First, I want to state my love and admiration for President Hinckley. Please take this in the spirit it is mentioned and intended. This is not a personal attack on him but the ideals he speaks of. It is through an interview he had with Larry King from which I base today’s post.
“Larry King: Are people ever thrown out of your church?
“Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes.
“Larry King: For?
“Gordon B. Hinckley: Doing what they shouldn’t do, preaching false doctrine, speaking out publicly. They can carry all the opinion they wish within their heads, so to speak, but if they begin to try to persuade others, then they may be called in to a disciplinary council. We don’t excommunicate many, but we do some. ” (emphasis added)
I’ve struggled with my faith for about four or five years now. It wasn’t until Prop 8 and this idea of keeping silent came to my attention when I felt compelled to express myself publicly. For the first time I found I did not agree with the church’s stance.
I remained quiet at first, keeping my opinions between my husband and myself, but to help me make the right decision I needed to talk about it. Under the weight of my dissenting opinion, I finally conversed with some online friends and later the few who read my new blog. Then I dared let some family know through either my writing or during conversation. While my husband warned me of the reactions likely to come, I was never prepared.
People online told me to rip up my recommend. One friend, someone who introduced me to the church and whom I’ve known for nearly a decade told me she no longer wished to read about what I thought, that she hoped I’d come to terms with my issues – but I wasn’t to talk about them. She’d have no part of that.
To say her response shocked me would be inadequate. It broke my heart: You feel I’m having issues and the best you can do is ignore it and tell me we can keep our conversation to husbands and children? (yes she said that)
My ex-roommate told me when the prophet speaks we don’t need to pray. Not if we sustain him as Prophet.
Another close friend of mine looked at me like I’d suddenly grown another head or perhaps a few horns atop the one I already have. My husband said his father regarded him in the same manner. They couldn’t or didn’t want to believe that we could have received a different answer than the prophets.
My friends and family who know avoid the topic now. It’s as if they hope my doubts will somehow magically disappear. Pretend they don’t exist. Ignore them and they will go away. She’s sneezing, you might catch cold.
These reactions only made my questions harder to ignore, all the more determined to be answered. I never looked to “go against the church.” I didn’t want to disagree with the prophet, I never had, but how do I deny that peace in my heart, even when it does go against the church? I know from experience you can ignore it, but it always comes back. Always.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said it’s never okay to criticize our leaders - even when the criticism is justified. I get the reasoning behind this. It’s not good to spend all your time criticizing anyone. You need to focus on the good, count your blessings, that sort of thing. But where do people go when they have doubts and questions, when they can’t reconcile certain things? Bishops and stake presidents, General Conference talks and Ensign articles would have us pour ourselves into the scriptures, in prayer, to get a blessing. To “have faith.” A former bishop responded to my tearful admission of a crumbling testimony by telling me to watch BYU-TV.
It seems to me that we as a church do not enjoy speaking of such things. In my experience we don’t talk about it and I have to ask: does this kind of willful ignorance help? Hardly.
Doubts and questions do not silence themselves. Scriptures and prayer don’t always give me peace I need, no matter how long or hard I try with the best of intentions. This is deeper than that. People seem to think it’s easy to question. I assure you it is petrifying.
We like to find rational explanations for our commandments. “We are told to tithe because it is a matter of sacrifice to the Lord, to help us pay for our temples and buildings. Look how it kept our church out of debt!” While a matter of faith, we are also driven by reason. Fair enough?
So what of times when I can find no rationale? You might say this is a time for blind faith – and I might agree, except I received answer contrary the First Presidency’s letter. Would you say I must heed the answers to my prayers, or would you insinuate the prophet had said my prayers for me too? Some may suggest pride, a hard heart, etc. no matter what I say. I think these reactions are made from fear as we’ve been told it cannot happen, that our answers will always reflect that of the Church and if they don’t, then we’re wrong.
I understand this sort of reaction if a person went out and told people the church was fundamentally and wholly false – but this isn’t about that. I don’t think a genuine search for truth, even unseemly truth, is a good basis from which to ex someone or even six someones such as with the September Six.
The idea that one could inadvertently learn things that don’t add up, discuss them, and then be told to stop, just stop or I’ll call you to the disciplinary council raises about a million red flags in my heart. It’s potentially faith shattering, worse than any embarrassing fact I could ever discover. And I wish it wasn’t.
We talk about the power in strong, unyielding testimonies, but I ask what is a testimony if it isn’t challenged? Will silencing otherwise faithful dissenters really do the church good? I know we fear modern day Korihors, but I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with good, well-intentioned people who disagree in some instances, and discussion should not only be allowed but encouraged. If our souls find strength in opposition, then so should our testimonies. If the Church is true it will withstand the storms. Truth always prevails.
I would like to be able to discuss my doubts without fear of excommunication. Yes we get enough negative advertising, but for us to pretend the problems don’t exist or are all unfounded is foolish at best. It will come back to bite us, either on an individual or general level. I’m confident about that.
Also posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Rebel Girls in a Boys Club Church
5 days ago