Chapter One: We Have A Christ Problem – A Lack Thereof
I am a Mormon.
I was born into this beautiful religion. And at no time will I debate my religion with anyone who is simply trying to bash it, disprove it, or make fun of it in any way. My religion saved my life, literally, so I am very protective of it. Respect that, please, as I respect your beliefs.
However, religion is completely different from culture when it comes to religious communities. Most religions have a culture that was formed from the rules and guidelines you’re asked to live by as a member, and many outside forces warp and morph that culture over time. Not always is the end result a positive one. I truly believe it is time to stand up and speak out about the culture that has become a virus within my beautiful religion. I also fully recognize that by standing up and speaking out I will fall under attack, especially by my fellow Mormons. And for that reason alone, we have come full circle, and this post is for and about you – the Christian who forgot how to be Christlike.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is the target of a ridiculous accusation that we do not believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Funny, since His name is literally in the title of our church and we believe wholeheartedly in the King James version of the Holy Bible. But I’m not here to argue the blatant stupidity of those who waste precious time belittling and disproving other religions. I’m here to discuss how we, as Mormons/Christians, have forgotten that from day one we are taught to be Christlike and in moments when we are faced with right or wrong choices to ask ourselves, “If the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?”
While I will use my own experiences as examples, it should be noted that I am not alone in this feeling. I’ve spoken with members, inactives, and ex-members, all stages of membership, and there is a resounding “yes” with the topic of our own members and leaders no longer showing Christlike behaviors towards others.
Allow me to explain…
For 20 years I was a stellar Mormon wife and our family checked off all the boxes needed. We raised our kids in the Church, held callings that quite often monopolized our extra time, read the scriptures together, had FHE on a regular basis, attended the temple regularly, and so on. But behind closed doors there came a time where our marriage began to fail. Somewhere along the way my husband and I forgot to date one another and check in and make sure we were still nurturing our love and our relationship. We were busy with kids, and callings, and work, and medical school. It happens… a lot.
Our separation was shocking to everyone we knew. I met with my bishop and stake president because I was grasping at any foothold I could find to save my marriage. I even did our separation correctly according to Church “standards.”
Over the next few months I saw my culture fail me and my family terribly. And this was a culture that I lived completely and contributed to and was proud of for many years prior.
When people found out about our separation I was often asked how much I had prayed or fasted. I was asked how often I attended the temple, even if by myself. I was advised to pray more, fast more, and read the scriptures more. I began to feel as though I hadn’t done enough in the spiritual department, even though my logical mind reminded me that I had and that sometimes you cannot control the actions of others. The worst thing was when our church family pulled away from us. Christians aren’t big on divorce and broken families, I get that. But marriages fail, it’s a reality and it just happens. The last thing a broken family in turmoil needs is to be treated as though they have some divorce plague that your own marriage could catch. People were weird at church and either avoided me completely or had awkward interactions with me that felt more like pity than anything else.
Our initial separation was a bit ugly and hard on all of us, so my kids struggled in their own ways. Sometimes they flat out didn’t want to go to church because they were mad that they had been taught their whole lives that temple-going/scripture-reading families stayed together no matter what. That’s our fault as parents, I own that one. And because we didn’t go to church as often during that time, I asked to be released from my callings. I asked in person and explained my situation. Shortly after, my RS President emailed me to release me from my calling and ended the email with “we know this is a hard time for you and please let us know if we can be of service, love your RS Presidency.” No visits, no phone calls, no acts of service, just an email. I couldn’t help but feel the sting of wondering where my visiting teachers were during this time. In fact, our home and visiting teachers stopped coming by as much and I began to feel as though my sweet little family was only appreciated and loved as long as we fit the mold. That didn’t feel Christlike to me.
When youth leaders started to show their irritation toward my kids for not coming to church as often or missing meetings for callings, I lost my damn mind. After 20 years of service and loyalty to teachings that I would literally die for, my own fellow members were betraying those teachings and instead showing my family that love, loyalty, and Christlike service are only for the picturesque Mormon.
I pulled away fast. I’m not here to blame my ward family for my inactive status or the holes in my testimony. I am responsible for those. But when you’re struggling, when you feel inadequate, when you’re world is crashing the hell in on you, that is THE MOMENT when you need support the most. That is THE MOMENT when you need all those testimonies about service and loving those in need to be true.
Over the last three years I’ve taken a very long, hard look at our culture within the Church. I’ve seen us judge those that struggle with testimonies or following the rules. I’ve seen us refuse to speak about taboo subjects, only to let our fellow members and families down when those subjects become their reality. I’ve seen us become elitists and more exclusive than we are inclusive. When did it become our place to judge or exclude because we feel uncomfortable being around someone who might be struggling? I’ve not only witnessed it, but I’ve been in that position where I didn’t feel “Mormon enough” for one reason or another. When did this feeling of inadequacy become common among us and what are we doing that makes it so common among our members?
I could go on and on, but the point isn’t each individual problem. The most important point is that each problem signifies a much deeper issue: we have forgotten how to be Christlike and are, therefore, risking the destruction of our religion.
I’ll go a step further and say this of ALL Christian religions. We all have some truth to bring to the table, and we all share the same purpose of sharing the teachings of the Savior, Jesus Christ. And yet, we quickly judge each other when we fall short, when we differ even slightly from one another, or when we lose our grip during one of life’s storms.
I am meeting more and more Christians who no longer belong to a specific church and their stories are all the same. We are tired of the judgment and the hypocrisy, but mainly we are tired of watching the clueless and the ignorant destroy what was always meant to be a beautiful and all-inclusive organization on this earth.
This is not only a wake-up call, this is also a call to action. And the time of saying “well if you were active you can better contribute to the change” is long gone and not enough. I shared my feelings with a friend recently who stated this to me and I immediately recognized the shaming within that statement. She didn’t admit that perhaps even she has contributed to the problems within the culture, she just tried to shame me into being “active”. NO! I will no longer sit in a church and hear my beautiful religion spoken of by those who don’t live those teachings. This is a church-wide cultural issue and shaming is PART OF THE ISSUE! We need to hear the concerns and struggles of others and see the problem within ourselves first. “How can I help?” and “What is needed from me now?” are the first things we should say when we hear of another church member struggling. Don’t shame them for being inactive or judge them for their worldly struggles, or flat out turning your back when their demons are too scary for your protective bubble.
The day of the weak, protective, bubble-living, completely inexperienced Mormon/Christian needs to be long gone. The realities of the world in which we live require us to be a much stronger army to protect each other. The time for change is now. If you see an issue within your church/ward, SPEAK UP! Ever heard the saying “silence is deadly?” It’s true.
Let’s put Christ back where He should be, front and center, and prove that we as Christians reflect His teachings in all that we do. Take off the robes of hypocrisy and judgment and ask yourself daily, “If the Savior stood beside me, what would my actions toward others say about me?”
I am a Mormon/Christian. And my religious culture needs to change.