Exploring members may have come across something while preparing a lesson online or heard or read something new to them regarding church history, theology, or policies. It could be something they had not learned or heard during their church experience. It may be a social issue that resulted in questions, disagreements, or concerns. Sometimes a friend or family member shares something which results in a desire to search or read something in order to understand it better, support or empathize with them. The recently added church essays regarding historical issues have been the catalyst for many.
They include everyone from the individual with multi-generational pioneer history to the individual newly investigating the church. For some exploring members their knowledge of church history, theology, and truth claims came predominantly – if not entirely – from official church material, publications and church endorsed books written by prophets and well known leaders. They may not have been exposed to things like Dialogue, Sunstone, Maxwell Institute, FairMormon or other scholarly works and writings. Reliance wholly on the church, through Sunday School, callings, church attendance, seminary, missions, temple attendance, etc. in order to learn church history, and the development of Mormon theology, is common.
Exploring members may experience fear, anxiety, discouragement, disillusionment and stress as they become aware of this new information. For someone raised in a very orthodox setting, this tension may be even greater as the disparity between the official narrative and what they are learning becomes apparent. The tendency of many church leaders to send heavily discouraging messages to members concerning the study of information that is outside its official correlated material plays a significant role in Exploring members’ fear. Talks discussing the Internet, and sources that contradict the official narrative, are often described as ‘dangerous’, and prime members to view them with suspicion.