I was recently asked by a coworker if I am LDS. I’m no stranger to this question; after all, I live in Utah. Mormons are thick on the ground here, so inquiry about my membership in the dominant religion is not unheard of.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I never would have guessed.”
That surprised me. Had I been such a poor example? “Why?” I asked.
“You’re nice to me. I’m not used to that from Mormons.”
She went on to explain that she’d been a lifelong member of the church, but had left the fold because she’d been treated so abominably by members of the church that she refused to subject her family to further abuse. Another coworker overheard our conversation and agreed. She’d stopped going to church three years ago for the same reason. I listened to their stories and wanted to weep.
I’d be lying if I said I’ve never seen a Sunday morning when I’d rather eat my own hair than go mingle with the Saints for three hours. I’ve been married for 25 years, and lived in half as many wards. There have been days when it was difficult at best to witness the local illuminati glide to the pulpit and recite their litany of successes/blessings, extolling the righteousness of children who have never left the house unclean, immodest or uncombed. I’ve shriveled on the pew, overwhelmed by my own glaring failures, lacking the courage or incentive to march to the front of the chapel and list them.
And yet-there was planted in my soul, at an age younger than I can rationally explain away, a light. True, there have been times when I’ve industriously labored to hide that light – I make a mean bushel – but it has never gone out. The more time I’ve spent stumbling through the scriptures, the stronger my conviction has become. But it has never come easy.
I love the gospel. I love the Book of Mormon. Every April and October I anxiously await General Conference, but I often wonder what we could hear from them if they didn’t have to spend so much of their appointed airtime entreating us to just be NICE to each other. What would they say if they didn’t have to ask us to stop looking at things we shouldn’t, to curb our tongues, and treat our children and our neighbors with respect? How do we start building Zion when our leaders have to remind us to let our children play with ‘non-members?’ Quelle horreur.
Until we can learn to walk graciously in our communities, truly loving our neighbors as ourselves, the people in our sphere of influence may never understand that Heavenly Father loves them too, and He wants His children, every one of us, to return home.
We teach our daughters that “Modest is Hottest.” They know better than to ever bare a knee, or heaven forbid, a shoulder. Do they understand how evil it is to bear false witness? I’d argue that vicious gossip has been at least as detrimental to our society as the vilified tank top.
Is a piercing worse than speaking with a forked tongue? I’ve known people who would never utter a profane word; and yet they think nothing of spreading the most vile, slanderous hearsay about someone who must deserve their condemnation, because those people haven’t been to church for 237 consecutive Sundays in a row, and counting.
How we love to strain at gnats, even as we’re coming up with creative recipes for camel…
I’ve known too many good people who have been sacrificed at the altar of ‘Culturally Correct Mormonism.” I won’t go into detail here. We’ve all seen it. Too many of us have been on the receiving end. To my friends out there, known and unknown, who have been trampled by our fellow members in their zealous pursuit of perfection: I’m sorry. I hope you can find an inner reserve of hope, however small, a little glimmering light that can help you look beyond the pain you’ve suffered. It is my prayer that as a people, we can spend less time building Rameumptoms and more time bearing one another’s burdens.
We can send our young men and women out into the world as emissaries of the Savior, but until we as members learn to treat everyone– new members, old members, those who have turned away and those who have yet to embrace the gospel- with kindness and decency, that missionary service may have little lasting effect.
When we enter the waters of baptism, we come into the fold of God. We covenant to be called His People. We volunteer to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those who mourn, comfort those in need of comfort. Yes this is the ideal, but that fold must be a place of safety, a refuge.
Life is hard enough when we aren’t being reviled, or persecuted, our own faults and weaknesses the fodder for neighborhood chatter-especially when those doing the reviling and the persecuting are our own brothers and sisters.
President Hinckley said it best. “Imagine how our own families, let alone the world, would change if we vowed to keep faith with one another, strengthen one another, look for and accentuate the virtues in one another, and speak graciously concerning one another. Imagine the cumulative effect if we treated each other with respect and acceptance, if we willingly provided support. Such interactions practiced on a small scale would surely have a rippling effect throughout our homes and eventually, society at large.”
I’ve had my own journey of faith and doubt. I’ve had to learn for myself that there is Balm in Gilead. My relationship with the Savior lifts and protects me as nothing else can, and I have learned to find comfort and camaraderie with my fellow brothers and sisters. This perfect gospel is embraced by imperfect people who struggle and strive and sometimes fall short. But there are truly heroic people here as well, who have done more for me than I can ever do for myself. I hope that I can offer my own weak hands to lift those in their times of need.
If we can learn to concentrate more on lifting others. We’ll participate in a miracle.