Childhood was the stuff of dreams- golden, ephemeral Maxfield Parrish dreams. Our home was built on old orchard land, in the California that used to be the fruit-basket of the state, but is now paved over and has a heart of Silicon.
Our property had plum, apricot, pear, cherry, avocado, almond, walnut, tangerine, orange and grapefruit trees- all of which found their way into my mother’s baked goods and preserves. We had chickens, rabbits, a goat (who once tried to eat my snarled mess of curly blonde hair) and a dozen dogs, which my dad used for hunting, as well as our pets. From the trappings of nature, my brothers’ and I created entire worlds in the yard. My aunt and her family lived one house down and my grandma only a few minutes beyond. Doors were always open; it was the upbringing many of us hope to give our children.
Since I have joined the Church, my family barely tolerates my presence.
My mother told me I could not be both Mormon and her daughter. She believes I have been brainwashed, am brainwashing my children and am ruining my family. My brothers think I have lost my mind, and blame me for the loss of harmony and love formerly present at family gathering. What once was a bastion of love, safety and support is now a hornets-nest of distrust and anger.
And yet I stay.
Not only do I stay, but my husband has been baptized as well, been ordained an Elder and is serving in a presidency. And we are not “joiners” of things- so the fact that we are here is a testament in and of itself. We are not the first family in history to have to make this choice. But we are the first in my family- and given what I’ve lost, it is very personal to me.
When I read, over and over, posts tearing apart the ideology and ideals of this church, my belly starts to burn. Critical thought, examination and introspection are wonderful human characteristics, and ones we are blessed to exercise. While I realize people need a forum to discuss thier critical concerns, it seems the line between civil discourse and contentious criticism becomes too often obscured in the bloggernacle.
This Church is the best thing we have, imperfect though it may be.
This Church is run by men, however inspired, currently or historically, they are still men, with feet of clay just like the rest of us. Because we are a church run by human beings, we make mistakes- sometimes big mistakes. No mistake, no matter what, changes the “rocks” this church was founded upon; Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness for our human foibles found therein.
The principles we are taught are good ones- be kind, share with others, give to the less fortunate, take care of your bodies, love your family, be faithful, strive to improve, be honest, treasure your children, live within your means, be prepared, and so on… does the perfection of the men who teach these principles really matter? Find me a better ideal, anywhere.
I went to a lot of churches before I arrived here. (If you want more of my back-story, you can read it here and here, written during a guest stint at FMH.) There are a lot of good people out there, and if we are guilty of anything, it is monocular vision to our own point of view. That said, this Church is full of people who strive to practice what they preach. Full of people who live what they believe, and not just on Sundays. At FHE, YM, YW, and at Scouting, at presidency meetings, at the storehouse, the cannery and the family history center, I see individuals and families trying to live the teachings of the Savior.
At Fast and Testimony meetings, I often sit quietly in my seat (well, as quietly as I can with three small children)- just listening to the warm and wonderful oddball mix of testimonies. Only twice have I been moved enough to actually climb the steps of the dais and stand trembling before the podium. People often say versions of the same things when they get up there, and it’s not for me to even have an opinion of what someone else constitutes as “testimony”- but I have found I cannot make the same words others make. What I have been able to say, with deep, profound certaintly is this:
Everything in my life is better since I joined this Church. Every thing. Even the personal trials with my family are worth it- they are a refining fire, and have shown me what is important, and where I stand. What I have been given is priceless.
In this fallen world we live in, how can we do any better than that?