Sunday, August 4, 2013

Responding to others' comments to "Why I am Staying"

With the burst of accolades, acerbic criticism, as well as Google+ and Facebook notifications that erupted from this post, I am even more cognizant that retaining millennials in church is very germane to current religious discussion. I would like to use this post to respond to others' comments and criticism:

1. The exhibition of members' and church leaders' poor behavior.
Many people immediately described how they have been emotionally hurt by other members. Certainly, we should ensure that we are not stumbling blocks to others' faith. But I don't pretend that the Mormon church as an institution is infallible. It will never be perfect, because the people in it are not perfect. I have certainly been frustrated by members' behavior numerous times.  However, we are still taught to view our fellow members as brothers and sisters because we need to learn to work together, forgive freely (see my previous posts on forgiveness and toleration), and strive to view them as God sees them. Being a member of this church has challenged me to reach out to others whom I don't think that I would befriend otherwise, and served as an ideal laboratory for me to take the precepts of Christ's teachings into practice. I realize that this model is not unique to our faith. But I appreciate that it is in place for us to potentially develop the strong bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood that the gospel can help us achieve.

2. The issue of nonpaid clergy.
I realize that I may have offended others who have seen other leaders of other faiths genuinely care about their congregations. Like I said before, I am merely referring to my own faith experience, and I am very aware that leaders of other denominations have genuine intent. I certainly don't assume that church leaders won't make mistakes (see a previous post on this), but I do believe that for the most part, a local church leader's willingness to spend a substantial amount of time on congregations' needs with no monetary compensation is a strong indicator of their genuine intent. And as I have stated before, we need to listen to our leaders' words in "all patience and faith" (Doctrine and Covenants 21:5).

3. The issue of asking questions.
Many people perceive Mormonism as a religion where we blindly follow local church leaders, irrespective of what they say. This is simply untrue. We are a church that heavily focuses on personal revelation. Professor Kathleen Flake at Vanderbilt even refers to Joseph Smith as the "Henry Ford" of revelation, wanting everyone to have access to it.

For example, we are specifically told to receive a personal confirmation from prayer that what church leaders are saying are true. Moreover, we are taught that we can obtain a relationship with God, which comes through inquiring to him about our decisions and our concerns. I don't know whether we will receive answers to every question that we will have (see my previous post on doubt). But I have found that the more more I inquire and search the gospel for answers, the more knowledge I am capable of obtaining. I believe that God is one who earnestly wants to impart His knowledge to us, provided that we are ready to receive it.

4. Whether or not our doctrine can be reduced to a "laundry list."
For many people, our church is ostensibly a commandment-driven religion. However, I perceive these commandments as helping to refashion me into the person that God wants me to be.
A previous post of mine explores John Milton's poem "On His Blindness," where Milton decides that it is our desires of our hearts, not our talents, that make us valuable to God. I agree wholeheartedly. Like I said before, God will judge us by our hearts; not by our "church resume."

Image by Philip Newton.


  1. Nicely put, Sara. Loads of people were reading your DN repost of your blog, including my sis in law in Pennsylvania.
    Ultimately, your post and views just resist the burgeoning view that individualism reigns the day and that unless something is absolutely perfect, don't ascribe with others to that collective ideal. You provide a voice for many of us that say, yes, we are not ignorant of the way things are in the church and are free to question, but we stay knowing that our lives are much happier living these teachings and obeying these commandments than through another faith or through going at it alone. Through it all, the teachings are right and we invite others to hear them, live them and see for themselves. Well done.

  2. Thank you so much Tyler! I appreciate your comment especially about the downside of an individualistic mentality.