The Story is Not About How We Left
At this April’s Bi-annual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson made some curious statements about those who have left the church. In his talked titled “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” President Nelson said:
“Your mountains may be loneliness, doubt, illness, or other personal problems. Your mountains will vary, and yet the answer to each of your challenges is to increase your faith. That takes work. Lazy learners and lax disciples will always struggle to muster even a particle of faith.”
President Nelson goes on to assure us that the way to move our own personal mountains is to study the scriptures, choose to believe in Jesus Christ, act in faith, partake of sacred ordinances, and ask Heavenly Father for help. To me those are the typical, Primary answers I received my entire life when I had doubts and other personal problems.
Many of us who have left the church did study. We did choose to believe in Jesus Christ (many of us still do). We did act in faith. We did partake of sacred ordinances and kept our covenants. Many of us spent hours on our knees crying out to Heavenly Father to reconcile our doubts.
The story is not about how we left. The story is about how long we stayed.
I can assure President Nelson that if he humbly sat with those who have left he would find that many of us were not lazy learners nor lax disciples. Many of us did everything we could in order to stay. I think back now at the heartache and wrestling with my values I did with how the institutional church treats and regards our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and wished I had just been lazy or lax. I wish it had been easy to take off my garments, hand in my temple recommend, and turn back on my church and community. If only I could have been lazy and lax when I abandoned the faith of my ancestors to follow the dictates of my own conscience.
I can’t help but think of all the incredibly thoughtful and intelligent ex-members I have met who have spent hours on their knees in prayers and years mourning their church and how the two words I would never use to describe them is lazy or lax.
When I read President Nelson’s talk one thought came very clearly to my mind – Giving your church’s faithful followers the same five pat answers we’ve learned since Primary when facing real crises of faith is what I consider lazy and lax leadership.
My story is not about how I left. My story is about how much I endured, abdicated, and compromised to stay as long as I did. I was never lazy and I was never lax.