The Vanderhorst Family

The Vanderhorst Family

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Being a Mormon doesn't equal blind obedience: Setting the record straight

I've been keeping my mouth shut about everything that has been going on with recent excommunications from the LDS church. I don't feel like someone else's excommunication is any of my business. I respect anyone's desire to find answers to questions (because I've had to do the same thing in my own life), while also disagreeing with their approach in finding those answers.

But that's not what this blog post is about (so please, let's not make it about that). 

What has been bothering me are some of the comments that have come from supporters of these excommunicated members (such as Kate Kelly), that in a nutshell say that those members who stay in the church are unquestioning, blind followers of the LDS Church leaders. Essentially, we have no brains and cannot think for ourselves. Below is just an example of a comment (one of many, unfortunately) that I recently saw on an article:

"The Mormon Church is losing members at a historically high rate (LDS Church leader Marlin Jensen), and that rate is increasing. This is being referred to as the 'great Mormon brain drain', as the thoughtful, tech savvy, critical thinkers in the church are those leaving in the highest numbers, leaving the unquestioning, faithful followers behind. While many outside the church may view this as a negative trend, it is highly likely that Mormon church leaders sees this as a positive demographic change, leaving them with a much more unquestioning and obedient group of followers."




Here are my 2 main issues with this line of thinking: 

1) It's a low blow and a slap in the face to insult someone's intelligence, simply because they hold true to what they've been taught, and I find it highly unlikely that the leaders of the church fear intelligence and simply want "brain drained" followers.

2) Just because someone is still active in their religion doesn't mean that they haven't had to wrestle with questions, search long and hard to find answers, and in all honesty, still might have unanswered questions.

Let me address this first point:

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19 it states: "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." God is encouraging us to gain intelligence of all forms, not just spiritual intelligence. He rejoices when we excel in secular understanding and seek to further our minds. 

In this sense, I do not believe that the LDS Church leaders are thrilled that members are leaving the church--in fact I know that they are deeply saddened and hope for those members to return. I do not believe they want their members to be blind followers either, and they are lovers of intelligence. Look at the occupations of the apostles before their call: We have a renowned physician, a VP and treasurer in major companies, a Utah Supreme Court member, successful businessmen (a couple of which graduated from ivy-league schools), a nuclear engineer, a couple former presidents of a university, a couple lawyers...need I say more? I think they understand the value and importance of intelligence, both secular and spiritual, and absolutely are NOT threatened by it. They have no reason to be.

Just from my own personal experience, I have always found myself surrounded by intelligent people in the church--whether it was growing up in Colorado, going to school in Utah, or living on the East Coast. Currently in my ward, I am surrounded by a bunch of lawyers, accountants, politicians (in both parties, mind you), physicians, etc. Oh ya, and before you think that's just the men in my ward, think again. There are women in my ward who work as accountants, lawyers, one works for the national board of education, one graduated from Oxford with a PHD in Biochemistry...and no, they aren't the minority either. We actually have a lot of women in my ward who work (and guess what, no one judges them either! And they don't judge us stay-at-home moms! I know, it's pretty great) I have genuinely found that my gospel discussions with these people have strengthened my testimony. I look forward to church every week because these hard-working, successful people, look at the gospel in a way that I wouldn't think of. I don't believe you have to be a working professional to have a great mind either. I have enjoyed discussions (gospel or otherwise) with many women in my ward, and really value their opinions and voices. I love going to play-group and talking with the other moms there, and they always have sage wisdom and advice for whatever I'm dealing with at that time, be it mommy issues or anything else. 

I have found being around intelligent people to enhance my testimony and understanding of the gospel.

This leads me to my second point: 

Everyone in the church has questions that they try to find answers to. EVERYONE. EVERYONE! No one is an exception to this. EVERYONE at some point or another will have questions about some gospel principle, something that happened in church history, something about the LDS temple ceremony, something. And guess what--that's ok! Questions are encouraged! 

Personally, I had a few questions about the temple ceremony after I received my endowments a few years ago. That doesn't mean I was doubting my testimony, but I remember having countless conversations with my family, my husband, other women in my ward, saying countless prayers, and reading a lot about the temple. I became a temple worker about 6 months after Grant and I were married, and I really took advantage of that opportunity to be able to ask the temple president questions, other temple workers questions, and gain more understanding for myself. I went through this process for about 2 years. My answers to questions never came as one great big revelation, but I began to see piece by piece. It really was like the scripture 2 Nephi 28:30 "I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." I'm not saying I have a thorough knowledge of the temple ceremony and everything that goes on in the temple (far from it). I learn something new every single time I go to the temple. 

But isn't that how you gain knowledge in any subject? As a math teacher, I would never expect my students to understand everything there is to know about math all at once. Or if a kid came and said "I want you to tell me right now everything there is to know about math" that would be impossible! Likewise, I can't expect to know everything about the gospel all at once. It takes time. A lifetime in fact. A lifetime of asking questions, of pondering, of reading the scriptures, having gospel discussions, etc. 

This came as a shock to some of my math students, but I remember the very first day of class I said "Even though I'm a math teacher and am prepared to teach you what you need to know, you should know that I'm not perfect, I don't know or understand everything about math, and you will most likely teach me a few things about math that I didn't know." And boy did that come true! I was amazed to see my students think about math in a way that I never had before, and I have a 4 year degree! I got to the point in my mathematics understanding that I have a limited understanding, and that I will never ever understand everything in math (at least not in this life). But that doesn't stop me from asking questions, seeking to gain answers, and moving forward in my understand. Ya, it's a little frustrating when I come upon a concept that I know I'll never understand, but I hold to the knowledge that I DO have. 

And that's ok! Isn't that what the plan of salvation is about? This earth-life is just a snippit of our journey back to Heavenly Father, and we will continue learning in the life after this. But we can't gain understanding unless we ask questions and then do the nitty-gritty to seek answers, and those answers may take a lifetime to come. 

I will respect the decisions of those who decide to leave the church because that is a very personal decision and none of my business, but please return the respect. Just because someone stays active in the church does NOT mean they haven't asked their own questions, gone through their own struggles, are not intelligent, and are following blindly. It's ok to ask questions, it's encouraged to ask questions, and while I'm sad that members are leaving the church, I don't feel like the church is left with a bunch of blind followers and unquestioning minions.


  1. Such simplistic statements such as, "all the intelligent people are leaving the church and all who remain are blind followers" only makes me give little credence to the person who said it. Such blanket comments don't reflect the truth. Thanks for sharing Bekah!