The speaker made tremendous effort to prevent feelings of guilt throughout her talk. She spoke of her own weaknesses, she spoke of trials, she spoke of how sometimes we fall off the path. And that is okay, because we can get back on the path to eternal life.
I wasn't offended by the meeting, and I really enjoyed seeing some friends and singing the hymns, but I realized that I really don't belong there any more.
The thought I had was that some people probably think I have fallen or am falling off the path. But even if I have, aren't I just on a different path? Some paths lead the some place, some paths lead to different places. If the path is a peaceful and happy one, then it seems that it would end up in a similar location. I really hope to find that peaceful path soon, because I am pretty sure it is not within the church.
My father-in-law referenced an article in Mormon Times recently, about a gay man that has joined the church and is happy living church standards, even though he has AIDS and previously lived the gay lifestyle. Scott's dad's comment was that "it can be done" as though anyone can do it. I was quick and firm to correct him. That might be the right path for some people. But just because it is right for and can be done by one person does not mean it is right and can be done by everyone. He also talked to me about the fact that there are still people in the church that are supportive of gay rights, and that are even activists. He was trying to tell me that I could do it too, but again, I tried to convince him that just because some can do it, doesn't mean everyone can, and that I think I've decided that is not the right path for me. At least not right now, and maybe never again. All I know is that I take life one day at a time, seeking peace for me and my children.
There has been interesting news lately confirming that the LDS church actually is losing a lot of members. (Duh!) Former church historian Marlin K. Jensen shared some of the details and concerns, as seen in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, or this clip from an ABC4 news cast:
Here are comments from interviewees in the newscast that bothered me a bit. They really have no idea...
- "I'm from Chile, and down there a lot of people just stop attending. They take it a little bit too casual."
- "If people are leaving, I think it's really a mark that we all need to get deeper into our faith."
- "When life is going good, and we don't have as many challenges, sometimes we don't turn to God."
- "It does come down to us, as members of the church we need to go out there and do our part."
Some of you might have seen this before, but here is a presentation by John Dehlin, founder of Mormon Stories Foundation, that talks about why people leave the LDS church and what friends and family can do. The problem I see with it is that the people who need it most are probably not willing to listen to it.
I'm hearing and learning of more and more people that are leaving because of historical facts they are finding on the internet. When Scott first shared some of these details with me, it did not affect my testimony, because I know that prophets are men and make mistakes (something with which my Stake President and many other TBMs fiercely disagree), I know that things change and evolve in the church as needed, and I have always had a strong testimony of things like Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon, and of course of God and Christ.
Rather than the historical controversies themselves, I am more bothered by the fact that the church is not honest with its history. By the fact that members are encouraged to follow the prophet over personal revelation, or rather the idea that we should seek personal revelation to see that something the church says or does IS true and right, rather than to find out IF it is true. The fact that Mormon parents try to hide things from their children, like the existance of gay people, and keep them in an environment of closed-mindedness instead of teaching and encouraging them to think for themselves and make their own decisions and mistakes.
And like something I recently discovered in my own ward--parents withholding priveleges from youth, like dating or driving, until the child has earned their eagle scout or young womanhood medalian. And worse yet, it was done at the recommendation of the Bishop!
The behavior of TBMs (True Believing Mormons) like Scott's sibblings that won't let him bring a date to family parties or let their children find out that Uncle Scott is gay, like next door neighbors that don't allow their children to play at my house, or like the situation I described in the above paragraph are doing much more harm to my staying in the church than any weird historical stories from church history. Maybe it is because of my love for youth, for the kids I teach at school, especially the ones in the GSA club, that these things bother me so much!
I am grateful for a mother that taught me by example to be open-minded, to question, to be self-motivated. I accomplished things like earning my Young Womanhood medalian or graduating from seminary because I wanted to, not because I was bribed or threatened. I'm not sure she is glad that she set that example, as she is really concerned right now with the path the children and I appear to be heading down with regards to the church. But I think that she is the reason I still have a testimony.
I've watched others that came from TBM homes that when they find out about church history and start to question, everything that they thought they once believed breaks into a million pieces. They are not able to hang on to any pieces of their testimony as a result, which is sad. I rejoice in my testimony of God, of a life after death, of my Savior and redeemer Jesus Christ. I still love passages from the book of Mormon that have brought so much peace and understanding and hope to my life for nearly 40 years. Where-ever my path may end up, I cannot imagine ever denying these aspects of my testimony that were once so strong. But I also do not judge those who don't believe, who find peace and happiness in other paths like atheism. At least I try not to judge them, but I know I still have work to do in that area. Which is a whole different blogpost entirely!