Levees and Leaving

I wanted to die.

Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but in my state of mind I wasn’t really thinking clearly anyway.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

I was on Facebook the other day, and one of my old high school friends linked to a blog post that used a parable about levees to illustrate why people lose faith. I haven’t been especially close to this friend since graduation, but I’ve gathered from various status updates that she’s left the Church (in one form or another) and is currently working through a mixed-faith marriage with her husband.

I feel for her. That has to be incredibly tough. I imagine that a mixed-faith marriage is difficult for any couple, particularly when one spouse is a leavetaker from Mormonism.

I empathize with that difficulty, even though I admit that I can’t fully understand or appreciate it. I hope that her family can find peace and happiness, just as I would hope for any family going through complex struggles.

I can’t know for sure what started her on the journey she’s on – like I said, we aren’t close. Still, as I read the parable of the levee that she identified with, and as I consider the original author’s broader arguments, I can’t help but think that I’ve had similar experiences.

My experiences, though, have taken me in a much different direction. In fact, I would argue that they’ve taken me in a much more positive direction. I’d like to tell you how.

Levees and Denial

I mentioned the parable of the levee, which seeks to illustrate why people lose faith. A levee is an embankment used to help control water levels and prevent flooding (sandbags, for example, create a levee to deal with emergency flooding).

Basic Levee

Levees can fail in a number of ways, though most frequently they fail because a part of the levee breaks away (a levee breach).

Levee Breach

Other times, the water level exceeds the height of the levee (overtopping).

New Orleans Levees

Overtopping, while not as dangerous as a breach, can cause erosion of the levee. This erosion inherently increases the chances of a complete levee breach.

The author suggests that when faced with “aspects of the gospel [that] don’t quite sit right or don’t fit into the church’s prescribed sphere of faith-promoting answers, it is a common practice in Mormonism to distance one’s self from such issues if they can’t be resolved.”

(I’m always impressed, by the way, with what must be rigorous and scientific data collection methods among those who assert that one thing or another is or isn’t common when it comes to intensely personal struggles like these…)

The author condescendingly suggests that Church members, rather than deal with these issues head on, “commonly” choose instead to ignore them and blindly press forward:

“Any time a person starts to have troubling doubts, comes across information that isn’t faith-affirming, or has an experience that doesn’t match up with the promises of the gospel–most people just pour that doubt into the reservoir and lay another sandbag against the levee to protect themselves from that doubt.”

These sandbags, the author explains, refer to activities like reading the scriptures, praying, having family home evening, and paying tithes and offerings. Their implication is that these activities allow Church members to, in a blatantly ostrich-like manner, ignore their concerns and become artificially tied to an oppressively corporate Church.

Skeptical ostrich is skeptical of this implication.
Skeptical ostrich is skeptical of this implication.

The conclusion the author ultimately arrives at is a conclusion that I agree with. For Church members living in denial like this, the levee will eventually fail. One day a pail into the levee will be one pail too many, and the structure will burst.

Levees and Frozen (Yes, that Frozen)

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Frozen. Well, really, I couldn’t help think of the fantastic HISHE follow up to Frozen, which picks up as the king troll guy is helping to heal Anna and explain how Elsa can stay safe.

HISHE Frozen

Troll Guy: “…fear will be your enemy.”

Father: “So… you’re saying we should lock her up alone in a castle until she’s safe to be around.”

Troll Guy: “What?! That’s not what I said. That’s a terrible idea. No.”

Father: “So… you’re saying we should teach her to be scared of herself.”

Troll Guy: “Are you even listening? I just said fear is her enemy.”

Mother: “So… you’re saying to teach her to bundle all her feelings up till she gets this freedom complex, and wait and see if she gets over this whole powers thing?”

Troll Guy: “Oh, wow, you guys are bad parents. No, I’m not saying to do any of those things.”

Father: “So… you’re say-“

Troll Guy: “Stop saying ‘So… ‘! Every time you say that you say the wrong thing.”

<silence>

Mother: “Conceal, don’t feel?”

Troll Guy: “Oh my gosh, the answer is love! Okay? Wow… Love thaws, pure love heals.”

<silence>

The leap that Elsa’s parents make from what the Troll Guy says to what they hear is, frankly, nuts (and they end up doing all of these things in the movie, which is precisely what HISHE is poking fun at). We forgive them because, hey, it’s Disney, but no one would ever suggest you pull a Frozen in real life to protect your mutant child (that’s what Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is for!).

(Side note, Frozen is terribly overrated. Where’s the love for Tangled?)

And yet, that’s exactly what the author of the levee parable has done with Mormonism. As she tries to teach others know how to reconcile new, negative information with their personal testimonies, she makes these leaps from what Church leaders say to what she hears that don’t make sense. I feel like it would play out something like this:

Elder Neil L. Andersen: “…the negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior.”

Levee Person: “So… you’re saying that when faced with troubling doubts, I should just flood myself with other activities so that I have literally no time to think about them.”

Elder Andersen: “What?! That’s not what I said. That’s a terrible idea. No.”

Levee Person: “So… you’re saying to block out any negative information I hear?”

Elder Andersen: “Are you even listening? I just negative information is going to increase.”

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “Don’t worry, Neil, I got this.”

Elder Andersen: “Thanks, Dieter.”

Levee Person: “So… you’re saying to just stifle my questions, live in denial, and pretend like everything is just fine.”

Elder Uchtdorf: “Not at all! It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

<silence>

Elder Andersen: “That was nice, Dieter.”

Elder Uchtdorf: “Thanks, Neil.”

<silence>

Elder Uchtdorf: “Dairy Queen?”

Elder Andersen: “Dairy Queen.”

When written out like that, the leap that the author makes look a little, well, nuts. I don’t doubt that some people do this – live in denial or become hyper-religious to compensate – but it’s unfortunate, it’s unhealthy, and it’s also what Elder Uchtdorf would call “living below your privileges“. As sons and daughters of God, each of us is entitled to our own answers and divine reassurances. As Elder Uchtdorf teaches, out of the sandy soil of uncertainty can still blossom a vibrant faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this “levee philosophy” is neither a good idea nor is it advocated by anyone in a position to do any advocating.

So where does that leave us?

Oh, that’s right! Wanting to die.

Fighting Off Disease

It was 2007, and I was crumpled over the toilet in my Honolulu apartment. It was sometime between 2am and 4am, and I was hurling for what must have been the 17th or 18th time that night (I guess “dry heaving” might be a more accurate description of what I was doing at that point). I wasn’t cursing God, but if I remember right, I was pretty upset with Him at the moment.

(Because that makes all kinds of sense.)

It was my first (and only, thankfully) instance of food poisoning. My life has otherwise been free of the kind of trauma you experience as your body defends itself by violently expelling all foreign matter, benign or not.

I still get sick, though, from time to time. For example, just a few months ago, a routine dentist visit found a small gum infection, and my dentist prescribed some antibiotics specifically designed to target those kinds of ailments. Those antibiotics, like most prescriptions, had some unpleasant side effects, and after a few days I found part of myself wanting to just keep the gum infection and flush the rest of my pills down the toilet I was spending so much time with.

(I’m trying to be delicate here.)

But even avoiding sickness has been painful at times! For example, two little girls joined our family just three weeks ago. To prepare for their arrival, my wife and I got flu and Tdap vaccinations. The shot itself wasn’t all that bad, but the sore arm afterwards was quite unpleasant.

Why devote so much space to these three stories? I do that because each of these stories represent what I think is a better alternative to living in denial as suggested by the levee philosophy, a philosophy that ultimately ends in a levee breach.

We all have some level of spiritual health. Just like we need to exercise and eat right in order to maintain our physical health, we keep spiritually healthy by doing the basics – reading the scriptures, praying, renewing our covenants, and repenting.

Occasionally, though, and despite how well we keep up with the basics, we get sick. We doubt.

Food Poisoning

Only once or twice have I been spiritually “food poisoned”. With perhaps the purest of intentions, well-meaning friends have exposed me to the most virulent, acrimonious material about the Church and it’s leaders. I remember how this material tried to manipulate me (from the title screen where the word “Mormon” started oozing to the utter misrepresentations of what past leaders have said or done), and I remember how it made me feel.

It’s only taken a time or two to realize that I’m not interested in that kind of experience. As I expand my horizons or learn more about my faith, I’ll look elsewhere. If I’m not careful about what I put into my spiritual body, a case of spiritual food poisoning may turn much more serious.

Getting Sick and Taking Antibiotics

Wanting to avoid food poisoning doesn’t mean I cordon myself off from the world, and living in the world means getting exposed to different things. Sometimes I learn things about the Church or Church leaders that make me uncomfortable. Perhaps what I learn doesn’t line up with what I believe. In the words of this parable, I get “sick”. I experience doubt.

But I don’t live in denial. I don’t add more water behind the levee. I take antibiotics.

Even then, there are side effects. The study and learning I’ll engage in after being exposed can be eye-opening and difficult. Perhaps, like Enos, I wrestle before God. Perhaps, like Alma, I have my soul harrowed up. It’s not at all easy, but what helps me make my way through it successfully is the partner I take in my struggles, and the doctor I go to for prescriptions.

Preventative Vaccinations

For some diseases, it makes sense to get a vaccination. Before I hear something from a detractor – with oozing font and all – I’ll read essays or books from more reputable scholars.

In a post the other day I mentioned reading Massacre at Mountain Meadows. It was an intensely fascinating historical account of early pioneer Utah, and I learned a great deal about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a terrible, horrific event in the history of the LDS Church. In a sense, I’ve been vaccinated against false accusations about that terrible event, and many of the common anti-Mormon claims about Mountain Meadows and Brigham Young roll off me like water on nylon.

Therein lies the strength of getting “vaccinated”. As I study things outside of the correlated material provided by the Church, yet still scholarly and academically sound, I learn things before detractors get a chance to shock me into feeling (legitimately or otherwise) betrayed. Like medication taken after the fact, it can still come with some measure of discomfort, but preventative measures are preferable to fighting a full-fledged infection.

Legitimizing Leavetaking

Faith crises are hard. Unfortunately, they are not unique to a small sliver of the human family.

Not everyone comes out of their crisis like I have. Many come out like my friend did, choosing to distance themselves to some degree from the Church. With current technology it is easier than ever for them to find each other, and to criticize the “patronizing” responses (like mine) of those who made it through their crisis with their faith intact (like I did).

I don’t mean to be patronizing. I only mean to share my experiences. I’ve learned the very same things that trouble others right out of the Church, sometimes from the very same sources, but I still believe. It’s not because my levee still enables my denial. It’s because I’ve confronted those issues with faith in God, confident in the witnesses that I’ve received.

I can accept that leavetaking is a choice that many make – and they absolutely have the right to make that choice – but I don’t endorse it as legitimate. I’m not going to validate that it was a good choice, or the right choice, only that it was their choice. To a believer like me, leaving the Church means leaving behind tremendous blessings, and for better or for worse I find that profoundly sad.

As a member of the Church who still believes in the Restoration of the gospel, I think that there’s a better way. I’m familiar with it because I’ve come through it. It doesn’t mean I don’t get sick. It doesn’t mean I don’t get uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean I don’t doubt. It does change to whom I turn when I start to feel concerned. It’s not to denial, nor to dubious Mormon Stories. It’s to the Savior, as I doubt my doubts before I doubt my faith.

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14 thoughts on “Levees and Leaving”

  1. Obviously Anonymous is a coward. It doesn’t take any courage or integrity to leave negative comments anonymously. I liked it Daniel.

  2. 1. There is no wrong way to come to know God & all relationships with God are personal. Every journey is individual & there is no better than or worse than path to God, it just is.
    2. If you’re going to reference an article that you are critical of, do the courtesy of posting a link directly to it so that people can more easily make the assessment of the original article for themselves. You did a great job linking everything else though. http://rationalfaiths.com/when-the-levee-breaks/
    3. What does having food poisoning & a shot have to do with wanting to die? How does wanting to die correlate in any way to someone choosing to have a different experience and journey with God? As someone who has actually died (I drowned) & come back and experienced a great deal of trauma, I find your nonchalant comment to wanting to die, insensitive at best.
    4. Your assumption that a person changing religions, or believing differently than what they may or may not have been taught, is perhaps flawed. Who says it’s a challenge or a problem for them personally, or for their marriage, or other relationships? It is possible that they are happy in a different situation.
    5. What do mutants have to do with any of this, really? Who would the mutants be representative of?
    6. Why put in a hypothetical conversation from Apostles & reference Dairy Queen? What does that have to do with anything?
    7. Name calling & throwing out accusations speaks volumes about a person’s character. In psychology it is called counter-transference or projecting. Often it is shaming in nature and has nothing to do with the person it is directed at. Instead, it has a lot to do with an individual person’s fears & insecurities.
    8. A faith crisis is not always what it appears to be. Brene Brown does a great job at reframing this understanding. A crisis is an opportunity for a spiritual awakening & there’s no right or best way for that to look like.
    9. Not everyone who leaves a religion leaves their faith in God behind. Faith does not come about because of religion. Faith is a principle of spirituality which everyone has whether they are of the same religious practices or not. God does not play favorites when it comes to his children. He loves all of them.
    10. Children often do not respond well to continued denial to being heard or having their heartfelt, soul questions answered. Curiosity & a sense of wonder are essential in the process of creation, growth, & learning. Do you tell your children to stop asking questions? Are they satisfied if the reply is, “because I said so!”? I highly doubt that. As children of God we all have great desires for further light & knowledge & as such are worthy to receive an answer (& not just a vague one either). Questioning is a vital part of anyone’s journey. Joseph Smith did so & got a lot of different answers. That was the right answer for him. Who’s to say God does not speak to the hearts of others to serve in a different capacity & reach a different population in a completely different part of his figurative vineyard? No one is better or worse because they belong to a particular religious sect or not one at all. All are alike unto God.
    11. We can never fully empathize, understand, or comprehend another person’s experience. It is not possible for us to know the thoughts & intents of another person’s heart. God is the only one who knows that fully and that is why we cannot judge another.
    12. I don’t have friends who tear me down, especially not with public humiliation. I am not sure that you could call the person you are referring to a person you are actually a friend to. Real friends don’t do stuff like that.
    13. A person who questions their beliefs, of any kind, is in no way sick or diseased on any physical, spiritual, or an emotional level. There is nothing wrong or flawed with coming to a personal decision that is between them & God.
    14. Scriptures, prayer, fasting, church attendance, & all those things can be very good and affirming. Comparing a serious question to getting a vaccine is a disservice to the process of discovery. Vaccines are a very limited treatment & do not require regular practice to maintain its benefits. But what happens when doing the basics isn’t working? What next? Do they just do more & become hyper-religious to compensate?

    15. At the end of your post you implied that people leaving the LDS religion turn to anti-Mormon literature for answers. I don’t believe that is how or why everyone leaves. There is a lot more complexity to anyone’s beliefs or spiritual/religious convictions.

    16. So, do people say mean things about Joseph Smith? Yes. Does that mean they are all true, or all false? No. Every person who has or will yet live is human and has strengths & weaknesses. There is a great difference between being honest, humble, vulnerable about all aspects of a person (light & dark are both true in any given moment), and tearing a person’s entire character or choices to shreds is unnecessary. Finding and discussing a flaw is not equivalent to evil speaking, slaughtering their character based on weaknesses would be.

    This is what I call the 80/20% rule (or whatever percentage you care to use). 80% of the time I am a pretty awesome person & 20% of the time it is some ugly stuff (granted there is a gradient to the scale). I would not want people to express the 20% crappy stuff as the “truth” about me and negate everything else. Nor would I want to be portrayed as super-human and saintly. Neither would serve to give the needed contrast and perspective to make a beautiful masterpiece on its own. I want a whole-hearted depiction that is vulnerable, honest, raw, & speaks to the depths of my soul and honors the journey through the trenches.

    1. Sarah, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your comment. I’m sure it took a considerable amount of time, and this is clearly something you feel very strongly about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      I’d like to respond, if that’s okay. You’re welcome to respond yourself, and we can have a back and forth of sorts.

      1. There is no wrong way to come to know God & all relationships with God are personal. Every journey is individual & there is no better than or worse than path to God, it just is.

      I think this is a really common perspective right now, and this religious pluralism has a few different flavors. Some folks contend that all paths are acceptable. Mainstream Christians contend that all Christian paths are acceptable (they exclude Mormonism, of course). I think it’s an extension of moral relativism – there is no wrong way to live your life, so there must be no wrong way to know God. I disagree myself.

      2. If you’re going to reference an article that you are critical of, do the courtesy of posting a link directly to it so that people can more easily make the assessment of the original article for themselves. You did a great job linking everything else though. http://rationalfaiths.com/when-the-levee-breaks/

      That’s a good point. A month ago I would have done just that, but I’ve started to be unsure of exactly how I want to move forward. I’ve provided enough direct quotes that any person familiar with web browsers can find it themselves (or can now find it in the comments!). I’ll keep thinking about it, but I don’t know that I’m interested in generating traffic for them.

      3. What does having food poisoning & a shot have to do with wanting to die? How does wanting to die correlate in any way to someone choosing to have a different experience and journey with God? As someone who has actually died (I drowned) & come back and experienced a great deal of trauma, I find your nonchalant comment to wanting to die, insensitive at best.

      It was definitely hyperbole, connected to the food poisoning experience. I’m certainly glad you didn’t perma-drown.

      4. Your assumption that a person changing religions, or believing differently than what they may or may not have been taught, is perhaps flawed. Who says it’s a challenge or a problem for them personally, or for their marriage, or other relationships? It is possible that they are happy in a different situation.

      Who says? They have! But even if they hadn’t, what then?

      Sometimes when I disagree passionately with someone, it’s really easy for me to nitpick at every little deficiency I see in their argument. I feel like that may be what’s starting to happen here. Did I really want to die when I had food poisoning? No. But those who have had food poisoning will appreciate the hyperbole, and even those who haven’t can probably empathize with it (it really is an awful experience). It’s the same thing here. Who is going to argue that mixed-faith marriages aren’t challenging, especially when they didn’t start out mixed-faith? No one should argue that. Do I have to be intimately familiar with all of the details around my friend’s marriage to be reasonably sure that it might be tough at times? No! Heck, all marriages can be challenging at times.

      I guess my question to you would be, is this the hill you want to (metaphorically) die on?

      5. What do mutants have to do with any of this, really? Who would the mutants be representative of?

      It’s part of the Frozen joke… It’s… sigh… There’s no substantive meaning behind the mutant joke. Go watch the HISHE video, and if you still don’t get it, it just means that our pop-culture influences don’t entirely overlap.

      6. Why put in a hypothetical conversation from Apostles & reference Dairy Queen? What does that have to do with anything?

      Is this two questions? Like, “why put in a hypothetical conversation from apostles?” and “why did you have the apostles reference Dairy Queen?”? Or are you just wondering about the Dairy Queen part?

      The Dairy Queen part is just a joke, because why wouldn’t apostles go out for ice cream? Again, this is what I mean – of all the issues you have with my piece (at least 16, at this point), why make a deal out of a Dairy Queen joke? It’s not at all substantive.

      If you’re asking about the conversation itself, it was to suggest similarities between the Father/Mother in the Frozen parody and the author of the levee parable. That is substantive. In fact, it’s pretty pivotal to the whole piece.

      7. Name calling & throwing out accusations speaks volumes about a person’s character. In psychology it is called counter-transference or projecting. Often it is shaming in nature and has nothing to do with the person it is directed at. Instead, it has a lot to do with an individual person’s fears & insecurities.

      Are you a psychologist, or is this from Wikipedia? Because if you’re not a psychologist, I wouldn’t be confident in your ability to diagnose counter-transference from a single blog post….

      Also, I don’t think I called anyone any names. Specifics? I guess I call the author at Rational Faiths “Levee Person”… Is that it?

      8. A faith crisis is not always what it appears to be. Brene Brown does a great job at reframing this understanding. A crisis is an opportunity for a spiritual awakening & there’s no right or best way for that to look like.

      And I can appreciate that this may be the case from a social science perspective, where the specific form that spirituality takes is irrelevant.

      But from my perspective, believing that Mormonism is legitimate, the best way to come out of a faith crisis is with your faith intact so that you can continue to enjoy the blessings of the gospel. It shouldn’t be surprising that a believing Mormon considers the best way out of a faith crisis to be back into full activity in the Mormon church.

      Now, are there unhealthy ways to stay in the Church? Totally! But that’s not what we’re talking about here, is it?

      (Whew. Just halfway. Number 9…)

      9. Not everyone who leaves a religion leaves their faith in God behind. Faith does not come about because of religion. Faith is a principle of spirituality which everyone has whether they are of the same religious practices or not. God does not play favorites when it comes to his children. He loves all of them.

      So I don’t agree with all of that, but again, this isn’t what we’re talking about. Who is saying that God’s love for you is dependent on the choices you make? Not me! He loves all of us, unconditionally, and I believe that wholeheartedly.

      As far as your thoughts on faith, I think you have a different theology than I do, but we’ve already seen that to some degree.

      10. Children often do not respond well to continued denial to being heard or having their heartfelt, soul questions answered. Curiosity & a sense of wonder are essential in the process of creation, growth, & learning. Do you tell your children to stop asking questions? Are they satisfied if the reply is, “because I said so!”? I highly doubt that. As children of God we all have great desires for further light & knowledge & as such are worthy to receive an answer (& not just a vague one either). Questioning is a vital part of anyone’s journey. Joseph Smith did so & got a lot of different answers. That was the right answer for him. Who’s to say God does not speak to the hearts of others to serve in a different capacity & reach a different population in a completely different part of his figurative vineyard? No one is better or worse because they belong to a particular religious sect or not one at all. All are alike unto God.

      And we’re back to this “all paths are good” thing. That’s fine. A lot of people share this perspective. I disagree, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

      Also, you talk a great deal about questions, and I’m pretty sure that I agree with all of it (till the “all paths” part, of course). In fact, I make pretty much the same point in my post above. I argued that not only is it good to ask questions, but that we are entitled to receive revelation from God about those questions. Now, I’m not going to dictate how God must answer those questions, but to choose instead to live in denial is to live below our privilege as sons and daughters of God. I’m sad that you missed that.

      11. We can never fully empathize, understand, or comprehend another person’s experience. It is not possible for us to know the thoughts & intents of another person’s heart. God is the only one who knows that fully and that is why we cannot judge another.

      Right. Not sure why this came up. I pretty much said the same thing in the sixth paragraph above.

      12. I don’t have friends who tear me down, especially not with public humiliation. I am not sure that you could call the person you are referring to a person you are actually a friend to. Real friends don’t do stuff like that.

      This is another common perspective, I think. People feel that if you disagree with the choices or opinions of another person then you are attacking them (or publicly humiliating them, I guess?). That’s not the case here. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, and I’d tell her sorry if I offended her, but I still disagree with this whole “levee philosophy,” and I can do that without attacking the people who agree with it.

      13. A person who questions their beliefs, of any kind, is in no way sick or diseased on any physical, spiritual, or an emotional level. There is nothing wrong or flawed with coming to a personal decision that is between them & God.

      I think you missed the point of my parable. It’d be like if I criticized the Rational Faiths author for saying that people were broken because her parable involved a broken levee, and then reminded her that God loves everyone. It misses the whole point.

      14. Scriptures, prayer, fasting, church attendance, & all those things can be very good and affirming. Comparing a serious question to getting a vaccine is a disservice to the process of discovery. Vaccines are a very limited treatment & do not require regular practice to maintain its benefits. But what happens when doing the basics isn’t working? What next? Do they just do more & become hyper-religious to compensate?

      Again, you missed the point. Ironically (and this is hilarious), you’re essentially saying, “So… you’re saying…” and then making a leap to something totally wrong that I absolutely didn’t say (I hope you can laugh with me). In fact, you’re basically regurgitating the first Levee Person quote in my fake apostle conversation above. Tell me that isn’t hilarious!

      I’m not saying that scriptures, prayer, fasting, church attendance, etc., are the solution. In fact, Levee Person said that Mormons believe this (like you did just now), and I criticized them for it. They’re important for baseline spiritual health, like you suggest, but questions require something else.

      And that’s where the antibiotics and vaccines come in.

      A good example of a vaccine is to read Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Might you learn some things that surprise you, or make you a bit uncomfortable? Absolutely! (It’s a fantastic book, by the way.) But then when some anti-Mormon comes along spouting off about Mountain Meadows and evil Brigham Young, you’ll be able to say, “Can’t trick me! I’ve been vaccinated!”

      You see, the vaccination was the sincere and dedicated study of a topic outside of scripture reading, prayer, fasting, church attendance, etc.!

      15. At the end of your post you implied that people leaving the LDS religion turn to anti-Mormon literature for answers. I don’t believe that is how or why everyone leaves. There is a lot more complexity to anyone’s beliefs or spiritual/religious convictions.

      I don’t know that I implied that, nor that I believe it. Here’s what I said:

      “I’ve learned the same things that trouble others right out of the Church, sometimes from the very same sources, but I still believe, and it’s not because my levee still holds back my denial. It’s because I’ve confronted those issues with faith in God, confident in the witnesses that I’ve received” (emphasis added).

      It isn’t about avoiding or relying on anti-Mormon sources, or avoiding or relying on the writings of faithful Latter-day Saints, for that matter. For me, it was about recognizing that I’d felt God speak to me before, and to undertake any questioning with that realizing at the foundation.

      Now, once people have left, if they’re the type that can’t leave Mormonism alone, they congregate together and create little echo chambers, and anti-Mormon social groups (not literature) help this along. But then, they’re not getting answers as much as reassurances, are they?

      16. So, do people say mean things about Joseph Smith? Yes. Does that mean they are all true, or all false? No. Every person who has or will yet live is human and has strengths & weaknesses. There is a great difference between being honest, humble, vulnerable about all aspects of a person (light & dark are both true in any given moment), and tearing a person’s entire character or choices to shreds is unnecessary. Finding and discussing a flaw is not equivalent to evil speaking, slaughtering their character based on weaknesses would be.

      I think we agree. I’m not sure what you’re point is.

      Also, do you find it ironic that just a few paragraphs ago you accuse me of public shaming only to say, here, that “Finding and discussing a flaw is not equivalent to evil speaking”? I started out this post, of course, discussing what I thought was a flawed philosophy, and by your own admission that’s not speaking evil.

      Again, thanks for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time. I feel like I’ve learned some things already, and I may clarify my post above to make sure others don’t misunderstand me. Certainly, I’d love to continue talking if you’d like (though it can be hard to keep 16 plates spinning at once, so we may need to pick one or two themes to focus on).

  3. I found that your take on the “doubt” and “staying” issue was very narcissistic. You think that because you reacted one way, a way you DEMAND is the right way, that everyone else should react that way, too. The greatest compassionate response you share is that, “It is their choice.” So, you’re pulling a very Mormon stance here and saying, “It is their choice to make the wrong choice.” Because anything that doesn’t match with your exact experience and your prescribed course of events is OBVIOUSLY wrong because you must ALWAYS be right.

    I will be honest, I am someone who left the church. But much of the reason I left was because I couldn’t wear the “We’re right, they’re wrong, I serve God the right way, others don’t.” cloak anymore.

    I honestly felt like a member of the Boko Harem. Using my personal religious beliefs to try and control others opportunities and actions around me.

    I love how you decide that others should react in the same way you did, even though you have no idea how their experiences differed from yours.

    Honestly, reading this has reminded me how much less toxic and judgmental my life has become since leaving the church. So. I guess thank you for the reminder of why I didn’t want to be there anymore. I feel better having read this, because I am reminded again that I DID make the right choice, based on my personal experiences, and that I am much healthier and happier now than I ever could have been in the Mormon religion.

    P.S. Was it a Mormon guy who called “Anonymous” a “coward”? Because that is a total Mormon thing to do – pass judgment on them without even KNOWING WHO THEY ARE!!!

    1. I’m not even sure how to respond…

      I mean, you compared the Mormon church to Boko Haram (with an “a,” btw). Do, uh, do you know anything about Boko Haram? Or Mormons? That may sound a little snarky (okay, it kind of is a little snarky), but seriously… you’re comparing Mormons to a violent Islamist organization that’s been labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization.

      And you make some pretty big leaps about me and what I’m saying, too.

      Evidently, “pass(ing) judgment on them without even KNOWING WHO THEY ARE!” isn’t just a Mormon thing to do.

      Ay-oh!

      I’m sorry that you had toxic experiences in Mormonism that drove you away. I’m even sorrier that you see in my post a bunch of demands and ultimatums. It’s just not the case. I mean, I still believe that Mormonism is legitimate, so it sort of makes sense that I’d recommend sticking around… And certainly I don’t recommend Mormonism any more than you are universally condemning it. 🙂

      I wish you the best. I’m sorry if I offended you. You’re welcome back any time.

  4. Ok I am really struggling here to understand how your prescribed defenses (in essence- avoiding, taking antibiotics (immersing yourself in scripture), or being vaccinated (grabbing on to your THE PROPHETS ARE PROPHETS AND THEY ARE RIGHT beliefs and holding on tight)) are any different from what the levee article suggests?

    Ok yes I will admit I overstated on the vaccine thing… It is always preferable to get your information from reputable sources. But what about when these reputable sources reveal information that is not in line with what the church teaches? You KNOW there are legitimate unanswered questions in church history, and if you don’t, I would love to have further discussion with you since you seem to have all the answers that NOBODY else can come up with. Or what about having a very personal struggle with doctrines of the church that you just simply cannot get behind? That has nothing to do with ignoring anti mormon literature or reading from more reputable scholars. That is a personal struggle, and the church teaches that the solution is to have faith and immerse yourself in faith building activities. Just trust that your leaders are ordained of God and they know what they’re doing. Are you going to tell me I’m wrong? That is exactly what the levee story was talking about. You pile these things behind the levee and try to go on in faith, but some peoples’ reservoirs are smaller than others, and you cannot tell me how much I “should” be able to take before it is a crisis of faith.

    And for the record I agree wholeheartedly with “fingerfoodforthought.” This attitude is rampant and toxic in the church, especially in Utah, and you embody it beautifully.

    1. You totally misunderstood my “prescribed defenses”. I mean, not even just the vaccination one that you own up to, but, like, the whole thing! Did you read my post? This is a joke, right? There are camera’s on me right now, aren’t there? 😉

      (Seriously, though. I don’t mean to offend you, but you’re waaaay off. Go read it again.)

      I think you bring up a good point, though, and it’s one I tried to deal with. You say, “What about when these reputable sources reveal information that is not in line with what the church teaches? You KNOW there are legitimate unanswered questions in church history.”

      That’s true! And that’s what causes the doubt (or “sickness” in the words of my parable). We learn the correlated, white-washed version of Church history in Sunday school, but that version absolutely leaves things out. When we learn other things later on, we start to doubt our testimonies.

      At this juncture, we have a number of choices. We can embrace our doubt and betrayal, and leave the Church. We can ignore our doubts and press forward (the whole levee thing, and a profoundly bad idea). Or we can learn all we can about what happened. There are probably other options, and certainly varying degrees of each of these options. In my parable, the “learn all we can” choice is really what I see as taking antibiotics. In my experience, the deeper I dig into things the stronger my faith becomes. That has absolutely been my experience.

      Now, that’s not the ideal way to learn that the white-washed Sunday school is white-washed. There are good and bad ways to learn that Santa Claus isn’t real. That’s where vaccinations come in. Learn things removed from the feelings of betrayal at realizing Sunday school isn’t historically complete, and everything goes more smoothly.

      Now, is it wrong for Sunday school to white-wash things? That’s an entirely different discussion altogether (I touch on it a little bit here – read that and tell me your thoughts).

      These are complex questions! And then, with “doctrines of the church that you just simply cannot get behind”… Man, I don’t know. There are things that are acceptable to me that aren’t to you, and vice versa, and that’s true for every person on the planet. And yet, I don’t believe in moral relativism. While all rules have exceptions and extremes should be avoided, I don’t believe we get to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Does that mean I’ve needed to course correct when my views don’t align with what I’m told are God’s views? Absolutely. What that means for others, I can’t say, except that it’s hard and it sucks but there’s peace in trying to follow the Savior. In Mormonism, that totally ties into following the prophets, and maybe the whole prophet thing is a stretch for you. And that’s fine.

      Faith naturally comes into play. You start to equate faithful obedience with blind obedience at the end (the latter being the kind of behavior described in the levee parable). But I think you ask the wrong question. I’m not trying to suggest someone should strengthen their levee and tough it out, or that a big reservoir is better than a small one. That completely misses the point (again, go read my post again). I’m suggesting the whole living-in-denial thing is unhealthy and unwise. Importantly, it’s completely different from faithful obedience (it gets murky, since so many of the same words describe different behaviors), which is the behavior I’m advocating. Dig into things! Do it in the right spirit, and you can come out like I did, faith intact.

      As for your last paragraph, well, I’m glad you two have found each other, then! Though I don’t know how you can assess my attitude after missing so marvelously the majority of my post, let alone never speaking with me (and you know what fingerfoodforthought says about judging…).

      But hey, I’m an active Mormon, right? That’s all the evidence you need! (I always chuckle at how quickly the “judge-not” folks start tossing stones at us active Mormon folks, but to each his own!)

  5. PS…. holy crap that interpretation of “frozen” is HILARIOUS. So true. But so, so unrelated to what you’re trying to say.

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