Why I’m struggling (and it’s not what you think)

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This weekend has been trying for me.

Since the church’s policy change regarding same-sex marriages was leaked on Thursday, my Facebook feed has been like a firehose regarding reactions to the changes. I tried to read so many thoughts, article, and blog posts in an effort to help me figure things out.

It didn’t work that well.

Instead of direction and guidance, I received anxiety and depression. There were times on Friday and Saturday when trying to respond to claims or viewpoints that I found myself shaking and had to stop.

Even going to the temple Friday night didn’t help. In fact, my endowment session felt like a two-hour stupor of thought. I drove away from the temple as lost and depressed as ever—a far cry from the guidance and inspiration I had received the week before.

A lot of emotions have run through my heart and mind. I’ve been upset, confused, hopeless, lost, abandoned, hurt, sad, lonely, disgusted, sick, and so many more.

As a parent of an LGBT child, I’ve struggled to know what to do. My daughter left the church earlier this year, but the changes still hit me hard, and I’ve been seriously considering throwing in the towel.

Before this weekend, I never fully understood what people go through when they wrestle with the decision to leave the church. Something I’ve learned is that it’s a complex decision with no easy answer.

In fact, two years ago, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed this very topic in general conference:

Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.

Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.

I can say with frankness that the last paragraph describes me. As the church as grown more evangelical and my understanding of the actual Gospel has become more Christ-centred, this growing divide has become problematic for me.

But there are aspects of Mormonism I love and that I can find in few other places: an anthropomorphic God, a feminine divine, the masonic temple rites, seer stones, visiting angels, continuing revelation, and the list goes on. Scriptures like D&C 18:10, D&C 93, Mosiah 4, and 4 Nephi 1 resonate with me.

So I continued on, focusing on what is right.

But this policy change and how it could affect my future grandchildren feels like the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.

And I find myself once again contemplating leaving. This time, however, it feels so intense. I find parallels even to the faith crisis story I shared 8 years ago.

But here it is three days later, and I haven’t found it any easier to decide what I’m going to do.

There are so many factors at play in me head. As I’ve commented several times, the church is like a cherry pie: it tastes so good, but it has pits.

Here are some of the things that make it taste so good to me:

  • The symbolism in the church found in baptism, the endowment, the Sacrament, and various other places.
  • The temple
  • God being a resurrected, glorified man who is our father
  • Having a mother in heaven
  • The example and teachings of Jesus (arguably this could easily be found elsewhere)
  • The unique teachings in Mormon scripture, specifically how we should treat others
  • The brotherhood of a quorum
  • Continuing revelation
  • A personal relationship with God

I’m not going to list out all the pits, but I will say there are many, and some of them are big. Despite the common rhetoric found among its members, the Mormon church is not perfect.

So I find myself in the middle of various forces pulling me in these two directions: all the positive trying to keep me in and all the negative trying to push me out.

But there are some other things that are making it difficult to make a decision:

  • I worry about not being able to baptize my three younger children
  • I worry about not being able to be an escort when my two boys go through the temple
  • I worry about Mary and the children following me
  • I worry about leaving Mary to take the role of a single mother at church on Sundays
  • I worry about never being able to go to the temple again, the one thing remaining that ties us to the esoteric church of 200 years ago
  • I worry about not completing temple ordinances for my ancestors, something I have been working on for 25 years.
  • I worry about others having to come to my home to give Mary and our children blessings
  • I worry about being the last person in my family to go on a mission despite being the first
  • I worry about what it would mean to my parents, who were my pioneers
  • I worry about what it would mean to those I taught and baptized on my mission
  • I worry about not being able to give my boys the Melchizedek Priesthood, something my dad was never able to do for me.
  • Related to that, I worry about not being able to be ordained a high priest by my dad, the last chance I have to get my priesthood lineage from him
  • I worry about satisfying those who already expect me to leave

So, for anyone wondering what I’m struggling with, it isn’t about trying to reconcile my beliefs with the new policy to rationalize it. I think it’s wrong. Period.

No, I’m struggling with so much more and with something far more complex.

And I don’t know how long it will take before I have my answer, nor what will happen when something like this happens again.

What I do know is that it’s not an easy decision for those who decided to leave the church, and we should be careful about judging them when they do.

6 thoughts on “Why I’m struggling (and it’s not what you think)

  1. As a matter of full disclosure I no longer consider myself a Christian. I did for most of my life and this is my insight on your concerns, for what it is worth:

    1. I worry about not being able to baptize my three younger children

    Why can’t you baptize them? It seems that the symbolism is the most important part to you. Additionally when it comes to Authority, there are many Christian faiths that will accept a Mormon baptism as a baptism within their own faith (there are those that do not as well). Those people believe that your faith in Christ, and the faith of the person you are baptizing, is what gives you the Authority. Even within Mormonism your ability to use the priesthood is only as good as your faith and the faith of the person being administered to. There is no reason not to believe your authority or priesthood solely only based upon that faith and is a birthright of being a spirit child of your heavenly parents. The belief that you can only be given authority by the laying on of hands, and under the direction of a local authority may sound cool; yet may be another one of the ‘pits’ you have spoken of.

    2. I worry about not being able to be an escort when my two boys go through the temple

    Nothing you can do about this, but who would be your sons’ escort in life should one or another have the same struggles as you, and want to know how and if it is okay to leave the church? You can be their pioneer (though your daughter may be able to help there instead, or as well). You also may be a pioneer for Mary should she decide to leave someday (my wife was my pioneer that way).

    3. I worry about Mary and the children following me

    If they follow you, they are following you to greater light and greater happiness, It is scary but worth it; especially when you are with the ones you love. Your wife is a grown up woman and she will make responsible choices for her life. You raise your children to be free thinking, responsible people. You’ll support them in the church or out. That is what matters, not if they follow you out or not.

    4. I worry about leaving Mary to take the role of a single mother at church on Sundays

    You would still drive them do and from if/when they need it, you would still go to see them give talks. You would go to seem them ordained or honoured. They will have your love and support. Mary would never be a single mother. I don’t see you leaving her alone at church if she wanted you there next to here. You love and support her, Your loving parents in heaven would not keep you separate in the next life if you left, because you left in an act of love and in preservation of mental health and support of your daughter and support of your brothers and sisters outside of the church.

    5. I worry about never being able to go to the temple again, the one thing remaining that ties us to the esoteric church of 200 years ago

    Why worry? If it isn’t the full truth you are not missing out. If there is any truth in it you will see it in the next life and you can make your own shrine or find peace and enlightenment in a tent in the desert and many of the other faiths beautiful meeting houses. If Abraham can leave and seek the promises of his ancestors you can too.

    6. I worry about not completing temple ordinances for my ancestors, something I have been working on for 25 years.

    See #1, you could dig a hole in your back yard or do ordinances in a lake or river. With your renovations is there is a room you could dedicate to the purpose of doing work for the dead and continue that there? If the work gets doubled up on by someone on an official church record that doesn’t matter. It only matters that your loved ancestors in the next life gets the ordinance.

    7. I worry about others having to come to my home to give Mary and our children blessings

    See #1 for authority. If it makes Mary feel better to have someone else come it than that is you supporting your wife. Though I think it better if you and her both lay on hands on your children to give blessings. Feels more the way God would want you to do it anyway.

    8. I worry about being the last person in my family to go on a mission despite being the first

    Huh?

    9. I worry about what it would mean to my parents, who were my pioneers

    If they love you, they would not want you to betray your morals and faith, no matter what that direction. Maybe you would become their pioneer. To everything there is a season.

    10. I worry about what it would mean to those I taught and baptized on my mission

    I worry about this as well but I have faith in each of their abilities to search, ponder and pray. If they joined the church solely because of me I was a bad missionary. If the joined because they felt the love of Christ in my example and words and ways they will keep following that love of Christ further. They are grown adults with the ability and responsibility to make their own choices. See #3 and #4

    11. I worry about not being able to give my boys the Melchizedek Priesthood, something my dad was never able to do for me.

    See #1, #3, #4,

    12. Related to that, I worry about not being able to be ordained a high priest by my dad, the last chance I have to get my priesthood lineage from him

    See #1, #3, #4, #13

    13. I worry about satisfying those who already expect me to leave

    Christ asks us to sacrifice all for him. Even out pride. This last one is hard but maybe in many ways the most important.

    There are some teachings that feel exclusive to Mormonism. Or those who hold similar belief hold other that go against our morals. We are each individuals on our own singular journey, we partner with family and friends. The things that are exclusive and speak to your heart may come from an ether that Joseph Smith, and Budda, and Mohammed, and Pope Francis and Kim Seiver have all tapped into from time to time. This ether gave you the pieces of truth you needed at those times. You can’t bar your progress on your journey because of the pits, or the judgment of others. Weither it be the Judgment of those who will excommunicate you, or the judgment of those who expected you to leave. Time and season for all things

  2. Wow.
    It takes courage to share something so deeply personal. I wish I had great insight to help you. And I fear to try lest my remarks are not what you need to hear. I would love for you to read my thoughts and say, “now there is someone who is willing to mourn with me, as I mourn, and willing to comfort me if he could”. Let’s hope so.
    It brings to my mind the scripture….
    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36)
    This scripture has always had an ominous ring to it. Christian discipleship is problematic. It isn’t wrapped up in a neat little package with a neat little bow. It can get messy and complicated and painful. As the Brother of Jared reminds us, even God, weeps for his children and has tough choices to make. I doubt it was easy to destroy the earth with a flood but he did it. If it was easy for God, then why would I worship such a God? What characteristics of God allowed him to sacrifice his own son? Clearly God’s ways are not necessarily my ways. And yet I am the beneficiary of that almost unspeakable and barbarous, yet wonderful act.
    I hope you do not throw in the towel. As I read your story I thought of Abraham. In all of human history any father who was willing to offer his son on the altar of sacrifice could rightly be considered a monster. And yet, in Abraham’s case, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3). Somehow, for Abraham, it was the right thing to do.
    Did Abraham love his son? Yes. Did Abraham want to throw in the towel? Probably. Did the deed fill him with dread? Yes. Despite all this, Abraham continued to believe God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham passed the trial of his faith.
    Does God place wedged between us and who and what we love most dearly? It seems so. God, also wants us to love him. (Sometimes he has strange ways of winning that love.)
    Abraham’s trust in God did not eliminate his love for Isaac. As you cling to faith in God you do not need to let go of your love for your daughter. You can tell her of your struggle. You can tell her that you are trusting that out of this terrible situation God can bring about something wonderful. I don’t think that your love for your daughter and your love for God are incompatible or mutually exclusive. I do not doubt you will continue to love your daughter, my hope for you is that continue to love God. I pray someone steps up and is there for you just to understand and accept your feelings without judgement. Even if no one does, Jesus can.
    If you want to give up I would not blame you, but I would be sad. If you really do believe in God deep down, then trust that your faith can help accomplish something great in your life and in the life of your family. Abraham becomes a father of many nations. If temple blessings are true, then you have the most to gain by sticking with those covenants. They will help you access the Atonement more completely, gain power in the priesthood, and claim sealing power.
    About the new policy (which must have been quite quiet because I didn’t know about it until I read your post) I would say that the brethren are not infallible and often see through a glass darkly. They might have vague impressions on policy and implement them in very human ways. The brethren have been progressive on several points recently and made many concessions in recent years. Given these concessions, their messages at General Conference and the bulk of the Handbook of Instructions you will have to weigh the balance here.
    I was curious about your comment, “As the church as grown more evangelical and my understanding of the actual Gospel has become more Christ-centred, this growing divide has become problematic for me.”
    To be fair, I think the church has become more Christ centered in recent years probably beginning in the 1980’s but we still have a long way to go. In only one of my Sunday School classes this term have we discussed grace and then only grace with conditions. Not to be contrarian but I have always thought the LDS church shared more with the Catholic tradition than the evangelical. I love the Catholic parts of Mormonism which I find most in the temple. The mysteries, the liturgy, the ordinances, the sacred vestments, the symbolic nature of things, and the priesthood, etc.
    You also say, “There are so many factors at play in m[y] head. As I’ve commented several times, the church is like a cherry pie: it tastes so good, but it has pits.” I agree with you on that one.
    God bless you, dear friend.

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