I need to elaborate on the last paragraph of Part 1. There are times when it just isn’t possible to leave the LDS Church, as much as one might like to. It’s easy to tell someone, “Well, if you don’t believe it’s true, just leave;” another thing quite entirely when the person’s circumstances are complicated. I’ll admit that I used to see this issue as black and white. In my zeal I would have pounded the pulpit and said, “Truth at all costs. You can’t support the Church when it’s clearly false!” Now, I’m not so hasty.
In my case I had the support of my husband, even though he wasn’t ready to leave the Church at the time. But what is a person supposed to do when their spouse threatens to divorce them, or worse, to divorce them and seek full custody of the children? What do they do if they’re in their senior year at BYU and will get expelled if they leave the Church)? What should a person do if they’re employed by the LDS Church and are within a couple years of retirement? Should they quit at age 55 or 60 even though it will mean possibly starting over as a Wal-Mart door-greeter?
These are tough questions with no easy answers. I don’t think we can make judgments about the character of those who stay in the Church to save their marriages or keep their children. We can’t point our fingers and accuse them of caring more about family or career or education than they do about their relationship with God. That would be unfair and unkind. I wouldn’t encourage them to live under of false pretenses, but to find a way to be able to express and practice their real beliefs. If necessary, a person can leave Mormonism without leaving the Mormon Church, at least while his or her spouse comes to terms with the situation.
I also firmly believe that if the person has come to what’s often referred to as “saving faith” in Jesus Christ of the Bible, God will provide a way for him or her to be able to live authentically. He will give wisdom, courage, and guidance. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you are in a difficult circumstance like one of those above, I encourage you to trust God, lean on him, stay prayerful, read the Bible for strength and comfort, and follow his leading. Do what you can to work toward a mutually acceptable solution with your TBM (True-Blue Mormon) spouse to accomodate a dual-faith relationship or family.
When I speak of spiritual pragmatists, I’m not referring to people in difficult circumstances with painful decisions to make. I’m speaking about people who know something is false or wrong, but stay with it for the sake of convenience. It “works” for them so why stir the pot? This brings me back to my brother-in-law and the woman from my former ward. They admitted to not believing the Church is true; but in Fast & Testimony Meetings, Family Home Evenings, and at other times in front of their children, grandchildren, relatives, and LDS friends they can still be heard declaring,
“I know the Church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet. And I know the Church is being led by true prophets and apostles today.”
Essentially, they are lying, and it seems like they justify those lies through pragmatism:
“The Church might not be true, but it gives a good framework for my family to live within.”
Don’t they realize that their spouses and kids look up to them and depend on them, not only for physical protection, but spiritual protection as well? Do they not see that their loved ones trust them—trusting and believing their very words—and they aren’t even speaking truth? How tragic. They “go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves” (2 Timothy 3:13).
When I was a devout Latter-day Saint, I held to the “correspondence theory” of truth (and still do). I thought that the Church was true because I trusted that the information given to me by Mormon leaders corresponded with the facts.
For example; I was taught that Joseph Smith, Jr. found plates of gold along with a device—like spectacles of some sort—known as the Urim and Thummim (referred to in the Bible, Exodus 28:30). He ostensibly put on these spectacles, which were attached to a breastplate, and carefully pored over each character etched on the plates until the proper meaning appeared, and this is how the Book of Mormon was translated.
Furthermore, I was taught that the 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon saw the gold plates and handled them. So, along with the good feelings I received when praying to know if the Church was true, my beliefs were based on what LDS leaders, teachers, and Church manuals said happened. I had no reason to believe the Church was not being forthright about its history and origins.
Eventually I discovered that Smith did not use any such device as the Urim and Thummim, but rather used a stone he found while digging a well. He placed this stone in his hat, put his face into the hat, and dictated words to a scribe. Additionally I learned that the so-called witnesses to the Book of Mormon never saw the gold plates with their physical eyes, as implied in seminary, Sunday school, and over the pulpit; but with their “spiritual eyes” (in other words, their imaginations). And whatever it was they handled, or “hefted” as church literature says, was covered by a cloth. For all anyone knows they could have lifted a box of rocks.
When I discovered that what I was taught didn’t correspond with reality, I could no longer in good conscience remain a participant in such an organization
I agree with the Mormon 11th Article of Faith, which states: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” I do not insist that others believe as I do, just as I would not want others insisting I believe as they do. What I want is transparency in religious institutions so that the members and/or investigators can make informed choices. Not everyone wants to be pragmatic about their spiritual walk. Many individuals want an authentic relationship with God, and I am one of them. Truth does indeed matter and is too precious to be pragmatic about.
This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).