Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Why the CES Letter is Utterly Irrelevant

This morning as we were getting ready for work, I brought up the recent CES Letter excommunication of Jeremy Runnells with my kids. As I was talking to them in under-10-years-old terms about some of the biggest big-ticket items, the reaction of the antiMormon world, and the reaction of the Mormon Apologetics world, my mind started thinking about a friend of mine who is thinking about investigating the Church.

I've not been the best representative of the Church to him. My testimony is more of the "lots of things are really hard about this Church, but God wants me here, it is led by Him, and I believe it," type, less of the "It's true! Everything is awesome!!!" type.

Despite allegations from disaffected and ex-Mormons, I think most of the Church is along those lines. I've not met many people who are of the "believe at all costs" types. Most of us, especially converts, believe because we have received personal confirmation from God. It's people who have been raised in a heavily Mormon world who seem to struggle more with it.

But, as I am a failure in the Gospel on so many levels, I often see myself examining my beliefs and actions from a third-party point of view. Especially as I watch my children begin to form their own testimonies. What, exactly, is the difference between someone who believes and someone who doesn't? It's not knowledge, as most ex-Mormons would have you believe. Nor is it insulation from opposing points of view. Nor is it buying into the lies.

It might be that I was always given freedom to figure things out for myself. But, having done that, I worry sometimes that I fail to walk that line with my own kids. Freedom to figure things out is great, but it has to be accompanied by testimony from parents of what they believe. And I wonder if, in my struggles to make sense of all the things I'd been told in Church which don't seem to work for me, I've done that well enough.

Because, despite my struggling with certain doctrines and my place within them, I know it's true. I really do. As much as anyone can really know anything. And maybe that's it.

I look at the tone and attitudes of those who so virulently publish arguments against the Mormon Church, or even those who so frequently blog about the flaws, and I see how that bitterness feeds them, swirls around the echo chambers, building from dissatisfaction to anger, from anger to fury, and from fury to an excuse to ridicule and dismiss people who don't agree.

I believe apologists are part of this problem. I understand why apologia is made, because some people need an external source of reason to justify believing what they want to believe, but I think when apologists directly engage on a point-by-point basis, they do little but fuel the frenzy. I've seen that, while reasoning may give people space to believe, it does not make belief.

In the end, for me, it was simply a choice. There is so, so much flawed about the Church. There is so, so much flawed about its past. But I looked at the Church, I looked at myself, I looked at scripture, and I looked at God. After all is said and done, I have seen how God has dealt with His people from the moment Adam was placed on this earth to this moment, right now, as I sit here with a ball of directionless bitterness in my heart about my own mistakes.

Really, it's all the same thing. If God can forgive Adam and Eve for breaking the one, clear, and immediate commandment He gave them, if He can send me message after message to "be still, and know that I am God," if He can refuse to leave me alone with my anger and confusion and inability to deal with certain aspects of my life, then He can call a boy like Joe Smith to become Brother Joseph. And if he can do that, did He? Through the Spirit, He says yes.

I don't see the mistakes of prophets as reasons to be angry with them. Truly, despite my own anger at myself, I can trust that maybe I don't deserve that anger either. I hear the Apostles speak, and I don't see greedy, opportunistic, status-hungry men who want only to maintain their power. I hear in their voices the same yearning to be a good disciple, and keen knowledge of personal limits that has become the essence of my own testimony.

I know they are men of God, because I see in them the same imperfection, yearning desire, and reliance on God that I feel He is trying to teach me. It's like a thrum of harmony in my life of dissonance.

I don't know everything. I don't know exactly what was a mistake, and what was what God commanded. I don't know why some of those things happened, and I don't believe it is possible to know. But I know God. I know how He has dealt with me since I was old enough to wonder if He was there. I know that I've already become more than I ever thought I could be.

I know that God loves His children, and sometimes that is enough.


  1. "In the end, for me, it was simply a choice."

    This is perfect. The Holy Ghost, the baptism of fire, it changes us so that we will make that choice--the choice to believe. Logic and reason can provide an outer layer, but at the core must be choice.

  2. While you and I almost always say the same thing, you say it in a way that is SOOOOO much more heartfelt and digestible than I ever will or could. Thank you for that!


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