Staying away because of others.

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The other day, I visited someone who is LDS but who no longer attends church. She said it is because of the hypocrisy she saw with the local leaders where she grew up. According to her, the leaders were inconsistent with how they gave out church discipline. For example, a bishop would disfellowship one person for fornication, yet put someone else on informal probation for fornication. She saw this as hypocrisy and as a result, she no longer comes to church.

Two things I don’t understand: why are people still staying away from church because of so-called hypocrisy, and why does someone allow the actions of others affect their own spiritual life?

People have been preaching for years that the people in the church are imperfect and are human. Despite all this preaching, people still expect members to be perfect and use their imperfections as excuses to stop coming to church.

Likewise, why would someone let the actions of another dictate whether they come to worship, partake of the sacrament, serve in the church, share their testimonies with others and so on?

20 thoughts on “Staying away because of others.

  1. Same question Elder Bednar asked in the October 2006 General Conference, and I thought his talk was brilliant. Right on brilliant!

    I agree. I’ve never understood why people would allow others to dictate their own righteous behaviours. One of the downfalls of man, I would say…

    P.S. Just stumbled on your site today…could you email me? I have a question…

  2. The cynicism that drives such decisions is not just the inconsistency of church discipline but it’s selective application.

    One reason for my own spate of inactivity was an experience on my mission when a very prominent elder in the mission got caught mailing love letters to another sister missionary. A less prominent elder and sister had been sent home almost a year earlier for the same situation. This elder, however, was ‘demoted’ to zone leader (he was an AP) and finished off the last few months of his mission. The elder who found the old love letters and reported them to the President was told to keep his mouth shut with subtle threats against the rest of his mission if he said anything.

    Selective application of rules, nepotism, the apparent preferences given to those who have important family members in the Church hierarchy, these are the things that pushed me into inactivity.

    Elder Bednar’s talk was interesting. While applicable to some, to many people I personally know it rings false. Getting offended is not something we go out of our way to do. Indeed, it seemed to be blaming the victim.

  3. THe Church is perfect the members are human beings and as such, use the excuses of “They hurt my feelings” or “They are unfair” etc and they leave the church. Had their testimony been strong in the first place they would have never left. Those that stray were just looking for a reason to blame.

    Each Church Leader wether a Bp, SP, or RR when they have diciplinary council, they pray deeply and each case is dealth with accordingly=. None of us are in those rooms when the “punishments” that are dealt with so all we have left is the gossip and rumours of what we “think” is the real reason.

  4. I think all of you are missing a very important point.

    As holders of the priesthood, these leaders are expected to have a special power of discernment.

    A conduit, throught Jesus, to the Truth of the Universe – God.

    When you repeatedly behave in the manners above, you are basically saying this gift is a load of bunk.

    This experience will raise doubts in many people, and those doubts will continue and magnify with each repitition of the scenario.

    It’s not a case of becoming offended with an individual, or AS an individual; it’s the refusal to accept a system which says the world is one way and behaves in a way that is different.

    Sally said:
    “Had their testimony been strong in the first place they would have never left.”

    This is the standard cop-out for every believing member who hears of people leaving. It’s simply not true. Many, many people who stop attending HAVE had DEEP testimonies of the truth of the church, and DESPITE their testimonies, still can not bring themselves to attend for many other reasons.

  5. My point, Rick, is that it isn’t always about leaders. Sometimes people leave simply because of the actions of the rank and file.

  6. True enough.
    There are offensive people in every group, I would speculate.

    There is a distinct problem with the “Church is Perfect – members are flawed” argument, I feel.

    A church IS its’ members.

    Argue all you want about doctrine, but a CHURCH is the people who go to it. If people don’t like to attend their church, then it may be the members that they have a problem with and not necessarily a doctrinal or ‘lack of testimony’ problem.

  7. I think it would be more accurate to say the Gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect, nothing else is. Rick, you are right, a church is the people who make it up.

  8. I am also reluctant to goto church even though my wife forces me to..yet she has not attended in a year! Anyway 7 years ago I was visting somone who by chance was living with the dauther of a mormon familly. I like him because of his intelegence in the IT field. I was over at his house one day and was looking at his server when the GFs LDS perents came over to talk to her. Not sure what the convo was but when I came over to them on the lawn I went to introduce my self. The only thing the perents did was give me a dirty look and said nothing then went back to talking to there dauther. I did nothing wrong to warrent such a responce. I proceded to go back into the house.
    My impression of the faith changed from that point because I suspect thay thought I was affiliated with the GF Boyfriend so I should be judged?. Other points are the lack of a true voting system in the church. A true democratic vote is one where both sides vote for and against a person in office. Not once in the seven years has anyone opposed a calling after the sacrament. I feel the members do this out of fear from being scorned by the leadership. I dont raise my hands at all if I dont know the person. If I did then I would be lying about the persons true charicter and morals.

    Other issues I have with the faith is the lack of friedship…ie, frineds that I have not seen in the church. Seems everyone is a aquantance in the church and no frinedhsip is evident. No reason why guys cannot see guys as frineds even if thay are married and visit them. Or am I wrong on this part?

    The other issue is where is all the tithing going. So far seen it go to good cause but also to building malls.

    So lets see, I tighe I see that its invested in a shopping mall and its not lagit charity cause? Where is my investment return?

    This bothers me so much im wondering if the church is morphing into a investment corporations then a faith.

  9. Joesmonday

    “My impression of the faith changed from that point because I suspect thay thought I was affiliated with the GF Boyfriend so I should be judged?.”

    It sounds like you were jumping to conclusions here. You don’t know why they looked at you in this regard. Perhaps you were not on their minds at all, if they were having an intense, private conversation with their daughter perhaps they didn’t want to be interrupted. Or perhaps the atopic of conversation precipitated a not nice expression that had nothing to do with you.

    “Not once in the seven years has anyone opposed a calling after the sacrament.”

    Again, you don’t know this. Most of this is kept private and someone would go privately to the Bishop and express concerns. They wouldn’t necessarily discuss this with you.

    You have access to what tithing is used for locally and generally. Just contact Salt Lake for that information. it is used for upkeep of buildings, building churches and temples, etc. You also don’t pay tithing “for a return”. You pay it to obey a commandment. You cannot repay God for all He has given you. It wouldn’t be possible.

    Not sure what you mean about not being able to be friends with people?

  10. What a great topic to discuss!

    I believe the vast majority of active LDS have no understanding of why others leave the church. The basic answers church leaders try to give that sin was involved or their feelings were hurt is too simple and just not true for many of those who quit attending.

    I remember a missionary who was having sex with several married women and his Mission President would not do anything because the missionary’s uncle was the “Prophet”. I know another missionary who confessed to his MP on having sex many times before his mission and he was sent home for 6 months to repent and then sent back out to the same mission (his father was on the SHC). A third boy had sex once with a very loose girl and he wanted to go on a mission so he went to his Bishop and confessed and his Bishop kicked him out of the church (his father was a nobody not even a simple EQP).

    From these examples, it seems like Church Leaders hand out punishments based on the rank of family members. Seems kinda fair doesn’t it? That’s a joke Sally.

    Three boys, three missions and the most sinful one (sex with married women while on mission) had no penalty given (related to the prophet). 2nd boy had lots of sex before mission and had to wait 6 months to return (father on SHC). 3rd boy had sex once before mission and not allowed to go or attend church and no longer active. Seems like the punishments need to fit the crime instead of who your daddy is.

    I’m sure there were secret reasons the Lord wanted the boys of important HPs to finish their honorable missions and sons of no body’s to not serve. Future Church Callings to the royaly (I mean the elect) perhaps.

    Perhaps you have a reason I have not thought of?

  11. “Not sure what you mean about not being able to be friends with people?”

    He may be talking about the lack of interaction betweeen married people and single people among the LDS.

    It’s a distinction that I’ve noticed between the LDS and many other faiths; that being the LDS make it clear that married couples should associate amongst themselves and non-married individuals should associate amongst themselves, in general.

    Or maybe he’s talking about the ‘assigned friends’ concept (VTs, HTs, etc.). It seems odd to me as well.

  12. hmm, ok. Well, I have single friends and married friends. I found that when having children it became more difficult to associate with single friends because our schedules don’t really coincide. It can be hard for someone who doesn’t have those responsibilities to understand why you can’t stay out until 2 am or you can’t just go somewhere at a moment’s notice. I don’t see this as being more LDS or non LDS. But then I lived in a predominantly NON LDS area for most of my life.

    I am a visiting teacher and have visiting teachers. I don’t feel they are specifically “assigned” friends, but are an arm of the charge to help one another. In days gone by we did help one another, it was a given. These days we are more seperate and most people don’t feel comfortable just ringing up their neighbour to help them when they are in need. The visiting and home teaching programmes are good, when you have good HT and VT. And it’s not a bad way to get to know people.

  13. rick said: “It’s a distinction that I’ve noticed between the LDS and many other faiths; that being the LDS make it clear that married couples should associate amongst themselves and non-married individuals should associate amongst themselves, in general.”

    I have heard it many times that when a LDS woman goes from being married to being single, their “married friends” quit being their friend. The single women have expressed the thought that the married women started acting like they thought the single woman was going to steal their husbands.

    Is it possible for LDS to be friends without the Bishop calling you to be someones friend (HT OR VT).

  14. Some of my thoughts are as follows

    – Individuals in leadership positions should be held to a higher standard of conduct. Often though, it is the rank and file that needs to cater to the weaknesses of the leadership. This is backwards to me.

    – When I served in leadership positions, I was able to easily find all the information I needed to administer and minister in my stewardship. It was very clear what code of conduct I was to follow. If I can find the necessary information on my own, then other leaders should be able to as well. There should be no excuse for sub-standard leadership.

    – I have a difficult time knowing where to draw my rebelious line in the sand. In the past, you would have people like Lehi, John the Baptist, The Savior, and they all were able to see bad leadership and call them on it. Why are we not allowed to do that today?

    – The big issue for me is when I am forced to choose between the gospel and a leader who wants to lead off the path. My conscience tells me to do one thing, but my sense of social acceptance tells me to do another.

    I guess for me, I’m not offended by what a person may do or not do to me. I’m offended by their disregard for gospel principles. And why would I choose to follow those people when I think they are morally wrong? Why would I choose to attend a ward where this disregard leads to false doctrine and foolish traditions?

    Regardless, I have no alternative and no course of appeal. My choice is to follow against my better judgement or to stay away. In reality, I am moving towards somewhere in the middle, maybe it could be classified as “Actively Inactive”.

    I know I need to go to church to participate in necessary ordinances like the sacrament. I want to do just enough to be able to baptize my children, give blessings, etc. I have a firm belief in Tithing and know I need to pay that (although the ward seems to have “Misplaced” a few of my donations from last year… I never thought I’d be tested in that way regarding tithing). But beyond that, I feel no need to participate or be involved.

  15. I have said it before, and I will say it again.

    If it were all about being offended, nobody would go to church. I think that we have all been offended at some point, it is how you react. It is a common misconception for people within the church, especially people in leadership positions, that people who no longer choose to attend church have been offended.

    I personally have been offended by many people, but that is not why I choose to be “less active” or “liberated” or whatever you wish to classify me as. I have many issues with the gospel.

    My main one is that I don’t agree with any organinized religion. I feel like religion is a personal relationship between the indivdual and God, and no one else. There doesn’t need to be any judgemental individuals inbetween.

    I also don’t agree with a religion of different levels, or people aren’t treated as equals. And I know people are already starting to type, but people are treated differently depending on callings, whether you belong to the Temple Club, or whether you come from a part member family, etc. Also, I just don’t believe that a just God would keep families apart in different degrees of Glory. I have always taught my children that they are not better than anyone else, nor is anyone else better than them….

    It also is a Religion based on Faith, what happens when you have strong feelings about something NOT being true. Whose faith is stronger, whose testimony is the true testimony?

    I think that there is good in all religions. I just can’t believe that the LDS church can be the ONLY true church, because there are alot of good people out there who aren’t members, and believe that their religion is true. Once again whose Faith is right?

    I have had many discussions with my Bishop about these very things, and he keeps telling me that I need to be reading my scriptures and praying. I am. I read alot of things. But what if the answers I’m getting aren’t the answers he wants me to be getting??

    Sorry that got a wee bit long.

  16. Dar

    I agree with much of what you said. What sets the LDS Church apart from other religions, though, isn’t that it is better than any other religion (it’s not), or that the members are better (they most certainly are not) but that the keys for the ordinances necessary for eternal progression and exaltation are in this Church. It jsut gives the members and those who have made the covenants and who hold the keys, hold more responsibility.

    One of the hardest things for me has been moving here to Southern Alberta and seeing the divisions based on family (how many people seem to have and who are all members of the church for however many generations back) and financial status. But, as my husband reminds me, see it and leave it. That’s what I do. Or at least try to do. It looks like you do the same with your issues with members or traditions.

    Yes, it is easy to get offended. Sometimes I have as well. But I don’t let it keep me from my testimony either. I know the Gospel is true and that I need to be here. It does come down to faith.

  17. I believe the leadership of the church needs to look at themselves and admit they are the single biggest reason members go inactive or leave the church all together. If they would simply quit trying to be royalty and start being humble servants of God and start treating people as Christ would, then the buildings would be over flowing with people on Sundays.

    Just as you cannot force a horse to drink water from a well you cannot force people to have no self will and follow your every command unless you are a cult like Jim Jones.

    Give a man a little authority and he forgets about Jesus and try’s to force everyone to heaven (was that Satan’s plan?).

    Local Leaders without the Light of Christ in them is a major problem and they need to be released and men with the Spirit of God (without regard to wealth, education or family background) need to be called. Men who love others and try to be like Jesus.

    People are more important then programs but not with LDS leaders.

    That may have been a blanket statement but it is still a true statement.

  18. George

    Yes, it’s a blanket statement and it does not make it true across the board. I think you need a little more diverse experience.

  19. When I read George’s statement, I can identify with it. There are times when I see things the same way.

    I can’t say that I stay there though. I think that perspective is just that, a perspective. A way of looking at the situation. When I look back at some difficult times I’ve had with how things are run, I have basically three perspectives. The first is as I am just beginning down the road. The second is as I’m going through the experience. The last is how things look after I’ve been through them.

    I think George’s perspective he describes above is along the lines of my third perspective. After being through some of these trying times, it really feels that way to me. I see everything through that lense and sure enough, I can pick out all the imperfections, including mine.

    It usually takes me a couple of weeks to settle down, and when I do, I can see the degrees in the situations.

    There are those leaders who are completely apathetic to those whom they serve, hungry for power.

    There are those who are really trying to do a good job, but because of ingorance or lazyness, they don’t know how to do things the right way. They end up being program oriented as well because it’s what they have seen and they just follow what they do know.

    There are a few who are trying to do things the right way.

    I confess that I see the situation as the blanket statement more often than not. But in all honesty, they make it easy to do so.

  20. I was thinking about the story of the 99 and how the sheppard went and found the lost one. Imagine how great it would be if all leaders would be as concered as the Saviour would be.

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