I spoke recently with someone who had decided to leave the church. He was really angry. I listened as he explained his reasons: “the church is a machine, designed to brainwash its people and make them feel guilty for failing!” was the jist of it. He thought it particularly abominable that children in Mormonism were taught the same “damaging” principles of the gospel, even singing songs that embodied LDS teaching.
I thought about his frustration and his real anger. When someone is that affected, it’s perhaps only right that one reflects upon ones own feelings. Should I be angry too? And if not, where was my serenity or comfort founded?
I thought first of my childhood experience in the church. What was I taught? What did I sing about?
“I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” So far I’ve learned that God is my parent of sorts, and He’s blessed me with good people in my life to nurture and raise me in a beautiful world that He made for me. For me this was true: my parents, fortunately and maybe unlike others, were kind and they were dear. So far God is coming out to be quite a nice guy, and if I believed He created me and this earth and the parents who I knew loved Him, then as a child in a world that could be big and scary, putting my faith and my trust in Him seemed wise, “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me.” I like this next part: “help me find the way.” So, even after establishing this great being was all-powerful, the creator, and my father: as a four year old I was taught that I was the one to choose, that I wouldn’t just be handed everything easily, but that I would captain this journey.
I also sang: Love One Another, Thanks to Thee, I’m Thankful to Be Me, I feel My Saviour’s Love, I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, Search Ponder and Pray, A Special Gift is Kindness, Kindness Begins with Me, I Believe in Being Honest, I Am Glad for Many Things, Dare to Do Right, Friends Are Fun… If titles are anything to go by, it looks like these might be general qualities of a good human being that any parent would want to teach their child!
Considering how wicked this world is, how corrupted it is at every corner, how evil has become something seen in plain sight at the flick of switch- it’s available in our homes, in our pockets even! Considering the darkness of the world at every turn, I concluded that there are worse things to corrupt or “brainwash” a child or an adult with than love for our fellow man, compassion for the needy and faith and reverence for something greater than ourselves. Would I do it any differently? Could I ever hope to be able to raise humble and delightful children of my own in the middle of such chaos? I think of the duty that parenthood demands, for me and for my parents in Heaven. How grateful I am for the help of a church that offers suggestion and guidance if we desire it. How grateful I am that I know that even though God is all-powerful and knowledgeable, that it was Him who put me here and gave me the best people around me- He who is the best qualified gave me the leading role. I get to decide what I want, and how I want to get it. Maybe I’m selfish- maybe it’s a case of asking the Genie for unlimited wishes, but what I want is to be just like Him; to know what He knows and to do what He can do!
I read in Alma 5:38-39,
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye?
Choice is at the heart of the message of the gospel. I found that even though I was raised within the structure of the gospel; taught principles that my parents found in the scriptures and gleaned from modern day prophets, my childhood journey was defined by moments where I was given the choice. Where would I choose to stand? I’m grateful for parent’s who did not dictate, but who led by example. Did I want what they had for myself? Whose team did I want to be on?
I studied the thirteenth article of faith: “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” That was the team slogan for me. I looked around me for better slogans, but found none. In choosing to be on the side of the good shepherd, I found safety, joy and truth.
As I am growing in my own faith, and continually learning to be a “me” rather than a “we” with my parents and siblings (as my singledom and distance from them dictates), I am finding that the journey of discipleship is beautifully flawed. The structure and the pathway itself is not flawed: but the disciple most certainly is. I love learning that perfection is just not a requirement of this time and place. What is, and what is required of those who are in the fold of the good shepherd, is that we try. I’ll leave you with some thoughts from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf from his talk “On Being Genuine.”
My dear friends and fellow priesthood holders [Hollie’s note: we, both men and women, are priesthood holders], if Jesus Christ were to sit down with us and ask for an accounting of our stewardship, I am not sure He would focus much on programs and statistics. What the Savior would want to know is the condition of our heart. He would want to know how we love and minister to those in our care, how we show our love to our spouse and family, and how we lighten their daily load. And the Savior would want to know how you and I grow closer to Him and to our Heavenly Father…. I am here because I desire with all my heart to follow my Master, Jesus Christ. I yearn to do all that He asks of me in this great cause. I hunger to be edified by the Holy Spirit and hear the voice of God as He speaks through His ordained servants. I am here to become a better man, to be lifted by the inspiring examples of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to learn how to more effectively minister to those in need.
… In short, I am here because I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Church is not an automobile showroom–a place to put ourselves on display so that others can admire our spirituality, capacity, or prosperity. It is more like a service center, where vehicles in need of repair come for maintenance and rehabilitation. And are we not, all of us, in need of repair, maintenance, and rehabilitation?
We come to church not to hide our problems but to heal them.