I had a hard conversation with my adult son the other day. He has chosen to stop participating in church, as he feels betrayed and manipulated by our church leaders. He no longer trusts the spiritual experiences he has had because he no longer trusts the context in which they occurred. He doesn’t believe the church is true. He doesn’t trust our leaders. He doesn’t want his young children to go to church, but wants them to be able to “decide for themselves” later in life without “brainwashing” at a young age.
It breaks my heart.
As a convert to the church — and still the only family member who has joined – I prize my membership. I have paid a price to be a Mormon and I do not regret the cost. I am not blind to the faults and fallacies of church leaders and members, but it is my chosen community and the fruits of my membership are too obvious and too precious to renounce. I have struggled with the same questions and doubts that my son is facing, the same frustrating inequities and black holes of history. I still do. I almost left the church myself, 20 years ago.
But I chose faith. I chose to stay because Spirit instructed me to. That’s what I have faith in, my direct experience of the Divine. I can’t explain the church’s problematic history to my own intellectual satisfaction or justify the persistent, subtle sexism. But nor can I deny (without eternal peril to my soul) the persistent, loving tutoring of the Spirit that is woven into every moment of my life, waking and sleeping, precisely because I am an active Mormon. I know things. I do not know the meaning of all things, but because I have lived my faith with full intention and constant attention, I know things I never could have known had I made a different choice. And those things I know are of eternal consequence.
Don’t mistake me. I am not saying that my choice to stay is necessarily the best choice for everyone. Faith may look different for different people. Though I believe that staying active in the church is the best path Home, I have no right to judge another’s alternate choice. But I freely admit my complete dismay when one I love so much loses faith. I get scared. Not just for the other person, but for myself, as well. My doubts, ever present, taunt me. And yet, as I told my son the other day, I welcome doubt, for it keeps me on the razor edge of spiritual growth. There is no real faith without doubt. My doubt informs and deepens my faith because it informs and deepens my inquiry. I doubt . . . I ask . . . I receive. Not always quickly, not always fully, but always.
You love someone, too, I’ll bet, that has chosen to leave, or is considering leaving the church. Maybe it’s you. What does love look like in this situation? How do you help?