Once again, my heart and mind are turned to those who have left the Church.
One similar and resounding theme among them, is that they felt betrayed or held from all of the truth, whether it be in history or in doctrine.
Phases of Relationships
So, in relationships we all experience different stages. In relation to the church, to God, we go through the same stages.
The first is the honeymoon phase. I went through this ages fourteen to twenty, I was on fire. Loved studying my scriptures and praying. The spirit was abundant in my daily life, and I wanted to do everything I could to serve the Lord. He held my hand and let me know He was near and that He loved me. Then into my twenties, I felt like that left quite a bit. I wasn't as intense in my study and prayers and they became less frequent, but I still did what I could. It was time for me to grow and learn who I really was weaknesses and all and learn to be okay with that, to forgive and still love me. So I fought it sometimes, it was hard work. That is the storming phase. I believe that now I still rebel off and on and go through waves of spirituality and waves of distance. The waves are longer or shorter depending on the personality. Mine are relatively short. This is a process that introduces me into the next phase which is the "norming"~ I really learn to grow with God, to grow up-to walk to newer heights. I have found that after the honeymoon phase of our testimonies, when it dies down and He leaves us to ourselves a little more to choose and learn from our mistakes, is often the time that people leave because they simply are not feeling it as much. Returned missionaries probably feel this transition to the extreme, and often it is too much to handle-if they are not rooted firmly in gospel soil. Some go through a messy divorce from the church and deny the existence of God or the other person in their relationship. Some people distance themselves, but still hold positive and logical feelings about the situation and other person. And some still love God and believe in Him, but decide that the relationship to the church is not for them.
LINE upon LINE
In the Church, the basic lessons given, are geared toward the weakest saint, meaning those who are just learning and perhaps have joined recently, or have not been very active and are in spiritual knowledge equivalent to a baby. After fifteen years of really being active and dedicated in my faith and desire for greater knowledge, I'd say I'm at the level of a small child now, maybe just a toddler...learning to walk efficiently on my own. These things take time and effort. And many of us don't progress beyond needing the "milk" of the gospel. Whether or not we are ready for the "meat" we still need the milk to keep us nourished and full of energy and motivation. The meat is more filling and lasts longer...but is not as easy to digest (there are also greater consequences in it's consumption-to our detriment or benefit). And that's why we have so many reminders of the basic principles of the Gospel. It is a need in each of us, young and old, and has been set up that way by a loving Father in Heaven who anticipates his children's needs as a whole, as well as the individual.
Imagine how many new members would get overwhelmed and discouraged if only the deeper doctrines and studies were taught. It has to do with both charity on our part toward our brothers and sisters (whose souls are all precious), and the need for each of us to gain a sturdy foundation in the basic principles of the gospel (also charity from our wise Father) before we are ready to move on.
The more we understand (the more we have really sought out and come to know and live) a certain principle, the more that is required at our hands by our Master teacher to live up to that principle. If we choose to continue working in that area, our knowledge and joy in that thing is deepened and reaffirmed (just as an older child is expected to take more responsibility and action in the home) those who are more developed in their spirituality are required to seek out those things, and to be active and diligent in applying them.
It is interesting that those who seem to have known so much-could feel betrayed or babied in this scenario. Perhaps they expected more work to be done by the church? I would honestly love it if we had regular institute classes all over the globe to touch on all sorts of the deeper parts of the gospel. There are resources, they are just a little harder to find...and for a reason. Casting pearls before swine is not wise. These treasures of knowledge are hidden for a purpose. Those things we come to know, we will be held accountable for at judgement. He doesn't want to give us knowledge that we aren't ready to live-that would be to our own condemnation. Plus, if the basic teachings were geared to each individual, the Church would not flourish as quickly or as efficiently. We are all so different! The Gospel has always been about free agency-and personal accountability. There are laws and consequences predicated. We only ever get out of it as much as we put in. And there are many gray areas that are not even touched upon so that we have room to explore and gain line upon line, precept on precept. Part of the beauty of the Gospel! There is ALWAYS more to learn.
DIFFERENT GOSPELS ~ where is my loyalty?
I have loved learning from and listening to my husband. He is incredibly well studied in the history and doctrine in our church as well as other churches. He has figured out far more than I think the average active member. His intelligence, coupled with an open and meek heart have allowed for him to come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there better than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not the gospel of "Be true to yourself" "Be a law unto yourself" "Do what makes you happy", nor the gospel of liberalism, feminism or fundamentalism. There are many gospels that are not necessarily organized religion.
It takes a LOT of work to actively acquire a testimony of eternal truths. It is through that work that we gain lasting strength and steady knowledge. And maybe that is why many of us go through waves of spirituality...it is exhausting-sometimes we just need a break!
“All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience D&C 89:18, 19) … shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (
I understand many things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But there is much more that I don't yet understand. The more I understand, the more I realize there is yet to learn. There are also snippets of our culture, and generational beliefs that sneak in to disrupt the simplicity of the gospel. That's where the work comes in. And we are given the tools that we need in order to uproot these false ideas.
Everyone is blessed with strengths and gifts too. I was blessed with the knowledge that Jesus Christ lives. I was not blessed with the gift of faith (anxiety/worry were more my forte). However, through my parent's examples, there was planted in me a great desire to have that gift or at least to build upon what I had. So it wouldn't necessarily work to say "Oh, well it came easy to you to have faith and to just go along with it." It has not. I have been through enough even within the Church to justify going down the same path as many of you. Leaders are not perfect. Members of the Church are not perfect. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the way the Church is organized and set up is perfect and is divine. Our prophet is not perfect. But he is doing the best he possibly can in his calling. And that qualifies him for the work. I know he is called of God. And whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.
TESTIMONY = POWER
For many years, I worked and prayed to understand, and for my faith to be increased. In answer to my prayers, I was given years of 'training'- the worst of trials (to name a few, extreme postpartum depression, little to no support from my ward, husband or friends with three little ones to care for, loss of family and friend relationships through a belief that differed from theirs, worthiness being questioned by a leader who made a mistake in judgement, persecution, serious inner turmoil, doubting who I was, or why I existed). I have come through the darkest of times, hanging onto my life(I had allowed self-doubt and blinders about my own worth and who I am to rule much of my thoughts for too long; powerful lies, and that power I gave to the devil backed me into a corner until I felt the only way to escape would be to end my life). And yes, I am taking personal responsibility for getting to that point where I felt powerless. But it has been through those trials, that finally, a sure knowledge has come and I have to say that my faith has been increased three times. "
I know that Jesus Christ lives! The Atonement is real. The Book of Mormon and Bible are full of truth and contain the words of God. They testify of each other because they testify of the same Jesus Christ, the same Gospel that He taught.
I know God lives. I know we can live eternally with our families and Him IF we choose to obey all of his commandments, and to live up to the covenants we have made with Him. These things I know. Other things, I believe with all my heart.
We who have been given these things and have truly received and understood them (although our understanding is not perfect) are absolutely held to a higher standard.
And the devil works harder on those who have this knowledge. He is the master deceiver. He plants doubts and lies into our minds, and the more we choose to pay heed to them, the louder they get (just as the truth about me was unable to be heard because of lies I chose to let stay for many years). If we are willing to work for it, truth is our sword against the adversary. Our shield is that of faith. And with the two, we can fight. There are other parts to this armor of God I speak of that are very important. But those two are absolutely essential to our spiritual survival. See Ephesians 6:11-17.
I do not believe that those who have left the church really understood many of these things. And if they did, they either allowed doubts to get root as much if not more than the truth, or they neglected to nourish that testimony. It takes great care for a beautiful seed to grow and flourish. Studying scriptures, attending the temple regularly, staying close to the spirit through prayer, being active in church and callings, surrounding yourself with believers, but loving and sharing freely with unbelievers. Living your life for Jesus Christ. And the greatest tool to growing a strong testimony is FAITH. Without it, it cannot happen. It is the first principle of the gospel it is a principle of constant action. And it is the one that is probably ignored the most...neglected.
I am choosing to be a disturber to the devil's kingdom. Because I know that in the end, Jesus Christ always trumps the devil. I think some people out of fear, have not chosen a side to fight on-and perhaps that is why they have so much inner turmoil. Jesus Christ's way is faith. The devil's way is fear and confusion. Fear binds and confusion blinds. It limits our choices. If we choose to pay heed to it for a long time, then that light and understanding we once received will become less and less until it is gone. Satan is the minimizer, decreaser, deceiver, deflater. Everything in opposition to a loving Father in Heaven who only cares for our happiness and well-being as His children.
Faith is power. Faith increases our awareness of our purpose. It opens up possibilities and choices. It sets us free from our natural selves and allows us to overcome temporal things. Jesus Christ is the source of my faith. He is my ticket to eternal happiness and glory. And I am willing to fight for Him and for me and my family, and for all those I love. That is why I work so hard to understand this strange phenomenon of dear friends and family members loosing the faith they once had. I fight for them too. And my hope is that one day something I say will strike a chord and help them to understand clearly why Jesus Christ and His Gospel is the only way to gain eternal glory and lasting happiness.
This is where I stand.
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