A New Faith Recently I was visiting with a good friend about the Church. I know I should be no respector of persons, but this person is special (perhaps because they offered me a Piña Colada as we talked).
Like so many right now, they're going through the proverbial briar patch we call a "faith deconstruction."
I think that's healthy. It's good for our faith to undergo reconstruction. It's like the remodel of the Salt Lake Temple: President Nelson said the temple needed to be stripped down to the studs and rebuilt in order to become strong enough to "withstand the forces of nature into the Millennium."
I appreciate President Nelson's metaphor, though I believe C.S. Lewis said it best:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
"But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?
"The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 9, 1952).
One reason I don't use the term "faith crisis" is because I view it a blessing (not crisis) to investigate one's faith honestly.
"Why Do You Stay in the Church?"
And so, after a long conversation with my friend, I asked them why they came to me, of all people, with their doubts and questions about the Church?
They said, “You see all the messiness and yet you choose to stay. Why?”
I leaned back on the couch, unsure of how to answer. I thought of another friend who recently invited me to lunch to tell me that he and his wife had decided to leave the Church.
And from what I understand, he's not alone. There's a mass exodus out of the Church today as people are choosing to leave its oppressive Egypt-esque culture. Members are feeling tired and sore from building bigger pyramids.
Like Moses leaving Egypt seeking a greater priesthood than Ham's (Abraham 1:27), so we see people leaving the Church today in search of pure religion.
Let me say, for the record, there is no shame in leaving an organization that is toxic to one's spirituality.
It reminds me of what lawyer-turned-apostle Elder James E. Faust said about "just cause" to get a divorce. Apply these words to those who decide to "divorce" the Church:
"In my opinion, ‘just cause’ should be nothing less serious than a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship which is destructive of a person’s dignity as a human being."
A religion that is "destructive to a person's dignity as a human being" cannot bear the imprimatur of Christ; it cannot be called "living"; and it does not have any power to save (see D&C 121:36-41).
"Why Don't You Leave the Church?"
So as I sat sipping my Piña Colada, reflecting on how to answer my friend's question as to why I stay, I answered with my own question.
"Since the Church is negatively affecting your mental health, why don't you leave?"
Their response was immediate, reflecting years of conditioning that I am all-too-familiar with. "Well, I think I would except the Church is the only place that has divine authority and priesthood keys, right?"
I remained silent.
"I mean, I don't see how that can be," they continued, "when I learn about all the bad stuff in Church history. I just don't see how this is the only true Church, but . . . "
I said nothing.
"We're told to stay on the Covenant Path, and they tell us that they're the only ones who can get us into heaven. . . . "
I took another sip.
"I just don't understand; but I want to be with my family for eternity, and so even though I feel like a fake and fraud as I sit in Church and serve in my callings when I don't believe it, I don't want to risk losing my family."
In that moment I understood something. It dawned on me that many members stay in the Church bearing the marks of an abusive relationship.
Two areas the Church seems uncommonly exercised about are: (1) dictating how its members view and speak about it; and (2) protecting its image for outsiders (I mean, have you ever read the Church's Style Guide?)
"Why not? Doesn't the Church teach us to magnify our talents? And anyway, I pay Tithing on it!"
As we all know, one of the best tools for control is fear.
When we are afraid, we feel trapped, like we have no real choice in the matter but to stay in the boat and hold on (even if the boat plummets off a waterfall).
And so, if the Church has a monopoly on God's authority, what choice do we have? Are we stuck?
It's like Comcast. If they're the only cable provider in your neighborhood, what will happen if you cut the cable? You risk losing . . . Sports Center! Cartoon Network! Turner Classic Movies!
Ask yourself: do you really need those channels?
As many have discovered, there's a variety of streaming options available if you are tired of broadcast and cable television.
Spiritually speaking, there are a variety of streaming options available to those who are unable to pay the high cost of monthly cable service.
What Would Joseph Do?
Would Joseph Smith, as a 14 year old boy, sitting through Sacrament meeting and Teachers Quorum, remain in the Church?
At what point would his native and cheery disposition have cracked? How long would it have taken for his spiritual visions to be deemed "apostasy" by leadership, who today fill the role of the Methodist Preacher who, upon hearing of Joseph's vision, "treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days [except those given to the current] apostles [and if God wanted to speak to his children, it would be through them]" (JS-H 1:21).
On May 1, 1842, Joseph Smith taught something that apparently we've forgotten.
Preached in the grove on the keys of the kingdom charity &--
The keys are certain signs & words by which false spirits & personages may be detected from true.--
which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed--
The poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses.