I welcome discussion on my blog. People who disagree with my posts sometimes comment about them, and that’s terrific. A blog is supposed to be a springboard for conversation, not a bully pulpit for the views of one person. I’m always especially happy when people can disagree while following basic rules of civility, and when they back up their opinions with actual evidence rather than mere bluster.
But there is one comment that I get fairly frequently and simply don’t understand. It’s “If you’re unhappy, why don’t you just leave?”
So for the record, I am not a bit unhappy. And here are the four main reasons why I am still here. Still Mormon. Not going anywhere.
- I believe in the fundamental tenets of the restored gospel. In Mormon lingo, I would say I have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and his atonement. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. My soul has delighted in the teachings of the Book of Mormon just as it has in the teachings of the Bible. We might ask those who are so quick to forever banish the people with whom they disagree: Where are those Mormons to go? Where, exactly, might Mormons who agree with the core doctrines but not the cultural policies of the LDS Church find their faith community?
- I was called by God to be here. When I converted to Mormonism in my 20s (at some personal cost), I did so because I knew in my bones that I was called to do so. I kept trying to ignore that nagging sense that God had a plan for me in this faith tradition despite the fact that so many of its policies disturbed me. If you want to read more about my conversion, you can do so here and here. For the purposes of this post all I can say is that I have a firm knowledge of my place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confirmed many times by answers to prayer and also by the promises in my patriarchal blessing.
- The LDS Church is a family, not a club. News flash: we don’t get to choose the people in our families. There are likely some folks we feel we could jolly well get along without, or people whose views make us uncomfortable. But even if we don’t understand each other—even if we can’t stand each other—that doesn’t alter the bedrock relationship that exists between us. We are family, period. I’m fine playing the role of the grumpy aunt at the family reunion who points out that the potato salad has been sitting in the sun too long or that we need to stop living in the past. You don’t have to listen to me. But you don’t get to kick me out of the family.
- The Church is a training ground for the kingdom, the body of Christ. This, in the end, is the most important reason of all. We don’t get to exile other people from the body of Christ any more than we would amputate our own limbs or pluck out our eyes. I once taught a Gospel Doctrine lesson where we were discussing Paul’s powerful metaphor of the body of Christ. It bears quoting at length:
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
After briefly discussing the passage in the abstract, we spent the rest of the time playing a kind of “Positive Bombardment” where class members built one another up in the Spirit. We highlighted each person individually as I drew the various parts of a body on the chalkboard. They told uplifting stories about each other’s acts of service through the years. One woman, I found out, had for decades remembered all the birthdays of people in the ward, and would show up at their doors with a card and a hug. She got a hand. Someone else had given money to a family when they had nothing and it seemed they had no way out. He got a foot. On and on the stories went: head, heart, eyes, ears.
At the end we had a body, a perfect body that had been forged by imperfect people. That is the Church. It took all of us, every last brother and sister, to train to be the body of Christ.
P.S. I stole the “still here, not going anywhere” tagline from my friend Donna Freitas, who used to have an online column called “The Stubborn Catholic” at the Washington Post. Thanks, Donna! And the image of community is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.