A Spiritual Hiatus
“Will you be moving your records into the branch?”
The YSA Branch Relief Society President was happy and cheerful enough–– not yet jaded by New York City (for now). With a pleasant grin on her face and sincerity in her voice, she asked if I would be joining their motley YSA crew here in New York. I told her an honest “maybe”. I attended my local Young Single Adult branch this past Sunday, made new friends, and felt pretty much at home. It didn’t hurt that the Relief Society lesson was not from the Ezra Taft Benson manual, but instead, on supporting and encouraging ourselves and other women. I also took comfort in the fact that the aforementioned Relief Society President said things like, “Welcome to Brooklyn! Where you can wear pants to church and no one will blog about it!” and then cursed in her lesson–– without the sister missionaries, senior sister missionary, or branch president’s wife blinking an eye. It was the most subversive and uplifting church experience I’ve ever had in recent memory. It felt so good being in church that day.
Despite all this, I can’t bring myself to be a contributing active member. To be blunt, I don’t want to give any of my time or talents to the LDS Church. I was baptized as a convert in April of 2010. Almost five-years later, however, I have taken off my rose-colored glasses. Not all is well in Zion. And nothing will get better in Zion when we decide to build malls instead of clean water wells or fight against marriage equality instead of income equality. I kind of get it, though. We have rules–– according to the Church, doctrinally, same-sex couples can’t get married. But to know that a member of the First Presidency will give a talk in front of the Pope supporting traditional marriage, but at the same time won’t join the Pope at a conference fighting human trafficking (which I am pretty sure is also doctrinally against our rules) is troubling and disturbing. Not all is well in Zion, indeed.
Still, I love the Gospel. There is a difference between the Church as an institution and the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though I feel that our current leaders are lacking genuine inspiration, I know they’re still our leaders. And I’m hoping with all my might that things will get back on track and they’ll actually do the work that Jesus wants to be done (say, donating more to charity than buying land reserves in Florida). I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and in spite of his severe weaknesses, he was key in bringing back to earth the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe in the Plan of Salvation. Even though I have gone back to drinking coffee and alcohol and–– some would say–– have broken covenants, I still believe in the power of the temple. I believe in the Book of Mormon. I believe in the Gospel. The God I believe in will always fall within the confines of Mormon theology. I just don’t believe in the Church right now. The priorities are so far off, in my opinion, that I must withdraw my support and belief. We persecute those asking honest, genuine questions within the bounds of the faith, but we say nothing about members who engage in wartime torture. We speak out about a television reality show, but we say nothing of the current racial strife that affects this nation. It’s too hard to reconcile with my personal convictions of “what would Jesus do?”
I look at my break from the church as a temporary hiatus. It’s happened before. In fact, my sophomore year of college, after taking a brief break from church during the summer, I had my first meeting with my bishop at the beginning of the semester where I handed him back my temple recommend and told him, “I can’t do this anymore.” Things have changed since then and they will continue to change. It’s part of being a learning, active human being. For now I hope things will change again. I know things will change. They have in the past. But no matter how much you love your childhood home, as long as it’s dilapidated and in disrepair, you can’t live in it. I am waiting for my home–– my church–– to be safe and be repaired so I can return and serve wholeheartedly with a good conscience.
But like anything that is meaningful in one’s life, there are certain things you just can’t shake. From the metaphorical childhood home, you still may have an old toy or pictures that you keep with you. For me, it’s garments. I still wear them. I see them as the traditional cross jewelry that our Christian brothers and sisters of other denominations wear. All sorts of Christians wear the cross. Heck, even gangsters and mobsters wear them. To me, the wearing of the cross is not an indication of worthiness or righteousness, but a reflection of personal belief. No matter what we do–– good or bad, as we are all still imperfect–– we can still love the Savior and one day benefit from His mercy. And that cross necklace can reflect that. That’s how I feel about my garments. They are my cross necklaces. I wear them not as a reflection of who I currently am as an LDS member, but as a reflection of what I ultimately believe and as a reminder who I eventually may become (at least that’s how I make garments work for me, combined with my lingering testimony of temple ordinances).
I ultimately decided to transfer my records into the YSA branch. Like I said, I know this distance from the Church is temporary (temporary being flexible–– this break could last months or years, who knows?) and I want to align myself with a church family that I feel comfortable with for when I do make the occasional appearance once a month or so. I plan on turning down callings and talks, and I don’t plan on renewing my temple recommend when it expires in April. I am lucky enough as a single convert where such actions don’t have immediate or familial repercussions for family members or myself. I can take this hiatus without judgment or grief from those closest to me. But no matter how long the distance, I am still a Mormon. There are some things I just can’t shake (garments, being kind to everyone, love of community). I plan on attending my local Episcopalian Church for spiritual edification, but my core beliefs about God and Christ and the world will still be compatible with Mormon viewpoints. It’s just who I am. I am only a convert of less than five years, but being Mormon is who I am. It is my long-lost childhood home. I am a Mormon and nothing will change that. I know there is room for me in this church, despite what anyone says, and when the time comes, I will come and take my place. And I know that no matter where this journey will take me, this hymnal verse is more applicable in my life now more than ever: Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous… omnipotent hand.
For those who are still active, how do you make the LDS Church work for you?
For those who are less- or- inactive (or have even resigned), what are some Mormon things that have still stuck with you?
What spiritual journeys have you taken? Where has it taken you?