Home church genuine questions and “the gospel according to me” (part 2)

genuine questions and “the gospel according to me” (part 2)

by Shawni

I keep getting recurring questions about my religion in the comment section on this post back HERE and actually in several of my other posts through the years. Some are really genuine questions that have made me think and others are pretty emotionally inflamed. I know some of the comments make other readers uncomfortable, but I think it’s so interesting to hear where people are coming from.

People are so curious about how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, particularly those in my family, live the gospel principles. Some don’t think we’re doing a very good job (which is totally fine, we’re all just trying to sort this out, right?) But I want to always be open to those questions. I think they should be an open discussion. I am grateful for how they make me dig deeper into my own convictions.

One commenter back in that post talked about how she left the church because of so much that went on that made her feel awful about herself. I appreciated so much that she would share her perspective. I left her a long answer back there, but I think it merits adding my thoughts here as well since so many people ask where I’m coming from.

First, I’ll attach the comment for context. This reader had a pretty awful experience with the church and I don’t think we should sweep these kinds of feelings under the rug. They are genuine concerns and I know she is not alone in how she feels.

As a former Mormon, I see this thread as a conflict between people who try to live or have tried to live Mormonism to the “letter of the law” as we were taught, and people who make adjustments to the rules for their own comfort. And they are definitely bending the rules – there is no room for interpretation in the instructions about garments given in the temple. I wish I had been comfortable bending the rules as a Mormon – it would have made my life so much better to be able to say “These garments are making me miserable and I hate wearing them” or “I have two small children, a husband who works all the time/travels frequently, and no family in town to help me, so I won’t be taking a calling in Young Women’s” or even “I don’t really want to get married in the temple, I’m not ready and I’ll be so sad that most of my family cannot be there.” I just kept on going and trying to fit the mold until I couldn’t anymore. And I do resent the way changes to church policy happen later when people do start to say those things, partly because I wish I had taken care of myself first and not worried so much about what the Mormon god, or my bishop, or the women in my ward thought. And partly because the Mormon religion is so unreasonable, and so unbelievably difficult for people who are converted, or of lower income, or without a wide network of Mormon family and friends, or who are LGBTQ, or who have disabilities. Those of us without the security to ask questions of the church and its doctrine and policies, or assert our own identities, accept and forgive our own limitations, and receive the support of a community that does the same, are at an enormous disadvantage. I pop in to this blog because it is a glimpse of the kind of life I thought my devotion to the church would bring me, and it reminds me why I left. I left because of the devastating and hypocritical sanctimoniousness of the church’s leaders, the crushing hierarchy of the money/faith combo, and the excruciating rejection I felt as a member. I’m sad I don’t have the network of Mormonism, the fun aspects of its culture, and the giant extended family unit I hoped for, but I have freedom from the judgment I imposed on myself and that was imposed on me by others, and that’s much better.

Here are my thoughts as a response: another installment of “the gospel according to me”
(part 1 of my gospel thoughts is back HERE)

I so appreciate you sharing these feelings and I’ve been waiting to come back to this comment when I had some time to write out a thoughtful response.  First of all, I’m so sorry that this religion has caused you pain and hurt. I know that is not what God would ever want a religion to do. I think your points are incredibly valid.

Have you watched The Chosen? I know, this is a tangent, but I often think that the Christ portrayed in that series is the Christ I envision, filled with compassion for every person and every situation. If you were to go to Jesus and say any of those things you mentioned, “These garments are making me miserable, ” or “I am so overwhelmed I cannot take a calling right now,” or “I’m not ready for the temple,” I believe He would have complete love for you and would be willing to wait and to seek to understand. For a lifetime if necessary. For you to gain that understanding and have a desire to do those things asked of you.

The problem is, in my opinion, (and I think you agree from your last few sentences), that there is a cultural norm to do all these things without questioning. Like you said, it takes a particular amount of security to ask questions about doctrine and policies, and really, the majority of people in the church may be ok to just follow along. That is great if that’s how they personally can build their foundation to be strong. Some people have a natural gift of faith and these things come easy for them. I know because I think I am one of them. Growing up I didn’t have to question, I just knew the church helped me build my relationship with God and I loved it. I loved how I felt at church. I loved learning more about Christ each week (still do). 

But I honestly think for many the “pushing back” is what helps to build their foundation.

The questioning, the digging deep.

And I think that is a beautiful thing!  But I get what you’re saying, sometimes the culture looks down on that. I do not think that is the gospel. How can we change that? Dave and I discuss that all the time.

If someone doesn’t feel comfortable at church as it sounds like you didn’t (and I know so many others are right there along with you!  And me sometimes too!), I believe things need to change. Church should be like a hospital where people can come in their brokenness to be healed. To find a better way. To feel unconditional love as they work to align their life to follow Christ’s example.

But there are three problems with that:

1) Sometimes the change needs to come from inside the person who is struggling.

A humbling experience that we tend to want to shrug off in our modern-day society sometimes. When someone is feeling shame, it is easy blame the church rather than reaching deep inside to consider what they could do better (this is not you I’m talking about btw, it sounds like you did everything you could to “fit,” which really shouldn’t have to happen).

But the whole purpose of religion is to have boundaries. Not “everything goes” if we want to strive to continue to progress. We have to have the valleys where we realize we have so much to learn along with the beautiful vistas.  And not blame others or feel shame if we are in a different spot from someone else (much easier said than done!)

There was a kid in one of our wards years ago who didn’t have a very involved family. He had struggled in the church, but had learned and grown, and decided he wanted to serve a mission. He worked hard to turn in his papers and get ready to go only to be denied because he was overweight (missionaries have to be able to ride bikes and walk a lot, obesity can lead to some pretty tricky stuff on a mission). Dave and I were dying at this rejection for that kid. We loved him and were so rooting for him! Didn’t they know that this was a big deal he was trying to go on a mission in the first place? This was going to totally turn him away.

But you know what happened? That kid humbled himself and got to work. He lost weight. He got so motivated. He read his scriptures and dug deep. He put all his efforts into becoming healthy and became and incredible missionary.

Those boundaries changed his life for the better.

This could have gone the other way, of course, but I love that this kid was humble enough to take this rejection as a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow. And that through work and diligence, he could become a better version of himself.

2) The church is run by imperfect people.

Although I believe so fully that our prophet is called of God and strives every day to “hear Him” to get guidance for the church, and that there are so many incredible leaders in our church striving to do their best, they are human. Which means they make mistakes. Small and large ones. I know of stake presidents and mission presidents who have made horrible mistakes. My own stake president was excommunicated shortly after I returned from my mission. I personally believe this is part of our learning process. To learn that no one is exempt from sin. We all have learning to do. And we can chose to say things like “just like me, that person is learning,” (because we all are, aren’t we?), and give people grace, or we can choose to hold grudges and let someone else’s decisions determine our own paths. The choice is ours.

It takes a strong person to think, “that doesn’t work for me, but I’m still learning. And I’m going to be ok with people judging me if I don’t conform, I’m still going to church no matter how people perceive me because this is my progression, not theirs” (as per some of your struggles you mentioned).

3) Change takes a long time.

There are so many deep-set cultural norms in the church that aren’t necessarily part of the gospel. They are things that have come generation through generation and are set up to be part of the gospel but they’re really not (the “fencelaws” as one person calls them in a podcast I listened to…I’ll have to link that below because it’s good!) There is a lot of heaving and adjusting and realigning in the church right now, but movement is slow. And we have to figure out a way to understand along the way.

Phew, sorry so long, but I’m just grateful to hear your perspective to learn from, and hope that you will find mine helpful as well.  I hope you have found happiness and hope you can find grace for those who have made you feel the way you did at church. Everyone is learning and hopefully growing but we’re all doing it in such different ways with such different experiences and backgrounds and capacities to grapple with. I am sending love and respect to you as you seek your own journey.

I’m grateful that we can all find our own sacred groves to seek answers and try to understand the things that may not add up in our hearts.

Photo by Maureen Matsen

Other thoughts about church and religion

The Gospel According to Me (part 1)

Podcast about “the Fence Laws”

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133 comments

Sarah July 13, 2022 - 8:58 am

I really enjoyed your thoughts here Shawni, and I think it’s great that you can be vulnerable and talk about it.
One thing I do struggle with and maybe you can help me understand better, is about the Temple. If young adults are not ready to make the commitment and wear the garments or fully have the desire to go why do parents and church leaders encourage them to still go make those huge covenants when they are not ready?
Is that where you are seeing a cultural shift that kids don’t feel as pressured to go, or is it still gossiped about if they don’t go to the temple right away, so they do it ‘ just because’. I think on social media I can see a gigantic shift in this generation when it comes to modesty, garments, etc Do you think the very top church leaders are aware of it , I’m not sure they are on social media???
I do think though that this generation are so much kinder, not as judgmental and they welcome.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:20 pm

Hi Sarah, good question. Church leaders (and parents) encourage the temple because it is such a beautiful place to connect with God. It is a place where families can be sealed together, a place to find peace and refuge from the world, and to make sacred covenants, and who wouldn’t want that for those they are shepherding? Before people go to the temple they attend classes to prepare, and because it is part of the culture to go to the temple, I’m sure some may feel that it is “expected.” But I think sometimes expectations help us in beautiful ways. I think it has to be a personal choice as to whether you are “ready” to go and I think you’re right, perhaps this next generation isn’t quite as ready as the last. But I love that they are asking questions and trying to figure it out.

I don’t remember feeling”ready” at all when I first attended the temple, but I’m so glad I did. Every time I go I learn something new. Sometimes being “ready” comes from taking a step forward and putting in the effort to figure it out.

I do think that church leaders are aware of the current trends, as well as social media.

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Ray July 22, 2022 - 4:48 pm

Yes , Shawni it is a beautiful place, and where you can get sealed and all those things, but they are also asked if they are ready? if they are prepared to make and Keep covenants, they are asked that they will wear the temple garments as instructed in the temple, and they obviously said yes to all those questions with absolutely no intentions of doing so? That’s the part I don’t get. Why go?

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Kristine July 13, 2022 - 9:36 am

You know no one berates a married Jewish woman or a Muslim female over 9 for not covering their hair. Or consider them not seriously of their religion. No one leaves comments on BYU Facebook asking why they don’t have recommend carrying athletes since none of them are wearing garment under their uniforms. Garments have changed over the years. Modesty has chanced since 1890 and 1920 and 1970. Fabric and how much skin is covered. The garments remind the wearer of their covenants. They don’t remind the person looking at their photo of another person’s covenants. That is why they are not outer signs but personal and private signs. He came, he died, he rose, he will come again. Why on earth are so many people focused on a pamphlet for youth and an instruction manual for the temple with the most recent copyright date? These things are not scripture or even a big deal at the end of the day. How is how another person lives the basis for their own observance for anything? People just want to be mad. I think the reason that this particular church is like this is the grooming for missionary work and the constant concern over image presenting and seeing and modeling. It’s the marketing aspect. And people cheerleading and declaring their testimony all the time at meetings. Other faiths just don’t have this nonsense. If someone is feeling lukewarm about a leader or policy for 6 months no one would need to know in most churches cause there is not all this oversharing. It seems people spend their life being convinced the church is true and the then convincing everyone else they think the church is true. Why? No entity faith or political party or employer is going to match a person in every single practice, belief or mindset all the time. But you can still have connections with these things.

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Janelle July 13, 2022 - 11:18 am

Kristine, you are not a Mormon, but you still feel the need to explain all about the garments and their personal purpose etc. Could you please let the REAL members of this church respond and just sit this one out? I’m sure you think you know everything about this religion, but I’m betting you don’t.

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Kristine July 13, 2022 - 1:14 pm

Was not the person in bold she was responding to not a current member? Ignore me. I can be deleted.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:22 pm

Kristine has some excellent points and has obviously thought this through, I appreciate her perspective.

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Gia July 14, 2022 - 4:16 am

You know she’s KMS right?

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Bennett+Delaney July 14, 2022 - 7:27 am

What is KMS?

Gia July 14, 2022 - 7:33 am

Bennett+Delaney – if you know you know.

Bennett+Delaney July 14, 2022 - 8:01 am

I don’t know … that’s why I asked. 🙄

KerstinEK July 14, 2022 - 8:35 am

Bennett+Delaney, KMS is the nickname of a blog reader.

Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:32 pm

Yes I do, and it sounds like she’s done a lot of research and pondering, has some interesting perspectives.

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MD Runner July 13, 2022 - 10:35 am

Thank you for posting both the comment and your thoughts. As someone who is struggling- the part in the comment about converts and those without extended families in the church really hits home- I appreciate seeing that I’m not alone.

I greatly enjoy your blogging and your thoughts. I agree with all your points on culture and especially the fact that no matter what- the church on earth is administered by humans. Fallible humans.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:34 pm

Thank you md runner, I’m sorry you are struggling, and I’m sending you love and hope that you can find a balance that will work for you.
xoxo

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Kristen July 13, 2022 - 10:37 am

I can tell you thought a lot about your response. The church works for you. The only problem I have with your response, is the same I have with Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Moss, the elite of Sientolgy. Beecause it works for them they allow the considerable abuse to the regular members of Scientilogy to continue. They legitamize it if you will.

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Jessie July 13, 2022 - 11:51 am

Kristen, this is EXACTLY what I wanted to say (but you said it better and expanded on it!)
When the church works for you, it’s easy to stay. When your family fits the perfect mold, it’s easy to stay. But the church causes *real harm* to many others.

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jenny+also July 13, 2022 - 4:38 pm

THIS!! The Church works for you, Shawni, because you were raised in the LDS world, fit the “mold” so well, and by your own admission don’t question your authority figures. But it doesn’t work for many others like differently abled or gender nonconforming or whatever else

The story you tell of the missionary who was “overweight” just BLOWS me away. And it says so much about the LDS perspective of conformity, obedience, and appearances. The ableism is surprising coming from someone raising a child with disabilities. You know who else cannot ride a bike? People who are visually impaired, people who use wheelchairs , people with severe asthma etc etc etc. (And by the way, have you checked in with this missionary recently? Chances are high that he is back to his original body type. You know why? Because science shows diets don’t work long term.) He “humbled himself.” oh, boy. With all the challenges you listed this boy had I bet he was pretty humble already. This story just SAYS IT ALL.

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Lila July 13, 2022 - 6:44 pm

Yes. I felt so sorry for that boy when I read that. Is Shawni so ridiculously oblivious that she would use this example as something positive??

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:34 pm

I’m not sure if you are saying I should be upset that the church wouldn’t want Lucy to ride a bike as a missionary? With tens of thousands of missionaries wanting to serve, there must be standards for safety and health guidelines. I’m grateful for that! I’m also grateful there are all kinds of missions including service and those that fit all kinds of needs.

Perhaps I didn’t tell the story very well, but I shared it as an example where boundaries can help us progress in positive ways as it did for this friend. He is still doing wonderfully well!

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Corey July 14, 2022 - 4:14 am

I think you told the story well, but others are seeing something here that you may not be seeing.
While appreciating all the thought that went into this response to this commenter, and your commitment to conversations like this in general, I too found the story of the “overweight” missionary both jarring and telling. I understand that within LDS culture (and doctrine?) there is a lot of emphasis put on personal progression. However, having seen the damage that systemic fatphobia, fat stigma, diet and wellness culture, and ableism cause fat people, I was struck that using somebody’s else weight loss as an example of “humbling oneself”, obedience and personal progression is a further example of ways the COJC can cause harm to those that don’t fit the mould (in this case the mould of having a specific kind of body). I’m glad the individual you described is doing well.
Thank you for all you share, and for your openness to conversations like these.

Jo July 15, 2022 - 2:25 pm

@Corey My cousin’s child was turned away from his life long ambition to join the US Coast Guard due to him being overweight. He never did make the cut. He didn’t want it bad enough. Can I be a Navy Seal without grueling effort? NO. That is the realities of life. I’ve never known anyone turned down for missionary service due to their weight, but for a few other things related to their personal health situations. My brother was shipped home from his foreign mission due to severe mental disorder. Things can be done for most people in regards to their weight. I have always been trim, but when I joined the track team in hs I got ripped. Diets can be evaluated and very often alterations can be made plus exercise added in. You know what a mission entails? I do. I’ve been on one. It can be physically rigorous and demanding for even the healthiest of youth. It would be a huge disservice to someone to send them out ill prepared.

Corey July 16, 2022 - 2:56 am

@Jo, thank you for your thoughts. The fatphobia and weight stigma that I mentioned are in many ways rooted in the idea that being fat is an individual moral failing, that it comes from lifestyle or not trying hard enough, and that stigma was reproduced in Shawni’s use of the young man’s story. Some people can change their weight, short or long term. Some people can’t. Being fat (or thin), not being able (or wanting) to lose (or gain) weight is not a moral value.
In a society that values hard work, I can see how the story of someone working hard to lose weight to meet a standard and achieve a goal can get woven into a feel-good story of personal progression. My point is to question the moral connection, because, as above, it feeds into weight stigma and fatphobia and these things cause harm.

Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:45 pm

I agree in what you are saying about fatphobia and weight stigma. I don’t see that in the church but perhaps I’m naive to that? But I think that is more of a societal thing that we need to be so much more aware of.

As far as missionary work goes, I think there is the tiniest fraction of a percentage of missionaries wanting to serve where weight is a problem…but the overall health of a missionary is important, the work can be pretty strenuous, there is a LOT of walking and bike riding and overall health must be taken into consideration. I think I did tell this story poorly. It wasn’t the weight I was wanting to focus on, but the fact that guidelines can actually help us rather than hindering us.

Shannon July 14, 2022 - 3:11 pm

Same – it blew me away too. My first thought was, what does weight have to do with spreading the gospel? Also, wouldn’t the walking/biking be a great thing for any person? I get health restrictions, but weight does not reflect character or faith. I don’t mean any of these comments as disrespect (I grew up Catholic, don’t get me started) and love the insights Shawni provides, but that was a hard one for me to process. Like everyone, I’m an imperfect human and the Catholic mission trip I did (I know it’s not the same thing) made me a better human.

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Kristine July 17, 2022 - 5:40 am

I don’t think you understand many missions they don’t drive around in cars, the missionaries ride bikes for miles or even walk everywhere they go depending on the area they are assigned. The BMI is no higher than 37. You do not have to be skinny

Andrea July 13, 2022 - 11:47 am

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I love how genuine and open to discussions you are. Your blog has been a source of inspiration and reflection over the years.

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:18 pm

Thank you Andrea! xoxo

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Jessie July 13, 2022 - 11:53 am

Many thanks to the original commenter. Her thoughts so closely resemble my own (including why I’m drawn to your blog).

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Heather July 13, 2022 - 1:56 pm

Changes do take a long time. But what is the point of a prophet when we have to sit back and guess what things are revelation and what are human fallibility? The church expertly covers up its damning early history. The guidance to avoid non church approved materials is so clever and keeps good people in the dark for decades. Joseph Smith, in my educated opinion, was a fraudster and a liar. It took me 36 years of honest devotion to the church before I learned this and oh how it stings. Please look outside the correlated whitewashed history. The church taught me that truth matters and unfortunately that is what also led me out of it.

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Heather July 13, 2022 - 2:22 pm

(Meant for main thread…)

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:26 pm

Sending you love, Jessie!

And Heather, I also wish the church hadn’t covered up early history. I think that was something that they felt at the time could hurt more than help. Again, human error in my opinion. Just like some parents don’t think their kids need to know about things they did in their past that may not help them progress in the way they want them to? I personally don’t agree with that either, but just a thought. I am grateful the church has come out with all kinds of documentation about that past. It was messy. But I’m glad we can be educated about it.

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Jessica July 13, 2022 - 12:04 pm

I appreciate your reply and that you are willing to admit the church has flaws and our leaders are not perfect. As a very devoted member for 45 years I am pretty disgusted with the church and leaders right now. I feel like my world has been flipped upside down. My son suffered a horrendous vaccine injury that many years later still affects our life every day. He was in a coma and barely survived. Because auto-immune diseases run in our family and because of our son’s injury our group of doctors recommended that we do not vaccinate our daughters. To hear the prophet tell members that a brand new, experimental vaccine is safe and effective and that we should obey our wise and thoughtful government leaders (even though there is much proof that they are neither of those attributes) has left me enraged. You can not give one size fits all medical advice to 16 million people. We have had many friends who had no intention of taking the shot end up giving in only because the prophet told them to. We know many people who have had strokes, heart attacks, and have had a few friends drop dead. My dad’s closest friend had a stroke and died post-vaccination. Most recently a healthy 40 year old man with 4 kids in our ward just didn’t wake up in the morning. Tithing-funded church schools would not let students attend who have medical exceptions from their doctor, and BYU rolled out vaccine passports for a time. To make matters worse the prophet and his wife gave a devotional for California members. It was the most horrendous meeting I have ever witnessed. We were being reprimanded for questioning the prophet. We were told he never speaks as a man and every word out of his mouth is from God. It was an hour sales job by him and his wife pretty much saying he is perfect and not to question him. I have seen videos of Elder Bednar saying religious leaders can be used to combat vaccine hesitancy and even worse there is a video of Sister Eubank where she says using aborted fetuses to make vaccines is okay because it helps people. I feel like I am in the twilight zone. What happened to receive your own personal revelation and Hear Him? Any thoughts you have on this would be so appreciated, I know I am just one of thousands of members who are shocked and saddened by the approach taken by church leadership over such a personal matter.

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Gwen July 13, 2022 - 12:37 pm

If you are shocked and saddened by your church you should leave it. How could you possibly remain a member of a church as you described?? Give me the reason why you are still a member..

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Lorella July 13, 2022 - 1:23 pm

This is so interesting to me reading all these comments, so many perspectives from different members of the Church. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints since 1973, I was in High School when I joined and to this day I am the only member on my side of the family. My husband is a member, we have a Temple marriage, but only 1 of our 3 kids is active in the Church. My husband does not believe in being vaccinated, but I did, so I am and he is not. I never felt pressured to get vaccinated, I heard what President Nelson said about it and what his recommendation was, but I didn’t do it because of what he said, I did it because it was what I thought was best for me, and my husband did not and that is ok. It has not affected the way we feel about the Prophet, it has not damaged our membership or how we feel about the Church. I continue to go to Church not because I am expected to but because I love it, I am a better person because of the Church, I am a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter and a better friend. It has blessed my life in more ways than I can count. I don’t expect it to be perfect because, even though it is the Lord’s Church, those of us who belong are human and we are not perfect, just trying to be better one day at a time and that is good enough for me.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:36 pm

I love your perspective, Lorella, thank you for sharing.

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Gennifer July 13, 2022 - 1:27 pm

any “church” that doesn’t let ‘non-members” attend ceremonies, secret ceremonies in a secret temple is a cult. prove me wrong. the LDS religion is a cult and has all sorts of secrets, as do many religions. but most religions one can freely walk away from and question and come back to when ready, not the LDS church. I grew up in Gilbert, I have dozens of mormon friends, I know this religion well. it’s a cult started by a deranged Joseph Smith to get as many wives as he could legally. no more no less. Shawni is a wonderful woman, from a wonderful family and i know many great mormons, but their beliefs are cultish- no more, no less.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:47 pm

Gennifer, see Mari’s comment near the end about the garden. I think she says it well!

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Sophia July 13, 2022 - 5:27 pm

Shawni your answer was so thoughtful and respectful but do you ever think you find it is so easy to follow the rules of your faith is because you are a person of immense privilege (I have many privileges as well soI am not calling you out for it) and fulfill the stereotypical “ideal” for the Mormon Church? If you had a child who identifies as gay or transgender do you think it would be as easy? And why doesn’t the church find ways for people with different abilities and different body types to serve? I really don’t mean to question your faith–you obviously find great fulfillment from your beliefs but your circumstances –your family, your race, your economic status, etc…likely play a big part in what you call your natural gift of faith.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:43 pm

I agree that I write from a “privileged” perspective, but I know so many “ideal” Mormons from every different angles, from affluent to destitute, those who come from strong families and those who have come from brokenness and have sought out missionaries and the gospel and had it change their lives. I would love to have some guest posts from some of them at some point, so many inspiring stories!

I have friends who are trying to muddle through church membership with gay children or members of the family and yes, it is very difficult. I don’t know the answers for this but I think we need to get busy finding them. Every single person should feel welcome in a church that believes in an all-loving God.

The church does find ways for people with different abilities and body types to serve. They have some pretty great programs for people of every age and ability to become missionaries. I’ll have to find a link to explain more about that. Lucy would love to serve a mission some day and I know there are some great avenues for her to be able to do so.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:45 pm

Also, I just have to say I really appreciate the way you asked questions with kindness. Makes for such a better discussion so we can try to understand perspectives better!
xoxo

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Jill July 13, 2022 - 5:30 pm

I loved the story about the boy being humble and working hard for something. What a struggle it could have been if he’d just been sent out without being physically ready. There are service missions that may be an option for people who are not able to ride a bike or walk a lot, but through the prophets inspiration and his faith he did something hard and grew because of it.

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Sophia July 13, 2022 - 6:15 pm

It doesn’t sound like he was offered an alternative missions but outright denied when he applied.

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Jill July 13, 2022 - 7:25 pm

To me it shows the prophet as a seer. He could have offered something else but he knew what would be best for him.

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Jenny also July 13, 2022 - 8:15 pm

What prophet are you referring to? Do you mean the head of your church? You think he knows the ideal weight for each of the 50,000+ young missionaries that are “called to serve”’ every year? If that’s the “living prophet” you’re talking about I hope he “sees” the pain he is causing hundreds of thousands of Gay people and reverses his position on that. Maybe around the same time that he “sees” that women are as capable as men of taking on formal leadership responsibilities, blessing their children, and whatever else “priesthood” holders do? Or maybe his skills as a “seer” will allow him to understand how damaging the conceits of “purity” and worthiness” are to kids. But no, that’s not what your prophet sees. Instead he’s “seeing” prophecy regarding a teenagers ideal BMI.

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Jill July 13, 2022 - 9:30 pm

I know there are many hard issues but I also know that it has never been easy or popular to follow the prophet. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is a good testimony though of the reasons to trust God and follow His prophet and His law. The promises are sure and I’m so grateful for scriptures to help me see that things I can’t see myself are seen by God.

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Kristine July 13, 2022 - 10:22 pm

Thinking the lawyers/insurance people know the weight for missionaries for different types of activities. Are you expecting the guy to also predict the weather? He isn’t that kind of prophet. I’m not entirely sure of the ‘pain’. Why would there be any care about what a church says, it would be an irrelevant organization? Policy changes all the time. What happens is the child becomes inactive and perhaps some family members leave. It’s a free country. I am not saying complain on blogs of Muslims but no one complains on them that Muslim majority nations actually execute LGBTQ and blame the Imams and attack the typical muslim blogging family. In communist China Lightyear must be censored a scene or two or won’t be shown legally. Same with many countries where being LBGTQ is illegal. But that is a valid respected religion and atheist is respected. 1/3 of the earth’s population rejects Lightyear movie. In this church and some other Christian churches they don’t marry LGBTQ.. and it’s the end of the world? It’s intolerable to tolerate that? But execution of human beings and depictions banned from all monitors.. is perfectly fine and not the least bit ‘painful’? The entity to be annoyed with is a bit odd of a choice. Same sex marriage isn’t legal in Israel. You can not get married there. Israel will accept as married those who get married outside the country even where not possible to marry within it. And if you want to Israel bash, the Palestinian’s would do a heck of a lot worse to a gay couple. Less than 20,000,000 on a planet who are members of this particular flavor of Christianity out of 8 billion people are THE problem? You have highlighted many valid reasons for not joining yourself, but many of the commenters seems to think that if they do not have a valid reason for belonging no one has a valid reason. This labeling others as deplorable who have a different mindset has got to stop. The church isn’t calling the gay couple deplorable. The church just does not fit the mold, having a sacramental way to seal such unions. 3000 and some odd years ago Moses said God didn’t want people doing that. Some Jewish and Christian flavors have figured it out and some are just doing what has been done. Lots of choices out there.

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KerstinEK July 14, 2022 - 9:42 am

This is a “Mormon” blog, so of course “Mormon issues” are addressed. And I am convinced that the doctrine and culture of the LDS Church pains some people, it is quite obvious in these comments.

Just because there are issues “more wrong”, doesn’t mean the “less wrong” issues shouldn’t be discussed.

And last, I *know* that even in Western societies, there are Muslim women that are berated because they don’t cover their head. And that very often Muslim people have to justify/explain the “very wrong issues” in Muslim countries.

Chelsea July 14, 2022 - 8:59 pm

I have had two kids serve missions and they are required to have a physical from a doctor as well as other references about their overall mental and physical health. The leaders of the church take the input from these professionals when making their decision about ability to serve.

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Shawni July 13, 2022 - 9:47 pm

There are definitely alternative missions people can serve in all different capacities and he for sure could have gone that route. But I shared the story because I thought it was so cool that he decided he wanted to take this route and changed his life because of it.

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Whitney July 13, 2022 - 10:50 pm

Thank you. This is perfect. I appreciate how you choose to think deeply, treat others with respect and continue sharing your faith and family. It’s a hard thing to be vulnerable with the things that we hold most dear and I’ve learned so much about how to do it from your example. I’ve followed your blog for so many years now and your influence on me and has had far-reaching and impossible to quantify effects for good-even though I’ve never commented before. It’s true and I’m grateful.

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:16 pm

Thank you so much Whitney. Sending love and gratitude right back!

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Amy July 14, 2022 - 5:41 am

This is really interesting discussion and I really appreciate that you were vulnerable and opened this up to people (when people are having very passionate thoughts and ideas on this topic). It is interesting to me seeing what is happening families such as Sarens, with her older two boys not serving missions and one of them not being married in a temple. How does a family like yours deal with something like that? I would love Saren to explore this on your podcast as it would be really great to hear from a devout follower with children who have decided to not follow the church in the way that expected of them growing up.

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:40 pm

I think Saren and her husband are the best parents and have maneuvered through raising kids who have decided some things weren’t for them in such a loving way. That is her story to tell, but I will say that we are planning on doing a podcast episode about how we were raised church-wise and how that has infiltrated into our own families. I’m sure Saren will share some thoughts there.

The bottom line is that although it’s difficult to see your child choose different things than you would want for them, you can choose whether to let that strain a relationship or you can seek to understand where they’re coming from and learn and love in new ways. Saren chose the latter.

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Liz July 14, 2022 - 6:14 am

Yes, and Sarens daughter in law is obviously not wearing garments at her wedding, and her dress was not modest, even by non LDS standards.

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Janell July 14, 2022 - 2:11 pm

Of all the comments on here, yours bothered me the most! We seriously need to stop judging others by whether or not we think they have their garments on! It’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!! I actually appreciated the first commenter who mentioned that they are a private symbol of devotion. This is exactly why! Did it occur to you that your comments may be hurtful?

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Sarah July 22, 2022 - 4:44 pm

Shawni, I loved how you described Saren and her family. What a beautiful way to handle that. I too agree that the relationship are more important at this stage. I’d love love for her to talk about it, & help others navigate those waters.
I do have a question and I hate going back to it because it’s not about the garment wearing itself, but I just wonder why you or others encourage your children to go to the temple, knowing they are not going to wear them after. You know they were not, they knew they were not, so why do it, when they are making sacred covenants and the garment is s as reminder of those sacred covenants?

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Shawni July 29, 2022 - 10:25 am

Hi Sarah! I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back here. I appreciate the question but also want to make sure you’re aware that there are a lot of assumptions mixed in with your question, so it’s difficult to answer. I really am trying to hear you though, and I feel like you’re trying to get at a pretty valid question so let me try to give my thoughts. Just to clarify, when you say “they” and “your children” I’m assuming you mean Elle? Or are you thinking Grace and Max weren’t ready either? From my point of view, each of my three kids who have gone through the temple were as ready as they could be. They did temple preparation classes, we read books together, they have learned about the temple from the time they were little. Really, when you grow up in the church you spend your whole life preparing for the temple, right? Most importantly, they had the desire to go, and they felt they were ready. To be vulnerable, I’ll say that with each one of them I have gone through different times when I wonder as their mother: did we teach them the beauty of those sacred covenants enough? Were they really ready?

But what’s beautiful about the temple and life in general is that we can grow into things. I don’t know that we are ever fully “ready” for anything…starting a new job, taking piano lessons, baking bread, being a mother. Sometimes things take a while to sink in and become “yours.” Certain parts come naturally, others take work and cultivation. Including things as big as temple covenants. I sure didn’t understand them fully when I first went to the temple…I still am working hard to understand them in many ways. But there are no Instagram posts or blog posts that can portray that “readiness” to it’s full extent. It’s a personal journey, and that is a pretty beautiful process.

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Kristine July 15, 2022 - 5:23 am

Oh my goodness why are you focused on Lexi and not Ashton? Maybe Lexi is not a member of the church? Neither have been through the temple so have no garments in the first place. You get them when you serve a mission or seal in the temple. They are not even youth so that every changing pamphlet doesn’t even count. What is with the focus on women and girls and their hemlines? Starts in school and just continues. Us moms of boys barely look at the dress code. Moms of girls or checking necklines and hemlines and how many inches are the straps holding up the top…

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Molly July 14, 2022 - 6:22 am

I see so many parallels between the LDS Church and the Catholic Church – central leader that is both human and transmits the word of God, ability to attend services everywhere and have the gospel be the same (I think!), strict social rules (no sex before marriage, marriage is only between a man and a woman), emphasis on charity and service, sacred and holiness of sacraments. Obviously, there are also MAJOR differences. But in comparing two centralized religions, to me, at least, as a 21st century Catholic, it’s *easier* to be a member of the Catholic Church and not follow all the rules with little internal conflict and still receive communion and be an active member of my church, while practicing behavior that is clearly against the church itself. Many Catholics take issue with this mentality and fear that it dilutes the Church as a whole — there’s no denying that! But for so many of us, it’s morally and spiritually simple and trust that a God of the poor and meek and the wounded would not be so strict and would focus on love. I wonder if you feel like the LDS church is heading in this direction, where one can be a believer and an active member but not follow all the rules? Or do you think that would never happen? Like for example, could couples living together before marriage end up getting married in the Church one day? Or gay members be out and have families and marriages but still be active? I don’t know what the answers are at all, or even what the right answer should be. But I’m curious if people are comfortable or worried about the church moving in that direction.

Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts with us – as I’ve said before here, your blog has made me evaluate and question (in a good way!) my relationship with God!

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Gia July 14, 2022 - 7:37 am

This is laughable. OF COURSE you can’t be a member of something and not try to follow the rules! How silly. Why be a member if you don’t like the rules? The camaraderie? Join a club, not a church.

That is not to say that people are perfect and will not INADVERTENTLY fail to follow the rules at times. But to set out not to follow them, consciously – why bother to have a church with rules at all if the “members” (LOL) can do whatever they want.

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J July 14, 2022 - 9:41 am

GIA — your comment is laughable. Of course you CAN be a member of the Mormon church and not be completely orthodox. Look around your ward!! One of the greatest strengths of the Mormon church is the community it provides. From what I can see, the Catholic and Jewish churches don’t come close to providing a sense of community like the Mormon church does. I can promise you there are members of your local ward that are not orthodox in how they practice Mormonism, but will never leave the Mormon church because of the community/camaraderie it provides. I’m frustrated by some of the doctrine in the Mormon church, but I will never leave. I believe in God and Jesus Christ and the Mormon church is my religious home and how I connect with them. I have no interest in attending another church because I am a Mormon. Why would I go to another church? I love going to church on Sundays. I love my ward family. But I’m all for change — and change will happen. I have been a RS Pres, a YW Pres, multiple Primary presidencies… but at a certain point I told my bishops I will not attend the temple because I will not promise to “obey” my husband. Enough women made a fuss about that part of the temple ceremony, and they took it out of the temple ceremony. Change happens because people take a stand! By no means is that the first time the church made changes because people spoke up. I am 42 years old and do not wear my garments every day. I told a member of my bishopric that I wear them “throughout my life” and he gave me a temple recommend. I feel like you would put me in the category of being someone who doesn’t follow the rules, but I have always told my church leaders the truth and where I’m at as far as the “rules.” I am not vocal and public about it, but my church leaders know. When the temple ceremony changed it was my bishop that called ME and asked me if I would be willing to come in and get a temple recommend. There are eight wards in my home town, so we have a lot of members where I live and plenty of people for leadership roles. I’m pretty certain I’m someone you would describe as not following the rules, but I am definitely an active member of the Mormon church with the bishopric celebrating changes in the temple ceremony asking me if I will now attend.

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Gia July 14, 2022 - 10:37 am

J…. bravo! Whether I think you are a member is not the point. You owned it!! You said thus us a dumb, outdated rule and I’m not following it!” YES!!

But alas. That is not what Shawni and family do. They say (1) irs not really a rule (2) we didn’t do anything wrong (3) nobody is perfect, we made a mistake etc etc

Thank you for being “real” and owning the fact that, yes it’s a rule, it’s a silly rule, and I am not going to follow it!

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Laura July 14, 2022 - 4:04 pm

Gia, why do you read this blog if you are so hostile about Shawni and her family?

Cass July 14, 2022 - 12:45 pm

J–

I wish I could sweep you up in a big hug. It’s nice to know there are others like me out there. I’m actually noticing there are more and more members who aren’t willing to follow every rule or believe every single thing. I will NEVER leave the LDS church, even though I feel like I was deceived about it’s origins and even though I don’t agree with, or believe, all of its teachings, and even though there are some things that legit drive me crazy. I’ve made peace with it and have found a way to make it work in my life.

I stay because:
1. I want church/religion in my life and in the life of my children. I’ll never find a perfect church that doesn’t have things about it that rub me the wrong way, so I’ve chosen to stay in the church of my family, husband, ancestors, and friends.
2. LDS living is not just my religion or where I go to church on Sundays. I’m not sure people who aren’t LDS really understand this. It is my history and my culture. The community and stability it brings into my life is priceless. PRICELESS. It is tradition, ritual, milestones, friendship, family, support, and so much more than The For Strength of Youth pamphlet people keep wanting to bring up. It is hope.
3. When I tally up what I like about living an LDS life, there are way more pros than cons. Some of the cons are temples, garments, tithing, and arbitrary, changing, and pointless rules–that we just don’t need. Some of the rules of LDS living are so unnecessary. If we want to be a worldwide church, we have to recognize that different cultures do things differently–like tattoos and piercings. They’re of great significance in some cultures and it is so sad to me to see people turn on their 1,000 year family history because of rules made by white dudes in Utah. I decided long ago that going to the temple regularly wasn’t for me. Sometimes I feel like something is wrong with me because I hear people, like Shawni, talk about how they learn something new every time they go and how special it is, and I’m over here like, “I don’t get it. What am I missing?” I mostly feel uncomfortable the whole time and want to get out ASAP. It makes me feel weird and I don’t really think my Heavenly Parents are going to ask me for a handshake when I meet them. We’re gonna hug, no doubt about that! I also don’t believe it’s the ONE true church. Goodness gracious–there are CURRENTLY 8 billion people on the planet (and lots of people who have lived and who will yet live) surely there isn’t ONE way to live for everyone. Anyway, I go to the temple for special events, I go to church every Sunday with my family, we read the Book of Mormon together daily, we talk to our kids about missions and I always tell my sons, “It’s YOUR choice. You go ONLY if it’s on your heart to do so.” I serve in callings, including auxiliary presidencies (same with my husband, but he’s like Shawni and has a gift of faith and believes things literally, unlike me.) Anyway, it works for me. I try to focus on all the good it has and continues to bring into my life, which is a lot, and at the end of the day, I hope my children continue the tradition of living an LDS lifestyle as well. Lastly, I also recognize that without my family connection to the church that I’d probably be a member of another Christian faith.

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Cass July 14, 2022 - 12:56 pm

I want to add—my issue with tithing, isn’t paying a tithe, it’s that I don’t want my tithing to pay for more temples. I want my money to go toward improving the lives of living people ONLY: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing clean water to communities, providing education, safety, etc. I also fully recognize the church does a tremendous amount of humanitarian work. (So much!) I just wonder how much MORE we could do if temple money went to humanitarian work as well. And I really struggle with the fact that as a donor, I’m not allowed to an end-of-year financial report. Any financial advisor will tell you that you never donate to an organization/charity that doesn’t give you a transparent accounting. I struggle with paying 10% every paycheck when my family could really use the money. We are living paycheck to paycheck and that money would go a very long way in our household. I’m here to stay and I also believe we’re going to see a lot of change over the next 50 years. People aren’t willing to tolerate many of the old ways. I am here for it. 🙂

Lola July 14, 2022 - 1:55 pm

Cass – I appreciate your candidness here. I think that you are saying that you believe in God, want to live a good life with some worship being a part, and you want to raise your children in some kind of faith. That is commendable.

I have several observations – none of which are meant to judge you, I just don’t understand a couple of things you said.

One is – you say that you serve in callings in the church, such as auxilliary president, etc. I don’t know exactly what that is, but does it involve any teaching of doctrine? How can you teach other people things that you don’t believe yourself?

Another is – you go to church every Sunday – when they mention some of the things you no longer (or never) believed, do you just sit there? Do you expect your kids to believe it? Is it teaching them hypocrisy?

You say you would most likely be in another church if not this one… I wonder if you should explore some other ones, ones with rules you don’t find silly, or maybe very few rules at all….

If it is true, as Shawni and others say, that no matter if you leave the church or not, your friends and family treat you the same as they always did…. how would you lose your community and your friends and family if you chose to become a member of a church where you actually believe the teachings?

Cass July 14, 2022 - 3:14 pm

Hi, Lola! Thanks for giving me a chance to clarify. After reading your questions, I could tell that I left a lot of gaps for the reader to try to fill themselves. Online communication is HARD! 😉

1. “How can you teach other people things that you don’t believe yourself?”
I haven’t ever taught something I don’t believe and I never will. There are 2 CURRENT points of LDS doctrine I don’t agree with and I’ve never been in a position to teach them, nor do I anticipate I will. If I were to ever be in a situation where I wasn’t comfortable teaching something, I’d simply encourage the individual to search it out on their own or go home and discuss it with their parents. A lot of LDS Sunday services actually aren’t doctrine. There’s a lot of story sharing and telling of personal experiences and sharing of opinions and ideas and discussions, mixed in with some conference talks and scripture (the later two I view as doctrine).

2. “You go to church every Sunday – when they mention some of the things you no longer (or never) believed, do you just sit there? Do you expect your kids to believe it? Is it teaching them hypocrisy?
I have no problem with someone saying “I know the church is the only true church on the face of the earth.” I don’t believe that, but it doesn’t affect me if someone else does believe that. I’m actually really happy for someone who believes that. I once did and it’s a really nice place to live! (This is one of the two points of doctrine that don’t align with my personal beliefs.) When my kids say, “I know the church is true,” I ask them how they know and discuss it with them. I’ve let my kids know that not everything they hear at church is doctrine–a lot of it is people’s opinions and experiences. My kids are also exposed to a different way of Mormonism than I think a lot of other members are. In church it’s not uncommon for them to hear someone talk about a run-in with the law, years of inactivity, a family member in prison, going to AA, how someone likes to drink coffee every day, swearing, as well as many ward members with tattoos, men with long hear, ear piercings on men, etc. I like that they’re exposed to a “rougher” LDS crowd. (I don’t know how else to say it. Ha!)

3. “You say you would most likely be in another church if not this one… I wonder if you should explore some other ones, ones with rules you don’t find silly, or maybe very few rules at all.”
I’m not interested in joining another church because I chose, and continue to choose, the LDS church because it works for me and mostly brings A LOT of peace, happiness, security, identity, and connection. It’s where I want to be, flaws and all and I mostly live it as intended. I love going to church with my parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, etc. It’s part of the whole experience. When I said I’d be a part of another Christian church if it weren’t for my family, I’m not saying I’d leave if it weren’t for them, I’m saying, I wouldn’t have ever have been a member without them. Somewhere along the line (I don’t even know where) I had a family member join the LDS church and that decision was made for me. Sure, I could undo that choice, but I don’t want to. It has benefited my life and the life of my family and children in countless ways. It makes me want to be a better person, to learn of Jesus Christ and his atonement. It makes me want to serve and look out for humankind. My LDS membership gives me hope and stability. It’s priceless to ME, even with it’s flaws, which don’t really cause me much trouble. I also think it’s unlikely that every member of every religion agrees with and believes every single piece of it. I’d say me not believing two out of countless aspects is doing pretty well. (You can tell from Shawni’s blog over the years there are things they don’t believe in or that don’t align with their family either.)

Thanks again for giving me a chance to clarify. I’m going to tap out of this conversation now and attend to my family. All the best, Lola. <3

Kristi July 14, 2022 - 12:52 pm

as a therapist i can tell you that a majority of my clients are mormon and ALL have been sexually abuse by their father or male relative or even their bishop. so please, don’t get me started on your “community”. it’s a community of stepford wives at best. i work with people of all religions and it’s my mormon clients who are most broken due to their religion, rules and “families are forever” ideology. imagine being stuck with a father who molested you, forever. open your mind, your mormon religion is very broken!

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KerstinEK July 14, 2022 - 1:38 pm

However, not all Mormons are your clients. Some might experience that community.

Laura July 14, 2022 - 4:07 pm

Pretty judgmental for a so-called “therapist” Why are you reading a Mormon blog if you feel this way?????

Molly July 14, 2022 - 12:22 pm

Gia – maybe I didn’t phrase my comment/question correctly if that’s all you took away from it. J’s point on rules changing is a good one – and often they won’t change if people keep following them! The idea that “rules” that are separate from the actual theology should be unchanging and unchallenged is reductive and quite honestly sad.

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:50 pm

Lots of well thought-out comments here, in response to Molly’s first comment I want to say that yes, couples who live together before marriage can absolutely end up getting married in the temple one day. When they feel they are ready for marriage and temple covenants they are so welcome. And openly gay members are welcome at church. I know of one gay man who is in a bishopric. The LGBTQ question is a really tough one in our religion right now, but I so hope things in the culture will start to change because in my opinion everyone who wants to be at church should be welcome with open arms and not feel alienated.

I also really appreciated what J and Cass had to say about why they stay. Thank you so much for sharing.
xoxo

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Bennett+Delaney July 14, 2022 - 7:59 am

This entire discussion is so interesting and I applaud Shawni for being so open and honest about it! It can’t be easy to put all your really personal stuff out there for people to attack and criticize, but it certainly has given me some things to think about.

LDS is not my faith, so it’s really none of my concern about who is following what rules. Not my belief, so the rules hold no power to me. And I never see judgement against other choices on this blog — quite the opposite — so it seems like the basic vibe is everybody do their own thing and mind their business. I appreciate that!

What I have found most interesting is that I’ve thought a lot about *my own reaction* and have realized that what seems so appealing about LDS isn’t as much about the religion as it is about the culture. And yes, it’s hard to separate the two, because deep belief in the faith informs a lot of parts of the culture. But truthfully, I’m not really drawn to the LDS in this scenario … I’m drawn to the fantasy of being a wealthy, thin, beautiful, athletic married woman in a gorgeous house with a big family around me.

(No shame in any of that, Shawni … you’re lucky and I’m sure you appreciate that fact. But it’s the opposite of me in some key ways … although I am still far privileged compared to so many around me.)

I would love to read a blog like this from a single, no-kids, overweight LDS woman with janky teeth who lives alone. 28 Toes … 10 on the lady and 18 on her cat! 🙂 I would be so curious to see how that person situates herself within not just the religious framework of the church, but also the cultural one. But then I wonder if that woman would even be blogging publicly, or would she feel so excluded by the church culture that she left entirely?

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Shawni July 14, 2022 - 11:57 pm

I would love to read that blog too, 28 Toes gave me a smile;)
I am grateful for comments like these that remind me how peculiar our “culture” is sometimes.

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Bennett+Delaney July 15, 2022 - 6:20 am

Not peculiar bad, though. I can’t see anything bad in strong families, loving each other, being prepared for hardships, building a strong community, etc. Maybe only peculiar in the very strict dictionary definition in that it is, sadly, odd and unusual compared to the rest of American society today.

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Jo July 15, 2022 - 2:58 pm

I can tell you that I have a friend who would fit the mould of what you are getting at. She grew up probably lower middle class. Probably never got a date. Was always overweight. I served a mission with her. What has become of her? While I don’t know much more than the Facebook details of her life, she has chosen to get educated and she travels the world for personal and humanitarian experiences. This is a person who probably had never been anywhere before her foreign mission. She appears to still be quite active in her faith. I am so proud of her. During the twenties, it can be a very challenging time as a single LDS woman who may find few dating opportunities, but the ones who have long suffered have truly become swans.

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Lydia July 14, 2022 - 9:17 am

Bennett+Delaney, I have been reading this blog since Lucy was born – and there actually have been lots of judgements on different posts. The main beef that everyone, LDS or not, seems to have with this family is that the “rules” don’t really hold any power for them either. Oh they will acknowledge that the “guidelines” are there, put there by “imperfect humans” and that each family has “agency” or free will to either go by them or not. And it’s all ok! They can be LDS, go to church, do pretty much everything – and still ignore the guidelines/rules that interfere with their persona or way of life. Everything from showing shoulders, double pierced ears, cleavage, garments…. it’s all optional!

But then the LDS ladies come out – and either praise Shawni because they want to be just like her, and since she feels that way it must be ok for them to ignore whatever rules don’t appeal to them… or they call her out and let her know that she is way out of line on some things and it makes it harder for them to get their kids to follow the rules.

And just about any comment, except this thread – which is great/amazing – that asks for clarification or explanation is deemed critical and they are labeled as trolls.

Then Shawni comes on and gives a very vague comment about “we’re all trying to do our best, stop being rude (most are not) and ain’t God grand….”
Then she deletes most of the comments where she and her family are actually called out.

I hope you get to read this one before she jumps on the delete button.

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Jessie July 14, 2022 - 1:20 pm

Local LDS leadership is a LOT more likely to turn a blind eye to rule-stretching when the family doing it pays as big of a tithe as the Pothiers must. It’s privileged to assume that all people can have the same relationship with the church as they enjoy. (This from an ex-Mormon who is glad to see Shawni rule-stretching and thinking about deeper things. But. Not everyone can do that without HUGE backlash — backlash that possibly uproots their entire life.)

I’m enjoying the conversation and your willingness to open the dialogue and engage, Shawni.

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Janell July 14, 2022 - 2:28 pm

Jessie- I want to ask you something sincerely. Why do you feel the local leaders of the church, or any leader, favor those who are more wealthy? You are not the only one who has mentioned this and I’m wondering what it stems from? It has not been my experience (and I have been poor and rich) but I am curious to hear yours.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 1:00 pm

I’m so curious about what Janell asked as well. I would love to know your story, Jessie, so I could understand where you are coming from. Would you mind sharing?

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Bennett+Delaney July 14, 2022 - 5:15 pm

“or they call her out and let her know that she is way out of line on some things and it makes it harder for them to get their kids to follow the rules.”

Why on earth would the actions of some random folks in Arizona have a bearing on anyone else getting their kids to behave?! That sounds like a family problem, not a Shawni blog problem …

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Lydia July 15, 2022 - 10:23 am

Honestly they could be on the moon. AZ or not, they are on the internet, and the people who follow are everywhere. Shawni has become a role model to other LDS women, particularly young SAHMs who look to her for how to be a good mom, wire, and yes – Mormon.

The followers are sometimes very fan-like – they love her so much, thanks for the ideas, I’m implementing them in my family, etc.

If one or more of these followers is on the fence thinking about doing something wrong (in the eyes of their church) then they see Shawni doing or not doing it… it’s validation. That, for Shawni, is a heavy load to bear, and one that she will most likely be held accountable for whenever it is that Mormons believe they will meet their maker….

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Lydia July 15, 2022 - 10:25 am

*wife, not wire LOL

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Marianna July 14, 2022 - 10:00 am

Hi Shawni,
I’m not LDS and I have been reading your blog for years. I enjoy your thoughts and perspectives and get a lot out of your posts. Thanks for this one. One thing that seems to come up over and over in comments is this battle over “rules”, which I think this post speaks to somewhat.
One distinguishing feature of the COJCOLDS seems to me to be the amount of “rules” – be it garments, tea and coffee, beards, whatever – and where the line is drawn between a rule and a guideline (eg word of wisdom is a rule, I think, but strength of youth is a guideline?). I know that if I were a member, I would struggle with this too, especially in a faith that puts a lot of importance on following all the rules – is it only the rule-rules that need following to the letter, or are the guideline-rules rigid too? This would stress me out (and I would struggle with the arbitrary nature of the distinction).
If I understand you, your stance is “Do your best, keep trying to figure it out, prioritise”. IE try to make the right choices, keep working on the choices that you can’t get on board with, focus on believing in the gospel and let the details fall into place with time. To me, this makes sense. People are not static, our thoughts and opinions change with time and experience and something that seemed fine at 20 may seem problematic at 40 (in both directions – “oh, I wish I had never had that second piercing” or “oh, I wish I’d learned to say no to callings years ago”). Different phases of life bring different perspectives and it makes sense to me that as a faithful member of a church you would struggle with, and find peace with, different parts of your faith through your life.
What is surprising to me is that so many commenters, on this and many LDS blogs, seem to expect otherwise. The pressure from these commenters to do All Of It, Just Right, Everyone, All The Time doesn’t seem to allow for real humans, and doesn’t seem related to the atonement that is so often talked of in LDS spaces.
I think the reality for everyone is that they focus on the bits that they think are most important. The difficulty seems to be (and I don’t know if this is cultural or doctrinal) that this sort of prioritising is discouraged. Would some Saints truly prefer someone left the LDS faith than had 2 earrings? Are there Mormons who think it’s white shirt to church or terrestrial kingdom for eternity? Are any LDS members proposing policing meat consumption to make sure that anyone not being sparing with the fowls of the air doesn’t get a temple recommend? I don’t believe any LDS person would truly think that…but maybe I am wrong.
As I say, I’m not religious but I love your blog and I find your insights into faith fascinating. Hope you don’t mind my sharing my perspective.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 1:11 pm

Thank you for your perspective, Marianna, I have so many of the same questions. I think people are all just coming from such different vantage points and I think it’s human nature to want others to think the same way we do. So I do love discussions like this to try to understand where other perspectives are coming from. I think the core of the gospel is centered around agency and using it (through the atonement) to make corrections as we live life imperfectly. We have guidelines to help us but we all “sin differently” from one another and I think many are trying to make sense of where they stand in that progression in comparison to others. Maybe that’s why it’s so emotional? I do think we can learn from others, but in the end it’s ourselves we need to examine and continually work on.
Thank you for your thoughts!
xoxo

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Angie July 14, 2022 - 10:02 am

Yours is the only blog I have followed since my children were young. You and your family are examples of trying your best. You have made on positive impact on me and my life. Thank you for your open mind and acceptance of others.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 1:12 pm

Thank you Angie!
xoxo

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Darlene July 14, 2022 - 10:12 am

Marianna, I agree. I think that there are more important things than whether someone has 2 earrings, and that at age 40 someone might regret doing it.
The only issue with that is – if you do make a mistake and do something that is Not Quite Right…. then correct it, to the extent possible. Did Claire make a mistake, a judgement error and get double piercings? Probably, she is a teenager with limited maturity. The thing to do, for Shawni and Dave would be to say, “well you can’t undo this, but if you think you made a mistake, that’s easy – just don’t wear earrings in both. It will close up – or even if it doesn’t, then you can not flaunt the error, especially all over my blog..” Same with the prom dress – judgement error to buy it, wear it… maybe… but NOT a judgement error to post pictures of the “error” all over the blog, then act like people are picking on you for wearing it. Even the most oblivious person must see the double standard… of claiming nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes… while at the same time posting pictures of the mistakes then acting all put out when people mention it.

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Marianna July 14, 2022 - 10:42 am

Hi Darlene,
I don’t think you do agree with me. I think you see any action that doesn’t follow your understanding of the rules as definitely an error of judgement, and something that should be hidden from other people in case it sets a bad example which leads to everyone not following the rules. I can see that it *could* be that. But I can also see that it could be an example of someone who has prayed hard, received revelation, and is following what the Spirit has led them to. Maybe they feel led that every other rule is right, but this one is wrong. Isn’t praying about things and receiving revelation a key part of being LDS? Shouldn’t that process be openly encouraged? I feel like that sort of prayer and action is how Big Changes, like the 1978 priesthood changes, come about. What’s to say that the rules on drinking tea couldn’t change, if enough people prayed about it? How would people know which rules you can pray about (obeying your husband?) and which you can’t (coffee?). It seems like you should be able to get revelation about any of them. I’m not LDS, as I say, so I might just be missing a key understanding about the faith about why people shouldn’t pray about a given rule. But to me, not following a rule isn’t necessarily a sign of not having faith, or a sign of a mistake. Maybe in the LDS faith, it IS a sign of that? This is the context that I guess I will never understand…I’m willing to read a lot of blogs but I draw the line at watching conference talks!

(ps, I’m happy to talk about this but let’s leave the children’s choices out of it – it’s not their blog and there are plenty of non-Pothier-specific examples we can discuss)

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Kristen July 14, 2022 - 11:10 am

All these comments about shoulders, piercings, modeststy, striving, and progression make me happy I am not LDS. Are you kind, compassionate, empathetic, thougtful? Those are the kinds of things that matter to me. Man looks at the outward, God looks at the heart. A person could be successful, follow the law to a tee and modee5 and stil be not Christ like at all.

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Kristen July 14, 2022 - 11:10 am

Modest

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Angela Okada July 14, 2022 - 3:40 pm

Hi Shawni! Thank you for your vulnerable and thoughtful post.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:22 pm

xoxo

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Kara July 14, 2022 - 6:42 pm

Little late to the party but grateful for the opportunity to explain why I am sometimes frustrated with religion talk from you, Shawni. Not sure that was the intent of this post but here I am trying to share respectfully, honestly, and kindly.

You show the good and bad parts of life, parenting, marriage, etc. but we only see the good part of your religion. I understand how hard it can be to share something so personal but only showing one side makes me wonder what’s underneath. I’d rather not hear about anything than only see the good. It makes me question your faith and religion which is soooo wrong of me!! I started following the blog to learn more about the LDS faith. I still want to know more!

I find nearly all religions interesting. For example, ten ish years ago, a new Lutheran denomination was formed. The United Methodist Church is trying to fight off a schism over the same topic-gay marriage. Where do the people vs the LDS leaders stand on the topic? Is it in the news? I could search but it’s not pushed to me as a midwesterner. Am I curious about garments and Elle? You bet but (besides from that being nosy as this isn’t Elle’s blog) I’d rather hear more about garments in general and meatier issues that float around non-LDS people. Things like how do leaders frame LGBTIQ issues? What is taught about Joseph Smith and how is that reconciled with his known actions? What happens when someone marries outside of the faith? Of course, I’d love to know your personal thoughts and opinions on these topics but completely understand how difficult that can be to share with such a large audience.

My thoughts are out of curiosity and wonder, not rudeness or judgment. I apologize if they didn’t come across that way.

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Jessie July 14, 2022 - 11:24 pm

Great comment, Kara. I can’t speak for Shawni but as a former member of 30 years I can say that “what’s underneath” the shiny exterior displayed on this blog (and the many others like it) is information and thought processes that members of the Mormon church are actively warned against pursuing. For example, when you allude to Joseph Smith’s “known actions,” most devout Mormons reading these comments don’t actually know what you mean. The church has put forward a highly sanitized, redacted, and propagandized version of early church history and warns members of the dire consequences of looking at any information sources that aren’t “approved” by those in charge. (In other words, of researching the actual historical record.)

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Jessie July 14, 2022 - 11:50 pm

And as far as where the church stands on LGBTQ issues, here is an article from last year summarizing current LDS sentiments. https://slate.com/human-interest/2021/09/mormon-lds-church-gay-rights-controversy-byu-speech.html

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Annie July 15, 2022 - 3:02 pm

Jessie, to get a proper feel for the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues, it would seem better to go to the actual source. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/inspiration/here-are-lgbt-resources-for-our-church-family?lang=eng

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Jessie July 15, 2022 - 5:23 pm

Annie, and I mean this kindly: You could not have proven the point I made in my previous comment more effectively if you had been trying to.

Shawni July 22, 2022 - 12:22 pm

Kara thanks for these questions. Man it’s taken me so long to get back here I don’t know if people are even still on this thread. (We’ve been thick into our reunion at Bear Lake.)

But here I am, and for what it’s worth, I can understand your frustration. I do speak highly of my religion because it is sacred to me. It has taught me a way of life that is filled up with Jesus and His teachings: service, forgiveness and repentance and progress, learning and unconditional love.

Do I get frustrated with some aspects of it? Yes. For one I am trying to grapple with how the LGBTQ community is marginalized. I think Jesus would encircle every community with unconditional love, and I know the church is doing it’s best to do the same, but I know the LGBTQ community at large is not feeling it. Somehow that needs to change, but I don’t have the answers. I’m just praying to have an open heart and to be able to give grace.

As far as Elle and garments, you’re right, that is a question for Elle. As a whole religion though, I do think this younger generation is much less careful at wearing them than my generation taught. The instructions were much more specific when I went through the temple. Now they simply instruct, “wear the garment throughout your life,” and there is much more room for people to use their agency to figure that out for themselves. I wish we would concentrate more on the beauty of the symbol rather than on who is wearing them and who isn’t and how and for what activities. If someone is wearing them in fear of being judged or because they are “supposed” to I don’t think that benefits anything, although I do think there is so much room to grow into gratitude when we wear them religiously. As for me, I love my garments and have been so grateful for the reminder they give me throughout life. Dave and I have done our best to teach our kids the significance and beauty of the covenant reminder.

As far as ear piercing goes, again, this is about agency. I wrote a post a while back about the “locus of control,” how as children we have an “external locus of control.” We are taught to behave within certain boundaries as we progress so that we can be contributing members of society. Eventually, in order to continue progression, we need to gradually change that control from external (others are acting on us), to an “internal locus of control” (we are in charge of our own destiny). If we allow a church (or any organization for that matter) to completely dictate every aspect of our lives and don’t ever make a conscientious decision as to what is important to us, there is no room for growth. We need to teach kids that they are “self-appointed agents.” THEY are in charge of their destiny. How beautiful is it that we can have guidelines within our church community and that we can make our own decisions as we shift and grow and learn! The decisions kids make (big or little) may help or harm them, but what matters is that they take action and learn from those decisions. I think this is the essence of the gospel. If we are still, as parents, dictating all the actions of our children when they leave home, I think there is a fundamental problem. We are not letting them progress with their own agency. We are not letting them build their own “firm foundations.”

I love that the church has released all kinds of things about Joseph Smith that include the not-so-glossy things. I’m sure they could go deeper, but although true facts should definitely not be hidden like they were in the early church (I really do see so much going on to rectify that), I don’t think that means we need to preach those things or dwell on them. I would rather learn from them and continue to progress. Joseph Smith definitely had some roughness to him (just like our forefathers did and so many others who have gone before), but I think it’s incredible that good things can come from roughness. I’m so grateful for the goodness that did come from Joseph Smith that has become part of the scaffolding of how the church runs today.

When you ask what happens when people marry outside the faith, I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but it is not a requirement to get married in the temple. Couples can choose to work toward a temple marriage or they can choose to just live out life married civilly. Of course, there is encouragement to get married in the temple because we believe that people can be married for all eternity, but for whatever reason maybe some couples aren’t ready for that, and may never be ready.

I hope these thoughts help. I’ll be honest, I don’t generally discuss these things in much depth here on the blog because I don’t think this forum isn’t the best place to do that. There are too many looking for holes and missteps. There are plenty of other places on the internet to do that if that’s what people are interested in! Here on this blog I really want to focus on the importance (and joy) of parenting and life, taking advantage of this fleeting time we have with our children under our roofs. The importance of connection. The highs and lows all mixed together. I bring up the gospel quite a lot because it intersects in so many ways with how I look at and approach parenting. It helps me to learn to love better and reminds me there are always, always second chances.

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Kara July 23, 2022 - 10:44 am

Thank you for your response. It definitely helped me learn more about your faith. I understand your hesitation to share and wish people could come with the intent to understand as opposed to judge. At my core, I know I’ll never be LDS and I assume you’ll never be Lutheran like me. I don’t look at your faith as being wrong but rather not right for me.

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Shawni July 29, 2022 - 10:30 am

xoxo

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Shawni July 15, 2022 - 12:20 am

Oh man, I can’t quite get to all the responses I’d like to tonight…I’ll have to come back tomorrow, but for now I’ll just say I appreciate all the food for thought. I am grateful for the way even those who are disgruntled make me think. Sending love until I can get back here.

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Jill July 15, 2022 - 11:21 am

I feel like one thing that’s missing from this conversation (that may help with some of the questions), is the big picture about what “the gospel” is. The gospel is not a list of rules- it is the good news that there is a plan to save all of us. That to whatever extent we repent we won’t have to suffer ourselves for those sins. We (church of Jesus Christ) also believe we can do more than just overcoming our sins but can actually change and grow and become more like Heavenly Father and as we do, we can receive more of His peace, joy, truth, and power. The gospel- or the path through which these blessings come- is by faith, repentance, making and renewing covenants, following the spirit and then keep going with this process as we go from grace to grace throughout our lives. It doesn’t happen through perfectionism or a checkbox mentality of living the letter of the law, and it also doesn’t happen by “making adjustments to the rules for your own comfort”, but it happens through a relationship with God that is gained by spending time with Him in scripture, prayer, and service. Just like any good relationship it involves sacrifice, humility, faith, trust, gratitude, love, and repentance. Compare it to the time and sacrifice you put into a happy marriage or a happy parent/child relationship. Relationships involve boundaries or laws and those are not given to restrict us but instead to bless us. Sure we could “fight back” and try to get the law about things like garments changed, but we can’t do that and still receive the blessings that He wants to give us that come from living that law. I love the Jewish saying about seeking after commandments because it is through them that we can receive the blessings mentioned above- peace, joy, truth, power, etc. if He who is all knowing and all loving says that those laws are what are going to bring those blessings then I want to seek out and follow as many as I can. And as I do I’ll fail over and over but as long as I am trying (faith) and repenting and putting my natural man on the alter each week, and keeping my relationship with Him strong, then I will be close enough to Him to be able to receive the help He is offering me. Some of the laws may seem silly to us- not showing shoulders, double piercings, not drinking tea, but these are the ones that set us apart from the world and if we set ourselves apart from the world we are promised power to more easily overcome the evils in the world, but also to have influence over it. If we want those blessings, they come through being different. Sure we could not follow those things, but again we can’t do that AND receive those blessings. It’s up to us. This should make sense to any parent. We have boundaries or laws in my home about screens, not eating only sugar all day, being kind to siblings, doing chores, doing homework, etc… and those are set up because we believe as the parent that those things will bless the lives of our children and our relationship with them. They could choose not to obey the rules but if they fight with their sibling they will not be able to receive the blessing of peace in our home, if they watch screen all day instead of getting out and living life, they can’t also have the blessing of many of life’s joys. Because we truly love our kids we give them the boundaries that will bring them joy. We know our kids will push the boundaries and we can either teach and let them learn from consequences, or we can give in and deny the blessings that could have come. It’s easier for children to obey when they are filled with love and gratitude for their parent, and the same is true for us with Heavenly Father. If we don’t take the time to have that relationship (and are just trying to live the law for cultural approval) it’s really hard! We need to have experiences with Him so we know we can trust Him. It’s not supposed to be easy because if it was we couldn’t grow.

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Trish July 25, 2022 - 1:36 pm

Thank you Jill! This is what it’s all about!

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Jill July 15, 2022 - 12:41 pm

I’m sorry to have written a book- and here’s another with thoughts about the church. The biggest issues seem to be the judgements of the members, the church’s role in the world (is it “the one true church”?), church history, and the prophet. One thought about the members is, if those who don’t want to judge others leave because they’re mad everyone else judges, who is left to be an example of not judging others? One of our purposes for going to church should be to lift others. This can be hard when we feel like we need to be lifted ourselves, but if we hand that responsibility to God, it could free up our expectations on others and allow us to help them see a better way to love as we set that example. As for “the one true church” I don’t love that phrase either. I think our role is to share the knowledge we’ve been given through the restoration, but other churches have a role in helping Gods children as well. We should share the restoration with everyone because it’s meant for everyone, and also recognize all the good that is being done by so many different people throughout the world. We do have to balance that with the fact that there is only one truth and one path to God. I believe that path, though it goes through Christ, will be filled with Jews and Muslims and many others who are living true to the truth they’ve been given until they are given more. The same for us. We need to live true to the truth we’ve been given, and continue in faith when we’re given more. As for church history the thing you will most easily find if you do a shallow search, is a bunch of sensationalized, out of context, half truths. This is probably the reason the church encourages going to original sources, which weren’t always made so easily available but now they are. The history is definitely not perfect, and I’m so amazed that God allows us to do this work for Him. He could do it all on His own, but just like we could do things on our own easier than teaching our kids to do it (while helping them fix all their mistakes along the way)- that doesn’t help our kids (or us) learn the things that will help them succeed in the future. He helps us along the way and one way is through prophets. This is where fallibility gets tricky- he’s using humans but puts his divine approval on them. He prepares them beforehand and won’t allow them to lead us astray. This discussion could take forever but in terms of church history I have heard all the big anti-Mormon arguments about Joseph smith and I also know that the his name is known for good and evil- but if you go beyond a shallow search and dive deep enough, you will see that God would not put his divine approval on any prophet that was doing evil and Joseph Smith was worthy of His approval. Some sources to go to learn more about some of the the anti-Mormon arguments and the deep history behind them are the doctrine and covenants “follow him” podcasts and the youtube series by Anthony sweat called The unfolding restoration. The “Unshaken” podcast episodes about the doctrine and covenants by Jared Halverson are long but good. The polygamy one is especially good. There are also many church essays on many of these topics. As for our current prophets, they have said they’re seeking diligently about Lgbtq issues and we can have faith that they will be guided in that and other areas, as we seek to know what we can personally do to bring love to our sphere.

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Jen July 15, 2022 - 3:30 pm

Jill, thank you so much for your beautifully expressed thoughts. ♥️

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Jess July 15, 2022 - 4:03 pm

I’m so sorry to hear that some readers have had a negative experience at church. I can’t begin to fully understand the hurt and pain felt. My Mum instilled in me to always be kind and I feel even more so now to do so. This world is loud and very confusing at times, but deep in my heart I know we have a loving Father in Heaven. I have been extended many tender mercies and personal experiences that I can’t deny His love. I hope everyone can find hope, love and peace in their lives ❤️

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 1:35 pm

Thank you for those thoughts and also those resources, Jill. And Jess, I so agree with you.
There are two podcasts I want to share that I think are so well-done talking about how much truth there is in the world. I believe there is truth everywhere and we as members of the church do not have the market on it. The first is a two-part series I talked about (and linked to) back here: https://71toes.com/2021/09/i-shall-speak-to-all-nations-of-the-earth/
(those two podcasts speak to me more than I can say.)

I also loved this one I listened to last week for “Come Follow Me”: https://youtu.be/ggpUf1TuEtM
I love how they talk about the “King Cyrus Principle” and how God uses every religion and all goodness to bring truth and to hear God.

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Melissa July 15, 2022 - 3:34 pm

As the original commenter, I’ve wondered if it is worthwhile to reply. First, I don’t have any animosity for Shawni and her family – or Mormons, for that matter. I do believe Mormonism is a cult, complete with deception, indoctrination, spiritual blackmail, and oppressive social controls, but lots of people say “It works for them,” and even if I don’t understand how, I’m not going to argue. And I have no interest in talking anyone out of their beliefs. I’m just happy I finally saw how much it didn’t work for me. It would be validating to have current Mormons acknowledge that even though the church works for them, it is devastating for others. For those of us who have been deeply harmed, it wasn’t because we didn’t try hard enough or believe enough, or were too susceptible to the mistakes of others. It is because our experience was terrible; we suffered from the church’s discriminatory policies and cultural norms; we came from families that didn’t understand the gray areas of the church’s rules; and there were people around us, who in the name of their religion, however incorrectly and misguidedly, treated us cruelly. Sadly, our injuries were compounded because we thought it was our fault, we thought we deserved it, we were told we were weak when we felt “offended.” My brother died 28 years ago. He was 25, had served a mission, and after a couple of years of inactivity, he returned to church and got engaged to a very sweet young woman. When he died in a construction accident, three months before their wedding date, we found out she was pregnant. Our family felt the pain of the timing, but gratitude for the baby, my brother’s only child. His fiance’s family, on the other hand, disowned her, and told her to give the baby up for adoption and never speak to our family again. Her dad, currently a bishop of a ward in Arizona, said god had allowed my brother to die because my brother was not right for their daughter. He said those words to us. They eventually forgave their daughter and accepted my niece as part of their family. They have not allowed us much time with her. I don’t think premarital sex is the worst thing in the world – I think the evil words spoken to us, when we were already grieving and devastated, are the real sin.
Of course, they were wrong. They are imperfect. But it’s not a matter of understanding that there are imperfect people in the church. Their behavior reflects on them. But that kind of cruelty is common in the Mormon church. Many LDS people apply their faith in a way that hurt others. No one corrects them – they just blame the people who were harmed.
The Pothiers live in a bubble of Mormonism that is nothing like what other church members experience. If the president of the church is at your seminary graduation, you’re in a different church than others. If your parents make an enormous income as the authors of books that are for the Mormon audience, and you benefit from their financial success and wide connections, that’s a different. If the depth of your family’s experience with Mormonism allows for flexibility in understanding its doctrine, you are living a different religion than most other Mormons. I went to BYU around the same time as Shawni and found myself surrounded by Romneys and Yorgasons and people with Mormon heritage that went back to the beginning of the church. And others whose families were made up of stake presidents and regional authorities, bishops and mission presidents. Their Mormonism was not the same as mine – mine is two convert parents and the heritage and culture of a minority group from a tiny town thousands of miles away from Utah. I didn’t and I don’t have an inferiority complex about my culture or my economic background. I was proud of my parents for joining the church. I loved my extended family, all agnostics and lapsed Catholics. It took me quite a long time to understand these parts of my life made me less acceptable as a Mormon, not more. There is another well-know LDS mom-blogger who writes widely about sexism in the church, her pro-choice stance, and other “progressive” Mormon views. Her family, too, has many generations of Mormonism behind it, wealth generated by church connections, and what appears to be unlimited permission to interpret the gospel. She says the church isn’t her church, but Mormonism is her religion. That’s how she justifies her membership in a church that is so wildly disconnected from her morality. I don’t get it. No amount of equivocation explains that discrepancy. You don’t join a club that openly discriminates against gay people (for example, they are not allowed to be in relationships or get married) or that is canonically sexist (no equal conferred power or representation for women) and try to change that group from the inside – you leave that group no matter how much it works for you. I changed from the inside when I saw the unkindness that comes from beliefs based on judgment/salvation and I wanted nothing to do with a group that cannot be consistently relied on to show love to all people. I’m not collateral damage anymore for the time it’s going to take the LDS church to reform itself. I’m happy for Shawni that the Mormonism she lives in is more evolved, more enriched, and a thousand times more forgiving and understanding than the Mormonism many of her readers experience. I left a comment because I see the bitterness in the things others say and the questions they ask about Shawni’s life, and that makes me sad. Lots of us tried our hardest to be Mormon, and felt brutalized, and now are invalidated when we speak about our experience. But we have to let it go.

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Jessie July 15, 2022 - 6:14 pm

Melissa, you have a real gift with words and I don’t say that lightly. You’ve opened an important dialogue here on a highly emotional topic in a way that is respectful but brutally honest and unflinching. Thanks for sharing your experience. You will probably get some version of “the church is perfect, the people aren’t” (which you anticipated) or “that’s culture, not doctrine” in reply. To those people whose first impulse is to repeat such platitudes I say “doctrine drives culture.” The two are intricately connected and a mirror of each other. The church’s sexist, racist, and homophobic doctrines created a(n objectively) sexist, racist, and homophobic culture.

Sorry if this is uncouth or self-indulgent but I’d love to connect outside of these comments with you or any others in a similar place, if they want. I’m on Twitter as jessiejensen and on TikTok as post_mormone (get it? Ha).

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Bennett+Delaney July 17, 2022 - 10:20 am

I don’t do TikTok, but +10 for post_mormone! 🙂

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Nicole July 15, 2022 - 6:21 pm

Yes the church can cause such deep deep harm. Thank you for sharing your perspective and experiences so beautifully. ❤️

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Corey July 16, 2022 - 3:04 am

Thank you for deciding to reply, Melissa, and for your original comment that led to all this. It’s a lot of vulnerability and realness, and I wish you lots of tenderness and care 💜

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Amanda July 16, 2022 - 9:37 am

Melissa, I’m so sorry for the cruelty you experienced about your brother. That is heart-breaking.
I wrestled for about a decade before I left. I *think* I would have stayed indefinitely if I found more honesty in the institution and its members. I believed everything. But I struggled with the harm that the church enacts on certain groups and people. And when I tried to find answers and ways to manage my membership in a church that affirmatively hurts (already marginalized) people I faced so much resistance. The gaslighting was intense. I admire Shawni for being more open to tackling some of these issues but her statement above “And openly gay members are welcome at church” just strikes me as …. a way to not really reckon with the harm and pain caused *by* the church to lgtbq folks. Is her statement true? Eh, probably in lots of wards (not all, certainly). But it also really sidesteps the real issue. And certainly Shawni isn’t required to discuss her most innermost thoughts on a blog. But the problem, for me, was that there was never a forum to discuss these things in a genuine way. General statements about how the “lgtbq question is a really tough one” didn’t do anything to address the high suicide rates or the family shunning or anything else that were a direct result of church policy.
I personally am of the opinion that people should stay engaged with mormonism if that is what speaks to them. But I think integrity requires that (1) you acknowledge the harm that mormonism does and (2) live with that cognitive dissonance. Because, hopefully, that dissonance causes you to advocate for changes that will make mormonism better.

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Kristine July 16, 2022 - 5:40 pm

She doesn’t have integrity cause she does not see her church in the same light that you see the church? What an ego! If Christ Himself appeared on Earth in physical form some would probably have a problem with Him.

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Delia July 18, 2022 - 9:35 am

And if Jesus Christ himself came down and told some of these ladies that garments are not optional and to cover up those shoulders, they would still find a way to say that he really didn’t mean it that way….

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Jill July 17, 2022 - 12:48 pm

I’m so sorry for all the pain you suffered Melissa!

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 1:58 pm

Melissa, thank you for getting this conversation going. I am so sorry for the pain you have gone through. For the harm you have felt from the church. I am so sorry about your brother and all the sorrow that surrounds that experience. I am sorry for the pain many readers seem to be going through as they grapple with things that are meant to be light and goodness but have somehow transformed into darkness. I am so sorry that you felt “less acceptable” because of your background. While I don’t believe that should ever happen in a church that is striving to bring light and goodness into the world and to follow Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that for you, it has. And I am so sorry. I am sending you love and wishing you and your family healing and happiness as you move forward.

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Nicole July 15, 2022 - 3:37 pm

I have been thinking about both this post and comments all day. I love all the different perspectives and believe that it’s in the conversation that we find Christ.

Shawni – I could have written this post 6 years ago. I LOVED the church. I never questioned. It was where I was introduced to God and I had many spiritual experiences there that made me believe it was the “one true church”. And then…. after a year of wrestling, and so many discussions and fights and struggle and pain, my husband left. It was painful for us both. But then… I watched him evolve into a better man outside the church than he was in it. He has always been an amazing and fantastic person, but letting go having to do certain things and the idea of “perfection” made him softer, more accepting, more full of love. And to my surprise God got bigger. My whole world got bigger. And after learning more about my kids I am SO GLAD he left because it made our house a safer place for them than it would have otherwise been.

Through him I have become acquainted with the suffering he went through at church, and seen first hand the pain he experienced at the hands of believing members trying to convince him to stay. I’ve also become acquainted closely with the suffering of so many because of the church. Because they don’t feel safe there. Sure there’s internal work that needs to be done on their part, but there is so much we can do better as a people. I loved what you said about making it a place everyone should feel loved and I would add INCLUDING those who don’t believe. My husband would love to still be a part of the community if he was allowed to express opinions and be himself. And so I stay and try and have the hard conversations and because despite all the flaws I can’t imagine my life without the community. My oldest no longer attends and I told him I still want a bishop of his college to know he’s there because I know if he got sick, or hurt he would be taken care of, no questions asked. I think Carol Lyn Pearson sums it up so well https://sunstone.org/why-i-stay-2/. thankyou for being so open and honest and vulnerable on here. I love reading about your family.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 2:04 pm

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Nicole. I’m sure that is tricky to navigate all you and your husband have gone through and I am sending you love as you continue to work to figure it all out and how it works for your family. I agree wholeheartedly with your thought about figuring out how to include those who don’t believe. Everyone is at a different stage in their faith journey and we can learn so much from each other!

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Jenny also July 15, 2022 - 4:46 pm

Oh Melissa! Thank you for pouring your heart out to us. Your wrote beautifully and honestly. I’m sorry for your loss and hope with the passage of time you and your family get to fully connect with your niece. Once she’s an adult she’ll likely want to know more about her father’s side of the family.

You’re very eloquent about all the privileges Shawni + her extended family enjoy without being unkind. (I myself can never get over the fact that her parents wrote a book called THE ENTITLEMENT TRAP. You’re better than me). I’m guessing many read here. They seem like a good and loving people; I hope your beautiful writing, and the pain you’ve shared, help them question and search more. Some here have written about the “gift of faith” but I really think questioning and challenging is a real sign of strength.

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Mari July 16, 2022 - 10:03 am

Hi there!

Very interesting read… I rarely comment, but I guess today is the day! 🙂

There is a beautiful garden sanctuary next to my home. When I walk through the gates of the garden, I almost always take a deep breath, because it feels like stepping into another more sacred world. It is open to the public, all are welcome, but there are rules on the gates of this garden.

Here are some rules for the garden, that are not in other parts of the park:

No dogs
No food
Stay on the path
Keep off the grass
No bicycles or skateboard
Do not touch fish or wildlife
No commercial photography
This is not a playground
Please show respect for the garden and other guests

The rules on the gate may seem restrictive to some (especially people who like to touch fish… 😉 ), but without the restrictions, there would be no reverence, no peace, no tranquility, and the garden would not be the sanctuary and haven that it is. I am grateful for the rules of the garden that create reverence and respect, and a place of peace that I can escape to in this chaotic world.

God is a God of commandments and rules, because commandments and rules bring peace to those who choose to faithfully and lovingly follow Him. His commandments — when understood with love and admiration for the One who gave us all life — are not restrictive, they are RESPLENDENT GIFTS!

I have found in my own personal life, that often people feel the need to change their beliefs to accommodate their behavior. I have seen this firsthand in a very personally dramatic way. If we have behavior that we don’t want to change or give up… it is easier to change what we believe in instead, and then blame someone/something else, so that we can keep ourselves feeling good about our choices. And when I say “we,” I mean me, too! It takes a lot of humility to willing submit our will to the Lord and change! It is hard, yes, but worth it, YES!!!!

I have learned a lot about grace over the years, and I have learned to have grace for myself, and also I have learned to rely on the grace of the Savior, who makes up the difference of our weaknesses. It is HIM who I go to Church for. It is His GRACE I partake of each week when I take the sacrament, and repent. Oh how I love to repent! It feels so good. 🙂

It is Jesus who is by my side at Church, when I sit there as a single mom, widowed, and soon to be divorced. Do I fit some mold? No. Do I belong at Church, with my Savior? YES. And I always will, no matter what happens to me. Do I understand it can be hard to feel comfortable at Church sometimes? Yep! But like my mama used to say, “Some people are here to bless us, and some people are here to test us.” I hope that I can bless more people than I test. 😉

When my heart is anchored on my Savior, and as I look around at Church and give that same grace I desire to others, it is SO much easier to feel comfortable, even when people can be insensitive. I know I can be insensitive all the time! Grace, please. I need it.

When I went back to Church after my husband died, I thought I might die from the insensitive comments offered. But oh man, I am grateful I stayed, because I also received some of the most valuable and Christlike charity from those same people!

I am not going to let people keep me from Christ and His Church.

I am particularly grateful in my life for all the blessing that have come when I try to understand and live the commandments. I am always learning and stretching, as we all are, and my life has not been spared from deep sorrow and heartache (and I mean DEEP heartache), but through all the pain and sorrow, my Heavenly Father and Savior have been there, providing peace in the storms.

I am grateful for places of sacred peace, like the Temple, a place where there are “rules on the gate” that make it special, so that we can feel that reverence, awe, and quiet respect for our Creator, and make covenants with Him. I am SO grateful that the Lord provides a way for us to “stay on the path,” with commandments, and repentance when we mess up, so that we can feel a little piece of Heaven on earth, and return to live with Him again some day.

I can’t wait to see Jesus! Sure feels like it is getting closer… Hooray! 🙂

Much love!

Mari

http://www.clingtocourage.com

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Matilda July 17, 2022 - 9:32 am

Hi Mari!
I am so sorry that you will soon be divorced! It must be a difficult time for you and your family.
Lots of love to you and yours!

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Jill July 17, 2022 - 12:42 pm

I love your moms saying about blessing and testing. Thanks for sharing!

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 2:09 pm

Thank you Mari, for sharing these thoughts. So beautifully said. I especially loved your thoughts about God’s “resplendent gifts.” Sending you so much love as you go through all the refining fires.
xoxo

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Jenny also July 16, 2022 - 1:33 pm

So much food for thought here!

LDS church was born in the United States and seems to reflect some of our culture’s biggest most painful challenges including misogyny/racism/classism/homophonia/control/sexual abuse . Reading through the comments here and thinking about it more the number of LDS Gods really stands out to me. There’s the Savior, there’s Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, the Spirit, the Adversary. How many Gods are there? One of the things I really value about modern Judaism is the focus on oneness. We believe all people are made from the same divine spark and that one God connects us all, and all our experiences, to each other. (This may be less true in Orthodox Judaism). I wonder if the division of God into so many different parts is at the root of the “othering” so many people are saying they experience in the LDS church?

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Jill July 17, 2022 - 12:49 pm

I’m so sorry for all the pain you suffered Melissa!

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Katherine July 18, 2022 - 5:36 pm

As a person that was raised in the Catholic Church, Shawni’s answer to her reader’s question brought me back to my Catholic days. Her response and reasonings were full of shame and judgment. The overweight boy’s story, his parents that weren’t heavily involved (I’m still trying to figure out why it was a necessary piece of information for that story other than to imply their lack of involvement is responsible for his weight issues), and her reasoning that if you feel things need to change about how church members judge one another or don’t make it others feel welcome, maybe the onus for change is *really* your issue. The continual justification of the church hiding its hurtful decisions, mistreatment of marginalized individuals for hundreds of years and that continues today, misogyny, shame-based rules, and intolerance for those that ask valid questions feels so much like the Catholic Church I left decades ago.

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Shawni July 22, 2022 - 2:32 pm

Here I am so many days later. I appreciate this conversation and all the insights shared (and the patience of those who are still even here to read this!) There is a lot of emotion in these comments which is understandable. It is emotional to test and defend our often hard-won convictions (whether we feel the church has saved or wronged us).

There is much representation here on this blog (not just in this post), of those who have struggled deeply with the church and it’s doctrine. I am grateful for the perspectives shared because it is so easy to get in a “bubble” of whatever your beliefs are, good and bad. I validate the deep worries and concerns, and feel so sad that there is hurt and pain associated with a church I believe is valiantly trying to “light the world” with goodness. I am so sorry for what you have gone through.

I support and send genuine love to those who have left. I am not here to try to get you to “come back,” I just hope you to find happiness and peace in your journey. I hope you can feel God’s love for you in your life.

For readers who are seeking to know more about my religion, I want you to know that for each person who is struggling there are hundreds of thousands who find truth and goodness in the gospel (I don’t think these readers have quite as much representation in these comments.) It has changed their lives for the better. It has taught them to have a relationship with God, to begin to understand, snippet by snippet, the power of the Atonement and the potential that has to change everything.

I am one of these people. I share that “good news” because it infiltrates into everything I do in life. And I am so grateful.

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Allyson July 24, 2022 - 11:46 pm

For each person that is struggling there are hundreds of thousands…??? This is wildly out of touch, Shawni. You are deep in that bubble you speak of. And in reference to how slow it takes to change things, I’d really love to hear your thoughts on the name “Mormon” as you were spotlighted as one in the I’m a Mormon champaign. I’ve never seen church members adjust to something said by the prophet so fast. It’s like using the word Mormon is worse than a cuss word now. The prophet has power to make change, and that’s what he has chosen to make a fuss about. So gross.

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Allison July 22, 2022 - 6:14 pm

I so appreciate all of the comments here. I found this church at 16 years old, along with the rest of my immediate family. We had previously attended many other Christian churches and found that what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Book of Mormon did for us is add to our already strong faith in Jesus Christ. I have grown closer to the Savior and am coming to know Him more each day as I seek Him. I find peace and guidance in following a living Prophet and His teachings today. I feel that they lead my family and I closer to Christ. In our family we have many who have remained in the Church of Jesus Christ and some who have chosen other faiths and are so happy with their decisions too. What I can say is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provided a wonderful framework for me in my personal life and has helped me teach my children of Christ. I love the Come Follow Me program and the framework it gives to study scriptures such as The Old and New Testament and The Book of Mormon. There is so much good in the world today. Sometimes we are distracted by our differences whether they be religious or political and forget that we are all children of God, seeking to do the best we can here on this Earth. I appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow together on this blog.

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Shawni July 29, 2022 - 10:40 am

Thank you for these thoughts, Allison. I so agree that it’s so easy to get distracted by our differences, yet we really have so much in common and how beautiful it is when we can build on those!

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