As our ward testimony meeting approached the end of the hour, yawns filled the too-warm chapel along with the low rumble of siblings jostling each other, babies crying and the rustle of packaging while someone opened a snack. Do I smell red licorice?
One of the beloved members of our ward stepped up to the podium saying, “I’m sorry. I know you’re ready to leave. But I have just one message: THANK YOU FOR STAYING.”
Muffled laughter erupted from the congregation as he continued, “And I don’t just mean, thanks for staying till the end of this meeting, thank you for staying in the church. There’s a lot of unrest right now. Many people are leaving. As a father, as a bishop, stake president and as a mission president I’ve made mistakes. I know I’ve offended people. I also know some of the doctrines are hard. But we are doing the work of our Savior. Together we can do so much good. Thanks for sticking with us.”
The chapel grew silent as we pondered on the words of this gentle man and listened to the fervent testimony that followed.
We are going through a time of unrest– women’s roles, LGBT issues, concerns about church history and a political climate that questions what it means to be Christian. (Not to mention the it’s-just-painful-to-be-at-church phenomenon, but that’s next month’s post.)
Sometimes, when conversations get heated, I hear members say, “Well if they have such a problem with the church, why don’t they just leave?”
But we need the people who spark debate. We need the people who ask questions and grumble over policy. Sometimes we create such a rigid definition of what it means to be a good Mormon, we forget the gospel is meant to flood the earth, to reach and change the hearts of each one of us. I’ve wrestled with doctrines myself and I respect those who are wrestling in their own hearts.
Together we can do so much good. We need you. Thanks for staying.