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Tribe article on declining religiosity among LDS


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This is a syndicated article from Religion News Service, not a Trib article per se. The Tribune website is behind a paywall with a limit of three free articles a month. Does anyone here know where the same article can be accessed without buying a Tribune subscription? It’s not worth it to me just to read a piece by Jana Riess. 

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20 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Don't the scriptures prophesy that in the last days many of the very elect will fall away?  Seems like we are probably seeing the fulfillment of that to some degree.

Also that the church of the Lamb of God would be over all the face of the earth but that its numbers would be relatively few due to satanic influences and philosophies. I think we are seeing a fulfillment of that as well. 

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8 hours ago, bluebell said:

Don't the scriptures prophesy that in the last days many of the very elect will fall away?  Seems like we are probably seeing the fulfillment of that to some degree.

What I find interesting is that most of the examples of falling away in the Bible and Book of Mormon consist of the member and leaders of God's people changing the religion to something that God never intended until it got to the point, His people needed to be punished or destroyed.  There are no stories in the scriptures talking about God punishing the people who left His church and destroying them.  Remember the Lamanites where the non-believers.

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18 minutes ago, kimpearson said:

What I find interesting is that most of the examples of falling away in the Bible and Book of Mormon consist of the member and leaders of God's people changing the religion to something that God never intended until it got to the point, His people needed to be punished or destroyed.  There are no stories in the scriptures talking about God punishing the people who left His church and destroying them.  Remember the Lamanites where the non-believers.

There are the prominent anti-Christ’s: Sherem, Nehor and Korihor. 
 

Also, the whole episode with the Zoramites. 
 

Maybe I’m not understanding what you have in mind. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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The data behind the graph at the top of the article interested me.  It comes from the "Cooperative Election Study" which is a survey done around the election.  As part of the normal election survey questions, it also asks demographic questions.

Interestingly, the percentage of "Very Important" seems to be correlated with the presidential election year and midterms between 2012 and 2019.  2012 was high with 78.6% (and this year was Mitt Romney's presidential campaign), 2013 was low with 69.9%, 2014 was back up with 71.8%, 2015 was down again with 71%, 2016 (presidential election year) was up again with 75.1%, 2017 was low with 62.5%, 2018 was high with 69.3%, and 2019 was low with 65.2%.  The 2020 results was really low with 61.7% and I wonder how much of that is because of the election.

Another interesting thing is that if you convert the percentages into raw numbers, the change isn't as great. And that's because the membership numbers in the US increased over the same time period.  Using the membership numbers at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_membership_statistics_(United_States), in 2011 there were 6,144,582 members and in 2019 there were 6,721,032.  The study has 75.5% respondents with "Very Important" in 2011 which would be 4,639,159 members.  In 2019, it has 65.2% that answered "Very Important" which would be 4,382,113 members.  So there is a decrease of 5% but if you had looked at 2018 (instead of 2019), there would be 4,630,507 members which is a decrease of 0.2%.

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10 hours ago, bluebell said:

Don't the scriptures prophesy that in the last days many of the very elect will fall away?  Seems like we are probably seeing the fulfillment of that to some degree.

A decline in religiosity does not mean that anyone is falling away.  The Brethren have been sharply reducing the number and types of meetings for several years now (Scouting is gone), and are also abbreviating temple rites.  We have even seen home-based Sacrament rites due to COVID, along with unprecedented Zoom meetings.  One can now have virtual tithing settlement.  Outward religiosity doesn't actually mean much.  Some sort of church metamorphosis is going on, and it is not yet clear where it is going.

I'd be very interested in projections into the future.  Where is Dr. Russell Nelson leading us?  Is he just getting started?

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14 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Also that the church of the Lamb of God would be over all the face of the earth but that its numbers would be relatively few due to satanic influences and philosophies. I think we are seeing a fulfillment of that as well. 

But Mr. Scotty, whose version of the fulfillment are we living in right now? Is it our version, or is it the JWs, or is it the Seventh day Adventist version? All  three religions believe when Christ returns he’s going to be “our Jesus “ and use “our religion “ to help make the earth “new” again. All three religions have scattered upon the earth and delivered Gods word to millions, all three have about the same number of members and all three preach they are the only true church on the face of the earth. When Jesus is coming down through the clouds, how will we know whose team he is on?   

Edited by Mike Drop
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16 hours ago, boblloyd91 said:

https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2021/11/23/jana-riess-us-latter-day/

The article isn't all doom and gloom per se, but the author indicates that the data she has indicated declined in religious observance among our ranks. What are everyone's thoughts?

It’s as expected. I honestly belief there are more people outside our faith than within that will find themselves in the Celestial Kingdom. I know of SO many people that extremely impressive and are seeking nothing more than to do as much good and become as excellent as possible. The only reason they aren’t Saints is because they haven’t really looked at the church or aren’t convinced by the arguments for it. A simple “this is the correct way” from Christ would make them valiant and life long members.

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18 minutes ago, Fether said:

It’s as expected. I honestly belief there are more people outside our faith than within that will find themselves in the Celestial Kingdom. I know of SO many people that extremely impressive and are seeking nothing more than to do as much good and become as excellent as possible. The only reason they aren’t Saints is because they haven’t really looked at the church or aren’t convinced by the arguments for it. A simple “this is the correct way” from Christ would make them valiant and life long members.

I’m sorry, but I’m a little confused, could you explain something to me please? At the beginning of your post, you said more nonmembers will find their way to the Celestial Kingdom. And if that’s true, why would we even need to show them the “correct way” like you explained in the latter half of your post? If the ultimate goal of our mortal experience is to be tested and prove we’re worthy to live with our heavenly parents for eternity, why would we care if they’re “Mormons” while living here on earth if they’re going to reach the Celestial Kingdom in their own unique way?

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1 hour ago, Mike Drop said:

I’m sorry, but I’m a little confused, could you explain something to me please? At the beginning of your post, you said more nonmembers will find their way to the Celestial Kingdom. And if that’s true, why would we even need to show them the “correct way” like you explained in the latter half of your post? If the ultimate goal of our mortal experience is to be tested and prove we’re worthy to live with our heavenly parents for eternity, why would we care if they’re “Mormons” while living here on earth if they’re going to reach the Celestial Kingdom in their own unique way?

Please let me know if you feel like I am missing something.

 

Requirements for Exaltation:

- Receive all the ordinances of Exaltation as held in the church

- Fully accept Christ and his doctrine

- Desire in your heart to become Christlike

- Grace

 

The ordinances are done in life as well as done for us in death if we did not have the opportunity. Why would we be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, do initiatories, receive the endowments, and seal the families of Tony Robbins if we did not believe he could accept the gospel and be exalted later on. “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”(1 cor 15:29)

Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-9

7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;
8 Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;
9 For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

- What does it mean to have a knowledge of the gospel? I would argue that having a missionary say to you in passing “want to hear a message about the restored gospel” does not constitute “a knowledge of” as mentioned in this scripture. I would go further to say that I think there are also a rice and inactive members of our church who have not received “a knowledge” of the gospel. I point to Alma 32s description of a knowledge, that they have to plant the seed, nourish it, see it grow, and taste the fruit.

- We are judged according to our works and desires of our hearts. This is a big one. Those who are living the righteous principles they know of and are seeking to do good are literally doing EVERYTHING God wants them to do. They just lack light and knowledge. When they receive it, they would act on it. They just haven’t received it, or developed a “knowledge of” it.

- Now why do we do Missionary work if all that matters is being good? Simple. Exaltation is not found in simply obeying a bunch of rules that we receive. Those who are simply obedient and do good will be found in the terrestrial kingdom.  
 

Exaltation is held specifically for those who wish to become like God. For those who want faith, hope and charity, for those who want to be just as God is. Those that freely give of what they have and love all those around them. We do missionary work not because we want to save them from outer darkness (Christ accomplished that with his Atonement already). We do missionary work because we want to see others grow and share the truth we have found with them.

Additionally, missionary work is not us trying to sell Jesus, it’s us trying to find the elect and show them a more excellent way. (Doctrine and Covenants 29:7)

I’m deep in the sales and business world so I look at people like Gary V, Ed Mylett, Joe Rogan, Tony Robbins, Lewis Howes, and others. I’ll throw in Joel Osteen, Billy Graham and the millions and millions of Christians that are accepting all that a Christ has showed them and want more.

I do think it is a little short sided to think the purpose of this life is to become a Mormon. It’s more than that. It’s to seek to become everything that Christ is.

Who would you judge is more close to being like Christ was?

A - The standard member of the church that complains about callings and giving talks at church, attends the temple once a year, and has sub par s rupture study

B - Tony Robbins. A non-member who spends his life becoming the very best he can, applies whatever truth he finds, and does all he can to help others succeed as he has. He literally spends his time giving to others, teaching others to grow and be self reliant, and saves marriages.

 

Celestial Kingdom is for the Christlike

Terrestial Kingdom is for the good and obedient

Telestial Kingdom is for the wicked

Outer Darkness is for those that have seen God, felt his spirit, and know beyond faith (as Ether did Ether 3:19), and decide they do not want any of what God offers.

Are there any points who disagree with or feel aren’t found in scripture?

Edited by Fether
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17 minutes ago, Teancum said:

Isn't it great how that works.  Whent he Church grow's it is fulfillment of prophesy-the stone cut out of the mountain without hands to fill the entire earth.  When it doesn't that is prophesy too. WIN WIN!

I can’t argue that haha. It’s true. There is a lot of observation biased.

Is it actual fulfillment? I guess it just depends if it’s all true or not. We will all know soon enough.

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2 hours ago, Fether said:

It’s as expected. I honestly belief there are more people outside our faith than within that will find themselves in the Celestial Kingdom. I know of SO many people that extremely impressive and are seeking nothing more than to do as much good and become as excellent as possible. The only reason they aren’t Saints is because they haven’t really looked at the church or aren’t convinced by the arguments for it. A simple “this is the correct way” from Christ would make them valiant and life long members.

I don't believe this. For one thing, we believe that we have the same spirit and inclinations in the spirit world and the hereafter that we have here (cf. Alma 34:34). We aren't magically any more inclined to accept or reject certain things simply because we are in God's presence than we are here. This is also borne out by the fact that (as prophets have taught) while everyone living during the Millennium will accept Jesus' rule, there will be people of different churches (i.e., they will choose not to be members of the Church, "though a Man shall declare it to them"). I don't think there is any justification for believing that "a simple 'this is the correct way' from Christ will make them valiant and life long members," other than wishful thinking.

It is clear that the Terrestrial Kingdom basically **is** the kingdom for "people that are extremely impressive and are seeking nothing more than to do as much good and become as excellent as possible" --- except that they do not accept, enter into, and keep the covenants (they reject membership and advancement in the Church). That is the basic definition for the Terrestrial Kingdom. 

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It is my heartfelt and I believe, Spirit-led belief that each human who has ever lived will stand before the final judgment by Christ. In His unique role as Priest and King (only Melchizedek has also held that position, assuming he was a historic real person and not a type).  Christ will be our judge, jury, prosecutor, and advocate, all wrapped up in one. His verdict will be final and will determine whether or not we are ushered into the presence of His father to live and learn for eternity in the presence of the Godhead.

I do not believe any part of the judgment will be related to which branch, denomination, or community of Christianity we belonged to in life, if indeed we belonged to any. Obviously all who lived and died everywhere prior to the atonement were not Christians in the sense we think of Christianity. Many have also lived since the atonement as something other than Christian. Christ's judgment will be a perfect balance of mercy and righteousness; something none of us can hope to aspire to in this life.

I don't believe our earthly religious affiliation or whichever ordinance or sacrament we have experienced in or after life will make any difference in His judgment. He is the way, truth, and life and no person is ushered into the presence of the Father except by Him (by that judgment). I know of no other way anyone will access the Father for eternity. All rituals are holdovers from pre-atonement religious rites and requirements. We know that as the judge, jury, advocate, and prosecutor, Christ will make a perfect decision for each of us. His sacrifice for us in the atonement was the final, and perhaps only ordinance, sacrament, and sacrifice that has eternal significance. Baptism is an earthly testimony and witness without eternal significance. Communion/The Lord's Supper/Sacrament is an important reminder of the atonement. It gives us a chance, however often we observe it to remember, recommit, and give thanks. It is not salvific in any way. My faith practices the ordinance of foot-washing - most do not. Nothing salvific there. It is a reminder of the humility of Christ and His serving as a role-model for us. It is a spiritual exercise, but nothing salvific about it. I believe none of us will stand before Christ as Mennonite, Mormon, Methodist, Post, pre or amillennial, having been baptized by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling, or not at all. We have no evidence that Christ baptized in His early life. He did say that when we repeat the "The Lord's Supper" or the "Last Supper" that, as often as we do it, we should do it in remembrance of Him. That made it clear. We are to participate in that as a remembrance of Him and what He did, does, and will do for us.

Of course, I have no certainty about any of the above. It represents my own personal faith and my own personal belief. As Fether just said, "We will all know soon enough!"

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1 hour ago, Fether said:

I agree with everything you have here.

My point is that God said those who did not have a knowledge, but would have accepted the gospel will be in the celestial kingdom. I’m simply challenging that having a knowledge is more than just hearing the gospel spoken to you by a missionary.

Im not saying that being an impressive person that seeks good is ALL what it takes to be exalted (though Inwould argue it is a requirement). Nor am I saying g all these impressive people I listed on will be exalted. 

Im also not saying our personalities will change. Alma 34:30-35 makes that clear. I’m simply saying that there are so many incredible people out there who simply don’t “a knowledge” of the gospel. Those that would accept it if they were to gain that knowledge will be exalted. 

The real question (which only God knows), is what constitutes sufficient knowledge (or "full qualifying exposure" to the gospel). We all know many people who know a lot about the Church, but we're not sure if the sum total of their experience constitutes "a sufficient chance" if they die without accepting the covenants and ordinances. 

In our desire to be universalist, I think we (collectively) sometimes tend to be more permissive in our expectations for others than I think will actually be the case. This can lead to critics (and some members) asking whether any of this really matters, since they think that people can just accept it later and be on the same footing as those who accepted it here. That approaches the Nehor/Korihor approach of "it's all good," to me. 

It is an interesting thing, for sure. I'm thinking of a man the mission presidency where we live asked me to meet with (very sophisticated in his knowledge of Church history and doctrine).  I met him at a restaurant initially, and he took copious notes. He was thrilled to have someone to talk to who knew what he knows, and more. He is a self-defined agnostic who has an enormous "anthropological" fascination with the Church. He has no interest in joining (which is part of the reason why the mission presidency lost interest. The other part is because they don't know enough about what he wants to discuss. He scrupulously avoids getting into detail with the missionaries, because he doesn't want them to get questions they didn't have before). We have met three times at restaurants, and we had him and his wife over for dinner. We remain good friends, and his wife is grateful (and apologetic) that he has someone he can really talk to. She went with him to Palmyra, but drew the line at spending a week in Nauvoo. :) 

Has he had his shot, if he gets hit by a bus tomorrow? I'm not sure. I don't know where the line between knowledge and **knowledge** is. The last time we met, he was blown away with a story I told him about one of my counselors. It involved a miracle he experienced in the temple, where the old lady playing the organ in the chapel instantly switched from "hymns authorized for use in the temple" (the white binder) to a classical piece that directly answered his prayer (she began playing "Finlandia" as he was praying for direction and comfort about his brother who had committed suicide. Sebellius was his favorite composer). It's really interesting to think about what that looked and felt like to the old lady, in her heart and mind. The types of women who were called to play the organ in the temple are precisely the kind who were **not** inclined to "go rogue" and disobey the temple president and the First Presidency. And yet, she did just that in that moment. The larger discussion was about revelation and confirmation, and he really wanted to interview her and get her account (she is certainly no longer alive, given how long ago it was and her age at that time). It gave him something to think about, because his big hurdle is proof and evidence sufficient to overcome his agnosticism. With all that, he is extremely sympathetic and admiring of the Church, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc. He is a voracious reader, and attends Mormon History Association and other things. 

Does he have enough information and experience to keep him out of the Celestial Kingdom? On paper, I would say, "yes." 

ETA: I completely agree on many Mormons who are going to be very surprised to find that their nominal church membership didn't matter in light of their lives and their "becoming."

Edited by rongo
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4 hours ago, Mike Drop said:

But Mr. Scotty, whose version of the fulfillment are we living in right now? Is it our version, or is it the JWs, or is it the Seventh day Adventist version? All  three religions believe when Christ returns he’s going to be “our Jesus “ and use “our religion “ to help make the earth “new” again. All three religions have scattered upon the earth and delivered Gods word to millions, all three have about the same number of members and all three preach they are the only true church on the face of the earth. When Jesus is coming down through the clouds, how will we know whose team he is on?   

We who have testimonies already know 

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3 minutes ago, rongo said:

In our desire to be universalist, I think we (collectively) sometimes tend to be more permissive in our expectations for others than I think will actually be the case. This can lead to critics (and some members) asking whether any of this really matters, since they think that people can just accept it later and be on the same footing as those who accepted it here. That approaches the Nehor/Korihor approach of "it's all good," to me. 

And so our testimonies may change.

They are supposed to.

We do the best we can here, and are supposed to.  We are like the poor addicts on skid row who find Christ through the Salvation Army. Do you think God will condemn them for only being half right?

I don't 

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3 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

And so our testimonies may change.

They are supposed to.

We do the best we can here, and are supposed to.  We are like the poor addicts on skid row who find Christ through the Salvation Army. Do you think God will condemn them for only being half right?

I don't 

It's not just "heaven and hell," though, so what do you mean by "condemn?" 

"The Vision" --- with the implications and ramifications of the three degrees of glory --- gives a lot of room for those who do good things but do not receive the ordinances (who would or could have, with sufficient opportunity).

The trickier question for Mormons (and one that is uncomfortable to think about) is "What about those who **have** had sufficient knowledge and experience, who don't choose it?" It can't be that literally 100% of everyone doesn't meet this standard. 

So, no, I don't think the Salvation Army stands "condemned" for the good that it does. I think there are many who will fall into the category of "honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men . . . who receive of his glory, but not of his fulness . . . who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father."

It's not going to be a "participation trophy" model in the hereafter, either. 

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