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6/27/11

An example of the believers...

It should come as no surprise to long-term readers or friends that I struggle with my identity as a Mormon. I've written about things I no longer believe, things that frustrate me,  as well as the things that I love about Mormonism, despite how those things occasionally conflict (but sometimes interact quite beautifully,) with the things I love about other things: feminism, equality, how good a sincerely spoken "damn" feels in moments of annoyance...

I've shared these frustrations in a very public place, and since the very beginning, mixed in with praise and support, the same comment reappears: spoken by different people, but using almost the exact same words. Statements along the lines of " you are giving the Church a bad name," "what if a non-member wants to join the church, and on the day of her baptism, finds your blog and decides not to! Her salvation will be on your head!*" My favorite comment, from a person known only as "Julie"** came in response to my post on Mormon Douchebags-

"Not to be rude but I think that this was very unnecessary and uncalled for. Yes Bentley is an idiot, as are a lot of people out there. But you gave the LDS Church as bad of a name as he did."

I need to write this down so I stop forgetting it: if one starts out a mean comment by saying "Not to be rude," or "No offense," it is guaranteed to be rude. However, it is apparently seen as a socially acceptable way to be rude. Excellent resource for when I'm feeling nasty, but don't want to get kicked out of the Celestial Kingdom.

Either way, to many people, expressing questions, criticisms, or doubts about Mormonism,or a Mormon, means that  I am not acting as "An example of the believers." (Timothy 4:12.)

According to some, a true believer is someone who does not question, speak, or wonder out loud about things that do not seem right to them. Even if something seems wrong, a true believer does not do or say anything about it. A true believer pretends that all is right in the church "world," so that other people will believe the same thing they do. A Mormon can go on national television and treat others unkindly, but if another Mormon comments on it, her words, not his actions are what gives the church "a bad name."

But if we return to Timothy, the scriptures tell us something different: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."

I've wondered often about the phrase "Let no man despise thy youth." Especially since it is separated by a semi-colon to the phrase "Be thou an example of the believers." The semi-colon suggests that the ideas are related, but can also stand as independent ideas. What does it mean to despise thy youth?

Looking back at my yearbooks, photos, and even some old journal entries, I can honestly say that moments exist where I "despise" my youth. Truthfully, there are moments from last month in which I despise my youth. I see the mistakes, the lapses in judgement, the stubborn devotion to ideals that no longer ring true.

But in my youth, and hopefully still, I yearned for something better. I believed in an innate potential inside me. Despite all my questions about the LDS church, I still very much believe that someday I can "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father  (and Mother,) which is in heaven is perfect."*** (Matthew 5:48)



The LDS church is also, a "young" church. Consisting of, and led by people still in the "youth" of our full potential. I hope that someday our church can perfectly mirror the gospel of Christ, but I do not think we are there yet. I am not there yet.

Thus Paul, speaking to Timothy, tells us we should not despise our youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

For me, being an example of the believers stems from being honest: in word and conversation, about the things we may "despise" about of youthful indiscretions as a church and a people. Not to despise ourselves, but our errors.

A true believer has charity, the ability to love those who disagree with us, or whose journey through the gospel differs from ours.

A true believer maintains the spirit and faith required to say the things which are difficult, in hopes to make us more pure.

It is true that I am sometimes not the most perfect example of the Believers. Sometimes I am too angry, hurt, or cynical to act in a manner of faith.

However, I am not always an example of the believers because I question, but because I fear the answers with the potential to change how I think.  Patricia T. Holland states "We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection." (“One Thing Needful: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ.” Ensign, October 1987)

 Sometimes I fear the imperfect: in myself, in my church, in the culture I find myself immersed in. It takes courage to be imperfect, but I do not believe the way to alleviate imperfection is to pretend it doesn't exist. The Emperor has no clothes, and pretending otherwise doesn't change it. It does, however, provide a very good recipe for Kool-Aid and Nike shoes.

So let no man despise thy youth, or my youth. After all, "It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are." (e.e. cummings.)






*Slight exaggeration.
** Truly anonymous Julie, not one of my many friends by the same name.
***Feminist addition mine, not King James'.

67 comments:

Hana + Steven + Baby V said...

I'm not mormon, and I'm not even religious, but just wanted to say your post made me think of a quote I saw on the marquee of a Catholic church yesterday:

"truth fears no questions."

I think you captured this exactly in today's post. And for the record, I think you give Mormonism a GREAT name. I'm not going to join the church, but if I ever did, it would be because I knew people like you existed as part of it's community.

Michemily said...

Stephanie, this post was amazing! Your words were so eloquent and well thought-out. I'm glad you're not afraid to question and that you recognize imperfections in Mormon culture as well as in yourself. Keep being real, even if the sarcasm is a little shocking at times in a world filled with frosting-coated words.

There are some things I'm afraid to do because I'm afraid of others' judgments blemishing their idea of Mormonism. And I hate that. But I'm trying my best and sometimes sacrificing a few things for the image of a group I belong to and appreciate even with its flaws is what I feel best doing.

Stephanie said...

@Hana or Steven, but I assume not Baby V:

Thank you. That is a very kind thing to say, I appreciate it.

Emily said...

Thank you! I think our church meetings would be so much more fruitful if we could have honest discussions about struggles/doubts/questions ... I wish the discussion of these things was more culturally accepted in the church.

Fig said...

Are you the original sharer of the Emily Dickinson quote that I now live by?

"We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an hour, which keeps believing nimble."

I've been planning a post about it, but want to properly acknowledge the person who first turned me on to the quote, and can't for the life of me remember who it was. It seems the sort of thing you would do.

I'm a Mormon, and I like being one. I practice my faith with much questioning and making people uncomfortable. It works for me and alarms my in-laws. Good times. Great post.

Bug said...

@Hana+Steven+Baby V

That is EXACTLY what I was going to post.

Stephanie, reading your blog has vastly improved my opinion of Mormans in general.

Fig said...

Also. I need to say something else that I nearly said on one of your posts a while ago.

Sometimes people compare my experience of the gospel with being good at math. Like, "I don't have the same questions you have, and I'm not bothered by the same things you are, but that's okay, because I also suck at math but some people get it right away." (translation: "You just don't get it yet. Don't worry, you will.")

Um. That analogy bothers me. If we want to make math work as a way of explaining our struggles within the church, let's say this:

"I understand the math, but I don't agree with the way some of the math teachers are teaching it. I also think some of the other students in class are applying basic math rules where they are not applicable. This doesn't mean I don't get it - maybe I do, maybe I don't. My questions concern the presentation."

Sharone said...

I'm with Hana (and Steven and Baby V). I think more people are turned off by people who pretend that faith is a smooth and perfect and beautiful road, and that churches (any church, Mormon or otherwise) produce perfect people who never doubt or question or struggle. Those people make a life of faith seem so far away and impossible for "regular" people (please forgive the scare quotes).

I prefer people who are realistic about the hard stuff, who are open to reevaluation about beliefs and theology as they and their lives change, who strive to reconcile church teachings with the real world and show the striving.

I'm not Mormon, so I obviously have a different perspective than most of your critics, but I think you and your blog help the church's reputation, not harm it.

Ru said...

I blame all those (well-meaning) seminary teachers, YW leaders, etc. who told us that our examples would cause people to gravitate toward or stay away from the church. Personally, I think, "Don't be an asshole" could have had the same impact they were looking for and also have been applicable in other areas.

No one is going to join anything just because I'm so shiny and special and there's a "different feeling" in my family's house (fact: the best way to get a Mormon teenager's parents to extend his or her curfew is to claim you feel a "different spirit" in that family's home). Similarly, if my bad attitude is enough to keep someone away, they were never really into it.

But I do think there is some value to sharing our concerns, issues and frustrations along with our joys -- because there is certainly someone else who feels the same way and probably shouldn't feel like they're alone.

So let's all let our Bad Mormon flags fly. It's seriously more fun that way anyway.

Me said...

Stephanie -

I stumbled on your blog when a friend of mine said: "Go there! She thinks like you do!" and they were right. I'm so glad I did. I also teach school and am constantly pushing my students to ask questions. I'm always amazed at the people in the church, especially here, that are afraid of questions. Don't they realize that the foundations of the restored gospel are based on asking questions that sometimes get scary answers? Joseph asking about which church to join and being told none of them - pretty scary answer. I never cease to be shocked with the number of people who seem content to know what they know and don't seem to want to find out more. A friend of mine said that he heard a fireside speaker say recently that we shouldn't be looking for "answers to gospel questions" but "questions to gospel answers" instead.

Semi-long tangent short: Thank you for your writing and reminding me that I am not alone in the Mormon feminist-question asking movement.

kaitlyn.mary said...

Stephanie,
I must say this was an excellent post!
I have been following your blog now for a few months, and within that same time period I have also been investigating the Mormon church.
As a non-Mormon who has grown up in Utah I have always had some hard feeling toward the church and its followers; however, among other recent events in my life, discovering your blog has really given me a completely different understanding of the religion and the way it can be practiced.
It gives me comfort to know that if I were to be a member of the LDS church that I would be in the company of someone as open minded, reasonable, and down right practical as you.

Tecia said...

I LOVE your BLOG!! You DO NOT give the church a bad name. People like Bentley do "Julie" must be a Utah Mormon and needs to get off her high horse! Keep them coming!

Stephanie said...

@Fig: No, it wasn't me that shared the quote, but I love it and want to live by it too. Emily Dickinson swooooooon.

And I loved, loved your math analogy. Perfect.

@Kaityln.Mary: It can be scary and weird being a Mormon. It can also be wonderful.


@Everyone, thank you for your comments. I had some PTSD after the Bentley post, supportive e-friends mean the world.

CaLLie.ANN said...

Stephanie:

I come from a mormon background, was inactive for a hundred years, and am now going back to my roots. It's scary and it's hard and I have a MILLION questions about the church. But, because of your blog, I know that I'm not alone. I'm not the only critical mormon and I'm not a "non-believer" for questioning things. You give a WONDERFUL example to the LDS faith and I thank you for posting all your thoughts outloud. :)

Jamie said...

I used to worry a lot about representing the church "correctly." Especially in forums online. If I dared to say anything at all, I'd preface it to death with variations of "I'm not an official representative or anything" or "this is all just my opinion, please don't use this to judge the church."

I don't know what made me change my mind, but I realized that just as much as Mormonism belongs to all the hyper judgmental people obsessed with the Church Handbook, it belongs to me as well. Even though I don't always do my visiting teaching. Even though I support gay rights. Even though I'm a feminist. And to worry so much about whether or not my public opinion matches up with some Official Mormon-Sanctioned Opinion is ridiculous. There is no such thing. (There are official church announcements, but even those change over time.) The church is made up of people, all entitled to personal revelation from God. I'm one of those people, and this is my church.

Savannah said...

I am glad that the LDS church is based on finding out for ourselves, and it never comes all at once for any of us. WE choose to find out, WE choose to believe, and WE choose to help others out with their questions. Plus, we would all be lying if any of us said we had zero questions and zero doubts. That's the whole purpose of agency. Choices. They are truly incredible. I don't always agree with you in details, but in essence I most often do. Thanks for your honesty.

Stephanie said...

@Jamie: "This is my church." Pefectly said.

Tristin said...

Awesome! I am a bolder, more honest Mormon because of outspoken people like you. Thanks for being the vanguard of the movement.

A said...

I thought this was an excellent post. There are so many times that I think and (I think most of us) roll our eyes at certain Mormon culture oddities.

My sister and I banter about Ward oddities much to our parents horror. But, and I think, that because I can recognize what is an oddity, I can address it, laugh at it, and explain why thats an oddity, without it faltering my faith.

Hear,hear! You represent us well.

geoffsn said...

"Not to be rude" "No offense" or the counterpart end piece of "just sayin" remind me of the Simpsons episode where Bart says to Lisa “I’m going to kick like this, and if you get in my way, it’s your own fault.”

If people think your post will really drive people from the church, they need a wake-up call. From my observations the things that drives people from the church tend to be church policies which seem inconsistant with the gospel and the naive, judgmental, self-righteousness which some members have.

Katrina said...

Amen and amen.

I find it ironic that we Mormons get so judgmental with each other. Especially with those who question. I hate that. It is NOT a sin to question.

You should listen to Joanna Brooks talk from the Mormon Stories conference we had in Salt Lake a couple weeks ago. It is fantastic and I think you'll really like it. Here's the link: http://mormonstories.org/?p=1661

smalldog said...

Well said! I am an example of what I believe, and a terrible example of what my co-worker believes(who honestly tried to get me fired because I said that I didn't believe my husband had spiritual authority over me. Dark day). And what I believe is a highly personal, deeply private, yet surprisingly well thought out set of ideas. And I'm doing ok, even when I ask questions and struggle over culture, doctrine, or just neighbors.

Sidenote, I've no idea when asking questions turned into amounting to heresy, but it gets me down.

Fistbump of solidarity,

Teryn said...

As a fellow outspoken member, I think you are a great example of a Mormon! We are not all cookie cutter versions of "perfection". I think that's the whole reason the church has come out with those "I am a Mormon" videos. I love that quote from Patricia and I hope that I can "have courage to be imperfect"

Thanks for your great example!

Miss Molly said...

So well written and thought-provoking. I'm such a fan of you as a human being, Stephanie (not so much as a Mormon...just kidding). I also THOROUGHLY enjoyed Fig's comments. Fantastic.

I am in a precarious situation myself. As you know, my 2 yr-old daughter passed away (choked in the church parking lot of all places) and I guess you could say I have a semi-popular blog in Utah as well as my Grief website. The thing is, my blog has become such a platform for other grieving families, most of them Mormon. I am looked upon as the "mother who lost a child and survived and has such incredible faith."

This isn't entirely true and I long to blog about more of my feelings regarding the church and faith and grief and loss and questioning. And reality. I hint at my feelings, but feel I have painted myself in a corner to be the strong Mormon mom who came out of the fire unscathed.

I do a great job at being honest with my feelings about grief and how grief fits into our odd LDS culture. I even commented in my interview with the Mormon Times that the gospel tends to put a band-aid on grief and call it good, and that the pain LDS families feel after losing a child is not recognized fully by our culture. It SHOCKED me to hear from my sister-in-law that she has learned so much from seeing us struggle since Lucy died because she just always 'assumed' having the gospel would make it "easier" than "others" in dealing with death. Really??

I guess what I'm saying is a) so many of the Mormon warts that were already irritating me before my world and faith was shattered, have resurfaced more ferociously and need definite honest attention. b) I find it extremely courageous of you for putting your true feelings so unabashedly out there and letting the rest of us nod along with you. People are so afraid of the truth. In death especially.

Bravo.

L.Jo said...

I found your blog because of your Bentley post (long story) and I thought it was SPOT ON. After that I went back through and read every last post you've made over the course of about a week. A few thoughts -

~ You are AWESOME!

~ We have so many similar opinions that I'm pretty sure we must have been BFFs in the pre-existence or something.

Because, you know, that's the only explanation for people being similar. *eye roll*

~ Far from giving the church a bad name, you make it real. People like you (and, I like to think, me) are proof that the LDS is church is populated by real human beings with real lives and real minds, and not just closed-minded judgmental people who are convinced that the only reason they haven't already been "twinkled" is because the rest of us need them soooooooooo much to be an example and tell us everything we're doing wrong.

~ Can we be bad Mormon e-friends? :-) I've missed knowing Mormons like you since I've moved back to Utah.

Fig said...

Miss Molly,

I think that one of the cruelest misconceptions perpetrated by our culture is that Mormons needn't mourn death, because we believe in eternal life.

I am so, so sorry for your pain. And I apologize for anyone who has ever said or implied that it should have an expiration date.

(P.S. I have read your grief blog, and your personal one, and you are amazing. With or without questions and doubts.)

Wendy said...

I've often thought that we get far too concerned with "helping" each other achieve "Mormon" perfection, rather than allowing each other to work toward Christ-like perfection. I teach primary, so I frequently learn through the children's comments - through no effort or desire on my own part - how much the parental members of the ward are publicly posing as "good Mormons" while struggling with many things. Yet it's unacceptable to just admit struggles or questions.

I've made my peace with many things over the years - most significantly the issue of equality in the church and the connection with the Boy Scouts - because I strongly believe we as a people have many things that are cultural mixed up with what is truly gospel. And I have a strong testimony of the gospel - but not always the Church as an institution. The distinction works for me, but I have no doubt that half my ward would consider me nearly apostate if they new this.

I'm glad you blog. I find it far easier to cope with the miserable weeks when Republican politics creep into lessons, or prayers make me grind me teeth, to remember that I am not the lone person who sees things differently.

Angie said...

I have always maintained that the world (and church, more specifically) would be a better place if we were less concerned with others' insufficiences and more concerned with our own salvation. I know that I have a long way to go.

If you can't tell by the comments, people love you and admire your courage. It's incredibly brave to lay your opinions out there for the e-world to see/criticize/glorify, especially in the honest and unapologetic way that you do. I've believed you've affected more lives positively than otherwise.

Here's hoping you continue in confidence.


PS--On a completely unrelated note, am I the only one who wants a cat post? Just one?

Stephanie said...

@Angie

Hahaha. I don't know if I could do the cats justice. They are awesome though, and frequently reduce me to talking like an idiot.

Marisa said...

Great post.

Seriously, the self-righteous, bigoted, know-it-all, Mormons are the ones who give the church a bad name. That's why non-Mormons have a difficult time with Mormons, not because someone is open and honest about their faith and questions. Keep rockin' with your bad self.

Laura said...

I love your blog, and I think you're awesome. I have many of the same concerns that you've talked about with women and the church, and I think you present the issues in a really great way (when I try and blog about it I just end up with lots of annnnnngrrrrrrrrrry "grrrrrrrrrrrrrrs" instead of using real words). Love it. Keep speaking up, because when you do the rest of us are more likely to speak up too. Thank you for being awesome.

Hillary said...

So often I have felt these feelings you've expressed, and have had the same questions, irritations, and frustrations you have. I think people can choose for themselves whether experiencing those things build their faith through expanding their knowledge and thoughts, or faith-destroying.

But I do believe this: God never intended us to do anything blindly. He expected us to think, to question, to actively seek, and to find truth ourselves. He wants us to develop a personal relationship with Him such that we can go to Him and ask what is true--not depend on someone else to tell us and we blindly obey.

A lot of outsiders view Mormons as mindless, self-righteous sheep. So maybe acting like "Julie" does just as much to confirm those suspicions, thereby giving the church a "bad name", as any post you've ever written. Personally I think someone coming across your blog and reading about your faith journey would be inspired by your willingness to analyze and truly think about what you believe and why.

Abby said...

Certainly, I'd hope that if someone were going to be baptized, their faith would be strong enough to withstand a blog post about a reality show participant.

Otherwise, he/she should probably reconsider.

Sandy said...

This post is great. It's well-reasoned. You back your points up. You quote freaking scriptures. Oh, and it's a little subversive. I want to repost it in its entirety on my blog and not just because I'm a lazy blogger.

Also, look at all of these incredible people coming out of the woodwork to emphathize with you! Thank you for making it possible for me to realize that such people exist!

Stephanie said...

@Sandy: I know! I am really thankful for the kind words and support. It sort of feels like a Mormon AA meeting. My name is Stephanie, and I'm a liberal Mormon.

Meliss said...

Loved your Biblical back up. I'm not a Mormon, but I live in Utah and I am a Christian. It breaks my heart to see Mormons I love struggle with questions and feeling guilty about it. Every one should seek answers for themselves and the truth will be able to stand the test of time AND people's doubts. Thanks for this post!

Lauren said...

I think it takes more courage to admit one's imperfections than to simply be imperfect. So often in the Church it seems we do little to improve our imperfections, rather we try to hide them behind our Church facade. I believe this has more to do with Church Culture, specifically UTAH Church Culture, than it has to do with the Gospel itself. I sincerely believe that the essence of the Gospel, in its purest form, IS perfect. Members of the Church, because they are HUMAN, are not. Often I find myself having a difficult time relating to my fellow members. I see their progression and feel as if I must have been derailed somewhere. But the Gospel is there to be explored, pondered, and then applied to our lives in a very personal way. We're all at various stages of learning and Spiritual growth. Both sides of the "Mormon" spectrum would do well to remember that. How can I project my ideals of perfection onto someone else? Imperfect as I am, I can't. And I would hope to be extended the same courtesy.

I wouldn't go as far as calling it MY church. To me, that would imply that I can pick and choose which doctrine I want to follow, like some sort of spiritual buffet. "I really hate spinach, but point me in the direction of the sticky buns please." The Gospel is not mine but it is there FOR me. Just as it's there for (shudder) the Bentleys of the world... It's all about what we do with it.

And for the record, I think you have done very well! Doubts, questions, fears... In my opinion, these would be a welcome addition to any discussion of the Gospel. It's only through addressing these often beastly topics that we can arrive at truth. Thanks for your honesty... I may not agree with you on every topic, but I appreciate your opinions and the fearlessness with which you express them.

Stephanie said...

@Lauren: You bring up such an interesting idea. I wonder if we CAN actually pick and chose what doctrine we want. For example, lots of "doctrine" from past prophets is contradicted by current prophets. Brigham Young said that women should participate in every occupation, even the law (almost unheard of at the time,) President Benson urged women to "come home from the type writers," Elder Cook talked about how a woman can be valiant whatever life she chooses.

I agree that it wouldn't make sense to pick and choose core values "I'd like honesty please, but not virtue." I do think, however, that in a church with so many varied opinions on what "doctrine" really is, we have an obligation to make it our own.

Thanks for such a thought-provoking comment.

UK Yankee said...

I like your analogy to growth and youth. It's the thought process I usually fall back on when I find something that I'm trying to work through but haven't found an answer for yet. It also goes a long way towards explaining some parts of the Church's past that don't quite make sense.

I like to think that we're the spiritual equivalent of toddlers. (I'm not saying we're stupid; I'm saying we are progressing spiritually, but we're starting from a basic place.) We don't understand everything yet, and we haven't been given everything because of that. You don't explain to a toddler about voltage and currents, you say 'don't touch the socket' and put a plug on it. I think everything - all the answers to all our questions - it's all coming, but we have to be ready.

As you pointed out, so much of our Church came through questions, so why should that stop?

Xan said...

Thanks for helping to renew my faith that we are meant to question and grow.

We cannot grow without questions.

Let the naysayers be damned! ;)

Elaine said...

Uh oh another great post & great comments. I meant to wake up this morning & do laundry, make my kids breakfast & go running. Instead I saw you had a new post & now I've done nothing but read your awesome posts & all the awesome comments. I've become a better member & my ADHD self actually tries harder to listen at church since I've put my mother's "we aren't supossed to question, we just believe" idea aside. I appreciate your posts & as a lomg time reader of miss Molly it's great to see her comment. I'd love to see a post about garments, as I struggle with this.

JustMe said...

Steph, you know I live “in the Mission Field”. That SUCKY expression needs to be retired for eternity. I am pushing 60 with both feet, am Southern to the core, and have been LDS for 30+ years. I am very active on Facebook and very open about being a Mormon. My FB friends tend to be pretty evenly split between members and non-members with most of the non-members being people I went to high school with. As far as I know, I am the only person in my HS that became a Mormon. Go me, because I walk to the beat of a different drummer.

One of the things I hate most about a lot of Mormons is that they tend to be SO judgmental. If we don’t all look the same, talk the same, dress the same, and act the same, we must not be “good” Mormons. Excuse me, but who decided “they” are the example we should all strive to emulate? I have a few very, very close friends in the church. They have been my friends for almost as long as I have been a member. They are my friends because they aren’t judgmental. I stay far, far away from the “Molly” crowd and I’m sure that pleases them also.

Please don’t second guess yourself about the “Bentley” blog. Obviously, you said what a lot of people were thinking. Those that disagreed with you need to take a hard look at themselves, and maybe trot over to the mall and buy a sense of humor. Anything that makes us think, question, and debate issues is a really good thing.

I have disagreed with you on more than one occasion, but I respect you. You are intelligent, funny, and a wonderful writer. I intend to keep reading you and I imagine that your future posts will continue to make me, and others, think about issues confronting the world today. If people are so offended by the things you write, they don’t have to read you. But please don’t stop blogging because they are many that look forward to your blog.

There is an issue in the church that bothers me more than almost anything else. I’m going to email you and hope that you will do a future post about it. I would write it myself, but no one reads my blog and it is a subject I think needs to be discussed.

If you go back and tally the comments, I’m pretty sure the pros will easily outweigh the cons. Maybe both you and I have been too hasty in judging our fellow members. It might be time to give other members a second look, and a second chance.

Melissa said...

I, too, struggle with my identity as a Mormon. Spirituality in general doesn't come easy to me. But I have come to value having a questioning nature. Here's another quote you might like (if you haven't already heard it):

“Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not in God Himself.”
-Miguel de Unamuno

Thanks for questioning so fearlessly. You make me think, which is why I love your blog.

(All of this is to simply say, Rock on!)

zuniga family said...

I think it is totally okay for you to question the ideas and doctrine of the church. I think that is what God wants us to do. I think if we don't, we are almost following blindly what other people have told us. I do think our church is perfect and in it's perfect state. I believe the doctrine is how Christ would run his church. However, I think that people of the church tend to skew or mix in their own ideas of how things are to be ran. Remember, the church is perfect, the people are not. Even our prophets, new and old, have made mistakes. They are human. They have their own thoughts, ideas and imperfections, just like the rest of us! I am glad that you are so pubic about your questioning because from your questioning, you gain knowledge and that is what God wants.
As far as that crazy lady "Julie" goes, it is people like that that give the church a bad name. If someone is not going to join the church based on what they read on a blog or by some body else's opinion, then they probably didn't have that strong of a testimony in the first place. Or your blog could inspire an investigator to agree with your questions, and then research the answers for themselves. I think your blog could be a great learning tool for some.

MissRissa said...

Well, I, for one, appreciate blogs like yours and people like you- who I don't even know and will never meet in real life- that help me think and formulate my own opinions and beliefs. It helps me feel more comfortable that I'm a little different than most people in my ward but that doesn't make me a bad Mormon. It doesn't make you a bad Mormon either.

jessica said...

"Not to be rude"....just kidding.

I am "that" girl described as what is widely accepted as a "true believer". I can honestly say that the questions you have are NOT the questions I have about the church. I appreciate that you ask them and wonder those things, but I just simply don't. You may see it as a blind faith, or lack of guts on my part to question "priesthood authority", but you have no way of knowing how or where my testimony stands.

We ALL have different ways of approaching and gaining a testimony; there is NOT a wrong way. And we are always in the process of gaining. Elder Samuelson's talk in April (2011) conference says that. Some struggle quietly, some ask lots of questions, some of us have our own answers and choose to let those around us figure it out for themselves.

The point is criticizing rarely accomplishes anything faith promoting, as you have felt with those choosing to criticize your point of view. I wish that I was perfect in this area - I'm not - but if all members of the church (and not) tried harder to be less critical of those around us we would be able to ask more questions, or not, according to what we personally need for our own growth. Maybe that is REALLY what the CK is about; being able to love despite ALL differences.

Way to go - good post about striving to strengthen your own beliefs!

Dallred said...

Jessica I think you are confusing the words "criticizing" and "questioning". (But I bet that most people would classify Martin Luther's 95 theses as more critical than inquisitive).

Thanks for another excellent post! I have been struggling for a long time with my "Mormon identity" as well, and worried that I would eventually find myself out of the church unless I could somehow learn to better conform to our culture. It's taken reading a few of your posts to realize how much I mixed up "doctrine" and "culture" - and just how young and vibrant and plasticy our church still is. Your blog has made it OK for me to still be Mormon.

Stephanie said...

@Jessica, I never, ever implied that people who don't question are guilty of "blind faith," and I make a point never to presume anything about a person's testimony. Like Dallred said, I simply maintain the right to question. It doesn't mean I'm critical of those who don't.

Julie said...

It also takes courage to question. Which I admire you for, Steph.

As one who also frequently doubts, I feel sorry for those people who get offended over the process of questions in search of understanding. It makes me think that they might not be as secure in their own beliefs as they masquerade. How can you truly believe something if you criticize someone else's methods of gaining spiritual truth? It doesn't make sense to me. As Hana+Steven+Baby V stated so wisely at the beginning of these comments: truth fears no questions.

In the Mormon culture--surrounded on all sides by friends, family and a community full of Mormons, who will not shy away from stoning the doubters--it takes a great deal of courage to do what you're doing. To question.

But I think that knowledge is one of the most beautiful things... to KNOW something. Not just to follow blindly. But to know.

I hate it when people tell me "it'll all work out," or my favorite "just have a little faith." The implication hidden in those statements is: who are you to question? And to them I say:

Who are you to NOT question?

Its by asking questions that we learn. Without such questioning how do we really know? At some point, we must all ask these questions. And I believe that many in the Mormon curch ask such questions in secret, feeling guilty for even wondering and never uttering them out loud. But they shouldn't. This is a process of how we learn. Shame on them for criticizing or attempts to further our knowledge and relationship with Christ.

I love you, Steph... Your aversion to hugs, democrat-ness, obsession with argyle, stubborn sense of self and all. I got your back ( ;

P.s. I'm glad I'm not the Julie who wrote that comment. That makes me glad ( :

LC said...

For me, the gospel and the church are perfect. My take on the problem is, the people in it aren't. Membership consists of thousands and thousands of individuals, all with their own issues, foibles, opinions and whatever else they have going on, and sometimes, we're prone to getting in one another's way. I think that's probably a big part of why we're counseled to develop a personal relationship with God. He's a bit of a pro at dealing with us individually.

amers said...

I really hate that it is so looked down upon to ask questions. I once asked a question in a seminary class that provoked thoughts that were not approved of. My teacher simply said, "If it doesn't make sense, it'll be revealed to you in the next life." Followed shortly by "Let's not ask those types of questions anymore."
I was full of rage. Ever since then, I've never dared to ask questions that may make me look weary in my beliefs. Your blog makes me feel like it's okay to ask such questions.
The best answer though?
"That's just the way it is."
Even better than "We will know in the next life."
But really, the best answer I've heard is...
The Gospel is perfect. The people in The Church are not. They don't know all the answers and sometimes they get misinterpreted.
(something along those lines)
Thank you for your blog and for someone FINALLY saying what we are all thinking!

Stephanie said...

@LC: I don't believe the LDS church is perfect, as an institution. Mostly because if people aren't perfect, how can the institution they run be perfect?

The LDS church is also not just a church, but a social, political, and financial institution. In my experience, whenever those things are combined, imperfects occur.

I do however, believe that Christ was perfect, and the gospel, basic things like loving one another and mourning with those that mourn, has the power to perfect individuals.

As a note of amusement, I love that your comment and the comment by amers were published almost simultaneously. Room for both types, but a funny coincidence.

Stephanie said...

ps @Julie: Thanks, friend, I love you too, you nutty, lawyer, eyes-are-lying-to-me, not obsessed with shopping the entire study abroad, friend

~M said...

It seems to me the reaction to your post is very gendered. How dare you, as a woman, not protect a man. It reminds me by contrast to Julie, the Mormon girl who went on the Real World ~15 years ago. There weren't blogs etc. like now, so it's not a perfect comparison, but everyone said she was giving the church a bad name and no one defended her or got on the case of the people who were saying she was so awful. In comparison, I can't help but wonder if the gender roles had been reversed in any of these situations. Your post was right on the mark. Mormonus Douchus is a serious scourge to society. It seems the only people who don't recognize it is Mormons, I've met plenty of persons who belong to other faiths or no faith who have not failed to recognize him. I like the comment that we would all be better off if we were taught in Seminary/YM/YW not to be assholes rather than to be good examples.

I've really enjoyed your blog. It reminds me that I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Thank you. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Eliza R. Snitch said...

To me, you and people like you represent the goodness of Mormonism. The fact that Mormons like you exist and are brave enough to speak out gives me great hope.

Anna M said...

How about "I love you, BUT..."? Usually what follows conflicts with the love sentiment. Last week I wrote about my opinion/thoughts about BYU's connections with the LDS leaders, etc. (http://ahhnna.blogspot.com/2011/06/gotta-keep-em-separated.html)

From the comments, you'd think I had revealed sacred covenants. Sometimes I think people are afraid to make choices and find their own testimony. It blows me away. Following the Lord as my Shepherd does not mean I need to be a sheep blindly following my ward, friends, bishop, or even husband. I think some Mormons pander to the subculture as though it were the gospel. They fear individual belief and discovery. I had a friend go so far as to tell me that she thinks the post about BYU is a first step to apostasy. thanks, friend.

Brigham Young even said: "I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security."

jessica said...

@Dallred....I'm not sure why you think I meant "questioning"? Since I was speaking of those that were CRITICIZING Stephanie's questions, blogs posts, speaking out, etc. Specifically I'm referring to this quote: "Not to be rude but I think that this was very unnecessary and uncalled for. Yes Bentley is an idiot, as are a lot of people out there. But you gave the LDS Church as bad of a name as he did." and the other's included like it.

Orlin Clements said...

I think it is a common misconception in the LDS church that you shouldn't questions things. Hasn't history shown that any entity that tries to oppress those who ask questions is tyrannical? I think I might have a lot of the same questions as you, Mormon Child Bride.
There is never anything wrong with seeking more truth and understanding. Remember when people thought it was blasphemous to translate the bible? Or when it was unthinkable to use the same water fountain as a black person? Or when we thought we would never find a cure for Polio? Thank God somebody asked some questions.

CharlieJo said...

Seems like you've had enough comments, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents. ;) I really enjoy reading your posts, it's like a breath of fresh air. Also, I liked your response to LC. That's how I feel almost exactly. Don't stop! Keep it up, I appreciate someone out there confident enough to share their thoughts and questions.

Melinda said...

One of the most thoughtful posts I've read yet...thank you.

Chris Almond said...

Excellent post, thank you for writing it. And tons of comments! Man, I should write something about Bentley and maybe I'll get more people leaving me comments.

Caitlin said...

How familiar are you with Mormon Matters? There are some awesome, awesome forums between members who have awesome political (and feminist, and everything you'd go for) questions. I can link you.

Christine Marie said...

Holy hell, I love your blog. I may have just spent an hour reading it. You say exactly what I want to say.

Stephanie said...

@Christine Maire: Thanks! Holy Hell is one of my favorite expressions, so we have that in common too...

Em said...

yep, you're definitely saying what we're all thinking!!! LOL!

Tweedlemuffin said...

I loved this post! I'm a fairly outspoken liberal Mormon. One of my favorite things to do is find questions and things in the church that don't quite make sense to me. I Like bringing it up and getting different people's opinions about it! That's how I LEARN. the church leaders even say that we need to ask questions and learn for ourselves. How do we do that if we don't stretch our minds so we can see both sides?

Sara {Sara's Closet} said...

"We must have the courage to be imperfect while striving for perfection."

I love this quote. I stumbled across your blog and have been reading your posts. You have a wonderful way with words and an amazing sense of humor. Your posts made me smile and sad at the same time. I didn't grow up in Utah, but lived there for a short time and know of many family and friends who had a hard time with members, being very "holier-than-thou". But, I think the best thing to remember is that, we are all sinners. Even those that go to the Temple. We are all FAR from perfect. I think that you have the right idea, you want to know the truth. You want to know God. I think the Lord would be happy with you, he just wants us all to be happy. We all have so far to go and so much to learn, we are in no place to judge another. I hope you seek out for the truth and do it with an open, willing and honest heart. I'm sure you'll find it. :)