Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If Only the Church Would Change

It seems that many people, both members and not, believe the LDS Church should change in order to fit some agenda they have. Whether it is admitting fault in the pre-1978 Priesthood Ban, spending more time with apologetics, changing the wording of temple covenants or giving women the priesthood, there is a long, tired list of changes people believe they should make. The prevailing thought seems to be that if only the Brethren who are called to run the Church understood or were wise/smart/savvy/up-to-date/enlightened/etc. enough, the Church would be different and better. Sometimes it feels like one of those mix-and-match books where you can choose the issue and a deprecating adjective to make a new complaint.

At any rate, I was thinking about this and trying to figure out the root of the problem. I don't think the problem is really the priesthood, the patriarchy, or any of the things people like to complain about. I think the problem goes much deeper. Even were the prophet to snap his fingers and change everything tomorrow, there would still be something for such people to complain about. If homosexuality was accepted, it would be transgender. If women were given the priesthood, it would be that they don't have enough roles in it. A solution cannot be found by the Brethren conforming to popular opinion.

Furthermore, most of these things don't bother me, at least not to the degree they bother some. I wasn't really sure why this is. Some of them used to bother me much more than they do now, but although I never really tried to change my feelings on the issues, my feelings changed on their own. What was the difference?

As I thought about these things this morning, I felt that the root cause of much of these problems is a lack of true faith in God. (Let me establish, I'm making no judgment on individuals with issues, nor am I trying to disparage those issues, I'm just trying to examine the problem in general.) I don't mean a lack of belief that He exists, but a lack of true faith.

I have learned a lot about faith lately. It isn't about believing, it is about trusting. It is about taking that step into the chasm, even though you can't see the bridge under your feet. It is about falling into the chasm and being okay with that, because you know who you are and who God is. It's about standing in front of a furnace hot enough to boil bone and saying, "I know that God can save me, but if He does not, still I will follow Him." It is about saying "I am hurt that women don't have the priesthood. I hope that some day they will have the chance to lead in the Church the way men do, but even if they are eternally less than men in this way, still I will follow God. Still will I submit to His will as now understood through His prophets. Still will I obey." It is about saying "I think the Church was wrong to withhold the priesthood from blacks in the past. But I may be wrong. Either way, my opinion is not important, and my needs are in the hands of my Redeemer to do with as He will."

It is about taking your pain and letting it go.

A lady I know wanted more than anything to have an eternal family. She gave up her dream career, much of her pride and comfort for this dream. All of her effort went into attaining this goal. While pregnant with her fifth child, her husband, well regarded in the church, had an affair. After the baby's birth, he divorced her and moved his new girlfriend into the house they had lived in. Her dream was shattered. And yet, with her righteous desires lying crumbled around her feet, with five children to raise on her own and no hope of ever marrying again, she let go of that dream, turned it over to the Father's hands and simply served her children and the other children of God. I don't know if she is happy, or if she will ever gain her dream in this life. There is no solid doctrine promising her an eternal marriage after her death. But, she has done her best to follow the will of the Lord, and she trusts Him to take care of her needs.

"And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, "What shall we eat?" or, "What shall we drink?" or, "Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" [Or "How will I be healed?" or "When will I be equal?"] . . . . For your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

I am not free from this problem. Because of my recent life challenges, I have wasted too much time wishing things would change to conform to my dreams and thoughts of how things should be. I have "labored much in the Spirit" that I would be able to accept the dissolution of my righteous desires, and learn to let go of my needs and learn true charity for others. I am no different from those who long for the Church to conform to their desires. But I think perhaps the reason neither my life nor the Church will change to fit opinion, or do many of the things wanted of them is because God's people must be a people of faith. If everything in the Church (or my life) was perfect, there would be no reason for faith. And if the Brethren were smart/savvy/inspired/etc. enough to do what was wanted of them, there would be no room for humility and patience . . . or for charity.


  1. I appreciate this. As I have struggled with the 'church' I have been trying to stregthen my testimony of the gospel and the Savior. Your post was just what I needed. I have had this same thought "...but even if they are eternally less than men in this way, still I will follow God." This is my desire. And it is good to read of someone else who is trying to do the best with what there is, not what could be 'if only'. And I needed the reminder to rely upon the Savior.

  2. "It is about taking your pain and letting it go." This is the struggle I seem to consistently have with faith. I trust Him and am okay accepting His will - up to a point and then it seems I am unable to take further steps into the chasm. Sometimes I feel I am already on the rocky bottom so how can He ask me to fall further? However, I find I am much stronger than I dreamed possible and I just keep hanging on (enduring well enough for now) until I understand His purposes more clearly. My unwavering hope in the Savior is what makes the difference for me.

  3. One recent change that I am glad for: I just got some garments at the distribution center that are part spandex. Now Mormons can wear stretchy pants too! (That comment will be weird unless you have seen Nacho Libre.)

    Really though, sometimes I do appreciate the little changes, e.g. with the temple, the priesthood revelation, or the evolving view of the lgbt community. However, perhaps similar to you and others, my faith and positive experiences with the gospel far outweigh my problems with the church.

  4. Great Post and have enjoyed Bantering with you on MM.

    Hope you don't mind me sharing a poem which isn't too cheesy.

    As a rule mans a fool , when its hot he wants it cool, never wanting what he's got, always wanting what is not.

  5. I agree that our happiness should not depend on whether or when certain adjustments are made in Church programs, practices, or teachings. It is, to paraphrase the serenity prayer, something that "we cannot change".

    On the other hand, I am glad for changes I have seen (and hoped for) during my adult life--the end of the practice of withholding priesthood/temple blessings based on race/lineage; two piece garments instead of one piece; the permitting of women to receive their endowments even if their husbands are unendowed; the 1985 hymnal; the end of the correllation experiment of restricting to Melchizedek Priesthood holders the ability to pray in Sacrament meeting; the issuance of official Church statements that the number and timing of children are a matter to be decided by a married couple seeking God's inspiration; to name just a few. And, to paraphrase the articles of faith, I look forward to God's revealing further improvements in the policies, practices and teachings of the Church.


  6. Thank you, you captured the answer well.

  7. I agree totally with this post, SR. As Bro. Robinson wrote, there is a difference in believing IN God and believing God. Sometimes I think we simply need to learn to let go of our mortal expectations, do the best we can and trust He will treat us lovingly and mercifully in the end.

    I too am thankful for the changes I have seen in my lifetime, and I hope to see more, but I am content to wait for it to happen according to the Lord's timetable.

  8. This is a thought-provoking post.

    Faith is hard work, but so worth it. It amazes me, though, how much I have to continue to learn and stretch beyond what I thought I could do, what I thought my limits were.

    And how, if I don't give up or give in or stop trying, there is always light at some point. It doesn't always come as or when I wanted, but it does come.

    The older I get, the more those kinds of anchor experiences help.

    (Of course, I'm saying this as I have had a significant experience with finding light in my darkness....)

  9. This is just what I needed to reminded of today.

  10. Holy cow. I should have read this post when you actually posted it --I think it would have saved me a lot of frustration and heartache this last week. :)

    I have a hard time with letting things go --not with the leaders of the Church (I honestly have no problem with obedience or following a Bishop or SP or Prophet), but with God's plan for me. Individually. I tend to focus on what I want or what I think I want, and I get frustrated when I'm faced with abandoning all of it. The last 2 years of my life have been a huge eye-opening experience with one catastrophe after another, and I feel at times as if I should be done! I mean, Haven't I learned my lesson, yet?! But then I'm told: Nope. But instead of giving into the frustration and despair and feeling of complete helplessness and hopelessness, all I really need to do is let it go. Just have faith. God has always helped me (and my family), so why would He leave us now? He won't. I need to trust that and stop worrying so much.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It's wonderful. :)

  11. Great insights.

    Now if only we could get the church to equalize Scouts and Activity Day and let women say the opening prayers in church...

    I guess I have more work to do.

  12. Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. I'm having a strong lack of urge to get online, lately. It amazes me how many of you have responded to this. I thought it would not be taken this well. I'm glad it was.

    I posted it because I'm no stranger to the feeling. I have come to feel that we are judged on what we do in the world we are in. There is nothing wrong with trying to change oneself, and nothing wrong in trying to influence the world for good, but there is a difference between influencing and allowing oneself to become bitter and angry at what is.

    When it comes to the Church, there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with concerns. It is paramount, however, that one accept the decision of those who have been appointed to the duty of leading the Church. Humility and sacrifice are two of the greatest laws of heaven. It is hubris to believe that you know more and understand better than those who are called of God. Even if it is true, it's a moot point. It doesn't matter. It's even more prideful to believe that your agendas trump everything else the leadership has to deal with. This goes for a local level as much as a general one.

    But I'm not trying to be preachy, just sharing some things I've realized.

  13. Silver,
    I like your last thoughts.

    I had a thought recently that trying to make choices to make the church change could, in its own way, be another manifestation of unrighteous dominion. In the end, we are not to try to control in any way for personal advantage. And think of the characteristics in Doctrine and Covenants 121 -- the only way to HAVE influence is to be longsuffering, humble, purely loving, etc. etc. etc. So I agree that in the end, we need to learn to submit and be patient even when we don't agree, or when we wish something was different. Because in the end, most of the time, it's not our place to change things.

    And the other thing that has struck me lately from some really amazing experiences I have had is that the Lord really can work miracles through the weak and simple. The best way we can 'change the church' is really to each individually seek to submit to God and let Him work through us -- not to try to MAKE things happen in our way, timetable, etc. And to trust that others are doing their best in their spheres.

    Easy to say. Hard to do!

  14. "It's even more prideful to believe that your agendas trump everything else the leadership has to deal with. This goes for a local level as much as a general one." This is so wise, SilverRain.

    I wrote a long response to the comments on this thread, and then decided that I should post it on my blog, which I have long neglected!

    Thanks for prompting me to at least try to get back to blogging!

  15. You don't know me, but I stumbled on your blog and thought I would comment on the woman "who lost her dream."

    When you are married in the temple, there are no promises or covenants made between the husband and wife. Many people don't realize this. Each person makes a covenant with GOD that they will be faithful. The blessings then promised are extended to each person individually. Ideally, both parties keep their covenants and receive the blessings as a couple.

    Done in this way, if one person is unfaithful to their covenants, they lose THEIR promised blessings while the other person still qualifies. We believe that we are punished for our own sins and not for [others'] transgressions.

    For the woman who kept her covenants, she still has claim on the blessings. If the ultimate blessing is to become a God/Goddess in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, it's inferred that she will have an eternal spouse. We don't know exactly how this will work yet, but it has to happen. My guess is that something will work out in the millennium.

    There's a lot of debate as to whether or not Christ was married while He was living. Whether He was or wasn't, we know that He eventually will be since it's a requirement for exaltation.

    So my thought is that there is a solid doctrinal promise that she will have an eternal marriage after her death. She kept her part of the covenant, and God will surely keep His part!


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