Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I was asked why there are sometimes "criticisms" of the church on my blog and in the books I have written. Someone would like to know whether or not the views I advance weren't "schizophrenic" by both criticizing and defending the church, and what my true belief about the church was. I responded:
I have had many people with whom I have "ministered" as a Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Ward Mission Leader and High Councilor who have become disaffected with the church. I've worked to help them come back. What I write reflects this history with these struggling Latter-day Saints. There are many people who have left the church (or have given up on the church) who have read what I write and come back to activity again.
There are those who are in the process of realizing that the church has flaws who now want to quit. There are people who have begun to encounter problems who just don't know how to process them. It doesn't do any good if I pretend there aren't problems. Many of these saints have a crisis underway because they have been pretending, and now they find they cannot cope with the tension any longer.
One of posts at the beginning of this blog describes what my attitude is. I recognize weaknesses, have no intention of avoiding them, and am not an apologist in the traditional sense. But I believe in the church, accept its authority, and think its role is necessary and even critical to the work of the Lord.
Acknowledging the flaws is admitting the obvious. But getting those who are discouraged, losing their faith, or have left the church to reconsider that decision is another thing. They cannot be reached spiritually without some acknowledgment of the problems in the church. They aren't going to be deceived by offering a clever polemical argument.
Once the varnish comes off the institution of the church, for many, faith dies. But that is not necessary. Nor is it inevitable. It is possible to see the frailties of men and still also see the hand of God.
I've had many conversations with what would be regarded as leading Mormon educators, writers, and authorities who have essentially lost their faith and continue to hold on to being a "Latter-day Saint" because of the culture or employment or family. I'm trying to help them and any others in a similar spot. I'm trying to say that the church may be flawed, but despite that, it is worthy, worthwhile, necessary and good. I have had some success.
I've had a number of men and women tell me that I've helped rescue them from their faithlessness. What I have written has helped them balance their attitudes. People who have had their names removed voluntarily, or who have been excommunicated, or who have drifted into inactivity have been persuaded by what I've written to see what they have lost by that disassociation from the Church.
It may be that someone who has "rose colored glasses" will find some of what I write difficult to take in, particularly if they haven't encountered any particular criticism about the church before. I regret when that happens. However, all of us are going to need to confront the growing array of arguments against the church and its leadership as time goes on. Some of the church's most effective critics are former members. Indeed, with the internet, the arguments against the church are multiplying, as are the number of critics. I try not to gloss over the flaws or ignore their existence or to pretend that there aren't legitimate questions being asked about what has or is happening within the institution of the church. I'm saying that we can and should have faith anyway. The church matters and its mission has always been possible to accomplish.
I also want those who sense we've retreated from the original scope of doctrine and practice to realize the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains on the earth. It is as accessible to anyone living today as it was while Joseph was here. The failure of others does not impose any limitation upon the individual who sincerely seeks, asks and follows. We are not dependent upon others or even the institution itself to receive that fullness. Although the ordinances offered by the church remain the foundation upon which the fullness must be built.