This post addresses my thoughts regarding, not only the recent policy clarifications in Handbook 1, but the overall nature of the doctrine of Christ, our place within it, and what we can expect as disciples of the Sacrificed God.
It is not meant to be kind, or empathetic, or consoling. It is an exploration of Christ's doctrine as I understand it. I hope it can help someone, even though I expect it will be harsh in places.
In watching (mostly) the discussions going on about the policy changes, one thing is clear. So very, very few of us understand doctrine. I'm not claiming to any special understanding, but I have studied the scriptures long and hard, pondered them, and applied them to times in my life that nearly broke me. So I do know a few things about struggling to reconcile my life with God's word and the policies of the Church. I'm going to get a bit personal here, in the hopes that my experiences can inspire someone to seek understanding, rather than justice.
The core of all doctrine is the immeasurable love of God.
There is nothing that He does that is not for our welfare. Even the commandments He has given us which seem to hurt us, stop us from "living authentically," or seem to be uncharitable are always, always based on love.
God is a parent, first and above all else. And while I'm nowhere near as good of a parent as He is, even I know that sometimes my kids have to do things they don't like or want to do because it is best for them. And sometimes, they are even NOT allowed to do things that are good for them because it is best for them. That is what being a parent is: using my experience and wisdom which I've gained in a few dozen years of life to know when to protect my kids from always having to learn things by their own experience, and when not to.
And while I often explain things to my children, sometimes I don't. Or can't. Or only explain partially. Because they often don't have the perspective necessary to understand why I'm telling them what to do.
If I, as a child of God, can't accept that He knows better than I do, well...I'll have to learn by experience. He never forces the issue. But He's also not going to protect us from the consequence of error. He's not going to let us sin without suffering the consequences. That might seem merciful, but it's no better than letting my children enjoy eating nothing but candy until they die of malnutrition. There are laws decreed, and God will not—cannot—change them.
The church represents God or it doesn't.
If you don't like what the apostles and prophets are telling us, you are not alone. I don't know of any single member of the Church who has not or will not struggle with something the prophets teach us. You have a choice to make: whether or not you believe that the Church is true—that is, that it is the only Church authorized by Christ to represent Him on the earth.
If you don't believe that, do yourself a favor and move forward. You're only hurting yourself by gnawing over the wound. Look to the future, and not the past. Stop agonizing over what you have lost, or chosen to abandon, and look forward towards God. Build faith in Him again. Life is a funny thing, you never know where you might end up. Trust God, do your best to follow Him, and be confident in His love for you.
If you do believe that, but believe that the Apostles make mistakes that hurt people, well, you're right. Of course they make mistakes. Of course those mistakes will hurt people. The things they do that aren't mistakes will hurt people, too. Personal pain is not the trump card. God has not promised that if we dedicate ourselves to Him we will never be hurt. Quite the opposite.
Being a disciple of Christ means pain. It means weeping. It means suffering. It means watching God knock off all your corners, even your favorite ones. It means being rebuilt time and time again, until you someday get it right. But it also means learning from that pain, reaching out to others in pain, discovering for yourself that pain can either sanctify us, or it will break us.
The apostles understand the pain this causes. You're being foolish if you claim otherwise. Because I have been through a refiner's fire, I recognize others who have endured it, too. I have no doubt that they have felt the wracking pains of discipleship, the inferno of faith. If it weren't so, they could not be witnesses of the greatest pain ever suffered. If they did not also understand the sanctifying power of that pain, they could not witness to the divinity of the Lamb of God.
Christ Himself told us that His doctrine would break apart families, that God's covenant people will be wracked with sorrow until His most chosen are at risk of being deceived and breaking their bond to Him. If you have studied scripture, it should be no surprise that this generation is similarly refined.
The gospel asks us to choose between our family and our faith all the time.
There is not one soul on this earth who will not have to choose between things they love. My ex-husband tries desperately to turn my children away from the gospel. Though he is an inactive member, and even baptized my oldest himself, he continually picks at her faith, teaches them that going to church is a burden and a chore, and encourages them to fail to live up to the covenants they have made (or will make.)
I have had to face the fact that some day, he might succeed. Going to church is not easy, and it is often boring. When compared to staying home and watching movies or going out for fun, Church plainly can't compete. I have spent many nights in prayer and supplication to know how to teach the value I have found in living a disciple life.
I have already had to choose between my covenants made with my husband—between him—and God. I chose God. And while choosing God over my own children will be magnitudes more difficult, I am prepared if that day comes. I pray it never will. But discipleship has to be chosen by each person individually. When people choose to gratify themselves and their needs over the word of God, pain will inevitably follow.
But that brings me to my final, and also most important doctrine that must be understood:
Christ's atonement covers everything outside of our own control.
We only have to focus on what we can do. Whether or not you believe the Church leadership is making a mistake, the Atonement of Christ stands ready to heal all wounds, bind up all broken hearts. Not one soul who chooses Him will be denied the saving ordinances. All will be judged, with Christ as our advocate with justice. Just as I must believe that all will be well with me, lacking the ordinance of sealing (perhaps for the rest of my life, due to my own weaknesses,) all will be well with the children who must wait to be baptized. They will be given a choice, then, what they truly believe.
Because I have experienced the way God deals with me, with my rage and fear, my pain and agony, I know He will be there for any who seek Him. Trust Christ. He is powerful enough to save us all from our own weaknesses, the mistakes of others, and the pain of mortality.
We are separated from God for now, but eventually all will be made clear. We have a unique chance now, while on this earth, to decide whether we will follow Him despite not knowing everything. I love Him. I love the men He has chosen to represent Him. Their mistakes do not trouble me, because I know how many mistakes I have made, and how the Lord God's sacrifice heals the people I have harmed.
If there is any testimony I can give, it is that He is there. He knows your pain, your confusion, your sorrow. His disciples, whether called to Apostleship or not, stand ready to comfort you, to mourn with you, to take your hand and walk with you back into His presence, if you choose to. Be patient with yourself, be patient with the leadership of the Church. Replace pain with patience, anger with love.
With all that I am, and all I have lived, I testify to the mercy of the Savior. Go to Him, and be healed.