I have had the opportunity to read several exit stories of ex or disaffected church members in recent years. While I am bothered by the pain the individuals appear to have gone through, and the pain they are causing others whom they share these stories with, I am not bothered by the content of these stories very much.
I expressed in a recent post how many of these exit stories sound almost exactly alike. This post was viewed a lot without much comment. What little comments there were did not deny the ‘template’ nature of these exit stories (the similarities are so complete that they really do seem like plagiarism), they merely point out that believers are often guilty of using templates themselves. This has some truth to it, but it is somewhat beside the point.
Since these exit stories are so template-like they are fairly easy to categorize. And after reading a couple of recent examples, I have observed that they follow a common argument:
P1 – If the church is true and lead by prophets it must be absolutely perfect in every respect.
P2 – There are examples (history, practices, teachings, etc.) that show imperfections.
C – The church is neither true nor lead by prophets.
My rejection of the argument is based on premise 1. Why must prophets and apostles, or the church they lead, be absolutely perfect in every respect? Any claim from scripture to this is a bizarre over interpretation and ignores scriptural examples to the contrary. Holding such an impossible standard makes prophets into being much more than human beings, which is simply unreasonable.
These template exit stories make such a claim to reason, yet I find their basic argument fundamentally unreasonable. To restate it – Any flaw, or set of flaws, or perceived flaws, associated with the church at all means that the church is neither true, nor lead by prophets. This seems so unreasonable, unscriptural, and unoriginal, that the argument does not bother me much.
In fairness, this does beg the question of just how many flaws can there be and still maintain a credible claim to truth or authority? I suppose what some would call a tipping point in the number or type of flaws might vary. But I would say that much depends on where your faith/testimony lies. I have faith in the existence of God, Christ as Savior, the Book of Mormon as an inspired text, and the restoration of priesthood authority. None of this is based in the least on perfection from human beings, or an organization that they run. So I feel my tipping point would be extremely high, and perhaps even non-existent. Which is why the content of these templates does not bother me very much.