This week I had a bit of a spiritual meltdown. Sometimes the things about the Church that trouble me get to be so overwhelming that it feels like a spiritual panic attack: like the walls are closing in and you just can't take it anymore and need to get out.
So after I let out my frustrations, which I need to do periodically whenever they build up, I started thinking about why I'm still here.
I came to a conclusion: it all boils down to Jesus.
Life in the Church is a constant struggle for me because my spirituality is like a roller coaster ride that I can't get off. Roller coasters can be scary and yet most people love them. Even if they vomit afterwards, the ride itself was fun enough that chances are they will want another ride someday. Right now, I'm in the vomiting period, for lack of a better analogy. But I'm not getting off the roller coaster because even though I have no guarantee, I'm hoping that Jesus will be waiting for me when the ride is over.
I'd like to say that I will be able to just tune out all the painful aspects of Mormonism whenever I hear or read them. I'd like to say that I'll be strong enough to not let them get me down or make me angry. I'd like to say that I will able to focus only on the things that make me happy about life as a Mormon, and not the things that make me sad. I'd like to say that whenever I question or disagree with something in the Church, that I will be able to keep it entirely to myself and never voice my opinion. But I know I'll never be able to do any of these things entirely. Still, though, it somehow doesn't matter so much to me as long as I focus solely on Christ and my personal belief -- not in the Church, but in Him.
Today in church I had an opportunity to get back to basics. For the first time ever in my branch (at least for the past 6 six years I've attended it), we held Young Women's. An inactive sister has recently decided to come back and has been bringing along her 2 daughters, aged 11 ad 13. Another young sister who was visiting our branch decided to hold YW and asked me to come along for class. The two girls seem very sweet, innocent, and genuinely interested in the Church. They seemed to enjoy the class and the opportunity to have their own class with teachers who are not senior citizens, like most of the rest of the branch. So we had a nice, simple lesson about how we can be a positive influence on others. We touched on topics such as bullying at school and standing up for what is right. As I sat there and looked at these girls, I thought about how they were at such a vulnerable age and how most kids would never have this unique opportunity to sit down and talk about morals and values. I thought to myself that this is good; this is what I love about the Church. This is how I grew up, it's what I was taught, and it's what shaped me into the person I am today. With all my faults, I am adamant about the need for more compassion and mercy in this world. I'm fiercely opposed to racism, bigotry, and injustice. Although I'm far from perfect, I try to avoid hypocrisy like the plague and I'm afraid of being corrupted by my personal pride. All of these things I learned from my parents and from the Church. I think that is what Jesus would want. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.
I know that some of you out there are going through the same sort of struggles as I am. Perhaps you're tired of having to constantly defend your personal political convictions to other Mormons. Perhaps you've had it up to here with the whole Prop 8 issue. Perhaps you are tired of trying to convince fellow Mormons that Barack Obama is not the Antichrist. Perhaps you are feeling really disillusioned by the hypocrisy of Mormons. Perhaps you are gay. Perhaps you are married to a non-member. Or perhaps you are a Mormon misfit, for whatever reason, and feel like the Church doesn't have a place for someone like you. And yet, if you're reading this right now, there is a reason why you've decided to stick around. For me, it's all about Jesus; the simplicity and the purity of His message. And while it's not my place to demand change from the Church in the areas that I would perhaps like to see it, I take comfort in the following quote, which was provided by a great friend of mine:
"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 led 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 purposes 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." -Brigham Young
I think that we sometimes make the mistake of believing that this is an "all or nothing" church. Either you believe it all, or you believe nothing. But I no longer think it has to be this way.
So, I ask all of you who struggle to stay active in this church or have considered leaving to take a step back, breathe, put things into perspective, and think. Why are you still here?