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Q & A With Author Sophia L. Stone, Part 2

Read more of the interview with the author of Mormon Diaries.  Sophia L. Stone discusses her views on religion, and what it would take to make the Church a better place for all.

Q:     If the Mormon leadership acknowledged all your major issues and took active steps
toward reforming the faith in a direction you agreed with, would your doubts remain, or do you think you would be able to find a home again in the church?

If the leadership made the following steps, I might be able to stay and feel comfortable, but not because I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet. My belief in the church as a God-made institution is probably beyond redemption.

•             Stop claiming Mormonism has more truth than other religions.

•             Recognize baptisms performed by other Christian religions.

•             Ordain women to the priesthood and give them the same opportunities as men.

•             Stop trying to canonize rigid gender roles.

•             Marry same-sex couples in the temple.

•             Allow family members to see their loved ones get married in the temple regardless of
      their standing in the church.

•             Stop requiring people to pay a full tithe to enter the temple.

•             Stop canceling the baptisms and sealings of those who resign or are excommunicated from the church.

•             Get rid of the endowment ceremony or (at the very least) admit openly that it doesn't go back to the time of Solomon.

Q:     Who should read your book?

Anyone who wants to better understand how religions indoctrinate children, how they can unite and separate families, how they can bring peace and turmoil at the same time. Anyone who wants a more personal understanding of how it feels to grow up in a legalistic religion that values trust and obedience more highly than free thought, or anyone who wants to understand Mormonism.

Please don’t misread that to mean my book is factually perfect. It’s not. It is based on my experience, and everyone’s reality is different. But I stand by my claim that people who leave Mormonism are often in an isolating place. It’s hard for an orthodox believer to understand why anyone would leave. It’s hard for those who’ve never been in a fundamentalist religion to understand why leaving one is such a big deal. To both these groups, I’d say, “please read this!” Understanding is vital.

Q:       What do you hope for people who read your book? For non-Mormons, what would
 you like them to take away from it?

For non-Mormons, I'd like an increase of understanding for those who are in the faith. With Mitt Romney in the spotlight lately, I think Mormons have been held up to a lot of ridicule. To an outsider, looking in, there are just so many strange beliefs that make people scratch their heads--aspiring to godhood, wearing sacred underwear, believing in a planet called Kolob. How can anyone believe this stuff? It just seems incomprehensible. I mean, Richard Dawkins has been calling Romney an idiot for weeks just because he believes this stuff, and Richard Dawkins is an intelligent man. At least, I thought he was an intelligent man . . .

Does Dawkins not realize that if every important person in a child's life tells him that purple is actually green from birth until death, the child will have no reason to believe otherwise? Does Dawkins not realize that if you send that child on a mission, make him knock on doors for two years with limited contact from his family in an effort to convince the world that purple is actually green, that he will become more entrenched in that idea? Does Dawkins not realize that any belief, no matter how bizarre it is to the mainstream, can seem perfectly reasonable if it's embraced by nearly every significant influence around you?

Sophia L. Stone is the author of Mormon Diaries. She's a seeker, learner, reader, and nature Lover. If you're on twitter, you can ask her any question about Mormonism @ask_a_mormon

Q & A with Author Sophia L. Stone Part 1

Author Sophia L. Stone shares a few thoughts about her novel Mormon Diaries.  Look for more from Sophia in the coming days on The Peacewriter.

Q:         What does the ornament on the cover stand for?

A:  As a child I was taught that the only way I could experience true joy was by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in Mormonism. The ornament is symbolic of that joy. Or, more particularly, what I feared I’d lose if I ever stopped believing in The Church.

 Q:       Why did you hide your faith struggles from those closest to you?

A:  I was afraid my faithful Mormon family and friends would think me either prideful or influenced by Satan if I admitted to doubting The Church. There’s a common phrase faithful Latter-day Saints use to explain away uncomfortable issues: “The Church is true. The people are not.” Those who leave the church are often labeled as angry, easily offended, prideful, lazy, or deceived. There’s no good reason to doubt, no good reason to question, no good reason to stop believing. Faith yields loyalty and obedience.

Q:          How is your family coping with this? Do they support you?

A:  Well, it depends on what part of my family you’re talking about. My kids have been great, but they’re pretty young. I’m continually amazed by the open mindedness and trust of small children. I really think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

My husband, on the other hand, is having a really hard time. We’ve had to do some negotiating about the kid’s religious education. He wants them to believe in Mormonism and is very much attached to the outcome. The thought of his kids choosing to leave the LDS church is absolutely devastating to him.

There are certain things that (for him) are non-negotiable. The kids WILL get baptized at age eight whether I want that for them or not. The kids will continue to go to the Mormon church each Sunday until they turn twelve. (He’d said eighteen originally, but has since softened). 10% of his income will continue to go to The Church whether or not I agree with that particular donation. We’re a single income family so that’s a pretty big deal, but he’s frightened, truly frightened that if he stops paying a full tithe, he’ll lose his job.

Although, in fairness, he say it has nothing to do with fear. Rather, he has faith in the principle of tithing. God will bless him for his financial sacrifice.

As for the rest of the family, my mother is struggling, the brother just younger than me acts as if he doesn’t know, my older brother has been accepting, and my sister is unpredictable. I’m not even sure how to characterize that relationship at this point. So overall it’s been a mixed bag where tolerance is concerned. As for support—no, I do not have family support. Nor is it something I can reasonably expect.

 Q:   How do you get someone who thinks you’ve been influenced by Satan to
        consider your point of view?

A:  Short answer: you don’t.

Long answer: It’s odd to be on the other end of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric. I always considered myself a fairly good, honest person. And I have to admit that I don’t feel like a different person just because I don’t believe in Mormonism like I used to. Certain things just don’t change, you know? I still like chocolate milk shakes. I still like people. I feel, in many ways, closer to God than I did a year ago. So it’s been kind of shocking to have people who always trusted me assume the worst.

 Q:    How has your change in beliefs affected your marriage and children?

A:  I think it has benefited my children in a number of ways. First, by showing them that goodness isn’t based on legalistic rules, they are more accepting of themselves and others. Second, by helping them see that there isn’t one right way to be a decent human being, they are able to think the best of people. Third, by opening up to other ideas and spiritual philosophies, they are more open as well.

As for my marriage, my change in beliefs has brought to light problems I’d been ignoring for years. Things having to do with power dynamics, issues with inflexibility, and some fundamental disagreements in parenting styles between my husband and I. My marriage has suffered and I worry about it often. But I also know that without the insights I have now, the relationship would continue to grow more unbalanced and necessary change would never occur.

I’m crossing my fingers and holding out hope in the marriage department.

 Q:    How has writing about your struggles helped you?

A:  There’s a saying that writing is cheaper than therapy, and I can attest to that. There’s no time limit on how long I can type away on my keyboard when I’m having a bad day. I don’t have to worry about the paper judging me. Plus, it’s helped me to put things in perspective.  

 Q:    Do you ever feel angry . . . if so, why?

A:  On my bad days, I feel more disappointment than anger. Mostly because I believed with all my heart the promises found in Mormonism. I thought I was happier than other people, that I had greater access to spirituality, that I knew my most important and fulfilling role. I believed I had divine knowledge and purpose. Now I’ve found that many of these promises are smoke and mirrors.

And I’m further disheartened when I see religion hurt families. You’d think a family centered church would shout from the rooftops not to shun family members who’ve fallen away. You’d think they’d allow non-believing parents to see their believing kids get married in the temple. You’d think they’d support all different kinds of families, not just those that meet one definition. But all too often an ideal is promoted that benefits the church over families that are struggling. “Traditional gender roles” and “conservative family values” are taught as religious principles.

Q:    Do you ever feel as though you've lost something in your fall away from 
 Mormonism? Do you have any regrets?
A:  Yes. I sometimes feel I'm lacking a strong sense of purpose. Back when I was a believer, I didn't have to worry so much about if I was doing the best thing with my life. I knew I was doing the best thing with my life--rearing my kids, being a good mom. Nothing mattered more. So it bothered me less that I hadn't pursued a lucrative career, or built amazing social networks, or done something that I, personally, felt was a fabulous accomplishment.

That said, I don't have any regrets. I used to hold onto my regrets like a stamp collector hoards stamps, but all that did was cause me misery. So now I look at the mistakes I've made, the people I've hurt, and the opportunities I've missed as part of who I am. Part of my learning process. No regrets allowed.

Sophia L. Stone is the author of Mormon Diaries. She's a seeker, learner, reader, and nature Lover. If you're on twitter, you can ask her any question about Mormonism @ask_a_mormon

I’m Tired

by Sophia L. Stone

Yes, it’s true. I’m just plain tired of talking about Mormonism and reacting to what Mormon leaders say about those of us who no longer believe. 

I had planned to satire the conference talks of Elder Cook, Elder Holland, and Elder Oaks in the coming weeks. But today, I find that I just don’t have the energy. Why try so hard to point out what is obvious to pretty much everyone that isn’t Mormon? Why spend so much time on a sophisticated rebuttal to a few speeches that lack basic logic and common sense? Is it just because these men don’t see it? Or does it have to do with power?

Would I really care about rebutting them if they had no power over my believing family?

Probably not.

So I’ve come up with a compromise. Instead of using satire to point out what is blatantly obvious to me, I’m going to show that Mormonism’s critics aren’t the only ones who take quotes out of context. I mean, listening to these words by Elder Cook, you’d think it’s a phenomenon limited to the church’s evil detractors:

Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.

This is the part where I’m aching to point out that drawing conclusions before you’ve looked at the evidence is circular logic. And that labeling people immoral who think differently than you is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. But since I’m trying to be nice today, I’ll cut to the chase and quote the part of Elder Cook’s talk that is a misrepresentation of a respected historical figure. 

C. S. Lewis, the striving, pragmatic Christian writer, poignantly framed the issue. He asserted that Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness; but until people know and feel they need forgiveness, Christianity does not speak to them. He stated, “When you know you are sick, you will listen to the doctor.”

This quote is located almost directly after Elder Cook makes it clear that if we read church history and come to different conclusions than he does, we need to “repent and be spiritually renewed.” I guess that means C.S. Lewis agrees that it’s a sin to stray from the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in its fullness through the prophet Joseph Smith.

What. Wait? You mean C.S. Lewis wasn’t Mormon?

Nope. He was Anglican when he wrote The Tales of Narnia and The Screw Tape Letters. And this is what he wrote to a lady in Salt Lake City while he was alive: 

"I am afraid I am not going to be much help about all the religious bodies mentioned in your letter of March 2nd. I have always in my books been concerned simply to put forward "mere" Christianity, and am no guide on these (most regrettable) "interdenominational" questions. I do however strongly object to the tyrannic and unscriptural insolence of anything that calls itself a Church and makes teetotalism a condition of membership."

It is believed that Lewis is referring to the "Word of Wisdom" with the word “teetotalism.” And while I wouldn’t call that irrefutable proof that Lewis wouldn’t have joined the church if missionaries had knocked on his door, there is plenty of evidence that the Christianity C.S. Lewis believed in and the Christianity Mormons adhere to are incongruent. 

For a detailed analysis, click here.

Sophia L. Stone is the author of Mormon Diaries. She's a seeker, learner, reader, and nature Lover. If you're on twitter, you can ask her any question about Mormonism @ask_a_mormon

Mormon Diaries by Sophia Stone

If you have not yet heard of this book, you are missing out.  Watch the book trailer here.  Intrigued?  Pick up your copy of the book here.

Watch The Peacewriter this week for more from author Sophia Stone.

who we are

Welcome to The Peacewriter.

We all want to belong somewhere, to someone. It is a basic human need.

If you have ever experienced a period of doubt or questioned your beliefs in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that this is not a minor thing. It is tantamount to a crisis, and one that can be life altering.

Lose your testimony, and you stand to lose everything that matters.

There are those who exist on the fringes of the Church, who feel disenfranchised, even unwanted. If you are single, gay or lesbian, feminist, atheist, or uncorrelated, it can be tough to feel like a part of the community. You may feel that you do not belong.

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