Monday, March 23, 2015

What Do You Do When Your Church Flips On You?

In the history of the world it's nothing new. The hearts of men are easily corrupted. People convince themselves that they must do the wrong things for all the wrong reasons instead of making the required sacrifices. Trusted leaders betray. Humble followers get thrown under the bus. Evil triumphs.

The question is, what does one do when this happens? We followers of Christ know we must exercise all those selfless qualities of true charity: patience, longsuffering, endurance. But is that something different than standing for truth and righteousness? We think so. We think when it comes to wickedness, we must reject it. Always.

So do we fight for our churches? Realistically, we peons can't make any difference. It's going the way it's going and we can't change that.Apparently we have to submit to what's happening, but we mustn't like it or get used to it or we'll end up like Lot's wife. True followers of Christ are obligated to pay attention to what's happening and seek the Spirit to discern errors. It takes great diligence not to get lulled into carnal security, yes, especially within the church.

Correct us if we're wrong, but stuff some leaders are saying on the news sounds like a page out of Korihor's notebook. No worries. Just be nice. We can all get along. All opinions are equal and respectable. It's all about rights and privileges. Old-fashioned morality is a thing of the past, just silly traditions of our fathers. Public opinion has changed so we have to change with it. Say again??? This is not what we signed up for. We didn't conscientiously raise our children in a religious institution only to have current leaders at this time switch up God's rules for sexual purity on us.

It appears that most all churches are on this same trajectory. We've talked to people from as far away as Africa who have the exact same concerns about their churches. Weakened by intense and unrelenting pressure and attacks coming from the radical individualist/secular progressive/sexual revolutionist/humanist/Godless culture of the world today, infiltrated by it in their own ranks, and apparently unwilling to sacrifice any of their power or programs or positions or properties, they are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. As a result they make concession after concession, watering down a shining gospel of absolutes until it is unrecognizable, all in order to, what? Save the institution. Not souls, mind you. The institution. Yes, all moves are made to keep the institution from temporal harm. But what does such an institution stand for? nothing much. It's a case of sinking the ship to save the ship. When an institution begins to abandon its core beliefs, its foundation begins to crumble. It changes its emphasis. Its principles fade. It contradicts itself. Its doctrines become unclear. As such it can be reshaped into anything, on an ongoing basis. At best, sooner or later it turns into a mere social/humanitarian club instead of a religious organization, all the while pretending to still be a church.

 So do we stay in our church outwardly pretending nothing has changed? Do we become whited sepulchers too? That reeks of hypocrisy. It would show that we never really believed in everlasting truth, in sin or repentance or Christ or goodness or morality at all. It would show that we are fine with accommodating wickedness. It would show that we care more about the culture, the social ladder, the human relations our church activity offers than about the Godhead and truth and righteousness. We just can't go there.

We suppose we could become out loud proud what they call homophobes. In church. We could seize every opportunity to denounce the sins of pride and sexual immorality and testify of repentance and Christ crucified nonstop. But this would sound very weird in church today and we would be considered freaks. People have gotten very used to being fed pablum, insipid emotional stories about human relations and serving one another and loving everybody and puffing each other up. Christ, if mentioned at all, is more often than not portrayed as nothing but a massage therapist. Even then he is an aside, an afterthought. Horrors.

Apparently, even though many church leaders have come out pro-gay, we could get loud because we're hearing more and more that all manner of differing opinions are welcome in Christian churches.But wait. On all levels and in all societal entities of church culture we've seen for ourselves that our conservative, scriptural view is most certainly not welcome. In the past decade we've been interviewed and cancelled on the news, instructed by top leaders not to quietly oppose a gay rally, been released from positions, been uninvited to speak on conservative family values, been lectured by representatives of our congregation in our living room on the joys and benefits of lesbian parenting, and been told our eternal salvation was at stake if we didn't attend our meetings even if  homosexuality was being preached from the pulpit.

Remember, churches at the top have flipped on us, and this most definitely has trickled down. It's liberal views of various kinds, not conservative ones, that are going to be allowed now, you see. Contrary to what we hear leaders say on the news, the two views cannot freely co-exist. People like us are being shut up, but if you're all for gay marriage, that is, sodomy and the like, go ahead and share.

Us be loud and proud? Alas, we're just not that sort of people. Unlike gay activists whom top ecclesiastical leaders have been secretly meeting with, glad-handing, flattering, and handing out big checks to, we don't generally make a spectacle of ourselves. Maybe we'll have to work at being more fearless and outspoken in church and social situations.

Apparently our leaders don't care what we do. They've admitted they've changed things radically, they've admitted the church is divided. They've even said we can disagree with them all we want, as long as we don't try to get people to leave the church in droves. Seriously, what does any of this mean and how is it defined and by whom?

What happened to the body of Christ? "If ye are not one ye are not mine?" Hearts knit together as one? The 13th Article of Faith? Standing for truth and righteousness in all places, all things, all times? Being on the Lord's side? Holiness to the Lord? Being steadfast and immovable? Being in the world but not of it? If your eye offends you pluck it out? Unevenly yoked with unbelievers?  Names blotted out? Repentance? Truth? The strait and narrow way? Christ alone being the way, the truth, and the life? God not looking upon sin with the least degree of allowance? Lehi's dream? Zion: the pure in heart? The Standard Works? Our entire religion, for heaven's sake? We thought a church was a gathering of people who share the same beliefs on essential things, who have the same desires, the same goals, the same values. It's supposed to center around a God we can rely on and the welfare of our immortal souls. All this is what we have always loved about church. And now these certainties are gone.

We are active members of our church. We have current temple passes and wear special Church-made underwear night and day. We pay our tithing and strictly keep all the Church rules. We raised our 7 children in the Church; all married in the temple. We now have 23 grandchildren all growing up active in the Church, our eldest grandson far from home serving a mission. We have baby blessings, baptisms, temple work, more missions, more temple marriages, all sorts of church stuff to look forward to and participate in. Janice took lessons and bought music and practices all during the week to play the organ in sacrament meeting on Sunday and in the temple. Steve is in charge of cleaning the church building Saturday mornings. We have deeply-held scriptural beliefs about God's unchanging rules for human purity and behavior and about Jesus Christ dying for our sins and redeeming us if we believe in him and keep on humbly repenting and turning back to God. We want to take the sacrament each week. We want to do our part. But we're not blind followers. We're sincere believers. We do our own spiritual work. We don't live on borrowed light, not anymore. Christ, not the church institution or our performances, is our Light. Still, we're imperfect and would prefer to be part of a church, that is, among like-minded people who believe like us whom we meet with regularly to talk about the welfare of our souls. And now on essential issues our Church from the top down has flipped on us on essential issues, only one of which is homosexuality, which will only temporarily appease gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, transgenders, transsexuals. Really?  Sex addicts? The wicked world? It's incredible. We striving, penitent, traditional family values types are now the extreme right-wing fringe according to a Church spokesman. Is this the way to treat people like us?

We know. All of this is very hard to believe. 

We love to go to church and serve and participate, but now Sunday meetings are not a spiritually safe or secure place for us or our family anymore. And how about physical safety? What about the church building restrooms where some recognized and encouraged and welcomed openly bold gay or transgender might be lurking? Think this is alarmist? Reminder: gays are sexually attracted to people of their same sex. Public restrooms and dressing rooms where people fully or partially undress are designated for people only of the same sex--- for propriety, modesty, and safety reasons. This designation is rendered meaningless with the acceptance/normalization of homosexuality. And yes, homosexuals notoriously use restrooms and locker rooms as places for sexual opportunities, lusts and acts. It's downright foolish to imagine that Mormon perverts are any different. It all comes down to sex, and what we encourage will increase. If we encourage homosexuality it will increase. Maybe there are no safe places anymore, not spiritually and not physically. Certainly not the scout program. Ward socials? Church schools? Seminary? The temple? The thing is, we are hesitant, sometimes afraid, to speak our religious and moral beliefs---in church---to fellow Latter-Day Saints. There's no way of knowing what people's opinions are anymore. And who knows what will be taught? Who knows what we'll be exposed to? Who knows what will happen next?

There is always talk about people leaving their Church. But what do people do when their Church leaves them?

There's an old saying: What we cannot cure we must endure. We suppose that is true for us ordinary folks when it comes to people and events we have no control over such as the above. But we must take Alexander Pope's warning and never, never embrace these vices. Enduring something is completely different than going along with it. Perhaps we must look at the situation this way: Think of all the patience and long-suffering and humility and faith in the Lord we can learn by these turns of events, by the persecution, by the disappointment, by the falseness, by the evil being called good and the good being called evil, by the complacency and deception and worldliness going on around us---in our church. It isn't pleasant, but the facts remain: it isn't up to us ordinary members, it's not our fault, there's nothing we can do about it, and we'll miss out on all those learning opportunities, among other things, if we up and leave. Many people who leave the church--even for pretty good and sincere reasons--reasons that are apparently piling up--often end up bashing it. That never seems to do any good. It just makes the ex-Mormons themselves bitter and even more holier-than-thou than they were before. This has happened to a bishop we once had who now has a TV show called the Ex-Mormon Files. We think he may be right on some essentials, but hung up on and motivated by some nonessentials.  Guess what?  Human beings make up every church. There are always going to be problems and inconsistencies and doctrinal quibbles in every church. Why not stay where you are as best you can and teach your family what you are learning about truth and God and Jesus?

We think it's possible to stay in your church in its present contradictory and uncertain condition and still maintain your personal integrity, keep the covenants you have made with God, and learn a great deal about yourself, human nature, and the nature of God. So far, anyway. If things get worse or more blatant, you'll have to rethink and see what the Lord has to say about it. In the meantime, you might have to do a lot of silent praying in church, walk out of a meeting here and there, or even shop for another ward or congregation that upholds your beliefs. This is what happens when big changes are made, whether gradually or quickly, and thinking believers see that there is no clear or unified leadership. But here is an opportunity, if you can endure it, to learn humility and patience, to keep your God-given power of discernment sharp, to try to help, and to experience continual enticements to rely on the Lord, seek his Spirit, and feel God's love.  Isn't all of that good?

Opposition in all things, right? That's the plan.

Yes, ouch. As Flannery O'Connor wrote, holiness costs. Faith hurts like nothing else. 


George Washington said...

The LDS scriptures teach that the Saints are to become "one". They are to esteem their brothers (or sisters) as themselves (D&C 38:24-25). They are to esteem the church leaders as no more special than any brother. D&C 107:81-84 gives a special revelation on how to end a controversy over the President of the church, or one of his counsellors-- and possibly remove him from office. JST Mark 9:40-48 clearly teaches that every member is to stand or fall for themselves, and not automatically assume that any other member cannot fail them. And this includes the "eye of the body", meaning the Prophet. Many of us believe the time has come to claim our God given right to NOT sustain the current LDS church leaders, and to have a controversies over them until they are settled-- even by the D&C 107 trial if it comes to that. A member does not have the right to change doctrine or practice in the church. That is the dissent that is not legimate. But they do have the right to NOT sustain the leadership and "hold their feet to the fire" so to speak on serious matters. They are not superiors to the regular members. They are to be esteemed as equals, and as equals they can fail us. As you say, we must not live on borrowed light, but seek guidance independent of any other leader or person on earth.

Anonymous said...

Great article Janice I feel the same way. We need to do something about this horrible law that goes into effect May 11th. Organize and educate the public on how destructive this bill will be most people have no idea. Get SB 296 repealed.