Open Letter to Mormon Friends and Family
Good Guys: My Former Bishop and Stake President

Fallout from Resignation Announcement

After sending my resignation letter via email to the LDS Bishop over the area in which I reside last night, I sent the following email to members of the ward's Elders Quorum:

Hey, guys. It's been awhile since I got a message from the quorum. Hope there aren't too many out-of-date addresses here. Anyway, I just thought I would alert you to the fact that as of today I am no longer a member of the LDS church, having voluntarily withdrawn my membership. I hope we can all continue to be friends despite our divergence in religious beliefs. If any of you are interested in learning more about my decision, feel free to visit my web log at www.equalitysblog.typepad.com, where today I posted an open letter to my Mormon friends and family. If any of you would like to follow up with me, feel free to contact me at my blog or by email at equalitytime@gmail.com.  Thanks.

Peace,

Eric

This was greeted generally with silence from the quorum members.  I received only one email from a fellow ward member and friend of mine expressing sadness at my decision but offering me best wishes and the prospect of continuing friendship, for which I am grateful.  He is a true friend and a true disciple of Christ. 

This morning, however, I was greeted with the following message from a member of the quorum whom I have never met:

Eric,

As you have voluntarily taken steps to disassociate yourself from the quorum, I personally (i.e. speaking for myself, having no authority to speak for the quorum) request that you refrain from sending e-mails to the quorum as a body in the future.  As you have made it clear that you do not desire to be contacted by members of the Church to dissuade you from your decision to have your name removed from the Church's records, I similarly do not desire to receive communications from you concerning my decision to enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel.  Should you receive an e-mail concerning quorum affairs in the future, I personally ask that you simply delete such e-mail from your system.

Thanks,

Ben

I responded to Ben, and to the quorum, with the following:

Wow, was I just on the receiving end of a foot-dusting?
 
But seriously, Ben, you wrote, "I similarly do not desire to receive communications from you concerning my decision to enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel."  My email to you and the quorum had nothing to do with my thoughts on your desire to enjoy the blessings you find in your association with the church, nor do I see a need to refrain from emailing you as a group of people I consider my friends. I sincerely wish you all the peace and joy you can find in your spiritual journey within the church and do not seek to dissuade you from the course you are on.
 
I sent the email to the quorum yesterday because I felt you'd each want to know from me, not the rumor mill, that I had done this, and I felt it best to be open about my reasons for doing so to avoid any misunderstandings or misconceptions about me or my reasons for leaving.  I respect each of you and have enjoyed your friendship.  I find curious your request that I refrain from emailing the quorum as a group, since I pose no threat to you nor do I approach you in anything but friendship and goodwill.  Perhaps if you find my correspondence distasteful, you could follow your own advice and "simply delete such e-mail from your system."
 
Peace,
 
Eric

I thought that might be the end of it.  Ben responded (just to me this time) with the following:

Eric, I can appreciate your desire to preempt any rumors you fear might be circulating around the Fifth Ward rumor mill (although you surely must know that your e-mail is likely to start more rumors than there otherwise would be); however, please don't pretend to be innocent of any intentions to pollute the minds of quorum members with the same over-intellectualized doubts that have apparently led to your problems.  After all, you are the one that provided the link to your blog, which honestly is the only source of anything that I know about you.

E-mails intended for quorum members that happen to wind up in your inbox are no longer intended for you, as you have decided to remove yourself from quorum membership.  Thus responding to the entire group when you receive such an e-mail is the action that I hope you will refrain from.  Obviously, you have every right to initiate e-mails to the group as a whole, but don't act surprised or play the victim when you send an e-mail to a group organized within the Church you are denouncing and then get responses that such actions are not appreciated.

My response to Ben is as follows:

Ben,

I am frankly surprised that you consider the minds of the quorum members weak and susceptible to doubt, and furthermore, I'm surprised that you feel that their faith in the church could be shaken by the letter I posted on my blog.
 
If you feel that I've got ulterior motives besides reaching out in friendship to friends I don't wish to lose, then you have allowed the very misconceptions that I wrote about to cloud your judgment here, which is disappointing but not surprising.

Furthermore, I find it interesting that you consider the dissemination of truth to be "polluting."  Certainly, if there were anything inaccurate or false on my blog, those who are endowed with knowledge of truth would have no trouble pointing out any erroneous assertions or flaws in reasoning, rather than simply engaging in dismissive name-calling.   As far as "over-intellectualization" goes, I do hope you are not so reticent to employ the intellectual acumen with which you have been blessed in favor of the clients employing your legal services as you appear to be with respect to your church's truth claims. 

On your notion that my sending the email to the quorum would have the effect of fueling rather than quelling rumors, I beg to differ.  You see, no one need question "what's going on with Brother Soderlund?"  They can simply read my letter and visit my blog and get it straight from the source which, it seems to me, is the exact opposite of what happens when people talk about someone without ever actually talking to that someone.  I realize it is a concept foreign to the experience of many in the church (addressing things head on, that is), but I felt it would be best in this situation.  This way, if anyone hears a rumor about me, there will be plenty of people who can say "no, that's not how it went down at all--here's a web site, read about it yourself."

Concerning your charge that I am "playing the victim," nothing could be further from the mark.  I am fully empowered.  I need not check my thoughts at the door, nor need I refrain from expressing myself out of fear of the consequences that might ensue from such expression.  And that's a great feeling.  I am willing to wager there are others in our ward who just wish they could say what they really think sometimes.  Trust me, it would take a helluva lot more than a couple poorly reasoned emails from someone I have never even met to make me feel victimized.

Peace,

Eric.

Comments

SML

Wow, Eric. I like your responses to Ben. I found his wish that you not email the quorum interesting. It's not as if you are hoping to lead anyone down the path you have taken, and it seems he still feels that you are even after you state clearly that you wish them all peace on their spiritual journey and that you don't seek to dissuade anyone from the course they're on.

Interesting.

Questions

People with the mindset that Ben appears to have seem unable to recognize a genuine Christian attitude in someone who is basically an "apostate." By putting you in that category, they don't have to take seriously anything you might have to say, since you're getting your answers from the wrong source, and can therefore exert a harmful influence on the Quorum and other Church members.

It is sad that they have to live in such fear of information, and keep blinders on, and close off relationships to so many people...

fh451

Wow! Is Ben in some kind of leadership position? If not, I would say he's being really presumptuous in speaking for the rest of the quorum on that mailing list. He has no right to dictate what you do with emails that arrive in your box. If I received future emails from someone who left me in their mailing list, I would have no problem doing a "reply-all". I wouldn't intentionally be obnoxious, or spam the list for any reason, but to tell you to delete any future receipts? Come on - who died and left him boss?

fh451

Mayan Elephant

who died and left him boss?

well. first jesus. then peter james and john. they returned, allegedly, to visit mr. smith. mr smith then became the boss of all bosses. mr. smith made a lot of junior bosses, but they still have the bosshood. its a long story, but it came from one boss to another boss to another boss til it got to ben, the boss of eric.

Jonathan Blake

I am still staggered by the dissonance between how intelligent some members of the church are and yet so afraid of ideas. I used to be just like that (if you'll forgive me calling myself intelligent), but the contrast surprises me sometimes.

Phouchg

This guy Ben has appointed himself the guardian of email for the EQ. Has he been officially called to this position? If not, he should go take his email and sit and spin.

Now, if the bishop or EQP or somebody who you respected asked you to not send bulk emails, I suspect this would be different. But as long as Ben wants to keep spinning his wheels, you should keep sending him superior emails like the ones you have sent.

Please keep us posted.

DJ

The one element that troubles me with Ben's comments was the complete lack of compassion. The letter you wrote was so well written without malice, anger and judgment.

Ben's responses are Mormon religion's "all or nothing" approach to church. If he takes a moment to read the New Testament and try to understand Christ's mission he might discover that Christ was inclusive to all. He message was one of tolerance, compassion, love, forgiveness, acceptance...basically, how to treat our fellowman.

I have found that most Mormons insist that wherever they are on their spiritual journey is the only place to be.


Peace be with you Eric.

Markii

thank you so much for sharing this. very very interesting. i hope that some of your friendships continue from the quorum.

Sideon

If you notice any progress in Ben's progression from his passive-aggressive behavior, please considering starting a new business. I will gladly sign up my family and extended family, because until they've shown sufficient humanity - they're still not worth anything on Ebay.

Lincoln

Ben's e-mails clearly demonstrate the lack of Christ-like love in the church. He acts as if your decision to part ways with the church automatically cancels any and all friendships that you may have had with quorum members. When will these people ever realize that actions speak louder than words. He should have invited you over to his house to discuss your decision with you personally, as a friend. Instead, he is insulting and dismissive. Is it any wonder that Mormons are not considered Christians? There doesn't need to be any weird doctrines or Joseph Smith. These e-mails sum up the reason Mormons are not considered Christians by the large majority of people. Ben does not act Christ-like. He is judgmental and dismissive, and think that his e-mail resembles the spirit of Satan. Christ was kind and compassionate. Does Ben pretend that he is still your leader in some way?

I'm sure other members of your quorum, such as Jordan, would agree, that Ben's tone and content are not very Christlike, and are almost sinful in nature. Shame on you Ben. Shame on your poor example. This is just another day for me to hang my head in shame at the poor example of one of Mormonism's leaders, Ben the EQP. Congratulations to you Equality for standing up for yourself and your integrity, and for treating people with Christlike compassion. People like Ben could learn a few things about true Chrisian behavior from people like you.

Ben

Since Eric told me that he had posted our (assumed private) exchange on his blog, I figured I would take a look to see what the choir was saying back to their preacher.

First, I would like to note the irony of so many people that know absolutely nothing about me judging me (un-Christ-like, passive-aggressive, elders quorum president (though I thought my initial e-mail made it clear I had no authority to speak on behalf of the quorum), lacking compassion) based on three short paragraphs. Even better, the general gist was to judge me for being too judgmental. I think that alone provides an interesting insight into the mind of those that leave the Church.

Second, a little background on my reasons for sending the e-mails that I did. "Equality" has a habit of whenever he receives an e-mail sent to the entire quorum, replying to all with some type of pithy, yet uncalled for and unappreciated comment. I was simply informing Eric that I personally would appreciate it if in the future he receives an e-mail intended for quorum members, that he refrain from responding. Eric's law firm has a disclaimer at the bottom of each e-mail it originates stating that if the receiver is not the intended receiver, they should immediately delete that e-mail from their system. I was only hoping he would do the same in the future.

Of course Eric has every right to continue the relationships he has built during his time in the ward, and I sincerely hope that he does. Please understand that personal contact between him and his friends in the quorum was not the issue I was hoping to address in my e-mails.

That's all I got. I am curious to see what you all have to say in response.

-Ben

belaja

Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there Ben. I am not a member of Equality's "choir." Equality doesn't have a choir and he isn't a "preacher." Spider Pig forfend! I would never participate in anything having to do with any preacher of any stripe and am outraged by such an insinuation. What he DOES have is Backslappers Crew (TM) and I AM an on-staff member of that. As such, I am contractually bound to make an appearance at all such events as these and offer Eric a hearty backslap and a jovial "well done!" Depending on the circumstances it is also down in my contract that I perform sinister glaring along a well-defined continuum (the details of which, I regret to say are proprietary, so I can't tell you any more than that) at any nay-sayers, ill-wishers, unrighteous judges, or repentance callers. There is a whole metric for which level of critic gets which level of dirty look. If righteous indignation or a fight to the death is called for I get time and a half. Double-time for the higher priesthood levels.

Before I can respond further, I really need to know into what grid you fall on my Excel spreadsheet. Until such time, so that I am contractually in compliance, consider yourself glared at in a rather offhand and mildly bored fashion.

I'm really sorry, it's all I can do for the time being. But thanks for stopping by. I'll get union scale for this post (right, E.?)

Questions

I am genuinely curious, Ben. Have you ever allowed yourself to consider the possibility that there might be some legitimate basis to Eric's (and others') thoughts, ideas, and experience?

One of the major problems I see in many (certainly not all) active Church members, is that they have drawn firm, unchallengeable conclusions, and close themselves off to further "light and knowledge." I believe it is a healthy and even necessary exercise to periodically re-examine the underlying assumptions and basis for one's beliefs, actions, etc. If they are true and valid, there is no risk, but if they are shakey, then they need and deserve to be challenged, and abandoned if need be.

I'm honestly asking you this, not judging you. Many Church members simply have a reflex action to challenges to their faith, taking refuge in previous conclusions, stock answers, etc. The world is a very complex place, and the black and white view the Church often provides hides a quite challenging, but beautiful, spectrum of colors and grays.

Equality

Thanks to all who have commented here. I do appreciate the many sincere words of support from both friends and people I do not even know. One thing I like about the folks I associate with online in what is termed the Disaffected Mormon Underground (DAMU) is that, unlike in the LDS church, people's opinions are not provided them in the form of correlated, approved curricula handed down from on high. People freely express their own views and opinions. Sometimes my friends agree with me; often they do not, but we continue to respect each other and enjoy associating with each other. We do not think we all need to think the same, talk the same, dress the same, and act the same in order to have a continuing friendly association with one another.

Ben, I welcome your participation here and am always open to receiving thoughtful constructive criticism and reasoned arguments. If you find anything I post here that is not true, please feel free to correct it. I appreciate you setting the record straight on a mistake that one of the commenters here made in which he called you the Elders' Quorum President. That was a factual error, and I do strive to have factually accurate information on my site.

Now to the substantive portions of your latest comment. First, if you had expected our exchange to remain private, I would have thought you would not have copied the entire EQ list on your first response to me--you know, the one where you didn't speak for the EQ but you really sort of did. You could have just sent that to me. But you didn't. You also knew that I was blogging about this.

As for people who don't know you judging you, and you finding that ironic, I find it doubly ironic that you don't see the irony in you (not knowing me) taking others to task for judging you for judging me. That is rich, truly.

Ben said, "I think that alone provides an interesting insight into the mind of those that leave the Church." Actually, I think this sentence reveals much about your own mindset, Ben. I note how you again seem to think that all "those that leave the [c]hurch" are of a single mindset. It is easy for you, I guess, to assume that you know what people who leave the church think, and that they are all the same. No need to look to consider individual stories; we can all be grouped together as one, sharing a single mindset. I suppose it is easier for you to stereotype and dismiss us without further argument.

As for the "background" on my alleged habit, I will say that you grossly overstate the situation. I have, on occasion, committed the offense of responding in a jocular way to a few emails sent out to the quorum (of which, I will note, I was a member long before you came along). I guess some members of the quorum might not have appreciated my humor, but you, Ben, were the only one to express displeasure that I would dare to inject humor into an EQ email chain. My sense of humor has, on balance in life, served me well. Has it gotten me into trouble at times? Sure. But I, for one, am so very grateful that I do not have to go through life with a defective funny bone. I am glad I no longer have to consider loud laughter a sin (not that I ever did--perhaps that was my undoing!) I feel sorry for those apparently devoid of a sense of humor, or whose sense of humor is so limited as to prevent them from laughing, occasionally, at themselves and the things they might be taking just a little too seriously. But, hey, the world needs its Eeyores to point out the cloud in every silver lining, so I will try not to hold your lack of humor against you, Ben.

Finally, Ben, I'd like to address the whole issue of you not being able to speak for the quorum (but which you have taken it upon yourself to do now, more than once). It is rather presumptuous of you to state unequivocally that any email that I receive from a member of the quorum is not intended for me and should be deleted. How would you know that, Ben? I would think any email I receive would be intended for me, else why would someone include me on the distribution list. There have been, actually, many emails that have gone out to the quorum that did not include me. And I know that another member of the quorum who also would occasionally respond to the group with a pithy or humorous remark was dropped from the list. So, it seems people in our ward are familiar with how email works and are capable of adding or dropping names from a distribution list with relative ease. If I were a fellow member of the quorum I think I would be insulted by the comments you made. First, you said that you didn't think members of the quorum could read this blog without having their minds polluted and now you imply that they are too dumb to know how to keep me off an email distribution list if that's their intention.

I will say this, however, in your defense, Ben. I think that you probably do speak for the majority of the quorum, which saddens me (but I'll get over it). Since I sent the email out on Thursday evening, I have received three messages from members of the quorum telling me they are sad to see me leave, they enjoyed my association, and would like to remain friends. Not one member of the quorum responded to your messages saying they disagreed with what you said to me. So, it would appear that the vast majority, by their silence, agree with your shunning approach rather than my "continuing friendship" approach. My offer stands. I have no enmity toward anyone in the ward and no desire to be anything but friends with members of the quorum and the ward, including you. I am not threatened by friendships with people whose beliefs are different from mine--even where those differences are quite stark and the beliefs passionately held and expressed. So there you go.

Peace.

Sister Mary Lisa

Belaja ~ I think I love you just a little bit more now. You bust me up, seriously.

Equality ~ I like your response to Ben, and I'm not even an official member of your Backslappers Crew(TM). *Looking around for a sign-up sheet but not seeing one* I hope that the Elders Quorum members all read this exchange of comments and that they see that it really is OK to be friends with someone who holds different opinions or believes differently than themselves. Diversity makes life interesting, really, and worth living, in my opinion.

Hank Rearden

Ben, babe...easy. If God is indeed on your side, you don't need the vitriol. Viewing this objectively as possible, it seems Eric is trying to handle what even you would have to concede as a pretty major transition with as much maturity and conviviality as possible.

Folks of all belief structures need to be able to reach across lines, agree wherever possible and to agree to disagree as agreeably as possible everywhere else. Pluralism is the reality - the richness of our interaction given that and beyond that is entirely up to us as individuals. It's all good, my man.

Jordan

I have been out of town at a conference since Thursday morning, so I did not have good access to e-mail, etc. Still, I grabbed my blackberry and typed a few lines expressing my apprecation for E and telling him that while E's decision, namely the permanence of it, made me sad on a fundamental level I cannot express very well, I could understand why he made the decision for himself and expressed my desire that we could continue our friendship.

I will (and have for the last year and a half now) miss associating with him within the LDS church, at a quorum level, however. Quorum brotherhood is something I do not take lightly and it was always a pleasure to be associated with E in that way from the time I arrived in D/FW until he stopped coming on Sundays. So I guess part of my sadness stems from knowing that I won't be associated with him as part of my quorum anymore, even though our association will continue outside the quorum. But I think association within a priesthood quorum is very special in a way that friendship outside it is not- the sharing of common beliefs and priesthood covenant bonds is part of what makes that relationship special. I hope that makes sense.

And don't be so hard on Ben. He is a good guy, and I am sure he had the best intentions since he does not know E the way I do, and all he has ever heard from E is somewhat funny/snarky e-mails occasionally sent by E to the elder's quorum e-mail list. Ben is the one who gave that excellent lesson on Joseph Smith I blogged about not too long ago, the one that honestly explored the Smith family's financial circumstances around the time of the First Vision and Joseph Smith's various retellings of his First Vision account. It was an honest, yet wildly inspiring lesson.

P.S. I am in your country, Lincoln. I have been in AZ since Thursday and am sitting right now in Sky Harbor waiting for a flight.

Lincoln

Hey Jordan. Sorry I missed you. Drop a line next time you come to town, and we could get together and debate gospel topics, just you and me. Endless hours of fun, right? You know where to find me. Usually FLAK, but now sometimes Times and Seasons. TeeHee.

Jordan

Lincoln:

I'll have to think about that offer and get back to you the next time I travel to Arizona.

Mayan J. Elephant

Jordan, you self-righteous arrogant Texan. You guys are all the same. So, you leave Tejas and now you are in another 'country'? I know that was more than just pithiness or snark. You Texans act like Texas should be its own sovereignty with Davey Crockets mug on your currency.
Your passive aggressive invitation to Lincoln is not appropriate for this group of apostates. Feel free to limit your comments to those that comply with your spiritual and patriotic dissonance.

Mayan J. Elephant (Putting the 'J' back in Texas).

SillyNut

Ben,

All you had to do was delete his email, block his email id, and move on.

Yet, I sense the need in you for him to be the one to back down and go away instead of you ignoring him.

You can only control yourself. You can't get him to stop emailing, stop responding, and not blog your emails. You can control what you read, what you write, and how you react to it.

So just a friendly heads up about beams and motes, man. Beams and motes.

SML

Hiya Jordan ~

You wrote, "But I think association within a priesthood quorum is very special in a way that friendship outside it is not- the sharing of common beliefs and priesthood covenant bonds is part of what makes that relationship special." I couldn't help looking at these and other words you wrote about the special feelings being in a quorum gives you, and recognizing the fact that women throughout the church are denied this always. We can only find specialness in relationships using other methods, and we are not to focus on any "sadness" this causes.

So rest assured that it's possible and not such a bad thing, considering it's good for the geese, ya know?

Have a fun trip home, my friend.

Jordan

Hey ME- "Remember the Alamo!"

Cafeteria Mormon

Lincoln is posting at Times and Seasons now? Heavens forfend.

Eric,

If I may ask -- why now? What was it that clicked into place? Sure, you've been on the mechanical bull for more than your alloted eight seconds. On the other hand, you seemed to have staked out a bit of ground somewhere in the middle.

In the past couple of years, you've posted a few dozen theses; acquired a patented bitch-slapping -- err, back-slapping -- crew; argued ad nauseum with Jordan and a few other clowns; posted at two foyers; lost a few digits off of your internet handle; and even written a few Smithmas carols. You managed to do all of that while retaining (nominal, at least) membership in The Organization.

Was there a particular event or push that made you decide to pull the trigger at this particular moment? Just wondering.

Equality

Good question, CaMo. The short answer is I was offended and wanted to sin.

Just kidding. I didn't want to wait until some talk or event pissed me off. I didn't want to do it as a reactionary gesture. And I didn't like the prospect of always having a potential church disciplinary action "in my behalf" hanging over my head like a Sword of Damocles. We just got a new stake president, who is a friend of mine. I didn't want him to have to spend any energy on the question of what to do about me in his early days on the job. I thought I could do him a favor by taking it off his list of things to be concerned about. My days as a member of the church have been numbered for some time--it has for a long time been a matter of when, not if, I would part ways with the church. I wanted to take control of the process (which I did). It's possible that the local leadership could have continued to tolerate my activities but I realized sometime last year that I am not really a "middle-wayer" in terms of my beliefs and values. It just continued to bother me that I was a member of an organization that is, institutionally and culturally, sexist, homophobic, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and still suffers from the vestiges of more than a century and a half of racist doctrines and policies that the church has never expressly repudiated. Plus, I never really liked Valentine's Day. Although I consider myself a romantic, I never liked the compulsory character of Valentine's Day. Now, I have something positive and uplifting and liberating to commemorate on February 14.

BTW, did you just call Jordan a clown? That's the most obvious reading of your statement "argued ad nauseum [sic] with Jordan and a few other clowns".

John Hamer

No electronic correspondence is private. I write every blog post, every email and every instant message with the idea that my mother could be reading it.

If you want to say something you don't want forwarded, use the phone. And if it's truly private, your safest bet is to say it in person.

Latterday Skeptic

ME: who died and left him boss?

well. first jesus. then peter james and john. they returned, allegedly, to visit mr. smith. mr smith then became the boss of all bosses. mr. smith made a lot of junior bosses, but they still have the bosshood. its a long story, but it came from one boss to another boss to another boss til it got to ben, the boss of eric.

This has to be one of the funniest comments I've ever read. Gawd you're funny!

Ben: You have a sorely warped view of what Christlike behavior is supposed to be. Did you forget that you, personally, are responsible for everyone, Mormon, non-Mo, exMo, within the confines of your ward boundaries? Or do you suppose that your service only extends to those who are "easy to love" and are card carrying members? No wonder us Mormons are constantly accused of taking care of our own, and only our own. Your KMA response to Eric whose only intention was to say "I don't believe, here's why, but still want to remain friends" shows an appalling lack in your life. The one thing that sets us apart from the animals is judgement, Ben. We must judge, we must weigh, but we also must balance that with understanding, empathy, mercy, and yes, love/charity. You've got a long way to go, baby. Your voyeuristic sardonic pleasure in seeing what Eric's "supporters" had to say in response to your knee-jerk reply shows your weakness even plainer than your e-mail. Contemplate and sit at the feet of the Master, and I'm sure you'll see why so many are disgusted with your response--Good lesson on JS aside.

Jordan: If you lose a unique relationship with Eric because he's not part of the quorum, then you aren't truly planning on interacting with him in any meaningful way. That's a big problem with a church whose demands make it almost impossible to break gravity from the mother ship to minister to those outside their periphery (read: limited viewpoint). With the exception of a few priesthood ordinances, Eric can still serve in any number of ways, if he or you desire. Does it take priesthood to set up chairs at church social you might invite him to out of sheer friendship? Does it take "bonds" to ask him to help a neighbor move, or to help him move? Frankly, the only priesthood "bonds" most EQ "brothers" create are ones of "bondage", as in : You have to do your home teaching at least 1x month. You must attend a,b,c meeting as it's your responsibility to be there, you must be brought together to be brow beaten into any number of aspects of family, fatherly priesthood rules, and continuously berated for not measuring up, you need to attend the temple more often, have date night with your wife, wear a white shirt and be clean shaven, pay 10% on gross, etc.. No wonder Eric feels freedom and probably more opportunity for genuine friendship, not forced "brotherhood" based solely upon covenants that "bind".

Equality: Your blog stands out as tops in my book, and one I check back often for information and clear, unadulterated logic. I'm sorry to see you depart from Mormonism on the one hand, and glad that you've been able to come to a decision that's right for you. Best of luck.

dpc

The short answer is I was offended...

Just kidding.

This is so laughably untrue that I wondered if the Equalitysblog correlation committee wrote it. Every word you have written on this blog screams out "I am offended by the teachings of the Mormon church!" Take the following quote:

It just continued to bother me that I was a member of an organization that is, institutionally and culturally, sexist, homophobic, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and still suffers from the vestiges of more than a century and a half of racist doctrines and policies that the church has never expressly repudiated.

If that isn't the quintessential summary of offense, I don't know what is. As Shakespeare wrote, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." You're are obviously very worried about what the members of the institution that you were a previous member of think about you. (Albeit with good reason, it's never good to burn bridges) I find your protestations of "It's not you, it's me" hollow and meaningless because everyone knows that what it really means is "It's not me, it's you."

Consider the following (as a thought exercise): Could it be that after you got the girl and the subsidized Tier I private legal education that all of a sudden the Church is offensive to you and it was time to move on? What convenient timing. That this whole blog and the hangers-on who blindingly lavish praise on anything you write is really a testament to your arrogance, self-righteousness and your psychological craving for the approval and admiration of others that you don't get in the real world?

Would anyone who reads that think that I was a dispassionate searcher after truth, who had nothing but respect for the blog's author or would they think that I was offended by what I had read here? Yet it echoes what you have stated here and other places regarding Mormon teachings and practices.

You can level any observation or criticism about the Mormon church and be bang on right. I'm not going to dispute any of that. But in leaving, couldn't you finally face the truth and be honest with your readers and with the members of your former ward and just come out and say, "I was offended"?

Besides being offended by doctrine or organization, (and I don't mean as a result of personal affronts by other Mormons), why would anyone have any impetus to leave? If the Mormon church wasn't sexist, homophobic, anti-science, anti-intellectual, and still suffering from the vestiges of more than a century and a half of racist doctrines and policies that the church had expressly repudiated, would you have left?

Equality

dpc,

You have a tendency to twist the meanings of words beyond all common recognition, which makes genuine communication with you a real challenge. It ought to be clear from the context that when I speak of not being "offended" that I am using that term as it is most commonly understood by the people I am addressing (i.e., members of the LDS faith community). In the Mormon cultural milieu, when a member of the church stops attending church or fully participating in church activities (i.e., they "go inactive" or "become less active"), ward members often speculate as to why Brother or Sister Less Active has stopped attending. One possible explanation often offered up is that Brother or Sister Less Active was "offended" by something someone in the ward may have said or done (or neglected to say or do)--things like failing to home or visit teach, or not saying "hi" at church, or getting into a dispute over milk strippings. Stuff like that. That's what I am talking about when I say that nobody in the ward did anything to "offend" me. Was my meaning really unclear, dpc, or do you just like playing word games?

You are correct, of course, that at a macro-level, my leaving the church is over doctrines and policies that reflect values I do not agree with, and that I think the doctrines, policies, practices, and culture of the LDS church in its present incarnation are, on balance, more harmful than beneficial to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. There are doctrines and practices I disagree with, some more strongly than others. And it might be correct to say that a few of these doctrines or practices I find offensive (e.g., attaching electrodes to the genitals of homosexuals at BYU as late as the 1980s in an attempt to "cure" them of their sexual orientation). But, of course, you know that's not what was meant when I said I didn't leave because anyone offended me.

Your accusation that I am being dishonest with my readers I do find offensive. But I'll leave it to my readers to judge my honesty.

Jordan

"Jordan: If you lose a unique relationship with Eric because he's not part of the quorum, then you aren't truly planning on interacting with him in any meaningful way."

I disagree. First, I will always have a unique relationship with Eric. There is no reason not to. The point is that the relationship will no longer have the LDS identity factor in common, which I find sad in a way that is hard to describe, but I have tried and will continue to try.

A priesthood quorum is special, and not for the reasons you mention. It has nothing to do with "moving crew" (which I have never thought a proper use of Elders' Quorum resources to begin with) or white shirts or compulsory meeting attendance. None of that is very important.

To me, part of the uniqueness of the priesthood quorum relationship is grounded on common beliefs that God and his son, Jesus Christ did in fact visit the boy Joseph Smith in upstate New York. It is grounded on a belief that as quorum brothers, we are commissioned by Jesus Christ himself to go out together and bless the world the best we can, not only with our talents and resources (which we can obviously still do outside a quorum and hopefully will), but also with the comforting, healing power of the priesthood which we Latter-day Saints believe is the literal power of God on the Earth.

The bonds you discuss are not the ones I meant. Again, I have never viewed moving as a proper function of the Elders' Quorum in most instances- that is a neighborly/friendly service that all should render to anyone who needs it. And it is only a superficial rendering of the spiritual ties that ought to bind the hearts of quorum brothers together in unity and love. Not in bondage to some meeting clock. Or some imposed dress code. Not to be berated and feel guilty all the time. To the extent those things exist in priesthood quorums, they are not central to the quorum, at least not to mine.

LDS Skeptic- I know E still has great capacity to serve and will probably do so in his own way. And I know we could even have opportunities to do so together. That was not the point of what I said, and I never doubted that for a minute. But our formerly common goal of building up the Kingdom of God on the Earth and blessing those around us with the priesthood at what I believe to be the instruction of Jesus Christ himself will no longer be common. Certainly this is part of what made me a little sad when I read his announcement that he had made things permanent by resigning.

Why is it that when I reach out and wish E the best but express any scintilla of regret that the nature (though perhaps not the quality) of our association will necessarily change, I am seen as being somehow limited?!? It's inevitable that the nature of our relationship will change- that is not even disputable. The only issue is whether that change will be good or bad, and I did not say anything about it being one way or the other. Perhaps you think my automatic assumption was that this change will be bad. But that is not what I said- I only mentioned that I was sad at the change of the status quo, period.

That said, the extent of our relationship really has been lunch every now and then, and blogging, even when he was in the LDS Church. That will not change. But it is the common ideal of what I believe to be divinely commissioned service that I will miss, and in the end it may be good or bad. I have not formed or expressed an opinion on that yet, other than to express my sense of sadness over the decision because of how it changes the status quo.

You, Skeptic, are the one who read some sinister sense of "badness" into what I said- which was really intended as more of an expression of appreciation for E than anything else.

Equality

Jordan,

Thanks. You have been a good friend to me throughout my spiritual journey over the last few years, and I truly appreciate your continuing friendship in the face of our differences. I understand your sadness and do not begrudge you those feelings. I feel liberated and at peace with my decision, but there has been a healthy share of sadness along the way. I hope we can do lunch again soon.

fh451

DPC: Way to beat the stuffing out of that straw man!

SML

"Consider the following (as a thought exercise): Could it be that after you got the girl and the subsidized Tier I private legal education that all of a sudden the Church is offensive to you and it was time to move on? What convenient timing. That this whole blog and the hangers-on who blindingly lavish praise on anything you write is really a testament to your arrogance, self-righteousness and your psychological craving for the approval and admiration of others that you don't get in the real world?"


Wow, dpc. You have kinda stooped to some serious arrogance of your own with this little "thought exercise." What does his finding a wife and legal education have to do with anything being discussed here? Another funny thing that you wrote was calling people here "hangers-on" which must include you as well, no? You seem to enjoy this blog as much as the rest of us, I'd say, considering the frequent comments and thoughts you leave here.

I also think that if you have read this blog and other things Equality has written out there, and you still call him arrogant, self-righteous, and a person who craves approval and admiration of others, then your skills of assessing people are sadly lacking.

Cafeteria Mormon

I was mostly referring to our own discussions, thus myself as a clown. Jordan is a stand-up guy, and I've had good discussions with him (under another name). I'll certainly make no claim in this forum that he's a clown. (I'd say the same for John as well; I realize that that sentiment might not be universal round these parts, but I like John and have tended to enjoy the interactions I've had with him.)

And yes, the Latin typoe was deliberate. A special gift, for someone who I knew would appreciate it. :)

Cafeteria Mormon

Weird. Comments seem to be acting be acting up here. (Or perhaps my browser is wonky.)

Cafeteria Mormon

dpc said: "Could it be that after you got the girl and the subsidized Tier I private legal education that all of a sudden the Church is offensive to you and it was time to move on? What convenient timing. That this whole blog and the hangers-on who blindingly lavish praise on anything you write is really a testament to your arrogance, self-righteousness and your psychological craving for the approval and admiration of others that you don't get in the real world?"

Yeah, that subsidized education was what E was all about.

Why don't you try this alternative thought exercise, dpc:

-On one side of the ledger, the value of X years (20, perhaps) at 10% annually. Remember that at least some of those years are spent as an associate at an AmLaw 100 firm.
-On the other side, the difference in tuition between the Y and a comparable state school. Wisconsin, perhaps, or Arizona, or Ohio State.

Still think Equality took the church for a big financial ride with that subsidized education of his?

dpc

"Was my meaning really unclear, dpc, or do you just like playing word games?"

I guess that my experience in using the word 'offend' as it relates to church membership has been different then yours. If that counts as a word game, then I guess I'll have to let the chips fall where they may. I know many people who have been offended by some aspect of Mormonism and had their names removed. I know of a person who was personally offended by a prank at a church party and never came back. All of them were offended whether it was the result of historical practices, current practices or member interaction. You may a big hue and cry about how most disaffected members don't leave because they are offended by someone else, but as I said above, people leave because they are (unqualified) offended.

This may seem like a word game, but I think that if you go to so much effort to inform people of reasons why people *don't* leave, you could at least clearly state the reasons of why they do leave. Give people the complete picture. I'm sick and tired of both sides only giving half the picture instead of trying to give an accurate portrayal of how things really are. You speak about valuing truth. I'm disappointed that you haven't embraced it fully. That's the problem with 'TBM' Mormons and ex-Mormons. They are on one side or other and they won't take that final step that lets them see the whole picture.

You said:

The open letter "is simply to dispel a few myths or misconceptions" and "One of my stated purposes in maintaining this blog is to dispel some of the myths often promulgated in the LDS church regarding those who 'leave the fold.'"

Are these myths? Is that really an accurate description? I know that they don't apply across the board to every member in every situation, but I would hardly call them myths. The 'myths' you relate are descriptive of certain members in certain situations. Therefore, I find your statement in this regard to be wrong and untrue.

Some people fail to live the standards of the church and stop attending church because they feel guilty or hypocritical. My experience has been that they don't want their names removed and they don't tend to say some of the negative, and frankly, shockingly self-righteous and judgmental things that disaffected members have to say about the church as an institution or its active members. (After being so uber-active in a church for several years, you would have thought that they would have learned something about forgiveness or unconditional love).

In some parts of the world, personality conflicts play a huge role in why some people don't come to church. As I said above, I know of a person who was offended at a prank and never came back. Some people do leave because they are personally offended. I doubt many of them actively resign their membership, but it does occur.

But ultimately, people leave the Mormon church because they are offended by its doctrines, its practices, its beliefs, its history, its claims or its leaders. You may talk about spiritual transformation to describe it, but call a spade a spade. The feeling of offense towards some aspect of Mormonism is what pushes people to investigate further and fuels their anger and disaffection. I felt that you didn't make that clear in your letter or any of the follow-ups that you wrote. By all means, dispel the 'myths' that you worry may arise in your particular circumstance, but at least give an accurate portrayal (failing that, a good faith effort) of what occurs.

Jordan

Or even Michigan.

Of course, I took Michigan for more of a ride than Equality took BYU and the LDS Church, since the German department paid 100% of my $32,000/year tuition bill and living costs on top of that, and I have yet to make one donation to the University of Michigan German Department after three years on six figures! Go Blue!

And I don't mind being called a clown- it's better than ME's version of clown-calling, believe me.

Equality

dpc,

Now you are just being silly (which, incidentally, I don't find offensive at all, having been accused of engaging in unchecked silliness on many occasions). I'm coming up on my second anniversary of this blog, with over 100 substantive posts during that time. I've posted literally thousands of comments at various blogs and Mormon discussion groups over the last 3 years. My reasons for becoming disaffected with the church and, eventually, choosing to resign my membership, I have discussed at great length and substantial detail. As a long-time reader of my blog, for you to suggest that I have not been forthcoming about the reasons why people leave the LDS church is just plain asinine.

My experience in the church is what informed my discussion of the myths that I seek to dispel with my letter and other posts. It is true that some people leave over silly offenses (the prank of which you speak, which is the kind of thing I was addressing in my letter when I spoke of being "offended."). My point is that such instances, while they do occur, do NOT explain why a great many people leave the LDS church (either through long-term inactivity or more proactively through the resignation and name-removal process). Have you ever heard in a church talk or discussion among members that someone left the church because he thought the church's policies and practices were unethical? The myth that is perpetuated is that "offense" and "sin" and "pride" and "laziness" and "Satan" explain why the church is hemorrhaging members. I want people to know that I don't fit into any of those particular pigeonholes. I am not sure why you are so bothered by that, or why you feel the need to repeatedly accuse me of being dishonest.

dpc

Cafeteria Mormon:

"Still think Equality took the church for a big financial ride with that subsidized education of his?"

Did I ever claim that he had taken the system for a ride? I think you ought to read the original quote in context before you comment on it.

SML said:

"Another funny thing that you wrote was calling people here "hangers-on" which must include you as well, no?"

I believe the Belaja referred to Equality's Back-slapper union or something. His words, not mine.

"You seem to enjoy this blog as much as the rest of us, I'd say, considering the frequent comments and thoughts you leave here."

More than anything I believe in being fair over being right. I hope that comments bring nuance and added meaning to the discussions here.

dpc

"Have you ever heard in a church talk or discussion among members that someone left the church because he thought the church's policies and practices were unethical?"

Yes

"I'm coming up on my second anniversary of this blog, with over 100 substantive posts during that time. I've posted literally thousands of comments at various blogs and Mormon discussion groups over the last 3 years."

and

"I am not sure why you are so bothered by that, or why you feel the need to repeatedly accuse me of being dishonest."

Allow me to asinine. Given the overall polished appearance of your letter, it was obviously written well before February 14, 2008. You had your opportunity to spell out the exact reasons why without requiring people to read thousands of posts. But you didn't.

This sentence

"[P]eople leave the Mormon church because they are offended by its doctrines, its practices, its beliefs, its history, its claims or its leaders."

accurately sums up why the vast majority of people leave. Any interpretation beyond that strays from fact into belief.

I'm also an ornery person who gets bothered by a lot of different things. I'm all for tact, but sometimes, it's better to just tell it like it is. Let the gossipmongers be damned!!

Cafeteria Mormon

Dpc,

Sure, that works, if that's how you define "offended." But really, by wrapping that all into one big meta-category -- offended by people or doctrines or history or beliefs -- you're taking much of the content out of the word "offended." And you're also not using it in the way it's typically used in a church context.

The phrase, "people leave the church because they're offended" is a way to devalue the experiences or claims of folks who leave. It implies that they're leaving over interpersonal or other trivial issues; like the oft-told Thomas B. Marsh story about milk and cream.

When Equality objects to the language of offense, I don't think he's objecting to offense as you've defined it. He's objecting to the ideas as commonly used among church members. He's leaving over problems with doctrine and history; he's not leaving over milk and cream; and it would be misleading to use terms which would imply to the average member that his departure is milk-related.

dpc

Cafeteria Mormon said:

"The phrase, 'people leave the church because they're offended' is a way to devalue the experiences or claims of folks who leave."

I disagree. When the second part is added (viz., by its doctrines, its practices, its beliefs, its history, its claims or its leaders), it's a succinct statement that summarizes the generalities of why people leave without emotionalizing it. Every one who leaves is going to have some sort of sob story that makes them look like a principled angel versus the evil, conniving church.

"He's leaving over problems with doctrine and history; he's not leaving over milk and cream;"

The difference being...? Are you implying that there are unreasonable reasons to leave a religion? If you are, it's a rather odd position to take. What would constitute an 'unreasonable' reason? Any reason that makes you appear petty and small-minded? From Thomas B. Marsh's point of view, he left the church because of the grave injustice visited on his wife and the unwillingness of the church leaders to hear the truth. He didn't want to belong to an unprincipled and unjust church.

SML

dpc ~

You wrote, "Are you implying that there are unreasonable reasons to leave a religion?"

Let's be real here and admit that The Church Itself (the LDS church) implies often that there are unreasonable reasons to leave it. Most often The Church teaches that that unreasonable reason is because one has been "offended" and failed to forgive whomever caused said offense. Or because one has allowed Satan to take over one's spiritual processes.

Sigh.

dpc

SML:

I can't think of any unreasonable reason to leave a religion. If someone decides that Joseph F. Smith's beard was too long and therefore the church is untrue, that might sound trivial to some, but it could not be classified as unreasonable. The key is perspective.

1. From the perspective of a believer, any reason that causes you to dissociate from something that will aid your eternal progression would be viewed as trivial or unreasonable.

However,

2. From the point of view of the disassociate, any reason is reasonable, unless they are not a self-interested rational person.

3. From my perspective. When it comes to religious belief, can we really argue that one religious belief is more reasonable than another? Is it more reasonable to believe that the Romans executed the Son of God who subsequently came back to life than it is to believe than a young man had a vision of God and His Son? Is it more reasonable to believe that the Bible is a divinely-inspired book than the Book of Mormon is a divinely-inspired book? I'd have to say no to both questions.

belaja

Don't diss the Backslappers Crew (TM), CaféMo! It's competitive entry and we have do to a three-minute compulsory routine as well as a five minute free-style and are judged on scale of 1-5 (5 being perfect).

Then there's the interview, the evening gown competition AND the swimsuit competition. We are not some slipshod, ad hoc, fly-by-night group. Do you think you could get through the grueling entry process? Do you know how to walk in stiletto heels while heartily backslapping AND glaring sinisterly. It's not for amateurs, let me tell you!

belaja

dpc, just clarify for me. Did you really take my post as a serious description? Do you think there really IS an official Backslappers Crew? And while I am THE belaja (there are no others around as far as I know) I am not a HE.

dpc

Belaja:

"Did you really take my post as a serious description?"

No, but a person unfamiliar with the blog and unfriendly towards Equality could have taken your words at face value. A 'Backslappers Crew' sounds suspiciously like a group of henchmen or 'hangers-on'

"Do you think there really IS an official Backslappers Crew?"

I don't know if I would classify it as *official*... ;)

"And while I am THE belaja (there are no others around as far as I know) I am not a HE."

I 'll have to take your word for it. For all I know, you may be a trucker from New Jersey named Lenny. :)

My gut told me that you were probably a woman, but back-slapping is more of a male-thing. I also thought that your name was the word for "White" in Russian, which would indicate that you may have served a mission there (which in the Mormon church is pre-dominantly a male-thing). That's what happens when you chose logic over intuition.

Cafeteria Mormon

belaja wrote: "Do you know how to walk in stiletto heels while heartily backslapping AND glaring sinisterly."

Wait, is that a real question?

Damn it, Equality, you told me that you burned those pictures.

-Domokun-

dpc, you better be careful. Her full name is "belaja smert", which is "white death" in Russian. And even though she is a she, she most definitely also served a mission, but not in Russia. She's a multi-lingual threat. Please check your assumptions at the door.

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