Where Do Mormons Struggle?

During priesthood leadership meeting up in Bangor this past Saturday, the question was raised: Where are we struggling right now? It’s an excellent issue to address. and it spawned a lot of good discussion. It also got me thinking personally about the question. I was mulling it over in my mind during the meeting itself, and I didn’t come up with my biggest issue until the meeting was pretty much over. So I didn’t have time to throw this out there then, but it’s stayed with me, spawning a good, long discussion with Denisa last night about it, and I thought it might make for a good conversation online as well. (Assuming people can discuss the issues without getting defensive or hyper-critical. Don’t let me down, folks . . .)

As I think about where we struggle as a people and a religion, I think the biggest issue that comes to mind is preparing our members (and specifically our youth) to have a faith strong enough and flexible enough to be able to withstand the barrage of issues that keep cropping up, both inside the church and outside of it. Issues like gay marriage, women’s rights, racism, and more.

I look around at my friends online and the youth I’ve come in contact with over the years, and I see many people struggling with these issues. Not just with how they’re being handled in society, but specifically with how the church is handling them. I’ve blogged about this multiple times in the past, and I still believe it’s an area that is extremely difficult to navigate, socially and theologically. People have left the church, or at least stepped away from it, over this. And the response some church members have to it is to point to prophecies about how the chaff will be sifted from the wheat, or how the world will grow ever more wicked, and members must “stay strong” in order to not be led away.

It frustrates me when some try to paint these issues as very simple, easy to deal with subjects. As if the solutions are clean cut, and anyone who doesn’t see that is in danger of apostasy. I do feel like church leaders at the highest echelons are attempting to wrangle with this, and I can point to talks in General Conference and publications from the church that indicate they realize how thorny they can be. How they are dealt with at a stake or ward level is a different story, and it will vary widely, depending on local leaders.

I’m not saying I believe our local leadership is at fault here. I know our leaders, and I believe they work hard to try and address the many, many needs of the stake and ward. And there are so many different needs in so many different areas, that it usually boils down to a “which fire do I put out first?” sort of situation. But these issues do come up. They are raised in comments in Sunday School or Sacrament Meeting talks. Off hand remarks that reinforce long-held cultural beliefs that might stand in stark contrast to stances the church currently takes on issues. I personally try to speak up when I hear those remarks made, and I know of many others who do the same, but it’s hard work, and often met with resistance.

But one comment that was made in the meeting stuck with me, and it was touched on again on Sunday. The people who are often struggling the most are the ones who aren’t vocal about it. Our stake president compared it to drowning. How the popular depiction of drowning (flailing around, calling for help) is so different from the reality (silently slipping under the water and going unconscious).

We had a long, lively discussion on what should “count” for Home Teaching numbers, despite the fact that the statistics for our Home Teaching are woefully small. And it frustrates me when we spend so much energy and focus debating things like that, when bigger issues remain unaddressed. And it’s certainly more than Home Teaching debates. When so many people are struggling, why are we bogged down debating what kind of a ward social we should have, or how to force help on a family that has already declined help five times before? I don’t mean to be callous, but I’ve attended many meetings where the same things are discussed as the meeting before, and no progress is made whatsoever. Some of that is the nature of the beast, and perhaps if we shifted focus to my suggestion, it would result in the same deadlock. But I still wish it were brought up and faced head on. Purposefully.

So how should we deal with this? Step one (for me) is to bring issues out into the open. To address the fact that the issues exist. That probably needs to come not from the membership, but from a constant push from local leadership. Show others how they can deal with these issues on their own.

I remember having a discussion with a friend, where the topic was basically “What would it take for you to lose your testimony?” What if your best friend left the church? What if your parents left the church? Any number of hypotheticals. Ideally, someone’s testimony should not rest on someone else’s testimony. Me staying or leaving the church isn’t contingent on a parent or friend still being in it. I believe because of the experiences I have had that led me to that belief. And that’s what gets me through these difficult issues. That’s what keeps my testimony strong, even when I get frustrated by what some church members do and say. (And hopefully it’s what keeps others’ testimonies strong when they’re frustrated with what I do and say.)

I’m reminded of Moses 5, where Adam and Eve first start offering sacrifices.

5 And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

There’s a pattern here that’s useful to me in these areas. Adam was asked to do something. Commanded, even. And to him, it probably made pretty much zero sense. Go take that perfectly well-behaved animal and kill it. Don’t eat it, though. I would think he had a ton of questions zooming around his head. I know I would. Why? What’s the reason? What good does this do? But he didn’t get any answers to those questions at the time. Despite that, he went and did what he had been commanded to do. And it was only after that action that he began to understand and began to get answers.

I’m not saying Adam was blindly obedient. I believe he had a testimony of the source of those commandments, and that testimony made it so that he was ready to follow through on them. That’s where I see myself these days. There are some things that are done and said in the church that I don’t fully understand. Issues I have grappled with. And yet I continue to have a testimony of the ultimate source of all this. I believe some of the troubles come from humans being flawed, and that those flaws will eventually be worked out, even though it’s painful to many at the moment. Some of the other troubles will be divine, for reasons I do not understand. For reasons I might never understand. But that’s what having faith is about sometimes.

So there’s my long-winded response to the question that was first posed. If I could pick one issue that we could work on and help members with, it’s with this struggle. With, as I said before, developing a faith that’s both strong and flexible, because I believe that’s what’s needed to handle this. Strong, because life is hard. Flexible, because when you’re too rigid, you’re in too much danger of breaking. But that’s my take on things.

I invite comments, both about how I answered the question, and how you would answer the question. Please keep things respectful.


  • By mareena, November 6, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

    you know, i think the change in the RS/Priesthood meetings will be a great opportunity to discuss thoughts like these, where the first week of each month we sit in council with each other and discuss real issues we are having, and ways to solve them. At least, it has the POTENTIAL to be a great opportunity. You and me (or I, don’t judge my grammar), we see see things much the same way. You’re just way more eloquent in expressing them I believe… 😉

  • By Bryce Moore, November 7, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

    I’m hopeful as well. We’ll see . . .

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