Sunday, July 7, 2013

"...and that not by the hand of an enemy."

I've heard many friends talk about how they're "trying to figure out how they fit into Mormonism/The Church." Like me, they see themselves as anything but mainstream, within the LDS faith. I don't exactly feel like a Jack Mormon apologist. But I often find myself feeling the need to apologize for having the questions I have, regarding Mormonism and church history. And this, because not towing the line, and not sticking to the script or "the basics," makes a lot of members of The Church uncomfortable. 
I've been labeled a heretic by a couple of acquaintances for bringing up Church history which I found in The Journal of Discourses. ( ). Apparently the Journal of Discourses is no longer considered valid? (Not so.) My best friend, of 30 years, recently told me I was "anti-Mormon," after I posted a satirical piece which mocked some do-gooder at BYU-Provo who made a stink about being able to see a female student's knees. ( ). That was the last straw after he had noticed a few of my Facebook posts, in which I had become a little loose about my feelings and questions regarding certain Church policies. And, not only did he call me anti-Mormon, but he followed that by telling me he would NEVER talk religion with me, "because he believes every word from the Book of Mormon, and from Joseph Smith, and from all the prophets." This from my best friend of 30 years, who knows me better than most of my family. He knows full-well that I'm not anti-Mormon but, hearing my sometimes contrarian views makes him uneasy.
Now, I would define anti-Mormon as being hostile toward The Church, and/or spreading information--especially misinformation--in an effort to defame and/or destroy it. I am not anti-Mormon at all. I don't try to defame/destroy The Church. And I don't spread misinformation about The Church. In fact, given the fact that I feel my particular "testimony" isn't mainstream, I RARELY share it with others. Rather, I go out of my way NOT to share some of my feelings/beliefs, never wanting to tear down anyone else's faith. For me, one's faith is one of the most personal and intimate things. One's faith is arrived at via so many different roads. The lenses through which people see the world--and their faith--are shaped through very different experiences. So I don't judge the way another person believes as being incorrect, just as I don't want my beliefs judged as incorrect, heretical, or anti-Mormon. In my opinion, there are as many different types of Mormon as there are members of The Church. And that's perfectly OK.

Why, then, am I considered as such? From my point of view, the answer lies in common Church/ward practices. ( ). We're taught from a relatively young age not to ask the big questions. We're taught that there are no answers to those "mysteries." I often felt obligated--if I was to be a good Mormon--not to doubt, not to ask questions, and just believe. And that actually worked for a long time. I went on a 2-year mission "just believing." I've sat in Sunday School classes where I've disagreed with particular points, based on my own interpretations things. But I never dared to ask my questions. I didn't want to make anyone uncomfortable. I knew there was the chance that if I asked something like, "Why did Joseph Smith, Jr. feel it was OK to take other men's wives as his own?", or "Wasn't the ban on giving priesthood power to Blacks a very racist policy" I'd be shouted down, or possibly even escorted out of the classroom. And this is such a tragedy; we are made to feel that inside the walls of the church house is NOT the place to ask questions. But I feel Mormon. I don't have the faith of a little child that I once did. But if I'm there in church, I must have some hope that Mormonism is a good/true church. By being there, am I not saying, "Lord, I believe (or at least hope); help thou mine aunbelief?" Mark 9:24.

And onto my main point. More and more LDS members are leaving or becoming inactive. ( ). More and more information about The Church and its history are becoming readily available over the television and the internet. Like me, people will wonder how that new information fits into the things we've always been taught, and what--if any--difference that makes. More questions will arise. But will those with questions be able to lean upon sympathetic, compassionate, strong shoulders in The Church? Or will their questions fall on deaf and defensive ears?
I'm currently studying from the Doctrine and Covenants, and I'm really enjoying it. ( ). There is a lot of church history there, but by no means all of it. I found a scripture from D&C recently. And as we're encouraged by the Book of Mormon, I've likened this verse unto me. And I'll leave you with it. Peace.

D&C 42:43
"And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy."

I really like that verse. To me, it's sort of talking about me, and some of you who lack faith. We are the "sick," in a way, as it pertains to our faith in Mormonism. But even though we lack faith, we do have hope. And we should be treated kindly and with tenderness by The Church and all its membership.