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the place in between

By Michelle Lehnardt

Nothing gets those hands flying in Relief Society like a question about apostasy. Our instructor is a lovely woman but she couldn’t control the poisonous labels flung toward the chalkboard– Prideful! Materialistic. Angry. Bitter. Dark. Adulterous. Unfaithful!

I twisted anxiously in my seat, staunching the temptation to scan the faces around me, because who knew–who could possibly know?– whom among us is passing through their own personal wilderness of doubt.

“How could any of the Kirtland saints leave the church?” shot an accusation from the back. “They witnessed the temple dedication– they saw angels and miracles. Did their hearts turn to stone?”

Sometimes, I believe the apostasy of others instills a certain pride in faithful members. Mormonism is a fantastic way of life, but the many rules and standards can lead to a quiet competition of who keeps them best. And those who abandon the faith? Well clearly we can count ourselves as more worthy than they.

Personally, I empathize with the early doubters– they lived in difficult times. And maybe, they simply needed space to ponder.

Nearly everyone who doubts their faith(and isn’t that all of us?) spends a season in between. Mormonism is not a life that one abandons lightly. Imagine balancing on a narrow wall. If forces from one side press too hard you’ll inevitably fall the other way. I suggest we give people more time on the fence.

Remember, My friend, the Apostate? She’s come back. Her reasons are many, but among them is the sweet truth that no one pushed her to the other side. Her parents, friends and ward accepted her family for their innate value and resisted the urge to engage in debate or argument. When the faith of her childhood gently tugged her back she was met with open, loving arms.

I’m reminded of a comment in Sunday School. A man with three sons gave this parable, “What if I sent my boys on a camping trip and told them ‘Care for each other. Watch out for each other. Love one another.’

And a week later only two of my boys came home. ‘We prepared the campsite, put up the tent, caught the fish and cooked the meals. Our brother just messed around while we were working. He got lost in the forest and wandered off.’

How would I feel? How does our Father in Heaven feel when we leave our brothers behind?”

Photobucket

Del Parson– The Lost Lamb

It’s a temptation, don’t you think? To pat ourselves on the back and say, “Look how faithful I am. If they mess up, that’s their problem.” But every injunction in the scriptures suggests otherwise, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Somehow, I think the Lord could care less if we understand Nephite migrations and the complexities of Levitical purification rites, the message He wants us to learn from His Word is to simply be kind to each other– to bring each other home.

“Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy” is the Relief Society/Priesthood topic this coming Sunday. How can we discuss this meaningfully?

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

56 thoughts on “the place in between”

  1. I was sitting in Sunday School once when a similar topic came up. One man in the room was very vocal in his criticism of a family member who was "straying". A quiet woman in front of me (who I happened to know was deeply struggling with her testimony and on the verge of inactivity) bravely shared some thoughts about judging and the need to love and support others through this kind of crisis. I'm sure that very few in the room knew just how deeply personal her comments were. The man who had made the initial comments listened and then shot back with, "Well, I still think he's an idiot and I just want to knock some sense back into him."

    That experience has helped to make me more aware of the things I say.

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  2. For me, being aware of personal apostasy is more applicable as I get older. In my younger days I was the one wondering how the Saints could wander when they had seen angels. Now that I've seen a few angels in my own life I have also seen my share of demons and it's hard at times to hang on.

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  3. Michelle, thank you.

    I very often wonder who's in the room and what struggles they have, especially knowing that my brother was one of those struggling and who ultimately left, partly because he felt so misunderstood and disenfranchised by individuals in rooms like that (just a few vocal people can feel like a majority when you're hurting).

    "How can we discuss this meaningfully?" I think the best lessons are those that stay far away from the discussing of *others'* decisions and behaviors and instead focus on our own. I believe lessons at church are for serious soul searching and improvement of ourselves and our own relationship with God and Christ, complementing our taking of the sacrament. Not for brainstorming about how wrong others are or what they could do better and how righteous we ourselves are! = )

    I'm looking forward to hearing others' insights and comments about this, including how to gently and lovingly (but firmly!) turn the discussion toward more constructive and loving comments.

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  4. So what if you've seen angels? The day to day harshness of life can (especially for the early saints) can beat the testimony out of many people.

    It hasn't for me, thank goodness. But I have no harsh feelings for people who have left the church. If they have kids, though, I have to scratch my head. Life is hard enough for a child/teenager who understands the plan of salvation and that they're a child of God. But to not even give your child that basic knowlegde? What are you thinking?

    What a great idea to give us something to mull about before the lesson on Sunday! (I guess I could simply read my manual. Who am I kidding? that will never happen!!!)

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  5. Oh, sitting through those lessons/talks/discussions is sometimes so painful. Most often, there's at least one lone voice in the crowd that can offer hope, compassion, understanding, patience– to the souls in the room who happen to be in the "middle place." But what damage has now been done with those other comments? I don't think people are thinking about this when they hot-headedly and matter-of-factly fling their labels and judgment. (But, maybe, they're also hurting, and just trying to make sense of things? Not all… but maybe some…) I personally hope I am never a contributing factor in someone's choice to step away from the church. You're right on: I think the Lord would rather have us really "get" the gospel, than be masters at reciting the Nephite migration routes.
    I'll miss this lesson on Sunday as I'll be teaching my terrific 11/12 primary class. But I'll be praying that my ward plays nice.
    Good post.

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  6. I love your posts Michelle.

    I believe the answer to most of these questions does lie in 1 Corinthians 13. If we have charity, we are free from pride and judgment. We are blessed to have a Savior who knows us intimately and understands our hearts. His arm is stretched out always, always. And we are commanded to be as He is. If our hearts are filled with love and compassion, wouldn't our arm be stretched out to those who are teetering on that wall?

    One of the greatest blessings I've received is the opportunity(at times)to feel the Saviors love for a brother or sister. As I served and felt His love flow through me to someone else, I understood the worth of our souls, if only briefly. In those moments, any need for self recognition melted. It's all about love, right?

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  7. I read the lesson today (we'll get it this Sunday) and I found it interesting that whenever Joseph Smith talked about apostasy, he mentioned the lack of charity. He said:
    "In order to conduct the affairs of the Kingdom in reighteousness, it is important that the most perfect harmony, kind feeling, good understanding, and confidence should exist in the hearts of all the brethren; and that true charity, love one towards another, should characterize all their proceedings…"

    Of course, the apostasy they are speaking about is one where people tried to overthrow the Prophet. That's pretty bad stuff, and we don't see it in quite the same way now-a-days. However, the idea of apostasy is scary because it's real –people leave. Why they leave is extremely individual, but they still leave.

    Last night, after doing sealings in the Temple, the sealer spoke at length to those of us in the room about how powerful the covenants and sealings were, and that we were to be wise not to take them lightly. He spoke of his own children in tears, some of who have broken their covenants, and how his love and hope for them has not changed. But he emphasized the importance of clinging to the Gospel. Sitting in that room, having just performed those ordinances for those who have passed on, I was overcome with the truth of his words. This stuff is powerful, man. We shouldn't ever throw it away without really thinking it through, you know?

    Having excommunicated and inactive family members, I know all too well the pain of seeing apostasy at an individual level. I know what that Temple sealer was talking about last night. I don't believe we should ever apologize for commandments, covenants, etc. but at the same time, I understand what you mean about "the fence." I would have rather seen one particular family member stay on the fence for decades rather than see her fall.

    Okay, I don't even know what my point is anymore. I guess this topic is confusing for me, because on one hand, I totally get the idea of how we need to be careful. I get how we need to watch our words and actions and keep ourselves constantly in tune with the Spirit so we don't nourish the doubt unto apostasy. I agree that we shouldn't question, belittle, or speak against our Priesthood leaders. But at the same time, I know we all struggle with different aspects of the Gospel. I mean, dang! Even I have things I'm needing to hand over to God because I'm not sure if I can go along with everything I've been told. I absolutely agree that we need to be careful about what we say to one another –especially because we don't know what is going on in each life. Comparing righteousness is a game where everyone loses –when we compare ourselves with each other. The only person we should be comparing our righteousness to is Christ and ourselves. Anything beyond that is pride, eh? And pride leads to… Yeah. You know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Okay, I've gone on long enough. But thanks, Michelle, for this post. It's given me a lot to think about!

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  8. I agree with martha…love is the key here. I think Joseph Smith loved the early apostates and opened them back when they chose too and still loved them when they didn't. He knew what he was asking them do was hard. Now that does not excuse our own frailties or problems but I think it helps to keep in mind that the Lord is the judge not us and that we are asked to love our neighbors not condemn them. Rachel

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  9. Being RS pres is a continual exercise in discovering my own lack of imagination. Who knew what all those quiet hearts were hiding? I know what's in a few, and I'm sure a lot more are still hiding, so I've been worrying about the comments this lesson may elicit since I read it on Monday. I agree that the focus needs to be on preventing (or stemming the tide of) your own personal apostasy–not everyone else's.

    And thank you for the update on Your Friend, the Apostate. I've been thinking about her for months!

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  10. I'm grateful that the Lord knows our hearts and true circumstances and THAT is how we will be judged.
    I often remind myself of Christ's teaching in Matthew 7:1-5. With "what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" and "first cast the beam out of thine own eye."
    Years ago I read an article by Dallin H. Oaks, (โ€œโ€˜Judge Notโ€™ and Judging,โ€ Ensign, Aug 1999) that was really powerful and focused my thinking and conscious actions towards others in trying to not judge.

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  11. I have been struggling, sitting on the fence, for over a year now. Fear of these kinds of judgements and comments pull me deeper and deeper into my shell. I don't feel like I can be open about my feelings because I've heard the kinds of things that my well meaning ward members have said about others who've had the same types of doubts I am having.

    "How could she… knowing what she knows?" "He must not have ever had a real testimony in the first place." and my all time favorite "I guess some people are just stupid. They can't see the truth when it's plainly right in front of them."

    At times I envy those who seem to never doubt, and I feel weak because I do. I know that most of the time people aren't trying to be hurtful, and I'm sure that there are those who truly cannot imagine falling away. I guess my point is, that, for me, it's bad enough feeling so conflicted and like I'm disapointing the Lord without having to bear the judgment of my ward members too.

    Thanks for writing this.

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  12. i'm just checking In Between Flights today, so I don't have much time to write. just wanted to thank you Michelle for this thoughtful post. You of course have a pretty good understanding of what this topic would mean to me. Though it surprises me that there would be that kind of dialogue in a church meeting (my wards have never been very controversial in their comments i guess), it makes me sad to think that even though people may not SAY this kind of stuff, there may be those who are thinking it. i've heard every argument about why people apostize. but the truth is we don't know. and now we're starting to board the aircraft so i look forward to reading the comments later tonight. have a great day! ♥

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  13. Thank you Michelle! Three months ago, I was called as RS president (for the first time) in a place unlike any we have ever lived. I am dealing with things with the sisters in the ward that honestly, I did not know even existed. And yet, I was not prepared for how I would feel about this sisters. I do not just say this when I say that the love overwhelms me at times.

    And do you know the greatest lesson I have learned in these three months? People need to know you care. Truly care. No matter what they are doing, no matter if they come to church, no matter how they treat you. When you show them that you honestly care, absolute miracles happen! And I do not mean that they suddenly start coming to church. Sometimes a woman that would never, in a million years, return your phone call, does. And just wants to talk a little. And you get off the phone and weep because your heart tells you that she understands that you truly care.

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  14. I don't mean to imply that I'm all that wonderful, but I too feel no judgement in those that apostatized in the early days of the Church. Those were extremely hard times and who's to say who among us isn't going through the same things. I can sit here and say that I would never have left the church. Hey! I'm just grateful I was born into it because just maybe I would have been one that wouldn't have accepted it then. That thought frightens me. It was a HUGE culture change. My great grandfather did accept it and for that I am grateful. How he had the strength to stay with it amid all the turmoil they went through is amazing to me.

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  15. I think just the word "apostate" brings so many negative thoughts to people's minds. I have two uncles and one aunt who left the church. There wasn't any church court to my knowledge, they just drifted away. My grandparents didn't lecture them or show them any less love than the rest of their children, and they didn't badmouth the church in front of me or my cousins. They all are part of the family no matter what. Of course if I allow myslef to think about it, I'm saddened that they aren't with the rest of us in the church, and that many of their children have followed their example, but the word "apostate" never comes into my head. To me, an "apostate" is one who not only leaves the church, but actively attacks the church. People who leave because of personal doubts aren't villains or idiots; they just may need quiet time to think how they want to live their lives without anyone pressuring them. God doesn't pressure anyone by saying "I'm gonna get you and bring you home," He merely offers the invitation to "Come unto me." We have to decide whether we will come or not.

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  16. I think we've all been there, on some levels, the questions, the uncertainty. And honestly, even with a solid testimony of my own, I haven't seen God face to face – I still have to rely on my faith.

    I was at a Stake Enrichment last night and the speaker talked about her daughter, who had left the church. The mother fasted every Sunday for an entire year for her daughter to return to the church. As a new year began, she went the Lord on the first Sunday and began another fast. She said the Spirit spoke plainly to her — "It was ok to be sad that your daughter isn't what you hoped she would be. But now it's time to love her for who she is." She said she was reminded what a wonderful person she was either way.

    I think we need to give ourselves permission to grieve if children have left the church, but we also need to remember that the Lord still loves them, and we do to if we'd let ourselves remember.

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  17. Michelle, there is so much value in opening up this conversation. During this time of "wondering and wandering" in my life, I was amazed by the number of friends, family or ward members who felt it was "safe" to share openly with me that they feel/have felt the exact same things that drove me to take a step away from the church to re-evaluate these things for myself. Many people were able to withold judgment and just love us because they can relate to the feelings/questions/doubts.

    I will be honest, it is hard for me to be so "out loud" and open about this whole experience but I just KNOW that there is someone out there who might need to hear that their feelings of doubt or questioning are not foreign to some of the rest of us.

    One of the great comments on my blog recently was this, that I just have to bring into this conversation:

    It is by apostle Hugh B. Brown. Called "A Final Testimony" and it's published in the book An Abundant Life. One quote that has stuck with me is this:

    "I should like to awaken in everyone a desire to investigate, to make an independent study of religion, and to know for themselves whether or not the teachings of the Mormon church are true. I should like to see everyone prepared to defend the religion of his or her parents, not because it was the religion of our fathers and mothers but because they have found it to be the true religion. If one approaches it with an open mind, with a desire to know the truth, and if one questions with a sincere heart what one hears from time to time, he or she will be on the road to growth and service. There are altogether too many people in the world who are willing to accept as true whatever is printed in a book or delivered from a pulpit. Their faith never goes below the surface soil of authority. I plead with everyone I meet that they may drive their faith down through that soil and get hold of the solid truth, that they may be able to withstand the winds and storm of indecision and of doubt, of opposition and persecution. Then, and only then, will we be able to defend our religion successfully." My mom heard him summarize that idea in a BYU devotional in the 70s: "It is not only your right to question, but your duty to question."

    Let's just say that I have taken my duty to question very, VERY seriously. : ) And I do feel like my faith, although complicated, is something that is MINE it's AUTHENTIC and I am so grateful for it.

    I thank Heaven for family, friends and ward members that let us "do our thing" and loved us fully until we were back at the point where we decided that "our thing" was being Mormon.

    What I can testify of is this: God is not going to drop you like a hot potato if you are questioning or doubting. Although I was technically inactive in the church, I was not inactive in my efforts to draw near to God, to grow my relationship with my Heavenly Father. During the time of my "apostacy" that relationship was stronger than ever.

    Some Mormons would say that I didn't "deserve" to have the companionship of the spirit. All that matters to me is that it did happen and I am ever grateful for a new testimony of God's grace, mercy, patience and love. He knows us. And I know that.

    Love to you Michelle. Reading the comments here gives me such hope in the grace that can be extended by church members to each other.

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  18. Great Post Michelle,

    I suppose I don't really know what else to say that hasn't been already said, but I would like to reemphasize the power of love.

    When I went through a period of "apostasy", it was not known by most of my (our) ward because I still attended Church and seemed to be doing all the things that a "good Mormon" teenager should do.

    But I wasn't spiritually satisfied in Mormonism at the time. Some of those who did know of my lack of belief, to be entirely honest, were very judgmental and actually reduced the social pressure for me to return to the Church. Why would I want to be in a Church that would treat me this way? It was only through the example of one person, someone who reached out with love, not judgment, that I returned to full fellowship in the Church and am now preparing to serve a mission for the Church. In fact, my call should come in one (if all goes well) to two weeks. I am grateful for this upcoming opportunity to share the happiness and love I found as expressed through the examples of the True Saints of God.

    I think the problem we encounter when we start putting labels on people's degrees of activity, faith or belief, is that we have a rather large beam in our eye and are pointing out a moat that we may not be able to even actually see because our vision is so clouded. Real saints don't cast stones. Real saints drop whatever stones they have and reach out with love. No matter what the situation.

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  19. Chelle and Jacob– thank you. The church desperately needs both of you. I can't wait to see you as a missionary Jacob!

    The Hugh B. Brown quote should be required reading– thank you, thank you.

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  20. This reminds me of a Sharing Time lesson a while ago where the children were asked about examples of not choosing the right. All the hands shot up to give examples of how naughty their siblings were. We are not too different than children, so ready to point fingers and look beyond our own shortcomings. Thanks for bringing up this important topic and for the gentle reminder to be humble and non-judgmental, and prepare us not only for the lesson this Sunday, but also adjust our perspective on how we view others' journeys.

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  21. Michelle, great post. I have to teach this lesson on Sunday and have really been searching for the right way to approach it. I hope to walk the fine line between challenging us all to deepen our personal testimonies while still showing support for those that may be in a period of doubt or confusion. We all loosen our grip on the rod at times, the path is narrow and easy to stray from. May we be more supportive of those around us that need our help and more willing to reach out to others when we need theirs.

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  22. Justine's comment I think gets at another tension here–we need to also allow for the pain that comes when a loved one struggles or strays. Perhaps sometimes those abrupt comments come from pain and so perhaps THOSE people need love, too. But love has to be there, too. Love and forgiveness and humility (not the self-righteous pride that Michelle talks about).

    I don't for a minute want to suggest that we leave biting comments to hang and cause their own pain. That said, I think there are those in the room sometimes who are processing their own pain and frustration and even confusion at how people could stray — perhaps in their own lives.

    I also think there needs to be room to talk about this topic in plain terms. No, we ought not have a spirit of criticism or pride when we discuss this topic, but I also think that sometimes in our fear of offending, we could avoid talking about important principles. Some of Joseph Smith's words are really plain and important. It's a hard topic, and there is that fine line that I think only the Spirit can really help a teacher and class walk. (izzy summed it up well, I think.)

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  23. Thank you for writing this wonderful post. My heart is beating outside my chest as I process all of the feelings I have about this topic. I'm not sure I can put to words what I think, and feel, so for now I will just say this: Think first! Love everyone! and just be nice! If we (as a people) would just remember to be nice and not judge others around us, it could make all the difference for someone else.

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  24. Quite often we as an LDS community have a distorted view of the "great plan of happiness" and the Lord's work of bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man." We sometimes act as if there is one chair in Heaven and we must push others out of the way in order to get to it first. The beautiful part about this Gospel is that everyone will be blessed by the Atonement, and everyone will find a comfortable seat. For those who really believe that there is only one chair and want to be sure they make that chair their seat, then they had better be willing to give it up. That is the ironic part!

    I believe that some comments are made in class without thought of the feelings of those around us. Charity needs to be practiced in all that we say, simply because we do not know where our fellow saints are on their journey of conversion. Conversely, all comments must be regarded with charity as well, for the exact same reason.

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  25. I was just having a discussion with my sister about this, and I am glad to read your comments, because I have felt harsh. And I so often forget that people have different dimensions. So if I get to go to RS for more than ten minutes this week, I am going to go with an open heart. Thanks.

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  26. I have to admit that I have felt some frustration about some of the early members of the church, esp those who witnessed the golden plates and then still chose to walk away. How could they do that? Although they never denied what they witnessed, they still gave up something so beautiful. But then again, as we have heard many times, it's the spirit that testifies truth and builds our testimonies, not the physical evidence.

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  27. it's so funny that you bring up the early saints. i often think i would definitely had been an apostate back then because i still have hard times with some church history.

    what bothers me the most is that people don't understand that everyone is here having a unique experience. and even if others can't understand that unique experience, what compels them to weigh in?

    i always think of the first and great commandment: love one another. isn't it really as simple as that? don't judge. not ever. just love.

    and speaking of which: xoxoxo

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  28. Wow Michelle,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and leading this discussion. What more can I say that hasn't already been said. I absolutely love the Hugh B. Brown quote. You're right, required reading. And Chelly, I don't think you'll ever know how many people you've helped by sharing your experience. Love to you both!

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  29. I just want to say that I appreciate those who are willing to say, "I'm one of those people who struggle." I think one way we can knit our hearts together is to be willing to be vulnerable. It's hard to learn compassion in a vacuum, and honesty about our struggles, imo, is a way for us to help each other gain compassion for the reality of struggle around us.

    I think it would be interesting to have a post-lesson post to see how people's lessons went!

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  30. I can't believe I'm actually doing this, but I can't seem to move away from this site without saying something.

    And yet I'm having the hardest time knowing how to begin.

    Part of me feel like I have no business here. I'm not an active member of the church. I haven't been for quite some time. The odd thing is that I still have a great love for the church and the gospel. I have a great love for my family and friends who are active. I suppose you could compare me to those early saints who saw the angels, temples, gold plates, etc and still struggled or 'lost their way'.

    I wish more members of the church were like many of you here. I wish that I could forget the words of judgement and scorn from well-meaning ward members. Please know that I have forgiven…I just can't seem to forget. Unfortunately, I never questioned my beliefs before that time years ago. My faith was blind and unwavering until it all seemed to come crashing down, not able to withstand the judgement from those I loved and trusted when I went through a very tough time.

    I'm not here to change anyone's opinion, only to give you my own. I am blessed to have a family who has only ever loved me unconditionally. And I suppose that gets me to my point. It is not our job to 'save' anyone…only to love them. No matter what.

    I love my Heavenly Father and I know that He loves me. And for right now, that's the most important part of all of this.

    Thank you, Michelle…that was a wonderful post.

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  31. Jill– your words took my breath away. Thank you, thank you.

    And she-bop– I love your advice: "Think first! Love everyone! and just be nice!"

    We need to continue this conversation and grow together. Yes, the lesson on apostasy needs to be taught, but how?

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  32. Yeah, after reading the lesson I felt a little glad that I won't be in RS this Sunday. A lot of things have happened over the last few years and I suddenly find myself the only active member (besides my mom) in my family. Even my husband has left the church too. I'm still processing it and trying to figure out how to re-see myself and my family in a whole new way. It's hard. I still love all of them and they are certainly good people; I think more than anything I would keep the lesson focused on loving others and seeking charity. My husband has responded best to those who reach out to him in a spirit of love and honest friendship rather than those who want to "fix" his issues and get him back to church.

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  33. My husband has responded best to those who reach out to him in a spirit of love and honest friendship rather than those who want to โ€œfixโ€ his issues and get him back to church.

    I think we all do. I hope he has found more of that than not. (He's blessed to have you as a wife. I hope you find the love and support you need, too!)

    So, as to the lesson, I just hope all those who are giving it give it lots of prayer and preparation…because it's the kind of lesson where the Spirit is so necessary!

    I have been thinking about this all day, and that is really in my mind the only sure solution or 'how to handle/approach the lesson' answer I could come up with. The Spirit IS love, and communicates love in the purest way possible. And the Spirit comes from teaching pure doctrine.

    Teaching with fear will only impede the Spirit. I think it could be easy to be *afraid* of this lesson, but taught with the Spirit, it could be really powerful, because the Spirit could help everyone in the room reflect on where he/she is, not worry about where others are.

    I'd say one thing that might be worth considering is to begin with that invitation – to invite people to look inward, not to try to apply the lesson to try to 'fix' or convince others of what *they* need to do or to judge others' lives — after all, all of us are works in progress, and judgment in the final sense is still a long ways off! Inviting that kind of perspective might be a way to head off judgmental comments/thoughts/feelings that could hinder the flow of the Spirit in the lesson.

    Apostasy is something none of us is immune from. That's why we have this lesson, no?

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  34. I love that you've shared out loud. In all things. You are amazing and I adore you. I'm so glad that you shared this journey with all of us.

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  35. You guys are all completely insane! It doesn't matter the religion, all that matters is what's in your heart. Learn to love people for who they are, not what church building they go to every Sunday.

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  36. Ah, the nasty anonymous commenter. What would a blog conversation be without that unsavory element.

    Dear "what?"

    do you see the double standard in your comment? Calling everyone here "completely insane" and then admonishing us to "love people for who they are"

    What?

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  37. A while ago, I was studying the topic of apostasy as it was presented in "Preach My Gospel." Beyond the obvious connection to the need for a restoration, I wondered why it was such a prominent theme. I had the impression to consider how the idea of apostasy and restoration on a large-scale (e.g. the church of Christ) was a type of the Atonement operating on an individual scale. Just as Christ has reclaimed His church, He will reclaim each of us with great love and mercy. If apostasy implies knowingly moving away from God, we ALL experience seasons of apostasy. The great blessing is that through Christ, we don't have to remain in our fallen state. Maybe in our RS lessons we can emphasize the universal nature of apostasy (to varying degrees) and the equally universal need for the Savior.

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  38. What a great discussion (but aren't all Segullah discussions great? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    I struggle most greatly with my faith, my conversion. I don't think I went into this with a clear mind. I think my heart was doing all the thinking, and as someone who needs and loves to think things through very thoroughly, I tripped quickly thereafter and haven't been back in a meaningful way since.

    I pride myself on being a thinker, a questioner (I loved that quote from Elder Brown above!), someone who is rational and logical, etc. so faith is very, very difficult for me. And yet, I have a burning in my bosom to be part of this Church.

    The hardest part for me, honestly, are the social issues. I don't want to offend anyone here so I'll leave the examples out of my comment, but basically all of the social issues most LDS members believe in, I wholeheartedly do not. And even though the Church is "party neutral" it is very much involved in other issues and they just do not sit right with me at all.

    So, that leaves me… where? I wish I knew. Some of the sisters from my ward call and write to see if I want to attend this or discuss that, and I love hearing from them, but can't bring myself to tell them what I've said here anonymously.

    I have loved reading all the comments here, it IS nice to know

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  39. What a great discussion (but aren't all Segullah discussions great? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    I struggle most greatly with my faith, my conversion. I don't think I went into this with a clear mind. I think my heart was doing all the thinking, and as someone who needs and loves to think things through very thoroughly, I tripped quickly thereafter and haven't been back in a meaningful way since.

    I pride myself on being a thinker, a questioner (I loved that quote from Elder Brown above!), someone who is rational and logical, etc. so faith is very, very difficult for me. And yet, I have a burning in my bosom to be part of this Church. This is very vexing for me, I assure you.

    The hardest part for me, honestly, are the social issues. I don't want to offend anyone here so I'll leave the examples out of my comment, but basically most of the social issues that a majority of LDS members believe in, I wholeheartedly do not. And even though the Church is "party neutral" it is very much involved in other issues and they just do not sit right with me at all.

    So, that leaves me… where? I wish I knew. Some of the ladies from my ward call and write to see if I want to attend this or discuss that, and I love hearing from them, but can't bring myself to tell them what I've said here.

    I have loved reading all the comments here, it IS nice to know that others, other faithful members with strong testimonies, have struggled, questioned, even stepped back. I liked what one commenter said about the definition of apostate. The apostate being someone who not only leaves but is against the Church. Others being those who need some time to step back and think without pressure. I consider myself of the latter. I am not against the Church or its people. I am the one who is trying to see if the shoe fits.

    If there is a God and all this is true, the God that I know is most understanding, personal, loving, and even though it may be true that I will be judged, I don't fear that because my God loves me and knows me better than I even know myself. I don't fear God. I am just heavily plagued with doubt and am muddied with resistance.

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  40. I started the comment with "Anonymous" as my name, but didn't want to be confused with the other anon commenter. That's why there are two of mine, the latter being the full comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  41. Marisa, the last paragraph of your comment touched my heart deeply. Why? Because we (you and I) know the same God. And that is truly the most amazing feeling to know that God created each of us and LOVES us and made each of us "tick" the way that we "tick". If our intent is pure and we are moving in the direction of exercising our faith, then there is no need to fear.

    I have found (through yoga practice and meditation) that the best thing I can do is learn how to live and appreciate the "now" of my life. I can get so caught up in my head with philosophical debates, that it can deter from my purpose here and now. As President Monson so beautifully said most recently: Find Joy in the Journey!

    And I am with you on the social issues. It's really, really, really hard. I don't think you are alone– there are other faithful church members who are working the same things out in their mind and heart. Thank you so much for sharing here and I wish you luck in your joyful journey…

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  42. Chelle ~ Thank you so much for what you have said. I hope that I can find out what is right for me. My personal knowledge of God and the Lord feel different than my experience at Church. I want the two to mesh, very much. But at this point, they haven't.

    It seems odd that even though God is the only true Judge, there are those in Church who undoubtedly think of me (and all the 'others') as an apostate, whatever their definition of that word is. I wish that I could connect with one of the sisters from Church and not fear saying what I think and feel. But that's also the beauty of a blog – one can do that here! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you again.

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  43. Chelle– you're the hero of this discussion. Thank you for continuing to contribute(and to defend us against the angry commenter who clearly hadn't read this thoughtful and compassionate discussion).

    Analisa- thank you for reminding us of "our universal need for the Savior."

    Marissa– you've brought up so many important thoughts. I read your last paragraph over and over. I agree with Chelle(who has saved the day more than once in this discussion) that you are certainly not alone on social issues. It used to be that all Mormons thought alike, looked alike, desperately tried to BE alike. But I believe we are entering a new era where we are all united under Christ and able to differ in many other ways. Clearly, we need you in the church and we need to find more ways to connect with each other.

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  44. there are other faithful church members who are working the same things out in their mind and heart.

    I was struck at how the leaders specifically said with the most recent social issue (prop 8) that they realized that people won't all agree with the Church's position. I liked whoever said that there is a difference between fighting against the church (full-on apostasy) and struggling within the Church or struggling along the way to figure out one's relationship with the Church.

    Either way, we need to have open arms and hearts to each other, but just because someone is struggling doesn't mean they are fighting against the Church. (On the flip side, I think it's possible to struggle in a way that hurts the Church, but that's another extreme, and not what I see here, so just to be clear….)

    When I was pondering this lesson, the last half of 3 Ne. 18 came to mind. Three times, the Savior tells the people and the leaders to not cast people out. Leaders may have to draw the line with worthiness/sacrament issues, but beyond that, the Savior's message is about open hearts and arms and doors…and following His example to invite others to 'come and see.'

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  45. I'm with Brooke. Love one another.

    It drives me nuts when we as members of the church make judgements based on surface evaluations. It is the extreme opposite of what we are taught to do.

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  46. I have another question about apostacy, if that's okay.

    Is leaving the Church the same as denying the Church/God/Christ? Is one condemned to the Outer Darkness for having left? If a person comes back to the Church after having left for a time, is there no hope for them or can they still work to earn a place in Heaven?

    Thanks to anyone who can answer.

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  47. Clearly, I'm no General Authority Marissa, but I'm going to say absolutely not– no one would be cast away for leaving the church. God wants to save all his children and although God "looks upon sin with the least degree of allowance" I believe there is/can be/will be a huge variation in how we worship God.

    Even Brigham Young agreed that Mormons won't dominate during the Millennium: โ€œThey will ask, โ€œIf I bow the knee and confess that he is that Saviour, the Christ, to the glory of the Father, will you let me go home and be a Presbyterian?โ€ โ€œYes.โ€ โ€œAnd not persecute me?โ€ โ€œNever.โ€ โ€œWonโ€™t you let me go home and belong to the Greek Church?โ€ โ€œYes.โ€ โ€œWill you allow me to be a Friend Quaker, or a Shaking Quaker?โ€ โ€œO yes, anything you wish to be, but remember that you must not persecute your neighbors, but must mind your own business, and let your neighbors alone, and let them worship the sun, moon, a white dog, or anything else they please, being mindful that every knee has got to bow and every tongue confess. When you have paid this tribute to the Most High, who created you and preserves you, you may then go and worship what you please, or do what you please, if you do not infringe upon your neighbors.โ€

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  48. Marissa, of course I am no authority, either, but I'll share my thoughts. I think only God can know the answer for each person. I think it also depends on what one's knowledge level is along the way. People who really, really have known and turn against the light are, I imagine, a lot different than those who never fully 'knew' things in the first place. (My understanding, for example, is that outer darkness is reserved for people who knew so much and deliberately, maliciously fight against God, the Savior, light and truth. My understanding is that few of us have that kind of knowledge to get to that point.)

    And only God knows all the complicated factors in each of our lives.

    I have seen too many scriptures and quotes from leaders talking about the importance of ordinances and such to simply think that none of that matters, but I have also seen enough of the reality that we can't judge each other in this way because there is just waaaay too much we don't know about each other, even sometimes about ourselves.

    I also believe God can take us from wherever we are, and lead us to the next level of light and truth, wherever that is. Just because one is a member of the Church doesn't mean that one is choosing to progress toward more light and truth (in other words, membership alone doesn't provide assurance of eternal life). On the flip side, just because one is not in the Church at any given time doesn't mean one cannot progress toward the next level of light and truth.

    Just too much complication, imo, to really have a simple answer.

    But as to your final question, I think the principle of repentance applies to anyone and everyone. Alma in the Book of Mormon is an example (although if the Book of Mormon isn't something you fee comfy with, then ignore my answer!). He fought against the church (hard) even as he had been raised in the church. He chose to come back and was forgiven completely.

    Paul in the NT, is a good example of that principle, too.

    (Both are examples of sometimes how God will snatch us from error. I think more often than not, though, progress toward light and truth is more gradual.)

    I think God can help and guide each of us line upon line. It's one of the wonders of being His children.

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  49. m&m ~ Thank you, too, for your comment. What you have said both makes sense and is comforting. THIS is the God I know – I want to learn more about these kinds of things. I guess I just get deterred when I hear things like "fear God" etc., instead of his love and forgiveness, and the social-ness of being a convert which is hard (at least for me) makes me shy away.

    It is nice to be able to get answers here without any pressure. Thank you all. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  50. I thought your comments were very wise. Having recently tested my own charity with close family members "leaving" the gospel for a more "open-minded" way of life, I have struggled with many of the thoughts you so eloquently voiced for all to ponder in their own hearts. Ironically, I feel quite "open-minded" as a Latter-Day Saint. I don't need to "leave" to remain open…

    Very well-written and thoughtful, Michelle!

    DeAnne

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