Elder Dieter F Uchtdorf remarked that as members leave the church, they leave the “light of the gospel,” wherein these exmormons find themselves questioning why they ever believed in the church and their previously clear knowledge would even seem foolish in retrospect. Here he contributes to the narrative that church leaders enjoy telling about those who leave. The story goes that members leave and suffer because of it and become lost.
If we remove ourselves from the light of the gospel, our own light begins to dim—not in a day or a week but gradually over time—until we look back and can’t quite understand why we had ever believed the gospel was true. Our previous knowledge might even seem foolish to us because what once was so clear has again become blurred, hazy, and distant.Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as Second Counselor in the First Presidency
This retrospective foolishness refers to the perspective shift that can occur when someone distances themselves from a belief system or core values they once held dear, such as religious beliefs. When a person moves away from a deeply held conviction, their mindset and worldview often change. As a result, what once seemed clear and unquestionable may start to appear naive, misguided, or lacking depth from their new perspective.
Many would call this simply “Growing Up.” With a few edits, Uchtdorf’s wording can be put into the “light” of growing up and beyond immature behavior:
If we remove ourselves from the light of grade school, gradually we look back and can’t quite understand why we ever behaved and thought like we did. That previous experience might seem foolish because what once was normal is now seen clearly as childish and immature.
Or in other words:
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.1 Corinthians 13:11
For example, in the field of science, previous knowledge can indeed become outdated or refined. Scientific understanding is constantly evolving as new evidence, technologies, and methodologies emerge. As a result, theories, models, and explanations that were once widely accepted can be modified, refined, or even replaced by more accurate and comprehensive explanations.
In some cases, previously accepted theories might be proven incorrect if new evidence contradicts them conclusively. When this happens, the scientific community revises its understanding based on the most current and reliable data available.
So, previous scientific knowledge can become outdated and can even seem foolish today. This highlights the dynamic nature of science and its ability to adapt and improve our understanding of the natural world over time. There is a general sense of exploration and inquisitiveness in science and everything is open to question!
Beyond science we also have the medical field. Some previous practices and “knowledge” regarding medicine are completely foolish, because they were simply wrong! Don’t be scared to change your mind when you find something more correct.
In the history of medicine, there have been many practices that were once considered standard or even advanced, but with the development of better medical knowledge and technology, these practices are now understood to be ineffective, unsafe, or downright harmful. This isn’t even limited to medieval medical practice, but some very recent ones too! Want specific examples?
- Bloodletting: This ancient practice involved deliberately bleeding a patient, believing it would balance the body’s “humors.” It was used for various ailments and was a common medical practice for centuries. We now know it is not only ineffective for most conditions but can also be dangerous.
- Trepanation: Also known as trephination or trephining, this practice involved drilling a hole into the skull. It was believed to treat various neurological disorders and relieve pressure on the brain. Modern medicine has advanced significantly, providing more effective and less invasive treatments for neurological conditions.
- Lobotomies: In the early to mid-20th century, lobotomies were performed as a treatment for mental illnesses, behavioral issues, and even homosexuality. This involved surgically damaging the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Lobotomies had severe and often irreversible consequences for patients’ cognitive and emotional functioning.
- Radical Surgeries: In the past, radical surgeries were common for conditions that might be treated with less invasive procedures today. For example, in the case of breast cancer, radical mastectomies, which involved removing the entire breast, underlying chest muscles, and lymph nodes, were once a standard practice. Modern medicine has developed more targeted and less disfiguring treatments for cancer.
- Mercury-Based Treatments: Mercury, a toxic heavy metal, was once used in various forms for medicinal purposes, including treating syphilis. Mercury poisoning, however, is a severe health risk, and its use in medicine has long been discontinued.
- Thalidomide: In the 1950s and 1960s, thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness. Tragically, it led to severe birth defects in thousands of babies, highlighting the importance of rigorous testing and regulation of pharmaceuticals.
These historical medical practices, among others, are now viewed through the lens of modern scientific understanding and medical ethics, making them seem not just outdated but also potentially dangerous or ethically questionable. They serve as reminders of the progress made in medical science and the importance of evidence-based medicine.
Further Light and Knowledge
Rather than saying those who leave the Mormon church become confused or deceived, personally, I must say that over time my light has been getting steadily brighter. I honestly do wonder how I ever believed it was true. There is so much manipulation in Mormon culture and leadership. There are so many contradictions and situations where we are forced to ignore our own intuitions and trust in the authority figures of the church. Being able to leave this behind can only be called authenticity and clarity!
A recurring theme in the “I was a Mormon” stories on the site are statements of No regret in leaving and finding much more happiness. These real and personal experiences don’t fit the narrative the church tells about those who leave. They show the opposite in fact, those who leave become happier!
Uchtdorf is correct though, with my current light and after deconstructing the cultish beliefs I once held, I can barely understand why I ever believed the gospel was true. My previous “knowledge” does seem very foolish. What I always desperately hoped before was so clear and simple has now become, in hindsight, faith-promoting lies and manipulation tactics of a cult bent on owning me.
Condemn Others Much?
Church leaders, including Elder Uchtdorf, tell the story of church members who leave the church. They say things like those who leave lose the light and become “blurred, hazy, and distant”, are “foolish” or “deceived“, can’t leave the church alone, “intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders,” giving too much “focus on the metaphorical soda crackers and chipped paint,” “despicable character,” “like a feather blown to and fro in the air,” “traitor who has deceived his best friends, betrayed his trust, and forfeited every principle of honor,” “lazy learners and lax disciples,” “patty-cake, taffy-pulled experience,” “obsessed with making vicious and vile attacks,” “character—or lack of,” “attacking our sacred beliefs,” “children of disobedience themselves,” “loses his testimony only by listening to the promptings of the evil one,” “walked in poverty and darkness and bitterness, experiencing illness, and loneliness,” “offended or lazy or sinful,” and finally “I am so furious with people who leave this church.” Even planting the fear of becoming a critic by saying: “The danger lies not in what may come from a member critic, but in the chance that we might become one.”
It is somewhat surprising then, that Uchtdorf later in this same talk claims that the church does “not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have”
In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Here he also claims that “we do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have.” Even the current church President, Russell Nelson is happy to call any with less light (another way of saying doubt) “lazy learners” and “lax disciples.” This sounds exactly like condemnation!
Claiming to be tolerant and accepting is not the same as being tolerant. They need to show that they are before they can make these types of claims. They constantly ridicule and condemn others because of differences and beliefs and are in no way accepting of other ideologies. In some ways, this makes sense, because any view that is different, challenges the state of a believing member, and it is dangerous to entertain. The church leaders are so afraid of members losing their worldview (aka their testimony and belief in the church).
- Demonizing Doubt: Nelson’s Talk on Lazy Learners and Lax Disciples
- Mormon Authorities Threaten Doubters With “Don’t You Dare Bail” Messages
- Doubt your Doubts?
- More Church Myths – Thomas B Marsh and Milk Strippings
- No Surprise that Every Ex-Mormon is Still a Missionary
- Brigham Young on Apostates
- Why did you leave? Tell your story or they will
- Elder Maxwell Tells ExMormons to Go Bowling and Leave the Church Alone
- If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed – but leave the church alone won’t you?
- Elder Holland’s Taffy-Pulled Devotional – Don’t You Dare Bail & Stay in the Boat!
- Leave Over Under or Around The Book of Mormon