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?”
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?