Recently I tweeted “30% of those raised LDS leave M’ism as adults (http://t.co/LtgnUZOr). Are standard Xian churches ready to help them find a new faith home?” (Follow me @PastorRossUtah)
Here is a thoughtful discussion on the topic from a couple of former Latter-day Saints, (taken from Facebook):
TINA: I’m not convinced they are. If evangelism worked in Utah, on a grand scale, church would be very messy for quite a while. Sunday school would be messy especially. To many questions, weird answers, rabbit trails. I’m not sure Christians here are ready for that 🙁 They say they want their neighbors and churches filled with ex-Mormons, but I think they have no idea what that would look like. They need the programs/studies in place now, not in case it might happen in the future. (Or was this a rhetorical question…this is a ‘button’ God’s been placing on my own heart lately.)
HEATHER: I think they are, to a point. It depends on how open they are to receiving ex-Mormons in a way that is loving and respectful, and not leaping to take advantage of the opportunity to tell them how wrong the Mormon church is. I got lucky (or blessed!) and landed at Alpine Church [where Ross is a teaching pastor], where I was received with open arms. I have had many of my questions answered, in a non-judgmental way, as I’ve sorted out which of my beliefs were rooted in the Bible and which were not. I’ve also appreciated that they do not bash the LDS Church and do not openly criticize it in sermons and in other classes.
I think a big part of welcoming ex-Mormons is giving information in a way that is respectful and tactful. I was raised LDS and left the church, by choice, in 2008. That was 37 years of my life spent in the LDS Church, raised in an LDS family, and I have family who still are LDS whom I love very much. Because of the long line of LDS ancestry and history in my family, Mormon-bashing still feels like an attack on my heritage, even though I now consider the LDS Church to be wrong and founded on deception.
Having classes geared toward helping ex-Mormons sort out which of their beliefs are biblical and which are not, and having people available who are knowledgeable on the subject, is immensely important in preparing to receive ex-Mormons into traditional Christianity.
TINA: Sometimes it seems that Christians will forgive you of any past sins, except being ex-Mormon. There can be a mistrust there, when it comes to wanting to serve the church in teaching roles etc. I have, in the past, been told not to bring up the fact I was ex-Mormon in Sunday school, when I was trying to work through some theological issues myself, because there was a chance I might offend a visitor, if we had them. Our churches would be full of not only baby Christians, but baby Christians that could take years to deprogram and reteach. Not all churches are willing to turn their sunday school classes, small groups or even sermons into food that the baby Christian converts could digest, year after year. I have seen, sadly ex-Mormons wither from lack of ‘food’ they could digest in a safe place. Plus, at least from my husbands and I point of view, Christians don’t seek out ex-Mormon believers to help them understand their Mormon neighbor. They would rather navigate that area on their own, with little success. Jon did try to do a Transitions class but the ex-Mormons who showed up for that said it wasn’t what they needed and they didn’t continue. It’s frustrating on our part. I get to the point of not wanting to evangelize because I have no good place to send them to have growth afterwards. For Jon and I the greatest thing coming out of the LDS church was a one on one Sunday school, and someone coming to our house to study the bible, sort of like a home teacher we were used to. Jon has told the pastors he would be willing to do that but so far no one has taken the chance to even sit down with him to ask him what worked or to pick our brains…we are starting to get to the point where we try and not tell people we are ex-Mormon anymore because of the underlying judgment. Sad.
HEATHER: Agreed. I think pastors who come to Utah should sit down and learn about the LDS Church from former Mormons, and preferably not bitter ones.
There is a difference, too, between ex-Mormons who were raised LDS but were not active as adults and those who were active adults who, like me, went through the temple, served in leadership capacities, etc. As far as the Transitions class, not every aspect of it is going to be exactly what every ex-Mormon needs, but there is something there for all of us. Some people need more baby steps when transitioning to traditional Christianity. I do think it’s harder for those who were active into adulthood than for those who went to church as kids and never continued afterward because the LDS beliefs and culture are much more ingrained in people who were active in the LDS Church as adults.
TINA: I spend a lot of time when Mormonism comes up in conversations trying to help Christians understand the heart of why and what. Too often those conversations can turn into Mormon bashing. I try to get people into their neighbors hearts…to help them see how beautiful the LDS gospel can look when you are lost inside. Temple work, family forever, pre-existence… we ask the new Christian believer to give up such a loving, serving identity. Replace it with something! To often it is villainized, and while it is a false gospel, it is packaged so pretty. Understand that for many, they see no issues. They have a place and purpose in their church. It can see so scary to navigate the unknown new Christian culture. No place, no purpose. It can seem so lacking. When coupled with the fear Christians seem to have these days of doing works, even good works, all we get are pew warmers or drifters who come in and out of our churches, unsatisfied and with no growth. They are a boat with no anchor. Be aware there are ex-Mormons ready to help a never-Mo, understand. In the case of hubby and I, he was a BIC [born in the covenant] baby and I was a convert, so we see things from unique perspectives.
As for Transitions I think we had Ex-Mo’s who were too far out from the LDS church, even though if they had stuck it out I think it would have helped them.
HEATHER: Last week I tried to explain to a Christian friend why the way he was approaching an in-law about the error of the Mormon Church, and their need to be saved or they would go to hell, was just going to cause that family member to dig their heels in further. Just like we don’t like to hear that someone else thinks we are wrong, they don’t like to hear that what they hold sacred and dear is wrong, either. It’s funny how someone’s belief that their beliefs are right seems to give them license to attack another’s beliefs, even though that just drives the other person further away from being willing to listen.
The key to understanding our Mormon neighbors? Be like Christ. Turn the other cheek when our beliefs are insulted and don’t return the favor. Share our beliefs in a loving, non-confrontational way. If we plant those little mustard seeds, they will grow! (Matthew 17:20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”) He said to love one another, and there are no exceptions. The best way to love our Mormon AND ex-Mormon neighbors is to treat them, and their feelings about their faith, with respect. That will soften hearts faster than any debate!
I also have to add that when I first walked into Alpine last December, if anyone there had bashed Mormons to me, even though I had formally left the LDS Church in 2008, I would have walked out and not gone back, and probably not gone anywhere else, either.
TINA: The toughest is when you are dealing with those so entrenched that they see anything not Mormon as an attack and bash. So if you share something that is decidedly not Mormon, then you are offensive. Sometimes you can’t not offend.