My 11 Biggest Challenges to Staying Active 11 Years and 11 Reasons I Stayed

October 11, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 1:22 am   Category: Life

Today marks my being baptized 11 years ago. In honor of that experience, here are two lists based on my personal experiences in the church:

11 biggest challenges to my staying active 11 years

  1. Lack of personal revelation/ confusing personal revelation for wishful thinking
  2. Book of Mormon issues
  3. Losing friends
  4. Blacks and the Priesthood
  5. Polygamy
  6. History around Second Anointing.
  7. Church History Issues (Like MMM, Danites, etc.)
  8. Gender issues
  9. Paul H. Dunn
  10. Scientific explanations for spiritual experiences
  11. Doctrinal issues

11 biggest helps to my staying active 11 years

  1. Personal revelation
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Doctrinal simplicity
  5. Responsibility/trust
  6. A sense of peace
  7. Good leadership
  8. Knowing where to get answers when issues came up
  9. Knowing when answers are not available (having at least a semi-official “We don’t know”)
  10. Feeling of purpose
  11. The Temple
For those interested, I did a post about some of the people who helped this second list happen last year.


  1. People who treat church service as another career. So, they…

    1. Do things to be seen by the boss (bish, SP, MP, GA).
    2. Actively tear down those who may possibly be up for “their” next calling. If you stand in the way of them being called as DL, ZL, AP, EQP, bish, SP, or GA, they will begin a whispering campaign against you.
    3. Brag about their current or former callings. “Well, I’m a DL, ZL, AP, EQP, bish, SP, GA. And so my views of the order of return to Jackson County are correct.”

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — October 11, 2009 @ 3:34 am

  2. Did you see the Paul Dunn thread at BCC recently?

    Comment by Ben — October 11, 2009 @ 5:10 am

  3. I did Ben. I found out about Paul Dunn about 7 years ago. It was horribly challenging at the time.

    Floyd, while I’ve seen a little of that, I guess I’ve always felt I had the ability to go up to such a person and talk to them face to face about it. They almost always ceased the negative behavior, as they were also trying to be like Jesus, as it were.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2009 @ 6:44 am

  4. It’s interesting to see that several items on one list are variations of items on the other list. Also that many (not all) items on the first list are ones that would generally be considered intellectual struggles, while just as many on the second list rely on the heart.

    Happy anniversary, and here’s to the next 11!

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — October 11, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  5. Ardis: In many of these intellectual struggles, I have to admit it was commonly accompanied by feelings of either shame, scorn, betrayal, or disgust. I guess that’s why I am pro-inoculation, at least of a certain type.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  6. Matt: these posts are really nice to read. I’m curious what you mean by “Doctrinal simplicity”—I mean, you post on NCT after all!

    Comment by BrianJ — October 11, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  7. Brian- At it’s core, despite all the concepts we discuss here, I think the Doctrine of the Gospel is as simple as those items I was originally asked to receive revelatory confirmation of. I admit it is intellectually only about an inch deep, but it is nontheless a spiritual feast.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  8. Makes sense. Thanks.

    Comment by BrianJ — October 11, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  9. Matt: Why is history around 2nd anointing an issue for you?

    What doctrinal issues?

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  10. Blake: I first heard about the 2nd anointing 7 years ago. At the time it was very shocking to me. It’s not really an issue now, but at the time it was disturbing because of it’s not aligning with the teachings from McConkie. Also, the idea of an ordinance to say “you are now saved” just didn’t align with my understanding of faith and works at the time.

    As for doctrinal issues, I’ve gone through quite a few. Perhaps the biggest were evolution/creation, adam-god, and the problem of evil outside of the ones I listed individually above.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 11, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  11. Don’t forget blogging. If we didn’t stay active we’d have nothing to write about ; )

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    Comment by As Sistas In Zion — October 11, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  12. My biggest challenge in remaining in the Church in the last 11 years?

    Well, I’m a lifer and I love being a member. I’ve had a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel since I was 14. However, I’m challenged by the following:

    1. Nepotism in the Church leadership and in my particular stake. No, it isn’t OK.

    2. Callings which don’t give me a chance to give my gifts (as sparse as they really are).

    3. Members who have done their part and now refuse callings.

    4. The failure of the Church to make Sundays an open and honest forum of learning. I don’t like the phoniness that pervades our lessons that don’t allow for honest questions or challenge us to learn anything we don’t already know. It’s not the teachers’ fault.

    5. I can’t stand lessons that repackage the same old stuff in the same old wine skins over and over.

    6. Sacrament meeting talks on talks already given. Honest to Pete, do they think that we can’t read?

    That said, I’m active and love being active because:

    1. I love the people in my ward and any day that I just get to be with them is a good day.

    2. I love the scriptures. The Book of Mormon is like breath to me. I love its teachings and passages so much that they are like a part of my soul. I love the Book of Abraham and its teachings regarding pre-mortal life and the perspective that brings to my life.

    3. I love the temple and the astounding revelations and insights and breakthroughs that I have when I go and actively engage the ordinances.

    4. I love feeling the spirit and the life of Christ entering into me to shine in me when I engage the gospel. I don’t even know how to explain that experience, but it is life to me.

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  13. Interesting, Blake’s list resonates a lot more with me than Matt’s does. The doctrinal and social issues have never really been a challenge for me.

    Matt, I was happy to see the temple on your “helps” list. I feel bad the temple is on so many people’s “challenges” list since I think it is one of the most wonderful and distinctive parts of the church.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 11, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  14. Matt,

    The second anointing is what I have been shooting for ever since I learned about it. Regardless of what was said in General Conference and Blake’s #3, I’m totally pumped about retiring in regards to church callings. I will then fully appreciate what is was when the sincere people of West Virginia told me they were saved.

    “I’d love to serve as 12-15 year old sunday school teacher, but I think I’ll pass Bishop – I’m saved!”

    And since I was a ZL who was so prepared that I didn’t have to serve as a DL before hand, you know my word is gold.

    Comment by Riley — October 11, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  15. On a serious note, I think for me it was summed up rather nicely with Blake’s second #2 and #4, as well as Matt’s your #6, #10.

    I only add:

    1. The way I really have seen and felt God answer my prayers and demonstrate what I believe was His hand and care in my life.

    Comment by Riley — October 11, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  16. #12 on your list was that numerology thing you had going, wasn’t it?

    Thanks for still being here (so I don’t have to hunt you down & hurt you). Thanks for loving your wife. Thanks for the beautiful granddaughters. I’m especially glad we didn’t make your challenge list. You are a good man & we love you.

    Comment by mondocool — October 11, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  17. If it is not, it ought to be relatively obvious (if one takes Joseph Smith’s word on the subject at any rate) that a second anointing is not necessary to have one’s calling and election made sure.

    The latter (also known as the more sure word of prophecy) is a decision made in heaven, and is made known to the individuals concerned by personal revelation (so says Joseph Smith). The former is a formality that can occur in this life or in the next, a formality that certainly doesn’t have to occur in this one (or most of us are in big trouble).

    Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Pet 1:10)

    We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your heart (2 Pet 1:10)

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  18. The second reference should be 2 Pet 1:19.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  19. Honest questions here. So please don’t think I’m criticizing.

    What is it about Paul H. Dunn that is a trial of faith? I always found his talks dubious back in the day when he was popular. He always struck me as a poser and compared to people going apostate in the mid 19th century was definitely a piker (not to mention folks like Judas) So it’s an honest question as to what people found challenging about his trying to get so much attention and then discovering he lied a lot.

    Likewise what’s challenging about Second Annointings? Also I’m surprised someone would say it’s hard to line up with McConkie. McConkie, especially in his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary obliquely discusses second annointings all the time.

    Comment by Clark — October 11, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  20. BTW – I have to agree with Blake’s list. The biggest challenge for me is how mind numbingly boring Church often is. Ugh. But the rest – even Bishops who might get extreme – don’t bother me in the least. Given that we are a Church made up of sinners how on earth could it be any other way? You’re always going to have the occasional leader who makes a mistake and the occasional leader who goes astray. What’s amazing to me isn’t when this happens but that it happens as infrequently as it does. Honestly I’d expect bigger screwups far more often given what I know of human nature. It’s something of a testament to me that we all haven’t screwed up the Church more than we have.

    Comment by Clark — October 11, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  21. As to Floyd’s #1

    I am in a ward that contains the corporate office for a very large company. We have a lot of that church calling as a job behavior going on.

    My problems have always come from people, they are frustrating. I always stick with it because at the end of it all I just know it is true – more true than the members. BTW, convert working on year 28 since baptism.

    Comment by TStevens — October 12, 2009 @ 6:06 am

  22. Clark: No worries-

    For Paul Dunn, I think part of the problem was the vehemence with which he was defended when he’d obviously done more than exaggerated the truth. Part of the problem was that this wasn’t then we were talking about, this was now. Part of the problem was that there didn’t really seem to be much discipline. Part of the problem was that I’d taken a typical orthodox response to challenging information in other areas, which is to retreat to fundamentals, and one fundamental was and is “You can trust general authorities”. I think a lot of it was a timing issue. I just remember feeling so overwhelmingly hurt that this general authority would betray me in this way, which in hindsight was sort of silly since he wasn’t a general authority when I joined the church and outside of Greg Prince quotes, I’ve never read anything by him in my life.

    As for Second Anointing, I think the issue was that McConkie puts forward C&E made sure as a personal experience where Jesus comes and visits you, and the other part was the way the ordinance seemed to set up an elite inner circle which was not sacred but secret. Of course, I think now I honestly think the ordinance is probably no longer performed. I actually looked up every reference to it online I could find at the time, wrote emails to BYU professors, talked to my Bishop about it, etc.

    Sorry these are sort of non-descript. It’s been quite a while since I really about these.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 12, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  23. What, no mentions of the OT? All of our modern-day shenanigans are small potatoes compared to the nonsense that went on back then (or the crazy stories people decided to tell about it…). If Paul Dunn was a fibber, what about whoever cooked up the story of two of every creature on the planet getting sent on a cruise around the Cape on an ocean of magic water that appeared from nowhere?

    The reason to stay in? The BOM doesn’t have any crazy miracle stories that have no bearing on anyone’s salvation. All of the miracles have both a doctrinal purpose and naturalistic plausibility just like those in the NT. They’re about the lives of people, not impressing the natives with tall tales about why our God is better than their god.

    Comment by O — October 12, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  24. If the ark is a crazy story, with no basis in material fact, at least it was invented four or five thousand some odd years ago…

    And no one has decided to hang the legitimacy of the entire church on whether that was the case or not, of course. Where if 3 Ne 11 didn’t really happen, we have got serious problems.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

  25. Challenges:

    Mistreatment of singles

    “gospel” of prosperity

    Sunshine songs.

    False teachings about gratitude

    False teachings about being positive

    Teachings about “binding the Lord”

    Institute leaders who are full of themselves.

    Things that keep me in:
    Still working on finding something for those posts.

    Comment by psychochemiker — October 13, 2009 @ 7:14 am

  26. Oh, I’m sure there is a basis for it in material fact. It was just expanded upon around the campfire.

    As to your other point, which I generally agree with, I’d wager that a fair number of former Christians, including Mormons, are no longer Christians because of the OT. Go make a comment like I just did in Gospel Doctrine and you’ll get more than an earful.

    Want a laugh? Next time you’re at DBook, pick up the Harston and Buck My First Old Testament Stories and check out Jonah being dropped off on shore by Pinocchio’s whale. I wonder whether he had a suite with an ocean view or an inside-berth.

    Comment by O — October 13, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  27. I think one has to be careful not to conflate the ordinance of second anointing. They are related and often not distinguished but probably should be. Once again McConkie is pretty clearly writing about this in his NT commentary (that I suspect was written when Pres Kinball reinstituted performing the ordinance). It’s definitely still going on though.

    Comment by Clark — October 13, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  28. To add one of the greatest regrets of my life was being sick on myission when Pres Hinkley reportedly spoke on all this for two and a half hours in a special priesthood meeting.

    Comment by Clark — October 13, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  29. Whoops. Sorry, I’d typed those on my iPhone while waiting for my wife to run into the store. In #27 that should say, “not to conflate the ordinance of the second anointing with ones calling and election being made sure.” My point is that McConkie is pretty clear all ordinances need to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Once again I’d recommend his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary. He’s doing a lot of that sort of oblique writing where he’s talking about something in such a way that it’s only obvious what he’s saying if you have some familiarity with the topic. That’s not to say everything he writes is necessarily doctrinally correct. But he clearly has inside knowledge on this.

    While it’s pure speculation many suggest the second anointing is the fulfillment of the anointing most of us get int the temple where we are only anointed to become something rather than anointed as something. Many speculate that there is a second endowment that parallels the endowment most of us received and that has a relation akin to how the two anointings are related to each other. Some further speculate that this is a personal heavenly ascent akin to what Nephi experienced. Which is probably where the idea that having ones C&E made sure involves meeting Christ. I rather suspect that for most of us that happens at death.

    O (#23) I think most Mormons are open to a more complex reading of the OT simply because we don’t have the original texts. Clearly there’s a difference between the Brass Plates and our current OT that was compiled after the exile, probably from multiple sources. But what texts were the Brass Plates compiled from? If the scribes who compiled the Bible were uninspired then they could have introduced tons of errors.

    Comment by Clark — October 13, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  30. not to conflate the ordinance of the second anointing with ones calling and election being made sure

    Hear, hear!

    (cf. #17 for references…)

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  31. A few comments mentioned the Temple as one of the things that keep them in. I didn’t have any issues with the church until I went through the temple. I still go to the temple because as mentioned in some comments I’ve felt the spirit very strongly there myself, so I know it’s a good thing. I keep going hoping that I’ll get over the issue. Some days are good. Others aren’t.

    One more issue I have is the songs they allow in sacrament meeting. If you’ve been to other Christian churches, they really have some good worship going on with up-beat songs and praise. We could use more of that.

    The main things that keeps me in are the testimony I received when first praying about the Book of Mormon and the way I feel when I am active in the church vs. when I’m not.

    Comment by ama — October 17, 2009 @ 10:26 am