Why are You a Member of the Church in the First Place?

I have read with some sadness a few post on LDS blogs that have explored the idea of what sort of line would the church have to cross that would cause you to leave the church.  I left a comment on one that seemed pretty profound to me, but seemed ignored by everyone else (which may actually be a good sign).  The comment was a song lyric that goes, “The way out is the way in.”  What I mean by that is that some event that would cause you to leave the church would (or maybe better should) be similar to what moved you into the church in the first place.

There can be several reasons why someone is a member of the church, I would like to bring up some examples to show what I mean by the above.

Personal Revelation

I, like many others. am an active member of the church because I have had a handful of real, meaningful, spiritual experiences that have made be feel ‘converted’, ‘changed’, or ‘born again’.  So for me simply leaving the church would be an act of disloyalty to the God who provided these experiences.  I simply could not dare to do that.  I suspect that for many folks like me, it would take some type of personal revelation to leave.  Almost no matter what the church might do or say, unless personal revelation says otherwise, the loyalty would remain.  The way out is the way in.

Social Reasons

There are probably members of the church out there that are members mostly for social reasons.  They have friends or family members that are members of the church, so they have decided to be members also.  For them the church is mostly a social network that is meaningful to them.  I suspect for people like this, as long as the social aspects of church membership are favorable, they wile likely stay.  But if the social advantages fail in any significant way, they will probably bail.  Again, the way out is the way in.

Politics

Most people have a set of values that are important to them, and for a lack of a better term I might call this politics.  For this group, the ideals taught by the church, or what they might call the gospel, is why they participate – the church seems to align with their political opinions and values pretty well.  So as long as this general alignment is maintained all will be well.  If, however, something changes, and their political opinions are violated by a teaching or action by the church, their continued membership in the church could be in jeopardy.  You get the pattern by now, the way out is the way in.

I would encourage anyone who may be thinking of leaving the church due to some recent current events to ask yourself why you are a member in the first place.  Some reasons are better than others.  And hopefully you will not let something of lesser importance cause you to leave.

 

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4 Responses to “Why are You a Member of the Church in the First Place?”


  1. 1 Stan Beale November 28, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I fully agree with the main thesis of your post, however your decision to label the reactions of people that oppose or have problems with Church action as “politics” is just horse manure.

    I write from personal experience. I didn’t participate in Civil Rights activities in the 60’s for politics, even at a time that the Church had many racist policies and leaders. I didn’t oppose the Viet Nam war, supported by The Church. for partisan reasons. I supported the ERA not because the Democratic Party did. As a Teachers Union President I made sure our first Contract included protections and equality for men and women, gay and straight and old and young. Even though Church leaders had problems with some of those, I did not do it to pad a political resume.

    I did those things because they were the right things to do. If you saw the moral issues that young people faced in the 60’s and 70’s, you would have had some hard choices to make. I did not even think of leaving the Church, but there were actions that I had to take to even consider myself moral and a Christian.

    Two things motivated me as well as many others during that time: the idea of tacit consent and the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller. Each reminds us of what it means to be a “good” person.

    First, the moral definition of tacit consent is quite simple. If you have the ability to act and do nothing to oppose what is not right, you then consent to it.

    Second. Pastor Martin Niemoller said after World War II: First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionist, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-Because I wasa not a Jew. Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson November 29, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Stan,

    I think you are getting to hung up on the word politics. If you prefer, change the word to philosophy. Sure, a person thinks that their philosophy (moral or otherwise) is the right thing to do, but that is sort of by definition. In reference to the church, this could come down to choosing between personal opinions and church teachings. It should not make much difference whether we use the term politics, philosophy, ethics, opinion, etc.

  3. 3 Lew Scannon December 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    So, I’m a member because I was born to parents who were Mormon. Not sure how your reasoning works in my case.

    That said, I’ve found that revelation is devilishly hard to decipher. I’ve had very strong, very clear spiritual manifestations that simply didn’t turn out well when I followed them. Even Apostles have been known to misinterpret spiritual promptings. Life is always more complicated than we like it to be. So I’m always very cautious about insisting I know what the Spirit is actually saying.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson December 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I think on its own, being born into it would be a social reason.

    Being humble enough to acknowledge that life is complex, and that revelation can be complex also is a good way to be I think. And even if things do not turn out well, it does not necessarily mean that the will of God was not followed.

    Thanks for the comment.


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