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

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.

What Does Jesus Have to Do With Moving Violations?

The relationship between America and religion has been quite interesting to watch over the country’s relatively short history. After all, some could say the country was founded by the Pilgrims: those seeking freedom from religious intolerance. Of course, the Lenape, the Lakota and the Navajo, among many others, were here first. But that’s a different article.

Founded on the ability of its citizens to practice religion peacefully – no matter what religion that happened to be – there’s a saying we all know that’s supposed to inform government decisions: the separation of church and state. In other words, while those who lead are free to believe in whatever they’d like, they can’t use their power to force people to believe similarly.

Which brings us to an interesting case that’s sprouted up in Indiana.

Does Jesus write traffic tickets?

In August, Ellen Bogan was pulled over in Union County for an alleged traffic violation.

Everything seemed to be perfectly normal. In fact, some could argue it worked out even better than normal for Bogan, who received a warning instead of a ticket.

But just before Bogan thought the traffic stop was winding down, Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton decided to ask her a series of questions: Does she go to church? Does she believe in Jesus Christ? Does she realize Jesus died for her sins?

“It’s completely out of line and it just – it took me aback,” Bogan recently said. After those questions were asked, Hamilton allegedly took out a religious pamphlet from his cruiser before presenting it to her and letting her go on her way.

Partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union, Bogan filed a lawsuit against Hamilton in a federal court in September. It remains to be seen how that case will unfold, and in the meantime, the police department says it’s taken some sort of disciplinary measures. But that statement lacked specifics.

What’s going on here, anyway?

At the very basic level, Hamilton should be ashamed of himself for his actions after pulling Bogan over.

Even though he might have been well-intentioned, the fact is that as an officer in uniform, he is a representative of the government. More specifically: a government that prides itself on keeping church and state affairs separate from one another.

Because of what they represent, most law-abiding Americans are going to be pretty scared during even the most routine of interactions with police officers. After all, state troopers are physical manifestations of law enforcement. We are taught from an early age to respect and/or fear them, lest there be consequences.

And that respect usually entails listening to what they have to say and keeping quiet in order to not dig yourself into an even deeper hole.

Bogan did what most smart Americans would do: behaved cordially and kept quiet. But the experience to her, a non churchgoer, was so odd that she couldn’t let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess that’s understandable given today’s political climate.

But at the end of the day…

While Hamilton was clearly out of line here – after all, officers aren’t allowed to detain you for longer than they need to if you’re not going to be arrested for a crime – let’s keep in mind that his actions, no matter how you want to phrase them, aren’t grievous.

We of course can’t just hop into Hamilton’s mind and understand exactly what was going through it at a certain point, but it appears as though his offense is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Just consider the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City officer accused of sexually assaulting women he pulled over.

Police officers are humans, too. Even the calmest, coolest and most collected officer will from time to time remember that he or she is more than a badge and a gun. That officer will show attributes that make him or her, well, human.

So is this story so outrageous because Hamilton was trying to convert a constituent to his religion? Would it be a nonstory if he asked Bogan whether he’d buy Girl Scout cookies that his daughter was trying to sell? Or would that be going over the line, too?

I have to admit: I do expect things to be different in the private sector. I’ve been accosted about my contribution to global warming while shopping at a local business. I didn’t really expect it, but that’s Free Speech at work. Perhaps the better example would be another public servant, such as a teacher. Should teachers be able to proselytize to their captive audience? Of course not; some of the teachers I respected the most over the years were the ones who were obviously opinionated but didn’t let their feelings enter into their work “personas.”

The bottom line here is that, as a country, we are too easily offended by just about everything. There was even a considerable uproar over a recent Jeopardy! category called “What Women Want.” While the category might have been poorly conceived, particularly in today’s perpetually offended society, take a step back and realize that the family-oriented quiz show likely wasn’t trying to make some grandiose political commentary on a touchy subject.

The easier answer? The producers made a mistake.

While Hamilton was certainly in the wrong in this particular scenario, is it really that big of a deal? Did anyone else come forward to say that the trooper had done the same thing to them? Would people care if an atheist asked a religious constituent whether he or she believed in no god?

We will never live in a perfect society. But with all the other craziness going on across the globe, it might be time for America to take a deep breath and pick bigger battles.

Image Credit: Keoni Cabral (via Flickr)

A questioning culture

Several months ago, I found myself in a situation where someone chastised me for something I had written on this blog. Never mind the fact that what I had written had been misinterpreted, but I was hurt that someone doubted my commitment to the church because I asked questions.

I knew I had seen quotes from past leaders embracing questioning from members, so I spent several days combing resources for such quotes and compiled them into one document.

Here is what I came up with:

  • “If [the prophet] writes something . . . out of harmony with [scripture, we are] duty bound to reject it. If [it’s] in perfect harmony with [scripture], [we] accept [it].” —Joseph Fielding Smith
  • “If [the prophet] says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works . . . it is false” —Harold B. Lee
  • “When ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ comes from [the prophet], the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” —Charles W. Penrose
  • “There is no place in the church for blind adherence.” —John A. Widstoe
  • “I am fearful [members trust] their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence” —Brigham Young
  • “Let every[one] know, by the whispering of the Spirit . . . whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.” —Brigham Young
  • “Every church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the church intelligently.” —John A. Widstoe
  • “God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons” —James E. Talmage
  • “[We] . . . are obedient because [we] know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of . . . individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.” —Boyd K. Packer
  • “Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. —Boyd K. Packer
  • “Each member . . . has a right to . . . judge . . . those who . . . act in their interests” —Lorenzo Snow
  • “We can tell when . . . speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we . . . are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ . . . the responsibility [is for] us to determine when they so speak.” —J. Reuben Clark

You can read the quotes in context here.

Do you know of any others? Share them in the comments below.

Wouldn’t it be nice?

Wouldn’t it be nice if an LDS Canadian could walk through his meetinghouse and see room labels in Canadian English?

Wouldn’t it be nice if an LDS Canadian could flip to the back of a hymnal and not see the Star Spangled Banner, and “O, Canada” wasn’t a photocopied paper taped in its place?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a new hymnal released and hymns from outside of Utah were included in it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if speakers at conference could speak in their native tongue?

Wouldn’t it be nice if non-American anglophones could get a Book of Mormon in the English they speak?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find pictures of interracial relationships in the Ensign?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Pioneer Day started evolving in a way that incorporates the pioneers of the last 50 years (e.g. Africa, Asia, South America, Eastern Europe)?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the “Places to Visit” page on LDS.ORG had more non-American sites (e.g. Charles Ora Card’s home in Cardston, Black Creek Monument in Ontario)?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Pageants page on LDS.ORG listed non-American pageants (e.g. Lethbridge’s Nativity Pageant)?

Wouldn’t it be nice if Ensign articles that mention a US city and state (e.g. Billings, Montana) included USA after them (e.g. Billings, Montana, USA)?

Device to Root Out Evil

Device to Root out Evil
Photo by Flickr user whistlepunch.
CC (some rights reserved)

The Canadian Press is reporting that the controversial sculpture, Device to Root Out Evil, located for the last 2 years in down-town Vancouver in a prominent location near Stanley Park, will be coming down.

From the Globe and Mail:

The decision to remove the sculpture, approved unanimously by Vancouver Park Board commissioners this week, has dismayed those who wanted to keep the piece’s topsy-turvy church spire where it is, firmly planted in the grass of Harbour Green Park.

And it has rekindled debate on the role of public art in a city that yearns for world-class status but often succumbs, in the eyes of critics, to small-town thinking.

“The Park Board couldn’t find a way to rise above the history and controversy of this sculpture,” George Wagner, an associate professor at the University of B.C. school of architecture, said yesterday.

The sculpture of an upside-down chapel has had a controversial life. First, it was rejected by the director of New York City’s public art fund when he cited fears that religious leaders would be offended.

A few years later, Standford University in California backed out of a deal to buy the sculpture after extensive complaints by churchgoers.

Now that the Vancouver Parks Board have voted to remove this artwork citing, “community pressure”, they are taking public opinions on the decision at the next board meeting.

The artist, Dennis Oppenheim, denies any anti-religious design to the piece.

Personally, I don’t readily grasp the offensive nature of an upside-down-church. What is it that makes this artwork offensive and should it go?

Choices and Consequences

My mind has been somewhat taken up with the news of the deaths of these poor baby girls in Saskatchewan, left to freeze and die in the cold snow, in -50 degree weather, this week. My heart breaks for them, for their loved ones, including the young father who left them (and again we don’t know all the details) because in spite of the mistakes he made, in taking them out without proper clothes, and leaving them, because he wasn’t aware of all he was doing, he is suffering for the choices he made. It looks as though something precipitated this, which caused a string of ill advised choices, fueled by alcohol and stress. I am not judging either, but just feeling pain for this family and these poor babies.The comfort is that I know Heavenly Father sent his angels to hold these innocents, to bring them home and maybe maybe to take away the suffering from the cold. Maybe the cold didn’t cause them too much physical anguish? I don’t know much of what freezing to death is like, and I don’t want to find out that they suffered excruciating pain, so young as they are. Children, especially the smallest ones need and are to be protected. So many children for many different reasons are not, and I know this hurts the Lord, I don’t question why He doesn’t always interfere, because He is wiser than I am.

What I feel, as a mother (and even just as a human being) is this urgency, to protect and save the suffering babies. Right now, this is the current one in my mind, these little girls who had little protection from the elements.

I am not thinking (as I know some are) that it is just more evidence of problems on the reserves. No, it is a human problem. The choices made by the father he will regret for the rest of his life. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and sorrow he is experiencing, and their mother as well, that because of a fight, she was not there to watch over and keep her girls safe. The tragedy just transcends all blame at that end.

I do think there is some responsibility for a government that does not regulate the sale of alcohol better. Yes, this father (and so many other alcoholics) made his own choice to purchase and consume alcohol, but evidence shows that First Nations people are genetically more prevalent to substance addiction. The government makes too much money, though to not control the purchase of alcohol or the accessibility of it, better. Do they think of the victims of alcoholism? The innocents, who because of this freedom to drink yourself into a stupor, suffer, and sometimes pay, as in this case, with their lives.

See, children have a right to be protected, to be cared for. They cannot care for themselves. If a puppy or a kitten had been left out there, that animal may have had a better chance of survival. But if an adult is at risk, then how much more are a 3 year old and a baby barely over the age of a year unable to look after themselves? Especially in the debilitating cold.

But the government does not want to lose the revenue they gain through the suffering of others. Our governments (provincial and federal) who are supposed to do their best for the citizens make poor decisions that affect the lives and well being of those who do not choose to even participate in that. These little girls were not a part of the decision their father made to drink, nor a part of the decision to sell the alcohol, to create easy access to it’s sale, to make it in the first place. Adults, people who are supposed to have the intelligence to make responsible choices designed to promote the well being and safety of those they have stewardship over, were the ones who made the decision that resulted in the suffering and death of two little girls.

All I know is that a loving Saviour held them in His arms, this I know, brought them home and ended their suffering and kept them safe and I am sure, wept tears because of His great love, not only for them, but for all involved.

I love the church youth program

I love how the church’s youth program prepares our children for real life by teaching them that:

  • There exists a social order based on popularity, physical appearance, and wealth
  • People love to talk behind your back
  • Leaders cater to the needs of the “in-crowd”
  • Token lip service to God is only required for 50 minutes on Sunday
  • The standards of the clique outweigh gospel standards
  • Rather than deal with problems, it’s best to just ignore the other person and leave them in the dark
  • Friendships change more frequently than you change your underwear
  • If your parents are in a church leadership position, you can get away with pretty much anything
  • If it appears to the leaders that there is nothing wrong, then dismiss anyone who says otherwise
  • Nice guys finish last

Funny how it really hasn’t changed that much since I was in the program 20+ years ago.