My heart has been so heavy over the past few weeks with the turmoil our world is in. Obviously there is major political tension with the upcoming election. There are horrible things happening around our world each day, each moment.
Yet, in a personal sense, I have noticed my own religious faith is taking a beating from the inside, and quite frankly I have too. Members, now ex-members because of their own decision to leave, of my religion have taken to blogs and social media outlets to let out their frustrations about the gospel I hold so dear to my heart. Here is the kicker though, they have not actually addressed problems within the actual gospel, but have focused on issues and discrepancies within the church. Some of their claims come across as discrepancies with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but after reading their claims I realized the main issues lie with these individuals having a problem with the church.
There is a difference between the two. The church is made up of imperfect people, people who try their best, but their own natural man sometimes gets in the way of the actual gospel. The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan as outlined in revelation and scriptures. Even those revelations and scriptures were and are interpreted by men and women, and therefore may be prone to discrepancies. Thus, why some of the blogs claims come across as doctrinal or gospel centered discrepancies. In reality, they are focusing on the errors of humans running a church.
Try as they might they begin to question church history, which is just that, HISTORY. Once again, something that is prone to human error, and something we were not present to observe and watch unfold. It is hard to judge history when you are reading it from the perspective of one human, and then another, and another. Errors can occur, but that does not mean the gospel is false.
I have found myself reading several blog posts that have popped up on my feed titled “Why we left”, and another about women’s roles switched with men, and how men would feel if they were considered “powerless” while women reigned as authority figures. As I have read these posts my stomach started to turn in knots, to the point where I felt physically ill at some of the claims and proclamations. It truly saddens me that so many people are choosing to focus on negative HUMAN errors of the church. Who isn’t prone to human error?
These blog posts have claimed that God should intervene if one of the leaders makes a mistake. But wouldn’t that be exactly what Satan wanted in the pre mortal existence? It seems eerily familiar to me. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish Heavenly Father experiences every day as He watches His children struggle, murder, and physically, verbally, and emotionally hurt one another. It must be excruciating. Yet He does not intervene when it comes to our agency.
I know from personal experience that His angels and the Holy Ghost send comfort, and have even saved me from time to time when I chose to listen to a prompting or ask for help. In matters of agency, however, He cannot intervene. He promised us our own agency. He gave His Only Begotten Son to suffer, bleed, and die for each and every one of our sins so that we could have eternal life through the Atonement and through the Plan of Salvation.
The LDS religion believes that we all lived with our Heavenly Parents as spirits before we came down to earth. We call this the pre mortal existence. We believe that a plan was presented to us and we shouted for joy after hearing this plan.
We believe that we CHOSE to come down to earth, despite how hard it would be. Heavenly Father told us of His plan, that He wanted to give us the opportunity to choose for ourselves if we would return to Him. He wanted us to have agency, not to be forced into returning to Him. Part of His plan included the Atonement, where one would sacrifice himself for all mankind so we could return to the presence of the Lord through the cleansing power of the Atonement.
Satan had another plan. He wanted us to go to earth with no agency, no freedom to choose:
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
“But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
“And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:1–4).
So how could the Father step in when one of His children chose to become offended, or preached something that settled in the hearts of members poorly? He is giving us the opportunity to grown, learn, and develop on this earth in hopes that we will one day return to His presence. Getting caught up on perfection in a church that is run by imperfect people is a waste of time. Think of all the other good that could be done instead of focusing on the bad or the misunderstood.
Members, including those in my own family, have been so quick to become offended. So quick to judge. So quick to find a discrepancy and lose their precious testimony. All for what? What was the point of immersing yourself in such a beautiful and peaceful gospel if you were going to give it all up the moment something, or someone, made you doubt?
I don’t want to be hypocritical, because those that have left did so of their own choosing and agency. If they didn’t have that agency, and we were under Satan’s plan, they wouldn’t be able to make the choice to leave. I can only imagine the outrage we would have felt had we gone with that plan. Or maybe we wouldn’t feel outraged because our feelings would be dictated to us. I don’t know how that would have panned out, I am just so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who wants His children to CHOOSE to return to Him, not be forced.
I am not trying to condemn those that have left the church, that is a choice made by each individual, and I am grateful they have the opportunity to choose. I am trying to point out that the claims made in many of the posts are simply that–claims. Claims based on someone who offended another, or a church history issue (or several), or discrepancies in gospel doctrine being taught.
If I chose to allow those discrepancies to creep into my heart I would have left a long time ago. I had this occur when I was in high school, attending early morning seminary. One of my teachers starting teaching things that really didn’t sit right with me. They were opposite of things I had been taught growing up, and my spirit almost immediately rejected the teachings as inaccurate. I remember leaving that day, getting in the car with my mom, and bawling.
My testimony was being tested. Isn’t that interesting how test is apart of the word testimony? It is something that is truly tested on a daily basis.
I had questions racing through my mind that day, and for many days after. At the young age of 16 I was doubting my own faith. I chose to let a man dictate how I felt about the thing I held most sacred to me: my testimony of the gospel. After struggling for about a week with his teachings I chose to focus on my relationship with my Heavenly Father, something I could control, and something I had worked really hard to solidify. I chose to rely on the basics of the gospel. I went back to seminary with renewed energy as I focused on the doctrine, and not on this man’s interpretations of the doctrine. I was able to differentiate between his teachings and the truth. I let the spirit testify to me the words that were true, and help me navigate through the discrepancies.
I realized very young that I was the one solely responsible for my testimony. No one else but me. The moment I let that teacher offend me and interfere with my own beliefs I began to doubt. I decided at the age of 16 I was not going to let anyone “dictate my own salvation” (as said by my friends grandma). I was in charge of my faith, I decided how I nourished it. Going to church was a stepping stone, but it was not the end all be all of how I cultivated my testimony. It was me, accompanied by my Heavenly Father and my Savior. As a team we worked together, I let them into my heart, I focused on the basics, and I trusted in the confirmations of the Holy Ghost.
Is the church perfect? No. Are the people running the church perfect? Absolutely not (although I have met several apostles and members of the 70 and they come pretty close). Are we perfect beings? Come on, let’s be honest, I don’t need to answer that one. Why are so many people holding other members of the church to a higher standard of perfection than ourselves? I have a problem with that. Just because I am not a member of the Relief Society Presidency doesn’t mean I am less imperfect than they are.
Just because I sit in the back of a loud and overcrowded ward, with no calling, doesn’t mean I am any less righteous or desirable than my other brothers and sisters. I know my self worth, I have glimpsed how my Father in Heaven sees me. I do not let others dictate my relationship with my Father in Heaven.
It is SO easy to take things personally, or to misinterpret historical aspects of the church. I just want to try and remember to focus on myself and my own relationships with the Godhead, instead of focusing on the flaws of imperfect humans attempting to teach a perfect gospel.
This post is intended to remind those feeling the same spiritual disruption I have been feeling that you are not alone. I won’t let the persuasion of those choosing with their own agency to leave the church, who question imperfections and history, influence me to do the same.
The amount of members removing themselves from the church due to the above issues is stifling and continuing to rise. Choose for yourself what you want to believe. I won’t let biased claims influence my own removal from the church. I have found it helps to immerse myself in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His teachings are pure and basic. Focus on Him, go to Him, find comfort in Him. Don’t worry about the church, worry about the gospel.
Finally, remember how precious our agency is. Our agency was anything but free, it was paid for with blood from every pore, from the man that sacrificed himself for all mankind so you could choose. Use it wisely.
If you love quotes like me I have included some to help solidify what I tried to express in words:
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”-Dumbledore
“Forget all the reasons why it won’t work and believe the one reason why it will.”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine.”
“Don’t get sidetracked by people who are not on track.”
“The past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” -Rafiki
“I believe in the sun even when I is not shining. I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent” –written on a wall during the Holocaust
“Don’t give up.
Don’t you quit.
You keep walking.
You keep helping.
There is help and happiness ahead
You keep your chin up
It will be all right in the end
Trust God and believe in good things to come.”
“Why worry? If you’ve done the very best you can, worrying won’t make it any better.”-Walt Disney