Friday I spoke on Sunstone’s “Why I Stay” panel. At the risk of condensing so brutally that I render my comments illogical, I share here a very brief summary in hopes of enticing you to add why you who stay in the church do stay. Reasons others go are familiar: leadership and policy issues (political issues, official barriers to serious scholarship, excommunications, etc.) and lack of intellectual or spiritual stimulation (read boredom), for example. I stay though I share many of the complaints of those who go.
Born of Lutheran and Presbyterian parents, I learned early that man is a mess, or, at best, a work in progress. Our family crest bears the motto “Think On.” From my father particularly, I learned never to let anyone else do my thinking for me. Consequently I expect my leaders, my fellow ward members and me to make many errors. I call with the author of Lamentations “You (God) have covered yourself with a cloud so that prayer should not pass through.” (3:44) and with the Psalmist: “Rouse Yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord?” (44:24-27) And because I believe God actually inspires even leaders far less than we hope, I am sometimes disappointed by Church policy and action but I am never disillusioned.
I stay because I believe in what I see as basic Gospel principles: the existence of God, free agency, eternal progression, a God independent of evil, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus is the Christ, that faith, hope and charity yield joy, that ordinances must be available to all if they are to be just and have eternal meaning, for example. I stay comfortable that God has sent me here to learn the truth and expects me to leave no stone unturned to find it. I stay, as Lowell Bennion once advised me, “To serve and bless and to be served and blessed” rather than with the expectation of learning history or scriptural exegesis, finding an encompassing social life or social justice, or shortcutting the hard work of developing the knowledge and spiritual depth necessary to develop and sustain a testimony. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised by my church experience but letting go of the expection allows me to concentrate on “serve and bless and be served and blessed.”
Why do you stay?