Tag Archives: Conversion

All in Favor

I grew up in the Anglican Church. I was christened shortly after I was born. My parents took me to church most Sundays. I attended Sunday School. I was confirmed as a teenager. I went to church camp. I found comfort in the rituals and prayers and hymns, in the time spent with family and friends.

And when I was nineteen, I left the church.

I did not rant against the church.

I did not rail against the church.

I did not make church events uncomfortable for other members.

I did not disrupt church proceedings.

I did not encourage others to leave the church.

I simply discovered, after a lengthy conversation with my minister, that I did not believe one of the tenets of the Anglican faith.

And so I left.

There was no fanfare.

There was no press release.

There were no media outlets waiting to report the breaking news.

Given my experiences with my former church and the experiences of the many converts that I have talked to about this, I do not understand why people who do not believe Latter-Day Saint doctrine remain members of the church.

Given my experiences, I find it disturbing that when a few members of the church decide that they are unhappy with one or two or a dozen points of doctrine, that they publicly rant and rail against it.

Given my experiences, I find it selfish and disrespectful when they decide to make church events uncomfortable for others by conspiring to disrupt church proceedings.

Given my experiences, I find it heartbreaking when they encourage others to do the same through the use of formal and informal media campaigns.

Each April and October, the general church membership is asked to sustain the leaders of the church, from the very top global level to the lowliest unit members. This means that “we stand behind them, pray for them, accept assignments and callings from them, obey their counsel, and refrain from criticizing them.”

When members are asked to refrain from disrupting conference proceedings, but do it anyway…

When members are asked to stop encouraging dissent or teaching false doctrine through public means and refuse…

When members organize demonstrations so as to disrupt a worldwide meeting for millions of people…

They are not sustaining church leadership.

That said, sustaining our leadership does not mean that one has to agree with everything they say or everything they do. There are protocols for airing one’s questions and concerns. Sustaining our leadership does not mean that one has to agree with every point of doctrine. There are protocols for seeking answers and clarification on these matters. Sustaining our leaders does not mean that we blindly follow. Indeed, we are taught to frequently seek personal revelation through study and prayer.

Sustaining our church leaders means more than praying and accepting and obeying. In the October 1946 General Conference, George Albert Smith said, “I hope that you will realize, all of you, that this is a sacred privilege. … It will not be just a symbol but it will be an indication that, with the help of the Lord, you will carry your part of the work.”

While this refers to the engagement in and completion of the work that one is asked to do by church leaders in accepting assignments and callings, it also refers to the way in which one conducts oneself as a member. Sustaining our leaders is not just a privilege – it is a sacred privilege, performed with a godly character, that is not common or profane. It is this part of the sustaining process that has led to several changes in recent years.

When women wanted changes in programs for girls, young women and adult sisters, they wrote letters, talked to church leaders, expressed their concerns. The General Women’s Meeting was born out of this process, and the women’s meeting was officially recognized as part of General Conference, just as the Priesthood Session has been. It also resulted in other changes for the women’s auxiliaries in the church.

When homosexual members sought answers to their questions about their place in the church and in church society, a website was created to answer their questions, and the church was instrumental in working towards anti-discrimination laws in Utah.

When members wanted more transparency regarding church history, a series of historical essays was commissioned to give a fuller, broader understanding of these events.

These are just three examples. There are likely dozens more, including the church’s use of technology, access to family history records, and changes to the missionary age. One can publicly sustain church leaders and still disagree with aspects of the church.

It took me six years of learning about the church before I became a member. And as a member, I have sometimes had questions and concerns with church doctrine, church leaders, church history. But by following the protocols, I have been able to have my concerns addressed.

Which is why when the leaders of the church ask for a sustaining vote, I raise my arm with millions of other members and declare “All in Favor”.

And I pray that those who are opposed can find a way to sustain them, too.

Sleeves Part 2

A while ago I posted that my faith had become so transparent on me that even a virtual stranger could tell that I am a Latter-day Saint. It turns out that I am not the only one.

Every Sunday my husband, step-daughter and I get ready for church. My husband always wears his black suit, white shirt and tie, and is usually carrying his backpack filled with lesson manuals, scriptures, and other assorted readings.

From the window across the street, our neighbor watches.

He appears to be a kind man. Eleven months ago I tripped in the sidewalk in front of our house, and sprained both insteps, an ankle, both big toes, and a little toe, and hurt my knee, elbow and both wrists. Three cars drove past me lying in the street, and bystanders stood around and did nothing… except for our neighbor, who came running and helped Steve to get me into the car so he could take me to the hospital.

He watches as he sees a local man whom my husband graduated with come to visit. Some weeks he is at our house every day; other weeks we barely see him. My husband’s old friend has had a hard life, but then what can one expect when life starts out with beer in one’s baby bottle? In any event, he is always grateful for the friendship that we extend to him.

He watches as he sees Thanksgiving Dinner for friends and family and twelve missionaries from our church at our house and Tuesday night trips to our church for activities and dog walking.

And he watches us return from church on Sundays.

And then one day a while back he laughingly commented to my husband, “You know, you look like a Mormon all dressed up in your suit! Haha! Just kidding, man, just kidding.”

Apparently my husband wears his religion on his sleeve as well.

What we do matters. We knew that our neighbor was watching. But we can never tell who else is doing so. As Latter-Day Saints, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must live our lives in such a way that others can tell that we are somehow different. We must live our lives so that others want what we have found.

Sleeves

“You’re Mormon, aren’t ya?” I was asked today. “I could tell from some of the things you’ve said.”

I had no idea I was so transparent.

This question was asked by a new colleague of just a few weeks, a Pentecostal woman who attended Bible College and learned about many faiths there in one of her courses, and whose family has been welcoming the missionaries into their home for spiritual discussions for years. She knows what Mormons believe, because she has taken the time to find out.

When I first joined the church I don’t think anybody could have told that I was a Latter Day Saint just by looking at me. So what has happened in the past ten years that someone I just met a few days ago can see my faith on my sleeve?

Is it that I don’t drink alcohol? A conversation in the staffroom a few days ago involved comments about how much a colleague was looking forward to having a drink that evening. I was told that after a rough and busy week I must be looking forward to that, too. I replied that actually, I don’t drink, and haven’t had a drink in years. But that’s not unusual, is it?

Is it that I don’t drink tea or coffee? I often have herbal tea or hot chocolate during recess or breaks, and don’t particularly advertise that I’m drinking chamomile tea whileveryone else is drinking Red Rose. Having a hot drink during a break is a part of Newfoundland traditional culture that is a hard habit to break. So, me sitting at the table sipping hot tea with everyone else is not unusual, is it?

Is it that I don’t wear revealing clothing? No spaghetti straps, no halter tops, no shorts, no low-cut blouses. All this could be considered just clothing that is not appropriate for working in a school setting. Surely, my choice of clothing is not unusual, is it?

The woman who asked me “You’re Mormon, aren’t ya?” knew very little about me beyond these things. Yet, she was able to tell that I am a Latter Day Saint. How?

I don’t think I’m that different from other people I know. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, but I have been known to let loose a rude word or two on occasion. In that aspect I am in good company – J. Golden Kimball was an early member and eventual leader of the church who was known for his struggle to overcome his ‘cowboy mouth’.  One story goes that after a woman asked him why her good, helpful and kind brother died suddenly instead of her lazy good-for-nothing one, he replied, “Sister, do you know what it is?  It’s God’s will. God doesn’t want that jackass brother of yours any more than you do.”

I don’t eat meat. Neither did one of our latter-day prophets. But many, if not most, Latter Day Saints do. It is the staple of any casserole, that quintessential Mormon dish. Why am I not mistaken for a Seventh Day Adventist, many of whom *are* vegetarians?

It can’t be the number of children I have. With only one soon-to-be nineteen year old daughter of my own after four long-term relationships and a new marriage of almost a year, and now one six year old step-daughter, I certainly don’t fit the stereotypical Mormon model of a houseful of children. I am no Marie Osmond with eight children in tow.

I didn’t go to BYU. I am not a Cougars fan. I have never been to most church historic sites. I don’t live in Utah.

So what is it?

I have no idea. But what I do know is this: I have changed.  I am not the same person I was ten years ago. Joseph Smith once called himself a ‘rough stone rolling.’ He said, “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else…all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304). In many ways, I feel as Joseph did. The trials and tribulations, sadness and sorrow, hurt and heartache of the past ten years has slowly chipped off many of my rough edges, and I am gradually being smoothed like the pebbles on a beach into something marvellous and wonderful. I have a long way to go, but I can’t help but think that this is the slow process of ‘being in the world, but not of the world’ that our church leaders talk about, becoming refined into someone better than I was, someone whose potential only the Lord and my Heavenly Father could foresee.

My beliefs have become an integral part of who I am, so much so that someone who knows what Mormons believe can tell that I am a Latter-Day Saint by what I say. Perhaps this is what is meant by the term ‘true conversion’.

Despite the challenges life throws at me, my testimony does not waiver. I know Joseph is a prophet, I know the Book of Mormon is scripture, I know the temple holds many blessings for those who believe. My faith is on my sleeve, where all can see. And where those who know what to look for can ask, “You’re Mormon, aren’t ya? I could tell from some of the things you’ve said.”