It took me a while, but eventually I decided I would write openly about some issues regarding the church. I was actually shaking the moment my article regarding polygamy and the church was published because I knew family and friends would be notified of it and would read it.
Sure enough, a day later a friend of mine emailed and asked if I was "okay."
I assured her I was.
She expressed her discomfort with my use of unauthorized sources.
I assured her it was okay. The main text I used was written by an active LDS scholar, and as far as I could remember, the work had been ok'd by the Church – which I did on purpose to quell this specific kind of reaction. But oh well. Everything else I used was scripture. I felt comfortable in my sources and chose them with great deliberation, and I told her that.
She bore her testimony to me and hoped I would be able to come to terms with things.
Listen, there's a problem when people don't want to hear "the whole story" regarding anything. When I was investigating the church some ten years ago, my family threw all sorts of anti-Mormon media at me. Some years before, my mom found much thrill in "winning an argument" with the missionaries. My stepbrother dated a member, and my family was very concerned but found much entertainment in some of the stories he brought home. I won't lie. I laughed, too. I still do. You've gotta have a bit of humor.
Anyway, I visited various websites for both sides of the spectrum.
I've seen The Godmakers. Horrible movie, almost entertainingly so. Anyone with half a brain could see that (one gem in this movie is that "Mormon" means "Satan" in Chinese. Geeeeez)
My mom felt certain I'd move to Utah, be one of fifty wives, and raise chickens (which I find hilarious now that I know Eric wants to raise chickens someday. But he's weird – and cute).
I know what anti-Mormon media looks and sounds like. Richard Lyman Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling is not anti-Mormon media.
It is, however, fabulous reading. You should all read it.
What it came down to, by my impression, is that if I would've quoted John Bytheway or anyone like him, my friend would have been fine.
But anything that doesn't shed good light on the church needs to be stifled.
Listen, faith is good. I would venture to say some blind faith is good. Sometimes I just want my kids to trust me, and I'm sure God feels the same way about many things.
But what is faith if you don't know the whole story? What is faith if we feel compelled to withhold information because someone might find offense to it? Naïve faith. That’s what it is.
For argument's sake, let’s assume you join the church wrapping yourself in the blanket statement "...plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church."
...but you don't know that we still believe in it. That it's a Celestial doctrine. That it is so central to our beliefs that it has been said that if we do not accept it as God's truth, we will not be permitted into God's presence.
What if you don’t agree with that? What if you don't like it?
Should we be told “chill out, you’ll be fine,” or "Too bad. You don't have to like it, you just have to accept it"? (I want to punch people who say that) Are those tired, assumed rationalizations of why polygamy happened sufficient? Does it definitively say anywhere that there were too few women for the men and we needed to raise up a righteous, LDS generation? That it was also to take care of the older women? (I always wondered about that last one: can't we take care of each other without marriage?)
We don’t really know why. Let’s just say it. We don’t. Honesty leaves a stronger impression than tired, weak rationalizations.
So what if a member or investigator has serious problems with something like polygamy? What if she prays and still has issues? Can you really tell her to have faith and just get over it?
Can you really?
But I digress. My friend felt my article didn’t shed good light on the Church and stood as evidence to a shaky testimony. She closed with an email expressing her love and concern. I'll admit to finding some amusement as I warned her of an impending article which refuted arguments for Proposition 8.
The thing is, I never said the Church was wrong, and I did that on purpose. I know what can happen when you dare something even close to that.
But what I did say was enough for her. After reading my Proposition 8 article, she told me she no longer wished to read them. Another friend whom I’d known almost as long told me she had to shake off some bad feelings after reading my articles.
Is this really where we’re at?
I can see how questioning can possibly lead to “apostasy,” but can we truly live in such a way as to be afraid to question? To wonder? Should we rationalize in order to satiate that unsettled feeling or thought we’re having? Should we settle with believing what our leaders say? Our bishops, home teachers? Dare I say even the Prophet?
Listen! These are MEN. Not every word that comes from the mouth of the Prophet is prophecy, not every word from his mouth is the word of God. Though I’ve never read it myself, I’ve been told Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine is not authorized material. Many people find great solace in that because, apparently, Brother McConkie takes quite a bit of license in his words.
But many still cite it as if is infallible, undeniable truth.
Hell, even then-Elder (and later Prophet) Spencer W. Kimball offers this in his preface to The Miracle of Forgiveness: “I accept full responsibility for the contents of this book. Specifically, the Church and its leaders are totally absolved from the responsibility from any error which it may be found to contain.”
I'm told this book was later accepted as scripturally sound and is now considered doctrine, but the fact remains that in the beginning, then-Elder Kimball felt the need to qualify his work.
The moment someone says something that might not reflect well on the Church, though, we balk. I can understand why: we have skeletons in our closet, but we also have a history of persecution and we’d just rather leave it alone. Isn’t there enough negative attention given to the Church for its own members to add to?
But sometimes you have to.
Nothing I’ve said regarding polygamy was a lie. We do believe that it is practiced in the afterlife, and if a member or investigator doesn’t know or is otherwise kept from knowing that, then there is a problem.
If the Church is true, if any doctrine is true, than we shouldn’t be afraid to explore it. We shouldn’t be discouraged from talking about it. We shouldn’t keep others in the dark for fear that they may decide to leave because of it. That’s not our problem.
And yeah, I would rather die than have to see my husband take on another wife, and that feeling should be okay. I imagine many women would feel the same way – that many back in Joseph Smith’s days did feel that way.
While I’m okay with not knowing some things, there are things I take personally, and this (for various personal reasons) is one of them. I want to understand this, and I don't. I would hope this would be something the Lord would feel those who are troubled should understand.
I want to be taken seriously. I think anyone, especially women in the instance of polygamy, should be taken seriously when she presents this as a concern.
And rather than joke about delegating chores out to “the other wives,” we should consider this with an honest heart, because sometimes our faith is only as strong as our knowledge.
(if anyone is interested in the above referenced article: Mormons and Polygamy: Practice versus Belief. Thanks.)
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