Are Mormons Allowed to Have Questions?

My friend Dianne, whom I have known for more than 30 years, is no longer a Mormon. She hasn’t shared with me all her reasons for leaving the church and I haven’t asked. But Dianne has sparked conversation recently by posting things on Facebook that some people felt were anti-Mormon.
One of Dianne’s Facebook posts indicated that the Mormon Church prophet and apostles are secretly taking money or enriching themselves at the expense of the faithful (like me). This upset some of her friends and family, who told Dianne on Facebook that “you post these things knowing it hurts your family and intentionally hurting someone is wrong regardless.”

I want to propose the opposite -- if Dianne has questions or concerns about any aspect of the Mormon Church, that is our problem. By “our” I mean the Mormon faithful. Far from shutting up, Dianne should speak up. Because it is the job the faithful to answer these questions.

If the faithful tell Dianne not to ask questions, then Dianne should be more concerned that someone is hiding something.

Let me frame this another way.

I have friends who feel strongly that abortion is a woman’s right. I have several Mormon friends who have had abortions. If abortion is used to avoid the consequences of promiscuous sex, the person having the abortion does not understand the moral consequences. If they don’t understand, that is because we, who do understand, have failed to teach them.

No law for or against abortion has any moral impact. For example, what if America followed China’s lead and passed a law requiring abortion? If you understand the moral consequences of abortion, then no matter what the law says, you would not have an abortion. If you are a man, would you rape a woman because the law required it?

People who believe abortion is a right aren’t stopped by a law. Abortion is not a legal issue. Abortion is a moral issue. Morals can only be taught. Morals cannot ever be correctly legislated.

Force of law does not replace morals, and cannot trump agency.

Only teaching can influence agency.

The same is true of leaving the Mormon Church, or any church. If someone leaves, it is because they have concerns. If they have concerns, their questions have not been answered.

People are leaving the Mormon Church in droves because they have questions and concerns. You need look no further than the internet to see this. There are a lot of questions. Was Brigham Young a racist? Was Joseph Smith having sex with very young girls? Is President Monson making himself rich at the expense of the faithful? These are just the tippy-tip of the iceberg of questions.

All of these questions have answers. “Shut up” is not an answer. “Your question hurts me” is not an answer. Exclamation points, exasperation, and shaming are not answers. Dianne eloquently and correctly pointed this out on Facebook when she said, “I'm very sorry that this hurts those I care so much about. I know how betrayed and hurt I felt as well when I learned of these things.”

If Dianne asks a question, and the response is “Shut up and don’t ask questions” then who is morally to blame if Dianne walks away? Is the Mormon church a tradition that brooks no questions? Or is the Mormon church a safe place to get answers?

Is Dianne wrong if she listens when people -- even openly angry people -- have accusations against the Mormon church?

What if you listen, and what the accuser says makes sense? On Facebook, Dianne has posted some things -- legal documents etc. -- that appear to prove that President Monson and the Mormon apostles are hiding financial transactions. Is the Mormon leadership a scam? Can these questions bear the light of day?

Of course they can. But only if people can talk. Only if Dianne can safely ask her questions, and someone can safely answer.

The least influential people are the emotional, angry people. The person holding the sign that says “God hates fags” is not teaching or promoting Christ. The person standing at the abortion clinic shouting “You are a murderer” is certainly not influencing the clients. Influence comes through teaching -- often over years.

Some people might say, “Dianne is unteachable!”  Or “Dianne has been taught!” Or “Dianne refuses to be taught!” But the teacher’s job is not to shout, or shame, or tell someone to shut up. Does a teacher say “I judge you unteachable”?

Or does a teacher examine where the teaching went wrong and then work harder to be understood?
If we are concerned about how people vote, or what people believe, deriding those who don’t agree with us does not influence them to rethink. Derision is self-indulgent. You get the false feeling of having “stood up” for your principles because you belittled people who don’t agree with you. We are surrounded by people who entertain themselves by shouting, as if they have accomplished something. Instead of influence, they have created distraction and distance.

The only way to “stand up” for your principles is to teach. Teaching by example, or by answering questions. By being available.

Distraction is the most dangerous power in the world. Distraction drowns out the teachers and dulls the senses.

The first rule of teaching is safety. If someone is not emotionally safe to ask a question, they won’t ask. If they don’t ask, you can’t answer. They can’t learn. You have harmed the student.
Influence is quiet, and often slowly built. Entertainment (distraction) is loud, bold, and unlikely to be sustained.

Can Dianne ask a question? If she did, would anyone hear?


  1. "Influence is quiet." Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for articulating what I've been witnessing the last couple of years as many of my friends have left the church because of unanswered questions. Hopefully this will help me interact with them in a gentler, more influential way.

  2. I think you neglected a critical element. Being a good teacher is hard, hard work. Much of it comes from being a good student. So a key to helping others is to be an expert on the answers. And few members are experts on answers for troubling questions. As far as I know, Mormons as a group do not have a well-developed apologetics. The culture seems to be fideist -- a bit at odds with what you are advocating.

  3. "Morals can only be taught. Morals cannot ever be correctly legistlated." Thank you! Frederic Bastiats "The Law", one of my favorite books.

  4. Well stated. Thank you. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

  5. The old joke is that Mormonism has all the answers—as long as you don't ask questions. Ron, few members have the answers questioning member need because the church is so bad at supplying the answers. The church would rather not talk about those things, because the answers are messy and raise more questions. They're trying now, with various essays. I'm skeptical they will help. Because most members are also incurious.