Last Sunday during testimony meeting a fellow ward member said rather plainly that he did not know if the church is true. He described his disagreement with some of the talks in the recent General Conference, and expressed some concern about if he had a place in the church.
Can you see this happening in your ward?
Honestly I was a little concerned for how people were going to take this. Were the next ten people going to get up and invalidate everything he said? Telling him just to pray and read more and find out the truth? Would the bishop turn off the mic?
I felt a little awkward — not for what the member was saying. I LOVED that he spoke up not only for himself, but gave voice to others in the ward who may feel alone regarding their quality of orthodoxy. I felt awkward because I assumed there had to be some so-called “CES types” (you know, the kinds who feel that Richard Bushman is an apostate).
The next member that got up praised the first one for his questioning, and expressed that while matters of belief were not his concern, keeping in line with the commandments were. No one else mentioned this first member until the Bishop got up near the end. I like the bishop, but still wondered how this would go.
He did not fail to impress.
He said that this member DID have a place in the ward, and that Mormons have always been a “questioning people” since the days of Joseph Smith. He said there are also many questions for which we don’t have the answers.
That was it. We sang the closing hymn, and the meeting was over.
After the meeting I started wondering why I felt awkward in the first place. It wasn’t the content of the meeting. I think I was worried for some kind of boogyman ultra-fundy-ortho-antiacademic who was going to rise up and berate us all for our borderline apostasy. It didn’t happen.
I had a huge realization the next day. Much of my fear of how members may treat each other comes in concentrated doses of unfortunate examples described on the Internet. Real life, however, is so much more nuanced, filled with many types of people, church members included.
I have let my church experience be influenced too much by the Internet. From disgruntled ex-Mormons to “when an apostle speaks the thinking has been done” types who view the Constitution as the fourth member of the Godhead (I have a few acquaintances who fit this mold… at least on facebook) and don’t think twice about beating you over the head with it. I have let avatars and permas and commentors and their stories unduly influence my here-and-now experience on Sunday. Of course bad things happen. People can be insensitive or even hurtful. I can only speak from my experience, but real church has been better than the virtual one.
To my fellow ward member, Glenn, I don’t care if we have different views or not. Your words made more room for everyone. We were all edified. You have a place in the church. Certainly in our ward.
Stay tuned for a guest post this afternoon, when Glenn describes his experience!