John Dehlin first started the Open Stories Foundation as a means of giving Mormons with questions of faith a neutral resource for questions. Now, after having polled more than 3,000 doubting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Dehlin will release his survey results at a conference at Utah Valley University on Thursday.---
“I went through my own struggles with my testimony 11 or 12 years ago when I was seminary teacher,” Dehlin says. “It was really painful and hard for me, there really wasn’t a lot of help out there for me or other people struggling with their faith.”
Since that time, Dehlin has started a podcast, Mormon Stories, that runs in conjunction with his nonprofit the Open Stories Foundation. The organization and the podcast seek to strike the tricky balance between apologetics and criticism by hosting balanced discussions on tough subjects in LDS teachings, from polygamy to the delays in allowing Black members to receive the priesthood. Since doing the podcast, Dehlin has been working on a survey of individuals in the church who are having a crisis of faith. Now he will be presenting the results of his survey at UVU’s Mormonism and the Internet Conference.
The survey focuses just on disbelieving Mormons and tries to get a glimpse of who they are, whether they are still active in the church or have since left the faith.
For example, Dehlin notes that 87 percent of male and 77 percent of female respondents had church callings before they began to question their faith. The survey even found that 20 percent of male respondents had served as bishops.
The results also examine factors that have pushed members to doubt the church’s teachings, with 74 percent of respondents citing ceasing to believe in the theology as a major factor, for example. Other issues also shook the faith of respondents, with 48 percent of those surveyed citing the church’s stance on homosexuals as a major factor, as well as 47 percent of respondents citing the church’s stance on women.
Dehlin hopes that the survey will help both those struggling with their faith, as well as those faith leaders who struggle to understand those who leave the congregation.
“We decided to administer a survey to as many disbelieving Mormons as we could so we could get to the bottom of why people disbelieve and what it costs to them and to help promote awareness,” Dehlin says. “Hopefully, members of the church and church leaders will stereotype them less, punish them less and, frankly, become more aware of the difficult issues themselves so they can at least have empathy for those who struggle,” Dehlin says.
To check out the survey, visit www.WhyMormonsQuestion.Org for the most updated version of the survey.
To check out the Mormonism and the Internet Conference, visit the Utah Valley University Library at 800 W. University Parkway, Thursday, March 29, at 1 p.m. For a map to the library, click here. To view the conference online, click here once the conference begins.