Where would you go?

February 11, 2009
By

A few posts on MormonMatters got me thinking once about my relationship with other faith groups.  For instance, a recent post on why it seems that ex-Mormons have a hard time joining other denominations.  Valoel wrote a blog post on what you’d do if you found out that the Church weren’t true through some sort of revelation (from God or otherwise), however the post had the caveat:  “For simplicity, the assumption for this topic is that no other church is a true alternative.”

For me, I’ve found that if, for some reason, I discovered that if the Church isn’t true, I probably would join another faith.  Why?

Though it’s not very chic these days to say so, I love religion AND organized religion.  I believe that there is a power in organization that simply can’t be found in a loosely-knit group of believers, and this is due to a recent visit to another faith that I will describe below.  I think organized religion brings people together and makes it easier to send relief when an emergency happens.  I don’t think I can believe in a “do-it-yourself” religion where you just completely pick and choose what beliefs to have.  That’s why I feel that if I found out the Church isn’t true, I’d definitely go SOMEWHERE.  I’ve also spent a great deal of my life studying other religions and faiths because I love to know how other people think and feel.  This has led me to compile a list of possible places to go if I were to discover that the LDS faith were not the true faith.

Feel free to make your own list here!  My favorite religions, in no particular order, that I would consider joining if I left Mormonism.

1. Islam

My parents have always been very supportive of my learning about other faiths, and my mom encouraged me to learn about Islam.  I love the simplicity and beauty of Islam.  I like the idea of Islam because they don’t claim to know who God is or what he looks like or what our purpose is here.  The idea is that we just obey Allah, we will be blessed and have peace.  In fact, the word Islam means “submission,” and the root of the word (SLM) in the language family has ties to the concept of “peace” (think “salem” in Hebrew).  I like the mandatory prayers.  Though repetitive, I love how they are required to take time out of their days and offer a peaceful tribute to Allah.  These prayers give the faithful the time to focus their thoughts on God.  It’s like a Sabbath moment, three times or more a day.  Fasting during Ramadan seems like it would be a great way to be thankful for the food God has given us.

If I found out the LDS Church isn’t true, I would be tempted to try Islam.  It would be my way of letting go and just trying to do what God asks me to do.  I admit, I do not like the organization of Islam.  The lack of any centralized authority means there are fundamentalists and extremists that put a violent spin on the Qur’an, and have become terrorists and murderers.  I would have a hard time dealing with these members of my own faith, as I consider myself to be peaceful and pacifistic.  Would I join the Sunni or Shi’ite sect?  Actually, I would probably join the Alevi.  I love the peaceful and accepting attitude of the Alevi in Turkey.  Though not “mainstream” Islam, they are a peaceful group of 10 million and as part of their beliefs, they believe that we should not judge others on their beliefs.  I love their ideas of trying to “perfect” yourself.  There is no Original Sin and our consciousness is perfect, therefore we search through our lives to understand and embrace this perfect consciousness.

2. Eastern Orthodoxy

I have often said that if the Book of Mormon weren’t true, I’d have a hard time believing in Jesus of Nazareth.  It was the Book of Mormon that led me to believe in the Bible.  I wish we had books written by Jesus, or at least copies of the books about him from the original authors.  The idea that we only have copies of copies leaves me a bit queasy as far as evidence goes.  That having been said, if I wanted to stick with Christianity, I’d go for Eastern Orthodoxy.

I remember on my mission I got in quite a few “bashes.”  This wasn’t because I sought them out, of course, but because I was in West Texas, and there were many preachers and pastors out there who were attracted to us, just so they could argue.  Most of the time I feel like I did a great job of holding my own (thank you very much) but the only time I got floored, schooled, and beaten up in a bash was with a priest from an Orthodox Church.  His knowledge of early Christianity amazed me.  At the end of our “discussion,” I could have easily found myself saying, “Almost thou persuadest me to be an Eastern Orthodoxian.”  Or whatever they’re called.

I loved the idea of authority coming from the Apostles themselves.  The Orthodox Church seemed to be everything I loved in the Catholic Church without a couple of the annoying things that bother me about Catholicism (a more open canon, no pope, all Bishops are equal, less of the Church leadership is celibate, a “different” or more fluid idea of the Trinity).  To me, Orthodoxy seems like a purer, more mystical form of Christianity.  To find out more about Orthodoxy, read this excellent recent MormonMatters post.

3. Baha’i

Russell and I recently visited the service of a local Baha’i congregation.  It was small and it was in a local “Commonality House” that can be rented by whatever groups wish to attend.  I loved Baha’i because, while I was there, I truly felt loved and appreciated.  The whole idea of Baha’i is the unity and brotherhood of man.  They accept the teachings of Christ, Moses, Mohammed, and most other holy men.  However, they also accept the teachings of Bahá’u'lláh, a prophet of the 19th Century in Persia.  I love this religion because of how included I felt.  There was no dogma to speak of, just love for one another.  If any group truly demonstrates Christlike love for one another, I found it here at the Baha’i church.  The amazing thing I found is that when my Baha’i friends came to visit me at the LDS church, they were amazingly good at interfaith discourse.  They participated in lessons, they understood what was taught, and they were well-liked and loved by the people they met.  They’re truly an amazing group of people to say the least.

However, the advantages of this Church, I believe are also the disadvantages.  Russ and I have been putting off a full write-up of the Baha’i faith, but the thing I noticed overwhelmingly is that the faith had no teeth.  There were few rules, the congregation was encouraged to be themselves, attend other churches, and find what’s right for them, and search for truths everywhere.  I almost got the feeling I could be Baha’i and Mormon at the same time.  The few “rules” that they DID have seemed to only be suggestions.  A faith that doesn’t require any sacrifices and didn’t really teach a “way to live” seems impotent, at least to me.  If there were a natural disaster in town, I’d much rather trust the Catholic Charities than the Baha’i, unfortunately.  I loved all my friends from the Baha’i church, though, and would love to visit them all again sometime.

4. The Community of Christ

Ah, good old familiarity.  If I wanted to join a church and still have Nephi and Moroni and Joseph and Emma, I’d join the Community of Christ.  If somehow (I’m not sure how, but if somehow) the LDS Church were proven untrue in a way that still left the possibility open for Joseph Smith to be a prophet, I’d definitely visit the Community of Christ.  I love the Community of Christ because I’d still have Nephi the First (one of my personal faves), and I’d still be able to believe in Priesthood and Prophets.  The Community of Christ would give me a chance, not only to believe in these things, but explore them in new and interesting ways, because they are much more free-wheeling than the LDS Church.  They tend to place much of the search for truth in the hands of the believers.  This is easy to like, for me.  However, for the purposes of this discussion, I think choosing the Community of Christ might be cheating a little.

There are many other faiths I like to read about, but I’ll leave the rest of the discussion to you.

If the LDS Church weren’t true, and you DID have to join another Church, where would YOU go?

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  • James

    Unitarian

    I haven’t been to their church yet – but there principles and values seem easy for anyone to embrace – if you have lost your faith in god you can be a non- theist
    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/12/29/can-you-be-a-unitarian-and-a-mormon-at-the-same-time/

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew S

    I wouldn’t go/haven’t gone anywhere. Each group suffers from the same endemic problem that I wasn’t crazy about with the church in the first place. And the ones that don’t suffer from such problems suffer from other problems.

  • http://kurinboism.blogspot.com/ kuri

    Rastafarianism
    Ganja and reggae: what more could anyone ask from a religion?

  • J.Ro

    Some of the Eastern religions, in their purity, are very attractive. My goal would be to live as peaceful a life as possible. I don’t need to run around talking about God to everyone, but I would be perfectly content to live a live of humble, quiet spirituality. I can’t say I agree about the reincarnation doctrines you find some places, but I guess this is where I would have to put my own spin on things. The Baha’i sound like good folks to be around, but I would be most interested to give Tibetan Buddhism a try. They do have a few weird things, and I don’t know what to think of reincarnation, but their culture seems to be one of considerable tranquility.

    Of course, were the Church to not be true, that carries with it a whole bunch of other disasterish implications like whether my family would still be together and how those opinions would be reconciled. Or maybe the world would have gone to hell in a handbasket by then, in which case I would have quite a journey ahead of me. Interesting topic

  • http://www.xanga.com/withinrefuge Hye Sung

    I think Catholicism is a beautiful religion… yes, I do love the rituals. They are deep in meaning. I actually celebrate Lent :]

    And I have to agree, I do love Islam. Muslims have been some of the most righteous people I have ever met and their faith is so pure and very rational as well.

    I was raised in the Unification Church, which is thought of as a cult to many. At times it was a bit odd, but in general, the beliefs are very beautiful. They hold value to eternal families and progression in Spirit World. There are a lot of similarities with the Mormon faith… both founders had a vision from Christ and there are cultural similarities as well such as mission pressure.

  • http://radiobeloved.wordpress.com/ Neal Davis

    Zen Buddhism. Shave my head, don some robes, and retire to a quiet monastery to spend the rest of my days in meditation and detachment.

  • Terry Foraker

    Probably Buddhism or Taoism. I’m already starting to incorporate some of their principles in my life anyhow. Embracing it full time would be a natural transition.

    Or I might go “cafeteria”, experimenting with various traditions and taking what I find attractive in each one.

    I first thought of one of the “modern” nondenominational Evangelical churches–mostly for social reasons (I like their music, and some of their activities look cool)–but like #2, I would probably find too much of the same stuff that I left behind.

  • SteveS

    Unitarian Universalist. Although a lot of what Arthur said about the Baha’i faith could be said of the UU, as I understand them. Other than that, I don’t know. I like the beauty of the art of the Catholic Church, but I don’t think that’s really enough of a draw to keep me interested and faithful in light of some of their doctrines. Who knows? I would most likely end up being like Joseph Smith Senior, a seeker not associated with any organized religion.

  • http://gosepldoctrineunderground.blogspot.com/ The Teacher

    It would be a tough choice. I love the mystery, music and architecture of orthodox churches. The C of C would feel very comfortable and familiar But, if I were leaving Mormonism, it’s is hard to imagine it would be over something that was not a problem there, too. The music at our local African-American Baptist churches is incredible, and reasons enough to attend. But, I would probably feel most comfortable in some liberal-ish, main line protestant Church. My feelings about Unitarianism are similar to Andrew’s bottom line about the Baha’i. Nice place, nice people, but where is the beef?

  • http://gosepldoctrineunderground.blogspot.com/ The Teacher

    I meant Arthur, not Andrew.

  • http://linescratchers.blogspot.com/ Arthur

    *thumbs up*

    After re-reading my post, I’m well-aware of the hypocrisy therein. I’m thinking that, of course, if I leave Mormonism due to a problem with its history/doctrines/politics/whatever, then I will no doubt have a problem with ANY faith when the same type of scrutiny is applied.

    So really, I would just be looking for a place to “bide my time,” so to speak, and I have a hinting suspicion that this wouldn’t be fair to most religions perhaps?

  • hawkgrrrl

    I agree that Islam is attractive, and I also would choose Greek Orthodox (Othodox plus Greek food at mixers) over Roman Catholic (no offense, I’m just not big on the celibacy, secrets, or artwork – I love Italy, though). I would consider UU over Ba’hai. I had a bad impression of the Ba’hai that is hard to shake when I was a teen working at a college cafeteria. They held a conference there every summer, and their conference attendees always stole stuff, and they didn’t even try to hide it. I actually caught a woman smuggling out silverware and glasses in her mesh shirt (hey, it was the 80s!) and had to tell her to return them. There was no leader to talk to, it was like herding cats. They were just all over the map. Some were pretty cool, but others were eccentric weirdos, and I’ll be honest–they predominated.

    In reality, I don’t think I’d really swap out one church for another. I’m less in love with organized religion than Arthur, although I do find it interesting. I’d probably go here and there, just to make sure they didn’t start considering me part of the flock.

    There are some that would hold no appeal for me whatsoever: SBC, Pentacostal, or anything else in a tent. I’d like actual bathrooms, not porta-potties.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Christopher

    Liberal Quakerism. For anyone interested, Beliefnet.com has a questionnaire that asks about both theology and social views that then matches your answers with which religion best fits you.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    I probably would try to find a non-denominational Christian church and focus on my own spiritual growth outside of organized religion. I already attend church primarily to serve others and work on my own growth outside the organization, so I would try to find a group of believers where I could continue that path.

    The other alternatives would be to delve more deeply in Buddhism for the principles while attending the Greek Orthodox Church. At heart, I absolutely LOVE serving in a community of believers, so I can’t see myself going it alone.

    Franky, however, I really can’t see myself leaving the LDS Church. I’ve worked through every conceivable issue, and this is where I find true joy and peace and theological majesty. If somehow that disappeared, I’d take some time before jumping into anything else, but I just don’t see it disappearing.

  • wayfarer

    Ah Ray,you ‘love serving in a community of believers’.I wish I had learnt that before.I have often wished to be anonymous-to wrap myself in a mantila and slip into the back row.Growing up believing that ‘hell is other people’ leaves us so lonely.This is yet another reason that I know this church is true,because we so need to get fixed.No anonimity here.

  • shannon

    “For me, I’ve found that if, for some reason, I discovered that if the Church isn’t true, I probably would join another faith. Why?”

    I used to think the same way. However after a lot careful thought I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of things about the church that I don’t really believe in. I still go every Sunday though, why? Well I’m like you, I like organized religion. I like the church. I like being around wholesome people. I like learning about the teachings of Christ. I like going home from church with an idea of how I can be a better person that week, etc. I need that structure of a religion. A large part of my identity has always been that I’m Mormon, and that hasn’t changed even if my faith in the church has.

  • http://gosepldoctrineunderground.blogspot.com/ The Teacher

    Christopher: I have filled out that questionnaire, and it always comes back, “Mormon.” My Primary teachers did a really good job . . .

  • http://www.nine-moons.com Seth R.

    Easter Orthodoxy. Temple worship (of a sort), theosis, ritual that actually matters. Good stuff.

  • Wyoming

    I would do more research on 1st Century Christianity and seek to emulate their practices in a fairly non-denominational manner.

    Actually on my mission, we had a game to pass the time…if you had to marry a Baptist or a Methodist, who would you marry? If you had to marry a Baptist or Jehovah’s Witness….

  • Aboz

    I would just become a Freemason, because there you have “temple ritual” without Mormonism. And it isn’t a religion. And the rest of the religions would be false anyway. I think this is what attracted the founding Fathers to Freemasonry. Because you have everything religion is without being a religion.

  • Joe P.

    If you found out the church isn’t true wouldn’t you want to know what is true? A logical first step would be a critical study of different faiths to determine truth.

  • http://irresistibledisgrace.wordpress.com Andrew S

    And then it’s certainly possible you could rule out quite a bit of those different faiths.

    Been shaken once…etc.,

  • http://bahaiviews.net george wesley dannells

    Further investigation the Baha’i Faith will reveal that it is vehighly organized and that Baha’is are called upon to demonstrate the highest standards of moral conduct, expectations that are spelled out in very clear fashion in the Baha’i Writings.

    You write: “A faith that doesn’t require any sacrifices and didn’t really teach a ‘way to live’ seems impotent.” Consider the sacrifice of these Baha’is in Iran today.

    http://iran.bahai.us/2009/02/11/iran-announces-trial-of-baha%E2%80%99i-leadership/

    Thank you for your kind remarks about the Baha’is. I feel similar feelings of warmth and admiration for the Mormons.

  • Pingback: On the Baha’is Visit to the LDS Church: They were amazingly good at interfaith discourse | Baha'i Views

  • Bill

    I think the comments about the Baha’i community lack understanding of the essential verities of the Baha’i Faith. Baha’is are always gentle with those to whom they teach their Faith and this may come across as though they are without foundational principles. In that, you would be mistaken.

    Baha’is fellowship with people of other faiths and are active in interfaith work, but a person who officially becomes a Baha’i cannot remain a member of another religion.

    The Baha’is are a covenant people at two levels. First, they believe that because God cannot be encompassed by the human mind, there is a basic human inability to understand the nature of God in His essence. We can only experience relationship through His attributes and actions. God has made a covenant that He will periodically send Manifestations (the great Beings Who are the Founders of the great religious traditions – e.g., Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and now the Baha’i Faith). God keeps his promise. Our duty is to recognize and follow the commandments of the Manifestation of our time. Failure to recognize is a form of loss. It is we humans who often forget our part of this eternal covenant. Baha’is are also covenantal with regard to Baha’u'llah’s appointment of His son ‘Abdu’l-Baha as exemplar, head of the Faith, and authorized interpreter of scripture, followed by an appointed Guardian (whose name was Shoghi Effendi) and the elected Universal House of Justice. Salvation is through recognition of the Manifestation for one’s time and obedience to His injunctions (faith and works are indispensable; neither is acceptable without the other – faith comes first but must be followed by deeds).

    The Baha’i Faith has other commandments that are binding: daily prayer, reading of scripture, fasting, pilgrimage, and teaching our faith to others. We are to be chaste and faithful (no homosexual relations, premarital sex, or marital infidelity), to be truthful, to avoid backbiting and gossip.

    This is just a sample. If you want to know more about the Baha’i Faith, it is important to do more than attend introductory Baha’i meetings or social gatherings. Study circles, devotionals, deepenings, and reading are all important for a full understanding.

  • http://linescratchers.blogspot.com/ Arthur

    Fair enough! I was demonstrating perhaps a fair bit of ignorance on the subject. To truly understand Mormonism, for instance, I’d certainly want someone to take more than the passing glance I made at the Baha’i Chuch! Hope my comments didn’t offend.

  • Martin Bebow

    I agree with what Bill said about the Baha’i Faith but would like to add something. From a personal, spiritual perspective it doesn’t really matter what path an individual Baha’i chooses. I myself has an affinity for Buddhism even though I was raised a Catholic. The central message of the Baha’i Faith is the unity of mankind. This is the focus of the Baha’i Faith. Every prophet adapts His teachings for the time in which He appears. Clearly the unity of mankind is of central importance at this time in its collective life. But the spiritual life of the individual is up to each individual (given the various laws and ordinances that Bill above mentioned.)

  • http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com John W. Morehead

    This is an interesting post. Thanks for sharing. A few questions arise for me as a result.

    First, what is it about the alleged falsity of Mormonism that would cause someone to to give up on Christianity in its various forms altogether?

    Second, what alternative expressions of Christianity might be most appealing if they were to draw upon aspects of Mormon culture, particularl in the ward experience? Or would this be something that you’d want complete distance from altoegether?

    Third, if atheism were not chosen in reaction to a bad experience with Mormonism, what is it about some of the alternatives expressed that make them so appealing? Is it the organized and structural aspects of organixed religion?

    I’d appreciate hearing some thoughts.

  • http://linescratchers.blogspot.com/ Arthur

    I’m having trouble understanding your questions. Did I not answer them in my initial post? In any case, I’ll try to give it a shot.

    “First, what is it about the alleged falsity of Mormonism that would cause someone to to give up on Christianity in its various forms altogether?”

    Well, first of all, it’s a hypothetical falsity. I didn’t really identify what the concern would be necessarily, just a “what if” type thing. To answer your question, though, personally, I only believe in Jesus of Nazareth because of the Book of Mormon. I would have a very hard time believing in Him without it. In my own personal journey, when I asked mainstream Christians WHY I should believe in Jesus, they would say things that essentially boiled down to “because the Bible said so.” I have a hard time believing in a book because the book said to.

    I think, also, an issue that has been addressed in this site is that the problem with a lot of Christian groups that minister to Latter-day Saints, is that they teach them to deconstruct Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the history behind all of it, the witnesses for and against Church history, the atrocities and crimes committed by a few, and tell them that the logical conclusion is that the Church is not true and Joseph Smith is not a prophet. Then, they come in and try to offer mainstream Christianity as the best alternative, but when you take all the tools that you just gave these poor souls, it’s much, much, MUCH easier to deconstruct Jesus, the Bible, the history behind all of it, the witnesses for and against, and the atrocities and crimes committed by the few… and mostly because we lack so much information about Jesus (and nothing that he wrote Himself), and a lot of the necessary information is lost in the mists of time. It is the same for me. If somebody convinced me that the Church wasn’t true, early Christian history and murders and deaths and the destruction of Jesus’ organization sure makes a lot less sense.

    “Second, what alternative expressions of Christianity might be most appealing if they were to draw upon aspects of Mormon culture, particularl in the ward experience? Or would this be something that you’d want complete distance from altoegether?”

    I don’t find much to be appealing about Mormon culture at all, and I’m a true believing member.

    “Third, if atheism were not chosen in reaction to a bad experience with Mormonism, what is it about some of the alternatives expressed that make them so appealing? Is it the organized and structural aspects of organixed religion?”

    I’m thinking that my post answered this question.

    Thanks for your curiosity!

  • http://susanmaneck.com Susan

    Dear Arthur,

    Thank you for your thoughtful article.

    I think if you investigated the Baha’i Faith a bit more thoroughly you will find there is much more meat to it than you imagine. We take the idea of revelation very seriously. I would have to agree with you though, that in a catastrophe Catholic Charities would probably be of more help. We are a small religion and have nowhere near the resources of the Catholics or the Mormons, but we do what we can.

    warmest, Susan

  • sstring2

    I hate mormon culture, but it feels like that is what the church is all about! I feel like we “worship” our “checklists” and “attendances” more than the gospel.
    Mainstream Christianity, and what i’ve found, calvarlry chapel christians/baptists are apealing.
    Just being the best person you can be, believe, be strong, be of peace, be of christ, do your best, and have no fear in what shall come, because god is in charge.

    Isn’t that what life should be about anyway?
    I feel Mormons (of which i AM a member) have a lot of extra frilly stuff rather than doctrine.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Just being the best person you can be, believe, be strong, be of peace, be of christ, do your best, and have no fear in what shall come, because god is in charge.

    #30 – Sincere question: How is that any different than Mormonism – especially the last decade+ under Pres. Hinckley?

  • Britt

    This is the exact question I’m asking myself right now. My husband, who was raised in a mostly inactive family never had a “testimony” and without a sense of the gospel itself sees the Church as too demanding, cultural and hierarchical. Just this morning he sent me an email asking if we could go and visit a few churches in our area to find one we’d enjoy. That’s such a hard question for me. Do I find a convenient Christian church that I can enjoy fellowship in but whose doctrines I would find troublesome? Or do I return to the LDS church whose doctrine and depth I love but whose structure and slow degredation against what Joseph Smith and the early leaders taught over time I find troublesome? Right now it feels impossible. I need some sort of organized way to teach good values and to serve others but without Christianity or some other view of God that I’m never going to be able to “get”. Without things like “the bible is the infalliable word of God” that any one whose studied any history of the development of the New Testament knows is untrue. Or the whole 3-in-1, 1-in-3 trinity thing. Or that believe in eternal hell and damnation.

    Frankly, I just feel stuck. Forgive the play on words but it’s “damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

    It was definitely fun to find this post and the comments in my search though…

    Britt

  • http://ganjaskateboards.com Ganja Skateboard

    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.