Mormons, Leaving the Fold and the Web

Here is an article about Mormons with many affinities to Orthodox issues. If you gave you life to being Mormon or Orthodox, what happens when you have doubts? Remember last year’s Orthoprax Rabbi blog? The Mormon answer is to create online support groups. The financial pressures, the rising disinterest, the same-sex love issues, the feminism, the opposite sex issues, and the lack of transparency. We have church officials saying the percentages are small and the historians thinking that this is a major exodus. This is not a question of being in the group or out of the group, rather the many who have invested their entire life with the program and dont want to leave their lives broken. The article also notes that need for them to be able to express that they are not going to be written out of the faith no matter what the gatekeepers think.

Mormons struggling with doubt turn to online support groups
By Michelle Boorstein, Published: May 24

Brian Johnston was desperate. The pressures of raising six children on one accountant salary were crushing, but worse was that he was starting to doubt the entire reason he and his wife had created a big family with a stay-at-home mom in the first place: Their Mormonism.

Johnston’s wife had already left the faith after deciding it was a dangerous cult. He didn’t want to take it that far, but who could he confide in? Raised in a devout home, Johnston remembered rebellious Mormons who lost the right to be Sunday school teachers or to come to community events such as weddings, or who simply felt shunned at church.
His entire life seemed to hang by a thread.

Then late one night in 2007, while sitting at his computer in his suburban Atlanta, Johnston came across an article by a Mormon academic in Arizona whose wife had also left the church. Johnston, a burly former Army technician, e-mailed the man explaining his situation. I have no idea what to do, he said. There’s no one I can talk to. A response came back almost immediately: Hang in there. I know what you’re going through. Johnston’s blue eyes widen when he recalls the relief he felt. “Yes! That’s what I thought. I knew, there must be more, but how do I find them?”

Five years later, Johnston, who now lives in Frederick, has become a leader in an online Mormon world full of people just like himself — questioners. And in an extremely orthodox faith, that’s not a simple place to be.

The Web has become such an important part of Mormon life that Mormons call their social networks the “bloggernacle” — named after the Tabernacle, a famous gathering place in downtown Salt Lake City. With names such as feministmormonhousewives.org, newordermormon.org and Johnston’s stayLDS.com, the sites devoted to questioning provide a safe place for Mormons to grapple with topics such as polygamy, institutional racism and a scripture that teaches that Jesus visited the American continent.

Church officials say the growth of the sites does not point to a corresponding growth in the number of Mormons leaving the church, whose membership has burgeoned to more than 6 million inAmerica. “Those leaving the church are a fraction of 1 percent each year and it is a trend that is decreasing rather than increasing,” said Michael Purdy, a church spokesman.

And the church has acknowledged on other occasions that it has had difficulty retaining young Mormons, in particular, and has generally lagged in dealing with doubt — perhaps the largest challenge not only to Mormonism, but also to modern organized religion as a whole.

The official church historian Marlin Jensen made news last year when he said that the loss of members in the last five or 10 years has been greater than perhaps any period since Mormonism was founded in 1830.

The reasons? Society’s increasing secularism plays a role, Jensen said, but also the Mormon church’s failure to openly address questions about church history and doctrine.

Much of that evolution is taking place on the Internet. Every day when Johnston logs into stayLDS.com, a site for people in spiritual crisis, he says he feels he is saving his faith by encouraging the questioning of its adherents.

For Mormons grappling with doubts, the potential spiritual consequences can appear frightening… At times, the church can appear to respond harshly as well, tales about which surface on stayLDS.com, which receives about 700 visitors a day.

“Candlelight25” writes about his painful decision to leave his mission overseas rather than spread Mormon beliefs against homosexuality. When he returned home he says he faced a disciplinary hearing, for saying he didn’t believe church teachings and for having unrepented-for sex with a man. “If any of you have any advice for me or any comments that may help me now, I would appreciate them more than ever,” he writes.

He says he often feels like an outsider at church. On Mother’s Day, with one testimony after another about children and family, his wife and six children are no longer in the pews with him since his wife abandoned the church because she felt oppressed as a Mormon woman.

“I’ve put my whole life into this — I did a mission, I taught Sunday school, my family is Mormon, you’re going to tell me I’m not part of this? Just watch me.”

Read the Rest Here

New Order Mormon offers this as its homepage:

What is a New Order Mormon?
New Order Mormons are those who no longer believe some (or much) of the dogma or doctrines of the LDS Church, but who want to maintain membership for cultural, social, or even spiritual reasons. New Order Mormons recognize both good and bad in the Church, and have determined that the Church does not have to be perfect in order to remain useful. New Order Mormons seek the middle way to be Mormon.

Finding the Middle Way in Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a complex religion with both inspiring and disturbing aspects. For those who learn about the disquieting aspects of the faith but choose to remain connected, this site offers support, information, and a community of like-minded people.

4 responses to “Mormons, Leaving the Fold and the Web

  1. Wow. I feel a greater affinity with New Order Mormons than with my Modern Orthodox brethren.

  2. Jews who leave at least have the option of non-religious Jewish cultural identity. Aside from shared experiences, do non-religious Mormons have strong cultural bonds?

  3. Yehudah Mirsky

    Years ago I read an essay in NYRB by David Brion Davis on the struggles of Mormon intellectuals, and thought for the life of me that he could have been talking about Modern Orthodoxy.

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