11. Thou Shalt Blog

M. Russell Ballard just scored major points with me through his commencement speech at BYU-H. This is a link to the LDS Newsroom’s version of his speech. I particularly enjoyed the following:

“Do not be afraid to share with others your story, your experiences as a follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We all have interesting stories that have influenced our identity.”

I’m not sure I interpret these words exactly the way Ballard intended them to be understood, but as is my policy with General Authorities these days, I interpret his words as I please. I don’t always have good things to say about the LDS church. The truth is, my experiences with the LDS church have not always been wonderful. I am grateful for the influcence of the church in my life and the guidance it gives me, but I am also angered, hurt, and sometimes offended by the church as well. I don’t generally have a lot to contribute during testimony meetings. But as Elder Ballard says, we all have stories that have influenced our identity. I cannot always offer words of praise. I cannot guarantee that my words will increase anybody’s faith. But I do have a story to tell. I do have experiences as a follower of the Lord. And though it has been a painful struggle to figure it out, the LDS church has influcenced not only my faith, but my entire identity. The church has influenced my thoughts and shaped my choices moreso than any other organization or institution on the planet.

I have always struggled with spiritual individuality within the LDS church. I grew up believing that the Gospel was constant and unchanging, that the General Authorities were always correct and in agreement with each other, and that my salvation was dependent on my ability to ensure that my personal convictions aligned with the teachings of the church. This mindset leaves no room for the spirit to speak to me as an individual. After all, why would the spirit speak to me, if it’s only going to say something that the General Authorities have already said? For what purpose would the spirit speak to us individually if we are only to receive identical messages?

Eventually, I had no choice but to declare spiritual independence from the LDS church. I, like every other member, have had a unique spiritual journey, and my story is worth telling, even if nobody is listening, even if it’s only value is to illustrate spiritual weakness.

2 comments to 11. Thou Shalt Blog

  • Hey, I appreciate this a lot. I'd say that I've spent 95% of my life trying to line myself up with exact accordance with the Church… and I've lived a life of with a lot of mysterious guilt. Only recently have I been able to step back and realize that disagreeing with the Church isn't a disastrous thing. I still feel guilty sometimes, but as a whole, I usually feel like a better person, if not a better LDS follower, for having my own opinions on things. Thanks for blogging about these things. I really respect your opinions and ideas.

  • I loved this commencement speech (and ensuing the June 2008 Ensign article). I was lucky enough to be in Hawaii when this happened. Although I've been blogging for years, it gave me strength to continue blogging and share my potentially faith-invoking stories that way.