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In this episode of Best of FAIR, Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., observes: “In my experience, neither critics nor apologists for the Church do much to convince me whether or not to believe. Debates, analysis, and scientific evidence may alternately undermine or support my beliefs, but belief itself is a choice I wrestle God for, somewhere in a dark swampland of my inner landscape, where not only God’s credibility but my own are at stake.
“I have noticed that many of the people I have known who have left the Church did not do so because they believed too little, but because they believed too much. In their excessive idealism, they have held Church leaders or God to expectations which were inevitably disappointed, and they have felt betrayed. They have not believed God when He told them that ours is a lonely, dreary world where we will surely die, and they have chosen instead to believe another version of reality, one which claims that they can be protected from being molested, disappointed, or made afraid. They have been angry at God or other Church leaders for not keeping promises which God has not, in fact, made. I note with interest that of all the names for the Savior in holy writ, He is never called the Preventer. Agency is the plan, and this means that all of us, including Church leaders, learn by our mistakes and are subject to misinformation, blindness, hubris, and error. The old joke is too often true: In the Catholic church everyone says the pope is infallible but nobody believes it; and in the Mormon church everybody says the prophet is fallible but nobody believes it.
“When Christ asks the question of His remaining disciples, ‘will ye also go away?’ it seems to be in recognition that they may be feeling betrayed or disillusioned by His words and requirements, as others were. Their response is not brimming with irrational enthusiasm. They seem to say, somewhat wistfully, as if recognizing that perhaps leaving would be an easier choice, ‘to whom, Lord, shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ We do not leave because we are blind to the challenges or brainwashed into commitment, but because we will have more cognitive dissonance, more to explain to ourselves, if we leave. We have found here things that we hold dear, that support and enrich our lives. We, like the reluctant disciples of old, have found here words of eternal life, which is to say that we have found knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. These relationships, these pearls of great price, are worth the sacrifices and the disappointments and the askance looks of our friends who wonder what we could be thinking.”
Wendy Ulrich, Ph.D., was a psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 20 years before moving to Montreal, Quebec for a three-year mission. She has served as president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, has authored numerous professional articles in both psychology and business, and has done consulting and training for such corporations as Marriott, Johnson & Johnson, University of Michigan, General Electric, and United Way. Dr. Ulrich is founder of Sixteen Stones Center for Growth in Alpine, Utah, providing seminar-retreats for LDS members seeking personal and spiritual growth and development. She and her husband have three children.
Dr. Ulrich is the author of the book Weakness is Not a Sin. The full text of Dr. Ulrich’s talk can be found at Fairlds.org.
I feel that this post is a bit slanted. The perspective on those who have ‘fallen away’ is a bit unfair. If we are to apply the ‘human’ factor to the church and its leaders, we must also apply the same standards to the followers. We are all human and we cannot judge those who fall away so easily. It is not always an easy thing to stay faithful to an institution, even though you may think so from your perspective. Many people who fall away still love their Savior, so you cannot always use Christ and the LDS institutional religion synonymously. I am not necessarily on the side of all those who decide to leave, but because the church isn’t perfect, nor assigns leaders that are, we must realize that the church isn’t necessarily for everyone, for agency is and must be a top priority and will be a huge factor.
The article, like your post, is an opinion. Of course it is slanted, just as your response is slanted. It reflects your experience and reasoning.
From my slanted opinion, the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone although everyone is not ready for the gospel. The Church, or the “institution” is simply the vehicle to deliver that gospel.
I agree with many of your points however, including your point that agency is the first priority, that many outside the Church love their Savior and that it is not usually the role of Church members to judge those who leave.
Let’s not forget, that in many cases it is in fact cognitive dissonance that drives one out. Many wish they could believe but the story just doesn’t stack up in their minds so the effort to believe something that they really cannot believe makes them leave. Ever tried believing something when you clearly reason otherwise?
If you believe then rejoice in it. But for those of you that cannot no matter how hard you try don’t beat yourself up. Living the good life, however you define that, is not exclusive to an institution.
A sad truth sheds a harsh light on the heartwarming anecdotes that circumscribe Dr. Ulrich’s faith. On an evening very much like the one on which her young missionary friend made his deal with God and God used her and her husband as its unwitting brokers, tens of thousands of loving parents and children were asking God for the simple blessings of food and safety for another day. The missionary got his “Alma” – Those families got their tsunami.
What kind of psychology creates a God that bears up these dissonance-generating facts? A God no better than one that can come up with a D&C 132 and a 3 Nephi 9.
Spencer Shellman says
“They have been angry at God or other Church leaders for not keeping promises which God has not, in fact, made.”
What about the promise of Moroni 10:4-5, which was never, ever fulfilled for me in spite of my many years of struggle? Will you tell me that God never made that promise, or that I should lower my expectations?
Lee Rhea says
My struggle with church-related cognitive dissonance percolates, sadly, even through most of my non church-related activities. Often I feel like I’m stopped at a crossing as a seemingly endless train of platitudes rolls by. The standard “We have all we need necessary to our salvation.” is one of the cars that lumbers by repeatedly.
For those who can conjure up a rationale that mitigates (if not erases) any and every philosophical, logical or spiritual incongruity, I wonder where god-given intelligence ends and testimony begins.
Spencer Shellman says
You said it, Lee. An “endless train of platitudes” is exactly what the church is now, and what it will be forever, because that is what the members have been conditioned to expect. “Milk before meat,” they say. THERE IS NO MEAT.
The Matrix has you. Free your mind.
S Goodman says
Spencer Shellman, you wrote:
“What about the promise of Moroni 10:4-5, which was never, ever fulfilled for me in spite of my many years of struggle? Will you tell me that God never made that promise, or that I should lower my expectations?”
“You said it, Lee. An “endless train of platitudes” is exactly what the church is now, and what it will be forever, because that is what the members have been conditioned to expect. “Milk before meat,” they say. THERE IS NO MEAT.
The Matrix has you. Free your mind.”
Your first post expresses frustration and a bit of anger. Your second demonstrates you substituting in the place of ‘church platitudes’, those of pop culture platitudes. I can’t see how you can feel that you traded up.
A platitude is a “trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, often presented as if it were significant and original.” Those wonderful truths from the Church are, to you, platitudes only after you reject both the source and the truth of them. In place of those you chose to lean on a quote from “The Matrix”. Is Hollywood, then, your new source of truth and enlightenment?
Lee Rhea says
By definition, the “trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, often presented as if it were significant and original.” is exactly what I’m NOT seeking. I get more than enough of those from politicians. My reference to platitudes simply illustrates my disillusionment in receiving them IN LIEU of “wonderful truths from the Church”.
We are encouraged to study, pray, ponder – then study more. But when it comes to serious inquiry it seems that there are “acceptable” questions to ask, and unacceptable ones. The platitudes most often come in reply to the unacceptable, meaning difficult or problematic.
So, be it an accurate assessment or not, my experience has been that there are some questions you just don’t ask.
S Goodman says
I’m a convert to the Church. I asked the questions that I found important. Not all of my questions were answered but none of them were determined to be taboo. I had no problem getting my Bishop to talk to me about the White Horse Prophesy, tight or loose translation, or what Emma knew and when.
What questions were you asking?
Spencer Shellman says
“Is Hollywood, then, your new source of truth and enlightenment?”
No, Broadway is. Hasa diga eebowai!
Questions, one at a time.
1. Several Black men (inc. Elijah Abel, Green Flake, Walker Lewis) were ordained into the Melchizedek priesthood, received all temple ordinances, and served in the Quorum of Seventy during the presidency of JS.
But my studies have never uncovered a subsequent revelation canonizing the Black/priesthood exclusion. So, when did the descendants of Ham become ineligible to receive the blessings of the priesthood and temple? Was JS in error for sanctioning Black/priesthood eligibility and attendant blessings, or was BY in error for mandating its prohibition?
Those are good questions, but more appropriate for the Ask the Apologist service provided by FAIR. The short answer is that there is no revelation that we are aware of that canonized the withholding of the priesthood from blacks. If you have more questions such as these, you can submit them here: http://www.fairlds.org/contact.php
Spencer Shellman your comments are so pathetic…not even from a religious believing prospective, but just as a person looking at what you are doing. I’m glad you find the Book of Mormon Broadway show that was so predictable and boring, so great and entertaining
plus, i have asked all the questions that you all proposed from the Church and got nothing but love and answers… not all the answers were easy or what I wanted to hear…but they all were given in love and openess
for what it is worth says
Become as a little child…