Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fear. Faith. The Inbetween.

For those living under a rock, there has been a lot of hullaballoo in the Mormon (and outside Mormon) circles regarding the disciplinary actions being taken against some members of the Ordain Women movement. The topic has interested me for a variety of reasons, none of which happen to be that I want the priesthood. I'll clear that up now so I don't need to later. I don't want it, but I also don't care who has it. I've been more intrigued by the strong reactions I've seen from members of the LDS church. I have been confused by these reactions. So, I have read and read and talked and read some more. I think I finally found one word that sums it all up.


Fear is such a powerful weapon. It can drive us to do horrible things or force us to do nothing at all. It can create such ugliness or destroy potential beauty. The worst thing about fear is that you can't really ever get rid of it in entirely, you just have to hope your brave is bigger than your fear.

The Ordain Women movement is scary. It takes a key piece of the LDS church and makes it do a loop-de-loop on the biggest roller coaster you've ever seen. It forces some questions that aren't super comfortable to ask. It forces you to consider the idea that human beings who are in leadership positions may not be right all the time.

It has been fascinating to see members of my church jump up over and over again to join together in what I can really only describe as a shunning of these people who are forcing some very different, controversial, big questions and ideas on all of us. I didn't get it at first. It bothered me. Still does. Why would we, the people who were chased by mobs, who were killed (remember the Mormon Extermination Order?) for having different and maybe uncomfortable ideas, turn on members of our own faith like that?

I know the answers. Pick one.

"They are wrong"
"Of the devil"
"Stirring contention" (see "Of the devil" again as the two go hand in hand.)
"They are selfish"
"No faith"
"Not how things are done"
"Leading people astray"

There are more. So many more. I get it, they are bad, bad people. But, are they? Or, are they people with stories we don't fully know, who are trying to find some peace, some comfort? Are they right? I don't know. There are several stories in the past century of situations like this in the church. Two that have been pointed out several times is the church and their stance on the Equal Rights Amendment and the change when people of all races could hold the priesthood. Are they wrong? Well, I don't know. I know that I spent some time reading their actual literature and while I did a random audit of their facts and they are solid, I find their methods lean in a direction I don't appreciate. It is hard to see the right when the execution feels wrong.

So, we have this movement that is making noise, and causing a lot of discomfort. I see a lot of people looking at that movement and pointing fingers, shaking them even and really coming down on them. Funny thing about pointing fingers though is when you point one at another, guess how many are pointing back at you? I guess I could also make a comment about people in glass houses throwing stones. Speaking of stones... who wants to cast the first one?

Fear. Discomfort. Different. Judgment. Stones.

I'm going to tell you a secret about my faith. It has been tested many times. There was even a time I took a step back from this faith of mine because I had seen so much ugly, so many good people who do very bad things both behind closed doors and blatantly in the open, often in the name of God, because I was tired of stone throwing, lack of love, exclusion and hate. I could not believe a church could be good when it was full of such hypocrites.

That step back gave me a glimpse at the big picture. I could talk forever on it, but I want to keep it simple. I learned one wonderful thing that has carried me through the most trying moments of my life as a Mormon.

The church itself, the Book of Mormon, the story of Joseph Smith, the doctrine... it is all true and good. The people in the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith and the people I see every week in my church, well, they are human and very prone to making mistakes.

I often recite it in a simpler way when I am having a bad day. I say to myself, "The church is true, the people are stupid."

Did lightning hit your screen? No? Okay, keep going then.

Read the BOM and see how the good people went bad time after time. Look at Joseph Smith's history and his own words. He messed up on occasion. He was terrible with money, he was impatient sometimes. Look at me, one of those people who lands in church most weeks. Where do we start? Not enough words. Hey, look at the Bible! Noah was a drunk! Jonah was a coward! Thomas doubted! Miriam was a gossip! They all did dumb things and on occasion they were wrong. Good! That means they are human, just like me.

Friends, don't be afraid of the LDS faith looking bad because a group of people found a potential wart. Don't lash out at people because they see something that could make us look less than perfect. Own it. Embrace it. Love them and love the church. I am not a member of this church because I'm perfect, just like everyone else. I'm here because I'm flawed and the people who run this church are flawed and we're all muddling through this together, even when we don't agree. Don't shun people who think differently than you. Don't rejoice in the misfortune or punishment of others, even if you may think it is deserved. That is the easy road and you are better than that. Our history of being shunned and driven out should have taught us to be better than that.

Finally, don't be afraid of a little bad press. Have more faith in the truth of our scriptures. Have more faith in the people you meet. Have more faith in yourself. I have seen the ugliest of ugly among the Mormons more than once. I still believe and I dare someone to convince me to stop. I'm not here because things are perfect all the time and our leaders are infallible. I'm here because I know that wonderful goodness comes from imperfect people.

There it is. Faith. Love. They cast out fear.