I value and revere honesty so much in other people when they're able to say scary things. What I said in my post may well be read by members of my family (I really don't know) and perhaps a member or two of my stake.
It's taken me some years to get here, where I can find the courage for even a little frankness and honesty. I'll admit much indifference anymore rather than courage. It’s taken some time, some acceptance, and confidence of self to get to this point. Though I do fear verbalizing my beliefs and rationale thereof, when I’m alone and unafraid, I know exactly where I stand. There’s a reason I write. My emotions get the better of me and at least here I can edit and think before I speak.
That said, there’s a fear of confessing here as well: I know there are some who visit my blog who believe in the Church but for some reason find some worth in my words. I fear that my “coming out” will take away any clout I had. I hope that’s not true, but if it is: so be it.
My missionaries called me their "golden convert." I had a set of senior missionaries, and they were sweet, but boy am I glad I had even then a level head. Dad, if you're reading this, I know you didn't think so, but I did. I knew at the second discussion they'd ask me to commit in some degree to baptism, so I was ready to tell them to wait. When they tried to convince me of the divinity of the Book of Mormon by pointing out that a prophecy foretold in 1 Nephi was fulfilled in 3rd Nephi, I recognized right away the fallacy in such an argument. When they suggested I have my family watch the video Families Can Be Together Forever I knew I couldn't. I'd seen the video. Baaaad video, and besides, my family already believed that. My mom found great offense in the idea that we thought she couldn’t be with us in the afterlife.
Sometime after baptism - and I wish I knew the place exactly - I noticed a few times a footnote in the Book of Mormon which offers a Joseph Smith Translation. Anyone have a good explanation for that? I still find that weird.
I don't recall each time something struck me odd, but they came and went. I gave them no voice because I believed and that stuff didn't matter, or so I told myself. I appreciated having friends who accepted me for who I was. I appreciated being in a new place where I could be a new person. Back at home there were people who had known me since preschool and others since my awkward tomboy stage. Kids can be unforgiving, so the renewed chance with genuine friendship was nice. I was eighteen years old and in college in a new city. My new friends were fun, and I liked church. I believe I even wrote "Sunday is my favorite day" in my journal.
The Church has been good to me. I've grown as a person, met the most amazing man. I’ve been blessed because of this church. I don’t deny that. I couldn’t.
But the more I learn the more I feel unsettled. We're told to not quote "unauthorized" sources in our lessons, yet Church leaders often quote Bruce R. McConkie's patently unauthorized Mormon Doctrine. Are we to? No. Apparently we can't tell when McConkie spoke truth and when he was speaking out of his ass, but our leaders can.
Then there’s fun stuff like this quote from Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve circa 1954:
Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood…. This negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa—if that negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.
- Race Problems—As They Affect The Church, Address by Mark E. Petersen at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, delivered at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954.
If anyone knows BYU, and I'll admit my knowledge is wanting, we can agree BYU to be very strict in what it allows and what it doesn't. See the Honor Code if you don't believe me. When a General Authority visits gives a talk at BYU, we can assume BYU's blessing of the words. We can assume the teachers at said convention took his words as truth and passed it along through the years until the Church became more "enlightened."
There are many more quotes, such as that the blacks will never receive the priesthood. When such things are brought up in conversation, the inevitable answers include "new revelation trumps old," "this isn't doctrine, just some member of the Quorum giving a talk," or "those leaders spoke from limited understanding." I can accept the last excuse, it's on the right track, but the teaching was still wrong. Why can't we just admit to being wrong?
I want someone to say that we could be working on limited revelation now. I want us to stop talking in absolutes, because we don't know everything. Perhaps we're working on limited revelation regarding homosexuality. I think it's entirely possible, but you won't find many who will agree.
I don't believe this church is the only "true" church. I refuse to give testimony in which I lie in proclaiming my knowledge of that which I have no knowledge of so I can gain faith in it, and yet we are asked to do so. I have no issue with saying "I believe...." But "I know" both sounds rote and impassionate. We say it so often the power within it is gone. I feel the same about our rote prayers.
We are not a perfect church, can't we just say it? Or are we too concerned with image and numbers? Are we too concerned that we've touted ourselves as such for so long that we'll lose members? How will we look to the outside world if we concede something? Perhaps for some it will never matter. I'd just like some dialogue.
Not that I'm anyone to speak, but we seem awfully prideful sometimes.
Onto other things:
I don't believe a tank top (a clothing garment I can't pull off, btw) is immodest. I don't believe having a cup of tea or coffee (both of which I'm not a fan of, though I used to be a huge fan of iced mochas) will make me unworthy to be in God's presence. Yes, I know: sometimes we're asked to do simple things in the name of faith. The scripture regarding Christ telling a follower to wash in the Jordan River comes to mind. All of it is in my brain, I just happen to think there are other things we could focus on rather than a friggin' coffee bean and tea leaf.
I’m tired of listing the health benefits thereof and having people say “eh, the WoW isn’t necessarily about health” when ten seconds before we were talking about the health code that is the WoW. Or that it's about addiction when we're all addicted to something. While I may not be addicted to coffee, I'll admit a huge addiction to sugar. Am I unworthy? If I drank coffee but gave up sugar, would I be worthy?
I'm tired of condescending leaders (especially for the youth, holy crap. anyone seen A Brand New Year? Watch the videos. WOW - frightening). I'm tired of people telling me to study the scriptures but ignore the inconsistencies and hard things. I want to stay because of family and my kids, but much as I like putting them in primary (they love it), I worry about the mixed messages they'll receive at home. I don't want them becoming so much a part of it and then having their mom and dad say they don't believe everything. Talk about counter-productive. I want them to have a spiritual background but not just this one. I like the social aspect of Church as well. My husband and I are rather anti-social, so church provides our children with friends to interact with. As they start school this part gets better, though. I’m getting better.
I don't want to be called a fence sitter, but I guess that’s what I am, what I've been. Call me lukewarm, something God will spit out as spoken in Revelation, fine. I guarantee you I’m guilting myself far better than anyone else ever could.
I'll go through the pains I went through joining ten times before I'll want to go through the pains of leaving. In joining I acquired a unique set of beliefs without rejecting fundamental beliefs such as the existence of God. In leaving, however, I’ll have those who tell me I am stepping into the fiery pits of hell and am bound to be an enemy of the Church (don’t believe me? Read Chapter 27 of “Teachings of the Prophets: Joseph Smith.” It’s called The Bitter Fruits of Apostasy. Or just come to church next week, I think. I’m not sure I’ll be there.)
It will be strange to be in the same place my mom was when the remainder of my husband's siblings marry - in the foyer, waiting, because I can't say I have a testimony anymore, that I find great difficulty in sustaining my leaders, or because while I may keep the word of wisdom, I don't believe in some of it. I’ll sit in the foyer because I take issue with the idea of the priesthood, that God would deny my non-member sister some blessings simply because our father doesn't hold the priesthood. Is a blessing surely that much more powerful than a non-member's prayer for healing? I’ll sit because I don’t sustain our leaders when it comes to their recent actions. Because I do sympathize with some so-called “apostates;” I get where they’re coming from but do reject their venom. I will sit outside because there’s something about the endowment ceremony which doesn’t sit right with me. Because I can’t say I believe just so I can attend a wedding or keep up appearances with friends or family who may invite us along soon.
There are some whose reaction I fear worse than others. Those who I’ve held close to my heart for so many years who are on the other end of the spectrum, a person I don’t want to scare but will. I hold no desire to talk people down from their testimony, only a desire to have others understand my disaffection and respect it. I get the fear; I’ve felt it too and not just with myself. I know the inevitability of this fear. I know time will heal that wound too, but never entirely.
I’ve no desire to take my name off the rolls, but I don’t want to be an active, all-believing part of something which preaches only black and white, bad or good, worthy or unworthy. It's just not as cut and dry as many of us want to believe. I still want to attend church, but I don’t want to be held to some ridiculous standard or have doctrines and ideas taught to my children which I don’t believe. Right now they’re taught to “choose the right.” Good. But my daughter will be eight years old in two years. I do think that’s a little young for the huge decision that is baptism.
The culture and doctrine of all or nothing serves me little purpose and stunts my spiritual and personal growth. It isn’t that way anywhere else – at least not in mainstream Christianity, but again that’s not a place I want to be necessarily either. I suppose in that way I’m being forced out. I know in my heart and in my head the choice has been made already, but the idea of never or at least rarely attending church saddens me. I don’t care for that. I’ve made some new friends over the last few months; granted they’re little more than acquaintances but people I’d like to get to know better nevertheless. Will they reject me? Where will I find new friends? Though I’m fairly introverted, I do need good friends. They can come in any form though: LDS or not.
I think I know where I’m headed, the peace is coming slowly but surely.
Apostasy? Call it whatever you will. God knows me. Perhaps I’ll want to come back sometime in the future, but if I did I would want to do it without pulling the wool over my own eyes. I leave nothing out of the realm of possibility. I do so love the smell of the chapel and the sound of the hymns. Sigh.
I just happen to think my personal relationship with God and Christ matters more than my relationship with the Church, and right now I feel it’s too much about the Church and not enough about God. Too much about coffee and tea and less about garnering a pure love of Christ in my heart. Too much about fear and less about unconditional love.