Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I'm Staying: Replying to CNN's "Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church"

As a part of the "millennial" generation, I read CNN's religion blog post "Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church" with great interest. The author explains how churches are trying to appeal to my generation through casual services, pastors in skinny jeans, and coffee shops in the meetinghouses--at the cost of teaching what constitutes the heart of Christianity. With the ongoing cultural wars, pretentiousness, and seeming exclusivity, young people my age are struggling to find Jesus when they go to church.

Reading this article made me think carefully about how my faith, the Mormon church, is instituted. While I admit that our church leaders have their own struggles in retaining some who are my age, I think that the Mormon institution solves many of the problems that other millennials experience when attending church. This is my list so far, though it is hardly exhaustive:

1. We are taught to view our fellow members as our brothers and sisters.
Just as we don't choose who our siblings are, neither do we choose whom we will worship with (it's all contingent on location). In fact, the first feature a visitor to a Mormon congregation may notice is that we address our fellow members as "brother" and "sister." This practice consciously reminds us that we should love and accept others in our faith as part of an extended family--regardless of socio-economic background, political affiliations, race, etc. To partially accomplish this, our bishop (our congregational leader) assigns each member to visit fellow members at least once a month to share a spiritual message, as well as watch over their spiritual and physical welfare. Moreover, we feel a sense of responsibility in helping our fellow members who may be experiencing health difficulties, family crises, or just need an extra hand with housework. I believe that this set-up has taught me to be more loving and accepting towards others, as well as emulate Christ's behavior in my life.  

2. We are asked to participate in a given capacity to help the congregation.
Every member is given a "calling" or responsibility to help sustain the congregation's needs. While being a member, for example, I have had callings that range from directing the ward choir, planning monthly activities for over 200 people, and arranging musical numbers for church meetings. It has not always been easy balancing these callings while pursuing graduate studies and working part-time. But I believe that my personal efforts to assist my congregation has reminded me that religiosity is far more than simply attending church; it requires sacrifice on my end. Moreover, since Christ spent His life serving others without worry of "purse or script," I am grateful that I can learn to become more like my Savior through serving His children.

3. Having a nonpaid clergy, our church leaders are refreshingly sincere.* Being a bishop or a Mormon church leader can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Without monetary gain, however, I know that my leaders are serving me because they genuinely care for my well-being. I don't expect my church leaders to be perfect (see my previous post on this), but their efforts to do the best they can for my sake makes me greatly appreciative of them in my life.  

4. We are taught to ask questions. 
Joseph Smith's first vision (and subsequent visions) occurred because he had a question to ask God.  One of our books of scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants, is a collection of revelations based on someone's question. Moreover, we are taught to seek for personal revelation from God, through asking God questions in our prayers, or through searching for answers in our scriptures. In some ways, I would argue that the heart of Mormonism is asking questions. I would also say that my faith has helped me answer the deepest yearnings of my soul.

5. Our doctrine is not a laundry list of what we can and cannot do.
Ultimately, we believe that we are on this earth to return back to God, who is our Heavenly Father. While our faith, actions, as well as certain ceremonies play a significant role in our salvation, God ultimately judges us by our hearts. Our church then, strongly emphasizes a gospel that is based on becoming like Jesus Christ. 

These are my thoughts so far. Please respond as to why you are staying in your faith either on this blog or on social media, using the hashtag #whyimstaying.

*In no way did I mean to offend those of other faiths who have paid clergy. I have definitely seen exemplary leaders of other faiths show genuine sincerity to their congregations. I am only speaking from my own experience. For me, knowing that my leaders are working for my sake without any thought for monetary gain is a strong indicator of their sincerity.

Photo by bterrycompton.


59 comments:

  1. #whyimstaying -- Mormon church is perfect structure that actually invites me to let got of everything that has me not be like Jesus and take on, in every way, everything that has me be how Jesus is. Real participation and contribution to growing God's kingdom.

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    1. Thank you Nat for your comments. I wholeheartedly agree. :) #whyimstaying

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  2. Points 1 & 2 are solid strengths Mormonism has in its young adult retention and just overall experience of being religious. They are not actually as unique to Mormonism as the author seems to assume, but they are great strengths.

    Point 3 is hugely problematic to me. Are religious leaders in other traditions less sincere because they are paid? Are BYU professors and institute professors and general authorities and mission presidents insincere because they have salaries or stipends ("volunteer" stipends for mission presidents are far more generous than most other Christian clergy's "salary")? One could argue that since an Episcopal priest, for example, has to have the same education level as a lawyer for far less pay, whereas a Mormon lawyer can become a bishop at very limited financial loss, it is other clergy who make more financial sacrifices. I really feel the unpaid clergy thing a highly misleading and unfair critique of other Christians given how many people in Mormonism do get paid for what they do (including me, having worked for CES for two years!) and how much financial sacrifice clergy in other traditions are making.

    As far as points 4 & 5 go, I am thrilled for her that she feels that way. It is wonderful to have that experience of Mormonism. But we have plenty of research that shows Mormons are rapidly losing young adults just like Evangelicals (the tradition of author to whom this article responds) because plenty of Mormons feel that points 4 & 5 are not true in their experience.

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    2. Where are you getting your research that shows that "plenty of Mormons feel that points 4 & 5 are not true in their experience." How is your word "plenty" measurable to a church that has 14,782,473 members worldwide?

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    3. I really enjoy your blog Sarah and while I understand your intentions were good, the statement about no paid callings was simply overgeneralized. I know you meant to point out, hey look how awesome our church is! But to others, it felt like a slight and a put down. I completely understand both perspectives.

      I mean the thing is…like when you volunteer in the church to go on a mission. You are paying your own way and I definitely do feel like that demands some sincerity and effort. You accept a volunteer calling in the church because you feel you want to show your appreciation to God. You can also refuse callings. I am really amazed by Ward Bishops that work full time, have a family, and also spend an average of 30 hours a week in their Bishop’s office working for the ward.

      What it all comes down to is the individual. You can have insincere people doing their callings in the Mormon Church. You can have insincere people in other churches. Really it’s just the individual. It’s a case by case basis.

      What I don’t understand, Pastor Jean-Daniel Williams, is why are you complaining about the huge loss for clergy men. If one is so concerned about money, he has the free agency to pursue a different career.

      I have a really good friend, Chaplain Scott, he was my chaplain when I was in High School. He was also a teacher and a counselor. He is not mormon. He is paid. Yet he is very sincere and I have so much respect for him. He really believes in caring out God’s work for His children.

      We know from 1 Samuel 16:7 that “the Lord looketh on the heart”. It’s a case by case basis. He will know your sincerity paid or unpaid.

      It is however, important to point out the difference between callings that are paid, and those that are unpaid. Institute teachers and BYU professors and LDS Social Services are paid professions, but they are also full time careers, unlike callings in the church. Although callings in the church can be very demanding, they are not careers you go to school for and work full time in. Each individual has his or her own free agency to turn down a calling. You do not submit applications for callings like one does to work with LDS SS or BYU or CES.

      While God is the one who judges the sincerity of our heart, I do know that one of the signs about the True Church of Christ being restored, is that the true church must have no paid ministry. This is pointed out in Isaiah 45:13 and 1 Peter 5:2 in the Bible. As you read the Book of Mormon, you will also find this true doctrine pointed out many times. I just read about this last night in my personal studies: Alma 30:32-35.

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    4. Thank you Marissa, for your comments. I completely agree with you that there are insincere leaders who are both paid and unpaid. And as my asterisk statement said, I am very aware of sincere leaders who are working diligently to help their congregation. Moreover, I mentioned that not all leaders are perfect, but perhaps the message could have been more clear. Thank you also for your thoughts on the differences between LDS church careers and callings; I appreciate it.

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    5. Its true there is a big difference between church calling or a church work hehehe.... teacher in byu is a work and ces coordinator is a work but being a bishop, stake president relief society president, all church calling in our church are not paid off they served with love and loyalty without any in return just like the missionaries leaders of the church gives sacrifices in returned they were blesses in many ways as their heart desires... and temple workers are all volunteer serving the Lord is a privileged for whom the Lord call they served or reject the calling and only worthy member are called to served in a certain calling but still all of us are not perfect... and I know that only through service u can find the real happiness....

      The reason why I never leave the church

      We are the only church who teaches that to be married in the temple FOR TIME AND ALL ETERNITY means that families can be together forever... because the rest can only be married till death do us part....

      We know where we came from, why we are here? And where are we going after this life... I love the plan of salvation or plan of happiness,,, our church answer all the question as we search diligently and prayerfully do it and ull proved it...James 1:5 if any of u lack wisdom let them ask of God, and God giveth to all men liberally and abraideth not...

      We are the only church who has a living prophet... God never change He is yesterday today and tomorrow Amos 3:7 for God will surely do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servant the prophets...

      And we are the unstopable in growth anywhere in the world..

      And I never leave church because I know in my self that the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true... I ask God about the book of Mormon and I know I have a great experienced proving that it is a word of God and the bible the help each other.... other may tell what they want but me I know it for I served the Lord in China Hong Kong Mission... the greatest convert I have is myself a lot of mysteries of God unfolded unto me by hard work and prayerfully and nothing is impossible....

      Moroni 7:26 .......whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, WHICH IS GOOD, in faith believing that ye shall recieve, behold, it shall BE DONE UNTO YOU.

      I know that Jesus live. I know that prophet Joseph smith is a prophet of God and Pres. Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet... I share my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ Amen....

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    6. I left the church 9 months ago for countless reasons, including that I had found points 4 and 5 to be very untrue.

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  3. Thanks Jean-Daniel Williams, for your comments and insights; I appreciate it. First, this post was meant to show how Mormonism as an institution helps address the problems that many young people find in their churches. But I certainly don't mean to imply that Mormons are exclusive when it comes to points 1 and 2. I am very cognizant that other faiths ask young people to view others as brothers and sisters as well as take on responsibilities. I am only referring to my own experience.
    Secondly, I am very aware of other paid church leaders' genuine efforts with their congregations; I only meant that not getting paid is a strong indicator of Mormon leaders' sincerity. I also did not take CES faculty and BYU faculty into consideration, as I consider them to be professors (and for CES, a sort of extension of the BYU faculty). Perhaps others would consider them clergymen, but that's not how I perceive them. Also, I am very aware of the retention issue among Mormon single adults (I mentioned it in my post). But I still think that our church's institution addresses many of the problems that evangelical youth have with their churches.

    Being in education, what do you think that we can do to help retain young Mormon adults? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks again for your comments. #whyimstaying.
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  4. Great post Sarah, though as you say... "it is hardly exhaustive".

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    1. Thanks. This post was meant to address the issues that the article discussed, not necessarily a comprehensive list of why I choose to stay in the church. #whyimstaying.

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  5. Hi Sarah, found your post/blog from Nat sharing it on Facebook. Appreciated what you said, and I particularly like the part about how the lay clergy helps you know the sincerity of those you look to as leaders. As you pointed out, it doesn't mean that clergy of other faiths aren't sincere - doesn't mean that at all - but I think that it's something that can certainly be, and is, a draw for millennials towards the Church. And while certainly many YSAs struggle with or leave church activity in their 20s, there is also a significant trend the other way, of people coming back, or in for the first time, as they are at an open minded stage of their life and are challenging what they see around them in the world. #whyimstaying

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    1. Thanks Jason, I appreciate your comments. I hope that young people returning to church continues to be a trend. #whyimstaying.

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  6. People struggle to find Jesus at Mormon churches, too, including the younger generation. Church has turned into a place where people go to project their problems, complain about American politics, and compete with the family across the pew for the perfect image. Go to a singles ward and you'll find that the emphasis on activities and parties heavily overshadow the sacrament, meanwhile an unpaid clergy with all the answers feels compelled to tell the congregation what's wrong with them because they are single in their 20's.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I certainly don't believe the church as an institution is perfect (please see my previous post on confronting doubt). We are all imperfect people, which contributes to an imperfect church. But I believe that with callings, lay clergy, and an emphasis on serving our ward, we can rise to become something better, even more like Christ. It's our own foibles that get in the way, but the institution can help us improve.

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    2. Sarah I very much enjoyed your article. I too have seen very sincere and wonderful clergy in other churches, I grew up in a different faith where I learnt about sharing and serving and of course I value that highly. It seems when we talk of #4 and #5 that people are confusing our Church's doctrine with members' doctrines and pov's and attempts to get others to think as they think and do as they do, something Brigham Young disapproved of many decades ago. I have heard members spout off their own views many times and it can seem overbearing even dictating. It is not however the Church nor this faith. I am staying with this Church because I have a personal testimony that it is true, that Jesus is the Christ and that God lives, a well as knowing Joseph Smith did in very fact see them both in the Sacred Grove. There is simply nowhere else for me to go, I know the truth is here and it has helped he stay put when members ride their hobby horses in misguided attempts to "keep us all safe". Learning to love them has been sometimes a challenge but I have also learnt to keep to the path God has outlined for me and it definitely includes asking questions. I am learning every day, continually gaining insights and advice. This faith is not static but vital and alive, and God is the author of it. :)

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  7. #whyimstaying Thank you so much for this article. I want to add my reason for staying, which is a little less concrete than the reasons that you gave, Sarah. I;m staying because of the priesthood power that has been given to the LDS Church.That is what makes the church "work." The priesthood is the power of God on Earth. It helps us feel what the right choice is and it guides us. The priesthood is the power we use to truly be married (sealed) in the temple. It gives us the power to heal and bless. It gives us the authority to lead in capacities such as Bishop, Sunday School teacher, Relief Society president, or missionary. I just can't leave a church that is real. The priesthood is real. God is real. When I read scriptures I feel that God is real and that He truly loves us as His children.

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    1. Thanks for your beautiful comments, especially with the priesthood. I have a testimony of that too. This blog was certainly not meant to be comprehensive; it was more to address the specific issues that the article addressed. So thank you for ensuring that the priesthood is part of the discusion. :) #whyimstaying.

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  8. #whyimNOTstaying:

    I've written a series of blog posts on this topic. Here's one of the many.

    http://stirfries.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/happy-atheism/

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  9. Well, this is a "why I joined" AND "why I'm staying"...because its true. and if i really do believe the words i read in the scriptures, i will work hard and faithfully "endure to the end" in order to live with God again. if you dont believe, of course you're not going to stay. However, if you do believe but you still leave, well, go read Jacob 7. That should cover it.

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    1. Thank you Jordan, for your testimony and comments. I believe the church is true too. :) #whyimstaying.

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    2. Agree. If it's true, it's true, it's true, no matter the generation.

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  10. #whyimstaying -- Sarah! Great, great, great. Love this, love you. And here's my two cents! So far, I'd say that the reason I am staying in the church is because I have found that while there are many different revealed doctrines, many personal opinions on church history, many interpretations of LDS beliefs and words of the prophets, I truly do find my Savior Jesus Christ at the center of what the LDS church teaches and believes. I see Him get lost in the shuffle sometimes! But if I sift through the "junk" and seek Him, I always find Him. I personally believe that because we are each on our own journey to find Him, we will find Him in different ways and places. I agree with Rachel Evans' sentiment, that we "long for Jesus". He is real and I see His hand in all good things, one of which is the LDS church to which I am happy to belong.

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    1. Aw, I love you too! Your seeking to find Christ makes you one of the most Christlike people I know. Thanks for your example. xoxox #whyimstaying. :)

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  11. I certainly have questions about LDS church history and the way doctrines have been interpreted and taught by past leaders. I haven't found sufficient answers to many of my questions, and yet I choose to stay; I am committed to staying. I frequently think of the conversation between the Savior and his apostles in John 6. The Savior asks, "Will ye also go away?" Peter answers, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Despite the questions and the doubts, my life is better with the gospel and the church than without it.

    Also, as I've grappled with questions, I have felt the very real binding power of covenants. Our covenants not only seal us to our families and to God in some future tense, but they bind us to God in the here and now. I don't think this is something that I can fully explain in words, and I don't think it's something that can be fully understood with logic. But I've felt and I know that the covenants I've made with the Lord offer me spiritual protection when other influences would separate me from God.

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    1. Thanks Melanie, for bringing up covenants, especially relating them to uncertainties we may have about the church. Thanks for your wonderful example as a sister in Christ. xoxox #whyimstaying.

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  12. Sarah, thanks for speaking out! It's great to see so many people sharing what they believe and not being ashamed! We would love for you to take part in The Book of Mormon Two-Minute Challenge, google it! :)

    Ben Arkell

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    1. Thanks! Sounds great; what do I do? #whyimstaying.

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  13. Thank you so much for your post, Sarah! You are doing a great good with your writings. I admire and appreciate you.

    I'll add why I'm staying in the faith.

    I've always known from a young child that God loved me, that Jesus Christ was my Savior and that the gospel was true. However, I did begin to wonder why I needed to "attend" church, and participate, when sometimes, it seemed, there were just so many imperfections in the people that attended, pride, silliness, and just not quite what I thought church should be like.

    I decided to pray about why the Lord had established the structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and read scriptures that gave insight into the purpose of its structure. I came across verses like, "And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them." (Doctrine and Covenants 10:69) and I began to realize that though the people of the church, including myself, weren't perfect, the structure of the church is! And I realized further that I didn't want to separate myself from my brothers and sisters! We help one another endure to the end, by preaching of truth each week on Sunday, and throughout the week in activities and service. Of course there is improvement to be made in how we stick to the things that matter most and aren't distracted by fads and personal ambition, but the doctrine is in place, it is true, and will help us come unto Christ if followed.

    Lastly, I realized that my attitude needed to change from "What can the church give to me?" to "What can I give to the church?" Seeking to look past the end of my nose, and see the structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an incredible opportunity for service to my brothers and sisters, in addition to being strengthened myself, made the change in my heart.

    I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And I love participating. I know that if we can work on focusing on how we can contribute to the strength of the members, rather than so much our own needs, we will be happy in our membership in the church. We will be eternally grateful for the structure that our Father in Heaven has outlined for the strengthening of the saints, and, as was said in the scripture, the ability to be "established upon my rock" and endure to the end.

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    1. Thank you Layna, for your beautiful post and testimony. You are going to be such a wonderful missionary! I am so excited for you! Much love! #whyimstaying.

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  14. I have been a member since Oct 19, 1980. I love Jesus, the Gospel, and the Church. I have been in wards with loving people in them, and other wards where the members aren't so much. I have disabilities, and I cannot drive. My husband & I have buses here where we live, but on Sunday, that particular bus that runs on Monday thru Saturday does not run. We have talked to the Bishop and other ward members, and no one is "allowed", the say, in our "part of town." We don't have a Home or Visiting Teacher or a ride to church. The bishop is sympathetic, but he can't find any member who is willing to come. We have been in this ward boundary for two years. I am not saying this to put down anyone or the church. But I am saying this so that whoever reads this might keep us in prayer, and in your own wards, look to see if you could reach out to any on the ward list who are inactive. Not all of us are inactive by choice. When I lived in Missouri, they would actually have way stations for anyone who missed church, they could still go to take Sacrament. Thank you for reading this, and may our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus, bless you all, in His name, Amen.

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    1. Thank you for your beautiful testimony!! ;)

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  15. While I am not a Mormon (I'd call myself a non-denominational evangelical), I did write a piece in response to Ms. Evan's article. I think the survey data she is using illustrates our generation's fallacious line of thinking known as chronological snobbery. #whyimstaying

    http://tweedystake.blogspot.com/2013/07/rachel-held-evans-doesnt-speak-for-this.html

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  16. Great post, Sarah.

    I think that all young people, at their core, want to be challenged, they want to accomplish things, they know that happiness doesn't come from chillin' with friends, but from actually doing things.

    The Mormon church expects a lot from young people, they respond, and they find deep joy and happiness, more so than their peers who don't believe that way. For example, teens in the church are encouraged to wake up at 5am for early morning seminary, are expected to excel in school and get into a good university, to participate in school sports, drama or clubs, they usually play musical instruments, young men are encouraged to earn Eagle Scout, they often have leadership responsibilities in church youth groups, their summers are filled with boy scout camp, girl's camp, youth conference, pioneer trek, EFY, they often have a part time job, they help around the house, they give talks in church, unlike many of their peers they abstain from alcohol/tobacco/drugs/sex/swearing, they have daily scripture reading, daily prayer, they give service, most are planning and preparing to serve a mission at age 18 or 19, and a whole lot more.

    The point is, much has been given (the Gospel), much is required (see above list), and for the most part, this is enthusiastically embraced by young people. Commandments are not a laundry list of dos and don'ts, as was said, but a vehicle for achieving meaningful goals, even at a young age.

    You say that "young people my age are struggling to find Jesus when they go to church," which is understandable, since it's hard to find Jesus sitting in a pew for one hour per week. Make Jesus an integral part of your daily routine, layer that with service, and you will find Him! Unfortunately, for many of the Millenials, that's too great of a price to pay.

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    1. Thanks Chris, for your comments. I was definitely trying to show that the more you make your faith a part of your life, the more meaningful it will be. Thanks!

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    2. Chris I think your opinion that Mormons who stay are happier than those who leave is completely your assumption. I don't know how you could possibly speak for anyone's happiness but your own. In addition, growing up Mormon but going to school with very few others I had plenty of friends very active in other religions, who did pretty much all the things you just listed. Being involved, excelling in multiple areas and taking on responsibility is taught by all good parents, not just Mormon parents.

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  17. #whyimstaying--Sarah (if I can call you that): I'm new to this blog but I will be following from now on. Like you, I am a graduate student and young adult. Personally, I have sometimes struggled in the past with integrating my "student of science" self with my spiritual self, and so I find your posts uplifting, thoughtful, and faith-promoting.

    The reasons I stay active in the Church and promote it with friends and co-workers whenever I can are many and varied, but ultimately they all reduce down to one simple idea: I have felt the Savior's love for me and believe in His invitation to the entire human family to come unto Him. Through some of the most difficult and trying times in my life the thought that I was not alone and that Christ valued me enough that He voluntarily endured incredible spiritual, emotional, and physical pain in my behalf has been my lifeline. It really is that simple--I live the gospel, attend church each week, and obey the commandments (even when I don't fully understand them) because I have found that when I do, I feel closer to Him. I believe more people in my (our?) generation would experience greater happiness & fulfillment (and fewer feelings of hopeless, despair, and loneliness) if they could just once experience the personal connection that is possible for each of us to experience with God. That's why I stay--not for leaders, not to "belong", not to show others my righteousness--but to experience the closeness to God's love for me that comes through living my beliefs.

    Thank you again for the inspirational posts.

    -Andrew

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    1. Thanks Andrew! And yes, please call me Sarah! Thank you so much for sharing your testimony. I do believe that intellectualism can be harnessed with faith, and that is what I am trying to achieve with my blog. Thanks for your example. #whyimstaying.

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  18. I am a young adult who left the church. I believe the primary reason our generation has become disenchanted with religion is because of our increasingly high and easy access to information and education. As long as what we observe and learn from the natural world conflicts with what we are taught, it will be easy to walk away. If religions continue to be primarily anti-intellectual, this trend will continue to grow.

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    1. Thanks Sam for your comments. I believe, however, that intellectualism does have a place with religion. Like I said in my post, I think that Mormonism is about asking questions. We are not supposed to be a blind-following faith. We are taught, after all, that the more knowledge we gain in this life, the better off we will be in the next.

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    2. Hi Sam
      I totally understand where you are coming from. I am a biochemist who works a lot with DNA and Genetic mutation (pretty much the entire field of evolution). I also choose to stay with the church. Needless to say, Professors, classes, and coworkers have occasionally confronted me with what originally appears to be "Scientific proof" that my beliefs are unfounded. Often I find myself coming across issues that would seem to contradict what I have learned at church. The interesting thing is, whenever I have taken the time to study both points of view I have never found solid "proof" that my beliefs are wrong. Sometimes it's actually quite the opposite.

      Often further discoveries in science completely dispel what the "intellectual" community once was so sure about. Science is always changing. What we are learning by observing the "natural world" with imperfect eyes is never going to be 100%. That's why it's important to never stop asking questions. (Good for you for doing so!) It's also why our church emphasizes seeking personal revelation and study. Very few information sources in the world are infallible. That is why I choose to stay. The things I learn in the lab, textbooks, and online are always changing. But the answers I've gotten from personal and sincere study of the gospel have remained rock solid. Good luck to you! #whyimstaying

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  19. Moderns and post-moderns, including Millennials, tend to think of religion as being matters of intellectual assent or/and liturgical celebration and/or (in recent Mainline Protestant practice) a social action NGO.
    In more realistic appraisals, faith is a matter of the "heart", i.e. attitude and character, and one's religion a matter of the community one associates with. When the community is founded on the family or the tribe (even artificial ones), rather than an association of the "like-minded", there will be demands on the individual at least of the same self-sacrificing nature as exists in all good families.
    On this reading, the LDS, along with Orthodox Jews and other faith-communities which make demands of the participants will always be more successful than those which don't give one a reason why you shouldn't spend Sundays worshiping at the First Church of Starbucks.

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  20. Paul the Apostle says in 1 Timothy 4:1, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." When Paul talks about faith here, he is talking about the faith that he and the other apostles wrote down for us. Now I know there are those who say the gospel was lost from the earth, but I believe the Scriptures in the Bible tell us differently. Jesus says in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Then we are told in Hebrews 1:3, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word." The Scriptures tell us that Jesus holds all of creation together by the power of His word. Why would we think He couldn't do what He said and make sure that His word, and the Gospel, were never lost? It is not uncommon for false teachers to first malign the Scriptures in order to introduce something that is false. So, the reason I'm staying with my faith, the faith taught by the early apostles in their writings? Because they were right. And there is no other gospel.

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    1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught to and by the early apostles. For this knowledge I am grateful. Yet, when the ancient apostles were martyred their teachings became manipulated by man. Small and simple plain and precious truths were compromised. Why else would there have been such enormous efforts made by the likes of Martin Luther, William Tindale and others to help the common people have access to the Lord's true teachings?

      I was blessed to learn the Savior's teachings by deeply studying the New Testament. Then, I had the honor of being taught the Restoration of the Fullness of the Gospel by the Lord's servants. This restoration brought Apostles and Prophets for our time. What an honor it is to hear them speak the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Savior, that we might learn what we need for our salvation. They lead by example. They testify of truth.

      The early apostles WERE right. They also testified of the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit the Lord can fill us with the light of His gospel. I searched long and hard in my 20s. I served in the church of my youth and came to learn for myself of the importance of faith and religion. Now, into my 50s, I can honestly say "whyI'mstaying" is because of everything that has been shared on this post. A fullness the Lord has available through covenants to His Gospel is the only sure way in this life.

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  21. Hi! With the overwhelming number of LDS "Mommy Bloggers" it's nice to know I'm not the only never married LDS blogger out there www.oldmaidmormon.blogspot.com/
    As a 38 year old woman treated like a leper by both family and fellow Mormons due to my failure to snag a man and procreate, I have every reason in the world to call it quits. Here's the number one reason I choose to remain in a religion that emphasizes all the blessings Heavenly Father chooses to withhold from me for reason known only to Him:
    "From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus...Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:66-68).

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    1. I married at age 34 and had my first and only daughter at age 38. I guess I was oblivious to most of the sting of 'singlehood' but before marriage I had concluded that should I live the rest of my life as a single woman the Plan of Salvation and my participation in the Kingdom was my 'bright hope' in this world. Your good example, oldmaidmormon, buoys those who are struggling with Faith. Stay the course, your Father sees your obedience and your eternal reservation is ensured.

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  22. I'm a 46 year old college professor, mother of 5, stepmother of 2, graduate of UC Berkeley. The difference between the gospel and the social context is vast and most of the time an oxymoron. This is an excellent thought provoking article and sparked a meaningful internal debate about the differences. In order to address these differences, it's imperative to address why we are alive. The definition of Life is 'the ability of an organism to respond to its environment'. How better to test true gospel principles than to be tested by an inflexible, superficial and difficult social environment. The gospel is NOT the people in the Church. The gospel is the anecdote to human nature. "The natural man is an enemy to God". Only very rarely have I met up with a human being who doesn't exhibit "natural man" tendencies; i.e., fear, greed, power, etc. It takes an incredible amount of mastery to overcome the world, but the pattern is not withheld, nonetheless, and the atonement is always available. That is why I stay.

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  23. I thank you for your post and your blog. As a vanguard baby-boomer I lived through the E.R.A. movement, and came to the conclusion, at that time, the Plan of Salvation is the only way to happiness, self-appreciation, equity, and satisfaction. Bless you.

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  24. I love what you said on point 4. There are times when I am sitting in Gospel Doctrine and there are a lot of questions being asked. Those are the times when I learn so much more because often times certain points are expanded upon, and not put off to the side. I also appreciate the sacrifices that Bishops make, and I might add Relief Society presidents. I have found that callings have given me an opportunities to serve in ways that I never thought of. They have also helped me to grow in the church, and strengthen my faith in the gospel. Iove how through the gospel we are able to draw nearer unto Christ.

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  25. hi Sarah I'm also a Mormon and am glad to be one. Some have said that being paid isn't a factor but in Africa here in Nigeria that's a big reason many start any church or even attend. Even in LDS we have many who are here because they want an opportunity to get some thing from the church and of-course eventually leave when that which they seek isn't forthcoming. The world is all about what can I get out of and less of what can I give ti it! The coming decades are going to be hard on a lot us as we're challenge with difficult realities of life and of-course our religion, be it Mormonism or otherwise. Here in Nigeria it's all about getting, that all you hear these so called pentecostal church and leaders preach about and nothing on honest hard work and sacrifice for the good of all...About sincerity, most whites from different faiths who come here (Nigeria) tend to be honest from my little experience here in Nigeria while those (Nigerian pastors) here are mostly for business as usual. Any religion that lowers its standards so it can keep it's members, in my opinion isn't worth belonging to. Here I refer to religious standards not cultural standards which will definitely change with time.
    Thanks Sarah for this blog

    George
    Nigeria

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  26. It's a bit late in the pace of the internet world, but here is an interesting article which glances at the original posting.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100229544/the-amish-jews-muslims-and-the-future-of-religion/

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  27. Your post is sincere and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, it is also wrong. Most people leave the LDS church, anyway. Over two-thirds of Mormons already have left, and today it is a revolving door of one person leaving the church for each individual baptized. The most common convert in the US is poor, under-educated, and often has mental issues. The most common European convert is an illegal African immigrant, usual from Senegal or Nigeria.

    Truth is, as long as Mormonism doesn't convey Christianity--and it does not--it will not capture the kind of mind that Mormons want. As long as it remains a personality cult all about Joseph Smith--and to most, it is--it will drive away prospective converts.

    We are at or approaching a sort of crossroads with Mormonism today, where the old guard are dying off and their children taking over. Latter-day Saints who are drifting into leadership positions as young adults now have friends, co-workers, and sometimes family who are LGBT. All young people except in the rarest of situations and the poorest of countries, have access to the Internet where they can search to their hearts' content and find the history of the origins of the LDS faith, history that the leadership would sooner have us forget.

    But it's indeed heartening to see young people still defending the faith, and I hope that you are all up to it.

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    1. Sorry you feel that way, Mike. I'm afraid your facts are flawed, and I should mention that similar things were said after Joseph Smith was killed. People assumed that it was the end of Mormonism. But that is all I shall say on the matter, as I do not wish to hijack Sarah's blog.

      I will say that in response to your last sentence, I am up for it! Sarah's post rings true to me, just as it rings true for the thousands of people who have read it. Otherwise you probably wouldn't have come across it. Many young people like me stay in the Church for the reasons she has mentioned, and I hope that you will one day recognize the Spirit telling you that these are the ways Christ would have us live, and that He wants you back in His fold. True, members of the Church are far from perfect, but the Gospel is. And there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

      Nice job, Sarah! Sorry it took me so long to make an official comment here. Your thoughts were very inspiring.

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    2. Thanks Mike, for your comments. However, I would hope that from my post that you could see that the Mormon church is not about following Joseph Smith. The institution is set in place so that we can better follow Christ. Sure, people are imperfect, which makes it a flawed institution. But we are trying. As I hope that this post made clear, I am staying in here, because it is better helping me live as Christ would want me to.

      I do agree with you that Mormonism is at a crossroads, and young Mormon people will have to decide on where they stand in the church. I understand that the LGBT issue is huge, but I think that great strides have (and are) being made to ensure that they feel included in church. If we do claim to be disciples of Christ, we do need to ensure that LGBT people feel loved and included.

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  28. I want to say that I really appreciate your article. As a 40 year old Single Mother in the church, I can appreciate the standards of the church as I raise my son with the help and love of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, my parents, and other church leaders.

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