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I've been thinking lately about what apostasy means and it's complicated because it means many different things. A basic definition may state that it is the abandonment of a political or religious belief or the renunciation of a religion. More specifically, it may be stated that for Christians, apostasy would mean abandoning belief in Christ. Apostasy is often viewed as a pejorative term but it isn't always. For example, if I belonged to the church of the Jedi, but then converted to Christianity, Christians would view my apostasy from the Jedi as a positive thing, even if the Jedi didn't approve. But for this thread I'm curious about Christian apostasy.

If a Baptist transfers membership to the Methodist church is that person considered an apostate from the Baptist tradition? Generally, the answer would be "no" because the individual remains in the larger body of Christ. In fact, in Evangelical church's individuals tend to shift and move from different denominations. Most denominations don't require a new baptism. The Methodist would accept the Baptist baptism and vice versa. There is a distinction between apostasy from Christ (or Christianity) and apostasy from a denomination because the Christian, wherever they attend, are still a part of the body of Christ. Obviously there are exceptions to this, like our church, but we're not the only ones.

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From handbook 1, 6.7.3:

Total inactivity in the Church or attending another church does not constitute apostasy. However, if a member formally joins another church and advocates its teachings, excommunication or name removal may be necessary if formal membership in the other church is not ended after counseling and encouragement.

So the church would consider it apostasy to formally join another church AND advocate it's teachings. I'm not sure how someone could join a church and not advocate it's teachings, or maybe this means that a person can't do it publicly or prominently. I don't know.

From the church's gospel topic on apostasy...

Quote

When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.

So whether or not someone was in apostasy would depend on what one considers to be part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For a Christian it would mean abandonment of Christ, but for a Mormon it could simply be abandonment of some of the truth claims of the restoration. But in my mind that is a pretty big difference. As stated before, apostasy is usually viewed as pejorative so there is a natural tendency to NOT want to be known as an apostate, however a specific group defines it. But I wonder if the fear of apostasy can actually do harm to the individual's faith and progression.

I think most of us have heard about the large numbers of former LDS who leave Christianity and belief in God altogether. I can't claim to understand the psychology behind that but I can understand why someone might feel that if they are an apostate from the one true LDS church, then there's not much use in trying another church. I can also understand why someone would be reticent to attend another church or formally join another church if that would stamp them with the label of apostate. While it may be true that they are apostate from the LDS church, they may not actually be apostate from Christianity, yet the distinction may be muddled and they may give up.

So here's my question. Wouldn't it be preferential to support or even encourage people who have left the LDS church to find another spiritual home at another Christian Church? IF the label of apostate could be a hindrance to someone committing themselves to be a part of the body of Christ elsewhere, wouldn't it be better to remove the label of apostate and encourage them to engage elsewhere? In other words, isn't it better for someone to be a part of the body of Christ anywhere as opposed to nowhere? IMO the label of apostate and apostasy act as a deterrent for some to engage elsewhere, so they engage nowhere. Thoughts?

 

Edited by HappyJackWagon
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2 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So here's my question. Wouldn't it be preferential to support or even encourage people who have left the LDS church to find another spiritual home at another Christian Church?

Absolutely.  Being in another Christian church is infinitely better than just leaving religion altogether.  If I were to leave the Church, I would march myself straight down to the Southern Baptist congregation down the street.

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6 minutes ago, Waylon said:

Absolutely.  Being in another Christian church is infinitely better than just leaving religion altogether.  If I were to leave the Church, I would march myself straight down to the Southern Baptist congregation down the street.

Not me, now that I'm suspicious of the Bible being from God. I think it's mostly men, but possibly a few of those men had some good inspirations, but not much IMO. 

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13 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Not me, now that I'm suspicious of the Bible being from God. I think it's mostly men, but possibly a few of those men had some good inspirations, but not much IMO. 

I think that a lot of people who leave the LDS church have troubles with truth claims unique to the church but also more generally applicable, like the inerrancy of scripture. But many church's don't require a literalistic approach to scripture or a view of near infallibility of leaders past and present.  So it becomes less about truth claims and more about engagement in a faith community and personal betterment. At least those are the things I'm most interested in at this point in my life. So it's about feeling free to find the good and leave the bad, without pressure to accept it all or leave it all. IMO- the label of apostate hinders some people from a willingness to engage in a different faith tradition that may be a better fit for them at a specific point in time.

It's strange to me that someone could be totally inactive from the church and attend every Sunday at another church but the moment they "formally join another church" they become apostate. Again, I think it's important to distinguish between apostasy from a denomination and apostasy from the core gospel of Jesus.

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43 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So here's my question. Wouldn't it be preferential to support or even encourage people who have left the LDS church to find another spiritual home at another Christian Church? IF the label of apostate could be a hindrance to someone committing themselves to be a part of the body of Christ elsewhere, wouldn't it be better to remove the label of apostate and encourage them to engage elsewhere? In other words, isn't it better for someone to be a part of the body of Christ anywhere as opposed to nowhere? IMO the label of apostate and apostasy act as a deterrent for some to engage elsewhere, so they engage nowhere. Thoughts?

I think there would be a difference between a fear of apostasy, a fear of being excommunicated or leaving the Church, and a fear of being labeled or known as an apostate. As you pointed out, some may conflate these, and others may simply struggle with what to do with themselves going forward.

I think the ideal is to wish people well if their conclusions about the messages of the Restored Gospel take them elsewhere. Because “elsewhere” can involve any permutation of inactivity, attending another place of worship, attending none, alternate non-religious affiliations, voluntary name removal or excommunication, I believe active support is best offered on an intimate level and not a programmatic level; conditions of friendship must be much more fundamental than religious belief so that we can help another resolve potential concerns about labels, self-image and identity.

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IMO, I don't think that those who leave the LDS faith are much concerned about the labels that the LDS church places on them due to their exit from the church. Maybe it is different in Utah. Once I did the heavy lifting and deep soul searching required to make the leap out of the church and disavow all that my family and friends held dear and as absolute truth, I had little concern for what label the church put on me. In my mind, it was a false religion anyway, so why would I care what label they assigned me? I tried other Christian faiths (Lutheran and Presbyterian) but did not find solace in them either (personally, I found the most truth in Buddhism). As far as the psychology of losing one's faith altogether after leaving the LDS church, when one has been raised in the church and been taught over and over and over how the LDS faith is the one, true religion of God, I think it begins to seep into the brain that if the one, true religion of God is not true, then how could any other faith be true.

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19 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Again, I think it's important to distinguish between apostasy from a denomination and apostasy from the core gospel of Jesus.

I understand the distinction and agree there is a difference between the two.  On the other hand though, I also think that it's largely a matter of perspective.  

From the church's perspective, an active temple going member of the church has made covenants that are specific to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the church espouses it, and which (from their perspective) are a part of the core gospel of Jesus Christ.  And if that's true, if one cannot be following the core gospel of Jesus Christ and leave Jesus's church and break temple covenants, then it's valid to consider leaving the church as a form of apostasy, even if someone continues to believe Jesus Christ is their Savior.

 

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6 minutes ago, Walden said:

IMO, I don't think that those who leave the LDS faith are much concerned about the labels that the LDS church places on them due to their exit from the church. Maybe it is different in Utah. Once I did the heavy lifting and deep soul searching required to make the leap out of the church and disavow all that my family and friends held dear and as absolute truth, I had little concern for what label the church put on me. In my mind, it was a false religion anyway, so why would I care what label they assigned me? I tried other Christian faiths (Lutheran and Presbyterian) but did not find solace in them either (personally, I found the most truth in Buddhism). As far as the psychology of losing one's faith altogether after leaving the LDS church, when one has been raised in the church and been taught over and over and over how the LDS faith is the one, true religion of God, I think it begins to seep into the brain that if the one, true religion of God is not true, then how could any other faith be true.

I think this is one of the issues that many church members really find confusing.  Why do some ex-mormons care what labels the church applies to them?  For most members (at least the ones i've been around or read), they fully expect ex-mormons not to care about what labels the church uses.  When they do care, it just seems weird.

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2 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I think this is one of the issues that many church members really find confusing.  Why do some ex-mormons care what labels the church applies to them?  For most members (at least the ones i've been around or read), they fully expect ex-mormons not to care about what labels the church uses.  When they do care, it just seems weird.

I'm pretty sure those in Protestant and Catholic denominations consider their former members who join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be apostates.  So why not the other way around?

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36 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

It's strange to me that someone could be totally inactive from the church and attend every Sunday at another church but the moment they "formally join another church" they become apostate

You left out the "and advocate it's teaching" part that you quoted in your opening post.

 

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6 minutes ago, Stargazer said:

I'm pretty sure those in Protestant and Catholic denominations consider their former members who join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be apostates.  So why not the other way around?

I'm guessing so, and it makes sense if they do.

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10 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

You left out the "and advocate it's teaching" part that you quoted in your opening post.

 

I stated in another comment that I don't see how a person formally joins another church without advocating its teachings in some way. I guess we can argue about what it means to "advocate" but ...

I would actually see advocating as being a step toward formally joining, not the other way around.

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33 minutes ago, Walden said:

IMO, I don't think that those who leave the LDS faith are much concerned about the labels that the LDS church places on them due to their exit from the church. Maybe it is different in Utah. Once I did the heavy lifting and deep soul searching required to make the leap out of the church and disavow all that my family and friends held dear and as absolute truth, I had little concern for what label the church put on me. In my mind, it was a false religion anyway, so why would I care what label they assigned me? I tried other Christian faiths (Lutheran and Presbyterian) but did not find solace in them either (personally, I found the most truth in Buddhism). As far as the psychology of losing one's faith altogether after leaving the LDS church, when one has been raised in the church and been taught over and over and over how the LDS faith is the one, true religion of God, I think it begins to seep into the brain that if the one, true religion of God is not true, then how could any other faith be true.

I'm sure that's true for some, but certainly not everyone. I suspect there are MANY people who care about what their family and friends think of them. I'm sure there are many who are concerned with being labeled an apostate, particularly if they are attempting to maintain a positive relationship with friends, family, and the church. I think it's incorrect to think that every former member is totally free of the social and cultural pull of the church simply because they no longer affiliate.

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4 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I stated in another comment that I don't see how a person formally joins another church without advocating its teachings in some way. I guess we can argue about what it means to "advocate" but ...

I would actually see advocating as being a step toward formally joining, not the other way around.

I don't know, I see some people in my ward who are in the pews every week and don't seem to advocate our teachings.

Edited by ksfisher
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1 hour ago, HappyJackWagon said:

isn't it better for someone to be a part of the body of Christ anywhere as opposed to nowhere?

I guess that depends on what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the church is led by apostles and prophets of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that the priesthood was restored to the earth and that through that priesthood we can enter into covenants with God.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that modern day prophets and apostles continue to receive revelation necessary to lead the church.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that in temples and through the power and authority of priesthood ordinances that families can be sealed for eternity.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

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1 hour ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I've been thinking lately about what apostasy means and it's complicated because it means many different things. A basic definition may state that it is the abandonment of a political or religious belief or the renunciation of a religion. More specifically, it may be stated that for Christians, apostasy would mean abandoning belief in Christ. Apostasy is often viewed as a pejorative term but it isn't always. For example, if I belonged to the church of the Jedi, but then converted to Christianity, Christians would view my apostasy from the Jedi as a positive thing, even if the Jedi didn't approve. But for this thread I'm curious about Christian apostasy.

If a Baptist transfers membership to the Methodist church is that person considered an apostate from the Baptist tradition? Generally, the answer would be "no" because the individual remains in the larger body of Christ. In fact, in Evangelical church's individuals tend to shift and move from different denominations. Most denominations don't require a new baptism. The Methodist would accept the Baptist baptism and vice versa. There is a distinction between apostasy from Christ (or Christianity) and apostasy from a denomination because the Christian, wherever they attend, are still a part of the body of Christ. Obviously there are exceptions to this, like our church, but we're not the only ones.

So the church would consider it apostasy to formally join another church AND advocate it's teachings. I'm not sure how someone could join a church and not advocate it's teachings, or maybe this means that a person can't do it publicly or prominently. I don't know.

From the church's gospel topic on apostasy...

So whether or not someone was in apostasy would depend on what one considers to be part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For a Christian it would mean abandonment of Christ, but for a Mormon it could simply be abandonment of some of the truth claims of the restoration. But in my mind that is a pretty big difference. As stated before, apostasy is usually viewed as pejorative so there is a natural tendency to NOT want to be known as an apostate, however a specific group defines it. But I wonder if the fear of apostasy can actually do harm to the individual's faith and progression.

I think most of us have heard about the large numbers of former LDS who leave Christianity and belief in God altogether. I can't claim to understand the psychology behind that but I can understand why someone might feel that if they are an apostate from the one true LDS church, then there's not much use in trying another church. I can also understand why someone would be reticent to attend another church or formally join another church if that would stamp them with the label of apostate. While it may be true that they are apostate from the LDS church, they may not actually be apostate from Christianity, yet the distinction may be muddled and they may give up.

So here's my question. Wouldn't it be preferential to support or even encourage people who have left the LDS church to find another spiritual home at another Christian Church? IF the label of apostate could be a hindrance to someone committing themselves to be a part of the body of Christ elsewhere, wouldn't it be better to remove the label of apostate and encourage them to engage elsewhere? In other words, isn't it better for someone to be a part of the body of Christ anywhere as opposed to nowhere? IMO the label of apostate and apostasy act as a deterrent for some to engage elsewhere, so they engage nowhere. Thoughts?

There are several issues with this.

1. First, some people who leave become angry at the Church. They often feel the Church has misled them. What is the chance that such people are going to listen to any advice from the Church?

2. I just can't see any official advice to be given from say a bishop about where else someone should go to church... How do you counsel someone which errors are more preferable to others?

3. A new tendency is to apply scientific and textual analysis to the Church. Those who find the Church wanting for these reasons are likely to find the Bible wanting as well. I think Jeremy Runnels is an example of such an individual. He has essentially questioned himself into atheism. 

4. Having been through this same kind of thing myself, I can speak to some of the issues which arose for me. I didn't want to go to a trinitarian Protestant Church, which recites creeds etc. After being in the LDS Church, I had developed a personal antipathy for creeds. I felt the ancient state church used them to keep out other Christians, and even persecute them. If I attended SS my personal beliefs often just didn't mesh with what was being taught, leaving me nowhere to fit. I visited numerous churches, but just didn't feel the spirit anywhere - community churches as well as national churches. My experience at a Unity church was strange. The Unitarian Church was too political. I just disagreed with the SDAs, and would have quickly been disillusioned with Ellen White. Her church had prophesied Christ's return, and was wrong. She was more plagiarizer than prophet. While I had known some SDAs I really respected, and had felt a spirit of peace in their midst, and even agreed with some of their major prophetic interpretations, I couldn't get past their issues. Showing other churches can't be true, doesn't make your own church true...

So while I believe it proper to encourage continued belief in Christ, I don't think the Church can officially give other advice to those who wish to leave. Sometimes life outside the Church is the best teacher, and people just have to work through their issues on their own and with any guidance they seek.

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49 minutes ago, ksfisher said:

I guess that depends on what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the church is led by apostles and prophets of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that the priesthood was restored to the earth and that through that priesthood we can enter into covenants with God.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that modern day prophets and apostles continue to receive revelation necessary to lead the church.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Members of the church believe that in temples and through the power and authority of priesthood ordinances that families can be sealed for eternity.  Is the body of Christ elsewhere?

Yes, of course the body of Christ is elsewhere. Are you claiming that the LDS church is the entire body of Christ? Or is it possible that the church is one body part that also needs the other parts of the body to be complete? Does the eye say to the hand "I have no need of thee" or worse, reject the idea that the hand is even a part of the body?

 

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59 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

I'm sure that's true for some, but certainly not everyone. I suspect there are MANY people who care about what their family and friends think of them. I'm sure there are many who are concerned with being labeled an apostate, particularly if they are attempting to maintain a positive relationship with friends, family, and the church. I think it's incorrect to think that every former member is totally free of the social and cultural pull of the church simply because they no longer affiliate.

Good point, and I think that your point of view is more relevant in a society such as Utah, where religion and daily/social life are so intertwined. Here in California, it was easier to make a clean break from the faith because most of my co-workers, social circle, misc. contacts (PTA parents, sports/club parents, etc.) were not predominantly LDS. Of course, I did care what my family and old LDS friends thought of me, but I did not care what the LDS church thought of me, and if those family and/or friends could not separate what they knew of me from what the church directed them to label me, then I just felt more sorry for them. I think in this manner, the church does a disservice to the family and friends of former members, if in fact those family and friends are directed to consider the former member an "apostate" and thus one who should be avoided. If this is in fact the message taught directly or indirectly by the church, it seems to be one that is based in fear rather than love.

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5 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Yes, of course the body of Christ is elsewhere. Are you claiming that the LDS church is the entire body of Christ? Or is it possible that the church is one body part that also needs the other parts of the body to be complete? Does the eye say to the hand "I have no need of thee" or worse, reject the idea that the hand is even a part of the body?

 

What are you defining as the body of Christ? 

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2 hours ago, HappyJackWagon said:

So here's my question. Wouldn't it be preferential to support or even encourage people who have left the LDS church to find another spiritual home at another Christian Church? IF the label of apostate could be a hindrance to someone committing themselves to be a part of the body of Christ elsewhere, wouldn't it be better to remove the label of apostate and encourage them to engage elsewhere? In other words, isn't it better for someone to be a part of the body of Christ anywhere as opposed to nowhere? IMO the label of apostate and apostasy act as a deterrent for some to engage elsewhere, so they engage nowhere. Thoughts?

I think the word apostasy carries some significant baggage through religious traditions, and because of that I think it generally has a very negative connotation.  Judgment and loyalty to an institution are associated with the use of this word.  There is a drive to characterize the "other" in uncharitable ways, and this drive is very tribalistic.  

I would prefer it if we could learn to appreciate all different strains of thought in the way we might appreciate different colors in the rainbow or different species of life and the beautiful varieties that exist in this world.  I don't care if people find a spiritual home in another Christian church, or in another organized religion at all, or whether they even consider themselves spiritual.  I do care if people find happiness and alleviate suffering.  Those things matter to me, but how they get there isn't important.  

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1 hour ago, bluebell said:

I think this is one of the issues that many church members really find confusing.  Why do some ex-mormons care what labels the church applies to them?  For most members (at least the ones i've been around or read), they fully expect ex-mormons not to care about what labels the church uses.  When they do care, it just seems weird.

Hi Bluebell,

It's not so much the label (I am, by definition, an apostate), but it's the character traits, moral failings, and satanic influence that the church attaches to the label.  In the lessons about avoiding personal apostasy that were being taught around the time I left, descriptions of those who leave the church were all negative.  There were no neutral or positive things mentioned.  There was no indication that good, decent people could simply believe differently and choose a path that better reflects their personal beliefs. These types of lessons have the real ability to influence how family members, friends, ward members, etc. view those who leave.  Lasting damage to relationships can be the result of this.  It doesn't seem weird to me at all that someone might care about that particular label. 

-cacheman

Edited by cacheman
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2 hours ago, Walden said:

As far as the psychology of losing one's faith altogether after leaving the LDS church, when one has been raised in the church and been taught over and over and over how the LDS faith is the one, true religion of God, I think it begins to seep into the brain that if the one, true religion of God is not true, then how could any other faith be true.

This.  Also, when one is taught Moroni’s Promise over and over and all you get in response to years of fervent, sincere prayer is absolutely nothing at all by way of an answer, it’s reasonable for some to conclude that God doesn’t exist.

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1 hour ago, RevTestament said:

There are several issues with this.

Thanks for taking the time to respond!

1. First, some people who leave become angry at the Church. They often feel the Church has misled them. What is the chance that such people are going to listen to any advice from the Church?

True. But I think labeling someone an apostate on their way out widens the divide and further damages the relationship.

2. I just can't see any official advice to be given from say a bishop about where else someone should go to church... How do you counsel someone which errors are more preferable to others?

A bishop shouldn't tell someone where they should go, but he can encourage someone to seek out a church community that helps to strengthen and nourish the individual, even recognizing that the LDS church may not be that place for everyone.

3. A new tendency is to apply scientific and textual analysis to the Church. Those who find the Church wanting for these reasons are likely to find the Bible wanting as well. I think Jeremy Runnels is an example of such an individual. He has essentially questioned himself into atheism. 

When I shared my faith struggles about the LDS church with my SP he essentially told me that if I am going to have those problems with miraculous truth claims and scripture I should have the exact same struggles with Christianity in general. While he may have been right in some ways, and I suspect he was trying to down play the issues in the church by saying Christianity has many of the same issues, he really just exacerbated my issues with Christianity. IMO he should have done everything he could to encourage faith in Christ. It is short sighted and counter productive to say that If I have a problem with Joseph Smith I should also have a problem with Jesus, or If I have a problem with the BoM I should also have the same problem with the Bible.

4. Having been through this same kind of thing myself, I can speak to some of the issues which arose for me. I didn't want to go to a trinitarian Protestant Church, which recites creeds etc. After being in the LDS Church, I had developed a personal antipathy for creeds. I felt the ancient state church used them to keep out other Christians, and even persecute them. If I attended SS my personal beliefs often just didn't mesh with what was being taught, leaving me nowhere to fit.

The church rejects the creeds of others but utilizes its own creed, The Articles of Faith. I feel that strict adherence to the AoF are much more expected/required than a person in another denomination accepting every iota of the creeds.

I visited numerous churches, but just didn't feel the spirit anywhere - community churches as well as national churches. My experience at a Unity church was strange. The Unitarian Church was too political. I just disagreed with the SDAs, and would have quickly been disillusioned with Ellen White. Her church had prophesied Christ's return, and was wrong. She was more plagiarizer than prophet. While I had known some SDAs I really respected, and had felt a spirit of peace in their midst, and even agreed with some of their major prophetic interpretations, I couldn't get past their issues. Showing other churches can't be true, doesn't make your own church true...

Of course many people would make the exact same claim about JS. Each person should make their own judgement. But I'm glad you went through the process of seeking

So while I believe it proper to encourage continued belief in Christ, I don't think the Church can officially give other advice to those who wish to leave. Sometimes life outside the Church is the best teacher, and people just have to work through their issues on their own and with any guidance they seek.

I think it is the role of the church to encourage people to grow in their relationship with Christ. I believe they should do everything possible to encourage faith and encourage them to find a community where they can thrive, even if that place is somewhere else.

My response got deleted. Doh!! Here's an abbreviated version.

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3 minutes ago, Spammer said:

This.  Also, when one is taught Moroni’s Promise over and over and all you get in response to years of fervent, sincere prayer is absolutely nothing at all by way of an answer, it’s reasonable for some to conclude that God doesn’t exist.

OR if he does exist, the non-response is the answer to the prayer :) 

"Help me know that this church is true"...

Crickets. That may just be the answer, even if it's not the expected answer.

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