For those of you waiting for my next speculative, theological post, I’m sorry to put you off a month. Maybe I’ll get you a new, Plan of Salvation, home evening lesson by Christmas. That’s probably a good time for it. I need to write about something more immediate.
One of my very favorite LDS books is Hugh Nibley’s Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints. I honestly think reading it has made me a better Latter-day Saint and a better person. It reinforced my concern for education and the environment. It strengthened my view of the Gospel as a call to action rather than an abstract plan. One of the essays that has stuck with me is titled “Criticizing the Brethren“. I’ll let you read it or not, but there are a lot of good instructions in it about how God really is in charge, and not much good comes from being critical of His servants–or of anyone else, for that matter. My interest in gossip decreased significantly after reading Nibley, and my interest in judging others, too. Some of you might not believe it given my personal post of two weeks ago.
I wrote about my sadness at the one directional public “dialogue” on women’s rights in the LDS church. I shared my support for Ordain Women in asking for a two directional dialogue and for their desires to be taken to the Lord in prayer. I shared my fear that I would be seated on the pews without my family in future years, because the increasingly evident (our culture is changing, and sometimes for the better) inequalities experienced by women would keep them from having the patience or commitment to experience the joys of the Gospel and the LDS church that I have. I was critical of the Brethren.
I’m a Critic
I reread parts of Nibley’s essay just yesterday as I was rearranging my bookshelves, and I asked myself, am I any different from the critics of the past?
Am I steadying the ark? I have publicly said the church needs to fix something seemingly central to its function and possibly its doctrine.
Am I setting up my own learning over the councils of God? I have said that research has shown that empowering women makes many areas of the world better. I’ve implied (rather bluntly) that this is so measurably evident that speaking against empowering women equally with men in the LDS church, in the name of God, is unjustified, even for those called as Prophets and Apostles. I’ve implied that those who speak against this empowerment are more responsible for destroying faith than those who leave because of Feminist beliefs.
I’ve expressed fear that choices of my called leaders will result in my sitting on the pews alone not too many years from now. I was a critic.
I’m not going to retract what I’ve said and written. I’ve tried to be careful and true. I’ve tried to share my understanding and acknowledge that authentic revelation may lead church leaders to do differently than I would wish. I know that my understanding of what is at stake for church members world wide is lacking. I realize these are multidimensional problem for which there may be no solutions without serious flaws. So I criticized reluctantly, but I can’t find the will or the need to repent of these actions. I guess in some lights that makes me an unrepentant critic, and I have to live with that. I do find myself asking how I can remain strong in the LDS church without just getting in line and accepting things–things I know are hurtful in their current forms, and think are likely wrong in any eternal society. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll share what I’m trying.
I’m listening to and reading General Conference, again. I’m being selective. Not every talk was ever meant for me, and I’m not emotionally able to listen to one more talk about gender roles or sex in any of its aspects without getting too upset to really listen. So I’m listening to what I can and trying to take the messages to heart. I’m trying to figure out how I can share the Gospel, and what that means for me now. I’m trying to pray, love, and serve better.
I’ve found an online friend that I’m trying to read the scriptures with every week. We don’t know what we’re doing, but we want to learn more than we can get in Sunday School, and we want to support one another’s faith.
I’m praying more about my role in the kingdom. I used to imagine it would be a standard, established role. I would be totally active in the church. I would accept all the callings that came my way, eventually serving in local leadership roles. I would seek out people and help lead them to baptism and the temple. I don’t know, any more. I want to be a witness of Christ in the world, but I’m not sure what the best way is to do that. I need to be a father, a husband, a teacher, and a chemist–I know God has called me to do those things. I figure I need to work on knowing Christ better and the witnessing will sort itself out. So I’m taking baby steps to know Christ better. It’s hard, since I always figured He had more pressing things to do than to hang out with me, despite my believing He loved me.
I’m looking for ways to serve my economically struggling community. I don’t know what I can do, but I’m looking, asking, and trying to prepare myself to do what I can. I’m trying to get to know people from the other churches in the area. I’m trying to help students get involved in community service.
I’m continuing to share my heart with my family and friends who feel distant, alone, or marginalized by the LDS church. They hurt in ways I don’t fully comprehend, but I know the pain is real, and I hope I can share it. About 10 years ago, an Indian Christian, and former pastor, from the tradition descended from the visit of Thomas the Apostle to India after the resurrection of Christ, shared a saying with me as we rode on the train from the airport into Baltimore: “Sorrow shared is sorrow halved. Joy shared is joy doubled.” That’s my poor paraphrase of his awkward translation, but I remember the beauty of the moment when he spoke with me.
It’s Not a Choice for Me
For me, being a Latter-day Saint isn’t really a choice. I’ve been blessed to believe in God. I’ve been blessed with experiences and knowledge that give me great confidence in the Prophets and Apostles from Joseph Smith to today. I’ll admit to having sought out many of these experiences, but they were gifts, nonetheless. I can’t help but echo my great-great-great-grandfather George Cannon that an evil-minded man could not have written the Book of Mormon, and a good man would not have written it with intent to deceive. So if I left the church, it likely would be because I was kicked out for sinning, or I left to support a child who needed my love more than I needed to belong to the church. It wouldn’t be because I couldn’t believe any more. That’s not a reality open to me. So I’ll try to make some of my heroes my guides. I’ll try to use the Gospel to call everyone to repentance–especially myself. I’ll try to speak truth and trust that truth will win in the end. I’ll try to teach my children faith in the good things I believe in, and show them an example of service and love. I’ll talk with my fellow saints, including my leaders, when they are willing to listen and know that I love them, and I’ll try to be patient and trust God when it seems my fellow men aren’t seeing what I see. I’ll try to know Christ better. I’ll just keep trying. I feel more peace with that than I have in some time.