The following is an anonymous guest post.
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“Eimaste Ellines, eimaste Orthodoxoi”—We are Greeks, we are Orthodox.
When I was a missionary in Greece, I heard this refrain thousands of times. It was the default response of virtually everyone we tried talking to. It was so automatic, so universal in its wording, that we sometimes wondered who was telling them all to say this.
It was also maddening for us as missionaries. Investigators would sometimes tell us about the really big mistakes they saw their church leaders making or about how much they disagreed with some of its teachings. Sometimes they would read the Book of Mormon and feel of its truth, or hear and respond favorably to our message of prophets and eternal covenants and the Restoration. And yet, when the baptismal invite came, the response was always the same: No, I can’t, I’m Greek, I’m Orthodox.
Like many of you, Thursday’s policy change has hit me hard. In D&C 8, Joseph Smith taught that we will know truth in our minds and in our hearts. In my mind, I can find no rational justification that justifies this change. In my heart, I feel nothing but sadness and darkness when I think of it. This policy change has changed me, has broken something inside me in a way that I can barely describe.
In the past three days, I have entertained thoughts that I never seriously entertained before. There is a real immediacy to them: What do I do now? Where do I want to worship?
As I see it, there are three basic options: (1) find a way to stay; (2) leave and find another church; or (3) leave and find no new church at all.
I hate all of these options. All of them hurt in different ways. At times over the last three days, I have embraced the idea of all three.
As I was thinking about it late last night, though, the words of the Greeks came up from my memory and hit me in my heart. Eimaste Ellines, eimaste Orthodoxoi. And in a strange, role-reversing moment that I never would have seen coming 20 years ago, I knew that this was my answer.
The Greek word for “church” is “Ecclesia.” In its ancient Greek roots, the word traces back to notions of gathering and community. It also carried notions of what we would think of as tribe or even family.
If Mormonism was merely a belief system for me, leaving would be the easier choice right now. I hate this policy that much.
But if I’m being honest, I recognize that my Mormonism is more than just a belief system. It’s part of my DNA, part of my identity. It also represents my tribe and community.
We all come at this from different places, so I can only speak from my own experience. I can’t think about my childhood or teenage years or adulthood without soon thinking about experiences I had in this church or people from the church who guided and befriended me.
They weren’t all good. But an awful lot of them were, and some of them were very good.
I don’t know how to leave this behind. Truth be told, I don’t want to leave it behind, and I also don’t want to preemptively deprive my children from having those same moments of community and connectedness either. If there is a way to stay, any way to stay, I have to take it.
So I’m staying. To be clear: irrational loyalty isn’t the only reason. The pain and craziness of the past few days has obscured the fact that there is more to our theology than whatever it is that we as a people really think about homosexuality. For example, I still believe, in my core, that Joseph saw God and Jesus in the grove. I still believe that there is power in our ordinances. I still believe in the Atonement and our prophets’ teachings about it. These things are all much, much bigger.
So even with Thursday’s change, I still believe that our teachings are, on the whole, good. When I think about times in my life when I have needed to love or forgive or serve, those times are so often linked to things I heard or felt here. Once the dust settles on all this, I believe that I’ll have more of those moments and that I’ll be better for them.
This moment is so painful. I think that our leaders are so plainly wrong with this. I hurt for all the damage this is causing, and I can’t fault anyone for thinking that this is just too much, that this is reason to leave.
But I just can’t. As I laid awake last night, thinking and crying and praying some more, that refrain came back to my mind again: eimaste Ellines, eimaste Orthodoxoi. But instead of hearing that refrain as an act of spiritual cowardice, I suddenly saw an undercurrent of courage in it. What the Greeks were telling us, I think, is that they simply couldn’t leave their people. Warts and all, their church was their home, and they were going to stay and do what they could to help.
They were Greek, they were Orthodox. And, for better or for worse, I’m a Mormon. However tarnished it may feel right now, this is still my home.