Friday, November 11, 2011

Knowing, Doubting and Supporting in a Mormon-themed Forum

One aspect of most online groups with Mormon themes that discourages and frustrates me is the continued use of the language of certitude we are taught as Mormons. Mormons “know” everything rather than think it or believe it or hope for it or have an opinion about it. Mormons tend to overuse and misuse the word “know” and sometimes phrase statements with absoluteness in ways that put up barriers to effective communication.

I try to state my beliefs and opinions and thoughts by showing how and why I’ve reached a certain point of view. Sometimes I fall flat in doing so. Sometimes, there’s emotion mixed in that may interfere with what would otherwise be a clear statement.

When I read or hear something from someone else that seems to rely on absolutes, I have a hard time not feeling defensive because I grew up hearing people in the church be so certain about things that simply can’t be supported with verifiable facts. My response is to feel disrespected because my doubt and skepticism seems to be viewed as a deficiency, a problem to be fixed, a disorder to be set right.

People who claim to be prophets, seers and revelators, along with other leaders and members who were supposed to have keys and responsibility to answer my deepest questions about myself and life turned out to be wrong on so many points that they crossed into untrustworthy territory for me. I was all-in when I was active in the church. I wanted to contribute and do my small part in making things better for individuals, the church and the world. I served in positions of trust, including as a bishop, and tried to make a positive difference. I hope I did.

It was my experience with a general authority officially representing the First Presidency in a personal meeting with me that pounded the final nail in the coffin of my official association with the LDS church. He said things so deeply offensive and hurtful and ecclesiastically abusive directly to me in his official capacity that it was clear that my doubts about the church and its leaders were well-founded, and that the church was unsafe and unhealthy for me. I tried to attend for a few months following that episode, but there was no healing or reconciliation. Once I realized it wasn’t me that was broken or at fault for that, I ended my affiliation with the church. I can tell you that as an eighth-generation Mormon, that was a big fucking deal.

So, when I hear definitive pronouncements about where things are headed for the LDS church or hear “know” statements applied to groups of people, the church in general or society at large, I cringe. It feels condescending and disrespectful of the validity of alternative viewpoints. It brings up feelings of dehumanization and abandonment. I’ve mostly worked through those feelings when it comes to the church. Mostly, not completely. I don’t like visiting those emotional spaces. And yet, I continue to participate in this forum and that forum where those emotions are dredged up. I haven’t figured out whether that’s part of my healing process or I’m a glutton for punishment.

I speak only for myself here. I wonder if the tent is really big enough to have a support community that includes people who believe in and defend the LDS church at all costs and people whose experience tells them that the LDS church broken at its very foundation. We can discuss issues. But can we support each other---even on a purely emotional level---when we are so far apart in our approaches to life? I don't know. This is a set of open questions. I'm not assuming any answers.


  1. Pablo,
    I hadn't realized you served as a bishop. I did as well in what seems at times like a prior life.


  2. Thanks for the comment, Steve. It seems like a prior life to me sometimes too. I bet we could have many fascinating and fun conversations. Though I don't know you well, I sense that you're a thoughtful, compassionate and all-around good human being. Your ward was lucky to have you as their bishop.

  3. I agree, Paul, it's difficult to have rational discussion in a world where things are "known." It's very haughty.
    It's difficult to me to go from a world of scientific approach where we only know what is wrong---for now---and what we don't know to a world where people are convinced through emotional conditioning that what they know is completely true for all people at all times.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.