Tag Archives: charity

How To Be a Latter-Day Saint

There seems to be some uncharacteristic upheaval in the church lately, similar perhaps to some of those periods of strife in the Nephite church. It makes me wonder, as I and many others feel batted about by conflicts between conscience and conformity, compassion and consensus, what we’ll be facing in the near future as a body of saints. There seems to be a sharpening divide between “liberal” and “conservative” members, and for moderates like me, that can be highly disconcerting. The danger, of course, is in taking a stand on either “side” and declaring it the “righteous” side. Anyone can find scriptural or modern prophetic quotes to bolster their position. Even prophets say weird things sometimes, sometimes even “in the name of the Lord”. Years later, we read it, and say “Huh?”  Or if it’s helpful to our cause, “See?”

I have no ken for politics, I do not keep up on the bloggernacle or read the Ensign, and I’m not currently involved in church councils. All I’ve got is my own gut, my own spiritual practices, a few close friends, and church hallway gossip. And I’m worried. I’m alarmed at the number of strong saints leaving the church, many of them close friends and family. These are people with deep convictions and real relationships with God. I honor and trust their spiritual acumen, so when they jump ship — or more alarmingly, are pushed overboard — I get upset.

Based on my own deep convictions and powerful personal revelation, I’ve decided to stay in the church. (Read about that here: http://segullah.org/daily-special/stay-in-the-church/) But that makes me all the more anxious to help make the church I love the Zion it is meant to be. I know I am not alone in this divine desire. But the critical questions seem to be: how can I be a true saint in this era of divisiveness and rubbed-raw feelings? How can I be obedient to the counsel of church leaders when it conflicts with my conscience? Whom do I believe? What does an “approved by the Lord” Latter-Day Saint look like?

I actually enjoy engaging these necessary questions daily. For example, does God care if you (as a female) wear pants to the temple? No. It’s even in the temple rules. But have you? Would you? Would you be self-conscious? Would you judge another sister you saw arriving in pants? How about jeans? How about dirty, torn jeans?

Does God care if you think differently about a gospel topic than your Sunday School teacher? Or does He just care that you think? Do you speak up in charitable disagreement? Should you? Should you not?

My friend, Jan, rides a motorcycle. She’s also my Stake President’s wife. When a General Authority stayed at their house during an ecclesiastical visit, she felt obliged to ask him if that was OK. Not the motorcycle. The motorcycle + female + church position. Should she feel obliged to ask?

I am hopeful that this current fiery trial in the church will burn away the pettiness, the unchristian judging, the over-reliance on tradition and human authority that so pervades our church culture, at least in the First World. I’m hoping those recent lessons on Unity will help. I love the “I Am a Mormon” campaign, because it highlights for members and nonmembers alike the fact that there is no one right way to be a Latter-Day Saint. The one right way is YOUR right way. Now I know some commenter will say, “There’s only one right way” and if we’re talking about the Savior, yes indeed. But no matter what color your hair or your skin, no matter your sex or sexual preference, no matter if you’re single or unsingle, fat or thin, wealthy or poor, or anywhere in between — this is a church for all God’s children. Of course, He (and She) gave commandments to obey, leaders to guide, and fellow saints to support. All for our sake. My rallying cry is to fix our eyes on the Savior, listen like crazy for the sound of His voice, and love one another. That’s all.

Teaching the Ideal, Living the Real

I first realized that my parents had sinned when I was about 13 years old. The lesson topic was the law of chastity, and I suddenly thought “if my parents had been keeping the commandments, I wouldn’t be here.” My mom had always told their story in a funny way and I loved hearing about how my parents had met; they had moved in together without telling her family, and one day my grandma came to visit my mom, but my dad opened the door instead. They got married and my mom returned to church activity a few years later. I was proud of her for bringing us to church every week and serving faithfully in our ward, and I loved my dad even though he didn’t come to church with us. During the lesson I looked around at the other girls in the room, including my friend whose parents weren’t members and weren’t married, and the one who had figured out that her oldest sibling’s birthday was only five months after her parents’ wedding anniversary. Our teacher earnestly told us that keeping the law of chastity and saving sex for after a temple wedding was the only path to a happy family, and yet here we were, living in our imperfect, mostly happy families.

Church can be painful sometimes. When I feel pain or discomfort from something said at church, I sit back and think about what the problem is. Often, I’m feeling the prick of conscience that lets me know that I’m not keeping the commandments as best I can. This pain can be a positive motivator to help me change and to feel a greater resolve to become more Christ-like. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I go to church every week—to renew my covenants with God and to learn more about His teachings and His plan for me. Other times, however, pain comes from things that are said that are not in line with God’s doctrine and that are wrong. I hurt because someone has made assumptions about others or about God that are not true and bring about shame. Shame comes when we feel that what we are is wrong, not that what we are doing is wrong. Continue reading Teaching the Ideal, Living the Real

Kate and John

My heart won’t stop hurting. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been summoned to church court for their activities related to the Ordain Women movement and the Mormon LGBT movement. I’m not upset because I’m an ardent supporter of either movement. I’m upset because I firmly believe that every Saint deserves to have a voice in our community. I’m upset because I am so grateful to people like Kate and John who are willing to say “dangerous” things out loud, when so many of us want to, but are too afraid to. I’m upset because of the atmosphere of fear that enters into our faith community when this sort of thing happens. What can I safely say? What causes dear to my heart will be “approved” by my respected church leaders? Do I trust my own spirit to hear and interpret the voice of the Holy Spirit, or do I leave that solely to my leaders, who I am sure listen to the same Spirit? What do I do when those spiritual interpretations collide? This sort of conundrum causes all sorts of self doubt. Some walk. Sometimes I wonder if the best of us walk, and if my choice to stay is foolish or faithful. I’ll say it right here at the start, though: despite all its man-made quirks and flaws, I love the Church and am convinced it holds the power of full salvation. So I stay. But right now, it just hurts. Continue reading Kate and John

We are all apostate

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Woman begging, by Tomas Castelazo

The man who sidled into the back of the rented Hungarian chapel was unprepossessing, at best. He was slightly built and dark-haired, wearing a cheap, white button-down shirt and nondescript pants. Certainly, there was nothing in his appearance to explain why the elders straightened to attention, why my companion and I exchanged knowing glances. The members had noticed his arrival, too. A slight rustle and murmuring swept through the small congregation.

The elders had brought an investigator with them that Sunday. I wondered what the young man would make of the newcomer’s inevitable testimony about the truth of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s calling—and the apostasy of every prophet since. Continue reading We are all apostate