Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Testimony: Welcome to the New Year


My Testimony:

Why I Do NOT Believe That Prophets Are Perfect, That Believing Prophets are Fallible Is A Valid Reason To Tell People To Leave The Church, Or That God Kills Prophets If They Make Mistakes



Facebook is an interesting place.  A lot of self proclaimed, "defenders of the faith" and usually political conservatives, seem to have taken Romney's idea of "self deportation" from the campaign trail, and started applying it to everyone in the church with whom they disagree.  In a period of 72 hours, I have been invited to leave the church almost 20 times.  Most often the calls for my "resignation" from the church come because I believe that prophets can be divinely called, and the spokesman for God in earth, while still being human enough to make mistakes.  Several times I have felt prompted to share my testimony that every person, except Christ, makes mistakes every day of their lives.  Every single person needs the power of the Atonement, and no one should ever be asked to leave a church they believe in, simply because there are areas of the gospel that are still not clear, and call for personal inspiration and revelation, to decide how best to live our lives.

Locking others out is not the way to create a Christ centered community!

In sharing those things, I have been able to better explain my testimony and its direct connections to gospel teachings.  I have no desire to be seen as attacking those who disagree with me, or who have told me that they think I do not belong in the LDS church.  I don't want to embarrass them, or make this post something that could be seen as a personal attack on anyone.  The quotes I am using are from a thread of friends, discussing the frustrations of dealing with people who are so quick to invite others to leave.  Curtis's comments were said as a tongue in cheek response, to the sentiments that others have repeated, ad nosium, mocking those who do not believe that every word of that comes out of a prophet's mouth is automatically what Christ would say if He were in the same situation.  Natcat's comment adds clarity to part of what I say earlier in the post, and is a reflection of what I believe is the heart of the matter.  Both have given their explicit consent to have their thoughts used in this blog post. (All of my quoted thoughts are in purple.)

I have a strong testimony that prophets are fallible men, who continue to make mistakes, repent, learn and grow for their entire lives, *including* the time they are prophets. Anything else would be saying that our Heavenly Parents take away the Plan of Salvation from people when they become prophets. Why would the rest of us have the blessings of the Atonement available to us, and prophets have their agency taken away when they are called? There is nothing in the gospel that would lead me to believe that Heavenly Father loves the Prophet less than He loves me.

Curtis Penfold:
"But Julia, the Lord would never let a prophet lead us astray!"


I do not believe God kills prophets for their mistakes, even in church administration matters. I believe that He is just as patient with the prophets and Apostles as He is with us, giving us as much time as possible to do as much good as possible.  I believe that Apostles and Prophets are called of God, and have the authority to administer the affairs of the church, but they are men, and as such, it is unfair to expect that they will have their free agency taken away, so that they are forced to be perfect or killed if they have made, or are about to make, a mistake.  (If that were the case, then Ezra Taft Benson would have been killed after the first political conference talk that the other Apostles had to censor, or when he directly went against direction given to him by the First Presidency at the time.)

Curtis Penfold:

"Julia, although your opinions are entirely based in scripture, Church teachings, and common sense, it sounds like a sure and subtle way to apostasy."


After sharing the first parts of my testimony, one woman singled me out, saying that if my testimony was so weak, that it would be better for me to leave the church and start my own, because the church and its organization is perfect.  She asked me why I didn't just leave, and leave the church alone, if I didn't believe that the church was perfect.  What follows is my response.

My testimony has come at a high price, and I value it more than anything in my life. I shared a portion of it earlier, because I have "wrestled with angels" over how and why there have been so many changes to church doctrine and practices, as well as understanding and accepting why some personal experiences of local leaders, not following the directions of church in how to deal with sexual abuse survivors.
 
Those experiences have led to a great deal of soul searching, personal revelation, and a deeper understanding of the Atonement than I would have had otherwise. I would strongly encourage you to take a step back and think before questioning the testimonies of those who are involved in respectful and doctrinally sound protests. They are likely to have deep, abiding testimonies, tempered and strengthen through the fires of trials, including members who do not try to understand us, inviting us to leave a church that we have given all that we have, to be part of.
 
The LDS church has an open cannon, we believe the heavens are open and that there will be continuing revelation until Christ comes and finally restores all. Whether I *desire* change or not, change has come in the past, came just this month with mormonsandgays.org and will continue to come.
 
I have no quarrel with the church's core doctrines, only with a culture that encourages people to equate culture with doctrine. There is nothing doctrinally wrong with wearing pants to church, seeking personal revelation, asking questions, (after all most of D&C is the answers to questions people asked at the time) or wanting more revelations that relate to issues where there has been historical confusion. For many people, the confusion about the Eve we learn about in the LDS scriptures and teachings, and the Eve we encounter in the temple, are an area that additional doctrinal clarification would be welcome.

The only response that I got to this was that obviously I did not understand the gospel, and that I couldn't possibly be sincere. 
 
I assure you, my readers, as well as my Heavenly Parents, that I most definitely am sincere, and I believe that God wants each of us to seek out answers for ourselves, so that the Holy Ghost can confirm their truth.  I testify that you cannot get answers to questions that you refuse to ask, and that only through personal revelation can you truly find peace and happiness!

I'll close with a thought from Natcat.  Natcat Lance:

"I agree we have made prophets (and some leaders) to be gods (as in perfection and above err). All have free agency in mortality. We have to use our holy ghost to know the truth of what they say...that is our confirmation that will bring to our remembrance all that we once knew before mortality."


I invite no one to leave the church, but instead I invite all to Come Unto Christ, in whatever way He leads you to Him, and His gospel. 

I invite you to come if you have not already.

I invite you to stay if you are here and desire to continue as a member of the church! 

I invite you to leave, only if it is what your personal revelation leads you to believe is right, and even then, no especially then, I invite you to remain friends!  I want to hear your story, your reasons for leaving.  I don't want you to ever feel that no one cares why you felt/feel you must go.

There is no one that I would send away from my life, as long as they are living their lives with integrity to their personal beliefs!

Happy New Year!
 
There is so much beauty and wonder in the universe. 
Surely there is a place in it for all us us to love and serve each other, without pushing each other away!

Please consider making 2013 the year you begin opening your hearts, arms, and the doors of your home and congregations!

Instead of trying to send people away, instead invite, even the least of these among you, to come unto Christ!


2 comments:

  1. Julia,
    What an amazing post. I am so glad we have found each other as friends. I know I have much to learn from others, and especially someone with as much love as you have.

    As I read this, I was thinking how upset I was that the Church sought out my siblings requesting that they openly renounce the Church. I was so offended by this, that my own Religion would go so far as to nullify my family sealing. My reactivating my parents and siblings and getting them Temple worthy for the first time, and then going to the Seattle Temple to all be sealed together, was one of the happiest times of my life, and the one thing that comforted me from suicide. The blessings in store for as "If we bring but one soul unto thee" are abundant and awesome. The converse is also an undeniable truth, that I testify of; if you turn but one soul from me, how great your damnation will be.

    I agree with every word you say here. I admire your understanding, love, and compassion for others, "Even the Least of these". I am trying to live the words of the Moody Blues song, Say It With Love..."Wherever You Go, Whatever You Do, Say It With Love", but you already are.

    I know there are a lot of people who would be quite happy if I were to leave the Church. My testimony is rock solid of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and my Love for the Church is full. Circumstances currently involving me and my surroundings are coming to a head in relation to my standing in the Church. I may be "Losing My Religion", but I will never lose my faith, hope and charity, and I will never lose or quit my Church.

    It is an honor to be your friend, Julia.
    Love, Leah.

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  2. What I Believe: Prophets Are Not Perfect

    As I write this guest post I find I am carefully reflecting on the title of the topic..."Prophets Are Not Perfect". Though that is my belief, and truthfully the belief of many of the LDS Prophets themselves; I know that this concept of Prophets not being perfect, is at minimum, controversial. As I look back on our history of the Church and read some rather disappointing quotes and talks from Prophets, I immediately reflect on the fact that no one but Jesus Christ was or is perfect. To assume that everything Prophets say is directly the Word of God; is frankly very scary. We have been warned by God and Christ through biblical scripture to be wary of Prophets; that Prophets have and will lead us astray. To soley rely on the word of man, is not honoring the Holy Ghost within each one of us. It is to say that there is no need to have a personal relationship with God and/or Christ because someone else will be the decision-maker and we must only "comply". To simply say "OK" after each Prophet or Church Leader speaks, is to not exercise our spirits, hearts and minds to their full capacity as we have been asked to do by God Himself. I have always been surprised to hear the gasps when I express a thought or feeling that doesn't jive perfectly with the word of the Prophet. Quotes of Prophets are distributed as gifts, displayed as fancy signs to hang on our walls; it is all rather acceptable; but don't you dare disagree....even if your decision means you have prayed to Heavenly Father Himself about your belief, used your sound moral foundation as a guideline or had a personal revelation from the Holy Ghost within. We are quick to dismiss the varying beliefs of others and even quicker to put an automatic endorsement stamp on everything spoken over the pulpit. I fear we have weakened our own spiritual muscles throughout the years. I look forward to a day when we can have passionate discussions, share and honor one another's varied beliefs and hear the words "I made a mistake" come out of the mouth of a good-intentioned, possibly divinely inspired Prophet; who is simply a human being, capable of good and bad as we all are.

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