Monday, May 18, 2015

Following Up

Between getting called back for an unexpected role (yay!), Cary Elwes winking at me, and my most recent blog entry getting so much attention, May has been a little surreal.

For those interested, I addressed some ideas in the original post by editing one point about personal revelation. I know what I meant, but based on comments, I've realized that I didn't communicate it clearly, and felt it would simply be easiest to go back and edit a little. To make things as clear as possible, I've highlighted my edits to the original post in orange. You may view the original post, with changes, here.

I had this whole huge new post written to discuss the responses this blog has gotten, but instead I'm going to let others do most of the talking. Here are two bits of writing for you:

The Millennial Star: Some Thoughts on Discipleship and "Staying Mormon"
This blog is a response written directly to mine, with some wonderful, beautiful, powerful truths that I totally agree with, and just didn't (don't) articulate well. I am always hesitant to share the deeper parts of my testimony. Some of that is due to feeling like I can never quite say what I mean--like words aren't quite enough to express what I feel. And some of it is just plain fear. I can say it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me, but I sure find it hard to live by. The Millennial Star somehow managed to capture some of the deeper truths I carry in my own heart and express them better than I could have done. I'm grateful to this writer for being humble, wise, and articulate. It's a blessing that I share their sentiments because they express them better than I can. My strongest belief is that we can do more to grow and find peace by turning to the Lord than we can by doing anything else. If that was unclear in my original post, I am to blame. That is the most important step in carving out your place in the Church.

There is one thought from this blog I'd like to address, though, and that is the power of reaching outward. The Millennial Star blog rightly pointed out the differences between individualism vs. discipleship. But one major part of the "It only matters what you think of you and what God thinks of you" philosophy is this: God wants us to serve others. He wants us to form meaningful relationships. He wants you to find and build communities. So if we are truly evaluating ourselves by what God thinks of us, we will remember that He always loves us, but we will also ask questions like, "How can I serve and lift others?" "Who would the Lord have me help today?" "What can I do today to bring others to Christ?" God also wants us to turn to Him. Allowing this philosophy to guide our lives will naturally lead us to discipleship, simply because we are thinking about God's will. If I had said, "It only matters what YOU think of you and you alone," this would be pretty straight-up individualism. But to me, the idea "It only matters what you think of you AND what God thinks of you" covers both individualism and discipleship. For myself, it has helped me to not get too caught up in the culture, or traditions of men, but has also kept me seeking divine truth.

On Religion or Black and White and Gray
This was a post written by a dear dear friend almost a year ago. In it, she expresses the beauty of a Gospel where we can have a personal relationship with God, who understands our intentions and relationships and circumstances. This, along with the power of the Atonement, allows us to live our lives without worrying about whether or not someone else is living the Gospel correctly. I could easily use this as a defense for myself against those who, at least in the comments section, seem pretty concerned about my eternal welfare. But it goes both ways. Because I am a flawed, imperfect, fallible, messy, emotional wreck (with a German temper), there are so many times when I am critical of those around me, or are tempted to be. It is one of my greatest weaknesses--being self-righteously irritated. But Carrie's example reminds me that I don't have to worry about how others are living the Gospel. They are on their own journey. I am grateful for the people around me who remind me always to keep my eye on Christ.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and wisdom and testimonies and solidarity. Keep being awesome.

Oh, final thought. This is unrelated to anything spiritual. But if you're wondering why I'm naked, here's an explanation. (Don't worry, it's totally G-rated.)


Jessica McDermott said...

I loved the first post and I LOVED this post. Thank you for being "naked" in sharing your testimony, it has strengthened mine. :)

ldsphilosopher said...

I really appreciated this post. Thanks for it! Count me as a follower.

Curt said...

A couple of thoughts came to mind as I read these recent posts:

If our sins and weaknesses are not all the same, why would we expect our faith and testimonies to be identical?

Please don't look down on me because I walk with a spiritual or emotional limp. Only give me your arm and help me into the waters of Bethesda, that I, too, may be healed.

Thank you for these posts! I am, and always will be, one of your greatest admirers.

whyimconservative said...

I really liked your post. I have a few thoughts on it, and I don't want any of this to be taken as criticism, because I think you're in a great place and that your article is having a really positive effect.
I think we've all felt unaccepted, we all feel like 'misfits' at one point or another. I never felt like I fit in as a youth, and I think a big part of it was because of my unwavering testimony, while many of the other members in my ward were less dedicated. I just wasn't able to find many friends that felt the same way I did. It goes both ways, or every way. Everyone is at some level with their testimony that is different from others, and everyone can feel those differences weighing on them if they focus on them. And that's just life; people get cliquy at schools, at work, in mom's groups. People are judgmental and rude and condescending. I think we just feel it more at church because as members the church is such a focal point in our lives. And we hold church members to a higher standard than we would our coworkers or fellow students or fellow moms. Because church members 'should' be better, should be more compassionate and loving and less judgmental. But then we're doing the same thing as them, holding them to a higher standard just as they are holding 'you' to a higher standard when they see an extra earring or a liberal Facebook post. Does that make sense?
My point here is, I guess just don't let it get to you. You feel like you don't fit in because you would love to get a tattoo. I spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about the wine tastings I would attend if they Word of Wisdom were ever revised. I would be an overnight connoisseur. I would buy a wine rack and spend hours planning wine parings for the meals I prepare. It's honestly never occurred to me to feel like I don't fit in because of that. It's just not something I focus on. And when people say things that bother you, maybe give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, you had a forum to describe your thoughts, and lots of people misinterpreted them, enough that you revised your post and then posted a follow up. Maybe the woman who said showering every day brought the spirit meant that SHE felt the spirit more when she showered every day. It's completely conceivable she felt that way. Maybe I would, too, but I hate showering every day so we'll never know. Maybe she would have been horrified to know her comments offended someone, and would have followed up with an explanation that made more sense. Or maybe she meant that people who don't shower every day are sinners incapable of feeling the spirit. In the end, it doesn't matter, so why dwell on it? These are just my thoughts. I don't disagree with you on any of these points, just adding my perspective. Cont...

whyimconservative said...

The one thing I really do take concern with and feel really needs to be said, is the Proclamation to the World is doctrine. It is the defining doctrine on the family, and is referred to as such. The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles put forth a Proclamation of the Lord's doctrine on the family. They did not get together in their capacity as old fashioned white men and write up their opinion on families and then send it to leaders all over the world. The Prophet and Apostles are God's spokesmen, and they were acting as His spokesmen when they prayerfully, meticulously, prepared this document. The Proclamation is the eternal doctrine on the family, it is exactly what God wants us to know about His definition for the family. And while we may hold differing opinions, He says, through His spokesmen, "We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

If you don't have a testimony of the Proclamation as doctrine, I encourage you to study and pray about it until you do.

Annie McNeil said...

Brigham Young, 1862: "I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually."

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section 5, 1832: "President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel--said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church--that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls--applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall--that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy."

Millennial Star, Vol 14, 1852: "We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves."

Here's the thing. Church leaders have, from time to time, taught false doctrine. That is indisputable (see Brigham Young re: Adam-God, the status of Black people, etc.). That doesn't mean they aren't inspired, or that they don't hold keys, or that the gospel isn't true.

Some might say that it isn't our business to try to determine what, if any, questionable doctrines are currently being taught. That we should err on the side of caution and just trust our leaders. And that's a perfectly valid approach, I think. But it's not my approach. I have to wrestle with my doubts; I just have to. It's how God made me.

A couple years ago I took a deep breath and dove headfirst into all those "anti-Mormon" criticisms we're told never to investigate. I read everything I could, searched, pondered, and prayed. Today, my testimony of the Restoration is stronger than it's ever been in my life. The Book of Mormon has so much more meaning for me now; my desire to serve is renewed; I love Joseph Smith. I'm still in semi-shock over this incredible blessing the Lord has given me; I still can't quite put it into words.

Annie McNeil said...


A final thought: Joseph made a fascinating translation change to a certain Old Testament story, which completely turns the story on its head and raises all sorts of questions about the nature of revelation, paradoxical commandments, and how God speaks to each of his children individually. I won't link to the awesome Restoration Interrupted blog post on it, because I think that would get flagged as spam. But if you Google "restoration interrupted old prophet lion man of god" that should do the trick.

Love you, LizWhit!

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