Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I'm Not Leaving the Church

This is my manifesto so my friends and family can understand and come to accept my decision. I would hope my numerous blog pieces here exposing my poor soul would have been enough. But I am still caught by surprise now and then by some who declare their intentions towards the Church.

When I was young, I went to church happily, most of the time. (I really did hate that song, "Oh What Do You Do in the Sumertime?" I never did any of those things. It rained all the time. But I was a good frog-catcher.) I was raised by parents who believed and practiced Faith. They certainly had their problems. But one thing they did right was to love us. My mom is always best when she has a project to concentrate on and the three of us kids turned out pretty well, all things considered.

I was of a curious mind. My wife notes about some of my stories from when I was very young how extraordinarily attentive to adults I must have been. And I think that's a good assessment. There was a driving compulsion to figure them out - and myself. I'm still working on that.

One thing I figured pretty early was that adults had flaws and they weren't always what they seemed or tried to be. Leaving aside psychology, I think that relates to my church and my understanding. From early on I was curious. But I didn't ask a lot of questions. I just watched. And listened. And then I read.

I started the Book of Mormon many times and never got through it until I was 17. I put it to the test and prayed. It was an internal experience of confirmation seemingly from an outside source. At that point and even still, it filled a need. And that last year of Seminary, I finally had a teacher who seemed to have some power inside when I watched and listened. What a blessing that fourth year was! But I was also reading a lot of other things.

The first view I had of Dialogue, an unofficial periodical of Mormon thought, was on the floor of a friend of my parents. I guess he was a smart guy. Oddly, the issue was about the destruction of the Coalville, Utah Tabernacle. My Grandmother was born in Coalville. And listening to adults, I understood that there were family members on both sides of that dispute. Both sides. My Grandma, Mom, and Dad sure let us know what was the "right" side. But there were two sides. This isn't a testimony about how I kept my faith because I read Dialogue all my life. I haven't read it much. I read a lot of things.

My parents, bless them, were sufficiently open about their thoughts of others in the church, especially leaders. This was further evidence that all was not always well in Zion. But they kept going. And so did I.

I went to BYU. What a glorious freshman year! It was a stunning shock to me from outside of Utah to discover the diversity of Mormon 18-year-olds! I met many shades of Saints. I fell in with a good crowd of mostly Honors Program kids (I was not) that we figured had been assigned to John Hall to help redeem its reputation. The first semester I had a great Book of Mormon teacher, Bro. Jeff Holland.

I had sort of assumed I would go on a mission. I'd taken German through Jr. High and High School (without having much gelernt) and would have loved to go on a mission adventure to Europe! Some guys got calls to go out after first semester. Iceland, Navajo Mission - it was exciting! I never felt pressure to go, I just ached to go. And the last week of school in the Spring, my mom opened the letter and read over the phone to me that I was going to Brazil. I was ecstatic!

My mission was backwards - great success and joy the first year (in spite of the five-month wait for a visa) and a very discouraging and difficult second year. It hurt. But the positives outweighed the negatives and I feel that I sincerely helped people, and myself, to come unto Christ. They were happier. And I was too even in my melancholy way.

There were big challenges coming home with the usual adjustments to family life and some conflict. I kept going to BYU and eventually became very fed up with Utah County mindset. I stayed faithful, though, as I struggled to do the things I thought were required of me. And I was successful with a lot of repeating of the basics - working on faith, repentance, keeping ordinances and understanding and trying to follow the Holy Spirit. And enduring - oh, yeah. There was that.

I also found that I could read Sunstone and Dialogue in the BYU periodicals section. There they were, just sitting on the shelf. I learned and questioned a lot - questioning as much what I was reading as what it was saying about my Church and my Faith. I read a lot of other things too. And there were deep discussions with roommates and friends - the kind of "bull-sessions" my father warned me about but were the best parts of my education with dear friends whom I sincerely love .

Love. Yep, I can't explain it but it happens. There is clearly a biological prompt, even a hair-trigger, but there is the undefined reality of an infinite connection of souls from within and without me. My wife and I were married and sealed by Mormon belief and ordinances for time and all eternity. The time's been 33 years. The eternity is still just beginning and always will be with that hope for all. And it's been multiplied exponentially already by six kids, now four with spouses, and the most wonderful joys of all - grandchildren!

That's life. Childhood to childhood. I'm not in my second one yet, but I'm enjoying it again with grandkids. And all the life in between my childhood and theirs - Work, Pain, Joy, Illness, Sorrow, Service, Loss, Love, Priesthood Power from on High. And there have been manifestations of Spiritual experiences inside my soul. Sure, they could be simple chemical reactions like Scrooge's dismissal of Marley's Ghost as a bit of potato. And I know Scrooge is fictional. But who can separate the truth from fiction? We know it when we see it - or hear it - or feel it - or touch it. And as I learned from the Who's Tommy, my experiences of fulfillment and salvation are only mine and can never be yours. Yet I tell you that I have experienced and cannot deny the influences of Divinity and Deity in the core of my very being.

And that's where I am. I cannot leave the Church. As President Uchtdorf quoted Peter, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."

I can make a list to thank, but it is woefully incomplete. A thousand upon thousands and more - reaching back to the dawn of existence and experiencing manifestations of God even in multiple variations give me reason to stay. Here are a few:

My wife, my children and their spouses.

My grandchildren.

My parents, my sister, my brother and their families.

My grandparents, my wife's parents and grandparents. Her paternal grandparents being perhaps the godliest people I have ever known.

My Great-Grandparents, four of whom I knew, and all, with possibly one exception, faithful to the Church until the end. And that one - He is why I do Family History and Temple work - and for his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Oh, yeah. I know them too. And thank you, John Needham and Lorenzo Snow along with many other missionaries. How beautiful upon the mountains are your feet!

Newton, Elias, Victor, Lamont e Presidente Jason.

Numerous bishops and other servants of the Lord. Special thanks to Bishop Taylor.

Richard Bushman and Hugh Nibley.

Jeff Holland, Dieter Uchtdorf, Henry Eyring, Spencer Kimball, Neal Maxwell, Heber J. Grant, B.H. Roberts (and J. Golden!), Brigham, and Joseph, Hyrum, Emma, and Eliza.

Anononymous D, Mike, Jim, Ardis, Chris, Kurt, Cory, Elaine, Kerry, Mark, Dave, and many, many, many other friends.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for these thoughts.

    If you haven't read it previously, I wrote the following on the old Mormon Matters forum back in 2008. It describes my background and why I am and always will be Mormon:

    "The Bright Night of My Soul" (http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/22/the-bright-night-of-my-soul/)

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  2. I found this faith-affirming for I, a one who struggles at times with my own faith. I thank you.

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  3. Thanks, PMM. I guess the Church is stuck with both of us.

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