My 8 year old nephew chose to get baptized this weekend and become an official member of the LDS church. As a gift, my family put together a book of remembrance of sorts in which everyone wrote a short message bearing their testimony about the church and congratulating him on making this choice.
The book sat for day or so on my kitchen counter, while I considered what I could possibly write to him. I thought that something to the effect of "Always follow your heart. Love, Me" might be appropriate...but I wasn't sure what kind of reception that would get. Anyway, as I thought about what I might say, I flipped through the book which had already been filled out by those in my family. The interesting thing to me was that nearly all the adults said "I know this church is true" or "I know you are joining the true church". All this "knowing" left me wondering how everyone around me could "know" one thing and I could feel something exactly opposite.
The LDS church teaches that there is one true church and that everyone should be a member. You are supposed to get this knowledge through the Holy Ghost which is usually a feeling or "burning in the bosom" as it is often referred to. Apparently everyone in my entire family has had this experience. However, I have never had any kinds of strong feelings in regards to the truthfulness of the LDS church specifically. When I "dug right down to the bottom of my soul" (sorry, musical theater lyrics, I can't help it!) I found the exact opposite. My soul, my spirit and all the feelings that go along with that, told me that the church is not the place for me. And if it isn't right for me, how can it be the one true church for everyone?
It's a tricky thing to sort out...especially when your family firmly believes the LDS curch is the one and only "true church" on the earth today. By them saying saying "I know the church is true" they are also saying that they know I am wrong for choosing to not be a part of it.
Growing up in the LDS church, once I was old enough to understand what it meant to bear my testimony in church, I pretty much stopped doing it. Once I realized that I couldn't say "I know this church is true" and be honest about it, there was no point. Sometimes I would get up the courage to simply say, "I believe it is true", because for most of my life, I did believe it. I believed it was true and that someday, if I just kept doing everything right, I would gain that knowledge that everyone else seemed to already have. For years, I never allowed the thought to cross my mind that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't true. Or even that it wasn't true for me. When things didn't make sense I put them on that back shelf of my mind with the firm belief that some day I would understand them. Eventually that shelf became crowded and the other shelf, the "I know" shelf, stood barren and empty. The square teachings of the LDS church just never could fit into the rounded view I have of the world and of what is good and right. So, at this point I had to ask myself, "Do I keep pretending to be part of something when so much of what I am learning at church seems wrong to me, or, do I leave the LDS church and experience life on my own terms?"
Obviously, you know what my final choice was. I don't know what is true. I'm not sure anyone can really know what is true when it comes to spiritual things. All we can do in life is follow our own hearts/spirits/souls and, using those feelings as a guide, choose the path that feels right and good to us. If it's true that God gave me my life, my mind and my soul, then how could he possibly fault me for using those gifts to seek what is right for me?
So, today, I am standing to say that I don't know. I don't know and that is okay. But I will use what God has given me to try and make the world a better place and to live the best life I can while still being true to myself. I will continue to seek truth everywhere and to love everyone in the best way I know how. Hopefully, by doing this, I can still be a positive example to my cute 8 year old nephew (and all my nieces and nephews) as he grows up and continues to make his own choices.
I am deeply interested in religion, politics, current events, history, musical theater and books! I left the LDS church a couple years ago and have spent a lot of time since then thinking and considering various religious influences in my life and in the lives of those around me. For more information on why I left the LDS church, look here. I also love to sing, act, dance (tap preferably) and perform on stage whenever possible.