I've been publicly silent on matters of the LDS Church for the last couple of years, as my world has been rocked, my faith challenged, pummeled and put through fire.
I'm not offended.
Throughout my entire life, both in my church and in my parents' home, I was taught that agency ruled supreme. A war in heaven was fought for that freedom to choose. Jesus Christ lived, died, and conquered death so not only could we choose, but He could save us from our inevitable, and sometimes tragic, failings.
I was taught that the priesthood can only be exercised through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.
I was taught that leaders should and would honor, obey, and teach scripture. That the "standard works" are the standard by which ALL other teachings, doctrines, policies and procedures must be judged.
I was taught that we are to love one another, as Jesus did. Not as Lucifer sought to "love" his brothers and sisters by compelling them to choose as he wished.
I was taught to love and serve Jesus Christ.
But I didn't realize how much I depended upon and trusted in my leadership until this whole experience began. Having leaders that don't trust you puts an entirely new spin on things. On everything.
I had to find Jesus. Really and truly find Him, for myself. I no longer had the approval of those that I had relied on my entire life for validation and identity. I had to learn who Jesus thought I was. For real.
He was found.
And overwhelming love.
That changed me, fundamentally. Totally. From the inside out. I KNEW. I know. And I couldn't hide it, not in my demeanor, not in my smile, not in my voice. I had a confidence in certain things that felt like a lion roaring in my chest. And even though I didn't feel as though I formed my words differently, and I didn't speak any louder, my comments in Sunday School were suddenly received very, very differently. Others heard it. And the overall response was discomfort. Distance. Uneasy silence in the very room in which I had taught and participated in lessons for years, with full acceptance and respect.
As the months passed, things continued to deteriorate. Well-intentioned ward members said the expected phrases, and I knew well the tone they used . . . I had used it before, many times. It was the sincere feeling of one who had absolutely no idea what the other person is going through, and the chasm is so great between the speaker and the hearer that the hearer feels powerless to speak out, to speak up, to actually say what is going on and to be heard. And, for the first time, I was not the speaker of those phrases. I was the hearer. And I had so little hope of actually being heard, of being understood, that I couldn't speak.
And I can tell you this: the number of active, faithful, true-believing Mormons that have any idea of what actually goes on in the hearts and minds of those who go "less active" is so small as to be statistically insignificant. "Oh, they were offended," is the most common response. I wasn't offended, unless you consider the word in light of how Matthew 18:6 in the King James Version was translated:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."Children have no pride to offend. But you can definitely hurt them.
I have had to work through some pride . . . after all, I'm no longer a child. But I'm not where I am right now because my pride was offended. I am where I am because I, along with my family members, have been hurt and betrayed. Not just by some members of our ward--those supposed to be as family to us--but also by leadership of the church at every level, leadership that actively teaches and preaches contrary to the Word of God.
Leaders who say, "you will do this my way, because I am your priesthood leader", when their opinion or personal preference varies from the directions I have received directly from the Lord, or even scripture.
Leaders who say, "if I hear you have talked to anyone about your beliefs, you will be excommunicated".
Leaders who, in response to scripture that contradicts the position they hold, say "Let's see what our current prophets have to say about that".
Leaders who say, sustaining is like an oath that binds us to obey, who say "look to us", and "we cannot lead you astray".
Leaders who hold up the basic business leadership practices of Babylon and call them continuing revelation. Leaders who preach a leadership-based version of vox populi, vox dei.
In response to leaders who stand in agreement with those things listed above, at whatever level they serve, I say:
- The man we revere as the founding prophet of the LDS Church said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
- The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that correction is to be done clearly, early, through teaching and persuasion, with love.
- God will never contradict Himself. When He says something, He means it. He knows the end from the beginning, and doesn't need to correct Himself or take "do-overs". He gets it right. The first time.
- Oaths to follow men began with Master Mahan, and have only wreaked havoc since then.
- Setting oneself up as a light is the very definition of priestcraft.
- The wisdom of the corporate world, the checks and balances their boards use to amass wealth, are no substitute for the unmistakable, ringing truth of the Word of God.
- Unanimity never has, and never will, be a sure way to determine God's will.