Statement of Ministry Principles

The following statement describes the foundational philosophy of how we approach our ministry at Utah Advance. These principles guide everything we do.

1. At Utah Advance Ministries, we believe in the strategic importance of the local church in reaching communities for Christ. Thus our agency exists to serve and foster the church. The best hope for a community is the multiplication of healthy congregations. We believe in the propagation of new congregations of many forms to reach different people.

2. We believe that healthy churches practice wise contextualization, meaning that they discern the culture in which they are planted and adapt their means and methods to reach the people of that culture – without undermining eternal truth. Thus we encourage churches in the Latter-day Saint cultural heartland to study and understand Mormon culture in order to wisely frame how the gospel is best communicated and how disciples of Jesus are best made and nurtured.

3. We believe that there is much good in Mormonism and in the Mormon people which can be appreciated and respected. In spite of this, we believe that Mormonism represents an aberration from the true gospel and offers people a false hope for eternal salvation.

4. We believe in treating Latter-day Saints not as adversaries but as neighbors. While we disagree significantly on many issues of ultimate importance, we believe that our neighbors (of any faith) deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

5. We believe that Mormonism should be engaged as more than just a set of beliefs, but as an all-encompassing culture. We see Latter-day Saints as persons embedded in this cultural identity that shapes their worldview, epistemology, and spiritual practices. Thus Mormonism should be encountered in ways that go beyond comparison of truth claims or doctrines, to understand the cultural and social dynamics that shape people’s commitment to and experience of their LDS faith.

6. We believe that the historic Christian church has wonderful good news for Latter-day Saints, which should be communicated as an invitation rather than as an attack. Valid differences must be pointed out, but the gospel is an invitation to grace, not a demand for theological capitulation. Presenting evidence and winning arguments are not enough. We believe in engaging Latter-day Saint (and other) neighbors with grace and demonstrable love, in ways that feel like grace and love to them.

7. We believe that dialog with Latter-day Saints around matters of ultimate belief is a worthwhile endeavor that serves the larger purpose of sharing God’s good news. Yet we believe that forms of such dialog that take place in the public eye are not conducive to the honesty and depth of interaction which genuine dialog requires.

8. We will show respect and honor to other ministries seeking to reach Latter-day Saints with the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, regardless of whether they agree philosophically with our approach or not. We believe that differences in approach or method are best addressed by building relationships.

9. We understand that those journeying out of Mormonism face unique challenges in finding a new faith home. Thus we encourage churches to make every effort to be conscious of and accommodating toward the often turbulent path that former Mormons must travel.

 

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Resources for dealing with family pressures

In the last couple of posts, I’ve been talking about how to maintain family relationships while transitioning out of Mormonism. I mentioned finding people who have been through the journey before you, who can help you navigate the family relationships (and other aspects of the journey).

Here are a couple of suggestions for on-line groups you might consider connecting with:

From Mormonism to Christianity (Facebook):

https://www.facebook.com/groups/frommormonismtochristianity/

From Mormonism to Christianity (FMTC) is a group intended for members to support, encourage, love, and help each other with their transition from Mormonism to Christianity and to help them overcome the negative consequences resulting from leaving the LDS Church.

Only members can find the group or see the posts.

MIT – Mormons in Transition has an e-mail forum and a Facebook version.

http://mit.irr.org/mormons-in-transition-email-support-group-mit-talk

https://www.facebook.com/groups/139462380423/

Facebook edition of the popular Mormons In Transition support group for former Mormons and Mormons with serious questions about their LDS faith. Keep in touch, explore issues of faith and family, share stories, encouragements and off the cuff remarks about life in the transition lane.

Only members can see the posts.

Ex-Mormons Worldwide
http://www.meetup.com/exlds-worldwide/

Meet Ex-Mormons through our internet community of vibrant individuals from around the world. You can participate in our online discussions anywhere, anytime, and meet others who understand what you’re going through. We encourage all members to participate in our online discussions of topics by posting questions and comments on our meetup.com Message Board.

 

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Maintaining family relationships while leaving Mormonism (part 2)

I’ve been thinking this month about how to preserve family relationships during a transition out of Mormonism (see the last 3 posts). When one family member changes their faith identity, it can put a lot of pressure on family relationships, especially when the family is very loyal to their faith. With that in mind, I want to share some things to keep in mind if you are in the midst of that transition yourself.

Set boundaries
If you don’t want your parents sending the bishop / missionaries around, say so. If you don’t want them to give you LDS literature or try to reactivate you, say so – kindly and lovingly. You may have to keep reinforcing those boundaries over and over again. They want you to change your mind because they love you – to them that is the best direction for you. But it’s your life, so you get to decide what you will accept from others and what you will not. Communicate your boundaries clearly and lovingly, then firmly but gently stick to them.

How to talk about your new faith
You may have opportunities for real faith conversations with your family. When those opportunities arise, share how much Jesus means to you. Talk about your experience with him. Put the emphasis on his grace and unconditional love – not on all the problems you’ve discovered with Mormonism. If you do have opportunity to talk about the problem issues, do so with great gentleness. Remember how hard it was for you to first learn some of those troubling things. Don’t get frustrated if your family doesn’t listen. You never know what wheels might be turning within someone’s private thoughts.

Check your attitude
Jesus warned that family opposition should not be a surprise for those who follow him. In Matthew 10:34-36, he said:

“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’”

Don’t make this a self-fulfilling prophecy! I’ve know people who have used these verses as vindication for all kinds of negative behavior toward their families. Your family may well react with antagonism simply because of your faith decisions. Just make sure it’s not because you’ve been a jerk. I realize you may be upset about things you’ve learned. You may feel lied to or betrayed. It’s easy to come out breathing fire. It’s natural that you would want to shake up your family to open their eyes to what you know. But be careful. Be kind and gentle. Don’t burn your bridges by being negative and inflammatory.

But if they choose to burn their bridges with you, because of your faithfulness to where Jesus is leading you, remember Jesus’ promise in Matthew 19:29:

“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.”

The heart of the matter
Here’s what it boils down to: in your faith journey, you want to follow Jesus. That means learning to treat other people in a way that honors God, even if they antagonize or reject you. Make it a matter of prayer. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Get encouragement from others who have been there before you.

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Maintaining family relationships while leaving Mormonism

Based on some questions that were recently posed to me, I’ve been thinking about how to preserve family relationships during a transition out of Mormonism. About 1/3 of people raised LDS end up leaving, and a good number of those end up in other faith communities. Understanding the pressure that this transition can place on families, I want to share some things to keep in mind if you are in the midst of that transition.

You are not alone
First, you need to realize that you are not alone. Many others have been through this. There are people with similar experiences in many churches, as well as at online forums and Facebook groups, where you can tap into the experience of others.

At the same time, realize that there is no single standard experience. Many variables effect how families will react to your faith decisions. Are you the first one in your family to leave? Is your family especially loyal to their LDS faith? Do you live in a strongly LDS neighborhood or community? What has your attitude been? These and many other factors will play into what your experience with your family might be.

Keep trying
I encourage you to take the initiative to keep relationships going. Because your family members are so identified with their faith, they may see rejection of their church as a rejection of them. It’s up to you to demonstrate otherwise. Also, realize that your faith decisions may be very confusing to your family. Suddenly you’re different, and they probably didn’t see it coming. So your parents or siblings may simply not know how to relate to you. Everyone is trying to figure out how to do an old relationship on new terms. So take the initiative to call your family, to invite them over, to attend family events. You can’t control how they will respond, but you can do your part. As Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

Love like Jesus
It’s so easy for emotions to take over, and to respond to a perceived attack with a counter attack. For many people, this won’t be too hard, because your family will be patient and understanding with you. But if that is not the case, I encourage you to take the high road. Demonstrate your commitment to Jesus by ignoring any insults or cutting remarks they may throw your way. Be patient with the misunderstandings. If you feel rejected, trust God with that. In the Bible, real love is self-sacrificial. There might be sacrifices you will need to make to continue to love your family.

Next week I’ll continue this train of thought with a few more suggestions, like how to set boundaries with your family, how to talk about your new-found faith with them, and how to check your attitude.

But here’s the bottom line for now. At the heart of your spiritual journey, you want to follow Jesus. That means learning to treat other people as Jesus would, even if they aggravate or antagonize you. Make it a matter of prayer. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Get encouragement from others who have been there before you.

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Family pressure points in post-Mormon transition

Recently I’ve been asked to help people understand how to deal with pressure and opposition from their families as they make a break with Mormonism. I posted last week on why LDS families may feel antagonistic when children or siblings leave the fold.

I realize that this is not just an LDS issue, but can affect anyone who disaffiliates from any strongly-held family faith. Yet my experience is in the LDS context. I don’t know to what extent my particular observations can be generalized to other faith settings.

I have observed over the years a few key points where people leaving Mormonism face the most pressure from their families. Of course, not every family responds the same way. But if there is hostility, it often shows up at these moments.

Doubts
One pressure point is when a person first expresses serious questions or doubts about the LDS Church. Faithful Latter-day Saints are encouraged to ignore certain questions that are not seen as “faith-promoting”, such as changes in LDS doctrine or unsavory incidents in LDS history. A negative response from loyal family members is understandable, since such questions might be seen as the first warning signs of possible apostasy. The family may be concerned not only for the doubter, but for the potential influence that individual may have on other family members.

Inactivity
Another pressure point arises when a person stops participating in church activities. He or she may cease attending sacrament meeting or resign from a calling, or more seriously, stop wearing temple garments. When a previously active member goes “inactive” this can escalate the family’s fears. For some, concern will spill over into anger. A few will chose shame, guilt, or intimidation to steer the erring member back into the fold.

New Affiliation
A third pressure point happens when the person leaving Mormonism starts attending another church. If he or she merely remains inactive, the family may harbor hope for a change of heart that might lead to reactivation. But when a person starts attending a different church, that signals a much deeper divide with Mormonism, and thus increases the level of concern.

Baptism
The fourth major pressure point is when the person transitioning out of Mormonism chooses to be baptized in another church. This can be seen as a full and final repudiation of his or her LDS heritage and identity, thus creating a great deal of angst on the part of parents or siblings. In my experience, former Mormons often hesitate to embrace baptism, or to tell their families about their baptism, because they fear the hostility this act can engender from their families.

This analysis is not meant as an indictment against anyone. My purpose is to support the people who are making difficult faith transitions by identifying with the challenges they may face.

I also realize that the people leaving their family faith behind are often the ones stirring up hostility by their attitude and behavior in the process. So next week I plan to address suggestions for maintaining family relationships while leaving Mormonism.

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