kind of religious leader. To me they are all liars. The concept of religion has been a lie and why go from one lie to another lie?

    I do miss talking with people and if anything were to get me to attend a church, it would be to socialize.

    I find that LDS preach one thing but live another set of rules. 20 years ago, my ex wife and I lived in Mesa, Arizona (LDS City) and when we seperated, the other LDS children were no longer allowed to play with my daughter.

    I have teenage sons who had several very good friends that they would spend the weekend with almost every weekend. Since I have quit attending church, the parents of my sons friends no longer allow my sons to spend the weekend yet all the other boys still get together almost every week.

    My LDS friends have also quit including my wife and I in social outings. All we have to do is start attending church to be included. What pressure to attend 3 hrs a week of church to keep our friends.

    To quit being an active LDS, means you often give up family and friends. I understand why many people stay in the church even though they do not believe the story. Social pressure is huge to conform and accept.

    BIC’s were taught as a children to believe lies and to admidt they were lied to is really hard wheras a convert has accepted the lies as an adult.

    The church leaders want members to believe the ones that leave do so because of sin but more often it is something totally different such as unrighteous leaders.

    Other religions preach they are the one true way to return to God.

    As far as I go, I find that I am much happier not attending church than attending. Why would I want to attend any brand of church when they all lie?

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