Guest Post: You Must Be Wrong
(DefyGravity just graduated from BYU in theatre education and history teaching. She’s a theatre addict, avid reader, anglophile and has been a raging feminist since she was in junior high, which fortunately hasn’t scared away her husband of 2 years.)
A few weeks ago a friend posted a link on his Facebook page: Ask Mormon Girl: I’m no longer an orthodox believer. How do I tell my parents? (Aug. 1, 2011). The writer was asking how to tell her parents that she was no longer an orthodox Mormon. Part of Joanna Brooks’ response was “follow your own truth.”
Someone took issue with the idea of following your own truth. His
comment on the post was: “I was also once filled with doubts for an extended period of time, and I appreciate how much stronger I became by working … through them. I disagree with one part of the advice given … : “Live your truth.”Since when do we encourage our fellow brothers and sisters to go down a path contrary to the clear teachings of the gospel?… Call me crazy, but I know the path to resolving doubts about the church is not to act or behave in a way contrary to gospel teachings. The scriptures, the prophets, and the Lord have make this very clear. Anyone with doubts about the gospel can overcome them by living the gospel and experiencing the blessings for themselves.”
For many, this comment is a good example of bearing testimony, but it blew my mind. I was amazed that this man felt he had the right, almost the responsibility, to dismiss any path outside the LDS church.
I responded by saying, in essence, that while he could to speak for
his own experience about a path that worked for him, that did not mean his path was correct for everyone else. But even as I responded to him, I knew that in all likelihood, my claim that God can approve different paths for different people would fall on deaf ears (which it did). In order for this man’s truth to exist, everyone else’s must be wrong.
This is a phenomena I’ve observed recently in my interactions with
other orthodox Mormons. A basic tenant of the LDS faith is that they are the one true church on the earth, that the only way to exaltation is through ordinances and priesthood that no one else has. This means that many members cannot accept any path outside of the church as correct. In discussions with my bishop about some of my issues with women and the church, all he can do is insist that I am on the wrong path, that I need to repent, that I need to pray and get answers. I told him that I have prayed and received answers, that I believe my concerns are valid in the eyes of my Parents, and that my path towards a different kind of belief then that prescribed by the church is divinely sanctioned. He simply can’t accept that. In order for his truth, his authority, to be true, I have to be wrong. It seemed that his only options is to dismiss me, my concerns, and my answers because his understanding of the LDS faith does not allow their validity. Therefore, even if he wants to help me, I’m not sure he can.
I’ve had similar experiences in discussions with my dad. He tells me
that leaving the church will make me unhappy. I tell him that the
church is already making me miserable. But because the church is the only place with the full plan of happiness, he can’t accept that answer. I’m telling him I’m unhappy, but in order for the church to be true, I have to be happier with it then without it. So even as the words come out of my mouth, he doesn’t seem to understand them.
So here is the problem, and my point:
- How can non-traditional or unorthodox members, those with questions and doubts, or those who choose to leave the church have discussions about their concerns with orthodox Mormons?
- How can we create a dialogue when the core beliefs of the LDS church seem to create a space where dialogue about different paths cannot exist?
- Or is my experience atypical? Is this a problem that only I’ve dealt with?