“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” ~Alexander Den Heijer
LTD: I have an abiding interest in helping LDS people understand the perspectives of those who leave their fellowship. What follows is a guest post, written by a dear friend, explaining what began her journey away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
As everyone in my life knows, I was 100% dedicated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its doctrine before I left the Church. In the LDS Church, I developed a close relationship with God and Jesus. I read scriptures diligently and the spirit taught me. Some might think anti-Mormon literature got to me, or I succumbed to a progressive agenda. Most may think its “the gay thing,” because I’ve come to terms with my own sexual attraction. If I’m honest, the Church itself is what propelled me to where I am now. The Church is its own worst enemy.
You see, I would go to church, and the lesson that was taught was the exact opposite of what I had just read in the scriptures or what God had spoken to my heart.
The cited scriptures for the lesson would teach that we are to give freely to the poor and not ask how they got to be in that situation. And the discussion in class would be about how to determine what charities are legitimate so that we don’t give money directly to people on the street who will spend it on who knows what and who obviously don’t want to “help themselves.”
The scripture would be Jesus telling men to pluck out their eyes when they lust after women. And the lesson my daughter got in young women was how to dress modestly so that boys and men don’t lust after her.
The scripture would be Jesus teaching us not to judge. And the lesson would be, “Yes, but—” and then would come a list of all the ways we are still allowed to self-righteously judge.
The scripture would be Jesus explaining that loving him and loving others are the first and second commandments. And the lesson at church would be “Obedience is the First Law of Heaven.” But not just obedience to scriptural commandments. Obedience to any priesthood holder with “stewardship” over me.
God taught me that grace and the gift of salvation come through Jesus. And the lesson would be on all the things we need to do to be worthy of being saved.
God taught me of his expansiveness. And that nothing is impossible with Him. And the lesson would put God in a box and explain how God is limited by our actions.
God spoke to my heart and the spirit taught me of his eternal and unending love. And the lesson would be on the different types of love that God has for us, depending on our obedience.
The scripture would be how Job lost everything even though his faith was pure, and the lesson would be that, if we obey the commandments, we will be blessed (usually temporally). The God of Sunday School operated like a vending machine.
The scripture would be that the first is last and the last is first and that God is no respecter of persons. Yet, all the wealthy ward and stake members seemed to have the “best” callings and leadership callings seemed to rotate between the richest/prettiest/most popular families.
The doctrine was that agency is so important that there was a war in premortal heaven over it. But then we were asked to campaign for propositions that would restrict certain people’s agency.
I was taught about spiritual threats to my family and the evils of the world. The biggest threat, my church leaders claimed, came from “the gay agenda.” But as far as I could tell, LGBTQ people and their aspirations didn’t affect my little family at all. Oddly, things like child abuse, domestic violence, sex trafficking, brutal and oppressive governments, civil wars displacing families, poverty—things that actually threaten families—were things I never heard about at any church meeting.
The fundamental reason I left the Church I loved was because my conception of a loving and personal God was in stark contrast to the LDS God I was being taught.
I imagine some people would justify the Church by saying most of these things are cultural, not doctrine. Or that the Church is perfect, but the people are not. The problem is, the culture and views of the people don’t come out of nowhere. Each is allowed to thrive and is supported by the system and structure of the LDS Church.
This was the beginning of the end for my practice as a Latter-day Saint. Jesus stood outside the boat I was in—the boat the highest leaders of my church told me not to abandon—and he beckoned me into the water. So I left.
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Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 1 Cor. 13:1