I recently read an article on the Washington Post‘s website entitled “A Mormon church in need of reform.” In it the author talks about whether the US is ready for a Mormon president, and then goes on to talk about how the people in the church can be pretty brutal and unwelcoming and how they discourage questions about the doctrine.
Articles like this make me sad for several reasons. One, there are so many people out there that have a negative view on Mormons, anyway, and this just adds fuel to the fire. Everyone jumps on the “I hate Mormons” bandwagon, and the comments can get pretty out-of-hand. Two, it just makes me sad that there are members out there who are treating people so poorly that people leave the church and then despise it. I apologize for them.
I grew up in the church, but I’ve never lived in Utah, which I’m assuming the author is basing all of this on. I was raised in Alabama smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. Everybody and their momma is Christian, but there aren’t a whole lot of Mormons hanging around. I was lucky enough to have at least five other members in school with me growing up. That’s more than most small towns in the South can boast. I wasn’t ever treated poorly, but I could tell that I wasn’t always included in things. Whether it was because I was Mormon or a huge nerd, I can’t say–probably a little of both.
In all the wards and branches I’ve attended, there are always members who are less than kind. There’s always gossip. I had a lady tell me to my face that my son was adorable, only to find out 10 seconds before she was telling someone what a terrible kid he was. I’ve had ideas shot down in a less than tactful way. I’ve dealt with rude comments and judgmental folks. I’ve listened to insufferable know-it-alls who claim to know more than me and like to rub it my face.
I’ve had friends leave the church because of these reasons. In fact, I had one friend tell me that the church is great, but the people ruin it. Honestly, though, I imagine no matter what religion you are, there are going to be people who ruin it. There’s always going to be the gossiper, the know-it-all, and the jerk. Unfortunately, part of our lot in life is to have to deal with those people.
The question that I ask myself, though, when I have to deal with these people is am I a member of this church because of the people? Heck, no. If that were the case, I would’ve left a long, LONG time ago–like that one time I left Relief Society and cried in the bathroom because of a rude comment. The truth is that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I have read the scriptures and prayed and fasted and felt the spirit witness to me that it’s true. I’m a member because I believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and I’ve seen the role it’s played in my life. I am LDS because I’ve read the Book of Mormon, and I can see what a difference it makes in my daily life.
As far as the comment that we are discouraged from asking questions and that we’re told to follow blindly, that is false. When someone is investigating the church for the first time, they’re asked to read Moroni 10:4-5 from the Book of Mormon which says:
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
As far as I can tell, there is nothing in that scripture that would suggest that we should follow blindly. I’ve been told my whole life to seek things out for myself to know if they’re true–my whole life. I remember a time in my life when I did ask Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon was true, and the feeling I got will forever be in my heart. As I’ve gotten older, I still question things because I don’t believe for a second that Heavenly Father would ever want us to follow blindly. If the doctrine is right and sound, then He will make that manifest to us through the Holy Ghost.
I guess the whole point I’m trying to make here is that no matter what religion you are, the people are never going to be perfect. However, that does not take away from the truthfulness of the gospel. The gospel is true no matter what the people do.