why do we stay?

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This isn’t my weekly email…it’s an extra. I’d like to share, with permission, a piece of an email from Thomas B. Griffith. He was my institute teacher a year and half ago.

During the last few years, I’ve been involved in a project that reaches out to members of the Church whose faith is wavering and whose commitment to the Restoration has weakened. Often these folks are troubled by their discovery that leaders of the Church are fallible or by the Church’s position on same-sex marriage or the role of women in the Church. Whatever their concern, my message is the same: Stay because the Church is true, you need the Church, and the Church needs you. Working with these people has caused me to think deeply about why I remain committed.

1. I believe the story of the Restoration. The more I learn about the story of the Restoration, especially the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the more convinced I am that what Joseph Smith said happened to him did happen to him. There were too many eye-witnesses to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to think that the story of its recovery and translation was made up. Even more compelling is the book itself. The only explanation of its origin that can account for its complexity, its literary sophistication, its links to the ancient world, and the power of its messages is the explanation Joseph Smith gave: It is an ancient book written by multiple authors that he received from an angel and translated miraculously “by the gift and power of God.” Because I cannot account for the Book of Mormon in any other way, my life must be lived with this fact in mind. The miracle of the Book of Mormon is a constant reminder to me that reality includes so much more than we can see, touch, feel, and measure. The real world is filled with heavenly beings and purpose. The material world is just a small part of the real world. And when I live with that in mind, I feel the Lord’s presence in my life. When I study the Book of Mormon, the other Restoration scriptures, the Bible, and the teachings of modern prophets with these realities in mind, I feel the Spirit.

 
2. The three most important reasons I go to Church.
a. The primary reason I go to Church is to take the sacrament, a weekly reminder to me of the real world, a world whose history turns on the life of Christ. I take of the sacrament because Christ commanded it, but He commanded it so that we would have a tangible way to always remember Him.
 
b. I believe that Elder Eyring is right when he teaches that one of the most important ways Heavenly Father speaks to us is through people at Church. I go to Church to try and hear Heavenly Father speaking to me through the words of the speakers, teachers, and class members. Sometimes His voice is hard to hear through flawed people, but often He speaks clearly and plainly.
 
c. I go to Church looking for ways to help other people. I assume that every person I meet is struggling with burdens (I know that I am!). If I go to Church looking for ways to help others, Heavenly Father always prompts me. 
 
3. What about things that bother me at Church?
a. When we lived in Charlotte, I home taught a family whose father was not active. After visiting the family for several months, the father remarked that I had never asked him why he didn’t come to Church. He asked me if I wanted to know why. I told him that I’d love to hear that, and so we scheduled a time to talk. The next week, I went to his house and listened for an hour while he listed all the things that bothered him about the Church. When he finished, I told him that I agreed with everything he said, but that I still went to Church. The question he had to answer, I said, was why I came but he didn’t. The point I was trying to make is that plenty of things bother me at Church. But the Lord didn’t consult me when deciding how best to organize the Church. Why should I expect that everything at Church would be to my liking and mypreferences? Instead, wouldn’t it be more likely that the Lord would create a Church experience that changed me into someone much better than I am naturally. It’s like the Sermon on the Mount. As C. S. Lewis taught, no one who has read it carefully, likes the Sermon on the Mount. It is a slap in the face to the natural man and woman. It is a call to change. I go to Church, not because it always makes me comfortable, but because there really were golden plates. (By the way, the father started attending Church again!)
 
b. I try and keep in mind that I may be wrong about the things that bother me. Perhaps I’m not seeing things from the Lord’s perspective. If I had greater understanding, perhaps I would see better why certain things are done the way they are.
 
c. For those things that I think need changing or improving, I stay and remain actively involved because I want to help the Church improve. We have a long way to go to be the Church the Lord wants us to be. The 9th Article of Faith reminds us that “He will yet reveal many great and important things.” Those “great and important things” will change the way we view things now. I want to be part of that exciting process of helping prepare the Church for its role in the world. And so I tell people who are bothered by this or that, don’t stay away! Come and help us get better.  In my experience, the leadership of the Church is committed to making the Church become all it can be. They are constantly looking for ways to improve the Church and are open to ideas that will help the Church fulfill its destiny and accomplish its mission. I want to be part of that discussion as we try to understand what we can do as a people to better represent the Savior in the world.

I am grateful for my own chance to help with the growth of the Church. We grow in strength as each member strengthens their own testimony of the Restored Gospel. Jerry taught me about “question unto understanding” rather than “question unto doubtful disputation.” One leads to light, peace, knowledge, understanding, confidence, and a fulfillment of our potential as children of a loving Heavenly Father. The other leads to frustration and discontent. Sometimes we may have to choose frustration and discontent for a season to figure things out. But as we strengthen our testimony of the basic truths of the Restoration, we can let go of a lot of that frustration and discontent. We all want to be at peace. I’m grateful that my peace is growing.

Once again, I love you all! Grow in peace! 🙂

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