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For week ended November 28, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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'Jack Mormons' Speak Out: Author Finds Many Who Have Left Church Still Feel Some Pull

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

'Jack Mormons' Speak Out: Author Finds Many Who Have Left Church Still Feel Some Pull
Salt Lake Tribune 27Nov99 P6
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- James W. Ure's soon to be published book, Leaving the Fold: Candid Conversations With Inactive Mormons, exposes political, doctrinal and personal issues as the reasons people give for leaving the Mormon faith. Ure acknowledges that his study is purely anecdotal and personal, not scientific. He embarked on this project to determine his own place in the social landscape of Mormonism.

Ure affectionately calls the people he interviewed "Jack Mormons" and said that for the most part they respect and admire the church and its members. "There's a hint of disappointment and longing, as if they're searching for a promised ideal not yet achieved, perhaps ironically the result of the idealization and perfection taught them by the church," Ure writes.

Ure had three criteria for people to be included in his study. They had to be members of the church, not excommunicated, disfellowshipped or having asked to have their names removed. The had to have been active at one time but were no longer attending church regularly or paying tithing. He chose to exclude Mormons who "regularly and vigorously foment against the church". "This is not anti-Mormon work," he writes. "Its purpose from the beginning is to create and foster understanding."

Some of Ure's conclusions dovetailed with Elder Ben Banks of the First Quorum of Seventy when he spoke at General Conference reporting research from the church. "Almost all less-active members interviewed believed that God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the church is true," Elder Banks said.

"The most common reasons given (for not attending church) were: feelings of unworthiness, personal or family problems, parents or spouse were less active, teen-age rebelliousness or laziness, conflicts with work schedules, church too far away, lacked transportation," Banks said.

Utah pollster Dan Jones said 69 percent of Utahns are Mormon with 55 percent being very active, 20 percent claiming some activity and 25 percent saying they are inactive. Of the 2 million who reside in the state of Utah, 1.4 million are Mormons. Of those 1.4 million, 770,000 are active, 280,000 are somewhat active and 350,000 are inactive.

Women seemed to be the most angry of all the people Ure spoke to. "Every one of them felt excluded and angry," he said. Many cited the church's opposition to the Equal Rights Ammendment and the traditional roles of women. Betty Condie, Associate Executive Director of Utah Education Association, said, "I remember exactly what caused me to start consciously questioning Mormonism." "It was reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan." "I started thinking about the church's stand on women and the church's stand on blacks. I said to myself, 'I don't think God is a chauvanist and I don't think he's a racist.'" Condie's new found feminism eventually cost her marriage. "My inactivity...basically was the end of it," she said.

Ure is a descendant of Mormon pioneers and was raised in a devout LDS home. However, he moved away from the church and its teachings. "Complex feelings of exclusion came early to me, and I didn't feel I could live up to the standards of perfection articulated by church leaders," said Ure in the book's preface. Ure soon surrounded himself with friends who were fleeing Mormonism. "With a head full of Mormonism and a heart empty of faith, I found rebellion replacing a sense of unworthiness." "I remembered feelings of disdain, hostility, arrogance, and defiance." But Ure also recalled "the love of many active Mormon friends and relatives.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information