Can You Prove Yourself?
I don’t like being hated. I mean, that’s probably a human universal, right? No one wants to feel like a target.
One of the words that I hear bandied about often as a middle school teacher is “bullied.” Students and parents both know that it is the modern-day equivalent of screaming “fire” in a packed theater. It makes administrators stop in their tracks and take extensive measures, no matter the level of harassment. But, how many stop to really consider whether the child in question is being tortured or simply bothered?
Our new 21st Century sensibilities tell us that it doesn’t matter. There is no difference between a child being spit on or pushed down stairs and the child that is being disagreed with or bothered by something that another child is doing. These people confuse the issue, thinking that merely the act of being unhappy or different means that their child is a target, unloved, and uncared for.
I have a class that is full of moderately upper-middle-class Mormon children like these. They are the ones who come to me when a book has a swear word in it and demand that the book be changed to one that is more appropriate. They believe that any offense is means for retribution because they demand, nay, deserve, to be free from any “spiritual” offense.
This is not what I believe.
There are also many Mormons who demand the same kind of treatment on the other side of the spectrum. They believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should shift its doctrine to something that is more palatable for the 21st Century. The “outmoded” concepts of nuclear family – a man, a woman, and their children – should change to reflect a modern interpretation of family. They see church leadership as old, out-of-touch white men who don’t care about them as a demographic, no matter how small that demographic may be.
This is not what I believe, either.
I do believe that the LDS church is at a crossroads. And, yes. I do believe that the “wheat are being culled from the tares.” I just don’t think it’s happening the way that some people think that it is. The 2,500 who have left the church over the last few days probably won’t be the last. But, they certainly haven’t been the first either.
Let me tell you what I do believe:
Life is not supposed to be easy. In fact, one of the specific reasons we exist in the state that we do – completely ready and willing to mess up our own lives with selfishness, unkindness, and greed – is because that is the plan for learning that we are a part of. Life is supposed to be hard. It is supposed to hurt, and make us cry, and offend our sensibilities.
Life is supposed to suck for everyone. And, whether you know the level of suckage that the person next to you is going through or not, I can guarantee it’s a level of suckage that has been specifically designed for that person. Not you. The goal, however, is to learn how to manage with faith our specific Pandora’s box of awfulness.
The way we deal with life’s suckage proves to ourselves the measure of our soul. God already knows us. He knows what we’re going to do in every. single. situation. He knew you were going to steal that money. He knew you were going to lie on that test. He knew you might commit murder if you were mad enough.
That doesn’t mean he loves you any less. It doesn’t mean those things were right, either. And, by “right,” I mean, “will make you a happier, more faithful, and loving person.” This life is an opportunity for you to know for yourself what you would do in any given situation. And, hopefully, to understand why you made the choices you did and how to come to terms with them.
The entire goal of life is to find faith and learn. For whatever reasons, the rules of this universe are seemingly different than the one where all of our souls were born. Awful people become rich and famous. Fantastic people die alone. Good, honest men and women are put in jail for things they didn’t do.
Still, you have to remember that there is an underlying set of rules that supercedes what we see on the surface. Sure, the awful person is rich and famous, but he can no longer look in the mirror because it reminds him of all the people he has harmed to get where he is. Definitely, the kind, wise woman dies alone, but she dies with a smile anyway, knowing that she gave every breath to make the universe a better, brighter place.
Happiness and unhappiness rely on the universal rule that believing in something you can’t see will change you. Happiness and unhappiness rely on the concept that all things – no matter how awful they seem – are designed to teach our souls invaluable lessons about faith and love.
So, what does this have to do with you?
In my life, I have seen incredible things. Miracles. I have spoken with God and He has spoken with me. I have made epic mistakes that have put me at the literal edge of whatever awful thing waits for those who refuse to learn and admit that they are sometimes wrong. I have cried over my losses and for those who are in undeserved pain. I have shouted at God and even hated Him a little. I have been confused at directions that seem not to make sense at times – oftentimes, actually. Sometimes I have walked away from his directives, thinking that they were too hard for me to follow. Sometimes I have followed, even though I didn’t know where they would lead.
My guess is that you have done the same.
What I’ve learned about my soul is that I’m not afraid to do what I believe is right, even when it’s not popular. No, I don’t want to be hated. But, sometimes that’s just the particular batch of suckage that God hands you. Just like being born with proclivities towards attraction to the same sex. Or being a child of a couple who are the same gender. No matter how you slice it (even if you’re having a particularly positive attitude), that’s gonna be hard. As hard as being born with latent child leukemia. As hard as being born an alcoholic. As hard as being born with a brain that might just start whispering for you to kill yourself when you turn 19.
It’s all hard. And it’s all supposed to be.
For this reason, I suggest that we stop pretending that homosexual urges are by choice only. I suggest that we have compassion and love without changing our standard. I suggest that those of you who use “gay” as a derogative term stop being such assholes. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t stand for that crap. Those are His kids you’re talking about.
And, on the other side – it’s okay for God to have a standard. He always has had one. There was a time when only one family who was allowed to go inside the temple. There have been other times when God said that a family could include more than one mom. These things were meant to be hard. Those standards, like every other piece of suckage that gets dropped in your lap, were designed to help you either build faith or break it down.
The incredible thing about God is that He lets you decide what you’re going to do. Yes. You are free to tell him to go to Hell and leave you alone and that the LDS church is awful forever. No sweat off his back. He’s just going to give you your lessons in a different way.
But, I guess what I believe is that there may not be a better spiritual furnace than being a member of the LDS church. A well-cited quote from Joseph Smith goes like this: “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”
I believe that the leaders of the LDS church are now asking us to sacrifice everything – our 21st Century sense of perfect justice, our modern interpretation of right and wrong, our reputation for being “kinda normal.” You clearly don’t have to. No one will ever force you to.
But, this our wilderness.
We have all heard the stories of those early LDS saints, the ones who traveled thousands of miles and through every human horror because they were told to. They lost lives and limbs on their way to the unseen country where they wouldn’t be killed for what they believed. My guess is that some of them were confused. Why not just stay here in Ohio? Why not just be like other churches and no one will bother us?
That wasn’t what God said to do, that’s why.
In this modern wilderness, those who choose to take the long trek to whatever is next will lose family members. We will be forced to simplify our lives – to cut out the extraneous and unholy things that we’ve become accustomed to. We will be asked to turn away from a 21st Century standard and adhere to something more fundamental. And, most of all, I believe that we will be asked to leave our self-righteousness and entitlement where it belongs – in the past.
And we will probably be uncomfortable and hated in the process. But, remember, that’s just the particular level of suckage that we are being asked to deal with. We can run away from it or use it to become something better than we are now.
Yes, this is the beginning of a separation of wheat and tares. But, how can you know if you’re wheat? Don’t ask me. I still don’t know.
All I know is what I believe. I believe that as we all grow, some face the Son and some don’t. Whether LDS or Catholic, gay or straight, a bum on the street or the man in the fancy car – we must learn to listen to the voice inside that tells us what to do. We must not be afraid to stand up for what we truly believe and prove to ourselves the measure of our souls.
- Can you be more than just your sexuality and gender?
- Can you serve without being asked?
- Can you love and accept those who are different?
- Can you believe despite the facts?
- Can you be humble in the face of riches?
- Can you deny yourself in order to become closer to God?
- Can you follow when you don’t know where you’re going?
No matter who you are, this is the time where you find out the measure of your own soul.
What will you prove to yourself?