Over the past many months, some members of the LDS Church have called me a non-believer. Mostly it happens on social media or behind my back as gossip. Not much opportunity to engage in a heart-to-heart as to what I believe.
Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a very close friend who is also a member. As we rambled, he casually referred to me as a non-believer. It caught me off guard. It took me aback. I questioned myself, “I am a non-believer? How can I possibly be viewed as a non-believer?”
After this friendly interchange, I got in my car to drive away. I contemplated how others look at me. Tears began welling. How can it be that I have faith in Jesus Christ, but am considered a non-believer in the Church of Jesus Christ? How has it come to this, that faith in Jesus is not enough? How is it possible that good church members could make this kind of judgment? It does not feel right.
Jesus Christ. I believe in His gospel. I absolutely adore his teachings and example. They reach into the core of my heart. So much so, that I’ve decided to place my faith in Him and only in Him. His way is a true and wonderful way to live a good and fulfilling life. My goal is to emulate the Savior in word and deed. Not always an easy task. ……..So, I am a Non-believer?
The Book of Mormon. This is a tremendous book of scripture. It contains teachings of Christ. It elaborates and elucidates the doctrines of Christ. It’s another witness of Christ. It beckons me to follow Him. The Book of Mormon has blessed my life, my family and the lives of many others. ….So I’m really just a non-believer?
The Apostolic Leaders of the Church. I recognize and sustain them as prophets, seers and revelators. They are good men. I listen and pay attention to their loving direction. However, I view them as men, fallible men. Modern day prophets and apostles can and have led us astray. That does not invalidate their calling or station. It validates that they are men. ….Is it this that makes me a non-believer?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been a member all my life. It has served me well. I have served it diligently and for tens of thousands of hours. My callings have been full of many treasured experiences. The church was a vital part of the upbringing of my children. I love the church. I am happy that my children and grandchildren still embrace it. …..Thus, I am a non-believer?
Over the past year, I have become acquainted with many active Mormons whose faith has transitioned. They presently serve in various ward and stake callings. Yet, they are in hiding. They suffer or stew in silence. Some say they are “hanging on by their fingernails.” Others express that they don’t know how much longer they can take it. Some have decided to leave when a certain life event occurs. Still others simply continue in support of a spouse or parent.
So, why don’t these good people broach their concerns and conclusions within their own wards among their own friends? Why: IT….IS….NOT….SAFE.
I have been very open about my faith and beliefs. By many, I have been judged as a non-believer. That does not make me feel safe.
Some of my active & secretive church friends only believe parts of the LDS gospel. Some have moved all the way to being atheist. I can only imagine how unsafe they must feel if someone like me is deemed a non-believer.
Why can’t we come out of isolation, hiding and hurt? Why can’t we all just be members who are attempting to follow the teachings of Christ? Without the constant, nagging worry that we will bear a judgmental blot of stigma for our beliefs?
26 thoughts on “I am a Non-Believer?”
Sam, you have always and continue to be someone I would consider as a believer, not only from our past experiences with you, but as you continue to talk about following Christ. Hang in there.
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So great to hear from that cute young girl who “Cain’t Say No.” So, interesting which experiences we forget and which ones are indelibly etched in out brain. You advertising the musical during one MW1 priesthood meeting so long ago will never be forgotten. That vivacious voice complete with vivid movements lit up the priesthood like it has never been enlightened again.
All my best to you an your family!
P.S. Thanks for reading my blog and for your encouragement.
Sam not only believes, he practices what he believes. He’s a true disciple of Christ. Unfortunately many Mormons have been brainwashed by “the brethren” to believe that questioning “the brethren” on any of their mandates is treasonous. This new approach to Mormonism that holds men up as infallible and, requires absolute loyalty to these men, eliminates the need for free thought and agency. In other words, the new Mormon gospel that marginalizes people like Sam and requires blind obedience and loyalty to the LDS corporation above all else, looks very much like the gospel the Satan proposed in the pre-mortal council.
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Thanks for your comments. However, they need a bit of correction.
“Practices what he believes?” More accurate would be, ‘with frequent failures he attempts to practice.’
“He’s A true disciple of Christ?” More accurate, ‘He’s a long way from being a true disciple of Christ. But, he desires to be.’
“Loyalty.” Now, this one doesn’t need much correction. My loyalty is to Jesus Christ. I think that is a commonality between me and “the brethren.” At least I hope it is.
Thanks again for reading my blog. I love reading your take on things.
Sam, I wonder if the criterion for “believer” in the mind of your very close friend is someone who accepts without thought whatever church leaders say.
I think I would have to ask your very close friend what change in **your** behaviour would he need to see to agree that you are a believer.
PS – if he wants to compare you with a real non-believer, ask him to talk to me!
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Great point about what behavior would be necessary to prove my belief.
“If he wants to compare you with a real non-believer, ask him to talk to me.” Let me just say this, whether or not I’m a non-believer, I do love real non-believers. Today, I have many friends who fit in this category. In the past, I think I consciously/unconsciously looked down on them. That was my judgmental bad. No longer. I treasure my believing friends who are still in just as must as my non-believing friends who are still in and those who have left the church. I am no better and hopefully no worse than any.
Thanks for reading my blog making sharing YOUR thoughts.
Sam, if you are a non-believer, then anyone who believes in Christ and his teachings are non-believers as well. The thought is asinine and I think you need to “consider the sources ” of these comments and try to forgive their ignorance. We all believe in our own way and on different levels. You are a thinker and have reached your conclusions in a different way than maybe someone else. That doesn’t mean you are wrong and they are right. There are also those who choose to react differently to the same thing. This election we have just lived through has taught me that. As long as you are happy with the outcome of your research and prayer, then others need to back off as I was recently told to do. You are someone who should be commended for the life you have lived, the family you and Patty have reared and the service you have given. The rest of us who may be critical of how you have chosen to live the gospel, need to worry about our own salvation . I love you Sam and pray you can continue to move forward.
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Galen, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. However to clump together Mormons who choose to follow the brethren, as brainwashed is as ignorant as those who call Sam a non-believer. This is their way of believing. There is nothing wrong with following the brethren. Some people need them and their testimonies to strength their own. The brethren are men of God whom I happen to revere as prophets, seers and Revelators. And although I may not agree with policies they have adopted, I have never heard anything from the pulpit in the form of doctrine that I do not believe. This does not make me an ignorant believer with no thoughts of my own. I am not being led blindly by them. I happen to agree with the doctrine they teach.
I absolutely believe you are trying your best to figure out what God wants you to do. I know it hurts, but you know in your heart you are not going to get to the judgement bar of Christ and be asked, “Did you make sure all of your friends felt comfortable with you?” I don’t even think you are going to be asked, “Did you follow the brethren?” I think you are going to be asked, “Did you follow what *I* was telling you to do?”
Yes, I think you are a believer. Willing to put everything on the line to serve the Lord. You have more courage than most of us.
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Thanks for the vote of confidence.
“Willing to put everything on the line?” Well, I’ve sure put my good name, honor, and reputation on the line. But, many are saying I’ve crossed the line.
I want you to know that your 2 short sentences speak volumes to me.
Thanks, my friend.
Glad I can always count on you for a candidly honest answer. Thanks, my friend!
Sam, I think you’re a better believer than most LDS people. You’re trying to make it work in your life and trying to make the changes that Mormonism desperately needs. If the LDS church had more people like you, I’d feel a little less like I need to grit my teeth on the rare occasions I attend with my family.
No, I don’t think you are a believer, Sam. The question I would ask is, what’s wrong with that? You have said yourself you don’t judge those who have left the church. So, why is it not OK to be an un-believer?
But, let me delve a little deeper into your disbelief. I can’t read your heart, but from what I’ve observed I would say:
– You don’t believe in withdrawing love because someone disagrees with you.
– You don’t believe in marginalizing someone because of who they love.
– You don’t believe in shunning someone because they have honest and heartfelt questions.
– You don’t believe in following a man over following Christ.
– You don’t believe it is more important to blindly obey than it is to follow your conscience.
– You don’t believe in rote sustaining devoid of the spirit of common consent.
– You don’t believe “the brethren” are infallible.
I don’t think I need to go on. I’m sure it’s clear the list of things you don’t believe is long.
You believe some things. You disbelieve others. The same is true for every single person who has ever lived. You/we are both believer and non-believer.
Once again the question is, just what does your friend believe? What do those who whisper behind your back believe? Why is that praise worthy? Or *is* it praise worthy?
Of course, we all want acceptance, respect, and love. It is hard when our beliefs separate us from others, particularly if we think that makes us less loved and honored. I’m not good enough with words to make that sting go away. But I would say, for my part, I find both your disbelief and your belief to be full of compassion, christian love, and an honest desire to be as God-like as you can. I find that the epitome of honor, even for the most true believing of TBMs.
Sam – just spent the w/e with Giff in Australia- your fame gets around-your item above about supporting the leaders of the church doesnt compute!! (Sorry about the spellimg i’m on a cell phone) I really appreciate u as a friend and your love for the savior and others has no bounds- look forward to seeing u when we return-trust business is treating u well – give Patty a hug for us
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Australia? Wow. Sounds like a great trip. And of course, Giff is a great person and friend. I loved working with him as Bishop and Stake President.
Doesn’t compute? You are so perceptive. A perfect description: Sam Young—The Man Who Doesn’t Compute. I like it. You have always been great at coming up with clever descriptions.
I hope to have the opportunity to discuss my concept of supporting the church leaders. Maybe another hot dog is in order.
Safe travels & see you soon, Sam
Why is it important to you that other members of the LDS tribe think you are one of them? If this is important to you, what is stopping you from submitting your will to the tribe’s leaders and following them meekly and humbly?
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Good questions. I am NOT willing to submit my will to the leaders, meekly humbly or in any other way. What I am working to do is submit my will to Jesus Christ. Period. For me, that is not always an easy task.
Hey Sam, enjoyed reading your BRILLIANT posts in the wee hours of the night last night. They helped put me to sleep. Just kidding😊.
Here are a couple things I know about you. When you were a Bishop in the 90’s, you petitioned the stake a number of times to please avoid giving talks that made single members and single parents and their children feel marginalized, different and less valued than “regular” families. I love that you recognized everyone’s worth and value in both your eyes and God’s. You stood up for them!!
Similarly you have taken a stand for gay members of the church, who have been hugely marginalized and deeply hurt by the Nov. 15 policy. You have reached out to them with enormous unconditional love and compassion! Many of us have gay members in our families, some openly gay, but many I believe who we are not aware of, that are afraid to reveal there homosexuality and silently suffer, some to the point of despair, taking their own lives because of the stigma that has been put upon them. THANK YOU Sam, for following your heart and standing up for our gay members.
You have made yourself available through social media and your own weekly “Talkaria” to those struggling with church historical issues. Church members in this situation often feel like they have nowhere to turn and no one to give a non judgmental listening ear. You have truly been that listening ear!
Thanks for being my friend and AMAZING exemplar of love, kindness and compassion towards ALL!!
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Thanks for your AMAZING comment. I really appreciate your friendship and openness. Almost 2 years ago, I was struggling. Alone. Isolated. My family relationships had taken a beating. My stomach was in knots almost everyday. Then I found you, my friend. No longer was I the lone man in the wilderness. Thanks for taking all my calls over the past 1 1/2 years, every time I just needed to talk with someone who could understand me. Those phone calls were the genesis for the Talkeria concept.
All My Very Best Wishes, Sam
Be of good cheer. The Lord knows His sheep. Focus on your relationship with Him. Follow his example. Be humble and you will be guided by Him. You are not alone. Your courage to stand is admirable.
I have a feeling that the paradigm and expectations we put on the Church and God are needing to change. The Gospel truths are there, but are we looking at it all from the right angle. Just because the authority and power and truths are restored, doesn’t imply that our view at them and the church is correct. Are we seeing the full 360 3 dimensional views? Are we considering other dimensions? When we place God in a box, we limit ourselves.
One such paradigm I have considered recently is that the history of the church was framed a given way to be viewed in a given light. Why did the Lord allow the leaders to do this? Was it administrative choices they made or was it revelation? Does God direct every step of the brethren? Aren’t they fallible as all of us and we just try to do the best we can? I believe that God allows things like this to happen to allow us to have an increase in Faith. Do we truly believe in His Son? Or do we rely on the hand of man for our understanding? Are we to learn line upon line, or do we seek Google to be our answer to make sense of things that can’t be readily explained? Is this a trial of our Faith? Will we remain true regardless? Are we holding our testimony to the Church itself? Shouldn’t be be grounding ourselves to Christ that is the cornerstone? We shouldn’t root our testimony in men, should we in the current understandings of the Church? Or should we root it in Christ and strive to live in accordance to the knowledge we have so that we can gain further light?
So many of us want a tangible answer. So many of us want something concrete that we can hold to. Is this really what we need to grow? Or do we choose to remain faithful in spite of our lack in understanding?
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I don’t know Fred but I appreciated his remarks. I love you Sam. It’s not my place to judge you. I only wish you peace. My heart hurts for you and for those who struggle with these questions. I truly have empathy. You have always been a seeker and scientist but I have never doubted your intent. I struggle with several things I don’t understand or don’t seem fair/just. BUT, I DO have a few absolutes that keep me going and I’d love to share them with you one day but not here. I hold them close to my heart and those absolutes bring me peace. I believe truth will come to us bit by bit. We must visit with you and Patty soon.
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Hello Mary Lynn,
How nice to hear from you. At Thanksgiving, we always reminisce on those glorious holidays with your family. Enchanted Rock still holds such enchanting memories.
I struggled for about 1 1/2 years to figure things out and get my feet under me. Having empathy for those who struggle with their believe system is something I am now fully capable of. I’ve personally gone through the fire.
What has surprised me the most is the total lack of empathy, sympathy or any concern whatsoever regarding those with questions and doubts. At this point, I know members in my ward, stake, throughout Houston, across the U.S. and all around the world, who are active but are in hiding. Just biding their time before they leave the church. It turns my stomach that loved ones, as well as those whom I have never met, have to struggle in silence and loneliness. Where is the vaunted charity and compassion that should be overflowing in the church of Jesus Christ? Oh yeah, we talk a good game. But, why is it so unsafe among our church friends that we have to hide our questions?
Here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama. It frequently echoes in my head, “Compassion is of little value if it remains an idea.” Almost 2 years ago, I approached the bishop and then the stake president about reaching out to those questioning their faith. Over those two years, I’ve followed up many times. And what actions have we taken….zip, zero, nada, nothing!!!!!! Compassion for those questioning is not even an idea yet, let alone putting any action behind it.
If you have been following my blog, you know that I finally decided to take action. I’ve watched too many friends and family run away from the church. Why doesn’t anybody care? Why do we ignore the issue? Today, this is the biggest mystery in my mind. I know all the dubious, hidden and whitewashed history of the church. I know the troubling doctrines that we are forbidden to discuss. I’m aware of unpalatable policies that must and will be changed. I’ve come to terms with all this. But, how do I come to terms with the dismissive attitude so rife among the leaders and members. They could care less. Oh, people are leaving? Time to change the subject.
There are many good things about the church. But, there are so many things wrong with it. I’m trying to give my fellow members the benefit of the doubt that they are simply blind to what’s going on. If they are not blind, it doesn’t speak well of the our church culture. If they are blind, it doesn’t speak well of our church culture.
Thank heavens that my faith is in Jesus Christ…ONLY.
I love you my dear friend and your awesome husband is the best. I’d love to see you guys again…soon.
All My Best, Sam
P.S. Regarding you empathy and compassion…your are one that I would definitely feel safe discussing my concerns with. Thanks for your good heart.
Sam, the more I get to know you the more I feel how sincere your love and concern for those that struggle.
I am one of those that is as active as can be with a stake level calling, but on a plan to back away from the church. Part of the issue is that I don’t see ANY meaningful progress towards making church a place to help with issues. It makes me feel that the top church leaders don’t have much faith and still feel they need to keep a very tight rein on what is and is not talked about in church. Then there is church culture.
Sam – you are a good man.
Sam, I am probably guilty of projecting my own feelings about the church and God onto you. I must say now that after seeing your actions over the past year, including the March for Children, Protect LDS Children, and the Hunger Strike & Spotlight action, I believe that you are a believer. No person who is not a sincere believer in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ could sustain a facade for as long as you have. And no person who does not sincerely care about the cause of protecting children would put their money, their time, and even their health on the line as you have.
I continue to read through your blog, but nothing you have said here is out of harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ. I believe that you believe.
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