An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

The Threat

The Threat   2/3/11

Recent surveys show that Americans are less inclined now than in the past to believe that only one religion leads to eternal life. On a recent news program, an author promoting his book on contemporary American religious beliefs attributed this trend to almost every American having an Aunt Sally—a kind, generous, compassionate person who does not belong to their church. Knowing an Aunt Sally makes it difficult to believe good people won’t go to heaven just because they don’t belong to the right church.

Relatives of a different faith were uncommon in the Utah culture of my childhood. In our small town people were either Mormons or hell-raisers. Since then, the Mormon Corridor has opened to more diversity. In many Utah neighborhoods,   gentiles now outnumber the Saints. Mormons in and out of Utah are consistently exposed to happy, respectable people of different faiths or no faith. Associating on a daily basis with good non-LDS people makes it more difficult to believe they are neither as happy nor as righteous as Mormons.

Even more subversive than non-members for damaging this myth, are formerly active members who have “apostatized”—i.e. no longer attend church. Some, like George and me, maintain social contact—attend ward parties, even help with service projects, but regularly skip meetings. I suspect we unwittingly sabotage devout believers by being happy, decent people with no needs that greater church involvement could fulfill.

For years Mormons have worried that “the world” or Satan that might undermine Church growth and authority. Perhaps the real threat is the example of good people living happy, productive lives outside the bounds of Mormon beliefs.


Comments on: "The Threat" (8)

  1. My experience has shown that most older devout believers feel sorry for the inactive or non-believers because they must be missing something in their lives. For many it is impossible to understand that religion does not equal happiness no matter how many times they see the evidence. Younger members seem to be much more open to other avenues to fullfillment.

    So how does it feel to be subversive?

  2. Two of Three said:

    Agree. Agree. Agree!

  3. Aww, come on CC. You know you’re putting on a show. That’s how Satan does things. =P

  4. As a missionary, I had to deal with some pretty serious cognitive dissonance when I realized this.

    I had figured that belief in truth exists on a scale from 1 (no belief – atheist) to 10 (full belief in the Church – assuming, for the sake of argument that the Church is the repository of all Truth). I had always been taught – and believed – that there would be a very strong correlation between a person’s rating on that scale and where they lie on a similar “sinner-saint” scale, which would also strongly correlate to the person’s level of happiness.

    Things started getting weird for me the day I realized that the atheists were usually much nicer and seemed happier than most of the Christians (evangelical or orthodox, it didn’t seem to matter). Factor in some of the outrageous lies and distortions that were repeated about us by said Christians (including, but not limited to ritual cannibalism and suicide), and I started getting really confused.

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