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What Is The Place Of Unbelievers In The Church?


ControlFreak

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Disclaimer:

I read the board rules and am aware of the rule against personal stories, so hopefully this question can be addressed as a generic discussion even though it is spurred by and somewhat requires a little personal backstory to understand.

Backstory:

I am the EQ president in my ward. I have had years of concerns and personal issues that are not important in their details, but in short have led me to the point where I feel that I do not believe in the church as it presents itself to be. I am 100% on board with the principles taught in the church and the general principles of service and compassion. I love my ward family and how the ward functions, I just don't believe in the details.

Current situation:

Given my struggle with belief, I decided it was time to own up to the bishop and let him know that I felt uncomfortable leading the quorum without a real testimony of Joseph Smith, BoM, BoA, etc. To my surprise, after speaking with the bishop and the stake president, they both want me to continue to serve as EQ president. I was straightforward and told them that I did not have a testimony of what I would have thought would be some of the minimum requirements, and that I was at best open to the idea that the church might be true. I am most definitely not anti-mormon, as I love and defend the mormon people and culture (at least the parts of the culture worth defending ;) ). I guess the current terminology on the internet is "New Order Mormon", but I'm not certain I want to apply that label either.

Questions:

What is the place in the church for unbelievers?

Do you think it is appropriate to involve unbelieving members in church leadership positions?

Should unbelievers go to the temple (not based on lying for the recommend, but based on the bishop/stake president accepting "I wouldn't mind if or I have some small hope that it might be true" as answers to questions 1-4?)

I'm not asking for advice, since that is between me and my bishop/stake pres. I'm just interested in what the opinions or doctrinal positions of the members on this board might be.

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I guess it depends on what paradigm you use. I would say if you don't outright reject the BOM, BOA, Joseph Smith, etc. (i.e. you believe they could be possible) then I wouldn't call you an unbeliever. Just someone with a weaker testimony. There are many shades of grey in the belief spectrum. I would say the church should accept, and use to their capacity, anyone who doesn't explicitly reject the gospel.

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ControlFreak:

What is the place in the church for unbelievers?

Do you think it is appropriate to involve unbelieving members in church leadership positions?

Should unbelievers go to the temple (not based on lying for the recommend, but based on the bishop/stake president accepting "I wouldn't mind if or I have some small hope that it might be true" as answers to questions 1-4?)

1. Unbelievers? Yes. None of us has a perfect knowledge of Christ. We all see through that glass darkly to some extent. Disbelievers? No. I can think of a hundred different things I'd rather do than be in any organization that I disbelieved in.

2. No. That makes it a mockery of belief.

3. No. The Temple is different than regular Church services where all can attend. The Temple requires active participation by all the attendees.

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I think it would be difficult for a non-believer in a leadership position to receive personal revelation within the bounds of his stewardship if he did not believe that such revelation could take place. It would also be difficult to accept counsel from a priesthood leader if he did not believe that priesthood leader was an inspired servant of God.

Edited by ERMD
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It really depends on the extent of the disbelief. I can question whether or not joseph literally saw the father and the son and still believe that I can communicate and receive revelation. In anycase, callings come from those in authority so if they feel someone should hold a calling despite their disbelief, perhaps there is some wisdom in it.

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It really depends on the extent of the disbelief. I can question whether or not joseph literally saw the father and the son and still believe that I can communicate and receive revelation. In anycase, callings come from those in authority so if they feel someone should hold a calling despite their disbelief, perhaps there is some wisdom in it.

That would seem to be a serious handicap.
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1. Unbelievers? Yes. None of us has a perfect knowledge of Christ. We all see through that glass darkly to some extent. Disbelievers? No. I can think of a hundred different things I'd rather do than be in any organization that I disbelieved in.

While I agree in general, unfortunately, there are few disbelievers that aren't somehow tied to the church through family and social ties that make it worth participating in just to enjoy the fellowship and keep the peace at home.

Ironically, I think I enjoy participating and serving in the church more than my TBM wife...

2. No. That makes it a mockery of belief.

What about the situation where a ward is hard-pressed to find willing hands and needs all the help it can get? I think it would be inappropriate to have an openly disbelieving person in a leadership position, because it would potentially be a stumbling block, but is it wrong to use someone who is willing to help because too few of the other supposedly TBMs are committed enough to serve? (Maybe more are unbelieving than we think??)

3. No. The Temple is different than regular Church services where all can attend. The Temple requires active participation by all the attendees.

I tend to agree. Was a little surprised at the response of my bishop and stake president who felt it wasn't a big deal to go despite disbelieving, in theory with the hope of changing that. I guess it gets into shades of gray that are hard to define.

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I guess it depends on what paradigm you use. I would say if you don't outright reject the BOM, BOA, Joseph Smith, etc. (i.e. you believe they could be possible) then I wouldn't call you an unbeliever. Just someone with a weaker testimony. There are many shades of grey in the belief spectrum. I would say the church should accept, and use to their capacity, anyone who doesn't explicitly reject the gospel.

Does thinking they are unlikely count as close enough? :) But I agree, that the church needs to use willing hands where they are found sometimes.

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Does thinking they are unlikely count as close enough? :) But I agree, that the church needs to use willing hands where they are found sometimes.

It really depends on your willingness to believe unlikely things, or at least accept that unlikely things can happen. The Scriptures are full of unlikely things, the fact that they happened (or that we are willing to accept that they could have happened) is what makes them so remarkable.

Most LDS Scientist create a wall between what they "know" based on science, and what they "know" based on faith. Personally I think it was part of the design of our mortal probation, will we believe when according to our temporal facilities we should not believe.

Bottom line: I trust the judgement of the leaders in such situations. Whether right or wrong, it is in their stewardship to decide who does what.

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It was President McKay who argued for a large gospel tent when he told an apostle to back off arguing for an "apostate"'s excommunication. And EQP (and all leadership callings) have counselors so that one person's strange decisions have a check (and decisions are supposed to be made by consensus. So it is possible to have a function group even when one of the parties struggles with gospel. Frankly your candor with your leaders probably does persuade those leaders that you do not want to harm the church. This is the Lord's church and if He thought you were a problem, he'd make sure you were released. You are still able to receive revelation as you seek it, after all. Your lack of believe doesn't eliminate the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Now, if you were a disbeliever then I might say that the risk was too great. As for temple attendance, it is your leaders job to make the call of your worthiness. Assuming you have told them the truth when you answered the questions, then you absolutely have no reason to bar yourself from what may be a source of help through this difficult time (if not for you, for your loved ones).

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What is the place in the church for unbelievers?

All are welcome, especially if their comportment and service are a blessing to others.

Do you think it is appropriate to involve unbelieving members in church leadership positions?

Yes, especially when their comportment and service are a blessing to others.

Should unbelievers go to the temple (not based on lying for the recommend, but based on the bishop/stake president accepting "I wouldn't mind if or I have some small hope that it might be true" as answers to questions 1-4?)

Only if they want to attend.

I think Church participation is about making and keeping covenants, not necessarily about personal beliefs with regards to its specific tenets. Personal beliefs are between the individual and God; only when they are expressed in a manner that is no longer a blessing to others do they become "apostate" and without a place in the Church, as possibly the also the member owning them.

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It was Pres. McKay who described the gospel tent as a large one. Because of councils and presidencies, and the expectation of consensus, there is comparatively little risk when one person struggles with faith. Maybe the Lord knows you are trying to get someone else to declare your separation or unworthiness, so you escape the obligation to chose for yourself. Maybe the Lord knows that your voice in EQP will help you serve the families in your ward.

As for temple, it is your leaders who are responsible for determining which members are worthy or not to be there. When those leaders hear completely truthful answers and give the recommend, then yes they should go to the temple.

If a person is a disbeliever, there is greater risk, but still not an individual call beyond being completely square with leaders.

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Disclaimer:

I read the board rules and am aware of the rule against personal stories, so hopefully this question can be addressed as a generic discussion even though it is spurred by and somewhat requires a little personal backstory to understand.

Backstory:

I am the EQ president in my ward. I have had years of concerns and personal issues that are not important in their details, but in short have led me to the point where I feel that I do not believe in the church as it presents itself to be. I am 100% on board with the principles taught in the church and the general principles of service and compassion. I love my ward family and how the ward functions, I just don't believe in the details.

Current situation:

Given my struggle with belief, I decided it was time to own up to the bishop and let him know that I felt uncomfortable leading the quorum without a real testimony of Joseph Smith, BoM, BoA, etc. To my surprise, after speaking with the bishop and the stake president, they both want me to continue to serve as EQ president. I was straightforward and told them that I did not have a testimony of what I would have thought would be some of the minimum requirements, and that I was at best open to the idea that the church might be true. I am most definitely not anti-mormon, as I love and defend the mormon people and culture (at least the parts of the culture worth defending ;) ). I guess the current terminology on the internet is "New Order Mormon", but I'm not certain I want to apply that label either.

Questions:

What is the place in the church for unbelievers?

Do you think it is appropriate to involve unbelieving members in church leadership positions?

Should unbelievers go to the temple (not based on lying for the recommend, but based on the bishop/stake president accepting "I wouldn't mind if or I have some small hope that it might be true" as answers to questions 1-4?)

I'm not asking for advice, since that is between me and my bishop/stake pres. I'm just interested in what the opinions or doctrinal positions of the members on this board might be.

Can it be that you are expecting too much of yourself? Your on line name perhaps points to the origin of your problem. Evangelicals expect perfect belief. As Far as I know Mormons do not. What would you do with a woman who came into the church still professing belief in certain Muslim beliefs?

Also, what better place to learn more and perfect your own belief than in EQ?

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While I can sympathize to a point, when it comes to the temple it is a mockery to attend and make the covenants if one does not believe in the Church, the priesthood, proper authority, etc etc. I was an ordinance worker for almost six years, every Friday, and have had wonderful spiritual experiences.

I'm aware that many members with weak testimonies may attend the temple, but a disbeliever attending IMO is different and actually mocks the Lord when I think of participating in an endowment or sealing session.

I also question the appropriateness of an actual disbeliever, vs someone with a weak testimony, being in a leadership position such as EQ president. I have no qualm about a disbeliever attending church or serving in a minor position even, but when it comes to something like EQ pres, then to me that's different and the believing members deserve better in their leaders... someone who can counsel them honestly and with firm faith in times when the members' testimonies need help or they need to be comforted as only the gospel can comfort in critical times. Like when I lost my dear husband suddenly... or my parents. I didn't need some disbeliever giving me "words" vs a faithful priesthood holder counseling me with the comfort of the plan of salvation and the sealing blessings.

GG

Edited by Garden Girl
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While I agree in general, unfortunately, there are few disbelievers that aren't somehow tied to the church through family and social ties that make it worth participating in just to enjoy the fellowship and keep the peace at home.

Ironically, I think I enjoy participating and serving in the church more than my TBM wife...

What about the situation where a ward is hard-pressed to find willing hands and needs all the help it can get? I think it would be inappropriate to have an openly disbelieving person in a leadership position, because it would potentially be a stumbling block, but is it wrong to use someone who is willing to help because too few of the other supposedly TBMs are committed enough to serve? (Maybe more are unbelieving than we think??)

I tend to agree. Was a little surprised at the response of my bishop and stake president who felt it wasn't a big deal to go despite disbelieving, in theory with the hope of changing that. I guess it gets into shades of gray that are hard to define.

Life is too short to be involved in voluntary activities, such as church attendance, if I didn't fully believe in it. For me I can't see me standing before my God and telling him that "I just went along just to get along". God is going to judge me not only by what I did, but by the intents of my heart.

The Church doesn't need me near as much as I need it. It is I whom benefits from my active membership. The Lord can do his own work. But the Church does want as many people as it can.

I can't second guess your Bishop, nor would I even try. It is his call and his calling. But he must have seen something there that you both can build upon.

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ControlFreak,

I'm not a Mormon, but I have developed my spiritual and religious thinking like many of the prior posters on this thread. Doubting is natural. If one were to simply look at the Old and New Testaments, there are fantastic stories that defy the laws of physics and investigation by archaeologists. ALL religious texts from EVERY major religion has similar problems.

But if everyone dismisses religion based upon what we expect to be improbable, then there is no reason for it. We might as well save our weekends for something other than going to our respective houses of worship. Same with our money.

I personally see no inconsistency in your doubts with your role as a church leader. If anything it shows that you can think critically and "outside the box." Remember, you are not there to impart what you believe or disbelieve on fellow church members. You are there to lead them to their own religious experences.

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Questions:

What is the place in the church for unbelievers?

Do you think it is appropriate to involve unbelieving members in church leadership positions?

Should unbelievers go to the temple (not based on lying for the recommend, but based on the bishop/stake president accepting "I wouldn't mind if or I have some small hope that it might be true" as answers to questions 1-4?)

I'm not asking for advice, since that is between me and my bishop/stake pres. I'm just interested in what the opinions or doctrinal positions of the members on this board might be.

The place for unbelievers is the same place believers. It runs on the same principle as the Church being made for sinners.

I believe that leadership positions are best for those who have a desire to serve, seek to do their best, and want God to lead and guide them in their calling. Non-belief has many degrees and at some point unbelief makes it impossible to serve; you are not even close to that point.

Going to the temple for one who doubts is also along the lines of the first question. The temple is primarily a place where holy covenants are made. If you are able to answer the temple questions faithfully and the Bishop/Stake Presidency renew your recommend, then the doors are open for you. A secondary reason for the temple is for contemplation, renewal of spiritual strength, and learning to be open to the guidance of the Spirit. If you are humble and continue to remain a seeker of truth, then attend the temple.

I know I wrote this "to" you, but the you is generic and not personal.

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