Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Talking about difficult things

Growing up, I was always taught at church to avoid any type of "anti" materials. It wasn't an issue for me, why would I be interested in anything like that?

What interests me is what people view as "anti" material. Protest literature produced by groups who feel strongly that the LDS church is evil would certainly be considered "anti". What about blogs or papers written by former LDS members? How about things written by current LDS members that question why things are the way they are? What about books like Rough Stone Rolling, which included unflattering information about Joseph Smith and his family (along with very much inspiring information- in fact I think the unflattering stuff makes all the rest even more inspiring)?

Church history is full of things that perhaps are easier to avoid talking about, but I've always thought (and still think) that it is healthier to talk about mistakes honestly than to try to hide them or pretend they didn't happen, or to make up stories that "might be true" to make those mistakes more palatable.

The last six months or so, I've come to understand why the church doesn't like to talk about some of the Difficult things.

They're difficult.

Thinking about why God would allow a prophet like Brigham Young to be so racist is difficult. Thinking about why supposedly good church members were responsible for the deaths of so many innocents at Mountain Meadows is difficult. I could go on and on.

Thinking about those things, makes you question everything. That makes you feel lost and alone, because if you are questioning things these, you don't feel like you can seek the advice of church leaders, because heaven forbid they think you are questioning your faith. So you struggle through so many feelings of doubt all alone.

I understand why the church feels it more important to focus on strengthening it's members, I'm sure there are enough problems to deal with without stirring up more themselves by bringing up the past. I get that, but it would sure feel nice to have grown up being taught what I've struggled to learn recently. It always surprises me when I learn something only to realize that it's something I've always know, but Heavenly Father patiently reminds me over and over again.

People are not perfect.

Joseph Smith wasn't. Brigham Young wasn't. Thomas S. Monson isn't, and neither am I. We're all human, with human weaknesses, viewing the world through dark glasses, filtered by our own experiences (although I'm pretty sure that prophets have a slightly less murky filter than I do).

The most inspiring thing to me in all of this, is that despite the personal limitations of so many great people who have gone before me, God allows them to also do so much good, and that gives me hope. Hope that someday we don't have to hide from difficult things, that we can be strong enough to deal with them, and learn from them, and still know that God loves us, and that he lets us make even horrible mistakes so that we can learn and grow and become a little better than we were before. A little more understanding of those around us when we see their flaws, because if God allows an imperfect man to be his prophet, there's hope for the rest of us.


Charlotte said...

Very powerful post, Al. I'm so glad you broached this subject. I think this attitude is changing somewhat as the church's visibility grows. Hopefully our children will feel comfortable talking to us about all of the difficult questions.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Charlotte in her hope that our children will feel comfortable discussing their doubts with us.

I know that the most valuable friends I have within the church are those with whom I am comfortable enough to discuss those difficult topics, knowing that they are not questioning my faith in the process.

George and WP said...

We cannot forget the role of agency in all of this. We are all free, unencumbered by Heavenly Father, to make good, bad, or indifferent choices. Hopefully we learn important things throughout the process and along the way.

I think it is called life or mortality.

Thoughtful and mature post!