Monday, March 7, 2011

The Great Conversion

Dr. Richard Sherlock of the Utah State University Philosophy Department was one of my favorite professors. His Philosophy of Religion course was the first philosophy class I took and within the first week I was hooked! I'd walk up the stairs of the old agricultural building on the Logan campus with my cup of coffee and sit right up front. Dr. Sherlock's lectures were thought-provoking, passionate and well, fun. THIS is what college is about, I thought.

I knew Dr. Sherlock was raised in the LDS religion and I assumed he was still LDS when I saw him a year or so ago. So I was surprised when I read a letter to the editor of the local paper chastising Dr. Sherlock for giving a talk on his conversion to Catholicism from Mormonism. The whole talk is really worth listening to, but what especially grabbed me is the final bit:

I have not gone over to the dark side. I am a truer, deeper Christian than I have ever been. I still regard unbelief, represented by recent writers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett or seminal minds like Nietzsche, as wrong but well worth deep study. The experience of Holy Spirit does, sometimes, have an emotional component. But it is more than just emotion. The Holy Spirit is one person of the triune God who is wisdom itself. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is reason. Thus we cannot remain content with emotional moments or warm feelings. If we are to remain true to the gift God gave us we must use this gift, like the man in scripture who expanded his talents, to deepen and enrich our faith with the gift of reason. For those of you who are doubting or unsure, even for those on a different path: come on in. The water is fine and neither God nor those of us already on the journey will let you sink.

I often felt like a few of my Mormon friends were on the verge of leaving the religion of their youth - something that should not be taken lightly. I never encouraged this of anyone, feeling it was not my place. I do, however, agree with Dr. Sherlock - that if you are questioning and are scared, there are people who are there for you and with you - who will not let you sink.

I also like the introduction to Dr. Sherlock's talk:

One should never leave the religion in which one was born or raised for anything but the most serious of reasons. Warm feelings, family, friends, a social ethos, should never be the reason for joining or leaving a religion.

Words to ponder.

*If you'd like a copy of Dr. Sherlock's complete talk, send me an email and I'll happily pass it along:

or you can listen to it:


  1. For some former Mormons, and I'm not speaking for Dr. Sherlock, the appeal of Catholicism or similar faiths of historical significance is that they grow tired of the competition within the LDS church and the constant judgment being cast by neighbors and ward members. There is little room for personal growth unless it's part of a community movement prescribed by leaders who most likely don't even know you. Catholicism can provide spirituality without the baggage of competing with family and neighbors for spiritual progress which can only be manifested in callings and service within the church walls (going to temple, home teaching, etc). The real tragedy is in those that find sorrow for and cast judgment on someone who has admitted to finding happiness for themselves.

  2. Hey Anonymous,

    Thanks for posting - interested in writing a piece about this competition of which you speak? When we lived in Utah many of my LDS friends said I had it easy as a non-Mormon because I didn't have to keep up. It's sad to think a religion would become about outdoing one another, but I think many religions are like that: who serves on the most committees, who puts the most money in the offering plate, who is sitting in a pew every Sunday. I do think the Mormon religion kicks it up a notch in places and one area that seemed to be a bit sensitive was whose husband was the bishop.

    So if you're interested in expanding upon this, send me an email: