Monday, November 16, 2009
(Do) I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ . . . (?)
There is a feeling of belonging that I, growing up as a military dependent to a decidedly non-pro-military social worker, have only rarely felt. In fact, I think it safe to say that the only time I have ever felt that I belonged somewhere was before I was married when I attended the temple. One place I decidedly do not feel a part of a group is in church on Sunday. Although my current situation exacerbates this feeling, it is nothing new.
Once, when I went to attend Conference just after the Conference Center was built, I did not know that tickets were necessary to attend. I found myself standing awkwardly with a group of strangers on the sidelines, watching the-Ones-with-Tickets file into the doors. As I was shunted up through a side door and to the nosebleeds, I got a taste of what it must have felt like to be a Jew in the early stages of Nazi Germany, a segregated person after the Civil War, one of the Untouchables in Indian society, or one of the ignorant converts in a very closely knit religious society. At the time, I had not felt more obviously different from the rest of Church membership than I did that day. When I hear various interest groups—LDS feminists, intellectuals, non-Utah Mormons, gay/lesbian members, recent converts—talk about wanting to feel a part of the Church, my heart resonates with their desires even though I really belong to none of these sub-groups.
I have thought long and hard on feelings of estrangement throughout my life in the Church. It occurs to me that almost everyone feels outside of the group at one time or another. Whether we are different because of age, background, personality, beliefs, skin color, height, or any other factor, we still feel the sharp, cold sting of being other than those around us. Three things have helped me soften that sting.
First, to realize that my feelings belong to me alone. No one can make me feel anything, nor can anyone change how I feel without my cooperation.
Second, that my differences give me the ability to serve in the Church in ways that others may not be able to serve. That might not be appreciated by others, but it is necessary all the same.
Most importantly, that no matter the circumstance that sets me apart from other members of the Church, there is one unifying factor that makes my differences meaningless; my faith in Christ and His prophets. I believe on Christ and rely on Him. I believe that He is working through the leadership of the Church to bring about His great purposes.
It doesn't matter if other members of the Church see me as strange, or hold me in contempt because I don't understand workings of the Church or the gospel of Christ the way they understand it. I know that my Father and my Savior have bonded me to Them through the Spirit. In the end, I am answerable only to Them. That is why I can happily declare that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know who I am. I know God's plan, and I'll follow Him in faith.