“The Church is happier with doubters who go on missions and accept ward callings than with the vocally orthodox who find ways to shirk.” Discuss. HT to Dave for stating the resolution.

43 comments for “Resolved

  1. JT
    June 19, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Generally, I would agree, as long as the “doubters” are sincere about their desire to serve and to share the gospel with others. When I read this resolution, I think of the parable of the two sons in Matt. 21:28-31 (

  2. Katie P.
    June 19, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I’m not sure who “the church” is in this case.

    If you mean the Lord, then I would definitely agree. “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”

    If you mean not the Lord but the Church, who is the Church? It is made up of those who show up, in which it is also true, because it doesn’t matter how much you talk if you don’t act on it. Any organization needs those who actually organize and execute.

  3. June 19, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Is this still about me?

  4. June 19, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I don’t know about the Church, but I’m sure as heck happier that way. I think that’s a good way to get rid of the doubt, by providing service to others.

  5. June 19, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    The recent revelations that Mother Teresa had her own religious doubts might suggest that “doubt” has a much broader aspect than we generally recognize. It relates to the common sense skepticism that prevents us from accepting claims that have no support (religious or otherwise) but also, in a deeper sense, to faith itself. So I would certainly agree with the proposition. Chase out all the faithful doubters and there might not be many people left.

  6. June 19, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Ouch, I’m more of a believer/shirker than a doubter/doer.

    I suppose it’s more important to have things running well and people getting served than to have everyone in perfect harmony on inner belief, which often stays hidden anyway.

    I can see why a doubter would want to serve others, but I’m less sure why he or she would want to “share the gospel with others.”

  7. June 19, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I can see why a doubter would want to serve others, but I’m less sure why he or she would want to “share the gospel with others.”

    I think “sharing the gospel with others” can–at least in contemporary, ordinary, good-grief-who-can-we-give-this-calling-to? church practice–have mutiple meanings, some of which can peacefully co-existence with questions and doubts about what you’re actually sharing. I have no desire–and I suspect no right-thinking person would ever call me–to be a full-on proselyting missionary, for example, but I’ve found that I can nonetheless find joy and do some good by sharing scriptures and insights from my life in the church with investigators and inactives. Maybe that’s a grey area between “service” and “gospel sharing,” but in any case, it works for me.

  8. angrymormonliberal
    June 19, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Whoever coined that aphromism has obviously never been on a mission.

    The leadership of mine consisted largely (but not totally) of yes men who successfully avoided doing actual missionary work in favor of manipulating people into the font. I’ve talked to enough people to know that my experience is not unusual.

  9. Adam Greenwood
    June 19, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Dunno. As far as I can tell, belief and behavior are both important parts of making us whole men of Christ. Exactly what quantum of disbelief corresponds to exactly what quantum of sloth I don’t know.

  10. Adam Greenwood
    June 19, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    The leadership of mine consisted largely (but not totally) of yes men who successfully avoided doing actual missionary work in favor of manipulating people into the font. I’ve talked to enough people to know that my experience is not unusual.

    That says more about you, the people you associate with, and your confirmation bias than anything else.

  11. hp
    June 19, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    The proposition, as stated, doesn’t seem as complicated to me – one group is more honest and still serving, the other is less honest and trying to get out of serving (one is ‘assertive’ and the other is ‘passive-aggressive’).

    I think a more difficult proposition is:

    “The church is happier with those who doubt, and express their doubts, but still come to church and serve in callings, than those who doubt and don’t come to church and don’t serve in callings (thus aren’t vocal, at least at church, and don’t rabble-rouse).”

    A different, but still difficult proposition is:

    “God is happier with those who doubt, and express their doubts, but still come to church and serve in callings, than those who doubt and don’t come to church and don’t serve in callings (thus aren’t vocal, at least at church, and don’t rabble-rouse).”

    Doubt loosely defined as ‘not believing one or more major tenets of the church’.

  12. cyril
    June 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    I dunno. Angrymormonliberal pretty much sums up my experience too, and I don’t know him from (or) Adam.

  13. Edje
    June 19, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I’m not so sure about the categories. As formulated it’s “doubters who go/accept” vs “vocally orthodox who…shirk.” I see three binaries—and therefore eight categories—but only two options. The binaries are public doubt/non-doubt, private doubt/non-doubt, and act/non-act. I’m assuming that “go/accept” means “go/accept and do the best you can to make a diligent, cheerful, good faith effort” and that “find ways to shirk” means “don’t go/accept” rather than “go/accept but _don’t_ do the best you can to make a diligent, cheerful, good faith effort,” ’cause that would bring us to four binaries and sixteen categories.

    So, back to the original resolution but with my categories: public non-doubt:private doubt:act vs public non-doubt:private doubt:non-act.

    Let me pause here and note that “doubt” is a funny looking word to my orthographic sensibilities.

    Assuming that neither one’s public nor one’s private doubts are so severe as to interfere with a temple recommend—that is, if the institutional church is okay with you acting in a formal role—then acting is better than non-acting.

  14. Wm Morris
    June 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Two data points make a trend!

    [that’s an old but good PR joke, usually told at the expense of the MSM, but sometimes also of bad PR flacks]

  15. Edje
    June 19, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    So… resolved: “The Lord invites all to repent and participate in building his Kingdom. Neither doubting nor not doubting excuses us from the call to labor.”

  16. angrymormonliberal
    June 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    It’s always easier to make absolute claims and use personal attacks.

    The thing is Adam & Wm Morris, if the counter example to the aphromism exists, it is found in the Missionary experiences. If you are so lacking in experience on the Mormon internet that you have not come across personal stories that support this then I’m sure a few moments of
    Googleing can provide you a virtual cornucopia from both the pro and anti sides of the equation. Talk to my dear friend John Dehlin if you need something of a better source.

    Just talk to somebody that challenged the baseball baptisms, the futbol baptisms or suggested (like I did) that a week from meeting to baptism is usually not possible.

    The Church may be happy the doubter goes on a mission, but if he or she don’t keep that trap shut about it their headin’ down that bitter rocky wagon trail of apostasy!!!

    It’s much easier to deal with people who say the right things but don’t do them.

  17. Matt W.
    June 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    what is an aphromsim?

    I guess my question here is on the releationship between sustainable praxis with lack of belief. While I agree with Dave totally that it is truly better to continue to act in faith, even in the face of doubt. (like Mother Theresa, who gave God the benefit of the doubt despite her doubts), I think it also becomes more difficult to act in faith, the more our doubt increases.

    Angrymormonliberal. What you describe from your mission was defintiely NOT my experience…

  18. angrymormonliberal
    June 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    LOL… it’s a spelling mistake


  19. Julie M. Smith
    June 19, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Russell, the recent spate of attention to you has gone to your head. This is a general question.

  20. Steve Evans
    June 19, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Isn’t it always about Russell? Except when it’s about that jerk Adam, I mean.

  21. Adam Greenwood
    June 19, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Its always about that jerk Adam. No exceptions.

  22. Jim Donaldson
    June 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I had a watershed experience when I was a brand new bishop’s counselor sitting at the back of a bishop’s youth committee meeting (in more than half a stupor) when the usual activity planning charade was in full tilt. The bishop or somebody was trying to get a YW volunteer for something and one nearby teenage boy, apparently not realizing that I was actually conscious, whispered to the teenage girl sitting next to him, “Just say yes. It makes the meeting shorter, and they never care if you actually do it or not.” A world class cynic at age 15 and he was right. No better evaluation of what we’d been teaching, whatever our intention, could have been made. The more I thought about it, the more alarmed I became. I remember that like it was yesterday and it was, uh, many years ago. It changed the way I do almost everything I do in church administrative callings.

    I heard some former bishop say, and I think I agree with him, that the most desirable people to have in the ward are the reliable. Having a testimony is great, actually doing what you say is even better–and maybe the best evidence of actually having a testimony that is worth anything, whatever one’s doubts.

    Doubt is a funny thing, though, at least as used in this context. If one had serious doubts, he or she would likely take off in short order. The church is far too irritating (and expensive) to deal with if you don’t have some strong belief at the core. Like I said in another context, as a social club, the church sucks. As a church, not so much.

    My resolution would be “the church is happier with people who do they things they say they will, than don’t, whatever the state of their claimed testimony.”

  23. Timer
    June 19, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Semantic quibble: Doubt is not the opposite of faith.

    Faith is the willingness to trust in the Lord and church doctrine despite not really understanding it.

    Doubt is intellectual humility — the willingness to acknowledge the potential fallibility of all your assumptions.

    Honest faith and honest doubt go together. The more you have of one, the more you are likely to have of the other. Prophets, religious thinkers, Mother Teresa, etc. often have a good deal of both.

  24. Mark B.
    June 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I’m with Jim. Faithfulness is a greater virtue than faith proclaimed–I’ll take the former any day.

    Which brings to mind a related pet peeve:

    Prayers which include “We love Thee very much”.

    Which prompts this syllogism:

    Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments”
    I say, “I love God very much”
    Therefore, I really keep His commandments very well.

    Odd thing to stick in a prayer–reminds me of that Publican in Luke 18.

  25. June 19, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Aren’t “the vocally orthodox” also doubters who go on missions and serve in ward callings?

  26. cj douglass
    June 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Is this a “from the archive” post?

    I think I’d rather be faithfully faith proclaimed than doubtfully shirking (which I do very often BTW)

  27. Wm Morris
    June 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm


    I actually didn’t mean #14 as a personal insult. But looking back it does look like one. I apologize. I tend to go meta with the humor much too quickly with internet discussions and that’s not fair to those who are invested in the issues being discussed.

    I can’t speak for Adam, but I’m well-acquainted with the various expressions and discussions of Mormonism on the Internet. Thus why I reach quickly for the funny (or the mildly amusing).

    I will say this: I am grateful that the practices you refer to weren’t part of my mission experience. One of the things I did learn on my mission, though, was that “yes men” weren’t always as monolithic in thought and action as I had supposed, and that much common ground could be found if everybody got over their initial prejudices (and marginalizing language/attitudes). Granted, the zealous orthodox in my mission weren’t manipulating people into the font.

  28. StillConfused
    June 19, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    God is happier with those who don’t think they are too good for him.

  29. Aaron Brown
    June 19, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Sometimes the vocally orthodox who don’t shirk are even more annoying than the vocally orthodox who do. Round ’em all up and put ’em in camps, I say. :)


  30. Rob
    June 19, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    JIm (#22), I had a bishop once who had something like this penciled into his D&C 121–
    “Many are called, but few are chosen. And why aren’t they chosen? Because they aren’t reliable”

    I think he attributed that to a training session with N. Eldon Tanner. I’d love to find that actual quote somewhere!

  31. Rob
    June 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Maybe here it is (#30):

    “We must not be nearly dependable, but always dependable. Let us be faithful in the little things, as well as the big ones. Can I be depended upon to fill every assignment, whether it be for a two-and-a-half minute talk, home teaching, a visit to the sick, or a call as a stake or full-time missionary?

    “Remember, . . . there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

    “‘Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, . . .’ (D&C 121:34–35), and they are not dependable.”

    (N. Eldon Tanner, “Dependability,” Ensign, Apr. 1974, p. 5.)

  32. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    June 19, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Members who don’t show up to carry out their callings don’t have the courage of their alleged convictions. Their faith/testimony is not strong enough to get their behinds of the dime and in gear.

    People who think of themselves as “doubters” but who are willing to invest themselves into service within the Church are acting in faith. Faith is trust when your knowledge is incomplete. God honors those who have faith, who are willing to act without complete knowledge and ironclad evidence.

    You may say you have faith without works, but I will show you my faith by my works. God gives us no evidence until after the trial of our faith.

    And knowledge comes to those who nourish their faith. The “doubter” who faithfully performs a calling is on the path toward greater light and knowledge. The “believer” who fails to act on his “faith” is on the path to losing any conviction he may have.

  33. angrymormonliberal
    June 19, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Wm Morris, no offense taken. I too like to tweak the prevailing windbags.

  34. matt w.
    June 19, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    so are we all really saying praxis matters more than doxa?

  35. Ray
    June 19, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    #34 – I like pikachu, myself.

  36. cj douglass
    June 20, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Members who don’t show up to carry out their callings don’t have the courage of their alleged convictions. Their faith/testimony is not strong enough to get their behinds of the dime and in gear.

    Raymond, please stop. There are a million reasons why individuals fall short in their callings – which shouldn’t be at the top of our priority list anyway.

  37. snow white
    June 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I say “We love thee very much”, Mark. Care to step outside? :p I don’t say it to flaunt my righteousness, though. I just usually pray with my kids, and it’s a point I want them to remember. Don’t you say “I love you” when you talk to your parents on the phone? If you don’t, that’s probably why they don’t like you.

  38. DDB
    June 20, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I sense that this discussion is forgetting that there is a broad spectrum of doubt/faith/belief as well as ability/willingness to serve. I have known some of strong faith and testimony who were limited in how much they could serve at a given time due to work, family, or community commitments. They recognized that there is a time and a season to all things, including church service.

    On the other hand, it is always wonderful to have non-members or those so-called “doubters” serve in various callings out of their love for God, their fellow man, their own children, or the youth of the church. I hope that there is always a place in my ward for anyone who is willing to help make the world a better place and who can express/feel there love for others in good deeds. In addition to the “big” callings, there are always children to comfort, hymnbooks to mend or purchase, scouts to mentor and encourage, or someone to help in the family history library. I my ward many of these tasks get done by friends of the church who are not members for one reason or another.

    I hope that we only ask for those that are willing to try, or to pray for those that do.

  39. Rob
    June 20, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    If you haven’t read of Pres. Hinckley’s youthful struggles with faith, and resultant commitment to serve despite any doubts, its worth a read here.

  40. claire
    June 20, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Let’s not forget that many leaders see ‘doubters’ as Typhoid Marys, out to infect the orthodox congregation with their skeptical germs. And are therefore hidden away, regardless of how otherwise orthodox they might be in deed rather than thought.

  41. Matt Rasmussen
    June 20, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Wow, so many ways this could be expounded on. Taking faith and doubt out of the picture, there are three general ways people fill their callings: 1) steadily there every time the calling requires; 2) sometimes there if it suits them (or they can’t get out of it); 3) not serving because they reject a calling.

    Clearly, the Church is happier with those who steadily serve in their callings than those who don’t. The Church isn’t a social club, it’s the kingdom of God on the earth for those who want to prepare themselves to enter the Celestial Kingdom. Unlike a social club, we can’t just pay some dues and show up in the Celestial Kingdom. We have to work out our salvation together. If that means we have to teach a class, organize an auxiliary, have FHE every week, or vacuum the building once every three months, then so be it. If faith without works is dead, wouldn’t we want to do what we can in the way of callings and service to make up for our faith?

  42. Eric Boysen
    June 20, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    What about not being up to it physically, mentally or emotionally?

  43. Marianne
    June 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    What about those of us who find ourselves being grumpy martyrs to the cause? I used to always say yes, and I’d do my assignment, but I wasn’t necessarily cheerful about it. I suppose either way the vineyard gets pruned, but my mom is sure that crabby labor is its own reward.

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