My faith crises

“Go on then!” said Frodo. “What do you know?”

“Too much; too many dark things,” said Strider grimly.

****

Aged 9, Malvern, England

I am at a St. George’s Day service with the Scouts held in our local Church of England church. It could not be more different than my Mormon ward and I am now at an age when I am starting to learn that Mormons believe their church is the “one true.” I suppose I believe this too . . . and yet the music and the aesthetics of this ancient church are wonderful. I feel good. I “feel the Spirit” . . . so is this church also not true in its own way? Holy envy has been with me ever since and has enriched my Mormon life.

Aged 15, Malvern, England

I read an anti-Mormon pamphlet about the temple. I know it’s full of lies because it says the temple includes a “masonic” ritual and strange ceremonial clothing. I ask my YM president and he basically confirms it is true. I spend the next stunned week or so imagining all the trusted Mormon adults I know performing this weird, secret ritual. It’s the secrecy that shocked me. And yet four years later I go to the temple myself and rather enjoy it. I suppose Hume was right: just because something is so (ultra low church everyday Mormon worship) doesn’t mean it will always be so. I also learn that God may well indeed be wholly Other.

Aged 19, Vienna, Austria

For something that is supposed to be so wonderful, the mission is surprisingly dark at times. I serve with one missionary who is suicidal. A few others are clearly depressed. This should not be so. At least it was not so on the Called to Serve video. One day, faced with a rather stubborn investigator, I proclaim to him that as “a servant of Jesus Christ, I testify that my message is true and that you must join God’s church.” As soon as I say it, I know that I do not mean it, that I cannot know with certainty anything that I have just claimed. It is blasphemy to do so and yet it trips off the tongue so very easily. I really believe his joining the church will be pleasing to God, but I cannot claim to know God’s mind with surety, despite the bold words we are encouraged to speak. All of this is jarring for me at times . . . and yet, despite its frequent heartache and occasional dissonance, I count the company of that mission eternally dear.

Aged 21, Birmingham, England

When I left for my mission, nobody had the world wide web at home. When I go to university afterwards, it is everywhere. I am reading for a degree in ancient history and devour FARMS and Nibley . . . but Mormon themed websites also introduce me to some shockers. You know the list. I was more informed than most but the church is revealed to be full of many more shadows than I had realised. Yes, I knew Joseph was a polygamist, but how! And yet this is the man who gave us the best latter-day vision of Zion I know. It failed, but so does everything down here.

Aged 30, Baltimore, Maryland

I am blogging by now and I am also an academic. Very little fazes me — history is a mess, people are fallible, institutions can hurt people — but on the new Mormon internet, like-minded intellectuals remain faithful. It can be done. Then the church starts to ramp up its anti-gay marriage drive and I feel stricken. Given our broken history with gays, I lack confidence that this time we are right, and my experience with gay friends and family has led my heart to want marriage available to them. To be on the other side of the church’s primary moral drive in my lifetime is heartbreaking. It still is. And yet the familial happiness in my own life has much to thank Mormonism for.

Aged 37, Malvern, England

My daughter, 8, realises that unlike her brothers, she will have no public role in the church when she turns 12. She is sad, and as she is the most earnest of my children, so am I. I am left un-teaching her the swimsuit modesty lessons. And yet her Primary teachers really, really love her.

****

So, here I am. In writing this, I am tempted to find some kind of grand narrative to explain it all, especially my continued activity and service at all levels, including twice on a bishopric. I can only think of this: for some reason, propositional knowledge has never seemed to be for me the best route to God, which is why church history reveals have been quickly assimilated into my faith. Much more difficult to overcome are the contemporary social and ritual failures at church as aesthetics and love and emotion and friendship and goodness reveal God to me more than Gospel Principles.

As such — and this will be a bold claim — you could demonstrate that Lucifer himself ran the Mormon Church and I would struggle to abandon it so long as we devil worshippers are loving each other despite ourselves. Here are my friends and here is my family; these are my people . . . and here, Lucifer be damned, the power of God is so often made manifest that we shall just have to solve the problem of good here in hell and be done with it.

But let’s not be complacent: we’ve got to find a better place for our women and for our gays and we’ve got to do better serving the poor. That is what my heart tells me. The tragedy of Helen Marr Kimball is far from the mind when we are in our yellow shirts doing good. I would much rather have an hour at church planning our week’s charitable service than learning about Mountain Meadows. For the latter, a short, honest note in the manual will do with a reference to further reading. Hours and hours of lessons are not the answer; helping all people feel close to Jesus in their church life may be.

Finally, we ought to acknowledge the complexity of doubt and resist the urge to diagnose similar causes. I know people, mostly women, for whom Joseph’s secret polygamy is shattering, identifying with Emma as they more easily do. Shattering too the realisation of the obfuscation with which they were raised. For whatever reason, my temperament is wired differently, maybe because I am acutely aware of my own fallibility and yet still feel capable of doing God’s will. For me, my activity in the church was most at threat when I felt alienated from my ward. For others, belief in Mormonism’s historical claims is fragile, given their remarkable nature. Thus, Joseph reading the gold plates like a book somehow feels credible but his head in a hat tips us over the edge. Truth be told, we are never far from it, ready to fall.

Help, God, our unbelief.

Comments

  1. cookie queen says:

    A welcome read with my morning coffee, cold of course, as I take my hands out the dough for a few minutes.

  2. So, there you have it, cookie queen. Much to talk about on the shores of the Traunsee!

  3. Wonderful and honest. I see faith more as a lifetime of ebb and flow rather than a single static line. That’s why I think the term ‘faith crisis’ (or crises as it were) nettles me a little. However, through widespread interaction via the Internet with so many wonderful people I have learned that others’ journeys are not mine to define–I don’t have to define it, I just have it to accept it and mourn with them in those moments.

    I left the religion of my family for generations and generations. While I didn’t find what _I_ was looking for there, it will always have a place in my heart. Because of that, even before I became LDS, I never could get behind a “one true Church” for any claimant. All that is good comes from God, and because of that I also wish we would spend that hour a week discussing our next Service Project. I fear that may never come to fruition.

    I also agree that we need to treat people better, particularly women, and gay people, and people of color. Our history will follow us around and haunt us until we do. As a living, breathing institution the Church can change; can repent and make things whole through the Atoning sacrifice of The Christ. I wish that as a body we would do that.

  4. Much here. Thanks for making the effort to put this together.

  5. Thanks, EOR/Hunter. It was tough to write.

  6. Perfect.

  7. KerBearRN says:

    Wonderful. I appreciate reading something that validates so many of my secret thoughts and fears– ritual envy, frustration/sadness over social and moral policies–and yet that feeling that it simply ” is” what I am.. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself.

  8. Lovely, RJH. Simply lovely. Thank you for being so raw and open. It’s a valuable gift.

  9. I love this post because you so honestly tell about your experiences/perceptions. These won’t be the same for everyone but they are yours and, as such, they are valid and we should each consider their meaning in how they’ve played out in your life and how they compare to our own lives. We don’t normally get to see the faith challenging experiences in people’s lives. And yet, it’s uplifting here especially given that each challenge is redeemed by some essential characteristic of the Gospel, and you’ve been able to recognize that.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  10. The faithful path is the narrative.

  11. While faith crises are hard to get through, I’m glad they exist. They’ve taught me so much.

    Thanks for sharing yours. You make an excellent point about service. I’m always looking for ways to serve others; we need service opportunities to bring us closer to Christ. At least I know I need them.

  12. CJ Douglass says:

    I have to say R, your experience is, I think, a best case scenario for my own kids, as I raise them in this troubling and transcendent faith. And that’s how its been for me. (though there is a confidence in your words that I still long for). I never got over hearing about the priesthood ban when I was 12. And luckily, I had a father who a assured me that I wasn’t crazy. Yet, Mormonism (with Jesus at the front) may have literally saved my life, in one way or another. Thanks for sharing.

  13. KondenS says:

    so very familiar to my own world. Thanks for writing this.

  14. Chris Kimball says:

    Thank you.

    My first reaction was to quibble (“not exactly my experience”, “what about this?”), which says much more about my character than your message. (And is kind of unfair since it all rings true; I empathize with every line even though it’s not mine.)

    But that first reaction was quickly replaced by affirmation: I’d like to sit next to you in the pew on Sunday. I’d like to join in a discussion with you, as we study together. I’d be happy to see my granddaughter walk into your Primary class.

  15. Ignacio M. Garcia says:

    I don’t think we need to spend an hour each sunday planning our charitable service, though we can do it like we do in our high priest quorum in which we take one sunday a month to do that. The rest of the month we take a couple of minutes to see how we are doing. I try to inculcate in every sunday school class that I teach the need to be charitable and do service as part of living the gospel. We need more committed teachers who see the expansive lessons in the manuals rather than just scriptures to be read and points to be made. I’ve found that in most lessons I can bring in so many of the things that make us Christians and Saints. I don’t need the manual to be explicit about particular points. The gospel, itself, is about service and charity.

  16. Tyler H says:

    I love the paradoxical structure here. I’ve felt overwhelmed by joy and pain within Mormonism, and in equal measure. As yet, I am unable to find a place or belief system characterized by uninterrupted peace and confidence. I’ve felt uneasy about Mormonism and God himself since I can remember. And yet, that uneasiness has compelled me to search, forced me to stretch. And in the reaching, I have somehow been filled. The transcendent moments are so significant and yet so utterly inexplicable.

    For now, I’ll push ahead. Thanks for this, RJH.

  17. J. Stapley says:

    I’m grateful to be a fellow traveler with you RJH.

  18. It is not too difficult to imagine a Catholic offering similar sentiments and coming to similar conclusions regarding Catholicism after exposure to “difficult” historical issues and the full force of the sexual abuse scandal. Sometimes, RJH, a deal breaker is a deal breaker, our fallen human natures notwithstanding. Where do you finally draw the line – anywhere? – or is there always one more “good” thing that forestalls an honest accounting? Did the civilizations described in the Book actually exist on the American continent? Did Joseph Smith have sexual relations with the wives of other men? There is no “grand narrative” that will subsume these and other problems to my satisfaction, and the response of the leadership, past and present, to those with similar concerns adds insult to injury.

  19. I like your bold claim very much with its affirmation of your loyalty to a church that you obviously love as you struggle with the demands it makes. This feels authentic to me and all a piece of what building Zion has always looked like.

  20. Paul, if that is how you feel, I can do nothing but respect it and wish you well.

  21. Martine says:

    As a currently inactive member but long time BCC reader, this resonated with me like nothing has in a very long time. Thank you so much for writing this. For various reasons it wasn’t possible for me to stay active, despite years of trying. I’m glad that some others experience what so many of us do and are able to stay and bless their wards.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Great stuff, Ronan. I personally am not bothered by the “same six things” that form the bulwark of the typical exit narrative. For me the greatest strengths–and greatest weaknesses–of the Church are in the social realm. Mormons are my people, but our treatment of women, gays and people of color pain me far more than this or that trifle of history. But I am committed to doing what little I can to make it better over the long haul.

  23. Nate Oman says:

    The part of this post that speaks most to me is the final observations on the contingency of temperment. The most I think about my own doubts and faith the more I tend to think that the particular path that keeps me within the Church has as much to do with the accidents of my own biography and their impact on my temperment as much as anything else.

  24. This post reminds me that each of our faith crises are individual to ourselves. The answer for me has been in the sense of community, when those around me live their promises to “mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” My faith waivers most when I feel most alone, and is strenghtened when I feel loved.

    The challenge I see is to love and welcome all those who feel marginalized, of which women, gays, and people of color are the most visible. It is also easy to ignore the needs of the single, childless, handicapped, and mentally ill. Crises of faith take many forms.

  25. Very well articulated. I line up with much of this.

  26. Paul’s comment is about whether someone’s character failings or behavioral failings can trump their other works. He says certain failings are deal breakers. I’m with Ronan in that I respect that view and have been known to say similar things myself (mostly about politicians). However since none of us are perfect, I think it’s a matter of degree. I have a certain “ick” threshold that when exceeded makes it hard for me to accept a person’s ideas, etc. But others may have different “ick” thresholds, and God has yet another. Given full access to my thoughts, words, and actions some people may deem me an icky vessel to carry out God’s work, yet I think I’m capable of occasionally doing things that please God. If God required spotless servants nothing would ever get done.

    In addition, I think a person’s ideology greatly influences how willing we are to forgive that person’s failings. Personally, I’m very willing to put aside Martin Luther King Jr’s marital infidelity because I think it’s irrelevant to his work, and because I admire his work and other parts of his life so much. Am I as willing to forgive New Gingrich’s infidelity? Not so much, because it’s easier for me to see his infidelity as a symptom of a cankered soul since this fits with my rejection of his politics.

    So, I guess my point is that I feel I really need to think twice before I use Joseph Smith or any other church leader’s failings as reason to reject the things they’ve produced.

    And thanks for your story, Ronan. It always helps me to hear other people’s faith journeys.

  27. Thomas le Canard says:

    “…aesthetics and love and emotion and friendship and goodness reveal God to me more than Gospel Principles.”

    Yes.

    And yet there’s always the possibility of going too far in the direction of an aesthetically perceived God. There may in fact be an objective aesthetic — an objective Good, True, and Beautiful — but we see in part, and perceive subjectively. At the margin, too personalized a God becomes completely subjective, which is another word for saying He’s a God we’ve made up. The word our more judgmental ancestors would have used is “idol.”

    Lay down too many propositional articles, and you risk getting tripped up in them. But dispense with them altogether, and you render God dispensable. He’s not worth the bother.

    In the end, I have to believe that God — an actual, transcendantal God, not just a metaphor for something or other — has entered the world, to make it something the world cannot be by itself. I need a real promise of real chariots of fire…the Kingdom of God (even if maybe a smaller one than “Gospel Principles” describes) or nothing. Otherwise, I really do have better things to do.

  28. I don’t want to detract to much from the OP, but this phrase “people of color” keeps getting used. What does it mean? Isn’t everyone a color? Does it refer to all non-white races/people? Or more specifically black races of African descent?

    I have a decades long core group of close friends (who are also church members) within which I have friends of all major races, I served my mission in West Africa, and I have spent time living in several countries not predominantly “white”, and yet at least in my anecdotal experience I have not witnessed racist actions or even attitudes in the church that can somehow be attributed to membership in the church (save maybe a select few individuals among our older generations as it relates to the former priesthood/temple ban–but the large majority of members I’ve known reject these people’s ideas/attitudes as being dated and misinformed). In fact, I feel there is actually significantly less racism (or none at all) among church members in every place I’ve been when compared with their respective cultures in which they reside.

    If this is referencing the priesthood/temple ban, I agree there maybe some residual issues left to resolve to once and for all move past the issue, but I think in large measure we as a people have been able to move on. So in what way is there a very visible poor treatment of “people of color” in the church, in others’ experiences?

  29. marginalizedmormon says:

    I thought have faith cris(es) was part of being a Christian–

    I began having them when I was young. I never tied it to whether or not I remained in the church. I figured that I was better off in (the church) than out (of the church), whatever I felt.

    The biggest challenge I have had has been rejection by church members (those in the ‘inner circle’, whether socially or ecclesiastically) of people I love.

    I’m working on forgiving, and I work hard to keep those loved ones in (the church), though I also work hard to accept all that they think, feel and believe. I do believe there can be safety in (the church)–
    but not always. Not always doing everything–

    not for everyone. I am one of those who can do that, but it’s been at a great cost, and I was willing to pay that price.

    I saw horrific tings on my mission; I saw horrific things at the church college I attended; there’s never been any reason for me to think that being a member of the LDS church made anyone, anywhere, a ‘better’ person, including myself.

    For me it has been a vehicle, and no matter how broken down it is, I believe it has gotten me to a place where I have wanted to be.

    I find it interesting to read that some are disturbed by the ‘gay’ question, and others (like myself) more disturbed about racial and economic inequality (in and out of the church)–

  30. Thanks Ronan. A wonderful candid telling of those dark moments of cognitive dissonance many of us have experienced. For me the assimilation of much that creates doubt came with the realisation of my own fallibility and the recognition that there is no objective history, not even of contemporary events.

  31. I especially love the last two paragraphs, Ronan.

    Thank you for writing this.

  32. “But let’s not be complacent.”

    Amen. That, above almost all else, is critical.

  33. Antonio Parr says:

    I loved this, Ronan.

    Buechner writes that if God speaks to us at all, He does so in our individual lives. Hence, he admonishes us to “listen to our lives”, which is precisely what you did with this essay.

    Glad to know you, friend.

  34. Antonio Parr says:

    (p.s., I loved this even though I may have some different priorities and may have reached some different conclusions. It is the effort to speak the truth as best as you can describe it that I find so compelling, not to mention the typically brilliant writing and reasoning that typifies a RLH posting. Would that we all spoke so freely of our life’s experience . . .)

  35. “Here are my friends and here is my family; these are my people . . . and here, Lucifer be damned, the power of God is so often made manifest that we shall just have to solve the problem of good here in hell and be done with it.”

    This is exactly how I feel, but I never would have said it so well. I love this post.

  36. Ronan, I appreciate this. It reinforces my own current status regarding the church of my birth. I continue to chose not to throw the baby out with the bath water. But, to be honest with myself, that can change.

  37. I stay despite my crisis. But I wonder if my staying makes a difference.

  38. Your sentiment reminds me of Joseph’s who was said to have remarked that, “we would all go to Hell together, and convert it into a Heaven,”

    I definitely agree with this quote:
    ” I would much rather have an hour at church planning our week’s charitable service than learning about Mountain Meadows. For the latter, a short, honest note in the manual will do with a reference to further reading. Hours and hours of lessons are not the answer; helping all people feel close to Jesus in their church life may be.”

    I think [some in] the inoculation crowd are misguided in their assumption that if we spend time on XYZ issues we’ll prevent grief when someone learns the so-called “truth”. The fact of the matter is we can do a few things really well, and that’s about it. The more things you add to the plate, the less well you’ll do them all. We already try to do too much, while quite frankly accomplishing very little. And if you do believe that through some cleverly designed programs we can get it right, the reality is that the gospel is broad and deep. You can spend an entire Sunday on just Mountain Meadows, Plural Marriage, etc. but the odds of the right person actually being there for that one lesson every 4 years is pretty slim. And most likely you’ll end up in weird tangents anyway that leave everyone saying, “ok, so what bearing does this have on me…”

    What we need is more time on helping individuals and families and more time on helping individuals and families to help themselves, followed by more time on helping individuals and families to help others.

  39. Cammie- I wonder too. I stay, because it makes a difference in my own life. I make odd comments in sunday school, hoping there is some one else who thinks the way I do. And I stay, because in the end, the gospel is about learning to live with others despite our differences.

  40. BHodges says:

    excellent, love this.

  41. Re: Cammie and sethsweblog, I keep thinking of the Chieko Okazaki quote from Cat’s Cradle: “Reasons to stay: the value of diversity: If you experience the
    pain of exclusion at church from someone who is frightened at
    your difference, please don’t leave or become inactive. You
    may think you are voting with your feet, that you are making a
    statement by leaving. [Some may] see your diversity as a
    problem to be fixed, as a flaw to be corrected or erased. If you
    are gone, they don’t have to deal with you anymore. I want
    you to know that your diversity is a more valuable statement.”

    Stay, and sit by me in Sunday School.

  42. This is the most uplifting “testimony” I have heard in quite a while. Thanks for articulating so well the paradox and the beauty.

  43. Love. Love. Love Chieko Okazaki. She is one of my favorite General Authorities.

    That’s all.

  44. melodynew says:

    “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace, my fears relieved.”

    Here is where I felt abandoned by, then saved by Jesus. Here is where I was drowning in disillusionment and rescued through enlightenment. Here is where my bones nearly vibrate with tones of certain life-affirming truths – things that I have neither seen nor heard elsewhere.

    That which wounds us, also heals us. . . so it is for me in the LDS faith.

  45. Ronan, I will follow you once more unto the breach any time. This was perfect.

  46. Your post reminds me how misguided it is to assume that the life of a disciple of Christ is not without hard knocks, pain and disappointment. I don’t believe there are saints who have escaped life’s troubles. There are so many wonderful and good people who are not Mormons. There are immature and bad Mormons. Missions are hard. A primary lesson can be sub par. The knowledge of the infinite effect of the atonement and God’s loving work for his children was revealed to the the modern world by Joseph Smith. David fell hard, sought grace and felt the joy of the Messiah’s redeeming love. There is enough mercy to go around if we will allow it.

  47. I love this post and wish that BCC were filled with more like it.
    I hate this paradox but it is true for me: My greatest doubts come when I study the church. My greatest joy and knowledge come when I live the gospel.
    So why do I take time to study the church and its history? Why don’t I just look away and stick to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the fatherless, the widows and the broken among us? I know that the service I give within and without the Church matters, sometimes in transformative ways. Does it matter if some of the church’s more zealous self deceptions don’t square with history or modernity?

  48. Antonio Parr says:

    To quote the great Jeff Tweedy, “Theologians don’t know nothing about my soul.”

    I concede that our religion sometimes struggles with articulating a systematic theological construct. I further concede that we have significant challenges with respect to some of our foundational historical claims. In my estimation, neither of these hurdles dilute one bit the spiritual power of Mormonism, which is found in its covenantal community, where common men and women come together, in Jesus’ blessed and saving name, to follow our Savior by bearing one another’s burdens and mourning with those who mourn, i.e., where we strive to love one another the way that Jesus loves us.

    By way of example, home teaching and visiting teaching require us to visit the homes of members who often fall outside of our own unique socio-economic group, and who represent the kinds of people with whom our non-LDS peers rarely, if ever, interact. In my Ward, the people who I am called to home teach struggle with poverty and depression and doubts, and I, like all my fellow Latter-Day Saints, am called to step up and minister to them in their needs. It is a daunting and humbling task, and yet one where the Holy Spirit often manifests itself in extraordinary ways. Not to mention the Priestly functions that I, a mere lawyer, am called upon to perform on a regular basis, including baptisms, confirmations, ordination to the priesthood, the anointing and blessing of the sick, the administration of the Sacrament. These are extraordinary acts, yet commonplace for the common men who are all expected to live in such a way as to enable us to at any moment be priests to one another. Amazing.

    Common, every day men and women who, in meaningful and committed way, administer to the physical and spiritual needs of their brothers and sisters. In my eyes, this is the call of Christian discipleship. It is often tiring and at times overwhelming, but I feel gratitude for a Church that insists that I live the faith that I profess to be true, and holds me accountable for my covenant to love and serve in the name of the Prince of Peace.

    Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time sitting in an armchair expounding on theology or the nuances of history. He was out to bring physical and spiritual healing to as many as he could touch. He went on to atone for our sins through his suffering, crucifixion and resurrection, and Latter-Day Saints seek to be a part of His Kingdom by striving to love and serve in His name.

    Do I wish that our theology and history were seamless? Of course. But while I wait for the mysteries of eternity to unfold, I will roll up my sleeves with my fellow Latter-Day Saints and seek to walk with them the path that Jesus has shown.

  49. Xontheweb says:

    Helpful thoughts, as they encapsulate some inner vagabonderies of the soul. I notice that there are Lamentations from many that we are not directed, through our wonderful religion, towards direct service. Perhaps we expect to be given a project, or are so complacent with invitations to serve such as HT that service has become too synonymised with a daft approach. I long to do more. In my ward, I became so desabused with women being the systematic hospital helpers and care planners that I successfully pestered my Bishop to call a Priesthood care co-ordinator. Let’s see if that works. I gave some money to a needy person last week, and I feel a far greater satisfaction than when I send a cheque to Church’s HQ. Love tithing, not sure about the structural ideation of service in Mormonism. My friend’s son (12) has raised quite a bit of money which he is going to take with them to India next week to treat children of people with leprosy to amusement parks. It inspires me into action. Thanks for the post.

  50. CJ Douglass says:

    In my estimation, neither of these hurdles dilute one bit the spiritual power of Mormonism, which is found in its covenantal community, where common men and women come together, in Jesus’ blessed and saving name, to follow our Savior by bearing one another’s burdens and mourning with those who mourn, i.e., where we strive to love one another the way that Jesus loves us.

    A. Parr – If this was the essence of most people’s experience in the Church, I think more people would stay. And I believe that much of it can be. However, truth claims are a fundamental part of full participation and therefore become a stumbling block to many. In my view, the less we value a testimony of historical events, the less “theologians” will feel the need to challenge them. (BTW, I empathize with the unique challenge this presents for us)

  51. Antonio Parr says:

    Certain truth claims appear to me to be unknowable, and are wholly dependant upon hope and faith (the whistling in the dark kind of hope and faith . . . ) There will always be enough shadows to allow for uncertainty in such things.

    On the other hand, the service opportunities and the emphasis on discipleship in the Church are tangible, and when embraced (even by those who are prone to doubt and wander, like me and many of you), are (for me, at least) so powerful and full of the Spirit that they are “true” in any and every sense that really matters.

  52. Antonio Parr says:

    By way of follow up, in the past year, I have been twice called upon to give blessings to people in my Ward who had just been informed that they had cancer. They were worried and frightened and, due to the lay ministry of Mormonism, someone like me was called upon to bless and serve in ways that are restricted in every other faith tradition that I know of to priests and ministers and pastors. Most men in my Ward have had similar moments of service.

    Although my wife does not hold the Priesthood, she, too, has been called on by sisters in my Ward during times of depression and doubt and poverty to minister to them. Again, these roles in most traditions are limited to priests/ministers/pastors. Most women in my Ward have had similar moments of service.

    I have dear, dear friends in other religions who are remarkable people, yet their faith traditions do not call them to extend themselves to such acts of devotion and discipleship that are all but commonplace in Mormonism.

    What an utterly remarkable Church we have embraced, warts and all . . .

  53. This tracks remarkably close to my own experience and feelings, Ronan. Thanks very much for expressing it so well.

    MM:
    “there’s never been any reason for me to think that being a member of the LDS church made anyone, anywhere, a ‘better’ person, including myself.”

    Oddly, my experience is exactly the opposite, and is one of the chief reasons why I continue to be passionately interested and involved.

  54. “I have to believe that God — an actual, transcendantal God, not just a metaphor for something or other — has entered the world, to make it something the world cannot be by itself. I need a real promise of real chariots of fire…the Kingdom of God (even if maybe a smaller one than “Gospel Principles” describes) or nothing. Otherwise, I really do have better things to do.”

    I love this.

    That said, Ronan, I also find myself intrigued by the idea that you are not sure if this is even of the devil, but you are moving forward for now because you see and feel God in this place. And so I find myself feeling more like it’s a post about your faith in the midst of hard struggles with your faith.

    At any rate, I agree with the commenter above who said that there is benefit in hearing of others’ faith journeys. Thank you for sharing yours.

  55. I don’t want a flawless church history. I want a history with real, flesh and blood people, who struggled with very difficult issues and sometimes failed. It is a history I can relate to. I don’t want theology. I want Gospel. But not a comfy Gospel. I want a Gospel that stretches each of us. I don’t want Mormons to be correct all of the time, or even most of the time. We haven’t gained the knowledge and wisdom for such an exalted status, and how then could we possibly learn humility?

    I don’t want GPS coordinates to Zarahemla. I don’t want archaeologists to find and verify pre-Columbian horse bones. My religious experience shouldn’t be about that. I don’t want women to gain the priesthood in some hyper-feminist fantasy moment. I want my daughters to learn what amazing beings they are as they live their lives, and that ordination wouldn’t change anything significant about them if they are currently keeping their covenants and blessing the lives of others.

    I don’t want any changes to the Church as an institution, unless the Lord wants those changes. I’m too busy working on myself. It is His Church. And it is a temporary institution, a community of mere mortals structured by inspiration to guide us for the moment. I don’t expect perfection from it. I’m not sure that I’d even recognize perfection if I saw it! But I honestly don’t expect the Church to resolve every need I have or solve every person’s existential crisis. I don’t expect it to answer every question or resolve every dilemma. I don’t expect it to be clear on every doctrine or communicate every ideal. But I do hope we prove worthy of the Church, worthy of its history that some struggle with, and that we embrace the Gospel it spreads and cultivates.

  56. Old Man, I’ve enjoyed your recent comments. Keep talking.

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