How many of those living outside the ideological sphere of LDS influence bear an evil will or intention towards the Church?
There are in fact national evangelical Christian opponents and political activists who tend to oppose “all things Mormon” out of an overall intolerance for non-fundamentalist Christian organizations. These are in opposition to specific doctrines and practices of the Church and encourage their own memberships to avoid all LDS connections.
But among the inactive and disaffected there are few real “enemies” of the Church except on a very personal and non-universal basis. We might ask of the leadership if it is not time to stop grouping disaffected, inactive or former members with every openly and radical hostile opponent of the Church.
Often active Mormons who passively absorb the fear-mongering rhetoric regarding dissenters and apostates relate poorly to inactive or non-LDS friends and family. Secure in their programmed acceptance of the true-churchiness of their way of life, active Mormons might not understand how a mirror perception is directed in their direction by persons who learned and apply critical thinking and do not passively accept rhetoric expressed by authority figures.
The inside-the-Church confidence with which members live and relate – often in a subconsciously smug and condescending way – to friends and loved ones outside the “chosen” social network may be but the sole adornment on non-existent new clothes.
When outsiders who used to be insiders have lives that are anything but the disaster described in the Church lesson material on apostasy, the assumed reality as taught in Church lessons is worthy of question and doubt … while the reality of the lives of non-active loved ones is blindly ignored only at a risk.
Not so much among lifelong inactive Mormons but quite prevalent among former Mormons, the common thread has to do with actual questioning and searching their own lives, assumptions and motivations that underlie their own beliefs.
When they searched, pondered and prayed, often what was obtained in terms of light and knowledge was closer to resolution, even reconciliation – and quite contrary to the curse of a so-called “stupor of thought” predicted to fall upon those who doubt.
Often, as I believed and behaved in my early years of dissent and apostasy, I had the same judgmentally subconscious smug and condescending attitude regarding active members stuck in the “true-churchiness of it all.”
With that kind of attitude what we end up with is a polarity between two groups of persons who love each other but whose lack of spiritual harmony has become the cause of unnecessary disunity and loss of loving interaction.
What to do about that?
What sort of repentance is needed from both camps?
How to get around the differences that appear to be based on absolute truths – or lack of truths – and just simply love one another, live and let live and stop defining each other as worthy or unworthy, saved or lost?
Sam Keen is a noted American author, professor and philosopher who is best known for his exploration of questions regarding love, life, religion, and being a man in contemporary society. He also co-produced Faces of the Enemy, an award-winning PBS documentary; was the subject of a Bill Moyers television special in the early 1990s; and for 20 years served as a contributing editor at Psychology Today magazine.
Keen has expressed the psychology of myth around how any society defines itself and how inside and outside that society’s “kingdom” is the perceptual overlay for almost every aspect of life:
Using Keen’s definition, I would describe Mormonism as
“an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community or culture. The myths we carry around inside include unspoken consensus, the habitual way of seeing things, unquestioned assumptions, and our ‘automatic stance’.
A society lives on its own unconscious conspiracy to consider a myth the truth, the way things really are.”
When the majority within the group seem to be literal without thinking; when men and women are not critical or reflective about the guiding “truths” – myths – of their own group, what concessions are needed in the interest of family and social harmony so that no one is left outside the circle of association?
As Keen points out,
“To a tourist in a strange land, an anthropologist studying a tribe, or a psychologist observing a patient, the myth is obvious. But to the person who lives within the mythic horizon, it is nearly invisible.”
From my point of view, so long as the LDS mythic horizon is nearly invisible to the membership, good people will deliberately but subconsciously leave some of their loved ones outside of areas of life that will cost them qualitatively in terms of relationship and fulfillment.
Other good people will pass through significant years of life afflicted by their own assumptions regarding why active family members tend to avoid them.
Whether excluding loved ones from a marriage ceremony based on worthiness;
whether maintaining a current-recommend evaluation of every other member of the church;
whether avoiding excessive interaction with loved ones out of a fear of losing testimony;
or … quite plainly limiting verbal and social interaction with inactive or non-member loved ones to a few socially accepted occasions and priorities;
the family loses part of its infrastructure when loved ones are ignored.
The Church cannot replace that loss.