A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Bishop's Office --
I've had a number of really positive experiences with the LDS church over the last several weeks. I was involved in a move project for a sister with no able-bodied males around the house, pneumonia, a handicapped mother, and a two-story house literally packed from floor to ceiling with dusty stuff. Dolls, fabric, books, clothes, etc.. She was using an "owner's suite" sized bathtub as a laundry hamper, for example. Clothes everywhere. I think we moved at least seven full containers worth of stuff out of that house. She was in trouble, and the ward bailed her out.
During the project one of the high priests from our ward, who happens to be a high councilman, called me aside and asked me to help give a blessing. Now, I probably haven't been in church more than half a dozen times this year and he knows that, yet he called on me anyway. I was just really touched by his faith in me and by the simple faith of the sister involved, who is going through a nasty divorce and has seven kids at home.
Then I had my PPI with my EQ president, which was likewise a positive experience, full of Christ-like concern for me and the families I home teach.
As I pulled out of the stake center parking lot I stopped to look at the temple (which we share a parking lot with), and I came to the realization that despite all my concerns about the church, I couldn't imagine not being able to worship in the temple.
I reflected back on some of the thoughts I had about the PBS special on the church.
I realized while watching that documentary that for better or for worse the church is part of my heritage, even though I'm an adult convert. The way I view religion is through the paradigms I have been taught. Tithing, sabbath observance, scripture study, the desire for true Christian community, and many other things are just part of who I am now, and I can't deny it. I was touched by many of the stories, both by Marlin K Jensen's "conversion" story on his mission and by Margaret Toscano's story of her excommunication.
For whatever reason the Lord led me into this church. I don't claim to know all the reasons why. It just is that way. I don't understand all the historical issues, the Book of Abraham, post-manifesto polygamy, etc., but despite all that I continue to feel a spiritual witness that I'm supposed to continue to be a part of it. At least for now.
Anyway, given all that I felt like the time was right to meet with my bishop to find out what the roadmap was to get my temple recommend back. I haven't paid tithing to the church in over a year, my attendance has been spotty, and I have had some word of wisdom issues, all of which he knows about. I was expecting some kind of metric I had to meet, like being fully active, paying tithing, and holding a meaningful calling for six months or something like that.
He basically looked at me and said, "do you think you're ready to go back to the temple?". I said I did. And he just whipped out the recommend book and we went through the questions. My understanding of what those questions mean has evolved a lot over the last several months. Based on my understanding of what I think they mean, along with my commitment to fix the things we both knew were broken, he handed me a signed temple recommend.
It was a very moving moment for me, mainly because of the level of trust my bishop showed me. He told me what a good person I was and how happy he was that I had reached this point again, and he actually cried. As a former Air Force pilot he told me he would be happy to have me as his wingman anytime, and from a pilot who flew in Viet Nam that meant something.
Another funny thing happened also. Since then I have had a lot of trouble getting worked up over all those irritations with the church that used to just push me over the edge. I was reading some statements of Brigham Young's just yesterday about how women could essentially "trade up" to a priesthood holder with a higher office without needing a divorce, much like you would shop for a nicer car. Things like that used to just push me over the edge, but I just can't get worked up over something Brigham Young may have said 150 years ago. It just doesn't seem relevant to me right now.
Well, this process is ongoing. I am not and will not ever be TBM again. I am probably too broken to ever do missionary splits again, or to teach Sunday School in any fashion other than maybe Elders Quorum lessons. I know too much. Although I can sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators, that is probably more because I have dumbed the title down more than anything. I think lots of religious leaders are prophets, seers, and revelators. God works through lots of people and lots of churches, even non-Christian ones. If you asked me if the Dalai Lama was a prophet, seer, and revelator, I would probably say yes.
At this point in time I guess I am seeing the church sort of like a marriage. You enter relationships with people mostly on faith, and they disappoint you. Mature, committed people try to work through relationships rather than just ending them and moving on to the next one, carrying the same baggage that doomed the previous one to failure. For whatever reason I think I am supposed to stick with this and try to work it out, at least for now. Naturally your answer will be different, and that's how it should be. I recognize that many people are damaged by their experience in the church, and I am not trying to say that you are not "mature" somehow if you have decided to quit or stop participating. Only that this what I feel like am being called to at this point in time. More later, no doubt.