Thursday, June 12, 2014

God Bless Us Any Way

Christus Statue. Salt Lake Visitors Center.

I’m Mormon. That means I belong to The Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints.

I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I don’t talk about it online very often. I much prefer to publicly revel in the trivial and the inane, than to get caught up in debate over topics of depth in which I am truly and personally invested.

But lately, I’m seeing more and more harshness and unkindness floating through the Ethernet—both from outsiders taking potshots at the church that I love and, more disturbingly, from people within the church saying hateful things about those who differ from the mainstream.

It bothers me when people outside my church state things that are misleading. I worry that others will believe untrue statements and judge my religion, and me, in a negative light. But my faith is strong enough to trust that God is in charge and that truth can stand up to a little scrutiny.

It bothers me when active Latter-day Saints malign those of our fellowship who are struggling with issues and concerns. These are our brothers and sisters. They are fellow, imperfect mortals, who, in my opinion, are just trying to find a measure of peace and balance between the religion they are drawn toward and the reality of their personal life experience.

It bothers me when representatives of my church censure and discipline members who don’t fully follow the doctrine and current policies. I’m not talking about people who commit predatory and harmful acts against others, but those who question, who wonder, who speak about their personal experiences and struggles, and who are trying to find their way in a very confusing world. 

Why don’t we embrace these members instead? Why don’t we listen and love? Why don’t we offer spiritual encouragement and emotional support while they sift, and sort, and heal? Just as God is not damaged by those who don’t believe in Him, truth is not diminished by honest questions.

I admit, there are things in the Latter-day Saint doctrine and policies that I wonder about. For example, one of the issues that kept me from fully embracing the gospel as a teen was I could never quite comprehend why good men of color were excluded from the priesthood. Fortunately, that is now a non-issue, but as I watch my beautiful grandsons who have much more than “one drop” of color in them, I wonder why it ever was.

I still find things that I wonder about and that bother me a little and ruffle my personal feathers. Things that cause pain for people I love. There have been times when I’ve been offended by leaders who should have protected me. Times when my pain has been minimized by those who should have comforted me, when my trials and doubts have been trivialized by those who should have lovingly counseled me.

But I stay in this church, and I consciously and willingly set these things aside because of the overwhelming testimony I have of God’s love for me; of the Savior Jesus Christ’s investment in my eternal well-being; and the absolute firm belief I have in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

As I’ve heard other like-minded people ask, “Where else would I go?” No other religion (and yes, I investigated a few many years ago) has offered me the simple beauty I find in the Book of Mormon, nor the surety of God’s personal awareness of me as an individual. When I pray, the God of my understanding, the God of my heart, hears and answers me. He tells me that I’m exactly where He wants me to be—a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Mormon.

And so I confirm, this is the religion I love. Despite the questions and the injustices and the pain that are always found when mortal men and women interact with each other, this is where I choose to be. This is where I stand. And if the past is any predictor of the future, I can say that no person, no issue, no trial will dissuade me

And believe me, I have trials. The people I love have trials. Each and every one of us has trials. And every day in personal conversation, or on Facebook, or on blogs and websites, my heart is touched by those of us whose trials and issues take us outside the idealized norm of my chosen religion.

In this increasingly interconnected, multi-cultural world, I am often confronted with statements by those in my fellowship of faith that are not only diverse, but in some cases could be interpreted as militant, or even destructive to traditional Mormon doctrine

Sometimes I find that I agree with the content, if not always the delivery.

Sometimes I can see their point, but I vehemently disagree.

And sometimes, for the life of me, I can’t understand why in the world they think and feel the way they do.  Their life path is so different from mine that I am tempted to respond like one of my grandchildren likes to say at times, “That makes no sense to me at all!”

But when I pray to this God of my understanding, when I invoke the Atonement of this Jesus the Book of Mormon has taught me to love and worship, the answering Spirit most often tells me to find the good in everyone and celebrate it. It tells me to do my mortal best (which admittedly is rarely the best at all) to love those around me, and to mind my own business.

To those who feel marginalized, minimized, disenfranchised, and unaccepted within the church that I love, I am truly sorry. You are welcome to sit on the pew beside me.

To those who feel you must take an unpopular stand to find understanding and healing, I support you on your path. I believe that God loves an honest heart, and that He will find you and heal you.

To those, including myself, who don’t understand others who see the world so differently, try a little harder. I’ll forgive you, you forgive me, and we’ll muddle through together.

And to all of us, God bless us any way and on our way.


Anonymous said...

You've brought tears to my eyes. Love you mom.

Tonja said...

Karlene, you should write this more often! You are so eloquent and your passion and thoughtfulness in expression are much appreciated. In my experience, the church is fairly tolerant of people with differing opinions and those who question doctrine and policies of the church. They draw the line and proceed with disciplinary action when those people attempt to persuade other people to take a stand against official church doctrine and policies. That having been said, I have seen instances where those in authority, especially at local levels, handle situations poorly when they could have done something more effective in a much more loving manner.

Karlene said...

Thanks, Melanie. As I told McKenna yesterday, the biggest esteem booster in the world is to have a child praise you in public. :)

And thank you, Tonja. While posting this was obviously a reaction to what's happening in the news right now, it's been something I've thought about for years. I don't know the details of the individuals currently facing discipline, and it's really none of my business.

However, I have been in situations (pre-internet and social media) where local authorities could have been much kinder and where individual members of a ward were heartless in their disdain for others without having all the facts. That was really the driving passion behind of this post.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Beautifully said, Karlene, thank you. I think you've expressed what so many of us feel.

I think I've been very blessed to live in wards and stakes (CA, OK, UT, NM) where the leadership and people are generally kind and forgiving and help those who are in need, not only temporally but spiritually and reach out to those who are struggling with faith and doubts and sin. We all doubt throughout our lives. That's why the first principle of the gospel if FAITH. It's the building block to everything else. My husband has been in a bishopric 3 times now and Bishop as well and he's always stated that the courts he's had to participate in are loving and spiritual - and heartbreaking, too. He says the Spirit is always very strong. Repentance is also a basic principle of the gospel and where in the world would we be without the Savior who knows us intimately and who knows all things.

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