Guest Post: Are We Gathering or Dispersing our Fold?
Jenica is first and foremost a woman, a mama to four incredible children, an advocate, an artist, and a seeker of light and truth.
Mormons believe that they are to gather Israel. We receive patriarchal blessings that prophecy our lineage in Abraham’s line and we are pronounced sons and daughters of Israel, the grandchildren of Abraham’s promise. Most American Mormons are of the lineage of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph who received the birthright. Because of this lineage it is our duty to care for all of the other sons and daughters of Israel. It is our duty to enlarge the space of our tents, (3rd Nephi 22:2 and Isaiah 54:2) to give a resting place to the weary of the world, to help every single human on this earth have a place with God.
For years we have sought to do this through missionary work, knocking on doors, boldly going into countries to convert the people to our ways, believing with every Book of Mormon passed along that we are planting the seeds of true happiness in the hearts of those that receive.
But what happens when those that once believed fall away from their beliefs? What happens when the message we arm our missionaries with is rejected? We blame them, the people hearing, for not having open hearts to receive God’s word into their life. Don’t they know that God loves them and we have all the answers to their worries?
If an unbeliever were to walk into a church building, looking for good, would their soul find rest in the halls of an LDS church? Would the discussions in Sunday School help them to find solace from their problems? Or would they find extra judgments placed upon their fragile hearts? The people in this world are struggling with issues of money, family, government, education; big, huge, heavy things. So when we come to church we do hope to find refuge. Instead of offering relief, Mormons have become fixated with issues of modesty, protecting marriage, the quest for perfection by following all of the tiny rules lest you be kept from attaining celestial glory. But then if you bring up what celestial glory actually entails (polygamy) we are told not to question God, to avoid the “mysteries of God.”
I don’t believe in a God that is hoping for failure, I don’t believe in a God that requires every jot and tittle to be fulfilled before we are allowed to enter into their loving arms. The reason I don’t believe in this God is because I myself am a mother. And I could never in good conscience device a plan that would leave my own children out in the cold because they hadn’t quite nailed that piano performance, or aced their college entrance exams, or because they were gay and in love, or because they wore a tank top, or took birth control.
I believe that God loves with the love of a parent and that we have a right to that love even when we falter along the pathway.
Last week we hiked as a family. The hill we hiked has a giant L made out of magnesite near the top, the initial marking the name of a tiny Mormon town. My children ran up over a hill completely out of my sight while my niece walked next to me asking a million questions and offering another million more complaints: “I’m tired! When will we be to the top? Can I have a drink of water? Did you see that rock? <stops to find a specific rock among the thousands scattered at our feet> I need to go potty! When we get to the top can we climb that other mountain? Can we take a break? Why is it so hot? When will be there?” I answered her every question, trying to point out details of the hike that I thought were enjoyable and making many promises of more fun after this hike. When we got to the top she had another question: “Where is the L?” Well, we had passed it on the way up, I had pointed it out to her and tried to get her to turn around and see the view of the valley from that L, but she had wanted to get to the top so badly, she had MISSED the L completely. We walked right passed it and yet she hadn’t even seen it. She had been so focused on what was ahead of us and how difficult it was in that moment that she hadn’t seen the beauty right around her.
This echoes my experience within the church. I think we focus so much on making it to the very tippy top of the celestial kingdom, even though we don’t even know for sure or are willing to really look at what is at the top of that kingdom. And we end up walking right past the giant L in our pathway, our LIFE.
Are we focused on the right goals? Is it our duty first to love our god, to love ourselves, to love our neighbors? Or is it our goal to follow every commandment given, even if we don’t understand just so that we can say we did it? Where does our accomplishment come from? Does the beauty in this life come from keeping every rule with exactness or from living with Love? Are we stopping along the way to find the beauty that surrounds us? To see God’s hand in every step? Or do we only feel burdened by the steps, unsure of where we are headed, but adamant that we get “there.”
I think it is irresponsible to try to push every single person to the top. This is not a race. This is a religion based on building a kingdom of God, of bringing together people from every walk of life and allowing all to receive of God’s love and happiness to the degree that they themselves are seeking. We’ve been taught for so long about every thing we can do to take us away from God, we strive to keep our temple recommends so that we can always have the blessings of God poured upon us. But for those that are investigating the gospel and looking for solace, what can you offer us?
Behavior does not have to be condoned, but we DO get to welcome and love every person that walks in to our churches. Because they are God’s children. Just like you. Just like me. And we all have a right to be LOVED by our God. And as the children of God, we have a duty, an obligation, to LOVE all of God’s children. And if we are to be truly the brothers and sisters of Christ we are to follow His words and his works and Feed his sheep, every one of them.
We are missing the whole point of the gospel if we’re so transfixed on making it there perfectly. Christ was the only perfect person to grace this Earth, yet he was the one willing to be friends with those that society rejected. And if we are to truly be the brothers and sisters of Christ we are to follow His words and his works and Feed his sheep (John 21: 15-17), every one of them.