Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In which I mull something over ... Bear with me ...

(Aside: Hey, my last post was #666 over here at Blogger. I find that relatively amusing. Heh.)

I don't know if I am necessarily looking for validation ... or if I'm just needing to write this to work it out in my head. ... Do you ever do that? Just write something out so that you might start to understand it yourself? ... Either way. Don't feel pressured to comment. Or pressured to NOT comment.

As you might know, I have quite a few friends that I make effort to keep up with. Some of them are from school. Some are from church. Some are from both. ... There are friends that I have who have chosen to leave the church. Yes, this makes me sad ... I love my religion ... but I love them because of WHO they are, not just because of what they believe.

Sunday night, one of my dear friends wrote:

I'm having an issue. As most know I'm no longer active in the religion
I was raised in. I still have many friends who are. Even though I
don't participate it is part of my foundation, why I am who I am.
Tonight I heard examples from two different people saying the same
thing: they were told they would be welcome to sit in the foyer but

needed a special permission to enter the chapel of a regular ward.
What?!? This is not the church I know. When did this happen? What
about the "visitors welcome" that is on the outside of every building?
What is the point of missionaries if the new people aren't made to
feel welcome. I'm actually ashamed to be tied to this faith....

Then, among the other comments were two others of my friends who have left the church. One struggles with her testimony ... but often talks to me. She told the original poster-friend that they should get together (since they are also friends) and discuss how something that was so influential in their lives just isn't part of their lives now. And I'm all for that. ... I see it exactly as how it'd be for me to get together with one of my high school friends to rehash old times.

Then, another of my friends from my home ward, who has left the church said that she'd advise people to avoid all churches, since they're all full of hate.

And ... that just really hurts my heart. I love the friend who wrote this. We grew up together. I just feel so terrible that she feels so embittered toward all churches. I don't know exactly what caused this ... and so I have no idea what to DO in order to fix it.

Because that's what my first reaction is ... "How do I fix this??"
I like to make things better. It's what I do. When my friends are sad or irritated, I try to make them laugh.
(And, hey, not to toot my own horn TOO much, but ... I'm pretty good at it. Just sayin'.)

All I can think of to do is to just pray about it ... and continue being her friend. And, with about 20 years' experience, that's not too hard at all.

Now, back to the original post, I have NO IDEA where people are getting the idea that visitors aren't welcome in the chapel. My best guess is that maybe people have come during the middle of Sacrament Meeting, when the bread and water are CURRENTLY being passed among the congregation. When that occurs, the doors to the chapel are closed. The sacrament is sacred. We don't want people walking in and out ... maybe bumping into the deacons (or other men) passing the trays.
I mean, if someone arrived RIGHT. THEN., yes, they wouldn't be able to just walk into the chapel. But, within around five minutes or so, the chapel doors are opened again, and they'd be able to find a seat in the chapel. (Or in the overflow room, if the chapel is full.)

It is possible that some members could be taking it upon themselves to make up new rules for the church. But, last last I checked, these individuals are not the prophet. Nor are they responsible for drafting new church policies.

Now, it is possible that the individuals that my friend talked to did confuse the temple with our regular meetinghouses. Because, unless you are a member of the church (baptized) ... and in good standing (holding a current temple recommend), you are not able to enter most parts of the temple.
It's not because we don't love you. It's not because you aren't cool enough or whatever. It's because the temple is the house of the Lord. Sacred ordinances happen inside. We still love you (and, if we don't, that's OUR OWN PERSONAL FAILING. No lie. You could totally call us to repentance on this. And you'd be right.)

I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I know that our religion, that all of Christanity, is based on LOVE.
If God didn't love us, why would he CARE enough about us to send His Son to redeem us?
And, if God loves us all that much, why should we not love all His other children to the best of our abilities?
(And, yes, we will fail. And fail often. But we should better dang well TRY.)

The MEMBERS of the Church are not perfect. We are not resurrected beings. We are just regular mortals. We have our weaknesses, our foibles. 

Lord knows, I have plenty of my own. 
  • I don't pray or read my scriptures often enough.
  • I am often distracted by my shallowness.
  • I can be VERY lazy.
  • I am not the most patient. I do not suffer those I consider to be fools well.
  • I do not always take care of my body -- which I should treat as my own personal temple -- as well as I should ... which is why I'm ... not as svelte as I'd like to be.
  • I am easily distracted -- I don't always reflect upon spiritual matters with due reverence.
  • I can be very hard on myself ... When I should love MYSELF as Heavenly Father loves me.
  • I am materialistic.
And, really, I'm sure that I have many, MANY more faults than these.
Still ... though it's beyond my understanding, God LOVES me. ME!
It's ... completely beyond me how He does. (Or how my friends and family love me. Because there are times that I'm VERY unlovable.)

Still, it shouldn't be THAT hard for me to wrap my head around that concept ... I mean, loving people is (for the most part) not very difficult for me.
Overall, I LIKE people. (Maybe not hugs crowds of them all at once ... but I enjoy chatting with people. Or telling complete strangers that I like something about their outfit (It's so nice to GET a compliment from someone who isn't obligated to please you. Why not pass it along?? I mean, really??)
And, really, when I consider people to be my friends ... it's because I genuinely like them. They're MY people.

And knowing how protective and adoring I am of my friends, that lets me get an inkling of how Heavenly Father feels about us. About me, too. And it's ... really amazing.

And that's why it stings so much when I realize that one of my friends ... doesn't feel that love at church. At any church. (Truly, I'd feel a bit better if she felt at home at SOME church. Doesn't have to be my branch of religion. Could be Buddhist or Jewish or Muslim or a Wiccan group or something ... just as long as she didn't feel that ALL churches are hateful and unloving.)

I do feel a bit better that our seminary teacher (among other members of the Church ... or friends of members) did share that no, we don't exclude visitors from Sacrament meetings. Or any part of the church building. The temple ... well, visitors are welcome to walk the grounds and sit in/visit the lobby and the atrium (inside garden). ... This is to help protect the reverence and sacredness of the temple. That's the only reason.
(Heck! There are lifelong members of the church who, at times, are not worthy to enter the other parts of the temple. It's not just a "You're not Mormon, so you're not welcome"-type thing. At ALL. It's all based on personal worthiness.)

Still ... to think that churches are built on hate ... (Well, besides Frank Phelps' "church" ... I only use the quotes because I consider it an organization built upon hate and power and money. Not, in the least, love. When one's "religion" can be considered a hate group ... well, I can't consider it a church. That's me.

Yes, people have accused the church of being "intolerant" and the like.
But we do not preach hate towards those individuals whose actions and choices go against the commandments. We are COMMANDED to love them. They are children of a Heavenly Father who LOVES them, regardless of their choices. He LOVES them perfectly. And so should we.

We cannot condone actions and choices that distance people from God. But we are NOT to condemn the PERSON.
It's just like what my mom would tell me (OFTEN. Ha ha ha) as I grew up: I will always love YOU. I won't always love what you DO.

So, yes, we are NOT our CHOICES. Though, more often than not, our choices shape our characters. This is why it is important to choose good things. Don't we all want to be good people? Don't we want to be known by those around us as people who are kind, smart, and caring?

Don't we all desire love?
And, really, that is, to me at least, what the Christian religion is about.
(I only speak of Christianity because that's my area of experience. Born into a Methodist family who converted to Mormonism when I was three. Both sects are centered on Christ.)

Truly, Christianity is about love. Without it, it wouldn't exist.

If God didn't love us, he wouldn't have cared enough to sacrifice his Son so we could return to Him.
If Jesus Christ didn't love us, he wouldn't have chosen to suffer for our sins -- enabling us to repent and live in Heavenly Father's presence again -- or to have died for us -- so we can all be resurrected.
If they hadn't loved God more than their own lives, our prophets and apostles ... ALL of our leaders, truly ... wouldn't have sacrificed their time, energy, ... and, in some cases, their own lives for us.

Without love, it wouldn't be worth it.

Without love for God and for our spiritual brothers and sisters (READ: EVERYONE), we wouldn't sacrifice the time that we spend at church. Or the time that we serve others. Or the energy that it takes to create and maintain a family.

Without love ... we are nothing.
We would be selfish, animalistic beings. We would place no value on empathy, on kindness, on altruism.
Without love, it would be every person out for him/herself.
Whereas, when I go to church, I am surrounded by people that have searched for truth ... that have searched for something that makes sense of this existence. I have found it in a Gospel that is centered on love.
Love for God. Love for others. Love for self.
Love that is shown through Heavenly Father's continued revelation to His people, through His desire that ALL have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and be able to receive their own saving ordinances; through His teaching that families are forever, that we are all precious to Him, that we are responsible for being good stewards of what we are blessed with -- and that we are commanded to help the less-fortunate to be able to achieve financial self-dependence.

This IS a Gospel and a Church built on a foundation of Christ. A foundation that is crafted out of perfect love.

This is what I believe.
I don't ask you to feel the same.
I love you regardless.
And I thank you for letting me have this opportunity to try and work this out in my head and on paper.

1 comment:

Robin said...

I love this post. you are awesome, and I am so glad you wrote all of this! We all have friends who have fallen away from the gospel, and can relate to how you feel! thanks for writing this!

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