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244: Why They Leave


In this episode we discuss the ‘NONES’.  What are the reasons people are leaving the institutional Church in droves and how does this fit in with Mormonism.  We use a podcast episode from Progressive Spirit, titled “David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith”.  In the episode the results of a massive study are shared regarding why people leave the institutional Church.  This reasons seem connected to me and we explore that connection. The Church is at a Precipice moment…… What shall they do?  The Truth is the information age is upon us and the narrative we hold to simply isn’t true.


11 thoughts on “244: Why They Leave”

  1. Visiting a Mennonite visitor center in St. Jacob, ON it mentioned that about 20% of their 2.3M worldwide membership or community is of the Old Order. The Old Order holds on to traditional practices mainly avoiding time saving technologies that reduces labor; for idleness breeds evil. Hence travelling on horse and buggy, growing crops, making your own clothing, etc.

    And yet the fastest growing group or segment is that of the Old Order rather than that of the more progressive end of the spectrum. While 80% of their community may be more progressive they are so to different degrees.

  2. So perhaps more to my above point, if the people that leave were the ones actually staying, and started paying more tithing, it possible that the church would more likely be willing to steer towards that direction.

    If however on the other hand, the strongest members are more conservative and are actually the ones paying the bills, then the church is more likely by nature to cater to that section of the community.

    So moral of the story, don’t leave the church, specially if you want to see it change.

  3. Bill, I enjoy your rants. But they don’t make logical sense to me. How can a church maintain its relevance by admitting that everything it teaches and stands for is wrong? Wouldn’t that make it immediately irrelevant?

    1. It doesn’t have to forsake everything but if Mormonism is really truth then it is obligated to let go of false things that comfort it in favor of truth.

    2. Is the church going to make all of these proposed changes? The answer is no and I think you know that. If the church made these changes then Mormonism would cease to exist. As you point out, the church relies on the literal nature of so many events (tower of babel, flood, actual nephites, plates, first vision etc.) that the only wait out is to start from ground zero. My family has told me that it is my responsibility to ‘bring up hard topics’ in a way that everyone feels comfortable so the church can change. What they don’t realize is that there is no comfortable way to teach an individual (or entire organization with top down authority) that they are wrong. People leave because there is no reason to fight your whole life the never-ending battle of changing the unchangeable church. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the only healthy choice is to leave and stop fighting it.

      The burden to change lies with the church or it will destroy itself. The catch-22 is that if it changes, it destroys itself. If it doesn’t change, it also destroys itself. You’ve had a good run Mormonism. Farewell.

  4. I was reflecting on how to respond to this particular podcast. I could expend many written words and go point by point to effectively counter argument much of what was said. However, this would be impractical in such a forum. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to just defer my comments to a wonderful presentation that I feel effectively makes counter points to your angst on the real “elephant in the room”.

    It appears you have taken a bold and final stance against the Church and the Leaders with respect to their definition of chastity and their mantle of authority. I may not be able to affect your feelings on this matter. Nevertheless, I am hoping that at least your listeners, might have a chance to hear an opposing perspective that I believe has at least an equal intellectual case than what you’ve proposed.

    Ty Mansfield gave an excellent speech at the 2014 Fair Mormon Conference which can be seen on You Tube or read on the following:

    Please don’t let the title of the talk persuade anyone form reading or listening to Ty’s story and deep perspective. Therefore, I hope you and your listeners would be open to at least give this a shot before drawing any final conclusions on this important issue.


  5. Bill, I am generally a fan of your podcasts. However, as 50-something lifelong member who has been in the camp of a generally non-literal Mormon believer for a number of years, I found many of the views expressed in this podcast to be problematic.

    First, the assertion that there is not a place in Mormonism for those of us that are non-literal believers is simply wrong. I am accepted and embraced a non-literal believer in my Utah ward. I freely express my views in classes, quorums, Ward councils, temple recommend interviews, etc. In my experience, my non-literal perspective is more positively received by the more literal and orthodox members when I avoid preaching non-literalism to the unconverted. Rather, to state it in the context of belief. I regularly share that I have faith in the stories that God has provided me in scripture, though I doubt their historical, scientific, or archeological accuracy. I have faith in the miracle that God talks to me and teachers me through these stories and whether or not they are literally, historically true is fairly irrelevant. That is a faith that others can appreciate, rather than a declaration of division and conflict.

    Second, I think there are plenty of precedents and foundations for Mormonism evolving to a more non-literal belief system. The best of these is the Temple narrative, which clearly frames the Adam and Eve story as primarily figurative and allegorical, and depicts the creation story as something very compatible with our modern understanding of the theory of evolution.

    Third, while perhaps not quickly enough, Mormonism has evolved a great deal with respect the acceptance of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Sex is a tricky issue for all religious traditions and while we are swimming upstream against 3000 years of Judeo-Christian rhetoric condemning homosexuality, we have evolved considerably in the past 30 years. We have a way to go. Mormonism today is still a pretty toxic place for LGBT folks. However, I have great hope for the future, based on the changes I have seen just in my adult life.

    I do agree that having 70-90 year old white men running the church is slowing us down. However, this church still has the power of a rich history of inspiring stories of perseverance, faith, courage, compassion, and integrity which I believe will carry us forward. In my personal view, with imperfect people at it’s helm,God still wants this church to survive, thrive, and carry out an important mission.

    Lastly, I would suggest you challenge your views of Fowler’s hierarchy, which I find to be just full of problems. Based on my own path and others I know, a faith journey ebbs and flow in an out of different kinds of orthodoxy and non-orthodoxy. In my opinion, Fowler is at best, a very narrow view of faith transition and at worst, just bad science.

    Mormonism is my tribe and I’m here to be part of the evolution. Thanks for all you are doing to be part of that process.

    1. I can only state that wards and stakes vary and while I have a incredibly awesome ward there is a severe distaste on the part of other members for my non literal view of the Old Testament and other views. If one must be silent about their view then there is no real tolerance. I have even had my Bishop inform me that a few members came to him and stated that what I have said in church (10 X’s softer than what I say outside Church) has made them uncomfortable…… I also have heard enough horror stories to know that it will vary based on where you attend.

  6. Dear Bill,

    I really enjoyed listening to this podcast. You were on a roll with this one! If you had to re-record this podcast because the first time you were being too passionate, I can’t imagine what the first recording was like!

    Sometimes when you speak the Spirit obviously moves you, and this was one of those times. When you speak the truth, as you did here, the power of the Spirit carries the truth of it into my soul.

    You know your stuff, you have obviously thought long and deeply about these issues, and no where is it more in evidence that in this podcast!

    Thanks so much for everything you do!

  7. Bill,

    I appreciate your passion and your humble presentation. You do not come across as aggressive in your approach to controversial topics as some do. I myself have speculated on all of the points you brought up and have previously considered more of a universalist god in my attempt to find balance between the God of the Bible and our present culture and scientific discovery. Just this week I have spent hours listening to debates about old earth vs new earth, comparing the scientific support for both, of which my inclination at this point in my journey is to support the old earth perspective ( In the last few weeks I’ve been exposed to research that I feel better explains what our culture is struggling with in regards to LGBT concerns, which came at a perfect time in my journey as I had to present a discussion to my church youth group on the topic ( It is a long read, but one that I feel may be worth your time. My fundamental conclusion on any of these subjects has been answering the question, “Is this about me fitting in with popular opinion, traveling the path of least resistance?” Which is the tendency of our biology in evolution, or “Am I willing to take a humble and fervent look at all of the facts and perspectives within my limited capacity?”. I realized when putting together the discussion about the LGBT community, I previously allowed myself to move toward the “left” on the issue in attempt to be more balanced. I realized what is claimed to be a balanced perspective is all based on perspective of where you lie in amidst extremes. An example in regards to muscular strength, is that if I perceive 75 lbs as heavy simply because 50 lbs is the limit of my strength, 200 lbs will seem extreme to me. In contrast, someone who works with their hands for a living (Carpenter or Mason) may find 200 lbs challenging, but not too extreme to be impossible to move. They will have a very different perspective than me on what a balanced weight is. Since our culture is swiftly moving “left” on gender and sexual issues, we know that the balance in general opinion is going to naturally shift as the “envelope” is stretched. It is a fair and non-bigoted question to ask if we are artificially changing where a balanced perspective mathematically is placed? The question is posed with the assumption that there are universal truths and laws of nature, of which my perception is that most on either side of science or gender issues agree that there are, simply for the purpose of sustaining the dignity of life, mutual respect and the ability to survive within the limits of our planet and universe.

    While both the right and left are arguing over who is correct, the balance or the middle ground is shifting further “left” to leave those on the ”right” appearing culturally extreme and out of touch with present reality. But why has reality changed so much in the last 100 years? When considering reality, if it does in fact consist of universal standards, we logically realize it will never actually change, and we can realize that we are in an interesting time of which humans are exerting a significant amount of control on general perception, causing many to change their opinions on what is right and wrong. I believe the assumption is that we are becoming more enlightened, but how can we know for certain? How can we know that humanity has finally stumbled across the most accurate version of universal standards with confidence enough to say all dissenting arguments are hateful?

    The perception seems to be that since the current push is inclusive of the greatest variety of people, it must be good, but it is done while imposing fines and closing down businesses of those with the old way of thinking. I am speaking of those in the wedding business who have refused to bake a cake as to not take part in the celebration of a LGBT wedding as well as other recent incidents which seem to violate a person’s individual right to disagree and operate their private business based on their values.

    I must add, whenever I have taken an assessment of my views and politics, the result is completely centrist and I take a lot of pride in attempting to be balanced in my point of view, but I am now realizing I am being left behind as the world is swiftly changing without my say or input. If I don’t move an inch in my point of view, what once was centrist is now to the “right” because of the cultural shift to the ”left”. That is a very frustrating position for me to be in as I have never personally desired to be a part of any extreme.

    Now to my conclusion and personal discovery on my journey to make sense of the world. I have found a perfect balance that does exist, has always existed, regardless of history’s many stories of culture’s many shifts from “right to left and reverse and repeat”. In the book of Matthew 7:13-14 of the Bible, it states “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” To you Bill and your listeners, you seem to genuinely be searching for truth as I have, but have also been mistaken by what the world sells us as truth, regardless of if it is a liberal or conservative point of view.

    Have you noticed how Jesus came and overthrew the ultra conservative mindset of His day? The enemy isn’t simply LGBT or progressive policy; it also isn’t conservatives and their bigoted views, it is the pride of humans to think we are capable of finding truth without including the Creator of truth in our search. We will always come up short with a partial view of reality and will miss how it all connects. Both sides are not completely wrong or right, here is an example of where both connect ( This is a beautiful example of the love of Jesus lived out in a rare manner in an American Bible-believing Church. While faced with the differing views and lifestyles of folks from the LGBT community, the Church demonstrated the love that so many of us are yearning for. I have learned the same love in my marriage, the type that gives and forgives humbly, patiently and without any personal agenda, simple for the sake of love (Ephesians 5:25). It is not love that will sacrifice values, but love that will sacrifice the anger frustrated interaction which often accompany disagreement. This is the narrow path that I refer to and I believe Jesus was referring to. It is a very challenging balance that requires daily giving up of self to depend solely on the Creator and the Spirit sent us to guide us through such tumultuous times (Luke 9:23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Galatians 5:22-24, Ephesians 5:2).

    To anyone reading this and interested in giving God and the Bible a second chance, trust me just enough to read the Bible with an open mind to see that our culture (both “left and right”) is lying about who God is what He attempts to teach us. I read some thing recently that stated that God advocates slavery in the Bible, but coincidentally within days came across in my daily Bible reading, Jeremiah 34:8-22, God making undeniably clear how He feels about it and only advocates voluntary, time-limited contractual work, not forced, lifetime slavery. In addition, sexual sin is one of the most reviled things a person can do according to the perception in modern churches, and while it is a sin to God, we see a more compassionate and forgiving attitude from Jesus when He encounters women guilty of it (John 4:1-25, John 8:1-30).

    What has completely transformed my perspective of reality, is these words from the book of 1 Corinthians 3:18-21 of the Bible “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men.”

    I have begun to question all that I have known, have learned and ever will, realizing that our understanding as humans is very limited and what seems to make sense now, dramatically changes even in our own lifetime. Feel free to contact me with any questions:

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