Temple Recommendless–Not Friendless

IMG_0164.JPGDear Active and Faithful Latter-day Saint,

A heads up.

I am talking to your adult children.  To your parents.  To your brothers.  To your sisters.  To your friends.  They are afraid to talk to you…their family.  They are afraid to talk to you…their friend.  They are afraid to talk to their church leaders.

This has been the oddest, most ironic discovery of my entire life.  The lack of emotional intimacy and trust among family and friends in the LDS Church.

Your children and friends have questions and doubts.  There are no safe places to discuss their issues.  Some members tell me there are.  There are not.  If there are…show me.  For 2 years, I’ve been lobbying stake and ward leaders to create safe spaces where your loved ones can discuss their concerns.  No action to date.

The questions and doubts of your family and friends are causing excruciating pain.  They are suffering a very lonely faith journey.  Knowing this, it’s unconscionable for me to sit back and do nothing.  It should also be unconscionable for friends and family to do nothing.  It certainly should be unconscionable for the church itself to do nothing.  Aren’t we the church of Jesus Christ?  The Jesus who taught the parable of the Good Samaritan?  In it, he portrayed priesthood holders as callous and unfeeling.  The lowly, apostate Samaritan was the hero of Christ’s great story of how to be a loving neighbor.  Why did Christ array his cast of characters in this ironic way?

Last week I decided that keeping my temple covenants are more important to me and to my Savior than…keeping my temple recommend.  As a result, I’ve given it up.  Below is the letter that accompanied ceding it to the bishop.

Dear Stake President and Bishop,

Enclosed your will find my temple recommend. I qualify to hold it.

However, it has become a big distraction in my attempts to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I’m working at ministering to those with questions and doubts. That message is being completely obliterated by church culture. Church friends are only concerned with the fact that I still hold a temple recommend. By giving it up, I hope to shift the focus to our brothers and sisters who are struggling in painful silence. Seated right next to us in the pews. Hiding in plain sight.  Until they finally make their totally unsuspected exit.

I no longer want to sugar coat my message. We are not following Jesus Christ’s gentle and beautiful teachings.  We are not following the message that was preached in last October’s conference by Elder Ballard. We say we do…we do not.

Leave the 99 and find the 1? Nope.  We tell the 1 to hide, to shut up, to cower in silence.

Be the Good Samaritan–cross the road to help the bloody and the beaten?  Nope. We hold the priesthood. We are the modern priests and Levites. Members are suffering “excruciating” pain in silence and loneliness. No way are we going to know of their pain…until they flee our midst in order to find healing Samaritans outside of the church.

Elder Ballard: “My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand, and love those who are struggling with their faith. We must never neglect any of our brothers and sisters. We are all at different places on the path, and we need to minister to one another accordingly. Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith.”  Nope. We continue to force the majority of those with questions into hiding. They know our church culture is unsafe. There are no open arms, no support, no understanding, no acceptance. Just a vault of judgment awaiting a hint of doubt.

I love you, my brothers. But, I am very disappointed for 2 reasons.

  1. Zero action with regards to helping people with faltering faith. At least nothing out in the open. Nothing that would send a message that all are welcome. Certainly, as a group of saints we are better than this. Jesus Christ and his apostle have given us clear direction. Yet, we stand statuesquely still.
  2. I have the church’s back. I have your backs. NOBODY has mine. Bishop, you reached out to me after I walked out of priesthood. In 2 years, that is the only outreach that I’ve experienced. That’s my fault. It was me who has sought out meeting with both of you. I had an agenda to discuss…helping others…not helping me. I’m starting to regret that. Over the past year, I have spoken with hundreds of people. Several in our stake and my ward. I’ve defended the church and helped many find ways to stay. What do I get for that? Not one peep of support from either of you. Members gossiping behind my back. Gossip within earshot!!! Harsh criticism from fellow Saints. Tattling to my leaders. Not one word of encouragement from any friends…except one quorum member. He has said on a couple of occasions that I’m one of the most Christ like and compassionate people he knows. Well that’s nice to hear amid the bombs of criticism and name calling that continue to be hurled my way.

I no longer possess the distracting temple recommend. Now, I call on you to create a safe space for our questioning friends. It’s foolish that in the Church of Jesus Christ there would be any hesitation to discuss the history, doctrine or policy of the Church of Jesus Christ. We have the truth! We are acting like we don’t. That sends a terrible message.

It’s high time that we do something so that questions can be discussed on friendly territory at the start of a faith crisis. Otherwise, more and more of our children, parents, siblings and friends are going to bolt. And it will be gut-wrenching and heartrending when we discover their decision ONLY at their journey’s end.
At this point I plan to remain silent until I hear from you. But, my activity will not stop. I will continue to seek out the one. I will continue to minister to the bruised and broken. My next talkeria is this coming Thursday. The focus will be on a family in our stake who wants to stay. I’ve invited other members from our stake to participate. I know they will understand this family’s particular situation, support them in staying, and most of all that they will be safe and free from judgment.

All My Best for a Happy New Year,